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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The "Fighting Fire With ... Well, Very Little" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Visiting with Tom who is a volunteer at the Lititz, PA Moravian Church Square Archives & Museum.  After viewing a variety of historical items we walked into the room that held one of the first two fire engines in the town of Lititz.  The first organized fire protection in the town was started by the early Moravian settlers who called Lititz home.  The town elders had decreed that the "Pottery" (fireplace) should be built on the south side of the street in all homes so that prevailing northwest wind would blow sparks from the oven away from the houses.  Also said that live coals were not to be carried from one home to another in an open container and every family should have their own tinder box.  A household fire bucket was provided and proper procedures for sweeping and burning out of chimneys was noted.  And lastly, the smoking of cigars on the street would not be tolerated.  In April of 1790 the church authorities solicited donations for the purchase of a fire engine.  The cost of an engine was estimated to be about 70 to 80 English pounds or $90 to $105.  It was decided to order the engine from Moravian Brother Wahlin Neweld, a famous engine maker in Germany.  It eventually was completed by Brother Schmuz in August of 1792 and was shipped "by the grace of God" to New York along with the fire hose in September.  
Engine "Assistance" had an engine made in Germany
while the wooden parts made locally by Peter Getz.
It arrived in New York in January of 1793 and was then transported to Philadelphia the following month and finally to Lititz.  The engine was named the "Assis- tance."  When the engine was received in Lititz, it was sent to Peter Getz of nearby Lancaster who manufactured wooden parts to fit the engine. When he delivered it to Lititz, it was decided that it was too heavy to use so Martin Shreiner, a clockmaker in Lancaster, rebuilt the wooden unit and it finally went into service in 1795.
The nameplate on this fire engine says "Friendship" which
you will see isn't the name given to the engine.  I read that
the name plates somehow got changed on the two engines.
It wasn't until 1838 that a fire company was established by the same name shortly after a devastating fire which destroyed several buildings and threatened the entire Moravian village.  Shortly afterward a second engine was ordered and named "Friendship."  Both the engines were pumped by hand and fed by a line of helpers who passed buckets of water  from person to person 
from nearby water supplies to the engine.  Finally in 1855 both engines, which were both purchased by members of the Moravian Church, were combined into a new fire company that also carried the name of "Friendship."  
This is a photo I took of "Friendship" which is on display
nearby at the Lititz Mutual Insurance Company.
Both these engines are now on display; one being in the Moravian Archives where I am presently visiting while the other is in the Lititz Mutual Insurance Company in the center of Lititz.  I hope my photos will give you an idea what it must have been like to have to fight a fire using equipment which was considered the best of it's time. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The next four photos are from "Assistance" which was the first fire engine made for the Moravian Congregation in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  This shows the top of the engine where a fitting comes off the engine.  The water would be pumped to this part and a hose could be hooked to the arm to fight the fire.
This plaque is on one side of the center wooden unit.
Wooden wheels were made with metal rims for travel on the roads.  
Along the sides of the engine are wooden box units as you see here.  The fire crew would use buckets to pass water to the engine where it would be dumped into this area and the engine would force it to the top where the hose is attached. 
This photo shows how the engine would work.  Men on both sides would "pump" using the metal arms that come out of the engine while the fellow on the top is pointing the hose, with water coming from it, at the fire.
This is the second engine purchased by the Moravian congregation.  It is on display at the Lititz Mutual Insurance Company in the center of town and is marked Merrick &Agnew, Philada.  This definitely is the second of the two engines purchased.
Example of the water buckets used by the bucket brigade to pour water into the side units of the fire engine.
Even though this is the second engine, it carries the name of the initial engine purchased.  Somehow the name plates got switched over the years of use.  


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