Schoharie Fire Department
Niagara Engine Company No 6, Inc
The following history is but a very small amount of the material that has been located relative to the history of the Schoharie Fire Companies. The material thus presented had been gleaned from newspapers such as The Schoharie Republic, The Patriot and The Union, all of the Village of Schoharie. Also, articles appearing in the Schoharie County Historical Society Reviews, Albany newspapers, Schenectady newspapers and even newspapers from New York City, and the Joseph E. Brown “Collection of Miscellany.”
Invaluable information has been obtained from the files of the fire Company, which are the minutes of the meetings dating back to the 1870’s. Special thanks also go to Chester Zimmer of Gallupville for copies of many articles concerning the Schoharie firemen and fires. Photography has also played a great part in this presentation as old times photos have come to light and the preservation of the Niagara 6 fire engine purchased in Albany in 1867 and reposing in the Old Stone Fort Museum complex1 brings the present generation in touch with the equipment that was used in those early days. It is the hope of the writer that much will be gained from this brief history and hopeful too that it may bring out more photos and newspaper articles relative to this historic all-volunteer organization of which I am proud to have been apart of for the past 52 years2.
1 At the time this webpage was created, the Niagara 6 fire engine currently resides in the Schoharie Fire Station.
2 Ed Scribner was honored at the Department’s annual banquet in April 2006 for 75 years of active service.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SCHOHARIE FIRE DEPARTMENT
Known today as the Niagara Engine Company No. 6 Inc. of Schoharie, the original name of the fire companies were, Schoharie Fire Company No. 1 and Schoharie Fire Company No. 2. The name Niagara Engine Co. No. 6 was not used until 1867 as will be told later.
Fire has always been a friend and enemy of man. From the very beginning of the life of man, fire has kept him warm, cooked his food and destroyed his home, his crops and belongings. Through all the ages, fire has remained most dreaded in a catastrophic form. We have learned how to control fire when it is used in a domesticated manner. However, we are still careless in its use and its good favor to the millions on the face of the globe of times does a turn-a-bout and devours the very persons and property for which it was intended to assist.
Our ancestors who settled this beautiful valley came mainly from German Palatine ancestors. They had heard that this valley abounded tremendously in unexcelled fertile land. Some historians say it was 1711, others 1712, that these settlers came via of the Foxes Creek to the valley, cleared some land and built log huts in which to live. They built “settlements” up and down the valley. From history it is said these huts were built into close groups for protection from the Indians who had inhabited the valley for untold years. They also settled close for assistance to each other. Arriving on foot with no means of transportation they had to walk the distances between the settlements. A short time later a horse was purchased in Schenectady and this became the symbol of the official Schoharie County Seal, a white horse roaming the fertile Schoharie Valley.
These ancestors of many who still live in the area banded together to help one another. They had their “bees” as they were called, also called “barn raisings”, “husking bees” and any other cooperative programs in their lives. Many hands made light work of any job that came along. In those days they had only their meager methods of weather foresting and when it was necessary to get their crops planted, cared for and harvested, each helped the other. Was this “mutual aid”? You are right it was, but the word “mutual aid” had not been coined at that time.
With the crude huts, fireplaces were the only form of heat and for cooking. The chimneys were laid up of field stone “cemented” together with mud. The interiors of the chimneys were rough and provided an excellent location for soot and creosote to form. Fires were very common despite the carefulness of the occupants. Roofs were mainly thatched and a small spark would easily ignite the roof and the home would be destroyed. There was no alarm box to “pull” nor anyone at the other end of the phone to send a fire engine with 500 gallons of water on the way. It was their neighbors, their own form of “mutual aid” that fought those fires.
This cooperation of “volunteerism” brought about the banding together of the populace of a settlement to a form what we call today a volunteer fire department. This condition was not unique to our valley, for in the early 1600’s London was virtually all destroyed by fire and led to the forming of a fire department in that city. New York City had a fire department in their earlier days and because of the tremendous numbers of chimney fire that destroyed whole areas, they banned the use of wood as chimney material.
FIRE COMPANIES ORGANIZED IN SCHOHARIE
A newspaper was founded in 1819 called The Schoharie Republican. From its pages and from The Union, The Patriot and other papers in the valley, information relative to the forming of a fire company in Schoharie has been obtained. In 1820 a notice appeared in the Schoharie Republican calling for a meeting of the community to meet at the Chester Lasell Inn (now the home of the Schoharie Chapter of The Daughters of the American Revolution) for the purpose of “discussing ways and means of fire prevention and extinguishment.”
