History of the Woolwich Fire Department Swedesboro, NJ
Feb 25 1893– William Dilks of Quinton NJ was driving through Swedesboro on 2/25/1893 between 2 and 3 am when he discovered a fire that started in the basement of the Arcade Building on the corner of Mill Hill and Kings Highway. The fire spread so rapidly that nothing could be done to save Ford’s hall, the residence of Kate Gill, and the shoe shop of James Makelva. The crowd which had gathered by this time, turned their attention to saving Meley’s Hall (Kings Things Building), the residence of H. W. Brown on Main Street, and the residence ofGeorge C. Turner on Mill HIll. This building was saved by the hard work of the citizens.
Hundreds of buckets of water were soon in willing hands, bringing water from every direction, while others carried the buckets up ladders to those on the buildings who stuck to their posts despite the fact that their faces and hands were scorned to blisters. As dangerous as it was, those on the roof proved equal to the task. People in the street below held their breath in fear when they beheld George Taylor hanging over the roof of the hall. Dr. O. Grinshaw was holding him by the feet while George cut away the tin and extinguished the blaze that was fast gaining headway just under the eve. Had the hall gone, there would have been no stopping the fire from reaching the adjoining buildings. Likewise stopping the fire at Mrs. Gaskill’s house on Main Street, and at the house of George C. Turner, which was in the rear of the buildings on Mill HIll, stopped the fire from spreading.
Swedesboro in the 1800’s was not an incorporated borough, but was ruled by Woolwich township. There were no paved streets or public water system, and of course, no fire company. There were a few hand pumps located along the main street. At the time of a fire, the residents would form a bucket brigade from the pumps to the location of the fire. This practice, as you can imagine was not too effective. Thus a committee was appointed by Woolwich Township for the purpose of purchasing a fire truck. The committee was made up of: George Meley, James J. Davidson, Albert R. Talman, W. H. McCullough, and C. D. Lippincott.
The committee checked on equipment owned by other fire companies, and met with representatives of fire equipment companies until they decided what they needed. They made their recommendations to the Woolwich Township Committee. On March 22, 1898 at a meeting at Lippincott Hall, it was reported that the Township had passed a resolution to purchase a fire truck. (It was called a fire truck although they were not motorized and it needed to be pulled by the firemen). The committee requested a special meeting with the Township Committee for the purpose of asking for an additional $150, so the fire truck would be fully equipped with ladders, a pump, buckets, hose, and fire extinguishers. The township approved the additional $150 on April 11, 1898. Thus the fire committee met with Howard Story of Gleason & Bailey Co. of Seneca, NY and a contract was made for a suitable fire truck for the sum of $375.
May 6, 1898– A meeting was held at the home of george Meley for the purpose of arranging for a suitable place for storing and keeping the fire apparatus. Lippincott and McCullough were ordered to rent a place on Lake Avenue near Kings Highway (where the Comcast Cable office is now) from Hewes V. Black if he would make the necessary changes for storing the fire truck and a meeting hall.
July 8, 1898– It was reported that the committee had rented a building from Hewes Black at $40 a year for five years with the option to renew for another five years. The fire truck had been delivered and had past its test satisfactorily. George Meley was appointed treasurer and was ordered to go to the Woolwich Township Committee and get the $400 appropriated by the Committee and pay the fee for the fire truck. It was the judgement of the fire committee that after the truck was paid for it would be turned over to the Township Committee.
July 25, 1898– The committee met at Lippincot Hall and C. D. Lippincott reported that the Woolwich Township Committee refused to have care of the fire apparatus and it was their judgement that the fire committee was the proper ones to form a fire company. The fire committee then proceeded to organize a 40- man fire company, which was to be known as the Woolwich Fire Company.
