Short History of the Newberry Fire Department
Newberry County, South Carolina
contributed by Edith Greisser

The first recorded organized fire company in this country was formed in New York in 1658. They called themselves 'The Prowlers' and was composed of 8 men, 250 buckets, hooks and a small ladder.

In 1679 Salem purchased 2 or 3 dozen cedar buckets, besides hooks, and other implements. The Selectmen and two others were authorized to take command at fires and to blow up and pull down buildings when such action was necessary. This practice was more commonly used before engines came into use.
Boston, 1679 ordered every quarter of the town be provided with 20 swobes (Long handled mops used for roof fires), two scoops and 6 axes.
In Japan, swobes were stored on roof tops.

New York in 1690 ordered 5 ladders and hooks to be made.

Philadelphia made the use of unclean chimneys unlawful. Each house was ordered to have in its possession a swab. Leather buckets and hooks to tear down burning buildings were ordered to be made.

In the early years in Newberry, when a fire occurred in town, an alarm by means of a bell, horn, bugle or shout alerted all those within ear range that help was needed. Because most homes, businesses, stores, and public buildings were built of wood and heated with wood or coal, conditions were conducive to frequent fires. Many buildings were consumed quickly and little could be accomplished with water-bucket brigades. Saving the contents of the building and insuring the safety of those inside became top priorities. Once inhabitants were outside protecting the possessions became a major concern. While many were fighting the fire others were confiscating whatever was left un-attended. 

Fire Protection in Newberry Town was slow in starting. The original 'NEWBERRY HOTEL' a wooden structure owned and operated by John Carter, located to the north of Mollohon Row was destroyed in fire in 1866. This incident prompted the garrison of Union troops occupying the town to erect a 'gallows' holding a town bell on the side of the court house.

A NEWBERRY FIRE COMPANY was seen as necessary but there was no apparent interest from the citizens. No one wanted a tax increase during such a financially depressed time, immediately after the war. A most destructive fire started at the old Thespian Hall and swept over to Duncan's cotton warehouse. Arson was thought to be the cause. That fire displayed a need for a police department for the town of Newberry and so the first company of the Newberry Police Department was formed June 26,1866 with Y. J. Pope Esq. as Captain, T. M. Paysinger as 1st Lieut. and Thomas Moorman as orderly Sergeant.

Thespian Hall was located just west of today's Boyce and College Streets in the town of Newberry. The first floor was used to store cotton as was Duncan's warehouse at the northwestern corner of Main and College (Now Anderson's shoe store). At 2 am on June 18, 1866 a fire started at the old Thespian Hall.

There was no watchman and no fire bell available. Mostly the whole town was asleep. Fire spread quickly, crossing College St. to Mr. S. Montgomery's home and spreading to the corner where today is the Parr building but then was Dr. T. Guin's store. Across Main Street the fire traveled, engulfing the Herald office, Lovelace & Wheeler store and Captain Davis' residence. Traveling west, the fire reached the 'Brick Hotel' (Today's Newberry Hotel) but was arrested before it would have been necessary to tear down the walls. On the opposite side of the street Hurd Hall was demolished but John Montgomery's brick home withstood the fire. Mollohon Row was saved but all other structures save John Montgomery's home were gone from the block, including the 'Carter Hotel' just north of today's Mollohon Row. Arson was highly suspected. One half of the business section of Newberry was completely destroyed. A complete list of those affected by the fire was found in the Herald of June 22, 1866, page 2.

The Herald & News office was completely destroyed, with very little covered by insurance.

In a few days after the conflagration the news staff managed to get out a one sheet paper. Their pluck and valor in the circumstances brought them much commendation from other newspapers in SC.

In 1869 the Newberry Herald again raised the question - can Newberry have a fire department? A half year later there was a fire on Main Street thought to be caused by a carelessly discarded cigar into a pile of shavings on a vacant lot. No great loss had occurred and so there remained a great resistance to the change in the way fires had always been handled. But a few 'visionaries' refused to let go of the idea of a real fire protection agency.
May 3, 1871 the news editor presented suggestions for a 'badly needed' fire department:
"The increase in population, value of real estate and business together with increased liabilities with fire … make it necessary that some means of protection be had … on a recent visit to Columbia we were told by an officer of the Independent Company that $1300 would buy the large engine formerly used by that company with the addition of 300 feet of hose  … this is less than 1/3 of the original price … being sold to make way for a steamer …"  No action was taken.

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS were demonstrated to the public in front of the Court House.
"On Tuesday night last, the citizens of Newberry had the great satisfaction of witnessing the admirable and highly successful working of one of Babcock's smallest size Fire Extinguishers, manipulated and explained by Major J. H. Lacy, traveling agent for the company. A number of hogsheads and barrels filled with shavings and light combustible matter, were piled up in front of the Court House, upon which, after a pleasant talk of some five minutes, a quantity of kerosene was poured and a match applied. In a moment the whole mass was in a bright flame. Waiting long enough for the solid staves to catch fire, the gas generated in the extinguisher was turned on the flames. It took but a minute or two to show that fire could not resist its powers. It was a most decided success … this small machine is worth the $60 … C. M. Harris purchased one the next morning as soon as he could swallow his breakfast.

The Company also builds large ones and when on trucks are capable of throwing from 100 to 300 feet and ranging in price from $1500 to $3000". 

Tradition states that the Excelsior Company was first conceived at the Newberry Cotton Mill, where a safety-minded group of people perceived a great need to be prepared for any fire in the work place.

On July 15, 1874 there were two fires in one night. The McMORRIES HOUSE on the outskirts of the town had a fire at 2 am. Mr. J. W. Hayward lived in the house but the building was owned by Rev. J. W. Humbert and was insured for $2500. The furniture was insured for $1,000. The fire was caused by the explosion of a lamp. Around breakfast time the cotton warehouse of Mr. Langford had a fire with minimal damage to two or three bales of cotton. The 'fireman', Mr. Harris, used his portable fire extinguisher and saved both properties with minimal damage.

March 1875 Mr. A. H. Silby of Seneca Falls NY was in town attempting to sell to the town a fourth size rotary Steam Fire Engine with 700 feet of hose, $6500 complete with $1000 down and the rest in four annual payments.  Was he able to land a sale?  No report in the paper. Comment in the newspaper, "A cross eyed man with knock knees and a weak back, who cannot run with the machine, calls the new organization a 'Hooking Ladder Company."

A HOOK & LADDER CO. for the Town of Newberry was effected at a meeting held at the Temperance Hall in April 1875:
"The Constitution and By Laws reported by committee were read and adopted and a Committee appointed to confer with Town Council with an offer of services free of charge, provided that Town Council equip the Company. Officers chosen were:

W. T. Tarrant   President
T. S. Moorman   1st Vice President
T. C. Pool   2nd Vice President
F. E. Salinas   1st Director
O. L. Schumpert  2nd Director
H. O'Neall Harrington  3rd Director
S. Fowles   4th Director
L. C. Moore   Sec. & Treas.

This action prompted a letter signed 'many citizens' who did not want more taxes to pay for a fire company. Nay-sayers used as their argument that within the past few years there have been only two fires of consequence in Newberry: the one accidental and the other where an escaped convict from California insured a lot of furniture and then fired the building. The same group wanted the police to inspect the chimneys of every dwelling monthly. Most roofs were wood shingled and a stray spark was all it would take, combined with a little wind, to burn a dwelling. The first mention of a successful fire department action was when the Newberry Hook & Ladder Company attended to a fire caused by the 'Tribe of Red Men' who built a fire on the floor of their hall.

The year 1875 started a new age for the fire department. Realizing that the growth of the town demanded the need for professional protection the Town Council gave the Hook & Ladder Company  $200 payable 6/1/1875 and $200 payable 1/1/1876 for the purchase of equipment. The Greenville & Columbia RR donated $100 and William F. Nance, in the name of his Insurance Co. also donated $100. On June 30 it was announced that the much needed fire equipment had arrived and was more than expected. Not having a garage to protect the equipment when not in use, lumber was used to build a shelter for the fire truck in July 1875. A practice exercise was conducted on an imaginary fire in the steeple of Seceder Church that July and everyone was proud of the efficiency of the crew. But on July 23 the Merchant Family house in Helena was consumed by fire.  One family member had a hand burned trying to extinguish the fire while waiting for help. The hook and ladder company headed for the fire but one of the members fell into Scott's Creek in crossing it and they gave up on the run. Imagine the fire crew pulling their equipment up-hill to Helena, running very fast down hill for a distance of a mile or more so that they could get momentum for the up-hill pulls. W. C. Johnson almost got run over by the Hook & Ladder Co. that day. He was slowly walking home and around the corner came the crew at full speed. There were numerous suggestions for alerting the citizens for safety reasons, including the use of a 'gong' or bell attached to the apparatus, which would sound out as it was being pulled.

Dear Mr. Editor:
I believe it is the duty of a Fire Company to repair promptly to a fire with their machine as soon as sufficient number of members can be got together. On no pretext is a member excused for absence. I got to the fire on Friday night, after a good run and saw the flame as it first issued from the house and stayed there until the building was burned down, but did not see or recognize a single man or boy belonging to the Hook & Ladder truck. I am fully satisfied that if the truck had appeared about the time I did, much good could have been done. The Babcocks, no doubt, could have saved the house from destruction. Now I ask - if on this - the first occasion which presented itself to show what could be done, the Company failed to put in an appearance, what reason have we to hope for help or assistance in the future.

