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The Brockville Volunteer Firemen

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Hook & Ladder Co. - Brockville Volunteer Firemen ca1890

Brockville Volunteer Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 – ca.1890

[Listed individually below, along with their daytime job, if known]

Back Row (from left): Patrick S. Roberts (railwayman), John York, William J. Reynolds, John L. Upham (bookseller), James Connors (moulder), W. Kelly, James H. Stewart (butcher), W. Ezra Amond (labourer)

Middle Row (from left): John Woods, Henry Mathen (boat livery), Michael Collins (machinist), William Mathen, D. Brady, John Flanigan, James H. Hall (carter), George K. Dewey (tax collector).

Front Row (from left): John R. Reid, Henry Jennings, J. Owens, Thomas Miller (moulder), William Dodd, James S. Dodds, Joshua E. Timlick (machinist), John Botham (packer), William McKay, Thomas Nicol, William H. Harrison (stoves).

Early Steam Pumper
Here’s a picture of one of the earliest steam fire pumpers remaining from the 1860s.
[Any of these photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Black Line 2

Some Fire Company History

The creation of a formally organized volunteer fire company was one of the first important pieces of business undertaken by the first Board of Police created in Brockville in 1832.

The year before, this item was published in the pages of the Recorder on November 24, 1831: “Through the spirited exertions of Mr. Norton and other individuals, means were lately raised, a fire engine purchased, and a fire company formed in the village of Prescott. Brockville is thus outdone.”

With this impetus, the members of the Police Board representing the citizens of the newly incorporated village of Brockville passed a motion to set aside 125 Pounds for the purchase of one of the latest hand-pumped fire engines. They then ordered that Alexander Grant be appointed captain and engineer of a fire company of 48 persons. Each member was to provide themselves with a proper fireman’s uniform at their own expense.

Local blacksmith, Stephen Richards was sent off on a scouting trip to the U.S. to find a suitable engine. On March 4, 1833 Mr. Richards appeared before the board and recommended that one of the latest and largest models made by the John J. Rogers & Co. of New York be purchased for 125 Pounds. The order was placed and this was the beginning of the Brockville Fire Company.

For over fifty years, the Fire Companies were operated by volunteers, but in 1886 the first group of paid firemen were hired by the Town of Brockville, who then established a fire department. The first fire brigade was made up of John Hall,(later to be Fire Chief), William Seaton, Joshua Bedlow, and Thomas Devereaux.

At the same time, a new Hook & Ladder Company was organized with 33 members of the volunteer group. This group, it appears, operated out of one of the older fire halls in the east end on King Street just east of Garden St. Twenty-seven of this group are shown in the photograph above.

Brockville Fire Co ladder wagon & volunteers
Some of the civilian members of the Brockville Hook & Ladder Co. posing on their wagon in 1899.


Sources: The first group photograph of the Hook & Ladder Co. appears to have been taken away from Brockville, perhaps before or after a firemen’s parade, because the stone building behind them is not recognizable. A short history of the Brockville Fire Company, accompanied by this picture and others, was printed in the 1906 Souvenir supplement published by the Brockville Recorder on the occasion of the Old Boys’ Re-union held in Brockville from July 28th to August 3, 1906. Many of the volunteer firemen’s first names and their regular jobs were gleaned from other sources.

The other two photos are from an extensive collection put together by the late Merv McKay. Merv was a career fireman, as were some of his forebears.

copyright March 2008 - Doug Grant, ON

About Doug Grant

I am a local history buff who lives in the terrific city of Brockville on the north side of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario. I intend this Blog Site to share a lot of historical information which I have been collecting for the last 35 or so years. I was educated in Scarborough, Ontario and Toronto. I graduated as an Architectural Technologist from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in 1966. My first career was as an Architectural Technologist/Draftsman in Toronto between 1966 and 1972. I decided to go into teaching in 1972, and attended the Ontario College of Education in Toronto. I was then qualified to teach Architectural Drafting in the Ontario school system and obtained a position to do this in the town of Prescott, Ontario. I taught all my career at South Grenville District High School in Prescott until my retirement in June 2000. I have continued to develop one of my main interests and hobbies in Canadian History and specificly the History of Brockville since moving to live in Brockville, Ontario in 1972. Some of the material that I intend to use on this site was originally published in the Brockville newspaper, "The Recorder and Times" under my copyright. In addition I want to use a number of historical photographs that I have collected over the years. Would love to hear from anyone with similar interests to mine.

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