Even though the City of Canton was not incorporated in 1821, the threat of fire was very evident in the community. It was a very cold morning on January 26, 182, when the house owned by Mr. Thomas Drayton caught fire. The occupant of the house had her feet frozen, due to -23 degrees temperatures, while trying to get her neighbor's help. She lost every article of clothing and furniture that she owned. On the same morning the roof of the wagonmaker's house caught on fire but was put out with little damage. John Saxton, of the Ohio Repository, wrote about these fires. "these warnings ought to induce us to reflect on our situation as to defense against this element. We are destitute of an engine, ladders, hooks, or buckets."
The city of Canton was incorporated on January 30, 1822. On May 7, 1822, the city trustees had a meeting and named George Stidgen as Fire Master. On July 22, 1822 the trustees of Canton passed an ordinance establishing a fire company. This is the beginning of the Canton Fire Department. This ordinance allowed for the election of officers to the fire company, including a Captain, Lieutenant, and Engineer. The members of the fire company were made in charge of the engine and had the ability to make bye laws to this ordinance.
On May 7, 1822, Geirge Stidgen was appointed as the first Fire Master. The first meeting of the Fire Company of Canton was held on August 17, 1822 and the first election of officers was held on August 31, 1822.
In the early days, water to fight fires was retrieved from rain water cisterns. Ciosterns were a primitive underground water storage tank. Buckets were lowered with a rope into the cistern by hand which was a very laborious and slow method of fighting fires. Once the water was brought to the surface it was sent to the fire by way of a bucket brigade. An ordinance was passed which required every citizen to have a leather bucket in case of fire. The name of the individual was usually marked on the bucket and sometimes wven fancy decorations. every available citizen was expected to help form a line to convey water to the fire and then return the empty buckets to the cistern to be filled again. Usually children and women made up the return bucket line and men made up the bucket line which conveyed the water to the engine.
Canton's first engine was the Phoenix. On July 11, 1822, the trustees of Canton gave J.W. lathrop ther right to contract for an engine as well as its transportation to Canton. The engine was purchase for $270.00. The exact date of its delivery is unknown, but it was delivered before March 8, 1823. The first five bills that the City of Canton paid were for the Fire Company. The first bill paid was for the engine. It was a hand drawn engine with one set of brakes (handles used to pump water from the engine). When the fire alarm bell was sounded the first group of citizens to arrive at the engine house, where the Phoenix was stored, would pull the engine to the fire. Citizens would form a bucket brigade and dump the water into the tank of the engine. Then members of the fire department and bystanders would pump the engine by pulling down and pushing up on the brakes of the engine.
On April 24, 1823 a supplementary ordinance was passed. The first part of the ordinance allowed the President, Recorder and Trustees oc Canton to impose firnes on the members of the fire company if they did not perform their duties. The second part of this ordinance read as follows. "Be it further ordained, That the President, Recorder and Trustees of said town, shall anually appoint four Lanemen, five Ladderman, tow Hookmen, and two Axemen, to hold their offices until the first saturday of April - And it shall be the duty of lanemen, under directions as may be given them by the fire-master or officers of the fire company, to form lines to convey water to the Engine, or place of the fire - The laddermen shall convey ladders, and the hookmen, the hooks, to the same place, where the axemen shall be present, and each one shall discharge his duty as aforesaid, as soon after he has knowledge of a fire, as practicable." The first laneman were John Buckius, Orlando Metcalf, James Gaff and John Augustine. The first laddermen were Jacob Rupp, George Dunbar, James W. Lathrop, George DeWalt and John Webb. Ther first hookmen were John Clark and John Saxton and the first axemen were John Maler and Christian Paulmore.
On November 20, 1830, the Trustees of Canton held a meeting which included dissolving the Fire Company. The company was dissolved because the officers of the fire company refused to serve in their offices and the members of the fire company would not get together to have elections for their company as was required by city ordinance. The President of the Trustees was then made responsible for organizing a new Fire Company and making sure that the elections were held. There was no record of when the Fire company was reorganized but there was an election held on May 2, 1833 which established new hookmen, laddermen, and axemen.
