Fire Department History


History of the Hallowell Fire Department 


Hallowell has the distinguished honor of having the first fire engine in this part of Maine, and probably in the State.  It is still in existence.  This engine is the property of the Vaughn heirs, who have a summer residence here, which was built in 1797.  In the stable of this old homestead is still to be seen this little old tub.  It has solid wooden discs for wheels which are bound with half-inch iron tires.  The body or tank is five and one-half feet long, and in the center of this is placed the pump with one cylinder, working much the same way as the ordinary kitchen pump except it is worked by a pair of brakes.  It has no means of taking water, but little leather buckets were used.  The connections are all of brass to which is attached some fifty feet of leather hoses about the sizes of those used on a lawn,  being riveted and capped by a nozzle over three feet long, forcing a half-inch stream.  It is painted on the end "B. Vaughn, Hallowell,"  and is believed to have been brought from England more than a century ago.  In the early days of Hallowell, there was comparatively little danger of fire.  The houses were larger and roomy and constructed of heavy hewn timber, which at best could burn but slowly.  Matches there were none;  the fire being kindled by flint and steel and then preserved overnight by burying a burning log beneath the mound of ashes, where it smoldered through the night until uncovered in the morning.  It appears from an ancient town record that one danger must have been from carrying lighted coals through the street from one house to another.

But huge as the chimneys were and infrequent as the fires, still they were often enough to cause alarm and make thinking men believe it time to be prepared to meet the foe in some organized form.  The lack of town records added to the fact that the newspapers of that day religiously avoided printing any matter having the slightest connection with home matters, renders it impossible to learn more of such matters than comes within the ken of our older inhabitants.  

It was some time in 1790 that the first fire company of Hallowell was formed.  It was an association of many of the householders, formed for the mutual protection of its members against fires.  They were banded under a printed list of articles or rules which required each member to keep ready two leather buckets and canvas ones for the removal of goods at fires, and the members were first to render assistance to those of their associates who might need it. The prominent citizens were members of this association and each owned from two to four of these fire buckets, on which were the printed names of the owner and the number of the bucket.  

The wardens compelled both sexes to take part in the work, especially in the larger fires; it being the custom to compel the women and children to pass back the extra buckets.  If the wardens noted any loitering in the line it was customary to put more alacrity into the workers by giving the lazy ones sharp prods with the poles.  If they noted any desertions the hooks would be inserted in the collar or the slack of the trousers, and the deserter forcibly returned to the ranks.  After the fire, each man would recover his own buckets, and with his women and children return home.

There is no record to show when the old Lion tub was secured but it was in the vicinity of 1800.  It was first known by the name of "Hydraulion."

The old "Torrent" was purchased from Bath and probably saw as many lively times as any piece of apparatus in the State.

The Tiger was purchased in 1837 in Boston where it was made for the town.  At present, it is located in the bay of the firehouse and is still in good working order.

In 1834 there seems to have been some dissatisfaction with the department as it then existed.  A set of by-laws were prepared and the department organized on a businesslike basis.  S. C. Whittier was elected chief and Thos. B. Brooks his assistant.  The wardens of the old Lion were; K. G. Robinson, John D. Lord, Paul Stickney, Ariel Wall, John Beeman, Leonard Whittier.   Engine No. 1, S. K. Gilman, S. W. Robinson" engine No. 2, J. Brown, I. Nutter, B. F. Aiken.   Wardens for hooks and ladders, F. Glazier, E. H. Lombard, R. K. Page, W. Hawkes, F. Scammon.  Wardens to take charge of furniture, merchandise, etc., Wm. Clark, A. Nourse, A. Masters.  Dan Wadsworth was the warden of the axe company.