Reply Editorial
For the Herald 
It is a singular fact that parties who are always ready to censure others seem perfectly blind in regard to their own defects.  I would ask our 'fleet-footed citizen' if his presence at the Truck House would not have been calculated to assist in getting our truck to the scene of action. Perhaps he is not a member. A very public spirited citizen indeed. Why did he attend the fire at all? What good could he have expected doing alone? Have we not an association, the members of which have obligated themselves to do all in their power to extinguish fires, regardless of rank or color, in the incorporation. Then why does he not unite himself with us and exert some of that energy which he most assuredly must have, to enable him to censure us on our failure to arrive at the fire. We extend an invitation to that citizen. Come join our company. Your own house might catch fire and then if fleetness is your forte you would have an opportunity, if you are a member of our company, of manifesting your speed.
I remain respectfully yours,  HOOK & LADDER
Even in the heat of August that year the fire crew practiced their skills. They were seen demonstrating 'a remarkable practice'. Eight or ten houses were scaled with rapidity and imaginary fires were extinguished with a tap on the roof. The only incident was the Herald 'devil' being run over with a ladder. The newspaper suggested (Humorously) that the fire company buy a horn from Joe the postman from Laurens (He was notorious for knowing only two notes on his bugle - both played poorly). The hook & ladder practiced in their red uniforms. They were given an old hotel gong to summon their members but the remark was made that the gong that the company used sounded too much like the dinner bell at the hotel. Better to use a horn, whistle, bell or rattle. The hook & Ladder company received new red shirts in September but then the interest in this all-volunteer company dwindled. In November, at the monthly meeting held there was barely enough present to make a quorum. In December 1875 the newspaper reported the hook and ladder company was all but gone. "The water bucket has lost its sheen; a spider web lies over the bucket; the gong is hushed; red shirts are seen no more".

The fire started in the kitchen of the Pool Hotel. (Now the Newberry Hotel) The kitchen was located to the rear (Friend Street). It spread quickly to the stables but the Hook & Ladder Company, with their extinguishers, soon gained control of the fire. The fire disfigured the home of Mr. Slider with his principal loss being his kitchen and contents and his fencing, which had to be removed to get the equipment close to the fire. His property was not insured. After the fire the Pool Stables were described as with the appearance of a recent cyclone, with evidence of the fireman's axe everywhere. Had it not been for the quick and skillful action of the Hook & Ladder Company, a calamity as in 1866 certainly would have occurred. (Herald, 3/1/1876, page 3)

Deeply sensible of the important services rendered by you in checking the conflagration on Saturday night, 26th February 1876 and saving my dwelling house, I take pleasure in returning you my sincere thanks. To the Hook & Ladder Company for their efficiency and extend the same.

To the colored citizens I am under the same many obligations for their untiring zeal, industry and interest manifested in subduing the flames. The colored citizens are a host at a fire and work like beavers. I might particularize, but to do so, where there were so many working souls would be invidious. I must say, never the less, in moving out of the furniture and exposure there was nothing of any consequence lost or taken. In conclusion I cannot keep from remarking that if the colored and the white citizens could work as harmoniously and as united as the organization of a good government as at a fire, they might establish one of which they would be justly proud and under the shelter of which they could safely repose.
Respectfully,  THOS. P. SLIDER

Mr. Editor:
Enough has been said, and with much pertinence and force editorially and in grateful cards of thanks concerning the late fire … I propose … to elaborate … on a fair, logical and legitimate conclusion:
1.  That all our citizens whose profession or calling or other circumstances, would not render it inexpedient, should be active members of our fire organization.
2. Where age, physical debility or other causes would exempt from active membership, then and in this case to be contributing members, … if only to the extent of 25 cents per annum, thus with the kind wishes and material support.
3. Our Fire Company should be allowed sufficient opportunity to practice … to acquire such a degree of expertness and efficiency in their exercises as tend to promote trained and well directed effort in the extinguishment of fires ….
4. The very best element of our young men - the most active, resolute and daring - should be encourage to join our Fire Company … to create an honorable esprit de corps …
5. …the cheerful obedience and prompt response to the orders of company officers on duty is the key note of all successful fire organizations…
6. That the coolest head and steady nerves should all be put in charge of the gas supply.
7. That merit, ability, coolness and personal fitness, not rank nor station - … should bestow the honors of office and position among firemen.
8. What men have done - men may do under similar favorable and encouraging circumstances.
9. …We are strong believers of the Babcock Extinguishers … as the most efficacious and practical appliance within reach of our citizens until such time as the finances of our town and the return of a more general prosperity among us … enable our Town Council to erect cisterns in the different wards of our town for the use and supply of regular engines.
10. That all active members … be made exempt from street duty or poll tax …
11. …this community is in no condition to stand the misfortune of a great conflagration - "An ounce of preventive is worth a pound of cure."     PHILO FIREMAN

Three tests were made in Newberry on this newest of fire extinguishers greatly praised in the New York circle. Only the third test results was printed in the newspaper:
"Two or three truck loads of scantling were piled up in a 'cob house fashion' and on the top two barrels of petroleum were placed side by side. The timber had first been saturated with oil. The torch being applied the flames burst forth and when the whole mass was thoroughly ignited, the head of one of the barrels was knocked in, letting the contents flow out over the seething fire. By this time the barrels were so charred that only a short time would have been required to burn them through. But the test was to save one of the barrels. Therefore, as soon as the other was broken open, two streams of carbonated water were turned on and in less than a minute the fierce flames were subdued, leaving a pile of blackened timbers, with the barrel of petroleum safe and sound on top". (Newberry Herald 4/5/1876, page 3) 
Somehow, the test was not impressive enough for the town to purchase any.

Hook & Ladder Co. picnic in May 1876 at Cline's Springs.
Such a flowery description of the girls from the Female Academy in the newspaper that day. They were escorted by the 'boys in red'. The weather was perfect. A 'rustic dancing saloon' had been improvised and must have been nothing more than wooden planks on the ground for the roof of the saloon was described as with 'trembling leaves, fleecy clouds and stuccoed dome of a joyous sky. The news man certainly practiced his creative  magic on the article. Fiddlers provided the music.

In August and September the Hook & Ladder Company paraded in their red shirts. Pumper trucks were used to pump water from a cistern or other supply.

No one knows positively what type of fire truck was owned by the company in the beginning. It was just described as "a 2-man pumper". A supply of water on wheels was pulled by the firemen to the site.

At 4 pm on March 8, 1877 a fire was discovered on the roof of Pool's Hotel (Today known as the Newberry Hotel). The fire affected twenty stores containing twenty-eight places of business and left thirteen families homeless. The total loss was estimated at $150,000 and insurance covered about $60,000 of the cost. Shortly after the fire was discovered it became evident the hotel with its acre of wooden shingles roof, could not be saved. The men then went to work to move out the furniture but the flames spread so rapidly that most had to be left behind.  A high wind was blowing from the southwest and although the men worked bravely with ladders, Babcocks and water buckets it was impossible to check the fire. Every house on the south side of Pratt Street (Main Street) from Caldwell Street to Mr. McWhirter's dwelling house was burned. On the North side every store from Dr. Fant's drug store to Mr. Crede's Bakery. The names of the businessmen, their total loss and the amount they were insured was posted in the paper of March 14, 1877, page 3.

M. A. Carlisle Esq. whose office was on the second floor of the building of McFall & Pool saved his books and papers. Men galloping on horseback from Helena and Prosperity came to help fight the fire. Charred paper and burning shingles were blown beyond for a distance of two miles. Because all the merchandise from the stores was piled in safer areas with little help available to guard it, stealing was reported carried on wholesale. One man was seen trying on a pair of boots before he took them to be sure they were a good fit.

With all the problems the firemen had to encounter that day, the behavior of some of the citizens was the most curious. One lady saved her geraniums and lost her entire wardrobe. Another remained in her room at the hotel until every article was removed, even the taking up of her pet.

One individual was seen struggling at the Milestone in front of the Court House, the purpose being to convey it to a place of safety.

During all the confusion of the moment one old woman went into Dr. Fant's store while he was trying to save his merchandise and asked for cabbage seed saying she thought it was a good time to buy cheap.

After the fire a young person from Helena scaled the brick wall of the hotel and attached a rope whereby the wall could be pulled down.

In fighting the fire, besides the singeing of several beards, there had been a few injuries. Representative Thomas Keitt slipped partly through the skylight of Wheeler's Photography studio. Baruch Boyd, colored, was struck over the eye by a falling ladder, which made an ugly gash and a bad bruise. Crowell Chapman received a slight cut on the face. C. G. Jaeger Esq. had a bad looking gash cut over his eye by falling on an axe.

Mr. Foot's merchandise showed worse handling than the stock of any other merchant in town. Someone was seen saving for Mr. Foot two odd boots, having filled them with Barlow knives. J. O. People's jewelry and silverware, although in a 1200 pound safe, (warranted fire proof), melted and became valuable only as old metal.

The household furnishings of M. A. Carlisle, M. Foot, Z. L. White, and F. N. Parker were badly damaged. Sam Pelham, a druggist was seen performing the work of a dozen men saving stock.

The fire was terminated in part by a timely rain shower.

