Posts Tagged Carl Harms

Evanston Fire Department History – Part 11

Another installment about History of Evanston Fire Department

Annual EFD salaries in 1901 ranged from $1,500 (Fire Marshal) to $960 (Engineer) to $780 (Captain and Assistant Engineer) to $720 (Fireman). All company members worked 24 hours on duty followed by a 12-hour furlough. A fireman absent during a scheduled tour of duty was not paid, no matter the reason for the absence (illness, injury received on duty, or furlough). Meal breaks were taken at home or in a nearby restaurant.

At 11:20 AM on a bitter cold  Sunday December 15, 1901, and a fire was reported at the Hoyt Flats at 1301 Judson Ave. All residents were evacuated safely, but the Evanston Fire Department was unable to control the blaze, so assistance was requested from the Chicago Fire Department. Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze, as fireman Al Hofstetter of Engine Co. 1 sustained a sprained shoulder after falling from a ladder, fireman John Steward of Hose Co. 2 suffered frostbite to both feet, and fireman Charles Harvey of Chicago F. D. Truck Co. 25 sustained multiple bruises after falling from a frozen ladder. $15,000 damage to the flats was caused before the fire was extinguished, making it one of the top ten highest damage estimates from a fire in Evanston’s history up to that point in time.      

August 1902 saw Evanston firefighters Al Hofstetter, John Eckberg, Ed Johnson, and William Pruter and EFD horses “Bob” and “Dan” return triumphantly to Evanston after winning the prestigious “Firemen’s Competition” in Blue Island. The Evanston Military Band met the champs on Main Street, and, after a victory parade up Chicago Avenue, Davis Street area merchants hosted a dinner for the victors at the Avenue House hotel. The firemen won the contest by driving a harnessed team (that would be Bob and Dan) 1/3 of a mile, leading-out 150 feet of hose line from the hose cart, connecting the hose to a hydrant and a nozzle to the lead, and throwing water, all in 18.2 seconds. The firefighters collected a $75 prize, and it was extra oats for Bob and Dan.
The Evanston Firemen’s Benevolent Association (EFBA) was chartered with the State of Illinois on November 5, 1902. For more than ten years — until the Evanston Firemen’s Pension Fund was fully funded in December 1915 — the EFBA was the main source of support for disabled Evanston firemen, and for the families of deceased firefighters. An EFBA benefit show was held each December through 1912, usually a vaudeville show, musical revue, or play.

The first benefit show in 1902 was a screening of the now-classic Edwin S. Porter silent film melodrama The Life of an American Firemen, and the final show in 1912 was a performance of a play called The Still Alarm, featuring several Evanston firemen and two beloved EFD horses named “Sharkey” and “Buttons.” (Besides biting the buttons off the clothing of anyone who might come near, “Buttons” could also turn on a water faucet by himself, a feat he performed in the play).

Beginning in 1903, the City of Evanston purchased life insurance for each member of he fire department that would pay a member $5 per month in case of disability or illness, with a $1,000 survivor benefit in case of death. 

From 1900 to 1904, the Evanston Fire Department doubled in size. Manpower was increased  from 14 in 1900 to 28 in 1904, and the number of horses increased from eight to 16, as one engine company, two truck companies, and one hose company were in service in three modern fire stations by 1903.  

February 15, 1903 (in particular) was a big day for the Evanston Fire Department. 

1. The new (rebuilt) $6,000, three-bay Fire Station #2 at 750 Chicago Avenue opened:
2.  Manpower at Station #2 was increased from three to six (a captain, a lieutenant, and four firemen), as Hose Co. 2 was reorganized as a truck company (Truck Co. 2); 
3. A Seagrave combination truck (a combined hook & ladder and chemical engine) was placed in service at Station #2;     
4. The 15-man Engine Co. 1 was split into two companies, as Truck Co. 1 was organized at Fire Station # 1; 
5. A captain, a lieutenant, an engineer, an assistant engineer, and five firemen were assigned to Engine Co. 1, and a captain, a lieutenant, and four firemen were assigned to Truck Co. 1, with Engine Co. 1 operating with the Ahrens steamer and a hose wagon, and Truck Co. 1 operating with the Davenport H&L and the Babcock chemical engine;
6. George Hargreaves was promoted to captain, joining Jack Sweeting, Carl Harms, and Carl Harrison as the EFD’s four company officers, and firemen Albert Hofstetter, Thomas Norman, and John Watson were promoted to lieutenant (assistant company officer).

Only Hose Co. 3 at Fire Station #3 continued as a three -man company (as they did until 1912), with just a captain and two firemen operating with a four-wheeled two-axle hose wagon. 