Another notice appeared in the Schoharie Republican dated May 5, 824 as follows:
A meeting of the inhabitants of the Village of Schoharie is requested to be held at the Chester Lasell Inn, in said village, on Friday the seventh of May, inst., at 5 o’clock P.M. for the purpose of making some arrangements to prevent fire and secure the common property of the inhabitants of said village. A general attendance is requested.
Many notices have appeared in the earlier papers merely signed by “A Citizen.” It was usually the editor of the newspaper realizing the need of a “get together” to discuss matters that such notices were inserted. There was no mention of the word “firemen” or fire department. This was probably a continuation of the previous volunteer group that came to the aid of their neighbor, no matter what the need may be.
Subsequent meetings were held not alone at the Lasell Inn but at other hotels and homes for this discussion. In the January 3, 1832 issue of The Schoharie Republican was found the following notice:
Notice is hereby given, that an application will be made to The Legislature of this State, for an act to incorporate a fire company in the Village of Schoharie. Dated December 27, 1831.
In the few issues available of The Schoharie Republican, no notice could be found that the Act of Incorporation was granted. However, original documents are available testifying to the fact that the Act of Incorporation for the formation of a fire company was issued on April 23, 1832. Thus began the official organized fire companies of the Village of Schoharie. In 1837 a resolution was passed by the Township of Schoharie authorizing certain persons to be firemen and undoubtedly to replace others who had either moved from the locality or resigned for one reason or another. This states as follows:
We the undersigned, the Supervisor & Justices for the Town of Schoharie, in the County of Schoharie, do, by virtue of the powers in us vested in & by the act entitled, “An Act To Authorize the formation of Fire Companies” passed April 23rd, 1832 appoint William Mann, William H. Daveis, Lewis A. Butler, Orrin Kibbe, William H. Gallup, William Osterhout, Christian Dorsch, Gideon Dorsch, Peter Feeck, John Feeck, Henry Lawyer, Warren S. Gates, J.G. Gebhard Jr., Philo Z. Gates, Ferdinande Getter, James Sinsabaugh, J.R. Simms*, Bachus Hamilton, Moses Young, William P. Michaels.
Inhabitants of said town, firemen and be a fire company to fire engine No. 1 which has been procured for the extinguishment of fires in said town, and shall during their services as such firemen, be exempt from Military duty, except in case of invasion or insurrection – In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names, this twenty eighth day of August, one thousand eight hundred and thirty seven.
~ William C. Wright, Supervisor
~ David Miles, James Bennett, John J. Dominick, Daniel Larkin, Justices
*This is the same Jeptha R. Simms, author of “The History of Schoharie County and Border Wars” dated 1845.
Engine No. 1 believed to be one of two, purchased in the 1830’s. Along with Engine No. 2, was destroyed in fire in 1865.
The following year with William Hamilton as Supervisor of the Town of Schoharie and with David Miles, O.H. Williams, John P. Dominick and James Bennett as Justices, a similar reference is made to the “Act to Authorize the Formation of Fire Companies passed April 23rd, 1832.” In this document, reference is made to Fire Company No. 2 and deals with the appointment of the following, James Sincepaw, Alexander Edwards, John C. Bernham, Ralph Brewster, William H. Sternberg, Abraham F. Nelson, Charles L. Best, DeFrate Oliver Simmons, Chester Lasell Jr., to fill vacancies caused by death, resignation and removal from the town by John S. Bonny, Nicholas Bouck, Henry B. Ruggles, Lorenzo Hubbard, David O. Penfield, A.W. Allen, John Liddle, Chester Lasell, Henry Manning, John Lawyer and Timothy Lasell, who were former members of Fire Company No. 2. This document was dated August 28, 1838.
It has only been within the last fifty years that the leader of a fire company, especially in the volunteer groups, has been called the Fire Chief. In those earlier days they were referred to as foremen. Thus far in the research conducted through newspapers, official documents and the like, the names of foremen of these two companies have not been mentioned. However, in the July 29, 1848 issue of The Schoharie Patriot is found that William Winter was foremen of the Fire Company No. 1 and Abraham Osterhout held a like position in the Fire Company No. 2.
