ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Fire Department






Additional Segments   1900-1999  

Additional Segments   2000-2023  



Established 1857





150-year history book now available in ebook format



Early badge [of John 'Put' [“Putt”] Reichardt (Reichert)


The Watertown Fire Department: 1857-2007


Front cover                         Back cover 

Index to book

Review of book


492 pages, $19.95 + $7 s/h if applicable


The 150 year history of the Watertown Fire Department is now available.  This comprehensive reference book is filled with images and details on the history of the department, fully indexed and also documents the major fires that have occurred in the city.


All proceeds derived from the sale of this book go to benefit the Watertown Historical Society.  Those wishing to order copies, which make fine gifts, may do so by sending their check of this amount to the Watertown Historical Society, 919 Charles St., Watertown, WI  53094.





___ 1847 __________________


A new brewery of Mr. Jacob Hoeffner took fire early on Saturday evening last.  Upon the alarm being given, there was a very prompt and general turn-out on the part of our citizens; but before they had time to reach the spot, the flames were subdued without any serious injury having been sustained.


If the cry of "Fire!" is justly startling to a community having a large and well-disciplined fire department, what should it be to one whose only means of defense against the devouring elements consists in a few hooks and ladders and a mere handful of rickety pails, without a regular organization for the use of either?  We must acknowledge that we have the worst of fears for the safety of our village.  As a general thing, our buildings are not only of the most combustible materials, but probably nine-tenths of them have no other stove chimneys, many of which are pierced in the garret by three or four different pipes.  The ventilated condition of most of these garrets would admit of a spark being soon fanned into a flame; and a flame once kindled, how could it be conquered, so long as it found material upon which to riot, with no engine and no concerted effort to battle it?  We would call the attention of our citizens to this subject.


We do hope they will not allow winter to set in, without having taken additional measures to protect themselves against a fire.   WC  Dec. 10, 1847


___ 1853 __________________


On the morning of Thursday last, a blacksmith shop occupied by Mr. Hackett in the 3d ward, opposite Owens Hotel, took fire and was burnt to the ground with its contents.  Mr. Hackett loses all his tools.  This is a loss which he is ill able to bear, as he is a poor man, having no means to replace them.  We hope our citizens will show their liberality to Mr. Hackett, in placing him in a position to do business again.   Watertown Weekly Register


___ 1854 __________________


THAT BELL !  Last spring a subscription was circulated in this city to procure a bell for the First Congregational Church but for the last six weeks we have heard nothing of it.  A good bell is much needed.  One that could be used not only for religious purposes, but as a time regulator, for fire alarms, etc., would be a credit to our city.  We hope our citizens may give this project all needed encouragement.  When we saw the subscription list half the amount necessary to purchase a superior bell had heed subscribed, and we could think of many prominent citizens whose names were not down.  In conclusion we can only say, Good citizens, see that we have that bell !        Watertown Chronicle


___ 1855 __________________

05 20       Vulcan Iron Works destroyed   WD


07 12       Anson Brewery fire   WD


07 19       Slaughter house fire  J. H. & J. Martin   WD



1857        Watertown Fire Department Established



___ 1858 __________________

07 15       Rent for engine house paid Jacob Jussen    WD


11 18       Examine all stove pipes and buildings by fire wardens   WD


___ 1859 __________________

01 27 &

05 05       Rent for engine room, paid F. Gebhardt, $6.50, [Pioneer fire dept] engine room 1 month    WD


05 26       Rent of engine room, contract with Peter Seibel for   WG



Whereas, Edward Johnson, James McHugh, John Campbell, and their associates, have petitioned the Common Council to be formed into a Fire Company, and also have the Fire Engine belonging to the city placed in their charge [a pumper had been obtained in 1858], Therefore


Resolved, That the said Edward Johnson, John Campbell, James McHugh, and their associates, be and they are hereby formed into a Fire Company, to be known at No. 1, and that the engine belonging to the city be delivered to the said Company.  [Would become Pioneer Engine Company No. 1]   WD



This is the name of the new Fire Company that has recently been organized in this city, and has now possession of the Engine [pumper].  The members are all active, strong, healthy men, capable of rendering whatever services circumstances may demand . . . Last Saturday evening the “machine” was brought out, and judging from the admirable manner in which it was handled and worked, it can be relied upon if an emergency should arise, when real duty will be required.  We understand it is the intention of the Company to attend the State Fair and compete with the second class machines of this state.  Whether the Pioneer gets the prize or not, we are sure the “boys” will make a good show, and if they do not win, will deserve success.   WD


