Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Proud Pelham Fire Department Took Possession of a New American La France Fire Engine in 1914

Yesterday's article told the story of Hans Gruber, the first driver of the new "automobile fire truck" acquired by the First Fire District to serve North Pelham and Pelham Heights in 1914.  See Thu., Jan. 19, 2017:  Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold:  Don't Mess With a Pelham Fireman.  The story of the new fire engine driven by Hans Gruber is a fascinating tale in its own right of early 20th century efforts to modernize the equipment used by the First Fire District to protect the Villages of North Pelham and Pelham.

On Sunday, June 28, 1914, workers in Elmira, New York were readying a rather large "package" for shipment via rail to the little Town of Pelham, New York.  They loaded a beautiful new "automobile fire truck" manufactured by American LaFrance specifically for the First Fire District of Pelham.  The fire engine was state-of-the-art and truly an impressive and beautiful machine.  It was a combination pumper and fire engine (known as a "combination pumper").  It had a 105 horsepower, six cylinder engine.  Of course, it was brightly painted "fire engine red" with brilliant gold letters painted across the hood that read:  "First Fire District of Pelham."  A plate affixed to the side of the car was inscribed with the names of the First Fire District commissioners.

Example of a 1914 American La France Fire Engine Likely
Similar to the One Purchased by Pelham's First Fire District
in July, 1914.  Note the Large Searchlight Like the One Used
by Pelham Fireman Hans Gruber as Discussed in Yesterday's
Article.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

With corporate predecessors and a history that may date as far back as 1832, the corporate entity known as "The American LaFrance Fire Engine Company" was formed in 1903 and quickly became a premier manufacturer of motorized fire engines.  Its corporate headquarters and principal manufacturing plant were in Elmira, New York.

On Monday, June 29, 1914, the train with the new fire engine departed Elmira for the Village of North Pelham, New York.  On the train was a "demonstrator" of the new apparatus named "Mr. Carruthers."  As a "demonstrator," Mr. Carruthers accompanied the new fire engine to Pelham where he would remain for as long as it would take to train Pelham volunteer firefighter to drive and operate the vehicle.  Gruber was the fireman selected by the Fire Commissioners to drive and operate the new combination pumper.  

There was, in those days, a small freight station and side track near the Pelham Train Station.  At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 6, 1914, Pelham and its firefighters were abuzz with news that a New Haven Line train had offloaded the box car containing the new fire engine at the Pelham Freight Station.  In the afternoon the vehicle was unloaded and Mr. Carruthers drove it from the Pelham Train Station to the Fire Department Headquarters on Fifth Avenue.  

Mr. Carruthers immediately began giving "lessons" to Hans Gruber on how to operate the new fire engine.  It took more than two weeks, but on July 22, a local newspaper reported that Hans Gruber had "been declared competent to operate and handle the new automobile combination fire apparatus which was recently delivered to this district."

Within a short time, the new fire engine was used in fighting fires throughout the First Fire District.  Pelham firefighting had entered the modern age.  

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"North Pelham
Local Notes. . . . 

This week, sometime, it has been promised that the new automobile fire apparatus will arrive in North Pelham from Elmira, N.Y., where it was placed on board a car Sunday by the automobile company.  The car was to have been shipped Monday and should arrive tomorrow.  Accompanying the machine there is an instructor, who will spend several weeks in town giving demonstrations and 'breaking in' Hans Gruber, who has been selected by the commissioners to be the chauffeur and caretaker of the new engine."

Source:  North Pelham -- Local Notes, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 1, 1914, No. 7490, p. 11, col. 1.  

"North Pelham . . . 

New Fire Auto Arrives.