Prior to that The Schoharie Patriot ran a notice on April 2, 1840 as follows:
The citizens of the village of Schoharie are requested to meet at the home of Jacob H. Lawyer, on Wednesday, the 8th, at 6 o’clock P.M. to devise means for defraying the expense incurred for repairing engines and making new hose.
This bears out the fact that there were two fire engines as they are referred to not only in previous notices, but also in this notice as well, as will be noted further in this history.
In the above items, one will note the phrase “making new hose.” The firemen of those days were not blessed with the soft easy handling fire hose know today. As a matter of fact, some of what was considered wonderful improvements in hose manufacture, made by one of the most modern and reputable manufacturers in the 1930’s was so rigid that several feet would stand upright like a pole. But in the days of which this history is written, fire hose was made of leather. As will be noted, leather strips were “spiraled” much like you will find in a cardboard shipping tube. The edges were held together with copper rivets and then the sections thus made were fastened together, again with the copper rivets. The nozzles were cone shaped tubing and the early couplings were bands of wire twisted around the leather hose holding it to the nozzle.
The first indications of the membership in the two engine companies are revealed in the same article that listed the foremen’s names. It seems that the “April 23rd, 1832 Act to Authorize the Formation of Fire Companies” carried with a stipulation that a fire company could have no more than 20 members. As a result, the organizers in 1832 formed two companies namely, Fire Company No. 1 and Fire Company No. 2. Thus, the reference to the two fire engines. In 1848 each company had only 14 members. A meeting was called on July 31, 1848 to fill the vacancies in each to full strength. It is noted also that A.P. Sweet was the Clerk of Company No. 1 and Hiram Schoolcraft held a similar position in Company No. 2. The New York State Legislature had recently passed an Act which gave firemen benefits which still hold in part today. It stated that any Fireman who had regularly served for four years previous to May 1, 1849 will, by continuing to serve as such until May 1, 1849, be entitled to an honorable discharge from their company, and be forever exempt from Military and Jury duty, except a liability to the first in cases of insurrection and invasion.
Through the years, the lack of money with which to improve the fire fighting facilities was quite evident. Several notices were published in The Schoharie Republican and The Schoharie Patriot, asking the citizens to attend meetings to raise funds and assist in preventing fires from occurring. In an 1845 editorial, it was inferred at least that the engine was kept in the open and pressure was being made to find some location where they would be sheltered. It was also noted that the hooks and ladders were not in proper condition. The same article also mentioned that, “We have two very good engines and two very respectable fire Companies.”
It is noticed that chimney fires and improper installation of stoves brought about many fires. The editor calls the haphazard installation of stoves pipes inexcusable. Schoharie Village had no great amounts of water available. The engines had to pump from wells and there was a small stream east of the Main Street that did provide some sources.
Leather hose, made by members of Company, fastened together with copper rivets. Used until the late 1800’s
FIRST OUTSIDE MUTUAL AID
The first “mutual aid” response by the Schoharie fire companies to an outside community was on April 1, 1855 when a call was received from the neighboring Village of Middleburgh. That community had not had an organized fire department as of that time. The fire started in a building known as The Arcade and was situated approximately where Railroad Avenue and Main Street join in that Village. Without a fire company the flames spread westward toward the Lutheran Church. Some of the business places were blown up in an effort to stop the blaze, but this was fruitless. A call for help was sent to Schoharie and they arrived just as the Lutheran Church (standing where the present one is located) became involved in flames. Next in line was the Squire Daniel D. Dodge residence, the house that is locate just west of the Lutheran Church. From The Schoharie Patriot, “At about the time when the Squire Dodge’s house was in the greatest danger the fire engine from Schoharie arrived and rendered material service. The Company had been sent for at the commencement of the fire, and, deserves, as they have doubtless received, the gratitude of our citizens for their active and generous exertions in our hour of need.”
FIRE ENGINES DESTROYED
The two fire engines which the Village had had from the beginning were destroyed when The American Hub Factory located on Cemetery Lane in the Village of Schoharie burned on October 19, 1865. The Hub Factory was used as an engine house for the two engines. A steam whistle was handy for the fire alarm. The story of the fire in The Schoharie Republican mentions nothing of the loss of the engines. However, in a January 10th, 1867 issue following a fire that originated in the John Gebhard Jr. property adjoining the Court House on the south side and threatened the Court House, the editor remarks, “Without a fire engine, hoses, hooks, ladders, reservoirs of water, we are absolutely powerless to contend with that destructive element. The two small fire engines we have had, have, on many occasions, done us good service, were destroyed at the fire and destruction of the hub factory.”
