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Then and Now #10: Western Fire Departments

Cherokee, Cleveland, Haywood, Henderson, Rutherford, and Transylvania counties

Welcome to a feature where historian Mike Legeros presents early twentieth-century summaries of North Carolina fire departments as recorded by the Sanborn Map Company for their fire insurance maps. In addition to detailed information about streets, buildings, and water supplies, the cartographers also recorded fire protection information including personnel, apparatus, and alarm systems.

In the late 1880s, the state's few fire departments were so disorganized that the fire chiefs of Fayetteville, Greensboro, and Raleigh called a meeting of the state's firemen in Greensboro on September 26, 1888 for the purpose of organizing a professional association.

The North Carolina State Fireman's Association was subsequently chartered on March 11, 1889. A second group comprised of the state's colored firefighters was also organized around the same time. The North Carolina Colored Volunteer Fireman's Association was chartered in 1888 or 1889. Both conducted separate annual conventions around the state featuring parades, meetings, and highly competitive tournaments.

Andrews, Cherokee County
October 1916

Fire department not organized. Hook and ladder truck in rear of Bryson Hotel at corner of 1st and Cherry streets. Hose reel with 450 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in alley between 2nd and 3rd streets. Hose reel with 250 feet 2 1/2-inch hose at Cherry and 4th streets. Hose reel with 250 feet 2 1/2-inch hose at Connaheta Avenue and Walker Street. Additional 150 feet 2 1/2-inch hose at Eden Road and Kent Street. Fire alarm system by church bells and factory whistles. Population 1,800.

Today
One fire station, three pieces of fire apparatus, and 25 volunteer members protecting 1.4 square miles. Population 1,845.


Brevard Fire Department with 1925 American LaFrance pumper. Courtesy Brevard Fire Department

Brevard, Transylvania County
October 1916

Volunteer, 11 men. Fire station on Broad Street south of Probart Street. One hose reel. One hand-drawn truck. 1,800 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm by bell. Population 1,500.

Today
One fire station, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 43 volunteer members protecting 81 square miles including parts of both the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Population 6,795.


Canton Fire Department, circa 1920s. Courtesy Canton Area Historical Museum

Canton, Haywood County
June 1912

Volunteer, six members, one chief. Fire station at 20 Church Street. One American LaFrance automobile truck with 750-gallon capacity pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, 200 feet of chemical hose, one 24-foot extension ladder, and one 12-foot roof ladder. One hose wagon with 900 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Two three-gallon chemical extinguishers. One hand hose reel with 300 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Hose house on Avenue B at Main Street: 350 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house on North Main Street at Patton Avenue: 200 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house at 18 Hamilton Street: 150 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarms by private telephones and factory whistles. Population 6,500.

Today
One fire station, four pieces of fire apparatus, nine career members, and 18 volunteer members protecting approximately three square miles. Population 4,122.


Forest City's 1928 Boyer pumper, restored in 2000. Courtesy Forest City Fire Department

Forest City, Rutherford County
March 1916

Volunteer, 30 men. Fire station at 228 Main Street. Two hand-drawn reels. One hand-drawn hook-and-ladder truck. 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Population 2,200.

Today
One fire station, five pieces of fire apparatus, 12 career members, and 14 part-time members protecting 7.8 square miles. Population 7,329.


Hendersonville hose wagon, circa 1892. Courtesy Hendersonville Fire Department

Hendersonville, Henderson County
September 1912

One paid driver, 12 volunteers. Fire station at City Hall, 420 North Main Street. One American LaFrance combination automobile truck with 40 gallon chemical tank, and 250 feet of chemical hose. One hose wagon with 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton, rubber-lined hose. 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. One 70-foot extension ladder. Two three-gallon chemical extinguishers. Fire alarm by telephone and bell. Population 14,000.

Today
One fire station, six pieces of fire apparatus, 17 career members, six part-time members, and 12 volunteer members protecting six square miles. Population 11,893.


Kings Mountain Fire Department in 1931. Courtesy Kings Mountain Fire Department

Kings Mountain, Cleveland County
May 1919

Volunteer, 12 members. Fire station location unknown. One hose reel drawn by hand and private automobiles. 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch standard hose. 500 feet of inferior hose. Fire alarm by private telephones. Population 2,500.