August 8 1898– The Woolwich Fire Company was organized at a meeting that was held in Lippincott Hall at 8pm. A circular letter had been sent out to 48 men inviting them for the organization meeting. Thirty-six men showed up for the meeting. The roll call of those notified was called and the constitution and bylaws of the Reliance Fire Company of Woodstown were adopted temporarily. Thirty-six men signed the constitution and bylaws and paid an admission of 50cents, thus becoming charter members of the Woolwich Fire Company. They then proceeded with the election of officers. The following were elected to serve until the stated meeting in January: President- C. D. Lippincott, Vice President- F. W. Weber, Secretary- George W. Ashton, Treasurer- George B. Mitchell, Chief Engineer- W. H. McCollough, 1st Assistant Engineer- H. H. Sparks, and 2nd Assistant Engineer Ferd Andofer.
The formation of the fire company was the final step in providing protection for the citizens of Woolwich Township, which included the Town of Swedesboro.
September 12, 1898– The regular meeting of the fire company was held at the firehouse. The constitution and bylaws of the Reliance Fire Company were adopted. Chief W. H. McCollugh appointed the following members to these positions: Foreman of Buckets- C. D. Lippincott, Foreman of Ladders- Harry B. Smith, Foreman of Extinguishers- J. Allen Denney, the 1st Assistant Engineer has charge of the pumps, and the 2nd Assistant Engineert has charge of the branch pipe.
October 10, 1898– The president and secretary were ordered to take steps to incorperate the fire company. It was further ordered that the president, secretary, treasurer, and chief take proceedings for organizing a Fireman’s Relief Association. A. B. Hewes was instucted to contact the Vestry and Wardens of the Episcopal Church to ascertain if they would allow the fire company to use their church bell as an alarm for the fire company in case of a fire.
November 11, 1898– A. B. Hewes reported that the Vestry of the Episcopal Church would have no objection to e fire company using their bell. Isaac McAllister was selected as the bell ringer and Harry Smith was the assistant bell ringer. The bell was to rang continuously for one minute until the district the fire was in was determined. The town was divided into four sections. depending on which district the fire was in the was rung accordingly. If in district three the bell was rung 3 times, pause, and three more times. The company then elected the first representatives and trustees of the Woolwich Firemen’s Relief Association.
December 12, 1898– Articles of Incorporation were read and members named therein signed it.
April 10, 1899– A committee was appointed to investigate the cost of a fire bell.
July 10, 1899– Letter from A. A. Dayton, superintendent of W. Jersey & Seashore Railroad was received wherein the railroad donated a locomotive tire for fire alarms.
September 11, 1899– A committee was formed to mount the locomotive tire directly in front of the firehouse provided the property owner approved. Treasurer reported $115.86 in the bell fund.
December 13 1899-, Wednesday night, the usually quiet town was alarmed by the cry FIRE, FIRE, FIRE. In a very short time, the bells were ringing calling members who speedily went to the firehouse and pulled the fire truck with its equipment to the store and residence of Frank B. Warrington. Members assumed their positions and soon had the hose connected , the pump in working order, and the tank constantly supplied with water enabling the company to play a steady stream on the burning building. A bucket brigade was formed which did good service. The extinguishers were pressed in service and after a hard fight by the company and some noble citizens, the flames were controlled. The alarm was sounded at 10:45pm and members reported back to the firehouse at about 1:30am. When roll call was called only six members were absent- two of who were not in town.
February 1, 1900– Thursday night, at about 7 pm the town was thrown into an uproar by the alarm of fire, which again visited the quiet town. Members reported to the firehouse and soon had the truck on scene at W. A. Homan’s house on Lake Avenue where the children had upset a lamp in the dinning room and set the room on fire. A bucket brigade was soon formed and had the fire out. The members of the fire company and the citizens did excellent work in stopping the fire but not in time to save the life of one of the children.
February 12, 1900– The bell committee had reported that the locomotive tire had been installed. The bill for the installation and a load of wood in the amount of $11 was ordered paid. It was decided to ask the Woolwich Township Committee for $200 to buy a pump, hose, and carriage.
>May 4, 1900– Committee on the pump and carriage reported the they had decided to get another 4-wheel truck to hold a pump, 250 feet of hose, 6 buckets, and a tank. It was decided to fix up the room next to the firehouse for the new truck. Mr Mitchell was ordered to see the Heat Light and power company and ask if they will give the fire company one light. A request had been made of the insurance companies for donations to the Relief Fund, but since the request was turned down the company moved to draw a check for $25 from the general fund and turn it over to the Relief Association.