Schoharie had been without a fire engine since the Hub Factory fire in October of 1865. Meetings were held periodically to discuss the means of fire extinguishment. A meeting was called for Friday January 11th to discuss the purchase of a good fire engine. Another meeting was called for July 19th of the same year.
The year 1867 brought about many events in the history of the Schoharie fire department. On January 24, 1867 a committee consisting of five prominent property owners and citizens of the Village announced that “An application had been made to the Legislature of the Sate of New York for the passage of an Act to Incorporate the Village of Schoharie for the purpose of protection against fire and the organization of a Fire Department therein authorizing the levying and collection of taxes of the taxable inhabitants for that purpose.”
Niagara 6 was originally purchased by Albany Volunteer Company. Said to be one of the largest hand pumper built requiring 30 men to operate and used until 1907.
In June of 1867 the committee had made arrangements to purchase a hand pumper belonging to the Niagara Engine Co. No. 6 of Albany, a volunteer company located on State Street above Hawk. The sale was to take place on the second Tuesday of July. A barn was rented of Daniel Warner, which was located somewhere near the present Stewart’s Bread and Butter shop at the corner of Main Street and Johnson Avenue. The trustees of the Village also authorized the construction of the 18,000-gallon reservoir on the Court House lawn. A spigot from the Kromer water system was installed to fill it, as well as was the drains from the County House roof directed into it.
The engine had the name NIAGARA 6 on a plate and the oil lamps on the side contained the name NIAGARA 6 in the glass enclosures. No doubt because the pumper was “all lettered” that the firemen decided to call the new company in the Village by it’s former Albany name – “Niagara Engine Co. No. 6,” and so the Company has retained that name to the present.
The firemen lost no time in “dressing up.” In October of that year they adopted a uniform consisting of a red shirt, patent leather belt with the name NIAGARA ENGINE CO No 6 and a fire hat. Three of the members were appointed to go to Albany to make the purchase.
The hand pumper, purchased from the Niagara Engine Co. No. 6 of Albany was a 3,300-pound hand drawn unit. The “brakes” one each side measured 24 feet and it required 30 men to operate it. This engine was purchase by the Albany Volunteers in 1863 and was in excellent condition. When it arrived it was painted white with gold trim and on one side could be seen a portrait, probably that of Mr. W. Coleman who was the foreman of the Niagara Co. No. 6 of Albany. The year 1867 saw the City convert from a volunteer organization to an all paid department. It is understood that the engine cost the Village $805, about one-third of its original cost and that an additional $1110.50 was spent for hose and accessories. The engine was built by C.E. Hartshorn of New York City and was claimed to have been one of the largest hand operated fire pumpers ever built. Albany called it “The Pride of Albany.” On at least two occasions it was borrowed by the City Firemen of Albany for their parades denoting various centennials etc. of the city, and was pulled by hand through the streets.
July of 1868 brought the new engine to its supreme test as the West side of Main Street was destroyed by fire. The fire originated in the barns of the Schoharie Hotel and spread north as far as the Throop Drug Store (now the Elm Store) and south to what is now Shannon Avenue. All buildings were destroyed in total except the two-story brick one at 311 Main Street which Peter Osterhout built in 1845, calling it the “fire proof” building. It was said that the original gable roof was burned off, but Osterhout’s foresight in having a concrete floor in the attic prevented the flames from going further. Steel shutters covered the rear windows and doors.
Photo of firemen taken around 1900 showing the Niagara 6 pumper and old hose cart. Gentlemen in front with large badge is Professor Solomon Sias of the old Schoharie Academy and rated as one of the country’s greatest educators, and was foreman of the company. The engine house was built in 1869 at a cost of $800.
All went well for a coupe of years until the building in which the fire engine was kept started to leak, and it was impossible to keep the engine from freezing. Several attempts on the part of the firemen were made to secure a more appropriate building, one that could be kept warm and a place for the firemen to hold their meetings. In fall of 1869 the firemen threatened to disband the company unless the Village trustees would give them better quarters. The editor of the local newspaper sympathetic to the firemen published a story that the firemen had really disbanded. In November of 1869, a special election was held to expend $2,500 for a new engine house, some hose and to put down some more wells. This proposition was turned down by the voters, with about two-thirds of the votes cast against the proposition.