___ 1860 __________________

01 12       Sanford fire; two stave dry houses consumed    WD


01 26       D. Kusel for stove pipe for Fire Engine Co., $3.04    WD


02 09       First Annual Ball of Pioneer Engine Co. No. 1    WD


02 16       Western Star Hotel destroyed by fire    WD


04 12       Dept officers chosen    WD


05 17       Pioneer Engine house; site selection    WD


06 28       Exhibition for July Fourth celebration    WD


07 19       Annual election of Engine Company No. 1   WD


10 05       Pioneer Fire Company at County Fair at Jefferson   WR


Western Star Hotel Fire, 1860


___ 1861 __________________

05 23       Provisions for and encouragement of the fire department,” subject of great importance and interest to the city, Mayor William’s address.   WD


06 06       An Act to Incorporate Fire Companies / State of WI, represented in Senate and Assembly   WD


___ 1862 __________________


The Mayor informed the Council that H. Steger had brought suit against the city for the amount claimed by him for plan of an Engine House, which claim was rejected at the last meeting.  On motion of Ald. Brown the Mayor was authorized to settle this matter with the plaintiff and to defend the suit, as he may deem, in the interest of the city.    WD



The members of Engine Company No. 1 propose to give a festival on the evening of January 1st, 1863, the proceeds of which will be appropriated for the benefit of the Fire Department of this city.  An effort is now being made to place this company on a more efficient footing and make it capable of doing any service it may be called upon to render the community.  This is an object worthy of every encouragement and all are equally concerned in having at least one Fire Company ready and able to do its duty in emergencies where the property of any one may be exposed to instant destruction from the devouring flames.  We hope our citizens generally will display their liberality on this occasion and show that they take an active interest in the success of this effort.   WD


___ 1863 __________________

01 01       FIREMEN’S BALL

This evening Engine Company No. 1 gives a public ball at the Howard House, on the west side of the river.  We understand that ample preparations have been made for a gay party and nothing will be wanting to render the occasion pleasant and delightful.  As the proceeds of this festival will be for the benefit of the Fire Department and all have an interest in its efficiency and success, we hope this effort will be liberally sustained by our citizens and the attendance general.    WD



Common Council Proceedings:  By Ald. Brown, account of B. O’Bryne for fire wood for engine house, $2.    WD


___ 1864 __________________

01 21       FIREMEN’S BALL

Monday evening Engine Company No. 1 will give their annual ball at Cole’s Hall.  They propose to devote the proceeds of the entertainment to the relief of the suffering and destitute in this city.  The organization deserves well of our citizens and we hope a large and gay assembly will be present.  All who attend will not only be able to pass a pleasant evening but will at the same time contribute to a benevolent object.   WD



Last Monday morning, between 6 and 7 o’clock, a fire broke out in the wooden Jarvis-Quigley building on Main Street, located between the Democrat block and the Bank of Watertown block, and occupied by J. D. Jarvis as a grocery store.  The flames spread rapidly and in a few minutes extended to an adjoining building, occupied by M. Quigley as a cabinet ware room, and quickly consumed them both.  WD



Common Council Proceedings:  The Clerk read a communication of E. Johnson by which he delivers over to the Council the fire engine, as one of the members of the old Company.


By Ald. Fischer, petition of C. Meyer and 51 other inhabitants of this city to be formed into a Fire Company and to be entrusted with the City Engine, which was, on motion of Ald. Prentiss, referred to a special Committee of three, with instructions to report at the next meeting.  The Mayor appointed as such Committee Ald. Beckman, Dennis and Fischer.


On motion of Ald. Dennis the Mayor was authorized to deliver the engine temporarily to proper persons until the new Company is legally organized. WD



Ald. Beckmann of the special committee appointed to confer with the petitioners for a new fire company made a report by resolution, which was amended by Ald. Prentiss and adopted. 


Resolutions as adopted:


Resolved, That the Petitioners and others joining them, as soon as they shall have organized themselves into a company, [and] selected their officers, shall constitute and be known as Fire Company No. 1, and take in charge and into their custody the fire engine of this city and be responsible for its management and safe keeping.