June 11, 1900– Pump and Carriage Committee reported that the had ordered a new wheel truck, which would cost $275. A committee was formed to get wiring done for the light in the firehouse.
August 13, 1900– The company elected three delegates to represent the company at the Atlantic City Convention for the Firemen’s Relief Association.
September 10, 1900– The pump and carriage committee had the new room ready for the new fire truck. A committee of six was appointed to raise enough money by public subscription to help house the new truck. It was decided to invite Woodbury Fire Company to help house the new truck and to invite D. C. Watkins to be the speaker.
October 8, 1900– A committee was appointed to cut a door between the two fire engine rooms and to see the Heat Light and Power Company about getting another light for the new room. A motion was made to pay for the new fire truck and the chief read a list of names designating who was supposed to respond with each truck. The chief reported testing the new truck and it pumped 100 feet. The truck was only guaranteed to pump 75 feet.
December 10, 1900– A stove was purchased for the firehouse and installed. L. C. Norton was appointed janitor and was paid $4 a month and recieved an extra $1.50 a month to stoke the firehouse stove.
March 1901– The Woolwich Water Company was formed.
August 12, 1901– A committee was formed to wait on the Township Committee to see if the fire company could change the fire truck they had to get one more suitable for the towns water system. The committee was also to request 1000 feet of hose.
September 19, 1901– The committee reported that the township committee said that there was nothing they could do. Fire Chief W. H. McCullough was appointed to see Mr. Pharo of the water company to find out if the fire company could use the fire plugs in case of a fire and if so to get a reducer for the fire company’s hose. Permission was granted.
March 10, 1902– Treasurer, George Mitchell reported that he had recieved $100 from the Woolwich Township Treasurer. The fire bell committee reported that the bell fund amounted to $128 and was being deposited in the Camden Safe Co. Since the Township Committee was holding their meetings in the firehouse and had placed a jail cell in the firehouse, a request was made for the township to pay the janitors fee and the heating bill. A motion was made to reduce the number of firemen from 50 to 45.
The Borough of Swedesboro was incorporated out of Woolwich Township and they assumed control of the fire company. The fire plug committee reported that they had made a map of the fireplugs and that it was posted in the firehouse.
June 9, 1902– a committee was formed to go before the Borough Council and ask for an appropriation of $400 for the coming year. The Borough council notified the fire company that they had decided that the membership should be reduced to 35 members.
December 8, 1902– The hose cart committee went before the Borough Council and requested that they buy a four wheeled hose cart. The council decided that the fire company should convert the pump wagon to a hose cart.
February 3, 1903– The fire company recommended to the council that one of the hose carts be placed at Mrs. J. M. Young’s Blacksmith Shop in South Swedesboro. The persons to have charge of it would be J. M. Hunter, J. M. Young, and John Ashcraft. The other hose cart was to be placed at W. H. McCullough’s Lumber yard on Broad Street, and E. H. Dilks, W. H. McCullough and Louis Weber were appointed to have charge of it.
February 8, 1904– Edgar H. Dilks reported that Borough Council had instructed the fire company to build suitable buildings for the hose carts. On was to be on the property of Joseph V. Horner on South Main Street, opposite the Walter Hill School and the other was to be on the property of W. H. McCullough on Broad Street. The fire company used the two hose carts until the purchased a motorized fire truck in 1916.
November 14, 1904– A committee of three was appointed to put out fire extinguishers around town and to have the places published in the swedesboro news.
March 13, 1905– A committee was appointed to look for suitable fire coats and fire helmets. The fire chief was instructed to had the fire trucks numbered: Hose truck#1, Ladder truck #2, Broad Street Hose cart #3 and South Swedesboro Hose cart #4.
November 23, 1905– The bell committee reported that it purchased a bell from the Meley Bell Co. of Troy NY, which weighed 1800 lbs. It was decided that the names of the bell committee be inscribed on the bell. In other business, a committee was formed to go before the council request payment of $5 per member for 35 members each year.