The firemen of the first district of Pelham are delighted over the arrival of the new automobile apparatus.  It arrived at the New Haven freight station at 10 o'clock yesterday morning in a box car.  In the afternoon the work of unloading it started and the machine was driven to the fire headquarters on Fifth avenue by a demonstrator, Mr. Carruthers, who arrived with the car.  Mr. Carruthers will remain in town several weeks and will instruct Hans Gruber and such other operators as the fire commissioners may desire.  The new machine is a 105 horsepower, six cylinder, high power pumping and combination engine.  Its color is red and in gold letters across the hood are the words:  'First Fire District of Pelham.'  A plate on the side of the car bears the commissioners' names.  The car will be on trial for several weeks before it is accepted by the commissioners."

Source:  North Pelham -- New Fire Auto Arrives, The Daily Argus, Jul. 7, 1914, No. 7494, p. 6, col. 3.

North Pelham. . . 

In Charge of Apparatus.

Hans Gruber, who has been taking lessons from the demonstrator for the La France automobile people, has been declared competent to operate and handle the new automobile combination fire apparatus which was recently delivered to this district."

Source:  North Pelham -- In Charge of Apparatus, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 22, 1914, No. 7507, p. 6, col. 1.  

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Below is a list of prior Historic Pelham Blog postings that touch on firefighting and the history of firefighting units within the Town of Pelham.

Thu., Jan. 19, 2017:  Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold:  Don't Mess With a Pelham Fireman.

Thu., Jan. 12, 2017:  Six of Pelham's Earliest Firefighters Marched in the 36th Annual Fire Inspection Parade in 1930.

Tue., Dec. 06, 2016:  An Account of the Tragic Vaughan Livery Stable Fire in Pelhamville in 1907.

Wed., Nov. 16, 2016:  More on the 1889 Fire that Destroyed the Hunter House on Travers Island.

Tue., Oct. 04, 2016:  Harry R. King, Fire Chief of the First Fire District From 1911 to 1913.

Wed., Jun. 15, 2016:  Organized Volunteer Fire Fighting in Pelhamville Began as Early as 1885.

Tue., Jun. 14, 2016:  The First Annual Inspection of Pelhamville Fire Fighting Units in 1894.

Tue., Jun. 07, 2016:  When Did Pelham's Minneford Engine Company Acquire its First Fire-Fighting Steam Engine?

Mon., May 16, 2016:  Fatal Fire in 1902 at One Fifth Avenue Burned Down the Post Office and Pharmacy.

Fri., Apr. 29, 2016:  Famous Meyers Mansion in Pelham Manor Burned Down in 1897.

Thu., Apr. 28, 2016:  Pelham Manor Dutifully Extinguished a Fire That Nearly Burned Down its Hated Wooden Train Station in 1896.

Mon., Jan. 04, 2016:  Pelham Manor Voters Voted to Disband the Pelham Manor Fire Department in 1928.  

Mon., Dec. 14, 2015:  Early History of the Village of Pelham Manor Fire Department.

Fri., Dec. 11, 2015:  Evidence of An Early Independent Firefighting Unit in Pelham Named "Indians."

Thu., Dec. 10, 2015:  Grand Fire-Fighting Competition and Parade Held in the Town of Pelham in 1891.

Wed., Dec. 09, 2015:  Pelham's Minneford Engine Company Built a New Fire House on City Island in 1894.

Mon., Dec. 07, 2015:  The Code Used on the City Island Fire Bell in the Late 19th Century Used for Fire Alarms.

Mon., Nov. 30, 2015:  Another Detailed Account of the 1901 Fire that Destroyed the Clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island.

Fri., Nov. 20, 2015:  Account of 1894 Fire in One of Pelham's Earliest Newspapers.

Wed., Sep. 30, 2015:  Was it Arson that Destroyed the Prospect Hill School at Jackson and Plymouth Avenues in 1917?

Thu., Sep. 17, 2015:  An Account of the February 28, 1925 Fire at Pelhamdale, A Home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fri., Jun. 12, 2015:  The Tumultuous Reign of Pelham Manor Fire Chief J. Louis Cunningham in the Early 1900s.

Tue., Jun. 09, 2015:  Reminiscences of Firemen Who Served From 1893 Until 1923 in North Pelham.