Always available was the critic who stated the fire could have been arrested if salt had been placed on the roof of the Hotel. During the fire  there was no way to get salt on the roof  except to lean a wooden ladder against a burning building. 

April/May of each year was the time for the election of officers.
In May 1877:
J. E. Brown  President
G. G. Lane  Vice-president
J. W. M. Simmons Secretary
W. F. Ewart  Assistant-Secretary
L. W. Jones  Treasurer
George S. Mower 1st Director
Dr. D. S. Pope  2nd Director
J. T. Mayes  3rd Director
Edward Scholtz 4th Director
Dr. O. B. Mayer Sr. Surgeon
Dr. O. B. Mayer Jr. Surgeon
Hon. W. T. Tarrant Honorary Member

In June 1877 it was announced in the paper that the Company would Drill every Wednesday evening.

1882 saw the completion of the Opera House, a multi-use building. The first floor of the building was for use by the various public services, one being the fire department. Fire equipment was stored in an area that in 2005 is sealed off from the outside and occupies the rest rooms on the first floor of the Opera House. When the LaFrance fire truck was purchased by the city in 1883 they could not get the vehicle into the building because of the narrow door entrance.

Ingenuity and some good stone-work chiseled the sides of the entrance-way into the shape of the truck, with nary an inch to spare by the looks of it. When the building was renovated in 1999 the openings in the brick entrance to access the old fire truck were left as a reminder of 'how things were at one time'. The bell in the opera house bell tower took over the job of the ugly army bell.

FIRE OF Mollohon Row 1883
In January 1883, there was a fire so devastating a financial loss that the insurance companies gave the city an ultimatum: more up-to-date fire fighting equipment or have an uninsurable city. That situation was what inspired the purchase of the 'La France' steamer/pumper truck.

Then that summer Mollohon Row and everything on that block was swept away by fire. The loss was $50,000 at a time when property values were at a low.

The fire had started in an upper room of Wright & Coppock Clothing Store.

The fire was discovered by Dr. East on his morning walk. All the bells in town were rung. The LaFrance steamer, 'Young John', was pulled to Mrs. Mower's cistern and worked splendidly until the water was used. Had there been more water the fire could have been contained to just the one store but as it turned out, the entire row of stores were reduced to a pile of smoldering embers.

It was controlled quickly occurring between the rafters and the tin roof, and damage was of little consequence.

'NEWBERRY FIRE DEPARTMENT will have its annual inspection on the courthouse square, followed by a parade'. Page 8, Newberry Observer 5/23/1905

The fire started in the engine room of the Carolina Manufacturing Co., a three story wooden building of immense size on Lower Main Street, 5:30 a.m. 12/24/1905. Munson Buford, son of the Sheriff was the first to see the flames. He aroused his father who gave the alarm. The fire companies responded promptly but the blaze had already spread over the entire rear of the building and was headed toward Friend Street and the Epting Cotton Yard, with a strong wind behind it. All available hose, even from Newberry Mill and Mollohon Mill were in use so that eight or ten sprays were in use. Large pieces of blazing timber were blown across the Streets and landed on the roofs of cottages and the cotton platform. Then suddenly the wind, which had been blowing northwest veered to the northeast. The fire traveling to Friend Street was able to be checked after it had burned about 1/3 of a two-room cottage on Friend Street occupied by Mrs. Auton. On the North side of Main Street the fire swept everything from the little restaurant next to Leavell's marble yard to and including the barbershop and residence of J. H. Hair, the last house before coming to the railroad. On the south side of Main Street the fire swept everything from John T. Hutchison's to the Summer Bros. block of brick stores completely gutting one of them, which was occupied by Miller & Kempson, and damaging the others. O. Klettner moved everything out of his store as the fire approached. He had no insurance.

One of the little shanty stores had a tin roof, which checked the fire long enough for the firefighters to quell the blaze. A list of all the stores and their location in the town was printed in the paper. Mr. Meggett, night watchman for the Carolina Manufacturing Co. claimed he had been in the engine room of the plant not five minutes before the alarm was given and that there had been no fire there at the time. After the fire no buildings were left between Nance and the Railroad tracks, Boyce and Main Street except the brick furniture building occupied by Kibler, Dennis & Co. and the wooden building next to it occupied by R. Y. Leavell's marble and undertaking establishment. There was a suggestion in the newspaper that the city buy all the property and extend the public square.

Church bells and bugles were the first means of giving an alarm in Newberry, followed by a town bell erected by the Garrison of Federal soldiers stationed in the town. When the Opera house was built the bell tower took over the job. Towns were divided in four sections and when a fire call was initiated with from 1 to 4 rings of the bell, several persons assigned to specific extinguishers would get the apparatus, strap it to their back and take it to the fire. This may have been the case also in Newberry. In 1911 there was talk of obtaining a Gamewell Alarm Fire Box system but the plan was not adopted until February1939.
The Excelsior Company bought a large mastiff to stay at the fire department. His name was Sampson.  Sampson was a companion and guard dog to the fire horses. His job at fires was to keep other animals, people etc. away from the fire trucks and horses without being overly aggressive. As his name implied, he was a large animal, weighing around 200 pounds.  Joe, one of the fire horses, had his eye badly burned the night of the fire on Dec. 23, 1905. On January 16, 1906 the newspaper reported that Joe's eye had healed and his sight had not been injured and brought to the attention of the public that the fire department did not have ladders or buckets.

John B. Mayes was elected assistant chief in place of J. W. White resigned. At a meeting of the Excelsior Company it was decided to employ two men at the hose reel house, each to stay on duty 24 hours. Dave Irons and Michael Lesesne (Name was incorrectly spelled - Malcolm Lassane) were appointed as assistant hose wagon drivers by the City Council. His salary was $20/month in 1910. The Council contracted for a new 2-horse hose wagon.  'Young John'  (The pet-name given to the LaFrance fire truck) was retired from the fire department when the fire horses were put in use. It was stored in the power plant on "Coppock Hill" and later sold by town Council for $100. The purchaser was S. Sternberg of Asheville NC, dealer in junk. The engine had been bought in 1883 at a cost of $4500. It did a good job before the introduction of the water works system.

When 'Young John' had been purchased for the fire department an old 2-man pumper truck was given to the Colored Fire Department known as    "The Eagles."


When the water-works had just been completed but had not been formerly turned over to the commissioners, Col. Purcell's stables at the corner of Nance and Harrington Streets caught fire. 'Young John' the steam fire engine was throwing a stream from the old reservoir at the public square when the engine suddenly stopped and refused to turn a wheel. P. J. Voss who was then the superintendent of the water-works turned on the water from the hydrants and the fire was put out in short order, not even spreading to the adjoining stables. P. J. Voss was superintendent of the water works from 1897 to 1900 and elected Vice-President of the Excelsior Fire Company in October 1897.

'ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE STATE FIREMAN'S ASSOCIATION was held in Georgetown. Officers elected for the ensuing year … J. W. Earhardt of Newberry, Vice President…'

A new hose wagon, bought from the Fabric Fire Hose Co. was shipped to Newberry July 17, 1906. The new hose wagon arrived and was put to duty. It was dark green with red wheels and was frescoed profusely. It weighed 3,000 pounds and cost $700.

There were three fires in three days in October. A window curtain caught fire in Graveltown; a fire under the hearth of Mrs. Lane's residence on West Friend Street; the burning of 10 or 15 bales of cotton on the platform of the CN&L RR, caught from the sparks of a passing locomotive.

Stranger than fiction?
The March 29, 1907 edition of the Observer (Printed the day prior) was commenting on a large fire recently experienced in Spartanburg:
"It would be utterly impossible for 60 houses, mill homes or others, to burn down in the city of Newberry, as happened on Monday in Spartanburg. Newberry has too good a water system and too effective a fire department to permit such a thing." As it turned out the loss in Newberry that very day to fire was four-fold what Spartanburg had experienced.

FIRE OF MARCH 29, 1907
The entire block of buildings bordered by Coats, Caldwell, Main and Friend Streets was destroyed in the fire. The losses amounted to $125,000. Just when the fire appeared to be under control the water pressure from the hydrant gave out and in that long fifteen minutes while repairs were being done, the fire, combined with heavy winds, grew out of control and spread as far as Aveleigh Presbyterian Church on Main Street. All the properties affected can be found in the April 2, 1907 issue of the Observer.

H. B. Wells, chief of the Fire Department, John W. Earhardt, 1st Assistant, John B. Mayes, 2nd Assistant, L. C. Pitts, Captain of the Excelsior Fire   pany (Could not be present) John Eichelberger (President of the colored Hook & Ladder Company) were Company were present for the inquiry. City Attorney F. H. Dominick examined the witnesses. Testimony followed:
R. C. Williams stated someone came to his desk in the Main Street end of his building and told him the building was on fire. He went upstairs and to the Friend Street side of his 3-storey-high building where his family lived, saw the fire, and tried to get things out. He had six flues in the building and felt the fire started in the one connected to his cook stove. On the third floor were his boys' rooms where he also stored powder. 