On January 17, 1870 fire erupted in the barn to the rear of the Parrott’s Eagle Hotel on the east side of Main Street and spread to the hotel, the Court House and Jail, the County Clerk’s Office and north to the Cemetery Lane taking two places in its path. The fire also damaged the fronts on the newly constructed buildings on the west side of Main Street. Mutual aid was called and Middleburgh returned the favor by bringing their fire engine to the County Seat to help fight a fire that threatened to again destroy the main business section.
Another special election held by the Village trustees January 28, 1870 on the proposition of an engine house, hose and new wells was unanimously approved resulting in appropriation of $800 for a new engine house (now occupied by Sr. Bill Vedder Insurance at the Corner of Main Street and Johnson Avenue), $700 for new hose and repairs to the engine, $180 for a new well on New Street (now Fair Street) and $820 for additional wells in the Village.
THE FIRE BELL
Every Fire House must have a fire bell. The bell was installed in 1882 and was cast and purchased from the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Foundry of Troy. Its service was discontinued in 1932 when the fire alarm system was updated with an electric siren. The year 1936 saw the purchase of the first motorized fire pumper for the Village. This was an American LaFrance pump mounted on a Dodge chassis and cost the staggering sum of $4,999 with a white coat thrown in for good measure.
The Niagara Engine was used from 1867 until around 1907 when the present cast iron pipe water system was installed with many hydrants throughout the Village bringing water by gravity feed with over 80 pounds pressure from a cave on Barton Hill. A quarter million gallon reservoir has been installed on the Rickard Hill Road above the Village for storage. Now a pumper was not needed and water was directed from the hydrants to the fire. A hose cart and hand drawn hook and ladder truck were purchased from the Village of Cooperstown in July of 1909.
Group of firemen taken in 1909 in front of engine house. From left to right, Foreman Guy D. Vroman, Harold Throop, Fred Rickard, Edwin Shafer, George Chase, Robert Merrill, George Cooper, Samuel Borst, William Keyser, William Monthie, J. Timothy Clark, Frank Waarner, Hoosic Mix, Robert Fain, Jerome Keyser, Harry Sholtes, James Simmons, Perry Burton and Solomon Sias.
Hand drawn hose cart purchased from Cooperstown in July 1909
Hand drawn hook and ladder truck purchased from Cooperstown in July 1909.
The fire company and engine house was the center of activities of the Village. Meetings were held once a month, but it was usually the case that the meetings were recessed until the next few days of perhaps the next week for reports of committees of activities. The firemen were having strawberry festivals and dances, box luncheons, dances and shows almost continually throughout the year. On several occasions the Middleburgh & Schoharie Railroad would bring down a group from Middleburgh for a festival and dance at the fair house on the fair grounds letting the passengers off at the Fair Street Station. All travel was by train and in one incident the local firemen had to decline an invitation to parade in Troy, Schenectady, Albany, Altamont and many other localities throughout the state taking in most of the conventions of the Firemen’s Association of New York. Local county festivals were attended and special trains were run by the local railroad and special stops made at the Schoharie Junction terminals by the Albany & Susquehanna line to facilitate changes. On most occasions the department took along a band if locally or had a band meet them at their destinations.
Many of the local functions were held at the Kilmer Opera House which stood on the south corner of Grand Street and Shannon Avenue. After fire destroyed the opera house the firemen were concerned as to where they would host their functions. The Village officials suggested that the firemen buy the lot which is presently occupied by the Sunoco Station on the corner of Main and Prospect Streets for $400. It was formerly occupied by the Stafford and Winters Carriage shops which burned just after the turn of the century. The Village wanted it for a dumping ground and to fill it up. The Village agreed to purchase it back at $50 a year. The firemen apparently bought the lot plus another parcel on the north for an additional $175. Whether the firemen were ever paid for the lot is unknown as no further mention is made of it. In 1921 the firemen built a theatre on this location running movies, stage shows and holding a fall Thanksgiving Festival every year to raise funds.
