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Then and Now #8: West Central Fire Departments

Anson, Cabarrus, Iredell, Rowan, Stanly, and Union 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.

Racial segregation was common among volunteer fire departments at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Many towns had both white and black fire companies with separate facilities and equipment. Black firefighters also had a separate professional organization. The North Carolina Colored Fireman's Association was organized in 1888 or 1889. Like their white counterparts, the association conducted annual conventions and tournaments throughout the state.

Most black fire companies were phased out as fire departments moved from horse-drawn to motor apparatus, and from volunteer to fully-paid departments. Some "colored companies" persisted into the 1930s and beyond. In Wake County, Wake Forest Fire Department #2 operated until the early 1980s.


Albemarle Fire Department in early 1920s. Courtesy Albemarle Fire Department

Albemarle, Stanly County
May 1922

Eight partly paid men, four volunteers. Fire station behind City Hall at 143 North 2nd Street. One Republic motor truck with 40-gallon chemical tank and 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Fire alarm on notification of telephone operator who sounds electric siren on roof of telephone exchange and who phones pumping station. Population 3,000.

Today
Three fire stations, five pieces of fire apparatus, 42 career members, and seven part-time members protecting 16 square miles. Population 15,665.


Concord Hook and Ladder Company, 1926. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Concord, Cabarrus County
April 1921

Volunteer, 48 members. Two paid men. Fire station beside City Hall at corner of South Union and Barrick Streets: One American LaFrance triple combination pumper, chemical, and hose automobile truck with 600 gallon-per-minute capacity, 60-gallon chemical tank, and 800 feet 2 1/2-inch standard hose. One Ford hose carrier with 600 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Total of 6,500 feet of standard 2 1/2-inch hose on hand. Hose house at corner of Kerr and Isabell Streets: 12 volunteer members. One automobile hose carrier with 600 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm sent by telephone. Alarm bell on Court House. Population 12,000.

Today
Eight fire stations, 29 pieces of fire apparatus, and 165 career members protecting 54.5 square miles. Population 62,291.

East Spencer, Rowan County
November 1913

Two volunteer companies. Volunteer hose company (white) at 200 block Heilig Street: 11 men and one two-wheel hand hose reel carrying 550 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Volunteer hose company (Negro) beside 52 Long Street: 17 men. One two-wheel hose reel carrying 550 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Alarm sounded by telephoning Southern Railway Shops where whistle is blown. Population 3,000.

Today
One fire station, three pieces of fire apparatus, 12 part-time members, and 22 volunteer members protecting 1.6 square miles. Population 1,711.


Monroe Fire Department at Courthouse, circa 1900. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Monroe, Union County
June 1922

One fully paid man, three partly paid men, 29 volunteers (17 white, 12 colored). One man on constant duty at fire station. Fire station at corner of North Hayne Street and West Crowell Avenue. One American LaFrance combination motor truck with 750 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, and 1,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One Ford truck with 1,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hand hook and ladder truck with 40-foot extension ladder. One Silsby steam fire engine that can be towed in reserve, pumping capacity 500 gallons-per-minute. Two hand hose reels in reserve, 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose each. Fire alarm by switch at Telephone Exchange that rings bells in fire station, pumping station, and firemen's homes. General alarm by whistle at pumping station and by bell at fire station. Population 5,550.

Today
Five fire stations, 12 pieces of fire apparatus, 64 career members, and five part-time members protecting 28 square miles. Population 31,234.


Mooresville town hall and fire station in 1920s. Courtesy Mooresville Fire Department

Mooresville, Iredell County
August 1914
Volunteer. Chief and 23 men. One horse. Fire apparatus stored livery stable at 406 North Broad: One hose wagon with 750 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Four Pyrene extinguishers. Hose house at 602 1/2 North Main Street: One hose reel with 300 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 1,400 feet hose kept in storeroom on Main Street. 2,700 feet of hose total. 2,000 feet of hose is new. Alarm by telephone to Central, from there by bell at each member's home and at livery stable where hose wagon driver sleeps at night. Population 3,500.

Today
Three fire stations, eight pieces of fire apparatus, 57 career members, and four part-time members protecting 14.7 square miles. Population 21,914.


