Rock Island Fire Department

Rock Island Fire Department

The old “Bucket Brigade” was followed by the regular Volunteer Fire Department, which was organized in 1856, and a Land engine purchased, and named “Western No. 1.” The engine when received was housed in a new two-story brick building on the north-west corner of Court House Square. Frazer Wilson was elected president, and George E. Biddison foreman. The company was limited to seventy-five members. Later another company was formed and took the name of “Aquarius No. 2” -motto “Water Bearer.” The company having a membership of sixty-five, with George L. Carlton as foreman. The second company organized was the “Rescue No. 2,” in 1858, and a double-decker hand engine purchased, named “Rescue No. 2,” and stationed in a new engine house on Jefferson Street, between Orleans and Rock River Streets, afterwards Walter Dauber’s old blacksmith shop. The old primitive ladder wagon was a rough convenience, the ladders likewise; the sides being of good sized gin poles, sawed lengthwise in the center, and heavy enough to take eight or ten men to raise them. The first modern Hook and Ladder Truck was purchased in 1874; named the “Reveille,” and housed in the Western No. 1 engine house. The Wide Awake Hose Company was expected to run this truck, but arrangements were made for quick word to a livery stable for a span of horses, often running their street hack on the jump to furnish the horses. The first steam fire engine was purchased in 1869 and named the William Eggleston, and housed in Western No. 1 house. The second fire engine was the Reserve. No. 2, purchased in 1871, and housed in Rescue No. 2 hand engine house. In 1876 the department consisted of five hose companies, one hook and ladder truck, and one steam engine held in reserve, and one hose carriage. The hose companies were the Phoenix No. 1, Wide Awake No. 2, Hope Hose No. 3, Rescue No. 4, Neptune No. 5. The old volunteer chiefs have been George Carlton, Elton C. Cropper, William Kale, S. B. Stoddard, A. Roswog, C. B. Knox, Jacob Wollenhaupt, Thomas Yates, Patrick Kennedy, Thomas Bollman, in 1876. Harry Hall assistant chief, and James Johnston. September 2, 1891, the paid Fire Department of the City of Rock Island was organized. Honorable William McConochie, mayor Daniel Corken, B. F. Knox and Winslow P. Tindall fire and light committee. William Ramskill was appointed chief, and Bernard Brahm assistant chief. The department at that time consisted of eight men, including officers. The apparatus included one two-horse hose wagon, and one two-horse ladder truck, that was formerly used by the Volunteer Fire Department. On March 8, 1892, the department was increased by three men, making the total number eleven men. On May 26, 1894, two sub-stations were installed; No. 2 hose company located on Eighth Street, in the building formerly occupied by the Phoenix hose company; and No. 3 hose company located on Twenty-sixth Street; these hose companies consisted of three men each and one two-horse hose wagon. At this time T. J. Medill was mayor, and appointed Bernard Brahm chief of the department, and J. D. Collier assistant chief. In 1895, as mayor, B. F. Knox appointed James Johnston as chief and J. D. Collier as assistant chief. Mr. Johnston had served the old volunteers as their chief with honor and credit to him-self and the city. In May, 1897, T. J. Medill being again elected mayor, J. D. Collier was appointed chief, and Peter Frey assistant chief. In 1899 Charles Hastings was appointed chief under Mayor McConochie’s administration, and Peter Frey assistant. Mr. Hastings served as chief without interruption from 1899 until June 1, 1905, when he resigned. Mr. Fred L. Tubbs was appointed chief September 9, 1905, and served until the Spring of 1907, when Mr. Hastings was again appointed chief, and Peter Frey assistant chief; and both are the present incumbents. The recognition of both Mr. Hastings and Mr. Frey bespeak their merit and efficiency. Mr. Frey has been in continual service as assistant chief since May 5, 1897. As one of the new chiefs says, “a kind word of praise for the volunteer firemen of bygone days should not be amiss; too much praise or credit can not be given these men who in the faithful, voluntary discharge of their duty often endangered their lives and health, while responding to alarms of fire; often contracting serious illness and permanent disability; never receiving one cent of compensation for their services; these heroes of the other days deserve the same credit as the volunteer solider, but the public as usual in such cases withholds the reward that is due.” At the present time the department force consists of nineteen men; eighteen men being paid full time, and one man acting as substitute when men are laying off through sickness or injuries, or on their annual furlough. The apparatus of the department consists of three two-horse hose wagons, one two-horse hook and ladder truck, and one chief’s buggy. The truck and chief’s buggy are new; the new truck replacing the old Babcock truck which had been in service for thirty-one years.


City of Rock Island 


Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

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