January 8, 1906– The committee on fire coats reported that they had found a satisfactory fire coat worth about $5. The company moved that the committee go before council and request that they buy four coats for the hose men. It was reported that the Borough council had granted the request along with a request for pay for firemen at $5 a year. The bell fund totaled $426.90- holding minstrel shows and other forms of entertainment had raised most of this money. it was decided to pay any public- spirited citizen who pulled a fire truck to a fire when an alarm was struck $1 per truck.
March 12, 1906– The bell committee reported that the bell has arrived and was unloaded and put in Mr. james J. Davidson’s building. The total cost of the bell was $550 less 5% if payment was made within 15 days. It was ordered to pay the bill immediately, which then amounted to $522.50.
July 1906– The fire bell was installed at the firehouse.
June 1910– The first chemical wagon was purchased and it was kept in service until motorized equipment was purchased. The wagon was then donated on September 13, 1926 to the Auburn FIre Company.
September 1912– The Swedesboro Glassworks burned down for the third time. The first time was 28 years ago in 1884. The second time was 10 years later. The railroad played an important part in helping fight the fire as they brought the Woodbury Fire Company steamer from Woodbury by train.
1915– The Woolwich Fire Company joined the Gloucester County Firemen’s Association.
November 23, 1916– The Borough Hall, the Waterous Fire truck and a new motor drawn chemical truck were dedicated at a gala parade and celebration. The parade formed in South Swedesboro. The following fire companies participated: National Park, Williamstown, Friendship of Woodbury, Pitman, South Westville, Clarksboro, Gloucester City, Glassboro, and Almonesson.
The Borough Council generously appropriated $500 for prizes and refreshments and the entertainment committee solicited donations and provisions to the amount of $400. The visiting firemen were served first. Refreshments were served on the first floor of the Borough Hall. There was plenty of coffee, sandwiches, cake, and ice cream for all. Woodbury received a prize of $20 in gold for having the most men in line and $20 for best appearence. They also received $5 which was given to each company in the parade. Paulsboro was given a special prize for second best number of men and appearance. Waterous of St. Paul, MN built the Waterous Fire Truck. The combinatin engine and hose cost $5,750. The new motor drawn chemical truck with two interchangeable tanks each with 35-gallon capacity cost $2,250. Both trucks were new and modern for their time.
April 1917– The bell was moved to a tower at the rear of the Borough Hall.
March 12, 1928– It was decided that the fire company would celelbrate the arrival of the new 1928 Mack Fire truck with dinner and entertainment and that the would invite the Borough Council to join them. It was also decided to check into getting uniforms and by what means they could pay for them.
June 25, 1928– The new Mack Pumper was to be housed at a celebration and Chief Johnson and Assistant Chief McGill of Gibbstown Fire Company were named to have charge of the housing. The Mack Pumper cost $13,500.
December 10, 1928– A committee of 3- Hugh McCullough, Frank Shiveler, and Joseph Eastlak- were appointed to help the Ladies auxilary of the Woolwich Fire Company organize the celebration. The fire company gave $100 to the ladies auxiliary.
February 10, 1930– A committee was appointed to get prices to install two additional sirens, one at each end of town.
March 1, 1932– The fire company was called to a fire in Penns Grove. The fire company spent eight hours in service and was commended by several organizations in Penns Grove who gave credit to the fire company for saving most of the town. The Mack Pumper was the only pumper that was able to pick up water from the river at the Ferry Slip.
June 25, 1932– The fire company was called by the Mullica HIll Fire Company for a barn fire on the George Groppenbacher farm.
March 13, 1933– The trustees reported that teh chemcal truck had been repainted. They said that Guy Stanley deserved a lot of credit because the truck had responded to several fires while being painted and several parts had to be repainted as they got dirt on them.
August 25, 1941– A hurricane struck town damaging the Scott residence at Helms & Vanaman Ave, Hurff’s Canning Factory, the Perry residence on Kings Highway, and the Viereck barn on the opposite side of Kings Highway. When the storm hit the cannery it blew down the smokestack which fell on top of Alvin Lippincott’s milk truck killing the driver. Borough Council sent a letter and a $15 dollar check in appreciation of the splendid work the members of the fire company had done.
