The conditions were perfect. The weather was dry and the firemen were all on their way to Raleigh for the Eastern North Carolina State Championship Football Game. And then it happened. The largest lumber company in 1922 caught fire on December 1, but that wasn’t enough. The fire began to leap to other destinations because the 70 mile per hour winds. People within the city were recruited to help. Within an hour a fire started in the chimney of a small house on Kilmarnock Street. The fire of New Bern was devestating. About 1/3 of the city was destroyed, over 3,000 were left homless and 40 city block were destroyed.
This is just the beginning of the history shared at the Firemen’s Museum, a museum established in 1955.
There were two rivaling firefighting companies that ended up being housed in the same building. Our story begins on May 14, 1885. On May 14, 1845 the New Bern Fire Department started the Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company. As the Civil War commenced in 1861, the company soon became inactive because so many members were serving in the Confederate Army. When the need for an active firefighting company again arose, the New Bern Steam Fire Engine company No. 1 was started up. As life returned to normal, the focus shifted. The focus for the firefighting companies was getting the biggest, the best, and the fastest equipment.
As you see above, the steam fire engine was all the rage in the later 1800’s. In 1879, The Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company received a new Silsby steam fire engine. In an attempt to out do the other, in 1884 the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 traded in their Amoskeag steam engine for the new “Button Steam Fire Engine.” There name was soon changed to the “Button Company.” The companies continued to compete with each other thorughout the state. The Button Company acheived the world record for running quick steam at 1 minute 46 seconds.
No, this is not a horse pulled fire hose, but a human pulled one!
This demonstrates how the hoses were hung up so they can dry.
The helmets were different than todays in that they were made with leather. You can only imagine how much that would cost today if they were still made in that fashion.
This is a very interesting piece used in the incident of a fire. Our guide explained that in a central location of a fire, there would be someone that would signal the alarm system which would be connected to the system at the fire station. They would go to that area and then be directed from there to the more specific location.
Fred was among the most faithful and loyal of the fire horses. He lived for 25 years doing a great service for the Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company for 17 years. Mr. John Taylor and Fred the horse were a team working together to combat fires. Fred was keen with his senses as he had the ability to recognize tones of fire alarms and then reach those locations on this own. He was no stranger to adversity, but when his well loved owner died in 1925 of a heart attack, Fred passed away soon after. The dedication of Fred to his owner was very admirable and just another piece of history that visitors will experience at the Fireman’s Museum in New Bern, North Carolina.