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Taylor Fire Department
Riding with Pride Since1894
"Strongest Volunteer Company in Lackawanna County"
In the winter of 1893 a small hotel and dwelling located at the North corner of Union and Pond Street, Taylor, Pennsylvania, (where Ott's hall and Jones’ Meat Market stand today) was burned to the ground. Many of the towns people who helped unselfishly to save adjoining properties from loss by this fire there was very little opportunity to use water because the only water that could possibly be had was from deep wells, which were widely separated and were some distance from the scene of the fire. In addition to this difficulty, ladders were very scarce, thus making it seem a wonder that nearby buildings were not destroyed.
During the Summer of 1894, an agitation was started among the people of Taylor to provide some kind of fire protection, but nothing was accomplished. IN the Autumn of this same year, the barn of Casper Ott, a well known grocer, caught fire and once again many of those who helped to bring the fire under control were to become the nucleus of the first Taylor Hose Company. The gratitude of Mr. Ott was so great that he conceived the idea of organizing a work company for fire protection from among the Swiss and German people. He worked diligently trying to persuade these men to form a company, with the result that an informal meeting was held October 24, 1894, in a side room of John Von Weisenfluh's hotel. In order that the identity of the building in which our first meeting was held is not lost, let me remind you that it was the McKenzie Building, popularly called “The Bottlers” and is located on the South corner of Union and Washington Streets
At this meeting the men agreed to organize a fire company which, because of the absence of fire hydrants, could be nothing more than a bucket brigade. The only water piped into Taylor would come from Cubby’s Swamp down through Minooka, across the Lackawanna Bridge and up Main Street as far as Grove Street. Nobody knew when, or if, Taylor would ever get a better water supply, but everybody seemed to know that Cubby’s Swamp was not a sufficiently large to supply the town. Incidentally this reservoir was mainly to supply the Taylor Breaker but a few people had it piped into their homes. Naturally it was thought best under the circumstances to have a bucket brigade as the best available protection against fire. Many more of these meetings followed and gradually definite ideas of what we wanted began to form. There is no record in our minutes of what happened at the last informal meeting but for you benefit let me relate what took place. We were talking things over among ourselves when in walked two mining bosses, John Johns and Henry Harris, who bluntly suggested that we disband, that we forget about our own little group, and join with others in town who were willing to help organize a fire company. They refused to listen to our objections and would take only “yes” for an answer. Then it was whispered about in Swiss that nothing would come out of that meeting and we had nothing to lose but consenting to the proposal of the two bosses.
On the appointed evening, December 7, 1894, Casper Ott and I went to Cooper’s hall at 7:30, only to find the hall empty and dimly lighted. Patiently we sat there and forlorn mood, disappointed that so little interest was shown.
Finally Casper arose and said firmly: “Come on, John. Let’s go. This settles it. We will organize a company of our own.” He was more enthusiastic now then ever and resolved not to quit until the job was finished.
Mr. Ott called the men together again to the old place on December 13, 1894, for the purpose of making a permanent organization and electing officers. Casper Ott was elected president; John Weber, first vice president; Mechoir Rufibach, second vice president; Melchoir Fluhman, secretary; John S. Weibel, treasure. The newly formed company agreed and decided upon the following sentence to be recorded in the minutes: “It is agreed and decided that we shall take up this work in earnest and not quit until it is accomplished.” We decided to have a bucket brigade. This meant buying ladders and furnishing each member with a bucket. Three of our members were appointed to collect among the tows people to defray the expanses of our equipment. The monthly dues were set at twenty-five cents per member. A committee was appointed to see that the organization was advertised in three different newspapers.
In the meantime, rumors went around that the water company was getting ready to lay piped throughout the town and that it was pumping large streams of water into Cubby’s Swamp from a near by creek. Following the advice of the Bourgh Council, we decided to buy a hose carriage instead of buying buckets. Through the efforts of our president, Casper Ott, we secured gratis a two-wheeled cart in good condition from the volunteer company, Century No. 10 South Scranton. Our company now became known as Taylor Hose Company No.1.
John Weber offered his barn in the rear of his hotel as a place for out hose and cart. We rented his hall for a meeting place as often as we needed it at twenty-five cents a meeting. It proved to be very often because the men always enjoyed the good time after the meetings. Our first meeting in that hall was December 15, 1984, when it was decided to purchase 800 feet of rubber hose at 70 cents a foot.
On December 19, 1894, we had another good time when we received the cart from Century Hose Company No. 1. Many of their members came down and along with the rest of our company had a very pleasant evening. This get-together was the first of many other that followed through the years and was a good omen for our young company.