December 7, 1941– Pearl Harbor Day. The United States entered WW2. Five of the fire company members’ entered the service. They were President Donald Hunter, John “Jack” Hunter, George Schoener, Charles Bratton, and Kimon Damask. The fire company purchased a “service flag” with stars on it representing the members in sevice. Air Raid drills were held at night with blackout practice and instructions were given to the fire company on how to fight incendiary bomb fires. A request was made to Borough Council to buy a gas mask for the fire company. The Red Cross was given the privilege of using the Firemen’s room for sewing. The fire company even loaned the Ration Board their ice water cooler for the summer.
June 14, 1943– The office of the chaplain was formed and Reverend Parker F. Auten was appointed.
January 1, 1944– The report of fires and drills for 1943 was 62 alarms and 84 ambulance calls. A committee was appointed to see the Woolwich Township Committee about buying a water tank truck.
December 11, 1944– Since there were more than 35 active firemen on the roll, a motion was made and passed to only pay the 35 firemen with the highest percentage of calls attended at the end of the year.
November 12, 1945– President, reverend Parker F. Auten welcomed Donald Hunter and George Schoener back into the fire company after serving in the armed forces.
July 14, 1947– The fire company was ready to house a GMC Army Tank Truck. An effort was made to get a portable pump to be put on the tanker.
May 6, 1950– Atlantic Ice Company fire, assisted by fire companies from Harrisonville, Mullica Hill, and Gibbstown. Damages estimated at $75,000.
October 9, 1950– A new Cadillac Ambulance was ordered at a cost of $6, 119.30.
March 9, 1953– Chief Donald Hunter suggested obtaining a fire and rescue truck. A motion was made and passed to take the carnival funds and put them into a fund to buy a rescue truck.
February 12, 1954– The fire at the Santo Dibartolo farm started when a kerosene tan at the side of the house exploded setting the house on fire, the lawn around it, the pump house and the barn roof. Sparks
from the fire started a fire on the roof of Rode’s Barn on Paulsboro Road.
June 16, 1954– Lightning struck the barn of Harry Steward & Son. The fire company saved some of the equipment and the surrounding buildings, but the barn was a total loss.
September 13, 1954– A motion was made to amend the bylaws to include a formal rescue squad. It was ordered to pay Reliable Garage $2,970 for the Ford Walk-in Van and DeHarts $660 for the interior work on the van. The Committee was authorized to go ahead and start equipping the rescue truck.
December 12, 1955– A two-way radio for the ambulance was ordered from Raymond Rosen Company for $175.
January 1956– A helicopter crashed and burned on Oldmans Creek Road at the Mattson Farm.
May 12, 1956– A car was found in Warrington’s Mill Pond with 4 people in it. The car and people had been missing since Christmas.
December 1956– The 1956 Ward Fire Truck was delivered and the 1928 Mack Fire truck was retired.
May 13, 1957– The fire company purchased a 14-ft. Aluminum boat, 5- hp motor , hold down kit, rope, oars, anchor, life cushions and trailer from Oscar Jenkins for $647.
October 14, 1958– Isle & Shimp delivered the new Oldsmobile Ambulance.
September 14, 1956– A motion was passed to open membership to residents of Woolwich Township.
April 11, 1960– A motion was passed to recommend to Council that they pass a Fire Code.
May 1960– A fire at Hilda Cole’s residence on Kings Highway. The fire started in the air heating system and spread throughout the house doing extensive damage.
November 1960– Fire at Old Ford Hotel did extensive damage to a room on the second floor. The fire company received a $100 donation from owner Chris Kirchoff. Adjuster reported only one bottle of whiskey missing from the bar- Chris Kirchoff had given it to the firemen for their hard work.
April 8, 1963– The fire company requested that Borough Council adopt the National Fire Underwriters Fire Code. The Borough Council awarded a bid for a 1963 GMC chassis to Al Caltibiano at a cost of $6,850. Bid for the body was opened on May 20, and was awarded to the Hahn Truck Company.
October 14, 1963– A motion was passed to purchase a 1963 Seibert Amblance for $6,850. The new ambulance was delivered in December 1963.
May 11, 1964– Sold the old GMC tanker to Sam Nicolosi.
