Raleigh created after General Assembly, meeting in various towns across the state, recognizes need for fixed location to store valuable records and conduct government business.
Several attempts had already been made, including the selection of Edenton in
1722 and the construction of a palace for Governor Tryon in New Bern completed
in 1771. Special commission meets at Isaac Hunter's tavern in Wake County and
later at Joel Lane's house. After viewing several proposed parcels of land,
Commission purchases 1,000 acres owned by Lane. Total cost 1,378 pounds or about
$2,756. New capital was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, known as father of English
America. The planners design the four principal streets 99 feet wide and all others within the 5/8 mile town limits 66 feet wide, to help prevent fires from spreading block to block. Many of the trees are purposely left intact, also for fire prevention. No town government is provided, however, until three years later. Streets laid out with fire protection and prevention in mind. The official date of the establishment of the Capital City is December 31, the day on which the General Assembly ratifies an act confirming the entire proceedings of commission. (December 13, 1792)wch, yb84,
Upon their first meeting in the newly completed capital building, the General Assembly grants the town a charter. Seven commissioners, appointed for a term of three years, are vested with the authority to make ordinances and regulations for governing Raleigh. (February 7, 1795)no26apr42
First local regulation aimed at fire prevention is ordinance forbidding owners from adding porches, platforms, or other wooden structures onto building fronts that would encroach on the streets and create hazards "by fire being communicated across the streets thereby." yb84
No fire company protecting 0.625 square miles and 699 residents.
First fire apparatus considered.
Citizens are requested to "subscribe" the purchase price of a
hand-drawn fire engine capable of discharging "eighty gallons of water a minute a distance of forty-four yards," but apparatus is apparently never bought. wch,
This newspaper notice appeared in the August 16,
1802 edition of the Minerva:
The Subscribers to the Fund for purchasing a Fire
Engine for the use of this City, are requested to meet at the Court-House, on
Friday next, at four o'clock, for the Purpose of giving an Order for the
Purchase of the Engine and other Apparatus, (a Sufficiency of Money for the
Purpose being Subscribed) and for forming a Fire Company.
As the Articles of Association will be drawn at
this Meeting, and the Officers of the Company elected, it is hoped that a full
Attendance will be given.
Stable of Mr. Porter burns. The structure burns to the ground between 2:00
a.m. and 3:00 a.m. Despite the strong wind, the efforts of citizens to tear down one
building and throw water on the other buildings prevent the flames from doing further damage. The fire was discovered in time to save a horse. The fire is deemed suspicious. (December 19, 1903)minerva04jan03
City is re-chartered. Commissioners are granted "full power to do what they may deem necessary to stop the progress of the calamity, even to the causing of adjoining buildings to be taken down or blown up, without being answerable for any damage to the owner or owners of property so destroyed."wch
City commissioners order the digging of at least four public wells, each with a pump. One
or two are apparently completed within the next twelve years.wch
Legislative act grants city commissions authority to purchase a fire engine,
form a fire company, make other regulations as deemed necessary "for the extinguishment of Fire." They subsequently adopt an ordinance instructing members of the city's night watch, which requires "every adult male living in Raleigh" to take a turn as member, to "be particular in respect to Fire." The night watch also patrols the streets to apprehend lawbreakers. wch, no26apr42
In the event of fire, watch members ring a large bell in the yard of Casso's Inn at the head of Fayetteville Street "in order to alarm the citizens." Subsequently, every citizen has a duty to rush to the scene with water, sand, buckets, or other equipment to help fight the fire.wch, yb84
Commissioners authorize purchase of first fire engine.
The hand-powered apparatus, however, isn't ordered for two more more years.wch
Legislative act empowers Intendant and city commissioners to make contracts for construction of a municipal water supply.