Wed., Jun. 03, 2015:  The Bell in Firemen's Memorial Park at First Street and Wolfs Lane.

Tue., Jun. 02, 2015:  Important Early Images of the Pelham Fire Department.

Fri., May 22, 2015:  History of Pelham's Beloved "Nott Steamer" Known as "Jim Reilly's Boiler."

Thu., Mar. 26, 2015:  Fire Destroyed the Old Pelham Manor Post Office in 1945.

Fri., Mar. 20, 2015:  Fire in 1932 Devastated the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.

Tue., Feb. 17, 2015:  More on the Early History of Organized Firefighting in the Settlement of Pelhamville.

Mon., Feb. 16, 2015: The Great Furniture Fight of 1896: Company of Pelhamville Firemen Resigned En Masse.

Thu., Feb. 12, 2015: Rare 19th Century Image of Pelhamville Firemen Who Served in Relief Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.

Fri., Dec. 12, 2014: Parade and Housewarming Hosted by Pelhamville Fire Department in 1894.

Thu., Dec. 11, 2014:  Pelhamville's First Attempt to Create a Fire Department in 1893 Failed Due to a Legal Technicality.

Thu., Jul. 24, 2014: Dedication of the New Fire Headquarters in the Village of Pelham on December 29, 1927.

Wed., Jul. 02, 2014: Election Shenanigans Involving Fire Commissioner Election in 1898.

Thu., Apr. 24, 2014: Information About the History of Fire Departments in the Town of Pelham Published in 1927.

Thu., Jan. 30, 2014:  The Night Pelham's Town Hall Burned.

Fri., Jan. 24, 2014: Early Days of Organized Fire Fighting in Today's Village of Pelham.

Thu., Jan. 23, 2014:  Another Account of the Devastating Fire that Destroyed the Travers Island Clubhouse of New York Athletic Club in 1901.

Wed., May 12, 2010:  Fire Partly Destroyed Pelham Town Hall in 1908.

Fri., Jan. 15, 2010: Photograph of Augustine C. McGuire, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the First District Fire Department in 1913.

Thu., Jan. 14, 2010: 1913 Report of the Firemen's Benevolent Association in Pelham.

Thu., Dec. 10, 2009: More 19th Century Baseball and Firefighting References.

Tue., Dec. 08, 2009: The Darling Triplets: Three Brothers Among Pelham's Earliest Firefighters.

Thu., Oct. 08, 2009: Firefighting Units on City Island in Pelham During the Early 1890's.

Fri., Sep. 04, 2009:  1901 Newspaper Article About Fire that Burned New York Athletic Club Clubhouse on Travers Island.

Mon., Aug. 31, 2009: Contest in 1891 To Determine Which Steam Fire Engine Company Could Throw a Stream the Greater Distance.

Fri., Aug. 28, 2009: Reorganization of the Minneford Engine Company on City Island in February, 1891.

Thu., Aug. 06, 2009: Brief History of the Fire Department in the Village of North Pelham Published in 1913.

Wed., Aug. 05, 2009: Pelham Manor Fire Chief Pleads for Taxpayers to Authorize Purchase of Village's First Fire Engine.

Wed., July 15, 2009: Liberty Hose Company Election in 1898.

Thu., Feb. 19, 2009:  The Old Hunter House Burns to the Ground in an Arson Incident on Travers Island on April 4, 1889.

Thu., Jan. 19, 2006: Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment.

Wed., Jan. 18, 2006:  Newspaper Report of the Infamous Vaughan's Livery Stable Fire in North Pelham in 1907.

Mon., Oct. 17, 2005:  The Firemen's Memorial of the Pelham Fire Department.

Mon., Aug. 01, 2005: An 1896 Inspection and Drill of the Fire Department in Pelham.

Tue., May 31, 2005:  The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part I of II).

Wed., Jun. 01, 2005:  The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part II of II).

Fri., May 06, 2005:  The Great Furniture Battle at Pelhamville's Relief Hook and Ladder Company in 1896.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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