~ HISTORY OF THE WASHINGTON FIRE COMPANY ~
This history is found in the files of the Mechanicsburg Museum
Association. The author is unknown, and it appears to have been
written about 1988
1850s Design Fire Hydrant
Hand Pumper in front of original Washington Hall
Washington Fire Company with 1870 Silsby Steam Fire Engine
© 2005-2014 Mechanicsburg Museum Association.
All rights reserved.
In 1856 the first water company was established in
of Mechanicsburg. In November of 1857 the Water Company installed
fire plugs for the protection of the borough. At that time, the
borough owned a hand pumper which was known as the "WASHINGTON".
On December 29, 1857, a new fire engine arrived in the borough. It
was known as the "LITTLE SQUIRT". That same evening the Washington
Fire Company, one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the
Cumberland Valley, was organized in Mechanicsburg to offer the
people of the borough protection from fire and for the promotion
of civic interests.
At the organizational meeting officers were elected to govern
the destiny of the new company. They were as follows: R. Wilson,
President; A.N. Green, Secretary; Dr. J.B. Herring, Treasurer.
William Mathews, Engineer; W. Dornbaugh, Assistant Engineer; and
R.H. Thomas, D. Kimmel and.H. Dornbaugh were Directors. A committee
was appointed to draft the fire company constitution and by-laws
at this time. The members were as follows: A.N. Green, Joseph
Sanderson, Dr. J.B. Herring, W.C. Houser and R.H. Thomas.
The Fire Company was instituted on February 22, 1858, and was
named in honor of the First President of the United States.
Mechanicsburg, like many other progressive towns of the era,
finally had a much—needed organized fire protection.
Anyone who was a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
and at least 20 years of age could become a member for a fee of
$1.00. In September of 1858 it was decided to change the minimum
age to 18 years old.
Company meetings were held on Friday nights in the town hall.
In April of 1858 the Borough purchased a hose carriage from
the Citizen's Fire Company of Harrisburg. It was housed at the town
hall on South Market Street with the hand pumper. It was determined
that the hand pumper was too light to render effective service in
an emergency in the absence of hose and hand tools. On May 25, 1858
a new pumper was presented to the Fire Company by the Borough.
The first Fire Company Parade was held on June 24, 1858 with
music provided by the Keystone Cornet Band.
The company held its first banquet on February 22, 1859, and
since then the anniversary has been celebrated as near to that date
On July 14, 1859, the foundation for a new town hall was laid
at the corner of South Market Street and Stauffer Alley. The first
floor was used to house the fire company equipment and the second
floor contained a meeting room for town council.
The first permanent fire house was built in 1860 by the fire
company at 53 East Main Street and has been home to the Washington
Fire Company ever since. It was known as Washington Hall. It was
built in the center of the borough's business district on land
owned by the Union Church. The building had three floors. On
December 20, 1860, the company bought its first fire bell.
In February of 1866 the company purchased a Button Suction
fire engine from Trenton, New Jersey. The price was not to exceed
On April 5, 1866 honorary membership was bestowed upon R.H.
Thomas, G. Keefer and William Matthews for five years of active
membership as called for in the Constitution.
During the late 1860's the Company meeting night was changed
to the first Thursday of the month and has been the meeting night
In June of 1869 town council purchased 800 feet of 10" forcing
hose with the Jones patent coupling and all necessary appendages.
In July of 1869 the Fire Company purchased a hose carriage
from the Neptune Fire Company of Philadelphia, PA, at a cost of
$275.00 plus $5.71 in shipping charges. It is still owned by the
Fire Company and was completely restored in 1975 at a cost of over
$5000. Today it is valued at over $10,000. The hose carriage was
built in the early 1820's by Young Carriage builders of
Philadelphia. It is still pulled by company members in firemen's
parades today. The company parade uniform consists of a red shirt,
dark blue work pants, rubber boots and an aluminum helmet. This
uniform represents the type of dress worn by all firemen in the
early years of our country.
On July 18, 1870 the town council purchased a third class
Silsby Steamer model 9600 for the fire company from the Silsby
Manufacturing Company of Seneca Falls, New York. It was rated at
600 gpm and was drawn by horses.
On July 5, 1872, the fire company placed hooks and ladders at
six different locations around the town to be used in case of fire
to rescue people.
On February 16, 1873 parade uniforms were adopted. They
consisted of red flannel shirts, New York fire helmets and white
belts with blue trim and the fire company name on them. They also
wore blue New York style caps before and after the parades.