F. M. Boyd testified he was the Superintendent of the city water works plant. When the fire occurred the standpipe was practically full. He never allowed water to get lower than 15 feet from the top, except in emergencies and nothing had happened prior to the fire to prevent this. He was in Mayes drug store when the fire alarm rang. He got to the fire minutes after the bell sounded. The stream from the hose showed maximum standpipe pressure. (This statement shows fire hydrants were in use in the town). Several streams were on and he felt the standpipe could use increased pressure and called Mr. Eargle at the powerhouse to put on the pressure. He went to the standpipe and shut down the valve. He knew the pump was running when he shut down the valve for he could feel the vibrations. Walked back to the fire and saw there was sufficient pressure. In about 10 minutes he received the complaint of low pressure. He knew something was wrong and called the powerhouse telling Mr. Eargle not to stop the pump and was told by Mr. Eargle the pump had broken. Two men went back to the standpipe to turn it back on and Mr. Schumpert went to the power house to find Mr. Eargle and Mr. West just finishing repairs. He could not find any reason for the problem as nothing appeared broken. The standpipe at the Opera House, when full, had 70 pounds pressure. With the standpipe turned off and pump pressure put on that could be increased to 120 pounds pressure.

A. W. Eargle testified: I have charge of the engine at the powerhouse. At 11 am when I came on duty the water level was in five feet from the top. During the morning I received a telephone call about a fire at William's store. I Started the pump and worked it up to 120 pounds of pressure. Suddenly the pump acted wrong. It gave a long stroke, a short stroke and then the pressure went clean down. I knew the pump was not taking water. Mr. West came and neither he nor I could find anything wrong. Mr. Schumpert came and we restarted the pump  and all went right. There was a lull of about 15 minutes when the pump did not work. We have since examined the pump and found a valve that had to be repaired.

C. M. West testified: I am a machinist at Newberry Mills. I went to the powerhouse because I saw the pressure was getting weak. I saw Mr. Eargle working on the pump. We re-primed the pump. Mr. Boyd adjusted the steam valve and it went off all right. There is a pump just like it at the mill, since 1884. It is a good pump, not a complicated one. Sometimes it gives us trouble. I don't think one pump is sufficient at the powerhouse.

Mr. Boyd recalled: It is possible that in speeding up the pump - scales that had formed inside the pipes may have been washed into the pump and got under the valve. The water reservoir holds 180,000 gallons of water and the pump can exhaust that amount in three to four hours. As in the past, should the city run out of water, Newberry Mills very kindly turned on its supply.

A. H. Monteith testified: When the pressure went down I got Mr. Jamieson's carriage and went with Dr. McIntosh to the pump. The pump had been restarted when we got there and showed 110 pounds of pressure. George W. Summer was there.

1. The fire was accidental - probably from a defective flue.
2.  They commend the Chamber of Commerce as to the enlargements of the fire limits of the city and recommend the adoption of these limits by City Council.
3.  They recommend the Council appoint a building inspector.
4.  Recommend that during all future fires the Superintendent of the power house be at his station at the fire house and send an employee to the stand pipe until the crisis is over.
5. Recommend a duplicate pump and another com- pressor be purchased for the powerhouse.
6 Recommend the purchase of an automatic gauge that is self registering and self recording the condition of the water in the standpipe at all times.
7. Recommend a pressure gauge be put on the   standpipe that will show the pressure from the pump.
NEWBERRY FIRE DEPARTMENT - At a city council meeting the Fire Masters urged the council to substitute a pair of heavier horses for the hose wagon and recommended a part-paid fire department. They recommended four men to be kept at the firehouse all the time to answer the alarm of fire. In April the fire company responded to a call about a mile from the firehouse to the home of John M. Taylor. Smoke was pouring out of the kitchen between the roof and ceiling. They used 300 feet of hose and extinguished the fire in skillful manner.

A fire started in the linen room of the Newberry Hotel, in the front room to the left of the top of the stairway on October 4, 1908. Twenty five or thirty comforters had burned and several mattresses, blankets and part of a bed. The police, Mr. Brockman and a porter put out the fire without sounding the alarm. Someone had been ironing in the room and left it plugged into the outlet. When someone else put the light on in the room the iron automatically started to warm up and burned out of control after a time.

The recommendations by the Fire Masters apparently went unheeded and in 1909 the City of Newberry was told that the Southeastern Underwriters Association had found such defects as to find it necessary to raise insurance rates 15 to 18 per unit in part because of  the present water system and fire department at the time. Several ordinances were forcefully suggested. Also, it was recommended to place three regular full paid men in addition to the drivers, same to sleep at the wagon house and be on duty day and night; either install an approved alarm system or pay each volunteer fireman $1 for each alarm as well as provide a telephone at his residence; place extinguishers on the fire wagon; make the wagon house fire proof; change the fire horses to a heavier pair.
Other vehicles purchased by the City Council were Seagraves engines in 1937 ($9,100), 1946, 1970 and 1980 Ford.

An editorial appeared in the local paper on January 21, 1969 titled "Will Our Gamble Pay Off In 1969?"

1917 Fire Truck
Each LaFrance Engine has a serial number on its engine. The Engine purchased by Newberry was Engine #2660.

2005 New Ladder Truck

Ever since the loss of lives at the horrific fire at the Palmetto House in 1957 (Located at College & Friend Streets) the newspaper had been urging for new fire trucks. At that fire the 1917 LaFrance Truck at 38 years of age had labored the whole night with meticulous performance but most certainly should not be expected for a repeat performance in 1969. The same went for the 1937 Seagraves owned by the fire department. The other two trucks in operation were 1949 and 1959 model trucks. So in reality, the fire department had only two trucks reliable enough for sudden fire fighting. Every year the City Council was asked for a new truck and every year the reply was, "No funds." In 1970 a new truck was presented to the fire department by the City of Newberry.

Prior to the building of the Newberry Water Works in 1897, water was stored in cisterns.

The 1883 fire, which destroyed Mollohon Row, was fought with water obtained from Mrs. Mower's cistern. A short time later the city built a cistern on the public square.  During times of need the water was pumped from the cistern to water tanks and transported to the fire where it was transferred to water hoses.
Excavated cisterns were lined with mortar and brick and were built to hold 60,000 to 75,000 gallons of water. A strong wood cover was laid over them and it was possible to drive over them, as on Harrington Street, although not encouraged as a practice.

According to George Leland Summer other such water sources were a 15-foot square cistern on Nance Street at Scott's Creek and another cistern later built at Harrington and Thompson Streets.

Many fire departments use different colored helmets for different ranks. When there are several firefighters on a fire or accident scene, different color helmets can help the incident commander keep track of all personnel.

Fire hydrants are painted different colors to allow firefighters to quickly identify the flow rate of any fire hydrant. Knowing the flow rate of a fire hydrant tells them how much water it can provide for firefighting operations. The four basic colors of fire hydrants and their respective flow rates are listed below.

Red fire hydrants have a flow rate under 500 gallons per minute.

Orange/yellow fire hydrants have a flow rate between 500 and 999 gallons per minute.

Green fire hydrants have a flow rate between 1000 and 1499 gallons per minute.

Blue or light blue fire hydrants have a flow rate of 1500 gallons per minute or higher.

An all-white hydrant is one that is newly installed and not yet tested by DHEC. Once tested it will be assigned a color code.

A hydrant with a black cap is one with water pressure so low it is not approved for fire fighting. Since it is too expensive to dig up pipes to remove them they are simply painted black.

These are standards set by the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA for short.

Newberry County belongs to the organization and has adopted its fire standards.

As you ride through South Carolina you will notice not every county has adopted the color codes.  For example, Laurens County paints its hydrants yellow with the white cap.

More On Fire Hydrants.

There are two types of fire hydrants, wet barrel and dry barrel. As the name suggest, wet barrel fire hydrants have water in the barrel at all times, whereas dry barrel fire hydrants do not. Dry barrel fire hydrants are used in areas where freezing temperatures are common. If wet barrel fire hydrants are used in freezing climates the water inside can freeze and damage the hydrant.

The blue reflectors often seen in streets are used to mark water sources. Most commonly these water sources are fire hydrants however they can be lakes, ponds, or any other water source.

Firefighters need a straight line approach to the fire hydrant so that they can connect the hose (or hoses) to it. A fire hose with water pressure in it does not bend all that well, so a clear path to and from the hydrant is very important.

It is a punishable crime to drive over a fire hose during fire fighting

Malcolm Lassane and 'Joe'
Photo courtesy of Nichols Studios

… in 1902 a livestock freight car billed to J. H. Summer came to Newberry. Among the five occupants of the car was a large Kentucky bred bay gelding that wore stocking feet and a blaze on its face. It stood 16 hands high and weighed 1300 pounds. In the next two years the horse was sold first to T. J. McCrary and secondly to the town of Newberry to be used as a fire horse, at the age of 9 years. 'Joe' was trained by Malcolm Lassane to respond to fires and it soon became apparent the horse had the attributes to make him a winner at the Fire Department Tournaments. Although he was not the fastest horse to be raced, he was almost always the winning horse. Malcolm Lassane used to attribute Joe's winning ways to the fact the horse seemed to out-think his competition. The horse never needed a whip and Malcolm hated to admit - probably didn't need a driver either. "Joe is buried under the first window on the northern side of the old fire station (On Harrington Street).  When he was retired from the fire department Joe was sold to someone out O'Neall Street, so I have been told.  It was said he still went crazy trying to get to the fires when he heard the bells at the Opera House go off.  1911 was his glory year in which he won the state time races and was clocked as fifth fastest in the nation." .... Joe H. Palmer, Newberry Fire Chief

In Pope's History of Newberry, Part 2, page 130  - Mr. Pope wrote that Joe died May 9, 1930 and was buried in a grave 10 feet deep by the side of the fire station. The town bell tolled 35 times, once for each year of his life.