On January 2, 1895, at another meeting, the following were elected to serve in the various capacities: 1st Forman, Jacob Yaksoniak; 2nd Sam Harlos; 3rd Casper Frutiger; 4th Melchior Fluehman; nozzle men, John S. Weibel, John Strein and John Horger. It soon became evident that the first man that got hold of the nozzle held it and nozzle men were discontinued. We were informed that Mr. Cooper, the boss at Taylor Beaker, agreed to let his engineers blow the breaker whistle if they were notified of a fire.
The first Ball of our hose company held at Weber’s Rink netted us $62.67, an amount that pleased and encouraged the members very much. We took much pride in these affairs for they were always conducted in a clean and decent way and gradually became a substantial source of income.
The 800 feet of hose arrived on January 12, 1895, and a few days later at the testing of the hose a great celebration was held. On May 30, 1895, we had the first picnic in Weber’s Grove, where our hose house now stands. In connection with this picnic we arranged a parade and invited all the lodges to take part in it, to which they responded very well. There were also two young ladies in a contest, which brought in a good sum and added to the gain of the picnic so that with the money from the collectors it made a total sum of $310.00. This was a very sizeable amount, and on June 9, 1895, the hose was paid for.
The company was now free of debt, so you can see what the persistence and determination of those men did. The Taylor Hose Company No.1 was now on a solid basis.
Even through the cart had to be pulled up hills, over rough roads, and through the mud the job was done, homes were saved, and fires prevented from spreading. The town grew so large that it finally became necessary to buy a wagon drawn by horses, to reach fires that were too far away for us to reach with the cart. New troubles of the hose company began, for in a town like Taylor, which was without a police force, it was difficult to stop the boys and young men from jumping on the wagon once they got on, it was almost impossible to chase them off. Naturally it slowed the fire wagon and because of this many teamsters refused to drive. The troubles finally ended what the Borough council hired policemen. As time went on, the members felt that we needed out one hose house, and on March 28, 1990, it was decided to buy a lot on East High Street. After a long search and many hot debates about a suitable location, a building committee was appointed, namely John S. Weibel, Henry Weisenfluh, Sam Harlos, John Schield (carpenter) and John Moore. On the 18th of April, 1890, the building committee signed a contract to build a two-story building 20 ft. by 28 ft. at a cost of $640.00 with Peter Schield and Arnold Moore.
The building was finished in a short time without sacrificing the quality of the workmanship and in style compared very favorably with the nearby buildings. On July 9, 1990, the first hose house of the Taylor Hose and Engine Company No.1 was decided. We certainly had a great celebration. That evening many guests were invited and it was long after midnight before it was over.
This was the beginning of many joyful gatherings and Swiss singing. The members made very good use of its “home” as they called it. We were presented wit a pool table by Henry Naegeli. This was a very handy piece of furniture. It was used for many purposes but best of all we could stand our beer glasses on it. Sad to say, it was not yet the custom to have sandwiches with beer. We had checkerboard table which was used constantly, and many good players developed there. This checkerboard table is still in use by our president, who raps his gavel on it to try to keep the noise members quiet. It was presented by John S. Weibel.
Truly this period from 1890 to 1913 is one of the happiest in the history of our company.
Sometime after this, the two lots where our hose house now stands were for sale. We purchased them on November 25, 1913. it was more of a park then, and many picnics were held there. It was really intended to be kept as a park. We built many good benches and distributed them on the grounds. Many fine fruit trees were on the grounds also, and it was truly beautiful. But we had some men in the company that objected to this idea of our park, and eventually we decided to move the hose house from High Street to Main Street, and then built an addition to it. In July, 1917, it was move and the addition was built. In reality, it certainly was a very good thing that was done, but we did not like to part with the “Home” on High Street, where we spent so many happy hours with our friends.
Up to 1917 we used the hose wagon and the two-wheeled cart and much fine work was done by the firefighters of this company. If a team of horses was not immediately available the boys would pull the cart to the fire and would be almost exhausted but when they saw they has work to do they dug right in and saved many buildings.
In October, 1917, we purchased our first motor truck and then we really did go to the fires in quick time and again we can say out boys did a mighty fine job of living up to our motto, “Our Lives We Risk, Our Friends To Save.”
The first motor truck with a pump, or triple piece as it is called, was purchased from the American La France Company in July 1923. Again we forged ahead with the most modern equipment. Our pride and joy and the envy of a lot of paid volunteer firefighters up and down the valley is our present piece of fire-fighting equipment capable of pumping 750 gallons a minute (purchased in 1941) and made up to the special specifications of our truck purchasing committee.
This year, 1944, we are celebrating our 50th Anniversary with many of our boys fighting for this country and of course will not be with us in this celebration, but our thoughts will be with them. The people of Taylor Borough should feel as proud as we do about the fine record established by the firemen of Taylor Hose & Engine Co. No. 1.