Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (April 13, 1913)
The Omaha Sunday
PAGES ONE TO FOURTEEN
PAGES ONE TO FOURTEEN
VOL. XLI1-NO. 43.
iiii lCTURM, if you can, twenty-fivo or r .X ( SprWfV'i L J
g Tfc j thirty young men, residents of a vS"" r""" jF-T. A ) jl -T-- II Y 1 V
I Ja front,er city, little more than a coun- N . ?rCr fl )"" 1 I () 1
tneso young follows, half dart. JSAy? yin - x-" u f V . x t tllvi . jVi.Aa. PHMHHNMmmhmhhhhh
Irushlng from their homes to somo central point
end there grabbing hold of the ropos attached to
an engine, a hoso cart or a hook and ladder wagon,
and dragging the machine to a firo and you will
have an idea of what the Omaha Fire department
vas forty or forty-five years ago.
The firn dnnnrtmont nf fimni, o i,i, i
- w wu.uuc. imj uaulk Hi
Hie sixties and the seventies was an altogether
a different machine from what it is today, but
eround the little department of other days has
grown that of the present with its ponderous
steamers, its water towers and its auto trucks and
In tho dayB of long ago when tho volunteers
Hero the ones who fought tho fires; thero were
no prancing horses hauling tho apparatus over
Ihe paved streets, and no automobiles tha whizzed
along at a speed of fifty to sixty miles pa
hour. Thon the motive powor was furnished by
tho-volunteers; themselves" who worked fofglorj'"
i.u uio rouuie oi me annual pou tax or yi.
They were fighters, though, and though grizzled
and grey a number of them remain and long slnco
organized the Veteran Plromens' association, ono'
of tho most respected organizations In tho city.
It is an organization that meets monthly for busi
ness and onco a year for the annual banquet, when
tales of fires in Omaha half a century ago are
told and retold.
First Call to tho Laddies
Along about 1860 Omaha had grown to bo a
lown of a few hundred and in' order to have tho
appearance of putting on city airs, as woll.as to
protect property in caso, of fires, it waB decided
to organize a firo department. Of course, the
town wbb too small and too poor to support a paid
dopartment and there were hardly enough unat
tached men to maintain a volunteer department.
The demand for such a department, however,
existed and by persistent effort enough of tho
youngsters were gotten together to hold a meet
'ng. According to historical data during the slim
mer of 1860 a call was Issued for a meeting of all
who desired to become members of a volunteer
tiro dopartment. Just where this meeting was
held, even- the most veteran veteran Is un
able to remember, though it is a fact that in tho
whole city of Omaha, but eight men could be found
who would enroll themselves as firo fighters. These
men were P. W. Hitchcock, later United States
senator, Benjamin Stickles, William J. Kennedy,
A. J. Simpson, J. S. McCormlck, Henry Gray, H.
55. Curtis and M. H. Clark. Of the eight Mr. Slmp
ion is the only survivor, the others having died
here or elsewhere, where they subsequently lo
tated. The company was named the Pioneer Hook and
Ladder company, and it continued in active servlco
until May, 1883, when It disbanded, but not until
lome years after the paid department became a
While tho fjrst company started with but eight
members, this small membership did not continue
long, for it soon became a popular organization
with the young men of the city and it was con
tidered quite the thing to be a firemen and wear
rod shirt when out on parade.
City Provides Cart and Hoso
Soon after the organization of the fire de
partment, the city council appropriated enough
money to buy a hose cart and 1,000 feet of hose.
Then, however, the boys -were up against a prob
lem. While they had part of the machinery for
lighting fires, there ras no water supply, for it
n'as long before the era of water works. As a
tolution the city ordered a number of big cisterns
du These were located in street intersecetions,
the one farthest west being at Fifteenth nnd Far
Dam streets, which was well in the outskirts of the
:ity. East of there and along Douglas and Dodge
ltrets and Capitol avenue on the north and along
'larney and Howard streets on the south, they
vere in most of the intersections. They were filled
Vy storm water from the roofs and gutters. Even
aow, frequently when street repairs are being
made, evidences of these old cisterns are found.
They were fifteen to twenty feet across, ten to
'fteen feet deep and covered with heavy plank.
Even with the hose carts and the cisterns there
vas no way of getting water onto the fires and fi
nally it was decided that pumps would have to be
had. The city council sent a committee some place,
and the members came back to report that Jn the
east a pump was manufactured that would fill tho
bill. A couple of them wore ordered and though
they are not now in sorvico, they aro well remem
bered by tho old time firemen. They resembled
a handcar In appearance and worked on tho same
principle, half n dozen or more men at tho hand
les. Ono of these pumps when placed over a cis
tern would be connected with the firo hose and by
working with might and main, six men could pump
a fairly good stream as high as the second story of
an ordinary building. It was hard work to pump
and consequently the men had to work in relays.
If necessary they called upon bystanders to spoil
them and man the pumps.