Canton's second engine was the fairmount. It was purchased and delivered in 1835 from John Harris in Philadelphia. It is believed to have been used by the Philadelphia Fire Department. The Fairmount was larger than the Phoenix and had two sets of brakes which required more people to pull it and operate it.
A meeting of the citizens was held on September 26, 1835 for the purpose of organizing two fire companies. the Phoenix Fire Company would consist of nineteen members and the Fairmount Fire Company would consist of sixty nine members. An election of officers was held for both companies. The officers of the Phoenix Fire Company were Eli Lowers as Captain, henry Buckius as 1st Engineer and James A. Sexton as 2nd Engineer. The officers of the Fairmount Fire Company were Lewis Fogle as Captain and Jonas Polley, Samuel Fahnestock, John Laird and Jacob Kauffman as Engineers.
Five nmembers of the fire company were appointed to draw up a Constitution and By-laws. On October 2, 1835 a Constitution and By-laws were accepted for the two fire companies. The Constitution consisted of eight articles. The third article stated "It shall be the duty of the Captain to take the entire command ot the Company whether in the case of fire, direct where the Engine shall be placed; see that the engine is supplied with hands, and that they are changed as often as may be necessary: and shall also direct Engineers when and where to throw the water, and see that they are changed at suitable times..."
Article 5 of the Constitution stated, "It shall be the duty of the Engineers to mange the pipes, under the direction of the Captain - they shall see that the Engine is ke-t in a good state of repair, and at all times in good order, and ready for use; - And should the Engine need repairing, they shall notify the President of the Corporation of the Town of Canton.
The By-laws of the Fire Company included sections on fines that would be asserted to members that did not report to a fire in a timely manner. Captains and Engineers would be fined two dollars and all other members wuld be fined fifty cents for not attending a fire, with a reasonable excuse.
An early tale of fires told the story of a bucket brigade supplying water to an engine. A few of the citizens decided that they were not going to help. The Engineer then turned the stream of water onto the lazy citizens until they were thoroughly drenched. No one refused to help with the bucket brigades for some time after that.
Canton's next engine was a suction engine named the Rescue. Rescue Fire Company No.1 was formed soon after the engine was delivered in 1855. the major difference between this engine and the previous engines was that a suction hose connected to the engine could be lowered into a cistern instead of requiring citizens to convey water to the Engine's tank. theis Engine was a hand drawn engine and still required firefighters and citizens to pull it to the fire. The first two Captains of this Company were R. Allison Dunbar and Thomas W. Saxton. It was reported in 1859 that the engine house was at the northeast corner of Poplar and Eighth.
In 1856, Canton purchased another suction engine named the Washington. the Washington Fire Company No. 2 was then formed. The engine house was located at the northeast corner of Poplar and Eighth. Christioan Oberly was the Captain of this Company and was known for his well drilled Company. His Company was made up of mostly German immigrants. This Company won many awards and medals for its abilitiel to spray water and fight fire.
In 1857 another suction engine was purchased. It was named the Little Stark and thus the Stark Fire Company No. 3 was formed. The engine house was located at the zsouthwest corner of Fifth and Walnut. The first captain of this Company was the late Z.P. Bowen. The Stark was the last of the hand drawn fire engines that was purchased.
There was a lot of competition between the early Canton fire companies. Even though these firefighters volunteered their time they took good care of their engines and showed a lot of pride in their companies. Dress parades and pumping competitions were a big part of the early fire companies.
William Kuhns wrote in his book Memories of old Canton about a story that he had heard when fire companies competed at fires. The story was about a fire that both the Rescue and Washington Companies were racing to. The Washington Company arrived first at the scene of the fire and began pumping water on the fire. The Rescue Company arrived soon after and found a private cistern that they could pump from. The fire was soon out and both companies then turned their hoses on the other " and a grand time is had by all, especially the townsfolk standing out of range."