This results in subsequent project to pipe water into the city using wooden
First major fire on record. Destroys 51 buildings in first two blocks of Fayetteville Street. Dozens of volunteers form bucket brigade but are unable to control blaze that begins before midnight and, within two hours, has destroyed 51 buildings in the first two blocks of Fayetteville Street, the main business area of Raleigh. Finally, a building in the path of the flames is
blasted. The State House in Union Square is saved by men who climb onto the roof and wet it down. Read entire Raleigh Register article. (June 11, 1816)
As a result of the fire, Raleigh Register editor Joseph Gales, already
a constant campaigner for an adequate water supply and efficient fire
preparedness, is aided by other citizens in efforts to set some in motion some
Fire engine authorized for purchase
in 1814 is ordered.
Work is hastened on the water system, which will "convey water through wooden
pipes" from springs located outside of town. wch
First municipal water system is completed, but ultimately an abortive
attempt. Using a water wheel at Rocky Branch south of town, along with a "propelling engine" and four forcing pumps, water travels through wooden pipes a distance of 1.5 miles to a 110-foot water tower near the south side of the State House. From there, gravity feeds a reservoir near Union Square, and from there other parts of the city are served. Completed after about three years of work, the system is an almost complete failure.
It's abandoned within an year or two. (September 1818)wch
First fire engine delivered. The hand-pulled,
hand-powered pump is described as a "very complete Fire-Engine from Philadelphia, with a Supply Pump, a sufficient length of Hose, Fire-Hooks, Chain, &c." (by March
Fire fire company successfully formed. The following evening after the delivery of the fire engine, the general citizenry meets at the courthouse and chooses Raleigh Register
editor Joseph Gales, recently elected as Intendant of Police, as President and waterworks engineer Jacob Lash as Captain.
The complete list of officers:
- Joseph Gales, President
- Beverly Daniel, Vice President
- Jacob Lash, Captain
- John T. C. Wiatt, Lieutenant
- William F. Clark, Lieutenant
- Thomas Cobbs, Lieutenant
- Thomas Henderson, Lieutenant.
- John Dunn, Treasurer
- John Bell, Secretary
(by March 12, 1819)rr12mar19, wch
Fire destroys east side of Fayetteville Street. wch
Legislative act (?) exempts citizens who volunteer "their services to work the fire engine as a fire company" from military duties "except in times of insurrection of war."no26apr42
Legislative act is passed is passed for city governance that includes:
...And whereas, the citizens of Raleigh have been at considerable expense in
providing the city with a fire engine and other implements for the purpose of
extinguishing any fire which may break out in said city.
Be it further enacted, That such citizens as may form themselves into a fire
company, for the purpose of working said engine at any fire which may take
place, and wherever they shall be called upon by the captain of said company to
exercise said engine for the purpose of seeing that it be kept in good order, be
exempted from military duty, (except in time of insurrection, invasion, or war,)
and provided such company shall not exceed forty in number, and that they be
subject to such rules and regulations as may be adopted by the commissioners of
the city, or said fire company; and provided they produce from the captain of
said company a certificate of their enrolment, and of their having faithfully
performed their duty therein, since the period of their enrolment.
of North Carolina, 1821, Chapter LXXIX, p. 57.
Log house adjoining kitchen of Mr. Ruffin's Hotel burns.
The February 28 edition of The Raleigh Register recounts: "on Tuesday night last, between 10 and 11 o'clock, the citizens of this place were alarmed by the cry of Fire,
which had been discovered by the Citizens on Guard, in a Log House, occupied by
Negroes, adjoining the Kitchen of Mr. Ruffin's Hotel. It was found impossible to
prevent the destruction of that house, but fortunately the Kitchen being a Stone
building, the Fire was prevented, by the activity of the citizens and Negroes
present, from spreading further. The Roof of the Kitchen was considerably
injured; but as soon as ladders and a supply could be procured, the Fire was
extinguished. We are sorry to say that a poor old Negro Woman, who was unable to
help herself, was burnt in the building. We have to regret, that for want of
proper care, the Fire Engine belonging to the city was so much out of order that
it could not be used. We trust the Fire Company, which has been so long in
agitation, will be formed without further delay; and that the Engine, Hose,
Ladders, Fire Hooks, &c. will be kept in good order and in constant readiness to
meet accidents of this kind. It would be well also to have a few Kegs of Powder
ready for use." (February 25, 1823)rr
New fire company formed with John Y. Savage as
"Captain of the Engine." (Spring 1923?)wch
Four or five buildings burn at Hargett and Wilmington
The fire alarm is sounded about 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning,
with the "ringing of bells and the cry of 'fire!'" The fire starts in Lewis
Holloman's blacksmith shop at the corner of Hargett and Wilmington streets. The
citizens soon gather in crowds, and the store is "completely enveloped in
flames." This had "an alarming appearance" and "greatly increased the danger and
disorder" as "no one knew what steps to take." Though provisions had been "long
since made for a fire company, nothing of the kind appeared on the ground."