All EFD rigs — the steamer, the H&L, the chemical engine, the combination truck, the three hose wagons, and the chief’s buggy — had a two-horse hitch.   

From the outset, Truck Co. 1 gained a reputation as the “bad boys” of the Evanston Fire Department. One member of the company was fired by the Civil Service Board in 1904 after being convicted of insubordination, and three more members of the company were fired and another was suspended when they were discovered drinking alcohol on-duty at the firehouse. The man who was suspended but not fired did not deny he was intoxicated, but he claimed he had been drinking at home prior to reporting for work, and that he would never drink while on duty. 

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Evanston Fire Department history – Part 5

Final installment from Phil Stenholm 

Evanston’s first three full-time paid firefighters were hired in June 1888 at an annual salary of $480 per man. Jack Sweeting, who had been one of the part-timers since the previous December, plus newcomers Edward Murray and James Peck. This was preceded by most of the members of the part-time company resigned en masse the previous August in a dispute with Chief Harrison over the issues of financial compensation for firemen, plus poor sanitary and living conditions in the firehouse (paint shop).  This was the second job action by Evanston firefighters. The third was when Murray and Peck, two of the new full-time firemen, refused to spend 2/3 of their day patrolling the Davis Street business district in search of violations of the Fire Limits ordinance. Murray and Peck were summarily fired for insubordination, and were replaced by Andrew Carroll and W. V. Rake.

In 1893, the company moved into the new city hall at the northwest corner of Davis & Sherman, across the alley from the old paint shop, and then to the new Police/Fire Public Safety HQ facility at the northwest corner of Grove & Sherman in 1897.

The company at Station #1, known as Engine Co. 1 beginning in 1895, would continue to grow over the years, so much so that it was split into two companies (Engine Co. 1 and Truck Co. 1) in 1903. George Hargreaves was the first captain of Truck Co. 1, with nine firefighters assigned to each of the two companies by 1904. 

Meanwhile, volunteer fire companies were organized in South Evanston and in North Evanston.

The ten-man South Evanston Fire Company was organized by Christopher Molinelli, after he was appointed Village of South Evanston Fire Marshal on July 16, 1888. The Village of South Evanston was incorporated on January 14, 1873. The South Evanston Fire Company was equipped with a hand-drawn hose-cart built by Edison Salisbury & Company, and purchased by the Village of South Evanston in 1884, plus a hand-drawn hook & ladder wagon, and occupied the south end of the South Evanston Village Hall that was dedicated on September 5, 1888 at the northwest corner of Chicago & Madison.

The Village of South Evanston was annexed by the Village of Evanston in 1892 thus forming the new City of Evanston. The South Evanston Fire Company was disbanded by Evanston Fire Marshal Sam Harrison on June 6th and replaced by two full-time paid fireman operating a horse-drawn hose cart. Carl Harms was the first captain at Station #2, and he spent his entire 26-year career there. Ed Densmore, a member of the South Evanston Fire Company transferred to the Evanston Fire Department after the South Evanston Fire Company was disbanded.

The Evanston Police Department also occupied the former South Evanston Village Hall from 1892 to 1897, utilizing the facility as its South Precinct under the command of former South Evanston Police Chief Henry Mersch, who was given the title of captain in the EPD. The old South Evanston Village Hall, constructed as a combination village hall/firehouse/police station-jail back when South Evanston was its own village, was razed and rebuilt as a more-traditional (and useful) three-bay firehouse on the same site during 1902. It was completed in February 1903. 

The North Evanston Fire Company was organized and accepted for service with the Evanston Fire Department on October 1, 1888, as water-mains were extended into North Evanston. Unlike the Village of South Evanston, North Evanston was part of the Village of Evanston after being annexed by the Village of Evanston section by section over a number of years. It was never a separate incorporated village. The 13-man North Evanston Fire Company was strictly a volunteer/auxiliary unit that was created mainly to provide fire protection for the Central Street business district. They we’re equipped only with a hand-drawn hose cart stored at the C&NW RR Central Street train depot The company could not go very far.

The North Evanston Fire Company was disbanded on January 31, 1901, when Hose Co. 3, a horse-drawn hose cart and three full-time paid firefighters was organized at the brand new Fire Station # 3 at 2504 West Railroad Avenue (later known as Green Bay Road).  None of the members of the North Evanston Fire Company joined the EFD when the company was disbanded as the company consisted mainly of merchants and wealthy squires who would have had no interest in a firefighting career. S. C. “Carl” Harrison, Jr, the son of Chief Sam Harrison, was the first captain assigned to Station # 3. Carl Harrison would later serve as Chief Fire Marshal, from December 14, 1905 until March 9, 1914. 

The full history starts HERE, then Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

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