On December 5, 1859, an ordinance was passed which established fire wardens and property guards. It was the fire warden's duty to "assume chief command in taking measures for the extinguishment of such fire; and the safety of the place." John Patton was elected as First Fire Warden, Louis Miller as Second Fire Warden, Jonathan G. Listers as Third Fire Warden , and James Saxton as Fourth Fire Warden. Fire Wardens were appointed in this manner because there were too many people at fires giving orders which made things very confusing. Property guards were also established under this ordinance. It was their duty to go to the place of the fire and remove any possessions that might be in danger of being damaged by the fire. They were responsible for guarding the property. The first property guards elected were Louis W. Buckius and Peter Trump.
An ordinance was passed on January 2, 1860, which established Canton's first hook and ladder company. This ordinance provided for a company of twenty to thirty men to take charge of the city's hooks and ladders. When enough men were enlisted to establish the company a Captain and two Lieutenants would be elected for a term of one year. The exact time of when this company was established is not known but it has been referred to as the "Dunbar Hook and Ladder Company." On December 10, 1860, Chief Engineer Patton wrote a letter to the City Council regarding the hook and ladder company. In this letter he stated the he had visited Cleveland in search of a hose carriage. He noted the hose carriage had already been sold but it was no better than the hose carriages which sere being made in Canton. Th Chief Engineer then recommended that the mechanics of Canton build a hose carriage as well as new hooks and ladders.
As Canton's fire companies began to progress so did the methods of which to fight fires. The early engines usually had a nozzle mounted on the engine as well as a discharge that a hose and nozzle could be attached to. The suction engines required the engine to be placed close to the cistern or body of water that it would pump from. If the building on fire was not close to the cistern then a hose and nozzle would have to be used to put water on the fire. As technology progressed in this industrial city, buildings were being built all over the city. This brought about the need for hose companies.
Hose companies were comprised of upwards of ten men who would run to their hose house when a fire alarm was sounded. They would then make two lines and pull their hose cart to the location of the fire where they would connect to the engine and continue on to the building on fire. These hose carts were usually a round spool with two large wheels on it. The wheels were as tall as six feet in some cases. Nozzles and spanner wrenches, a tool used to tighten and loosen hose couplings, were also carried on these carts. Upwards of three hundred feet of leather jacketed hose was carried. The hose cart was designed so that it could easily be pulled up steps and hills.
Canton's first hose company was probably Hose Company No. 3, which was established around 1859 and accompanied the "Stark" to fires. Due to a gap of twenty years in fire department records, it is difficult to say when the hose companies were established and exactly when they were disbanded. The Canton Fire Department had at least eight hose companies. Each hose company had one or two hose carts. The following hose companies operated in Canton: Resuce Hose Co. No.1, Washington Hose Co. No.2, Wideawake Hose Co. No. 3, Washington Hose Co. No. 4, Steamer Hose Co. No. 5 (established in 1868), Eagle Hose Co. No.6, Relief Hose Co. No. 7, and Buckeye Hose Co. No. 8.
In January 1868, a disastrous fire in the Cassily block destroyed five businesses including a tailor and clothing store, two dry goods stores, and two boot and shoe stores. Louis Schaefer, owner of the new opera house, pushed city council to purchase a new steam engine. Within three weeks he was given authority to buy a horse drawn Amoskeag steam engine for $4,500.00. A new horse drawn hose carriage and new hose were also needed if the steam engine was going to work effectively. Even though the city council was not happy about having to make another purchase they chose to authorize Mr. Schaefer to make the additional purchases.
On May 3, 1868, the Amoskaeg steam engine was delivered by rail to the City. There were many people present, even at the rail yard. The steamer was polished up on her first day and tested the second day. She was referred to as "Canton No. 1" and the "Schaefer", due to the large part that Louis Schaefer played in purchasing her. Soon after her first test it was very evident that a better water source was needed other than just cisterns. The steamer could empty a cistern in just a matter of minutes. The dilemma soon gave Louis Schaefer another job.
Louis Schaefer, Jacob Hawk and Daniel Worley were appointed on a committee to study a new water works for the City of Canton. Louis Schaefer visited the water works in both Philadelphia and New York. He estimated that the City would need $40,000.00 for this project. A levy to tax real and personal property to provide a $50,000.00 loan for the project was passed. It was established that the source of water would me Meyers Lake. A water works was built along with a system of hydrants for the steamer to connect to.
