Washington as Fireman

Washington as Fireman

One of the facts in the history of George Washington which most historians fail to mention is that he was a volunteer fireman. About 1750 he enrolled himself in the Volunteer Fire Company at Alexandria, Va. It is related that on more than one occasion when Washington learned that there was a fire in the vicinity of Alexandria which had called out the firemen he mounted his horse and rode thither from Mt. Vernon. The records of the place show that when the Volunteer Fire Department was organized each member agreed “out of mutual friendship” to every lire “two leathern buckets and one great bag of Oznaburg or wider linen,” which was the primitive means of extinguishing a tire The Friendship Fire Company of Alexandria was organized in 1774, at which time ‘A ashington was a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The members of the company, remembering Washington’s former services as a fireman, elected him ap honorary member at their first meeting, and forwarded him a copy of the minutes. To show his appreciation of the compliment, he at once made a through inspection of the different kinds of fire engines in use in Philadelphia, and upon his second return there in 1775 he bought from one Gibbs a small fourthclass engine for £80 and 10 shillings, and just before he set out for Boston to become commander-in-chief of the Continental Army sent this little engine as a present to the Friendship Company. Washington did not lose his interest in fire matters through his elevation to position and power. Upon his retirement to Mt. Vernon, after his second term as President, he continued to take active interest in the municipal affairs of Alexandria. It is related that in the last year of his life he was one day riding down King st. when a fire broke out near the market. He was accompanied by his servant, also on horseback, and noticed that the Friendship Company engine was poorly manned, though a crowd of well-dressed idlers stood about. Riding up to the crowd he employed very vigorous language in rebuking their indifference at such a time.

He ended by calling out: “It is your business to lead in these matters,” and throwing the bridle of his horse to his servant, he leaped off and seized the brakes, followed by a crowd that gave the engine such a shaking up as it never knew afterward.

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