Firemen Had KIglit-of-Way
In the early aays firemen were clothed with
complete police power, at and during fires. If
tbey were running to a firo they could call upon
any person whom they saw to fall in and give them
n lift on tho ropes. If at a fire, and they decided
they wanted to rest, they could call upon tho men
nlong the curbs to "bend to" at the pumps, and
they had to bend. If they did not obey they could
be taken away to Jail, and more than once was
some eminently respectacle person arrested for
not lending a hand at a fire.
After the Pioneers got their hose cart and tholr
cisterns they felt pretty nifty, and one night, in
n body, swooped down upon the city council with
a demand for a hook and ladder truck. There
was no money available for the purpose and so
the firemen were told.
Andrew J. Simpson happened to be a member
of the city council and at the same timo he was the
first chief of the fire department. When tho
council announced that it had no money with
which to pay for a hook and ladder truck, Mr.
Simpson was greeted with applauso when he an
nounced that In bis wagon shop he would build
the truck, equip it with ladders, buckets and axes
and turn it over to the fire dopartment, taking
city warrants in payment.
As a result of Mr. Simpson's offer it was not
long until Omaha had a fire department that was
worth looking at. Then, as now, tho apparatus
was painted a bright red. The truck was a light
affair and, like the hose cart, by hand, was pulled
to the fires. There wero two men on the lead
rope, with half a dozen or more in behind, and
on either side; and then, too, there were usually
a lot more who worked behind, pushing up and
holding back as they ran down the hills.
As time passed business men enrolled them
selves and it was not long Until such men as II. D.
Shull, John Baumer, Charles Fisher, Ed Maurer,
Henry Pundt, Ed Wittlg, Louis Falst, Sol Prince,
Joe Teahon, A. P. Hopkins, Peter Besen, Charles
SchJank, H, Kunde, Gus Beneke, C. V. Gallagher,
OMAHA, StWDAY MOHN1NU, APRIL 13,
James Donnelly, P. J. Karbach, J. A. McShano,
Henry Tagger, Fred Schaffor, J. S. McCormlck, C.
H. PlckenB, C. M. Koesters, M. Parr, E. II. Wnlkor,
S. M. Mcalio, L. S. Heed, II. Hornberger, C. It.
Courtnoy, William Franco, Peter WIndhoIni, Tony
Herrold, Moyor Hollman, Jooph F. Shecly, Fred
Schmidt, H. Berthold, Joo Howies, Phil Dorr, Max
Meyer, J. J. Galligan, F. J. McShano, D. W. Shull.
F. H. Delloho, F. P. Murphy, A. Calm, 13. L. Stone,
F. H. Koesters, Charles G. Hunt, Frank P. Hanlon,
J. E. Morkel, John II. Butler, Gustavo Anderson,
Julius Trettschko, JuIIub Rotholtz, A. II. Sanders,
J. F. Bohm, William Mack, W. L. May, G. Zimmer
man, F. L. Ruff, J. G. Mogoath, D. C. Butphon,
Owen Slavin, W. II. Kolloy, W. II. Mornn, Dennis
Cunningham, Charles Grunlng, Josoph Rosenstein,
John M. Sheely, Goorgo Schmld, Martin Ram go,
Charles Goodrich, John A. Crolghton, Frank
Murphy, W. J. Kennedy, W. J. Cuddy, Charles F.
ManderBon and a scoro of others, lator prominent
with the business affairs and tho growth of tho
city, took part in tho firo dopartment and became
active members of the volunteers, aiding person
ally and with tholr money.
No. 1 Chartered by the State
Pioneer Hook and Ladder No. 1 was tho only
fire-fighting organization chartered by tho state.
During the session of tho legislature of I860 tho
Nebraska legislature, by n bill introduced by a
Douglas county member, and passed, had its offi
cial origin, continuing twenty-five years.
Tho pioneers wero always fortunate, and
though always at tho fires, seldom was one of tho
men Injured. They fought at numerous fires,
among which stand out In Omaha history that
of tho gas works, Christmas ove, 1870, when the
ioss exceeded $7,000. The next day occurred tho
fire In the Hoagland lumber yards and in tho coal
yards of T. S. Clarkson, adjoining. At this fire,
which was fought for six hours continuously, tho
weather was Intensely cold, and while tho faces of
tho men were burned by the flames, their coats
Iroze on their backs and tholr boots upon their
At these fires the men were greatly handi
capped by lack of water, the cisterns and wells in
the neighborhoods being pumped dry.
Among the fires causing tho greatest loss of
life was the one that destroyed tho Grand Central
1 otel at Fourteenth and Farnam streets, where tho
Paxton now stands. It occurred September 8, 1878,
and fivo men were killed when the walls collapsed.
The men were burled in the ruins at a point near
where tho dining room is situate in the present
Steve N. Mcalio, tho veteran messenger at tho
Burlington headquarters, was one of tho men who
had much to dp with building the voluntoer fire
department Into n, real fire-fighting machine.
Young in thoso days, Stovo onmo over from Chi
cago to fill tho position of pressman on the Omaha
Herald, owned by Dr. Georgo L. Mlllor.