January 11, 1965– Purchased a 1947 White Rescue Truck for the NJ Fire Equipment Company for $4,650.
February 14, 1966– The fire company took over the american legion hall and renamed it the Woolwich Firemen’s Hall.
December 13, 1966– The fire company agreed to supply ambulance service to East Greenwich Township.
February 13, 1967– The fire company did away with CB radios and went with Fire Band Units.
October 9, 1967– Received a letter from the NJ Turnpike Authority and a check for $850 to pay for handling an accident when a trailways bus rear ended a CITGO tractor trailer loaded with gasoline while it was being towed. The bus telescoped over the back of the trailer putting a gash in the rear compartment of the trailer leaking gasoline onto the highway. Fortunately, there was no fire. There were six people injured and the bus driver was killed. It took the fire company 4 1/2 hours to unload the trailer of gasoline before we could remove the body of the bus driver.
September 27, 1968- The fire company traded in the 1947 White rescue truck and purchased a 1948 Mack rescue truck for $1,500 from NJ Fire Equipment Company.
November 11, 1968– The fire company purchased a used four-wheel drive pickup from the forestry service, and converted it to a field truck. Members mounted a tank and a pump on the truck.
September 8, 1969– The fire company obtained a contract signed by the Borough and Township stating that we provide fire protection to the Township of Woolwich on a first call basis, With the contract we were finally able to get the Fire Insurance Rating Organization to pay us the fire tax on fire or homeowners policies written in the township.
June 8, 1970– The new chassis was ordered for the rescue truck. The fire company helped Chris Leibfarth replace the chassis under the rescue truck. The new ambulance was to be delivered by the end of June.
January 10, 1972– The Borough and Township signed an agreement of sale to purchase the Byrnes’ property as the site for a new firehouse. Settlement was finally held on May9,1972.
February 12, 1973– The building committee settled on a masonry building as opposed to a metal clad building. Bids for building to go out on March 15, 1973. Byrnes’ building to be demolished soon.
August 3, 1974– The new firehouse was dedicated and the fire company celebrated their 75th anniversary.
May 12, 1975– The new ambulance has been ordered and should arrive about the end of July. The cost with trade in was $16,490.
November 10, 1975– The plectron system was now hooked up and working. Siren is being blown by Mantua police dispatchers.
February 14, 1977– Ralph Hammond was awarded a certificate of appreciation for his rescue of a woman from a burning car on Paulsboro Road. A certificate of appreciation for past services was also awarded to Dr. Irving J. Stewart.
December 12, 1977– An explosion and fire at the Rollins’ Plant on Route 322 occurred. Received a donation in the amount of $1,100 from Rollins. The ambulance, fire trucks, and turnout gear were quarantined for one week while tests were run to see if it was contaminated with hazardous materials. Mullica Hill loaned an ambulance and took turns with Pitman Fire Companies covering our station with men and equipment.
October 18, 1977– A special meeting was called at which it was decieded to give up the Firemen’s Hall.
July 9, 1979– A motion was made to join the County Radio System.
February 11, 1980– Area in front of the firehouse to be dedicated as a memorial to Chris Leibfarth.
april 14, 1980– A motion was made to place the fire bell in front of the fire house and a plaque was to be placed on it stating that it was dedicated as a memorial to all firemen, past, present and future of the Woolwich Fire Company. Permission to move the bell was given by Councilmen William Goetaski after he had read our minutes of years ago relating to the bell.
June 14, 1982– Received a letter from the NJTP stating that an emergency gate a milepost 23 is now open for emergency traffic.
February 1983– Fire Chief Mattson thanked members for helping at the firehouse during a big snowstorm. The fire company provided shelter for many stranded motorists.
August 8, 1983– The fire company decided to purchase Hurst Rescue Tools for $10,835 funded from a loan by the bank.
October 15, 1984– The ambulance caught on fire while at Underwood Memorial Hospital and was extensively damaged.
February 11, 1985– A motion was passed to borrow $10,400 from Woodstown National Bank at 12% interest in order to buy an ambulance from First State. Motion was passed to keep 2592(ambulance) out of service and sell it for anything over $1000.