Here’s a vintage booklet about the Salem Fire Department, printed for the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary, celebrated on September 16, 1893.
The twenty-page booklet includes a history of the department going back to the Moravian settlement of 1766, and first fire protection laws in 1773.
It’s presented courtesy of Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, scanned from their collection.
View the booklet (PDF, 19MB)
These milestones are noted in the booklet:
- 1766 – Settlement of Salem started.
- 1773 – First regulations related to preventing fires, by sweeping chimneys.
- 1778 – First “system of water works.”
- 1781 – First recorded fire.
- 1785 – First fire engines delivered, two hand engines from Europe.
- 1785 – Fire buckets ordered by town, with each house required to have at least one.
- 1828 – Pump added to water system. Water was moved into the town’s reservoir, which fed via “earthen pipes” some ten or twelve cisterns around town. Each cistern had a “common wood pump” with a brass connection for hose, for supplying the fire engine.
- 1832 – Newer hand engine delivered from Philadelphia, 200 GPM capacity, built by Merrick & Agnew. Also equipped with two-inch hose, first fire hose for town.
- 1843 – State law exempts firemen from militia duty. It’s thought that this led to the old Salem Military Company being disbanded, and the first “organized fire company” created.
- 1843 – Salem Vigilant Fire Company organized.
- 1845 – First fire for Vigilant Fire Company, Siewer’s Cabinet Shop.
- 1853 – Second fire for Vigilant Fire Company, outbuilding near “dwelling house.”
- 1854 – First uniforms for Vigilant Fire Company.
- 1855 – Four-wheel hose carriage added. Used for about 30 years.
- 1855c – Engine house moved from original location on Salem Square to Academy Street, just west of Tar Branch.
- 1858 – Newer hand engine purchased, from Baltimore. Named “the Watchman.”
- 1859 – Larger 1785 hand engine retired.
- 1861 – Vigilant Fire Company disbanded, after state law no longer exempted firemen from militia duty. They had “done duty at four fires” over 18 years.
- 1864 – First dwelling house destroyed by fire. Most of the former firemen were in the army, and citizens took their places at the engine, and in a bucket brigade.
- 1866 – Fire company reorganized after the end of the war.
- 1868 – Fire company adopted new by-laws and constitution, and chartered as Rough and Ready Fire Company.
- 1868 – Total fire alarms from 1766 to 1868 is nine.
- 1871 – First fire for Rough and Ready Fire Company, a smokehouse.
- 1874c – Engine house moved to Main Street.
- 1884 – Button hand engine purchased.
- 1886 – Hand engine exchanged for Button steam engine.
- 1886 – New engine house.
- 1893 – Hose wagon added, built by captain of the department.
- 1893 – Electric fire alarm system added.
- 1893 – Total fire alarms from 1868 to 1893 is 24, with grand total of 33 fire alarms since settlement of town in 1766.