In 1911 at the age of 18 years Joe came in first at the 200 yard race at the Rock Hill tournament pulling a wagon fully loaded in 12 and two-fifths seconds.  He

There is no second floor porch seen on the firehouse.

had come within a fifth of a second tying the world record.

Malcolm had cared for Joe every day since he had been purchased for the fire department and Malcolm selected the site for Joe's burial. Three hundred citizens came to the funeral.

"Malcolm Lassane was a big part of the fire department history.  A number of those alive still remember Mr. Mac and Joe the horse".

What little I have learned of Malcolm Lassane is from Census sheets, cemetery records and probate records.

In 1900  Jane Boyd, a seamstress, born August 1850 and her son Malcolm Lassane, a widower and day laborer, were living in Newberry. He was the only surviving of her six children. The Census stated Malcolm was born 1876 but his headstone stated 1873 and in calculating from census records and other information he was born between 1871 and 1873. Shortly after the 1900 Census Malcolm married Rosa Lee Holman, born Dec 30, 1884. In 1910 Rosalee was listed as the second wife of Malcolm and their daughter Janie was seven years old. The family was living at 504 Caldwell Street. Malcolm was listed as a driver for the fire department and Rosalie was a laundress.  Daughter Janie Lasane 18 years old married Eddie Caldwell 23 years old in 1919, officiated by Rev. A. W. Brown with Annie L. Washington and Rosa Lee Lassane as witnesses. March 1920 Janie Lassane Caldwell died. By 1920 Malcolm 45 years old and Rosalie 39 years old were renting a home at 222 Caldwell Street. No children were living with them on the census records. According to the 1930 Federal Census Malcolm and Rosalie bought a home at 600 Caldwell Street with a value of $1500. That Census stated Malcolm was 29 years old and Rosalie was 16 years old when they married. No children were seen on that census either.

Malcolm died from an intestinal obstruction caused by cancer. He had created a Will witnessed by Sam D. Beam, H. O. Swittenberg and F. L. Bynum, leaving all his property, including the home and Studebaker to his wife.

After Malcolm's death in 1947 Rosalie ran a boarding house for 'City Visitors' at 600 Caldwell St. Rosalie Lassane died Nov. 1976 at age 96 with a Will in effect. There were no surviving children or grand children and Rosalie left what little was remaining after expenses to her friend Elizabeth Golden Floyd and her great nephew Dr. John Henry Satterwhite of Washington DC. Her sister Jessie Mae Satterwhite Horton of Norristown PA had predeceased her. Malcolm and Rosalie Lassane, Janie Lassane and Eddie Caldwell  are buried in Werts Cemetery. Janie Lasane Boyd, mother of Malcolm, is buried at St. Mathew's AME Cemetery. MALCOLM LASSANE - Born May 26, 1873' Died May 23, 1947 in Newberry SC.  Buried in Werts Cemetery, Second Wife Rosalie

CHIEFS of Excelsior Fire Company
The following Chiefs were mentioned in Newspaper articles from 1878 to 1909:

1895, 1896, 1898, 1899 
Eduard Scholtz   (1850 - 1928)
A jeweler by trade, he was first mentioned in the newspaper in 1875 as a skater and artist. For about 6 months towards the end of the year he 'moved north' but returned to Newberry a short time thereafter. He had musical abilities, belonging to the Coronet Band and performing as Vocal on occasions. During the 1877 fire he lost merchandise and personal items, one being the case to his regulator clock, which only needed winding every sixth month. After the fire damages were corrected his business was moved to the southeast corner of Caldwell & Main Streets, under the hotel. He petitioned for citizenship Dec. 6, 1878 and the original papers can be seen at the SC Archives. A native of Silosia Germany, he returned there in 1879 on a visit. In 1890 he moved his family to upstate NY State, the native area of his wife Nellie Parks, and in 1892 moved to Washington DC. Giving the Newberry mercantile business another chance his family returned to Newberry 1893. He was a Lutheran and active in the Masons. In 1896 Eduard announced his retirement as Chief of the Fire Department but was re-elected in 1898. He served two years in that capacity and then began farming enterprises along with his merchandising. The Scholtz family moved to Charlotte and every so often the social column would mention he and his family visiting in Newberry. Eduard and wife had a son Witte and daughters Frances and Helen. Edward Scholtz died on February 5, 1928 while at the Dilworth School Building in Charlotte. A member of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Charlotte, he was buried with Masonic Honors at Elmwood Cemetery in that city. His great-great grandson Whitten Walter Scholtz died 1995 of Leukemia at age 19 years and is buried in Charlotte, as are many of the family and descendants.

1896, 1897
George A. Langford   (ca 1851 - 1907)
He was appointed a member of the Board of Health of Ward 4 by the Town Council in May 1891 and in 1892 became a candidate for Mayor of Newberry. He was elected as Alderman of Ward 4 in March 1893. By 1898 he was proclaimed a very large cattle dealer making large sales in Richmond VA and taking business trips to TN. George A. Langford died May 13, 1907 of heart failure at age 56 years. His obituary was in the Herald & News of which I have not found a copy  thus far. R. Y. Leavell was the funeral director, L. M. Speers was the stone mason for his headstone and the cemetery lot cost $36 - yet I cannot locate the headstone fashioned by L. M. Speers. George A. Langford had married a daughter of John M. Livingston and Catherine Livingston. I believe that Lula Langford who died April 14, 1879 of whooping cough with burial at Rosemont Cemetery was his daughter. (No headstone recorded). Another of his children who the newspapers reported November 1873 as having died was not mentioned by name and in 1877 a son (Name not given) was injured by a falling door frame. Through the newspapers many personal items were uncovered, such as the fact George had an oat field near the jail and was a local hog butcher.  Mr. Langford had drawn up a Will before his death with the desire to see that his children were properly educated. When his daughter Miss Marietta Langford graduated from Chicora College of Greenville the Will had been fully executed and William Smith Langford, executor, applied for dismissal from his duty.  From Probate records: Surviving were his wife Elizabeth A. Langford and children: David A. Langford, William Smith Langford, John Julius Langford and Miss Marietta Langford. 

Otto Klettner (10/25/1856 - 10/22/1924)
Otto Klettner was born in Thorn, Bromberg Germany and was orphaned at an early age. Under the care of F. W. Rohr he was educated in Bromberg and Berlin. Arriving in New York, he worked at a cooper and boiler manufactory. From NY he went to Greenville SC where he worked for Mark & Endel until 1882 when he desired to return to New York. The train taking him to Charleston for his voyage to NY made a stop at Newberry and Otto never went any further. When he arrived at Newberry he visited a friend Louis Koppel who ran a merchandising business in one of the Opera House stores. In five months Otto had bought the stock from Mr. Koppel and set up his own business. He was elected the Grand Master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of South Carolina July 1890; Alderman of Ward 4 in 1892 and successfully ran a mercantile/tavern in the town. He and his family resided at Caldwell and Boundary Streets across from the Baptist Parsonage. In 1893 he was made acting Mayor but resigned from the office because he had moved his residence into another Ward since election, eliminating him from the office. Active in the Masons he was W.M. of Amity Lodge No. 87 A.F.M. for the year 1894. He was also a member of RED MEN, a temperance based society, and  was elected great junior sagamore at the convention in Spartanburg in 1909. Beginning in 1896 Otto became very active in the fire department. In 1900 the newspaper reported Mr. Klettner received an electrical shock in an attempt to free Henry Johniken, who was entangled in live wire during a fire. December 1900 he had a reception at his home in celebration at being elected Mayor of Newberry and in 1902, as Mayor, he was fined $1 for spitting in the street.

In WW1 his son was in the US Army and his brothers were in the German Army - a very sad time for him. Otto Klettner married Mary Zobel (1/10/1868 - 2/18/1937) and from that union were six known children: Mrs. W. M. King of Atlanta GA; Otto Klettner Jr., Mrs. B. A. Dominick, August Klettner and Pauline Klettner of Newberry; Silas J. Klettner of Florence SC A daughter was born 7/29/1913 and died 7/31/1913 of convulsions. Otto was survived by one sister and two brothers in Germany. Otto and his wife Mary are buried at Rosemont cemetery.

Captain Charles Joseph Purcell  (10/1/1861 - 9/23/1928) was the son of Col. E. B. Purcell of Telfair Street, Augusta GA. C. J. made his living buying and selling real estate in the county. In June 1901 his house on Johnstone Street was hit by lightening and the roof was torn up some. Repairs were made and the family continued living there until moving into the corner house at Boundary and Caldwell Streets in 1903. In 1902 Charles J. Purcell was appointed Newberry Postmaster. He sent proof of his bond to Washington but neglected to adhere the 50-cent postage to the envelope. C. J. Purcell was elected as a Director of the Exchange Bank for 1909.  The social column of the newspaper reported that his sister Mrs. Basch of Savannah GA visited the family. He married 'Daisy' Lavania Rook McFall (3/10/1879 - 6/14/1952), daughter of Lavania Rook McFall and Captain Jesse Young McFall) at St. Patrick's Church in Augusta GA 2/10/1897.  Nine known children of the union were: Charles J. Purcell, Jr. who died of pneumonia at age 5 months on 12/26/1903 with burial in Rosemont Cemetery; E. B. Purcell, Mrs. T. E. Davis, Mrs. C. Kenner Brown, all of Newberry; Mrs. T. F. Cooley of Elkin NC; Mrs. T. J. West of West Charleston SC; Mrs. R. J. Vance of Whittier CA; James McFall Purcell of Fort Lyon CO; C. J. Purcell of New Orleans LA. Charles and Lavania McFall Purcell are buried at Rosemont Cemetery.