The delivery of the steamer and hose carriage marked the beginningof Canton's horse drawn fire engine era and the decline of hand drawn hose companies. The hand drawn hose companied continued until sometime around the 1890's when most of these companies were replaced by horse drawn hose wagons and chemical carts.
The three horses which pulled the steamer and hose carriage worked for the road department when they weren't working for the Fire Department. George DeWalt was in charge of the horses and would use the horses for hauling and street scraping, since the roads were not yet paved. When the alarm bell at the fire house rung, George would unhitch the horsesm ride on one of them and lead the other two back to the station. George would then hitch two of the horses to the steamer and take off for the fire. Meanwhile, another fireman would have ignited the fire already in the fire-box and then climbed onto the back step. The thrid fireman would arrive at the station, hitch the third horse to the hose carriage and then speed off to the fire.
On January 14, 1869, on ordinance was passed which related to the fire alarm system and domestic telegraph. This system provided for a method of telling the firefighters which alarm box had been pulled when there was a fire. The telegrapgh operator would strike fifteen rapid blows followed by the box number and repeat this three times. Other governing rules were included in this ordinance to regulate the telegraph used by the fire department.
In 1872. a group of thirty five men were organized which were known as the "fire police." When the fire alarm was sounded the "fire police" would run to the fire station to find out where the fire was. They would then push a cart, which had a reel of rope on it, to the fire. The rope was then stretched around the building on fire to keep back onlookers. It was their responsibility to guard the possessions removed from the burning building by the firemen. The "fire police" continued there organization until a night in 1878 at a saloon fire. A fireman removed a keg of whiskey from the burning saloon and refused to give it over to the "fire police." This started a large argumant and the "fire police" disbanded soon after this event.
The year 1876 marked a new era for the Canton Fire Department when it was reorganized. During this same year A.L. Dunbar became the first paid fire chief. In 1882 the first Station #1 was built at Third Street and Court Ave S.W. It wasn't until 1883 when three paid firefighters were hired. These first paid firefighters were George Wolf, engineer, John Leininger, assistant engineer and Henry Newman. In 1884, four firefighters were hired including R.O. Mesnar, who would later become Chief. Previous to this time the fire department consisted of only minutemen, who would leave work or home to fight fires. The minutemen remained in existence until 1910.
It was sometime around 1877 when a new hand drawn hook and ladder carriage was purchased. In 1878, the "Robinson Hook and Ladder Company" was formed by the help and persistence of Edward Weber. The hook and ladder carriage was heavier and larger than the first hook and ladder carriage. A photograph of this compny still exists which shows the carriage along with the twenty one members of this company.
In 1889 an Ahrens horse drawn steamer was delivered tot he fire department. It was named the "Daniel Worley." It is believed to have acquired this name due the large part that Daniel Worley played in the formation of the Canton water works. The "Daniel Worley" was last used around the mid 1920's. It is still in existence in Canton at the McKinley Museum, where it is on permanent loan. In 1996, the museum built a firehouse for the steamer, where it now sits.
There was an addition of five firefighters in 1888 with a total of twelve paid firefighters and eighty five minutemen. Station #2 was first built in 1892, at Second Street and Gibbs N.E., along wiht Station #3, at Navarre Rd. and Court Ave S.W. Also during the same year, there were a total of seventeen paid firefighters and sixty nine minutemen. Station #4 was built in 1893, at Tenth Streete and Dewalt N.W., along with Station #5, at Dueber Avenue and Second St. S.W. There was a total of twenty six paid firefighters and fifty three minutemen in 1893. In 1894, Canton received it first aerial ladder. The two hiik and ladders before this time were just hand drawn carriages used to carry ladders, hooks and equipment. The new aerial ladder was not only the first horse drawn ladder truck, but now firefighters could climb ther permanently mounted ladder without haveing to remove a ladder.