Salisbury firefighters and American LaFrance fire engine. Courtesy Salisbury Fire Department

Salisbury, Rowan County
February 1922

Chief, assistant chief, two fully paid drivers. 12 volunteers. Fire station at 177 South Lee Street. One American LaFrance Type 75 automobile truck equipped with rotary pump of 750 gallons-per-minute, 150 feet 3/4-inch chemical hose, 1000 feet 2 1/2-inch standard hose, and 40 feet of ladders. One American LaFrance Type 10 automobile truck with 40-gallon chemical tank and 200 feet of 3/4-inch chemical hose, 1,200 feet of 2 1/2-inch standard hose, and 34 feet of ladders. One second-class American LaFrance steamer drawn by automobile trucks with piston pump, capacity 750 gallons-per-minute. 700 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. 2,970 feet 2 1/2-inch standard hose total. Gamewell fire alarm system with 23 boxes. Fire alarm bell at station. Population 15,000.

Today
Three fire stations, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 68 career members protecting 19.99 square miles. Population 28,215.


Spencer Fire Department in 1920s. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Spencer, Rowan County
November 1913

Two volunteer companies of 11 men each and one chief. Fire station behind 307 1/2 West Yadkin Street. One one-horse hose wagon with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose and two hand chemical extinguishers. Horse is kept in nearby livery stable, subject to call at all times. Two two-wheel hand reels with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose each. 700 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. In addition, the Southern Railway Fire Department answers all calls in Spencer. They have three hose companies of 11 men each, are paid for all calls in Spencer, and have about 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm is sounded by telephone to Southern Railway Shops where whistle is blown. Population 7,000.

Today
One fire station, four pieces of fire apparatus, and 25 volunteer members protecting 2.7 square miles. Population 3,384.


Statesville fire truck and fire station, February 1924. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Statesville, Iredell County
January 1918

Three fully paid men. 35 volunteers. Five men sleep at station. Headquarters at 620 Center Street. One White 60 HP automobile combination chemical and hose wagon with 50-gallon chemical tank, 250 feet of chemical hose, 1,400 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose, two three-gallon chemical extinguishers, and 34 feet of ladders. One Kissel 45 HP automobile combination chemical and hose wagon with 40-gallon chemical tank, 200 feet chemical hose, 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose, two three-gallon chemical extinguishers, and 34 feet of ladders. One hook and ladder truck as trailer to automobile wagons with 112 feet of ladders and two three-gallon chemical extinguishers. One chief's automobile. One horse-drawn hose cart in reserve with 1,400 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm by telephone. Central immediately calls each member of fire department, stating location of fire. Population 10,000.

Today
Three fire stations, seven pieces of fire apparatus, and 55 career members protecting 20.5 square miles. Population 24,911.

Wadesboro, Anson County
May 1922
18 volunteers. Fire station at 114 Martin Street. One American LaFrance triple combination motor truck, pumps 750 gallons-per-minute, carries 40-gallon chemical tank, and 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Two hand reels with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose each. Fire alarm by telephone operator who rings two electric bells at fire station. Large bell at fire station is then tolled by hand. Population 2,800.

Today
One fire station, four pieces of fire apparatus, six career members including public safety personnel, and 28 volunteer members protecting at least three square miles. Population 5,672.

More Photos


Concord city hall and fire station, circa 1910


Albemarle 1923 American LaFrance training at Wiscasset Mills. Courtesy Albemarle Fire Department


Salisbury's 1910 steamer, scrapped for war effort in 1942. Courtesy Salisbury Fire Department


Salisbury firefighters and Seagrave pumper in 1940s. Courtesy Salisbury 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 below link to view later-era maps including the towns of Badin (Stanly), Kannapolis (Rowan), Marshville (Union),  Norwood (Stanly), Waxhaw (Union), and Wingate (Union).


References

Early Black Firefighters of North Carolina
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

Albemarle Fire Department
Concord Fire Department
Monroe Fire Department
Mooresville Fire Department
Salisbury Fire Department
Spencer Fire Department
Statesville 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 December 26, 2005.

Coming next:  Halifax, Nash, and Wilson counties
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