Elijah Hayes Leslie (12/21/1861-2/11/1929) held half interest in a mercantile business with A. F. Joyner and built homes for J. A. Blackwelder and M. A. Coleman in 1898. In 1900 he built the Newberry Knitting Mill and in 1903 he built a school in Bishopville. The fire of 1907 destroyed his residence in Newberry and for a short time his family moved to Conway until a new home at 1410 Friend was built. E. H. Leslie married Virginia Lee Stewart (9/6/1866 - 11/14/1952) at the Crotwell Hotel on 5/12/1892 officiated by Rev. George A. Wright. Of the union were born: Gordon Stewart Leslie of Las Cruces New Mexico and Irvine B. Leslie of Newberry. Both Elijah and Virginia Leslie are buried at Rosemont Cemetery.

100th Anniversary celebrated in October 1973.
The following chiefs were honored at that occasion with the unveiling of their portraits:

Henry Burton Wells, (April 26, 1874 - July 19, 1940) the son of Osborne and Cornelia Schumpert Wells. In 1889, a young lad of 14 years of age joined the fire department as coal cart boy while too young to join the company. Chief Wells was chief from 1905 until his death. In 1897 he was elected 3rd Sergeant of the newly formed NEWBERRY GUARDS and in December of that year he almost fell through a skylight at a fire. Elected treasurer of the Fire Company on 1/8/1900; Secretary of the Excelsior Fire Co. in 1898, 1900; member of the Managing Committee of the Excelsior Fire Company in 1902, 1904, 1905; Alderman of Ward 2 in 1904; attended State Fireman's Assoc. conventions 1906, 1907 (As a delegate), 1908; was a prelate for Knights of Pythias in 1908 and SD of Amity Lodge #87 Masons in 1908. He married Miss Mary Fulmer (6/25/1876 - 3/22/1956) and had two children: H. B. Wells Jr. and W. Fulmer Wells (4/4/1902 - 6/6/1980). Henry and Mary Wells are buried in Rosemont Cemetery. His portrait was unveiled by his son Henry Burton Wells 2nd, himself a fire chief. A photograph of Mr. Wells is kept in the trophy case at the Otis Whitaker firehouse.

Robert Herman Wright (10/21/1882 - 3/31/1967) was born in Newberry, the son of Captain Robert H. and Mary Frances Bowers Wright. A graduate of the Citadel he was a veteran of the Spanish American War, a Mason and a Shriner. In 1909 at the annual stockholders meeting he was elected Assistant Cashier for the Commercial Bank of Newberry. He joined the fire department in 1909, elected as Captain that same year and was a member until 1923 when he dropped out for business reasons until 1928. At the death of Chief Wells in 1940, Wright was elected Chief and served until 1943. Robert Herman Wright married Clara Langford (Died 1960). There were no surviving children of the union. Surviving nieces and nephews were: Dr. Robert Houseal of Columbia; Wright Cannon, Mrs. Sara Goggans, Mrs. Frances Rutherford, Mrs. Mary Frances Finney, all of Newberry. His portrait was unveiled by a nephew William Cannon.

Samson Doria Beam, (8/23/1900 - 10/28/1962) spent a number of years in Thornwell Orphanage. He joined the fire department in 1921. In 1937 he became a full time employee of the city and was elected Chief in 1943, serving until his death in Oct. 28, 1962. His funeral service was held in Redeemer Lutheran Church with burial in the Prosperity Cemetery. His wife, Sara Amick Beam (12/12/1905 - 3/7/1973). Both are buried in Prosperity Cemetery. Miss Ruth Amick, sister-in-law unveiled Chief Beam's portrait.

Dave Laird, (1/14/1912 - 9/21/1970) was born in Lexington County, the son of William and Doshia Peele Laird. He was the owner/operator of Laird's Radiator Service. He joined the department in 1941 and served as a fire fighter and assistant chief for a number of years. In 1962, at the death of Chief Beam, he was elected Chief and served in this capacity until February 1963. Dave was active in the Masons and Shriners. He is buried in Newberry Memorial Gardens with his wife Brunell Carter Laird (1908 - 1979). Of the union they had: Dave Lee Laird Jr. of Columbia; George William Laird of Newberry; Mrs. Dorothy L. Kopczynsaki of Santa Cruz CA; Miss Mary Laird of Newport RI.  Siblings who survived Dave were: Melton Laird of Swansea; Woodrow Laird of Augusta GA; Mrs. Nealie Craft of Cayce. Fred Rodelsperger, a close friend, unveiled the portrait of Chief Laird.

Otis Whitaker. (4/1/1906 - 3/8/1989)
Born in Newberry he was the son of Herbert Doggett and Mary Rebecca Lane Whitaker. A Graduate of Newberry College 1929, he served in the US Army WW2. Otis was active in the fire department for 58 years and served as Chief 1963 to 1966, becoming a member of the SC Fireman's Association Hall of Fame. The town of Newberry dedicated a new Ford Pumper truck to his memory. He was also a founder of Newberry Memorial Gardens in 1953. Otis Whitaker married Annie Lee Young. No children survived the couple. Burial was in Newberry Memorial Gardens. His portrait was unveiled by his sister, Mrs. Mary Lane (J. Ralph) Williams.

James Edward Hazel was the next chief starting in 1966 and Rev. N. E. Truesdell pastor of Aveleigh Presbyterian Church was the Chaplain for the Fire Department. Chief Hazel was the SC 1973 'Firefighter of the Year'. He joined the Newberry fire department in 1944 and in 1947 was elected assistant chief where he served until elected chief in 1966. He was Secretary/Treasurer of the SC Fire Chief Association for four years and served both as President and Vice President of the SC State Fireman's Association.

Lewis Lee was born in Union County SC, son of Reverend Michael B. Lee, a Methodist Minister and Mary Nita Lee. One of seven children, Mr. Lee moved to Newberry SC when his father was assigned the Epting Memorial United Methodist Church. He became a volunteer fireman in 1966 and was hired as a firefighter/engineer (Fire engine driver) on September 8, 1966 by Chief Ed Hazel.  He was Chief of the Newberry Fire Department for 14+ years; President of the SC State Fireman's Assoc. 1985-6; Chairman of the State of SC Fire Commission for eight years; State Fire Marshall for South Carolina for 6 years; Member of the Bush River Volunteer Fire Department from 1975 to the present time; Fire Chief of the Bush River Fire Department for 9+ years; Past Master of Amity Lodge #87 A. F. M.; At present serving as Emergency Services co-coordinator and Public Safety Director for Newberry County; Member of O'Neall Street United Methodist Church.  Lewis K Lee married Nancy Rowe Shealy and are the parents of three children: David Shealy, Darin Shealy and Debra Lee Trinidad.

Joseph H. Palmer, born August 29 1967 he was the son of Joyce and Bruce Palmer in Greenwood SC. He married Marquerite Fowler and has three step daughters- Melissa, Jeannie and Marlowe Whitaker. Joe began fire service career while in high school as a volunteer with the Greenwood County Coronoca Fire Department  and then the Northwest Fire Department. He entered College and became interested in a full time career as a firefighter during his junior year and went to work with the City of Greenwood FD upon graduation from Lander College in 1989.  While working at the City of Greenwood, he became Regional Coordinator for the Greenwood seven county region for the SC Fire Academy.  He moved to Columbia in 1991 and became the Manager of all training functions both the industrial and regional for the SC Fire Academy.  In May of 1994 he was offered the position with the City of Newberry and has been happily employed since.  Mr. Palmer has been a member of the United Methodist Church since birth and served local churches He attended as Administrative Board chairperson, trustee, and served as District Lay leader for the Greenwood District from 1998 until 2000.  His hobbies are wood working, camping, horse riding and working in the yard.

NEWBERRY FIRE DEPARTMENT is a combination paid and volunteer service. Currently, the department is staffed by 20 paid and more than 25 volunteer members. Eighteen of the paid personnel work shifts of 24 hours with 48 hours off-duty between shifts. This provides (6) six persons available for operating fire service needs around the clock. The volunteers supplement all activities of the paid members, resulting in big savings for taxpayers.

Training - Personnel are trained in interior structural firefighting, confined spaces rescue, hazardous materials incident mitigation, and fire prevention and inspection.

Community Service - The City of Newberry Fire Department is actively involved in the communities they serve. Firefighters give tours of the fire stations and teach students about fire prevention and speakers are available to conduct fire safety seminars for local schools and community groups. Last year, the department placed fire truck reading centers into each elementary school within the city limits and the public library, furthering the education of fire safety and prevention. The Fire Department is able to boast many firsts for the fire service, of which is one is the first black firefighter in the state: Malcolm Lassane.
Notification of the firefighters as to the presence of an alarm at one time was an elaborate system of bells driven by a Gamewell pull box system at locations across town. These bells were in the firemen's homes, at the fire department, and even in the bell tower of the Newberry Opera House.

