1881 Smethport Hose Company

photo credit: Found on Ebay
See location in 2002

Located on Fulton Street was the old Smethport Hose Company. In 1960, the fire hall was moved to Nelson Street where it remains today.  The old fire department was used as a fire department headquarters until they demolished the building.  In 1973, the old building was demolished when they had completed the new headquarters.

McKean County Miner
Thursday, March 5, 1908

An Organization that is a Credit to the Borough
Which was largely Attended-Some Interesting Facts About the Career of the Company.

The Smethport Hose Company enjoyed its annual banquet and dance at the hose house last Thursday evening. The members brought their wives, sweethearts, sisters, etc., and it is estimated that nearly 150 people were in attendance.
The large dining room was filled to overflowing several times before all were served, but there was excellent service for all, and the collation was composed of delicioius viands of satisfactory variety.
Chadwick's orchestra was in attendance and furnished music for the dancers who enjoyed themselves in the ballroom until an early hour Friday morning. For those who wished more quiet amusements the parlor was at their disposal for cards and other games.
The program issued on this occasion was a neat and interesting booklet, illustrated with the cuts which accompany this article, filled with reading matter concerning the company contributed by various persons, and attractive advertising. The typographical work on the program was accomplished by Roy Stark and Webb Hopper, two members of the company who are printers, and it was issued from the MINER office.
The following committees had the affair in charge: W. C. Stark, chaiman; J. L. Morrison, entertainment; Earl Hafner, dance; F. H. Hungiville, program; C. B. Corwin, Joseph McCabe, J. E. Mundy, Rex Stark, Leo Digel, banquet; F. W. Brownell, Guy H. McCoy, R. E. Burdick, reception. These gentlemen and their able assistants deserve much credit for making the affair a complete success.


In looking back over the history of this company the fact is brought home that it is an excellent organization which had done much for the welfare of Smethport. It has always maintained a high degree of efficiency, and although upon various occasions having to labor under difficulties caused by inadequate equipment, low water pressure or disabled hydrants, it has always given a very good account of itself when in active service.
Some of its performances can certainly be pointed to with pride. One in particular that has often been favorably mentioned was the fire that gutted the wooden building on Main street on the site now occupied by the Rubin building. That a great conflagration did not result at that time is truly remarkable, and due entirely to the fact that the firemen were promptly on the scene and made a skillful and tireless fight. These same words will apply to the fires which at different times threatened to destroy the buildings occupied by G. A. Denning and J. F. Rooney. In all three cases these fires were in wooden buildings adjoining other structures of similar material and in every case the fire was confined to the building in which it started. A dozen other examples of this kind could be cited.
Great work was accomplished at the time of the Bennett House fire, the first big blaze that the company was called upon to combat. Another shining example of efficiency was the work at the time Will Taylor's building, on the site now occupied by Holmes & Gilfillan's establishment, was burned. A sleet storm was raging, accompanied by a gale of wind, but the fire was confined to the destruction of the one building, although a dozen others were threatened.
From that time up to the present the list contains some destructive fires such as the extract works, saw mill fires, the Baptist church, Grand Central hotel, Kittredge opera house, Purtle's big buildings and Palmer's livery barn on Water street, the Catholic church and several others, but in every instance it is plainly seen that the excellent work of the firemen prevented more extensive damage.
The following sketches are taken from the program used at Thursday night's banquet:

The Smethport Hose Company was organized in the autumn of 1881. Nearly all of the business and professional men of the boroughs were greatly interested in its organization and were enrolled as is members. On Saturday, Dec. 8, 1881, the first meeting for the purpose of electing officers and adopting a constitution and by-laws was held at the Grand Central Hotel and the following officers were elected: Sheridan Gorton, president; W. F. Specht, vice president; Geo. R. Brownell, secretary; M. L. Armstrong, treasurer; W. P. Walsh, foreman; H. L. Wilson, 1st assistant foreman; John Russ, 2nd assistant foreman. The first fire to which the company was called was on Feb. 23, 1882, in the office of Geo. R. Moore's livery stable, a small building near the Bennett House barn. The fire was quickly subdued. The next fire and the first of consequence which occupied the attention of the company was on the morning of Tuesday, Apirl 11, 1882. The hose boys were enjoying a dance at the opera house, when the alarm of fire sounded, about 1:30 a.m. In less than a minute there was no one left at the dance. The hotel known as the Bennett House was in flames. The fire was not conquered until about 6 a.m. Considerable evidence was found which showed the fire to be of incendiary origin. Later in the year the hotel was set on fire, and this time the effort to destroy the old landmark was successful. At this fire the building across the streeet, west of the hotel occupied by William Haskill as a general store and in which was the banking office of Henry Hamlin, and the law offices of Sterrett & Rose was burned. Neither of these buildings have ever been replaced. Many of the charter members of the company are still carried on the rolls as exempt firemen. Their places in the active duties have been supplied by younger men, some of whom are sons of the old memberes, and many of the present active members were not born at the time of the company's organization. This sketch would be more satisfactory to the writer could he give the names of the principal officers for the first 12 years, but the first minute book cannot be found and he does not like to rely entirely upon his memory; but he does, however, remember that Fred W. Brownell, C. S. King, B. L. Knapp, S. J. Gifford, James McGuier, T. F. Richmond, D. M. Brasted, S. E. Bell and others have held the office of either President or Foreman of the company, and some of them both offices. That the work of this company has been of great benefit to the borough, no one can deny. It is still a very strong organization, with officers bent on making this association one of the leading companies in the county. The citizens of the borough have been liberal in their support of our fire organization and we confidently hope that they will continue to help us, as we believe the company is deserving.