Today
Two fire stations, 10 pieces of fire apparatus, six career members, six part-time members, and 30 volunteer members protecting 11.5 square miles. Population 10,551.


Murphy's first firefighters circa 1909. Courtesy Cherokee County Historical Museum Inc.

Murphy, Cherokee County
May 1921

Volunteer. One chief, six members. Fire station and Public Library at 209 Peachtree Street. One Ford automobile truck with 40-gallon chemical tank, 200 feet of chemical hose, one 20-foot extension ladder, and one 12-foot roof ladder. One hose reel attached to truck with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch standard hose. 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Fire alarm by private telephones. Population 2,000.

Today
Two fire stations, seven pieces of fire apparatus, and 24 volunteer members protecting approximately 22 square miles. Population 1,601.

Rutherfordton, Rutherford County
February 1916

Volunteer, 30 men. Fire station at 228 Main Street. Two hose reels. 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hook and ladder truck. Fire alarm by bells. Population 1,500.

Today
One fire station, six pieces of fire apparatus, seven career members, and 17 part-time members protecting approximately 25 square miles. Population 4,142.


Shelby's 1926 American LaFrance pumper. Courtesy Shelby Fire Department

Shelby, Cleveland County
March 1921
Volunteer, 21 members. Fire station and City Hall on West Marion Street. One automobile truck. One hand reel. 2,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm bell on engine house. Population 6,000.

Today
Three fire stations, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 56 career members protecting 21 square miles. Population 20,957.


Waynesville Fire Department in 1920s. Courtesy Waynesville Fire Department

Waynesville, Haywood County
January 1913

Volunteer, one chief, 15 men. Fire station and City Shop at 333 Main Street. Two hose reels. 1,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. No fire alarm system. Population 1,500.

Today
Two fire stations, six pieces of fire apparatus, 10 career members, and 30 volunteer members protecting approximately 16 square miles. Population 9,536.

More Photos


Canton hose wagon, circa 1900s. Courtesy Canton Area Historical Museum


Murphy's 1921 fire engine in parade. Courtesy Murphy Fire Department


Waynesville's 1922 American LaFrance pumper in present day. Courtesy Waynesville Fire Department


Hendersonville fire apparatus at City Hall in 1940s. Courtesy Hendersonville Fire Department


Brevard's 1945 American LaFrance pumper in present day. Courtesy Brevard Fire Department


Forest City Fire Department in 1950s. Courtesy Forest City Fire Department


Hendersonville fire apparatus in 1960. Courtesy Hendersonville Fire Department


Shelby fire apparatus in 1972. Courtesy Shelby Fire Department

Map

Why Isn't Your City or Town Listed?
Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are available online from NC LIVE for 162 communities in 83 of North Carolina's 100 counties. Most cities and towns were surveyed several times over several decades between the 1880s and the 1950s. Of those maps in the public domain, copyright 1922 or earlier, only 100-some communities in 64 counties had fire equipment or fire departments. See the link below to view later-era maps including the towns of Bryson City (Swain), Franklin (Macon), Spindale (Rutherford), and Tryon (Polk).


References


Guide to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
North Carolina State Demographics

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps via NC LIVE
Requires password available from many local libraries. After logging into NC LIVE, click Browse Resources and select Maps

Related Links
Brevard Fire Department
Forest City Fire Department
Hendersonville Fire Department
Kings Mountain Fire Department

Murphy Fire Department
Shelby Fire Department
Waynesville Fire Department

The Series
Then and Now #1: Down East Fire Departments
Then and Now #2: Northwest Fire Departments
Then and Now #3: Charlotte West Fire Departments
Then and Now #4: Triangle Fire Departments
Then and Now #5: Greensboro West Fire Departments
Then and Now #6: Fayetteville to Goldsboro Fire Departments
Then and Now #7: Warrenton West Fire Departments
Then and Now #8: West Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #9: Northeast Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #10: Western Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #11: Northeast Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #12: Dunn to Pinehurst Fire Departments

Note
A version of this article was published on FireNews.net
on June 21, 2006.

Coming next: Chowan, Martin, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, and Washington counties
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