School children in the County wrote essays submitted during 'Fire Prevention Week'.  A few from each school were selected among the many entries as the best for the grade and were given a citation of excellence.  In the Fire department scrap books are kept some of the essays.  A list follows of some of the essays the fire department saved in their scrap books:

1964 Ramona Moore, Mike Mills, Angela Dominick, Eddie Bledsoe, Cheryl Harris, Carroll Harris, Marguerite Hardin, Kathy Lynn Johnson, Randy Ben Bradley, Gloria McKittrick, Kathy Riggin, Catherine Baker, Jane Brown.

1965  Cynthia Brannon

1966 Debbie Bishop, Ramona Moore

Charles Dukes of Den 1, Pack 222 wrote a 'Thank you' to the fire department for the tour of the facilities. His sister, Sara Dukes, drew a picture and printed below it, "I enjoyed it too."

1968 Merrianne Leaphart, Regina Faith Floyd,  Marion Cureton

1970 Gail Lyvinne Pitts, Regina Floyd, Margie McAlhany, Betty Ann Gladney, Renee Wicker, Frances Wicker, Joyce Langford.

1971 Lynn Davis, Laurie Dodgen, Gail Hawkins, John Davis, Jimmy Steve Moore.

1972: Bob Fellers, Bonnie Bobb, Kathryn C. Link
(Diane Stuckey's hand drawn picture of a fire   truck was kept in the scrap book)

1974: Thank you for the tour of the firehouse! Cub Scouts Den 1, Pack 222 - Richie Brown, Cyril Clary, Alan Davenport, Chris Ragland, Claude Schumpert, Kevin Staub.

(Pam Livingston & Allison sent drawings to the firemen) 

The Maltese Cross is a symbol of fire protection around the world - a badge of honor. It is often seen worn on the clothing of fire fighters. Its story is hundreds of years old, starting when a courageous band of crusaders, known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land. The Crusaders encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but horrible device of war, delivering excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters of the Cross. The Saracens' weapon was Fire.

As the Crusaders advanced on the walls of their opponents' city, glass bombs containing naphtha attacked them. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming tree into their midst. Hundreds of Knights were burned alive. Others risked their lives to save their brothers in arms from dying painful deaths. Thus, these men became the first fire fighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow Crusaders who awarded each hero with a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one Firefighters wear today.

Since the Knights of St. John lived for nearly four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the Cross-became known as the Maltese Cross.

The Maltese Cross signifies that the firefighter wearing this cross is willing to lay down his life, just as the Crusader sacrificed their lives for their fellow men so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a Firefighter's Badge of Courage, a ladder-rung away from death.

(Incomplete list of beauty queens found in the   scrapbooks):  Miss Flame of South Carolina - 1966 Miss Eunice Kitchens.

1965 Nina Sheppard
1966  Judy/Ginny Mills
1968 Judy Wise
1969 Lynn Bedenbaugh Koon
1970  Brantlee C. Price
1973 Judy Hembree
1974 Lane Dipner
1975 Johnette Jacobs

Photograph taken at Salter Studios

Badge # 1884

(The Newberry Fire Department)
In November 1899 she sent the President of the Excelsior Hose Company her resignation stating she thought the "Sweetheart" should be a single woman
(Signed)  "Mrs. Henry B. Wells"
(Resignation was not eccepted).
This is her original 1899 photograph and her badge.  4/26/75 H. B. Wells, Jr.
Photograph letter and badge are in the trophy case at the Otis Whitaker Fire House

On February 2, 1899 the newspaper announced that Miss Mary Fulmer was elected as the sponsor of the Excelsior Fire department. She married Henry B. Wells on November 29, 1899 at the Lutheran Church, officiated by Rev. M. G. G. Sherer.

Miss Eunice Shockley, daughter of Irby B. Shockley, of Helena was elected Sponsor of the Excelsior Fire Company on January 8, 1900. Miss Eunice Shockley

married T. Oswald Stewart (Foreman of Excelsior Fire Co.) at Central Methodist Church Parsonage on 3/17/1901 by Rev. W. I.  Herbert.

Firefighting cauldrons were placed in strategic locations in ancient China and kept filled with water --- at the ready --- in the event of a fire.  In colonial America cisterns were used to store water for early fire fighting purposes, and these continued to be used even after the introduction of the hydrant in many cities. Moreover, as late as 1861, Louisville, Kentucky employed 124 cisterns but no fire hydrants. Cisterns are still used today for firefighting.

No one individual is credited with the invention of the fire hydrant. It was developed over a period of many years by many people. The first hydrants were used for public water supply from the earliest municipal water systems. They resembled faucets and were for the bucket brigade method of firefighting.

U.S. Patent #909, which was issued to John M. Jordan of Baltimore Maryland in 1838 was a metal pipe enclosed in a wooden case. There was a valve at the bottom, with an outlet on the side, near the top. The wooden case was filled with sawdust or manure as insulation to prevent freezing in the winter, but this idea did not work very well. The Jorden patent was for his variation on the drain that allowed the water to run out of the riser after each use, in an attempt to prevent freezing. The basic idea is still used today in cold climates.

In 1802, the first order for cast iron hydrants was placed with cannon maker Foxall & Richards. In 1803, Frederick Graff Sr. introduced an improved version of the fire hydrant with the valve in the lower portion. These were inserted into wooden mains with a tapering joint. In 1811, Philadelphia claimed to have 230 wooden hydrant pumps and 185 cast iron fire hydrants.

The term "fire plug" dates from the time when water mains were made from hollowed out logs. The fire company (usually volunteers) would head out to the fire, dig up the cobbles down to the main, then bore a hole into the main so that the excavation would fill with water which they could draft using their pumper. When finished fighting the fire, they would seal the main with -- you guessed it -- a "fire plug". Marking the spot with a pole, the next time there was a fire in the neighborhood, they'd dig up the plug and not have to cut into the main.

The first post or pillar type hydrant is generally credited to Mr. Frederick Graff Sr., Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Works around the year 1801. It had a combination hose/faucet outlet and was of "wet barrel" design with the valve in the top. It is said that Mr. Graff held the first U.S. patent for a fire hydrant, but this cannot be verified. The patent office burned to the ground in 1836, destroying all the U.S. patent records!

Dalmatians were originally chosen as firedogs because they formed a strong bond with the fire horses. They guarded the valuable equine and kept them company in the station. They were also helpful in directing the horses during the era of the horse drawn fire engine. Horses were able to distinguish the Dalmatian from strange dogs at a fire because of the spotted coat of fur. 

SPARKY, the Dalmatian mascot for the Newberry Fire Department, served chiefly as a 'PR' personality. No longer was there a need for a dog to guard the horses in a fire. Owned by Lewis Lee, Sparky's special job was to keep the school children entertained on tours. Born 1966 in Union he was the offspring of the 'fire dog' Sparky of Union County and the female Dalmatian owned by Rev. Ed Blain of Newberry. He performed his duties nobly until his death in 1975.
In the 1990's another Dalmatian was taken around to the schools by Fireman Mark Mills and he also was called "Sparky".

As previously mentioned, the first shelter for the fire equipment was a wooden structure. George Leland Summer stated the shelter was at Harrington and College Streets on the property of Mr. Foot who owned a dray business. (Horses ands carts for rent) Mr. Foot permitted the fire department to use his horses to haul the engine to Scotts Creek for a fill-up.

Shortly after 'Young John' was purchased, the equipment was moved to the first floor of the Opera House. The first firehouse, of brick construction was built at the southwest corner of today's Harrington and McKibben streets.            

Originally address was1227 Nance Street
Today it is 1227 McKibben Street

1925 photo of the firehouse

There was no Harrington Street at the time and an early photo showed a brick covered well in the area that today would be about the middle of Harrington Street. My guess is that the well was the water source for those using the Market Stalls as well as the firehouse. Some years later a wooden porch was added to the second floor. Between the fire house and the opera house were ten stalls known as 'The Market Place'. Fire House street level contained stalls for the fire horses and wagons with sleeping quarters upstairs and a kitchen, workroom and game room area on the basement level, opening out onto Nance Street (Was McKibben Street when built). On the Northwest corner of the intersection was the county jail (Today is a parking lot).

Remodeling of the firehouse was started in 1937. The porch on the second floor was removed and the exterior was stuccoed. When completed the firehouse was about sixty percent larger than the original building. A new fire alarm system was installed and the city purchased a 1937 pumper. The building was constructed under WPA and Fulmer Wells, whose father was the fire chief at the time, was the architect. In this building were living quarters for the men upstairs and a dining room, kitchen and workshop in the basement. On the ground floor were the motor trucks.  The marketplace between the firehouse and Opera House had been dismantled. Old Joe's grave was covered with a concrete side walk.

In 2005 The City of Newberry is in the process of renovating the fire house to create a Convention Center for the city and its visitors.

Fire trucks come in many colors. Back in the 1920's most cars and trucks were painted black. To make the fire trucks stand out more, they were painted red. In the 1960's, fire departments began experimenting with different colors that would make the fire trucks more visible in daylight as well as night time. Hence the first instance of a 'lime green' color. Today, each fire department chooses their own colors for their vehicles. Some departments have even gone to a dark blue color. And some others paint murals in the sides of their trucks.