Continued the Raleigh Register of February 24, "It was some time before the
Engine, Fire Hooks, Ladders, or Water could be got." Once the fire engine was
brought to the scene, it was "so much out of order" that it was "nearly
useless." And had it been working, "no sufficient supply of water could be
obtained" as the waterworks had "been suffered to go out of repair, and to
remain in that state."
In time, "some tubs of water were got" and with the help of citizens, "but
principally of the Negroes," who used fire hooks, and threw water and mud on the
buildings that were "most exposed," and covering them, "where practicable," with
wet blankets, the "rage of the flame was stayed." The fire had already destroyed
the blacksmith's shop, however, and three or four "other frame buildings." One
was a stable, which reportedly contained sixty barrels of corn and "a quantity
"Fortunately for our city," noted the newspaper, "the wind was favorable and
considerably rain had fallen in the course of the night." Afterward, the City
Commissioner met and performed these actions:
- passed an ordnance that prohibited erection of any blacksmith or bake
shop within certain limits of the city, except with fireproof materials
- took measures to render the fire company effective
- appointed a committee to report on the water works
- appointed another committee to "designate such Negroes as particularly
signalized themselves by their activity in putting a stop to the fire."
(February 22, 1824)rr24feb24
Legislative session commences on December 25,
1826, and continues into next year. Lawmakers pass an act granting city commissioners
authority to draft citizens for fire companies, among other provisions.
Historical records cite the act as passed in 1826, though it appears to have been
passed in 1827. See below.wch, no26apr42
The following notice is printed in the January 23, 1827, edition of the Raleigh
To the Citizens of Raleigh.
Nothing is more essential to the welfare of our
City, than a well-organized Fire Company. I now take the liberty of addressing
you on this subject, and beg your attention.
The present Company is so well organized as to be
perfectly useless; to this I beg your attention, whilst I state what came within
my own knowledge on the subject.
I was elected Captain of the Fire Company--I
accepted the appointment, with a hope to be useful. On my being informed of my
appointment, I issued an order for all persons having ladders belonging to the
Company, to bring them to the place of deposit--all were brought but one which
now remains on the State House--and also forbidding any person from taxing them
from that place. The ladders and hooks were so scattered in the street as to be
liable to injury. I then ordered the Captain of the ladders to have them placed
more securely; this he promised, on being assured the expenses would be paid by
the Commissioners, yet it was never done; and finding that no law of the Company
provided any fine or punishment for such neglect, the ladder and hooks lie in
the same situation they were.
As I wished to know in whose hands the Fire Buckets
were, I issued an order to the Lieutenant of the Line, to furnish me with the
necessary information, but he directed me to the Treasurer and Secretary of the
Board of Commissioners. I applied to the Treasurer, who could not tell. I asked
him if he had not taken receipts; he said he had, but those receipts were
returned to the Secretary, who denied any knowledge of the matter.
On the whole, I found, that a large majority of the
Company were composed of men who joined it to avoid militia duty, and felt
little interest in the preservation of the city, in consequence of which, I
resigned my appointment--since which, I find, one of the Company has taken the
liberty of taking one of the ladders for private use.
Fellow Citizens--I recommend to you to examine a
law passed in 1822, to organize Fire Companies in the Town of Washington, and
have a counterpart of it passed for the government of our city, in case of
Fire--I would, even then, wish no exemption from Militia duty.
Respectfully, your fellow citizen.
