Thursday, September 23, 2010

History of the Junior Hose & Truck Company No. 2 Chambersburg

The following was written by the late Jackson H. Gerhart and presented to the company at their 125Th anniversary banquet held at the AMVETS on June 28, 1997. This will be broken into two parts over the next two days since I seem to be out of major incidents for these days.

During the 1860's and early 1870's, it was the custom of the Friendship Fire Company (the only active fire company in town at that time) to hold practice sessions at the Market House, using water from the cistern there. This attracted many boys of the town whose ambition was to become members of the Friendships someday. The suggestion was made at one practice that a boy's company be formed. Consequently a meeting was called in the Market House presided over by Captain John C. Gerbig, who was then fire Marshall of the town, and the company was formed. Captain Gerbig, was given the honors as father of the Junior Fire Company.

The company adopted the name Friendship Juniors and was recognized and sanctioned by the Borough Council on June 13, 1872. The first equipment of the company was the 1885 little red suction engine and a old reel with 400 feet of dilapidated hose, and old equipment belonging to the Friendships. This equipment was housed in the Market House and they held their meetings in the Friendship Fire House on South Second Street. Later, through the efforts of Captain Gerbig, quarters were secured in a small one-story frame building which stood on the site later occupied by the Rosedale Theatre building.

According to the minutes of a meeting held on December 9, 1874, the company changed its name to Centennial Juniors. In 1879 the company reorganized and started to hold its meetings on the third floor of the Wlfinger Building (later Newberry's) on Memorial Square. It was in this year also that the company wore its first uniforms on a trip to Frederick, Maryland. The company under Captain George Pennsinger is credited with being the first fire company ever to drill, as a company, in the line of parade. The uniforms were of black trousers, blue firemen's shirt with a J on the front, white leather belts and a small blue hat.

In 1882 the Juniors, in conjunction with the Vigilant Hook and Ladder Company, asked Borough Council for a new firehouse that would house both companies. On June 4, 1883, Council awarded a contract to the C.E. Evans Construction Company for the erection of a frame building on North Second Street. However, as a result of much agitation from the neighborhood, this was changed to a brick structure the next month. Upon its completion, the Vigilant's occupied the North side and the Juniors the South side. Dedication ceremonies were held in 1884.

In 1882 the little red suction engine was sold to McConnellsburg. This left the company with only the four-wheeled hose cart which it used until Borough Council replaced it with a two-wheeled hose reel and new hose in September 1886, the only apparatus of the Juniors for many years. In 1887 the company became officially known as the Junior Fire Company No. 2.

Friday, July 12, 1897 meetings were held by the Junior and Vigilant's. The Juniors met in the Council Hall and the Vigilant's met in the Friendship Fire Hall next door. During these meetings, the Vigilant's sent a committee and a official communications to the Juniors suggesting the idea of consolidation of the two companies and asked for terms. The negotiations were entered into and the two companies merged under the name Junior Hose & Truck Company No. 2. Incorporation took place March 29, 1898.

In January 1901 a committee from the Juniors appeared before the Borough Council reporting their apparatus in bad condition and asked that Council purchase them a new chemical engine, but if the Council could not afford one, that a four wheeled reel with a platform in front to carry extinguishers be purchased for the company. The Council appointed members to inspect the Juniors equipment and report. In March 1903 the Juniors appeared again before the Borough Council to petition a new chemical truck. In May 1903 the Council purchased a new Holloway chemical engine for the Juniors which arrived in Chambersburg by train along with a new LaFrance Streamer for the Cumberland Valley Hose Company (the Holloway wagon was posted on this site last week). On Monday, October 19, 1903 the chemical wagon was demonstrated and tested at the show field on South Second Street and formally accepted by Council at their meeting the following night.

The Public Opinion states in an article February 12, 1904 that a recent fire demonstrated the fact that the Juniors chemical engine, "the one which should be first on the scene, is absolutely worthless without horses to draw it". Later in 1904 Council purchased a horse team for the chemical engine and erected a stable at the North Second Street quarters. The team of famous black horses "Doc" and "Derby", named after prominent members of the fire company, were only three or four years old when bought and remained in service until 1917 when the company motorized. This team, it was said, had a unerring instinct for getting to a fire over the shortest possible route. It is reported that an alarm one night they were driven out of the firehouse, whereupon they turned right on Second Street at a gallop. Upon arriving at the fire, everyone wanted to know how they had made the run to the South end of town in such a short time. The driver, Walter Klipp, (also picture along with the two horses last week) somewhat surprised, answered that they had driven South Second Street. No one would believe him since South Second Street was closed off because of a wide ditch being dug the full width of it. Upon investigation the truth proved quite simple. The driver had forgotten about the ditch and the horses galloping between the trolley rails had simply jumped the ditch in stride with the wheels of the chemical wagon riding over it on the rails. In the darkness of the night the driver had been totally unaware of this. This team was later sold to the United States Government and died in France during the First World War.

Part 2 tomorrow.


Sparky said...

Great story about these two depts. It was sad to hear about the two horses.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gang!

Talk about Doc and Derby. The bunkroom at the Second Street Station was converted from the old horse stable. In the early 60's on a warm muggy night when in bed you could still smell the stable. That was 40 years after the horses but the effects still lingered.