Firemen’s Hall built buy the firemen in 1921 and operated as a movie theatre, dance hall and stage shows including the famed Firemen’s Minstrels directed by Matt Merenesse. Drop off of patronage caused selling to the Conery Chain and eventually demolished for gas station location.
One of the many stage shows were the locally produced Minstrel Shows directed by Matt M. Mereness. Despite the hard work of all which was gratis by the firemen, the theatre was not a paying proposition. Its construction led to extreme high costs in heating and maintaining and finally the Village of Schoharie took it over selling it to the Conery Theatre Chain and finally it was sold to the Sunoco Oil Company who demolished the building and constructed a gas station.
In 1927, Lawyer and Dawson Wright converted a 1923 Dodge Touring car into a hose truck by removing the rear seat and constructing a box to hold hose. This was the first motorized piece of equipment for Schoharie. One of the members dubbed it the “Keystone Comedy” as it reminded him so much of the vehicles and antics of the “Keystone Cops” of the movies. Previously the hose carts were dragged to the fires by hand or held on from the back of an automobile.
1923 Dodge touring car converted to hose truck. First motorized apparatus in village. Carried lanterns, 500 feet of hose, nozzles, fire axes and fire extinguishers.
1936 Dodge chassis on which was mounted an American LaFrance body and 500-GPM pump. Costing $4,999, this was the first motor operated pumper in the village.
“The Henney” was built in 1936 by Company members to provide rural fire protection. Built from a second hand Henney Hearse, this vehicle had the first front mounted pump and first 1½-inch hose in the county. This was later in 1946 as an orchard sprayer.
The Schoharie firemen were anxious to provide fire protection to the outlying area. A Henney Hearse which was to be traded in by the local funeral director, Mr. Benjamin J. Farqueher, was acquired and stripped down by two firemen, Fritz Rolfe and Thomas Vroman. A front mounted pump by American-Marsh was obtained and mounted. This was the first front mounted pumper in the county and the first truck to be equipped with 1½-inch hose. More than 70 feet of suction hose was used in order to reach distant ponds, cisterns in cellars and streams. From 1936 when it was constructed until 1946 when it was replaced, this vehicle did yeoman service. This vehicle was called “The Henney.”
Mutual aid was a common occurrence now that Schoharie had two pieces of motorized equipment and frequent calls were answered to assist fire companies in Middleburgh, Cobleskill, and Central Bridge, and with the Town of Wright without a pumper, all the calls in that area were answered by the Schoharie firemen.
World War II was soon coming along and schools were conducted by the New York State Division of Fire Safety. The first instructor was Chief Henry F. Drake of Clinton Corners. Firemen from all over the county came to the Schoharie School once a week for a several week course in wartime fire fighting as well as the regular run of the mill fires. Many of the firemen entered the military service drastically reducing the number available for fire fighting. Auxiliary firemen were accepted into membership to fill the ranks. Prior to the war there was considerable talk of building a new fire station as the two vehicles in the present station made conditions rather crowded.
Army surplus pumper purchased in 1946. It was remodeled, its fittings chrome plated and painted fire engine red. This vehicle had two booster reels, a booster tank and a 500-GPM capacity front-mounted pump.
With the war over, several surplus fire engines were made available. The Schoharie firemen purchased one, made several modifications to the fenders, etc., chrome plated the valves, controls, lights, etc., and put it into service taking the former home of the made vehicle, “The Henney,” out. This unit, The Henney, was sold as an orchard-spraying pump. Now the fire station was filled more than ever and very serious thought was given to the construction of a new station. Contact with the Village officials denoted that the Village was not in a position to build a new fire station. A former garage located on Johnson Avenue (now the site of the dental office) was purchased as a possible location for a station. A survey of this site disclosed that there was insufficient room even though it could be a two-story building with the meeting rooms on the second floor. Chief Imer Bellinger brought up the idea f building the fire station on a lot on Grand Street, a location which the Village was using for a dumping ground and piling snow when removed from the street. This was a former parking lot for the Thursday night free movies and no longer needed.