B. L. Knapp of the Smethport Hose company is probably the oldest volunteer firemen in active service in the United States. He was 78 years old in January and has been a volunteer fireman for 60 years. His first service was with the Roxbury, Mass., fire department in 1848, he being then 18 years of age. Later he served in Boston, Mass., and in other places in that state, also in Maine. Away back in the days when Chicago had a volunteer fire department Mr. Knapp served in a hose company in that city, and has been a member of other companies in Illinois. When the Smethport Hose company was organized in 1881, Mr. Knapp was a charter member and has been in continuous service with his company ever since. He has always taken an absorbing interest in everything pertaining to fire-fighting work, and during his career has seen many destructive conflagrations, has worked hard and faithfully, and has certainly done his share in combating the flames. In his younger days Mr. Knapp was a clever amateur athlete and sprinter and has been a member of various hose running teams during his life. The last race in which he participated was as a member of Smethport Hose company and he gave a good account of himself, although close to sixty years of age. During his membership with Smethport Hose Company he has held nearly every office in the organization, some of them several times. At the conclusion of a term as President some years ago he was presented with a valuable gold badge by the members and he prized the token very highly. He is perhaps more closely identified with the history of the company than any living member; he takes great pride in its welfare and is always ready to do his best for the organization. Mr. Knapp is also a member of the Northwestern Volunteer Firemen's Association.

No history of Smethport Hose company is complete without particular mention of M. L. Armstrong. Ever since the organization of the company Mr. Armstrong has held the office of Treasurer. For twenty-seven consecutive terms he has been elected to this position, which is the highest proof of the esteem in which he is held by the members. It is safe to say that during Mr. Armstrong's life-and we all hope it will be a long one-Smethport Hose company will have no other Treasurer.

Guy McCoy, president; Thomas Cole, vice president; Fred Hungiville, secretary; M. L. Armstrong, treasurer; J. W. Waite, foreman; C. B. Corwin, 2nd asst.; J. E. Mundy, S. S. Fry, B. L. Knapp, trustees.
Exempts-members who have served five years or more-M. L. Armstrong, J. H. Beiver, F. W. Brownell, A. S. Burdick, R. E. Burdick, D. M. Brasted, H. L. Backus, Peter Conley, C. B. Corwin, Burg Chadwick, E. T. Daly, Wm. Digel, S. S. Fry, S. J. Gifford, Warley Gifford, L. D. Gifford, Sheridan Gorton, Sr., Sheridan Gorton, Jr., Rex Gorton, F. D. Gallup, W. H. Hungerford, B. L. Knapp, N. H. Knapp, Norman Keefer, Frank Kerns, C. S. King, Fred Lyman, Wm. McCammon, James McGuier, T. H. Purtle, A. H. Pierce, Sr., A. H. Pierce, Jr., Dennis Quinlisk, John Rooney, Samuel Ramer, N. D. Ramer, F. C. Sartwell, Washington Stark, F. J. Vickery, W. P. Walsh.
Actives-members who haver served less than five years-Lloyd Armstrong, E. E. Andrews, Wm. Andorfer, Harold Backus, Edward Bates, S. E. Bell, Thos. Cole, John Conley, C. C. Choate, John Chapman, Ross Colegrove, Leo Digel, John Digel, Frank Denning, Frank Dunbar, Raymond J. Day, C. B. Eckert, B. T. Garlick, M. S. Geary, W. H. Gallup, J. M. Hornlein, Fred H. Hungiville, Harry Haley, Earl Hafner, Webb Hopper, Russel Lindsley, J. E. Mundy, J. L. Morrison, Guy McCoy, Joseph McCabe, Harold McCarty, W. A. Ostrander, Frank Purtle, Fred Purtle, H. S. Rubin, E. W. Strong, W. Roy Stark, W. C. Stark, Rex Stark, John W. Waite, Fred Wendell, Edward Walker, F. P. Whalen, R. C. Wetenhall.

This Association has been granted a charter by the courts of Pennsylvania, and was fully organized on Friday, February 14th, 1908. The following Board of Directors was elected to serve until Jan. 1, 1909: J. W. Waite, president; E. W. Strong, vice president; F. H. Hungiville, secretary; M. L. Armstrong, treasurer; Sheridan Gorton and Guy McCoy. The object of this Association is to provide for and maintain a fund, from the monthly dues of its members, from legacies, bequests, gifts, and there resources, for the relief support and burial of members who may be crippled or killed, or who may be prevented from attending to their usual occupation or calling, on account of chronic ailments caused through exposure or accident while doing public fire duty, and for the purpose of placing on the pension list such memberes as may be retired from the fire department on account of permanent injuries or disaability caused through accident, or by term of service, and for the widows, orphans and dependant parents of members who may be killed or die from injuries received while in the discharge of their duty as firemen, and for such expenses necessary for the maintenance of the Relief Association.

Location in 2002

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