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Then and Now #11: Southeast Central Fire Departments

Chowan, Edgecombe, Martin, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, and Washington 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.

Steam fire engines were acquired around the state between the 1860s and 1900s. The majority were delivered in the 1880s or later. Over 35 steamers were built by companies including American LaFrance, Button, Clapp & Jones, Gould, and Silsby.

Municipalities operating the steam-powered pumping engines included Charlotte, Durham, Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Kinston, Monroe, New Bern, Raleigh, Reidsville, Rocky Mount, Salem, Salisbury, Statesville, Washington, Wilmington, Wilson, Winston, and Winston-Salem. Though many were destroyed during the scrap metal drives of World War II, at least nine steam engines have survived around the state.

Ayden, Pitt County
June 1919

Volunteer, 40 members. Three hose houses. Hose house behind City Hall and Market House at 30 West Avenue: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house at 137 2nd Street: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house at 209 3rd Street: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Reels drawn by hand and private automobiles. 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch standard hose total. Fire alarm by siren and steam whistle at pumping station. Population 3,000.

Today
One fire station, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 33 volunteer members protecting at least 2.3 square miles. Population 4,661.


Edenton Hose Wagon, courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Edenton, Chowan County
August 1920

Volunteer, three companies of eight men each, and colored hook and ladder company. Hose house at 312 Court Street: One hose reel cart with 300 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One supply cart with 250 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house beside 109 West Eden Street: One hose reel cart with 300 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house in 100 block of North Broad Street: One hose reel cart with 300 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Chemical engine house in 100 block of North Broad Street: One 40-gallon chemical extinguisher. Hook and ladder house behind County Jail at 306 Court Street: Hook and ladder with truck and 60 feet of ladders. Fire alarm by bell at Court House and whistle at waterworks. Population 3,000.

Today
One fire station, six pieces of fire apparatus, eight career members, and 18 volunteer members protecting five square miles. Population 5,059.


Elizabeth City's 1927 pumper in present day. Courtesy Elizabeth City Fire Department

Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County
March 1914

Volunteer. One engine and hose company of 14 members, and one colored hook and ladder company of 40 members. One hostler on constant duty. Seven horses used for street work, one horse in constant readiness. Fire station at City Hall, 200 East Matthews Street. One Silsby first-class steam fire engine and one Silsby second-class steam fire engine. One two-horse hose wagon with 900 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One one-horse hose wagon with 600 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hook and ladder truck with 70 feet of ladders. The following apparatus has been ordered: One American LaFrance 72 HP automobile combination chemical engine and hose wagon with 40-gallon chemical tank, 200-feet 1-inch chemical hose, 30-foot ladder, 1,000-feet 2 1/2-inch hose, and two five-gallon chemical extinguishers. One man to be in constant charge of automobile. Total hose in good condition: 2,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose and 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in poor condition. Gamewell fire alarm system, 14 boxes. Automatic fire alarm connection with pumping station. Population 10,000.

Today
Two fire stations, seven pieces of fire apparatus, 42 career members, and no current volunteer members protecting 8.9 square miles. Population 18,249.


Farmville 1928 municipal building and fire department. Courtesy Farmville Enterprise.

Farmville, Pitt County
September 1915

Volunteer, three hose companies with a total of 15 white and 12 Negro men. Fire station #1 beneath water tank behind 64 Wilson Street: One reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Captain and eight men. One hand-drawn hook and ladder wagon. Captain and four men. Fire station #2 in rear of 29 Wilson Street: One reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Captain and eight men. Fire station #3 behind 120 Main Street: One reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Twelve men (Negro). Fire alarm bell. Population 1,200.

Today
One fire station, six pieces of fire apparatus, and 40 volunteer members protecting 28.1 square miles. Population 4,626.


Greenville's Hope Fire Company in 1921

Greenville, Pitt County
May 1916

Volunteer, 50 men. One paid man on duty day and night. Six horses. One fire station and four hose houses. Fire station at 515 East 5th Street: One American LaFrance automobile truck with 1,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One horse-drawn hose wagon with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hook and ladder truck. One LaFrance steam fire engine, capacity 500 gallons per minute. Hose house at Clark and West 9th Streets: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house at West 10th Street west of Evans Street: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house at Ward Street west of Elizabeth Street: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house at Green Street and West 4th Street: One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm: 18 Gamewell fire alarm boxes blowing whistle at waterworks, and ringing gong at fire station. Population 5,000.

Today
Six fire stations, nine pieces of fire apparatus, 145 career members, and three volunteer members protecting 26 square miles. Population 67,499.

Hertford, Perquimans County
June 1916

Fire department not organized. One 60-gallon chemical wagon and one hose reel with 600 feet hose behind 314 Grubb Street. One 60-gallon chemical wagon at 308 1/3 Front Street. One hand hook and ladder truck at 233 King Street. Fire alarm system: mill whistle. Population 2,500.

Today
One fire station, five pieces of fire apparatus, and 29 volunteer members protecting about 12 square miles. Population 2,083.

Plymouth, Washington County
Fire department not organized. Fire station on Washington Street at the waterfront. One Waterous gasoline fire engine, 40 HP. Two hose carts with 600-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm by bell. Population 3,500.

Today
One fire station, five pieces of fire apparatus, and 48 volunteer members protecting at least 3.9 square miles. Population 3,992.


Tarboro Fire Department in 1915

Tarboro, Edgecombe County
October 1913

Volunteer except one fully-paid driver. One chief, 69 volunteers, 44 white and 25 Negro members. Fire station at City Hall, 100 West Church Street. One LaFrance 70 HP automobile combination engine and hose wagon with 50-gallon chemical tank, 200 feet chemical hose, and 1,250 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose. One Nott chemical engine with 60-gallon tank and 125 feet chemical hose. One horse-drawn hose wagon. Three hose reels each with 300 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose. One hand-drawn hook and ladder wagon operated by Negro company. 2,500 feet good 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose total. 350 feet ordinary 2 1/2-inch hose total. Two five-gallon extinguishers. Six three-gallon chemical extinguishers. Population 6,000
.

Today
Two fire stations, five pieces of fire apparatus, 22 career members, and four volunteer members protecting about 13 square miles. Population 10,841.


Williamston Town Hall and Fire Station, circa 1910

Williamston, Martin County
September 1921

Volunteer company
. Chief, assistant chief, and 45 men. Fire station at City Hall at 106-108 East Main Street. Two hand hose reels with 250 feet 2 1/2-inch hose each. One hand chemical cart, 60 gallons. One hand pumper. 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. One American LaFrance-equipped Ford truck pending with two 35-gallon chemical tanks and one small ladder. Truck to carry 1,000 feet of hose. Alarm bell at City Hall and whistle at light and water plant. Population 2,200.

Today
One fire station, 13 pieces of fire apparatus, 18 career members, and 42 volunteer members protecting 57 square miles. Population 5,816.

Map

More Photos


Tarboro's new ladder truck, 1925. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives


Tarboro's Fulton Hook and Ladder Company, 1926. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives


Tarboro Municipal Building and Fire Station, circa 1930s


Williamston 1940s Mack pumper in magazine advertisement

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 Bethel (Pitt) and Robersonville (Martin).


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
Elizabeth City Fire Department
Farmville Fire Department
Greenville Fire Department
Tarboro 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 September 15, 2006.

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