N. B. Having been an eye-witness of the manner in
which our citizens conducted themselves when the fire took place which burned a
large part of our city, I am doubly induced to wish an efficient law (such as
that for the town of Washington) passed. Then, few but negroes made any
exertion--I made application to several white men who would not assist. J. R.
After experiencing difficulty obtaining enough volunteers for a fire
company, city commissions are grated authority through Legislative act to draft citizens if fewer than forty men volunteer each year. Under the leadership of a captain and four other officers, the forty men are to train with the engine at least once every other month. The draftees are also exempt from regular militia duty. Additionally, all free males in the city are required to report with their fire buckets and "render every assistance in their power" and with a penalty of $5 should they fail to assist.
The complete text of the legislative act is printed in
the March 9, 1827, Weekly Raleigh Register:
An act for the better protection of the City of
Raleigh from losses by Fire.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State
of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same. That a
Fire Company be
established in the City of Raleigh, in the following manner:
The Intendant of Police and Commissioners of said City, shall, in the month of
in every year, enroll the free white male inhabitants of said City of
twenty-one years of age and upwards, (those only to be excepted, who shall, from
age or infirmity, be unable to perform the duties of a member of a Fire
Company,) and being thus enrolled, the said Intendant and Commissioners shall
publicly invite such citizens as choose to volunteer their services to form a
Fire Company for the said City, to consist of forty members; and if a sufficient
number do not offer themselves as volunteers before the last Saturday in
February, the said Intendant and Commissioners shall, on that day, draft from
the enrolment which they have made, such number of men as shall be wanting to
make up said Company, who shall serve one year; and in all future drafts, those
who have already served in said Company, shall be excused, until all the
enrolled citizens shall have performed their tour of duty.
II. Be it further enacted. That immediately after
the proper number of men have been obtained to form said Fire Company, the
Intendant of Police
shall call a meeting of the men thus volunteered and
drafted, at the Court house in the City of Raleigh, for the purpose of electing
a Captain and four
other Officers of deferent grades, to be determined by the
Board of Commissioners of said City, and chosen from said Company; and in case
such election does not take place at such meeting, the said Board of
Commissioners shall appoint such officers, who shall serve until the next annual
election; and in case of vacancies, occasioned by death or otherwise, they shall
be filled by the Company, or by the Board of Commissioners, as aforesaid.
III. Be it further enacted. That the Captain of
said Fire Company shall call his Company together for the purpose of exercise
with the Engine, as
often as he may deem it necessary, which shall be, at
least, once in every two months, or, on failure to do so, he shall be subject to
a fine of ten dollars for every such default. And in case of the absence from
the city of the Captain, inability, or other cause, he cannot attend to his
duty, the calling gut of the men for exercise or any other duly of the Captain,
shall devolve on the officer next in command, who shall be subject to like
penalties, in case of failure to perform his duty; and on the failure of any
member of the Company to perform his duty, he shall forfeit one dollar for every
IV. Be It further enacted. That it shall be the
duty of the Captain of the Fire Company to see that care be taken of the Engine,
Hose, Hooks, Ladders,
and other apparatus belonging to the City; and whenever
any repairs are necessary to the Engine, or to any other of the articles used by
he shall immediately give notice thereof to the Intendant of
Police or one of the Commissioners, who shall lay the subject before the Board
next meeting, so that the Engine and other apparatus may always be in
good order for service; should any Captain fail in his duty in this respect, he
will be subject to a fine of ten dollars.
V. Be it further enacted, That whenever an alarm of
fire shall be given, all the free inhabitants of the city shall attend with
their fire buckets, and render every assistance in their power to extinguish
such fire, and to take care of any property that may be endangered thereby; such
members of the Fire Company, performing
their duty under their proper orders, and others obeying the directions of those
in authority; any one
failing to perform his duty
on such an occasion, to be subject to a fine of five dollars for every such
VI. Be it further enacted, That in cases of fire in
said city, it shall be competent for a majority of the Commissioners of the
city, who may
be present, if they deem it necessary
to stop the progress of such fire, to cause any house or houses to be blown up
or pulled down, for which they
shall not be
responsible to any one.