In Chicago Mcalio had had somo cxpcrlunco as
a fireman niid consequently Ills mlvico was consid
ered pretty good hore, and about tho first thing
that happened to him was to bo votod In nu a
momber of tho Voluutoers, remaining elevon yoars.
He arrived early In 1870 and in September of the
year of his arrival ho was elected foreman of En
gino company No. 1, located nt Sixteenth and Far
nam streets. Tho ongine was a crudo affair, as'
wero firo engines of that day. It had boon bought
over In Illinois somewhero off tno bargain counter
nnd was a Becoml-hand mnchlne.
Engine No. 1 wns the first to arrive In Omaha
and Its appearance hero wns greeted with great
enthusiasm. It was brought up tho river on a
boat and put onto tho wharf at tho foot of Douglas
street. According to Mr. Moallo, the coming of
No. 1 was mado a holiday. Flags flutterod from
business houses and residences nnd most of tho
stores closod. A gigantic procession formod on
Farnam and Douglas streets and, with bands play
ing, marched down to the boat landing. Thero the
engine, was docked out with wreaths and flowers
and the firemen, taking hold of tho ropes, hauled
it uptown and left It at Sixteenth and Fnr
nam streets, where It was housed in a little flhed
built to protect it from tho weather, Tho first
engineer was T. L. Van Dorn, long stneo dead.
Horse to Pull Instead of Men
A steamer was a pretty thing to haul by hand,
especially wlion It is taken into consideration that
along in the early '70s thero we're no paved streets
In Omaha, and frequently tho mud was hub deep.
This fact started Mcalio nnd a number of the other
firemen to figuring how horses could bo socurod
to haul the machine to nnd from fires. Tho city
was poor and did not havo monoy with which to
buy horses and auto trucks us now. Thero wero
Bomo public-spirited men, and ono of them, whoso
namo Mr. Meallo Is unable to recall, donated tho
use of a horso, providing tho city would furnish
the keep, That helpod somo, but one horso was
not enough to pull an engine.
Charles II. PIckons wns a young, active follow
and for several years hud boen running to fires,
having been mustered into the Voluntoer company.
Pickens did not own a horse, but tho grocory firm
for which he worked ownod an old white mule.
Being a delivery wagon boy, Pickens made arrange
ments with the proprietor of tho grocery to use tho
mule in case of fires. This solved the problem,
for Omaha had a team that could be used in
handling the steamer, Many a time when young
Pickens waa out delivering groceries the alarm of
SINGLE COPY WVE CENTS.
fire would bo turnod in by tho ringing of tho bell
Thon, Instead of . going on and delivering the load,
he would Btop, unhitch tho mule, straddle It and,
nt a breakneck Bpoed, race down to tho engino
house, whoro tho animal would bo hitched in be
Bldo tho horso, when Engino No. 1 would be ready
to start for the fire.
While Stovo Meallo doos not boast of it, the fact
remains that while he was fireman ho was one of,
tho most popular In tho city. Along in 1871 ho
was elected first assistant chief, nnd during tho
wlntor a big Catholic fair was held and a silver
trumpet and a chief's belt donated, both to be
voted to tho most popular fireman. Thero wero
candidates galoro, but It was not long until Stovo
had outdistanced all. of his competitors. The re
sult of the contest was that he won the prize. . At
another tlmo ho went Into a contest of city flre
mon and enrao out a winner, securing a dress
parade helmet that was put up as a prize, and
which ho still retains as one of his most valuable
Preludo to a Paid Department
Charles G. Hunt, tho painter on Cuming street,
between Nineteenth and Twentieth-, has the dis
tinction of being a member of the Volunteers from
1874 until tho organization disbanded. Ho waa
only a boy when he Joined tho company, but ho
mado a rocord, and It was not long until he be
camo assistant chief, holding that position at tha
timo of the Grand Central hotel fire, when a num
ber of tho Volunteers lost their lives by the col
lapso of tho walls of the building.
When Mr. Hunt Joined the Volunteers in 1874
tho town had commenced to grow toward tho
northwest, and there wero quite a number ot
buildings up on Cuming, west of Twentieth. Ho
lived with his father on Nineteenth, between Nich
olas and Paul, and oven that far out there was
considerable of a settlement. The growth of the
town to tho north and west Imbued the residents
of tho sections that they ought to have fire protec
tion, In tho meantlmo a new fire engine had been
bought for the downtown district and It was de
cided to locate No. 1 farther north, provided the
residents in some locality would furnish the money
for the erection ot an engine houso. Several lo
calities got bUBy, but only ono came up to the
scratch, and that was the portion of the city
around Twentieth nnd Izard streets. There tho
houso was erected and there old Engine No. 1 waa
Thero were some rich people around Twen
tloth and Nicholas streets and they chipped in to
help buy a span of horses to haul the engine. It
took a long timo to ralso the money, but It was
finally secured, and this was one of the first
houses to havo a team. Prior to this when a fire
alarm was sounded and tho volunteers ran to the
(Continued on Page Twelve.)
Powered by Open ONI