On May 6, 1875 the first fire police were appointed.
In 1876 a second hose carriage was purchased by the company.
The company apparatus for the year of 1876 consisted of the
Silsby Steamer, the Button Suction hand pumper, 2 hose carriages
with approximately 1,000 feet of leather hose anti 800 feet of
carbolized rubber hose and a double—brake hand pumper. A hose
carriage with 300 feet of hose was sold to New Kingston later in
The Mechanicsburg Fire Department was formed in 1888 and rules
and regulations were drawn up for a Borough Chief and Assistant
In 1901 there were no fires in the Borough.
On September 6, 1906 an agreement was signed between the fire
company and the Union Church to build a new fire house on the site
of the present building. The deteriorating condition due to falling
bricks made it a necessity. The building was torn down on July 6,
1907 and a new two—story firehouse was erected. The cost of the
construction was $8,585. Today it would cost over $250,000 to build
the same building.
The company sold its first bell on December 5, 1907. The new
building was accepted by the company on February 6, 1908 and held
its first meeting there on February 20, 1908. On May 5, 1908 a new
fire bell was presented to the company by a Miss Hummel.
It was during 1908 the fire company celebrated its 50th
On September 10, 1914 the company purchased a hose wagon from
the Vigilant Hose Company of York, PA for $150.00.
The Fire Company held its first Christmas Party for the
children of the town on December 25, 1914. It has been held every
year since then.
On May 21, 1916 the Mechanicsburg Fireman's Relief Association
was formed with other two borough fire companies. It was
reorganized on June 19, 1924.
On May 5, 1917 the company received a Luverne Chemical truck.
For several years it was the only motorized apparatus in the
In 1924 the company received an American laFrance 750 gpm
pumper. It was purchased by Borough Council to replace the Silsby
Steamer. It was the first gasoline pumper places in service in the
The Luverne Chemical truck was sold on December 3, 1925.
On January 30, 1931 the first rural truck was placed in
service by the company. The late S. Harper Myers, a local funeral
director, presented to the company a Sayers and Scovill hearse
which the members of the company redesigned and built as a fire
engine. This truck was equipped with the first portable pump unit
adapted for fire protection. The truck was used to give fire
protection to the large rural district bordering Mechanicsburg.
Contracts with the townships of Hampden and Silver Spring were
first drawn up on May 7, 1936.
On July 9, 1938 the company purchased a Ford chassis with a
500 gpm Darley pump for the rural fire service replacing the Sayers
A contract was signed with Lower Allen Township for fire
protection on April 4, 1940.
In 1942 the first siren was installed on the fire house to
alert firemen in the event of an emergency.
Also in 1942 a Diamond-T engine with a 500 gpm pump arrived
to replace the American LaFrance pumper.
The Ladies Auxiliary was formed on October 3, 1946.
In 1948 the company replaced the Ford pumper with another
Diamond-T engine. It had a 500 gpm Darley pump and a 400 gallon
booster tank. The Borough purchased another 500 gpm Diamond-T
pumper. Its delivery resulted in having 3 Diamond-T pumpers placed
into service by the company.
In 1949 the company co—hosted the Cumberland Valley Volunteer
Fireman's Association convention and parade.
A new house siren was installed on February 14, 1950 and could
be activated from the borough hall.
A kitchen was built on the rear of the firehouse on May 4,
New parade uniforms were ordered May 8, 1950.
A contractual agreement was drawn up with the Pennsylvania
Turnpike Commission on November 6, 1952 for fire protection.
Radios were first installed in the trucks on October 6, 1955.
In 1956 the company purchased its first emergency truck. It
was an International which the company members installed with
shelving for equipment and mountings for air masks.
In 1958 the front of the firehouse was remodeled and the
narrow doors were replaced with the present overhead door.
In the same year the Fire Company celebrated its centennial
year with a gala banquet in the engine house on Saturday, February
22 with Lieutenant Governor Roy Furman as the principal speaker.
In August the company co—hosted the Cumberland Valley Fireman's
Association Convention and parade.
Also in August of 1958 a GMC with a 750 gpm Howe pump was
placed into service. It was purchased by the Borough to replace the
1942 Diamond—T which was sold to the Silver Spring Fire Company.
In 1961 the company purchased a GMC van which was converted
into a rescue truck replacing the 1956 International.
In 1962 the company purchased a GMC engine with a 500 gpm pump
and 800 gallon booster tank for rural service. It replaced the 1948
1962 was the first year in which all three companies had a
combined fund drive by passing out coin cards.