Tournament Races
The firemen had to keep in top shape for the work demanded of them in a fire. The Excelsior Man had to be swift, agile, able to climb ladders without difficulty, able to endure long runs and have the strength to pull a hose wagon behind him while running to a fire. In order to meet these physical requirements a regime of physical training was part of the Volunteers' lifestyles. Then once a year, fire departments from around the State would have friendly competition by way of tournaments. Raymond Beaty of the Anderson Fire Department, after participating in the tournament races at Newberry had chest pain, was carried to his hotel room and after a short time was pronounced dead. The physicians however continued to try to resuscitate the man and after 5 hours the patient was revived. In three days he was pronounced well enough to travel home.

Mention of winners of the 1893 foot races were:  Henry Caldwell won $3; Oscar Chalmers, won the Eagle foot race; Lawson Kibler, won $5; J. H. West, won $2.

Photograph is kept at the Otis Whitaker Fire House.
This photograph is taken facing south so the cameraman must have had his back to the jail.

In the background is a side view of the first brick firehouse. Steps lead from the rear of the building to street level. The well has a brick housing opened on all four sides.

The firemen are proudly displaying the ribbons they won in a relay. The hose reel they probably pulled in the tournament is to the left and the hose is held by the crew to demonstrate the length.

'Samson' the firedog is seen resting. 

Names of Fire Fighters and their positions mentioned in the newspapers 1875, 1877 to 1909, 1939

1899   T. J. Jackson, salary of $30/month
1900   T. O. Stewart Jr.
1901   Ike Plass
1902   Henry Adams
1909   T. Q. Boozer
1910   J. H. Baxter

2nd Foreman  
1900   David Mittle
1910   William Boozer

Sick Committee - 1900
John Aldrich, W. S. Mann, F. J. Russell

Managing Committee
1900 H. Kuhns Blats, T. O. Stewart and  H. B. Wells

1895  J. A. Blats 

First Assistant Chief
1897, 1898  Otto Klettner
1900   E. H. Leslie
1901   A. T. Brown
1902   J. W. White
1907   J. W. Earhardt
1909, 1910  John W. Earhardt
1939   T. P. Wicker

2nd Assistant Fire Chief
1897,  1898,  1900 J. W. White
1901   D. L. Copeland
1902   C. C. Stewart, J. R. Green
1909, 1910  John B. Mayes 
1939   E. L. Rodelsperger

1895 & 1899  W. T. Jackson

Assistant Engineer
1895   Braxton Davis

1895   George B. Cromer
1900   Hunt & Hunt
1901& 1902  F. H. Dominick
1903   I. H. Hunt

Axeman of Squad No. 2
1899   C. C. Stewart

Honorary Member
1877   Hon. W. T. Tarrant

1875   W. T. Tarrant
1877   J. E. Brown
1895 to 1902  J. W. Earhardt was presented with a silver tea set as a token of appreciation for the 8 years he served as President of the

Excelsior Fire Company.
1903   W. S. Mann
1907   L. C. Pitts
1909, 1910  W. J. Swittenberg
1939   H. H. Hedgepath

1875   T. S. Moorman,  T. C. Pool (2nd VP)
1877   G. G. Lane
1895   H. T. White
1897   P. J. Voss
1898 to 1902  W. S. Mann
1903   L. C. Pitts
1909   W. C. Waldrop
1910   R. H. Wright

Captain of the Hose Company
1893   Frank Evans
1895   W. W. Hornsby
1909   R. H. Wright
1910   W. C. Waldrop

Captain's Aide
1893   W. W. Hornsby, T. O. Stewart

1895   J. B Fox
1898   Rev. George A. Wright
1900 to 1903  Rev. George A. Wright

1877   Dr. O. B. Mayer Sr., Dr. O. B. Mayer Jr.
1895, 1900, 1901, 1903 W. G. Houseal
1902   A. L. Longshore

1875   L. C. Moore
1877   L. W. Jones
1895   George M. Kibler
1899, 1900  H. B. Wells
1901, 1902  F. J. Russell
1909   R. C. Williams Jr.
1910   W. B. Wallace

1875   L. C. Moore
1877   J. W. M. Simmons, W. F. Ewart (Asst. Secr.)
1895   George M. Kinard
1898   Julian H. Kinard
1899   P. L. Rikard
1900,1901, 1902 L. C. Pitts
1903   H. B. Wells
1909, 1910  W. B. Wallace
1939   George Rodelsperger

1st Director
1875   F. E. Salinas
1877   George W. Mower
1895   J. O. Rivers
1899   H. Kuhns Blats

2nd Director
1875   O. L. Schumpert
1877   Dr. D. S. Pope
1899   George M. Kinard

3rd Director
1875   H. O'Neall Harrington
1877   J. T. Mayes

4th Director
1875   S. Fowles
1877   Edward Scholtz

Investigating Committee Members
1900   E. H. Leslie
1900   Ike Plass
1900   Wilbur Welch

Members of the 1939 Newberry Fire Department were:

Brother Brown, James F. Epting, Clayton Smith,  James Sease, E. L. Rodelsperger, John Marlow, E. M. Lipscomb, O.L. Whitaker, E. M. Wise, Pat Boyle, Gene Patterson, Paul Haile, George Rodelsperger, Paul Whitaker, H. B. Wells, Ralph Whitaker, H. B. Wells Jr., S. E. Whitten Jr., H. H. Hedgepath, Sam Glenn, H. L. Dukes, Sam Johnson, H. O. Swittenberg, Sam Beam, Howard Lipscomb, T. P. Wicker, J. C. Longshore, T. P. Wicker Jr., J. P. Vaughn, W. S. Cameron, J. S. Lide, J. T. Danielsen Jr., Jack Senn

Those who participated in the Fireman's Tournament in Union SC 1909
William Boozer, Henry D. Adams, James L. Aull,  W. S. Mann, Donald White, F. J. Russell, James A. Burton Jr.

NEWBERRY FIRE DEPARTMENT was officially the Excelsior Hose Company. Their telephone number was 311. Most fires were caused by faulty electric wire, lightening or sparks from a chimney flue onto a wooden shingled roof. Chief H. B. Wells appeared before city council in behalf of the Excelsior Fire Hose Co., in regard to a requisition made several weeks prior for a pair of horses, suits for the firemen and some changes at fire headquarters. Mayor Blease paid the department a high tribute and thought every inducement should be offered them in the way of encouragement. He thought they should have what was needed. The work had already been ordered done at the fire house and the suits were bought by the fire committee. On motion of Alderman Baxter, a committee of three, the mayor to be a member of said committee, was appointed to buy a pair of suitable fire horses for the department. The committee in addition to the Mayor was Aldermen Baxter and Rodelsperger. The members of the Excelsior Hose Company bought a 1-horse hose wagon with which they expected to practice. It was second hand, coming from Durham NC but was in good condition, having been used very little. It was rubber tired and ball bearing and was a $350 wagon although the company paid $125 for it. The company went into practice for the state tournament to be held in Sumter June 21, 22, 23. The roof of the colored Methodist parsonage in Graveltown occupied by Rev. E. R. Anderson caught fire but there was not much damage and the residence of Mrs. Annie R. Harris, 903 Friend Street near the crossing of the CN&L RR was burned. All persons except members of the Fire Company were forbidden to ride on the Hose Wagon.  The Excelsior Hose Co. decided to participate in the Fireman's Tournament at Sumter and asked the city council permission to take the 1-horse wagon and horse with them. Georgetown Fire Department was ruled out and Newberry was awarded the 3rd prize in the straight hand-heel race - time 23-3/10. Newberry also won the 3rd prize in the hose wagon race; time was 32.9 - prize $50. Anderson was 1st at 31.9 and Columbia was 2nd at 32.3. Newberry captured $75 in prizes!  The Excelsior Hose Wagon team next went to Anderson to participate in the fireman's tournament in that city also. The wagon and horse in charge of Malcolm Lesesne, colored, went up to Anderson two days ahead of time. Columbia was the winner in the hose wagon race in Anderson and Newberry came in second. The truck driven by William Swittenberg in 16 sec. at the hydrant and water in 36 seconds. Alderman Baxter returned from Knoxville TN bringing with him two of the handsomest steel grays bought by him for the city fire department for $800. Of the two bays that already belonged to the fire department, Dick was sold and Joe was kept. There was a small fire at T. E. Grizzard's on Glenn Street and a new fire alarm at the Power House. The new fire house adjoining the old one was completed under the supervision of Alderman Baxter and was a fine piece of work. Both buildings together made a handsome structure with very nice and comfortable rooms upstairs and room enough for both the one horse wagon and the two horse wagon plus the three horses. The SC Legislature helped to form a Firemen's Pension by creating a tax of 1% on insurance companies with the requirement that towns must have fire fighting apparatus at a value of $1,000. Boundary Street School had a successful fire drill and everyone seemed to be getting accustomed to the sound of the new fire alarm by the power house.

Information about the Officers in the above was found in the publications of the local newspapers: Newberry Herald 5/9/1877, page 3, Newberry Observer 9/28/1893, 12/19/1894, 7/17/1895, 6/23/1897, 2/2/1898, 10/27/1897, 6/22/1898, 7/20/1898, 12/21/1898, 1/5/1899, 1/19/1899, 1/11/1900, 1/10/1901, 12/20/1901, 12/20/1901, 12/30/1902, 4/5/1907, 7/19/1907; 4/20/1909; 7/2/1909; 12/31/1909 Sesqui-Centennial edition of the Newberry Observer in 1939

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