THE HISTORY OF THE CATAWISSA HOSE CO. NO. 1



The first effort to establish a fire company came when a prominent group of men of the town met Stacey Margerum's hotel on May 17, 1827. They met on what is today, the lot occupied by the Bethel Assembly of God Church. Elected officers were:

President: Joseph Paxton (1821 - 1829)

Secretary: Ezra S. Hayhurst, who drafted the first constitution.


Also in attendance were:

Christian Brobst, George Hughes, Stephen Baldy, George H. Willits, and Jacob Rupert.


The essays were adopted and signed by fifty-four persons, four days later. Meetings were held quarterly at Margerum's. There was an assortment of ladders, hooks, buckets, and chains, which have been secured and accessible to be used in emergency situations. In February, 1832, after repeated adjournments, the organization was unceremoniously disbanded.

A meeting of the citizens of Catawissa was held in the Masonic Hall, Friday evening (July 18) to adopt some measures leading to purchase a fire engine. $80 was sent to Lew Hilger of Milton, to purchase a little hand engine. The engine arrived Saturday evening on the P. & R. railroad. It was tried out on Monday, and not ascertain if it was satisfactory. At present it is in the Susquehanna Hotel Stable.

On July 31, 1879 the Hilger fire engine, from Milton, has been bought by some of the citizens of the Catawissa.

On August 28, 1885, the fire plugs which were tested was a success. It was very satisfactory, the force as demonstrated by the experiment, was greater than anticipated.

A movement is on foot to raise funds for a hose company. Even though this is a worthy enterprise, they felt and included in the notion the town should be incorporated first.

Honorable F.L. Shuman purchased 300 ft. of first class leather hose and a two wheeled hose cart, which were standing in the engine house ready to be used in case of fire. The Judge has invested $435 in the hose and cart. He proposed to give the property owners a chance to help pay for them. In case of fire their aid would be invaluable. However, with Mr. Shuman holding them as private property it would be backward to let them go out. There is no reason why our property holders should not reimburse the judge for his outlay and securing the hose and cart for public use.

"The hose and cart are paid for. I hereby offer my thanks to those citizens of Catawissa who have subscribed, and paid their subscription, towards the purchase of hose and hose cart, which I had bought and paid for, for the use of the town. I have received a sufficient amount for that purpose. Now, about 100 property owners in town have not subscribed to the fund, and they should be able and willing to raise enough to buy 100ft. more hose and nozzle, which will cost, say $125., and then it will be possible to reach with an abundance of water any part of the town in case of fire. I hope they will consider the matter as a move of common prudence while there is time, and act accordingly. Signed, F.L. Shuman."

On August 2, 1894 the fire apparatus was all here, but no place for its reception. When the hose house is erected the company will be able to handle.

On Friday, June 29, 1894 there was a small fire at P.R. shops and water was supplied by Shuman's Water Company.

On Thursday, January 10, 1895 there was a meeting held of those who were interested in forming a fire department. Officers' were elected and another meeting is scheduled to be held Wednesday.

At the February Borough Council Meeting, Fire Committee presented list of officers:

Chief: H.M. Search

Assistant Chief: Jere Berninger

Forman: Lewis Albus

First Assistant: William Pfahler


On February 28, 1895 the first test of the new hose, at 100lbs. 7 sections out of 20 sections of hose burst on the first test. The hose was guaranteed for 300lbs.

Friday, April 4, 1895 M.A. Swank's store had a small fire.

After the hose burst on its initial trail with pressure of the water mains, contact was made with the Revere Rubber Company who sold the hose. A representative was sent to discuss the situation, where satisfactory arrangements were made. In September 1895, a firebell was installed on the fire house.

Before the Charter was granted for the Catawissa Hose Company Number 1, on April 21, 1897 with William M. Vastine, J. Kersey Sharpless Jr., P.B. Ervin, C.C. Cleaver, and Elmer Harder as subscribers. Meetings were held since August 19, 1896 as a record of organization has been found.

The following officers were listed when the Catawissa Hose Company Number 1 chartered in the Firemen's Association of Pennsylvania.

President: William Berninger

Vice President: George Martz

Secretary: Charles Waltus

Assistant Chief: C.C. Cleaver

Treasurer: A.L. Rinard


The equipment at that time consisted of:

Axes

Leather Hose

Buckets

Two-wheeled Hose Cart


All of the equipment were house in the fire house. The income for all the purchases came from plays, dramas, and street carnivals.

On March 30, 1905 the Catawissa Hose Company lease ground between Shuman and Mill Streets. It was used for a baseball diamond, in the spring and summer, while in the fall it was used for football.

The Catawissa Fire Department is taking quite a brace. At its meeting on Wednesday, August 17, 1910, it gained 51 new members and there are a batch to be presented at the meeting on Wednesday, August 25, 1910.

Following a lapse in the company minutes of a number of years, mention is made of a Re-organization meeting on March 9, 1926. Seven of the original members and 75 citizens of the borough, decided to move the headquarters from across the street to the present day Borough Hall.

Plans were made to buy a new truck and place it outside the building to summon the firemen. The siren was to be paid for by the company and $3,500.00 towards the purchase of a new truck, with the understanding that the borough would pay the remainder of the costs of the truck. The drivers were to be Harry A. Lewis and J. Ray Snyder.

On May 4, 1927, another truck was purchased for $1,000.00.

On March 22, 1933, a town hall meeting was held for a gathering of visiting fire chiefs where the Catawissa News Item commended the Catawissa Hose Company No. 1 for its firefighting abilities.

In 1946 two new trucks were purchased, starting the hose company to the position it held, in 1974, in the esteem of the community. The following year, September 1947, The Sharpless Mansion was bought and the present fire station and social hall came into being.

In 1955 a four stall apparatus room to house the equipment was built, and the Ladies Auxiliary was formed.

The tank truck was purchased in 1956 for $1,800.00

On January 27, 1956, the Bloomsburg Morning Press carried out a front page article in which they mentioned Catawissa had the finest fire station in this section of the country.

On April 4, 1956 the first fire alarm was sounded by radio communication. Prior to this date, the fire company had an arrangement whereby a person dialed the telephone operator in Bloomsburg to report a fire, she in turn dialed an unlisted number to activate the fire siren. This proved troublesome because sometimes a person would inadvertently dial the secret number and set off the siren by mistake.

In 1959 the company ranked second in Pennsylvania for Fire Prevention.

The next twenty-five years had been a period of progress for the Catawissa Hose Company. Programs have been conducted for a band shell, an ambulance service, young men for fire rangers (16 to 18 years old), fire schools with active training for firemen, better insurance for firemen, establishing an equipment force of three fire engines, one utility wagon, and an inventory of equipment valued at $175,000.00 (in 1897 there was an inventory of $150.00).

The success of the Fire Company through the years has not been the work of one person. Many people have worked hard to accomplish this. Catawissa is and should be proud of its Hose Company which in 1974 consisted of 300 members and 75 life members.