The first established firefighting organization in Farmington dates back to 1855 with the organization of two volunteer firefighting units, the Hercules Hose Company No. 1 and the Rough and Ready Farmington Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. It was common during this time for multiple companies to exist within the same town or jurisdiction. Each company would have its own specialty, such as a hose company that would put water on the fire, or a hook and ladder company that would perform rescues and salvage personal property and effects. Each company would maintain its own roster and conducts its own business exclusive of the other companies. However, all companies would respond and work together at a fire.
On October, 10 1855 the Farmington Village Precinct Wardens appointed a committee of 18 men to form a company called the Farmington Hose Co. Each man was to bring 3 members to the next meeting, a process that was continued until the roster reached 65 members. The next meeting was held at the Central St. shop of George E. Roberts, and all meetings thereafter were held at the engine house. The committee a constitution with bylaws and named the new company the Hercules Engine Co. The first Foreman was Charles C. Whitehouse, the first Clerk was James B. Edgerly, and the first Treasurer was Charles L. Hartwell.
Members of the Hercules Hose Co. No. 1 pose in front of a hand pump parked in front of old Town Hall
Members of the Hercules Hose Co. No. 1 again posed with the hand powered pump in front of the old Town Hall. [Date Unknown]
The Hercules Hose Co. No. 1 at a fire on Main Street near where Farmington Country Club currently sits. [Date Unknown]
By 1857, interest in membership was beginning to dwindle and the Hercules Engine Co. was having a hard time maintaining adequate staffing levels. In March of 1958, the membership voted to prohibit smoking in the Engine House during meetings. In June of 1859, the Hercules Engine Co. was officially disbanded and the money in the company treasury was disbursed among the members.
However, in August of that same year, the Hercules Engine Company re-organized with a membership of 40 men under the direction of Harry S. Parker as Foreman. The company soon voted to purchase uniforms; blue jackets and shirts with grey pants that sported red, white, and blue trim. The members decided on three-cornered (tricorn) hats to go with the uniforms.
The first fire noted in the company's records is dated September 3, 1861.
In February of 1862, the Hercules Engine Co. held it's first dance, and in January of 1867 they held the ir first supper and ball, which became an annual event. In 1870, the Hercules purchased pictures for display in their hall, which are believed to be the Currier and Ives lithographs currently on display in the new Farmington Public Safety Building.
From Left to Right: Ali Gard, Jim Smith, Ernest Gilman, Fred Bowley, John Knox, Howard Dickie, Leon Wentworth, George Perkins. Aubury King, Frank Kimball, Bert Currier, Caroll Kimball, Frank Haynes, Will Hurd, Charlie Whitehouse, Walt Pulufer, John Carson, Ira Colman, Capt. Ralph Gibbs
The men of the Hook and Ladder company assembled, in uniform, in front of their apparatus. Presumably for an Independence Day celebration.
Photograph of the Farmington Hook and Ladder Company. The date and location of this photograph is currently unknown.
The first mention of the Farmington Hook and Ladder Co. is from April 8th, 1873, when the two companies agreed to both come out once each month for practice. Unfortunately, the records of the Farmington Hook and Ladder company were destroyed in a fire that burned the Barker-Wilson block on January 9th, 1910.
Records show that the members of the two companies were sometimes paid for their services. In fact, an entry found in a personal diary of one of the members indicates that on April 6th, 1903, the members of the Farmington Hook and Ladder Co. were paid $9.50 for the year. That $9.50 is equivalent to approximately $271.08 in 2018 according to the inflation rates published in the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.
Photograph of the Hook and Ladder wagon (date unk.)
On February 10, 1875, a fire started in the Elm's House, on the West side of Central Street, with a wind blowing a gale and the temperature at 12 below zero. The hotel, the stable, and the shop of Charles Thurston (in which Thurston Millinery Workshop was located), the Flanders Last Factory, the dwelling house & stable & out buildings of Nat Roberts, the house &stable of John Chesley, the Congregational Church, the California House tenements, and the front office of Levi Pinkham's Boot and Shoe Store were all lost. During the late 1800's and early 1900's it was common for multiple buildings or entire city blocks to be lost to fires starting in a single building.
On January 9, 1910, a fire damaged or destroyed several buildings surrounding the town square. The BArker-Wilson block was completely destroyed. The Hall and Thayer block across the street (now known as Hussey block, where Palmer Hardware is located) suffered damage in the fire. The Barker Block (corner of Main and Central) housed the Post Office, Jim Kelly's Market, Perley Bennet's Clothing Store, the Knights of Pythias Lodge rooms, as well as the armory. Also destroyed or damaged were units in the Wilson Block, which housed Willson's General Store, American Express Co., a millinery store, and two tenaments above the stores.
An 1898 account of the 1875 Central St. Fire.