In 1972 the Borough purchased a GMC with a three-stage 750 gpm
pump. It replaced the other 1948 Diamond-T which was moved to the
borough garage and used as a reserve pumper.
In 1975 the company purchased another GMC van to replace the
1961 GMC rescue truck. The company members installed windows, flood
lights, shelving for equipment, a generator and mounts for air
masks. An electric winch was also placed on the front.
During 1976, our nation's Bicentennial, the firehouse was
remodeled and repainted inside. The backyard was beautified and the
water fountain, which use to be in front of Franklin Hall, was
restored to its original style.
The company also co—hosted the 49th Cumberland County
Volunteer Firemen's Convention and parade. The parade was held on
July 3rd of that year in conjunction with Jubilee'76.
On March 5, 1980 the company bought a Lukas Rescue Tool and
Cutters at a cost of $8,900.00.
In June of 1980 a Fire Alarm System was placed in the
In July 1981 the company took delivery of a 1980 Ford engine
with a Darley 1000 gpm pump. This was bought by the Borough. It
replaced the 1972 GMC which was placed back at the borough garage.
This was the first diesel-powered engine.
In September of 1981 the company purchased a set of Maxi Force
Air Bags. It is the 3-bag 50 ton system.
In August of 1980 the Borough sold the 1948 Diamond-T, the
last of the Diamond-T's in the borough.
In November of 1981 the Borough sold the 1958 GMC.
In December 1981 the company purchased a Maxim Squad truck
from a company in New York. It featured a 250 gpm PTO pump, a 200
gallon booster tank, an electric generator and a rear mounted
On November 4, 1982 the first woman was elected into
On December 1, 1983 the 1975 Squad was sold to the Barlow
Volunteer Fire Company, Barlow, PA.
On November 15, 1984 the Fire Company sold the 1962 GMC to
Pete Gunn of Daulton, Georgia.
On March 11, 1985 the Fire Company took delivery of a new
engine. It is built on a Ford C8000 chassis with a Darley 1250 gpm
pump and 1000 gallon booster tank.
On February 20, 1986 a Cascade System was added to the Maxim
In March of 1987 the Fire Company purchased a Squad from
Arundel, Maryland. It is built on a Ford C800 chassis with a Swab
compartmental "box". The Cascade System located on the Maxim Squad
was added to it.
On October 1, 1987 the Fire Company changed its By-Laws to
allow 13 to 15 year olds to join the Fire Company as Junior
In October of 1987 the Maxim Squad was sold.
In February 1988 the Fire Company purchased an Amkus Rescue
Tool and Cutters at a cost of over $15,000. The Fire Company
presently has 2 rescue tools and 2 cutters in service.
Throughout the long history of the company it has paraded in
the following states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West
Virginia. The Fire Company has been rewarded with.many trophies and
cash prizes, the most treasured being the three large first place
trophies the Company won at the 1974 Pennsylvania State Firemen's
Parade in Conshohocken.
The company has in its possession a lot of old pictures,
marble top tables, statues, collections of parade badges and other
firefighting memorabilia. In the backyard there can be found the
bells of the old Franklin Hall and Irving College. An old water
fountain which was located in front of Franklin Hall can also be
The Washington Fire Company of Mechanicsburg is one of the
oldest Fire Companies in Central Pennsylvania. It has a rich
history of providing protection for the lives and property of the
citizens of Mechanicsburg. They have long thought of the Washies
as a hard—working group of men who have a certain spirit to meet
the challenge that is brought forth at the scene of a fire or any
other emergency. It takes a person with a great desire, probably
even an inner need, to be challenged to the extremes of his
personal abilities to make a good fireman. Not all fire company
members are good firemen but there is a place in a company like the
Washies for all those who are willing to come to the aid of their
neighbors in any way they can.
In recent years there has been an effort made by the
membership of the Company to interest the youth of the Borough in
fire fighting and the many skills which a knowledgeable fireman
must have to go with a desire to meet a most formidable challenge
of Life or Death! The Washies today have a large active membership
in Cumberland County made up mostly of young men and women between
the ages of 13 and 40. They have a great desire to learn about fire
fighting from the fine group of experienced firemen who have worked
to build the Company into what it is today.
The Company has always been active in all civic movements in
the community. Members of the Company have always served their
country in the armed forces. They have come from all walks of life
and also have been politically involved in the Borough of
Mechanicsburg. The Washington Fire Company thanks the Borough of
Mechanicsburg for all it has done for it and hopes to continue to
serve the community in what ever capacity its citizen's request of