A deal was made between the firemen and the Village to swap a portion of this former parking lot for the Johnson Avenue garage site. Ground was broken on July 14th, 1957, the 125th anniversary of the formation of the Schoharie Fire Company. Construction did not start however until early spring of 1958. Donation drives were made to secure funds with the balance supplied by the local bank with a mortgage. Transfer of the equipment was made on Sunday December 28th with former Chief John Fain cutting the ribbon. Leonard Wright, Assistant Fire Chief was the contractor. The cost of the fire station at that time, 1958, was $30,000 plus many hundreds of dollars in donated materials and services. A New Years Dance was held inaugurating the opening of the new fire Station and dances were held the first Saturday of each month thereafter for several years.
The Fire Station built in 1958 exclusively with company funds with the front part housing three pumpers, a tanker-pumper and a service van. The meeting room and kitchen facilities were in the rear of the building.
Ribbon cutting at the inauguration of the new Fire Station. Shown are senior past Chief John Fain cutting the ribbon while Past Chiefs Herman Klahr, Imer Bellinger, Samuel Scranton and then Chief Edward Scribner, along with other fire members looking on.
The Village was again approached for a new fire engine to supplement the 1936 American LaFrance. Nearly a year was spent by the committee inspecting new apparatus for many miles around and finally bids were accepted. The successful bidder was Jack Teachout, representing F-W-D Corporation with a 750 GPM pump, a large booster tank, two electric reels and several good size compartments. The bid price was $18,000 and in as much as the Village appropriated $20,000, the balance was used for additional hose and accessories.
Soon afterward it was decided to convert the Army Chevrolet truck to a tanker and plans were drawn for a new four-wheel rural fire engine. Bids were accepted for a truck from the International Harvester Company and a body and 750 GPM front mounted pump from American Marsh Pump Company of Battle Creek, Michigan. Before the delivery of the new vehicle the Office of Civilian Defense had a 1000-gallon tank truck available for $175, which the company purchased. Needing more water capacity, a 2000-gallon tank was obtained from the Anderson Equipment Company of Albany, costing only the loading and transportation charges. The Chevrolet truck was then stripped of its pump and sold. A mobile power plant and service vehicle had been loaned by the Office of Civilian Defense and this was eventually purchased by the department.
A Ford fire engine was available from the Williamsville Fire Department at which the company deemed an excellent purchase and this was added to the service along with a new walk-in van to carry additional equipment. Now the fire station was bulging at its seams and it seems evident that an addition will soon be necessary.
Top picture: 2000-gallon tanker purchased from Civil Defense
Bottom picture: Fire engine purchased from the Williamsville Fire Department, the home department of former Chief Thomas Wutz before moving to Schoharie.
During the 150 years of operation of the fire company from the original hand operated pumpers, leather hose and hand drawn equipment, the Schoharie department now has four pumpers, a tanker with pump, a service van and mobile power plant. In addition, the station house is equipped with a hose dryer purchased by the Ladies Auxiliary who also provided several Scott Air Paks. Also purchased by the company is a hose washer, which is of great asset to the company. All vehicles and chiefs cars are radio equipped with a base unit in the fire station.
Ford service van
In the fire hall hands a composite photo of all the Fire Chiefs from the time that the Niagara Engine Company Number 6 was organized in 1867 to the present date. This brochure contains the photos of every piece of fire equipment that has been owned by the company since its organization 150 years ago with the exception of the engine for Fire Company Number 2. Many frames of photos show portraits of the firemen of past years.
This Exemption Certificate issued to H. Cleo Badgley is typical of the certificates issued during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. This certificate was dated March 7, 1901.
HISTORY CONTINUES TO BE MADE
And so we continue with the history of Niagara Engine Company No. 6 and the Schoharie Fire Department. In the fall of 1992, dedication ceremonies were held for a new addition to the existing fire station. Additions to the station included the first full sprinkler fire system in any fire station in the County, and a full length bay on the south side of the building for storage space, Chief Engineer’s room, Chief’s office and emergency power plant. A membership lounge was added to the back (west side) of the station and is now home to many pictures, trophies and other memorabilia of the fire department. This space also houses exercise and audio-visual equipment used for both entertainment and training. The whole kitchen was gutted and outfitted with new cabinets, stove, ventilation and fire suppression systems and some appliances. This was completed in 2000.
Other historical items of interest about the Schoharie Fire Department
Schoharie Republican newspaper article - May 13, 1937
Schoharie Republican newspaper article - April 7, 1938
Schenectady Gazette newspaper article - March 30, 1946
Schenectady Gazette newspaper article - July 1, 1957
Schenectady Gazette newspaper article - April 7, 1966