EARLY FIRE IMPLEMENTS
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.
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
New York in 1690 ordered 5 ladders and hooks to be
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
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
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
THE FIRE OF JUNE 18,
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,
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
"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.
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
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
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:
T. Tarrant President
Moorman 1st Vice President
Pool 2nd Vice President
Salinas 1st Director
Schumpert 2nd Director
Harrington 3rd Director
S. Fowles 4th
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
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:
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
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
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".
FIRE OF FEBRUARY 1876
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)
A CARD TO THE CITIZENS OF
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
Respectfully, THOS. P. SLIDER
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
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
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 ….
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
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
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
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
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.
NEWBERRY FIRE OF
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,
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.
individual was seen struggling at the Milestone in front of the
Court House, the purpose being to convey it to a place of
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
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
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
The fire was terminated in part by a timely rain
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
ANNUAL ELECTION OF
April/May of each year was the time for the election of
In May 1877:
J. E. Brown President
G. Lane Vice-president
J. W. M.
George S. Mower 1st
Dr. D. S. Pope 2nd Director
Mayes 3rd Director
Edward Scholtz 4th
Dr. O. B. Mayer Sr. Surgeon
Dr. O. B. Mayer
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
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
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
NEWBERRY COURTHOUSE FIRE
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
FIRE OF CHRISTMAS 1905
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
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.
'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
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?
29, 1907 edition of the Observer (Printed the day prior) was
commenting on a large fire recently experienced in
"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
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.
MEMBERS OF THE BOARD
OF FIREMASTERS HELD AN INQUIREY
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.
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
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.
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.
FINDINGS OF THE FIRE BOARD AND
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.
recommend the Council appoint a building inspector.
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
5. Recommend a duplicate pump and another
com- pressor be purchased for the
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
Other vehicles purchased by the City Council were Seagraves
engines in 1937 ($9,100), 1946, 1970 and 1980 Ford.
editorial appeared in the local paper on January 21, 1969 titled
"Will Our Gamble Pay Off In 1969?"
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
1917 Fire Truck
Each LaFrance Engine has a
serial number on its engine. The Engine purchased by Newberry
was Engine #2660.
2005 New Ladder
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
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
WHAT DO THE DIFFERENT
COLORS OF A FIREFIGHTER'S HELMET MEAN?
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
WHY ARE FIRE HYDRANTS
PAINTED DIFFERENT COLORS?
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
Red fire hydrants have a
flow rate under 500 gallons per
Orange/yellow fire hydrants have a
flow rate between 500 and 999 gallons per
Green fire hydrants have a flow rate
between 1000 and 1499 gallons per
Blue or light blue
fire hydrants have a flow rate of 1500 gallons per minute or
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
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
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
It is a punishable crime to drive over a
fire hose during fire fighting
… 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
Malcolm Lassane and 'Joe'
Photo courtesy of Nichols
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
had come within a
fifth of a second tying the world record.
There is no second floor porch seen on the
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.
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
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
Chiefs were mentioned in Newspaper articles from 1878 to 1909:
1895, 1896, 1898,
Eduard Scholtz (1850 -
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.
George A. Langford (ca 1851 -
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
(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
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
100th Anniversary celebrated in October
The following chiefs were honored at that
occasion with the unveiling of their portraits:
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.
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.
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.
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
Otis Whitaker. (4/1/1906 -
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
1966 Debbie Bishop, Ramona Moore
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
1968 Merrianne Leaphart, Regina Faith Floyd,
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.
Fellers, Bonnie Bobb, Kathryn C. Link
(Diane Stuckey's hand drawn
picture of a fire truck was kept in the scrap
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.
& 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.
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
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.
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
(Incomplete list of beauty queens found in
the scrapbooks): Miss Flame of South Carolina -
1966 Miss Eunice Kitchens.
1965 Nina Sheppard
1968 Judy Wise
1969 Lynn Bedenbaugh
1970 Brantlee C. Price
1974 Lane Dipner
Photograph taken at Salter
MARY FULMER, 1899
Sweetheart of the EXCELSIOR HOSE
(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
(Signed) "Mrs. Henry B. Wells"
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
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.
Eunice Shockley, daughter of Irby B. Shockley, of Helena was elected
Sponsor of the Excelsior Fire Company on January 8, 1900. Miss
Oswald Stewart (Foreman of Excelsior Fire Co.) at Central Methodist
Church Parsonage on 3/17/1901 by Rev. W. I.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
WHY ARE DALMATIANS FIRE DEPARTMENT
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
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.
1990's another Dalmatian was taken around to the schools by Fireman
Mark Mills and he also was called "Sparky".
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
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
Originally address was1227 Nance
Today it is 1227 McKibben Street
1925 photo of the
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
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.
2005 The City of Newberry is in the process of renovating the fire
house to create a Convention Center for the city and its
WHY ARE FIRE TRUCKS RED?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
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
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
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