In 1900, the Canton Fire Department added Station #6 at Eighth Street and Thompson S.E. in 1902 there was a total of thirty nine paid firefighters and thirty four minutemen. Station #7 was built in 1907, at Mahoning Avenue and Harrisburg Rd N.E., along with Station #8, at Dueber Avenue and Fifteenth Street N.W. A new station #1 was built in 1908 at the smae location as its previous house and had five bays in it.
The year of 1912 marked another era in the Canton Fire Department with the delivery of its first motorized fir engine. It was a robinson Combination Hose and Chemical Wagon and was designated as "Squad No. 1" It only took a total of four years for the conversion from horse drawn to motorized fire apparatus to be complete. In four years the department had purchased a total of ten pieces of motorized fire apparatus.
A two-platoon system was begun in 1920 which provided firefighters one day off in seven. In 1921 a new Station #2 was built and opened, at the corner of Third Street and Monroe N.E. There were a total of 101 firefighters in 1929. In 1930 Station #3 was remodeled. New stations were built in 1931 for Station #4, at Cleveland Avenue and 25th Street N.W., and Station #5, at West Tuscarawas Street and Raff Road N.W. During the depression years the number of firefighters was trimmed back to seventy eight as well as three stations were closed. As the economy began to slowly bounce back, the firefighter manpower started to get strong agoan with a total of eighty five firefighters.
During the war years there were a total of 108 firefighters and 168 auxiliary firemen. In 1943, Station #9 was built and opened, at the corner of Market Avenue and 19th Street N.E.
In May1949, the Canton Fire Prevention Bureau was established. Captain Kenneth Ash was put in charge of the bureau and firefighter Robert T. Wilson assisted him. The first members of the Fire Prevention Bureau were sent to Cleveland and Akron to observe their fire prevention bureaus. On December 1, 1949, the new office of the bureau was completed at Station #2. A master card filling system was implemented in order to list every business and apartment house in the city. the members of the bureau gave lectures on fire prevention as well as performed inspection within the city. In 1950, Karl Lehr was added to the bureau and all three inspectors were sent to Ohio State University for the fire inspectors school.
On September 16, 1965, Pump Company #10 was established. Company #10 was located at Station #4 and utilized a 1937 Ahrens Fox 750 g.p.m. Pumper.
A Fire Training Academy was organized in August of 1971 by Assistant Chief Kilcullen and Chief Waddell. The purpose of the academy was to make sure that all firefighters are properly trained in use of regularly used equipment as well as equipment that might not be used on a regular basis. The academy also provided cadets with the state mandated 160 hour course that was necessary to be completed in a cadets first year. Currently the training required is 240 hours.
A new station #10 was built in 1982. During the same year, the department was visited by ISO and had its classification changed from Class 4 to Class 3. This classification is what determined insurance rates for home and business owners. In 1983 there was a major reorganization of the fire department which eliminated three engine companies abnd established a third ladder company. there was another restructuring of the department in 1993. This restructuring provided the department wiht 1 Chief, 2 Division Chiefs, 3 Battalion Chiefs, 31 Captains, 132 Firefighters (43 were also Paramedics), 2 Mechanics and 3 Secretaries.
The year 1997 not only marked the Canton FIre Department's 175th Anniversary, but it also marks some significant changes. The year began with the bidding of two construction projects including major renovations at Central Station and a new Station #2. The City of Canton also authorized there to be a total of 182 firefighters.
The firefighter of today has to be a master of many skills as well as have a background in fighting many different types of fires. As our technology has increased so has the possible types of hazards that a firefighter must be aware of. As a new Cadet enters the Canton Fire Department they are required to complete within their first year a 240 hour firefighter course, 120 hour EMT-Basic course and the 7 month EMT-Paramedic course.
It has been many years since the City of Canton first provided for a fire department. Since that time there have been a lot of monumental changes in the department. The one thing that has remained constant all of these years is that there has always been men and women who were and are willing to give his or her life in order to protect our lives and property. When a Canton Fire Department vehicle pulls up to your house or business you can be sure that the men and women on that crew will do everything that they can to help you, your family or co-workers.
Copied from the Canton Fire Department 175th Anniversary Book