VII. Be it further enacted, That in case another
Fire Engine, or other Fire Engines, shall hereafter be procured for the use of
the said city, another
Company or other Companies may be formed, upon a
similar plan, and subject to the same rules and regulations which are provided
for the company now proposed to be formed for managing the same.
VIII. Be it further enacted. That such men as are
actually members of any Fire Company in said city, who may be subject to militia
duty, shall be
exempted from mustering during the period of such service,
except the country should be at war.
IX. Be it further enacted, That all fines incurred
under this act shall be recovered by warrant before the Intendant of Police of
said city, or before
any Justice of the Peace for Wake county.
X. Be it further enacted. That all acts, or clause
of acts, coming within the meaning of this act, be, and the same are hereby
The legislation also appears in Acts Passed by the
General Assembly of the State of North Carolina at its Session Commencing of the
25th of December 1826, Chapter XCVI, p. 58.
Fire company reorganized, as this
announcement appears in the March 13, 1829, edition of the Raleigh Register:
Raleigh Fire Company.
A meeting of the Intendant, Commissioners, and
Citizens of Raleigh, will be held at the Court-house, on Saturday next, at 3
o'clock, for the purpose of forming anew the Fire Company of the City, which the
Act provides shall be done annually. The Company, which consists of forty
members, will be comprised of Volunteers, if a sufficient number offer their
services for the purpose. But, if not, such Volunteers as off will be accepted,
and the remainder will be drafted. As soon as a sufficient number of members are
obtained, the Company will proceed to the appointment of its Officers.
J. Gales, Intendant of Police
Raleigh, March 9,
The company's organization is reported in the March 31, 1829, edition of the
New Fire Company. On Saturday week, a meeting of
the citizens was held at the Courthouse, for the purpose of receiving such
volunteers that might present themselves as members of the Raleigh Fire Company
for the ensuing year, and provided the full number did not offer their services,
for drafting the remainder. Twenty-five volunteers were accepted, and the
remaining fifteen were drafted.
After which, the meeting appointed the following
Thursday for the election of the Officers, at which time the Company met, and
Wm. F. Clark, Captain
Thomas Cobbs, Lieutenant
Joseph Chaires, Lieutenant
Allen Sims, Treasurer and Collector
C. D. Lehman, Secretary
We have the pleasure to state, that the Fire Engine
is undergoing some necessary repairs, and will soon be in perfect order. We
trust, the officers of the company in the future kept it so, so that, in case of
accident by fire, the Company may afford that aid to the City which a
well-disciplined Fire-Company never fails to give in such cases.
Drafting volunteers continues for some years. Though necessary to draft a portion of the forty men each year, the system works fairly well. Subsequent reports of fires note that blazes are quickly extinguished because the engine is kept in good repair and "was got out with great expedition and most of the company were at their posts."wch
||City of Raleigh Annual Report
||City of Raleigh budget documents
||Cameron Village: A History 1949-1999,
Nan Hutchins, Sprit Press, 2001
||City of Raleigh Auditor's Office
|ccm / cm
||City Council Minutes / City Minutes
||1792-1892, The Centennial Celebration of
Raleigh, NC, Kemp D. Battle, Edwards and Broughton, 1893
||Chief Engineer's Report
||North Carolina Department of Archives and
||North Carolina Department of Archives and
History News and Observer index
||City of Raleigh Fire Protection Study
||Historical Raleigh with Sketches of Wake
County and its Important Towns, Moss N. Amis, 1912
||Mike Legeros records.
||News and Observer
||News and Observer
||Pullen Park History
||Raleigh Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary
||Raleigh Fire Department Photo Unit records
||Raleigh: An Unorthodox History
||Raleigh Fire Department 1984,
Raleigh Fire Department, Taylor Publishing, 1984
||Raleigh Fire and Rescue: 1984-2002,
Raleigh Fire Department, Taylor Publishing, 2002, plus additional
historical information also compiled by the Raleigh Fire Department
||Wake: Capital County of North Carolina -
Volume 1, Prehistory Through Centennial, Elizabeth Reid Murray,
Capital County Publishing, 1983
Copyright 2017 by Michael J. Legeros