Resolved, That it is expedient to build a Fire Engine House in some suitable location near Main Street, within the city, and also to purchase necessary hooks and ladders for the use of the city, and to build necessary reservoirs for water if the same are practicable and can be built at the expense of the wards, within which the same may be located.              Watertown Democrat, 04 07 1864



We are glad to observe that the Common Council has arrived at the conclusion that an Engine House, conveniently located at some central point on Main Street, would be a public benefit.  That is one of the improvements that ought to be made, heavy as the taxes are likely to be this year.  Sufficient attention ought to make it available and efficient in the time of danger.  If we can have but one Engine Company let us have that full, strong and ready – adequately equipping it and liberally supplying with every facility necessary to render it serviceable.  Any other course is folly and money thrown away.  Neither will it be wise to wait until we are effectually burned out before we act.  We now want the means of preventing such a calamity.   WD



Ald. Beckmann of the special committee appointed to confer with the petitioners for a new fire company made a report by resolution, which was amended by Ald. Prentiss and adopted. 


Resolutions as adopted:


Resolved, That the Petitioners and others joining them, as soon as they shall have organized themselves into a company, [and] selected their officers, shall constitute and be known as Fire Company No. 1, and take in charge and into their custody the fire engine of this city and be responsible for its management and safe keeping.


Resolved, That it is expedient to build a Fire Engine House in some suitable location near Main Street, within the city, and also to purchase necessary hooks and ladders for the use of the city, and to build necessary reservoirs for water if the same are practicable and can be built at the expense of the wards, within which the same may be located.   WD



Alderman Beckmann moved to amend the rules by adding to the standing Committee a Committee on the Fire Department, to consist of three aldermen.  Carried.  The Clerk read a communication from the new Fire Company in which they state that the Company is fully organized by the election of the following officers: 

Foreman – Joseph Miller;

Assistant Foreman – Frederick Herman;

Engineer – Franz Gebhardt;

Secretary – Charles A. Colonias;

Treasurer – Emil Lehman;

Steward – Michael Seyfert.    WD



Ald. Pfundheller, Chairman of Committee on the Fire Department, introduced the constitution and by-laws of Pioneer Company No. 1, which were read by the Clerk and approved, but the plan for the Engine House was referred back to the committee with instructions for specifications and a location for the same. WD



Last Monday afternoon the newly organized Engine Company brought out their machine and gave it a trial.  They showed that it is capable of doing first-rate work when in good order and well managed.  They handled it with skill and activity, throwing floods of water on the roofs of the highest buildings within their reach.  Engine Company No. 1 is now full and composed of strong, able-bodied men, who will render effectual service when aid shall be needed.  They should receive the favor and encouragement of all our citizens.   WD



Report by Ald. Pfundheller:

The Committee of the Fire Department beg leave to report that they have examined the different locations which Pioneer Co. No. 1 proposed for a site for an Engine House, and that in their opinion, the west end of East Washington Street is the best adapted for the purpose.  They have also received the estimates of the cost of building the Engine House, according to the plan of Charles M. Ducasse, and offer the following resolution:


Resolved, That an Engine House be built according to the plans and specifications of C. M. Ducasse, and that the Clerk shall advertise for sealed proposals for building the same. 


Resolved, That the Engine House be built in the center of the west end of East Washington Street, in the First ward [west side of intersection of S. First and Market streets, adjacent to the river].   WD



Resolved, That the plans of L. Charbeneau for an Engine House be adopted and that the Clerk is hereby directed to advertise that he will receive sealed proposals for building said Engine House according to the plans and specifications of said L. Charbeneau.


Notice is hereby given that the undersigned will receive sealed proposals for building an Engine House [Fire Dept.] on [South] First Street [and Market], in the First ward of the city of Watertown, block 12, according to the plan and specification of L. Charbeneau now on file in my office, said proposals to be delivered in my office within ten days from the publication of this notice.  Gustavus Werlich, City Clerk.  WD



Ald. Pfundheller called for the reading of the resolutions introduced by him at the last meeting in regard to building an Engine House, which were read by the clerk.


Ald. Rogan introduced an agreement of Messrs. Huger and Rusch to deed to the city thirty feet in the center of O’Connell Street in the Fourth ward if the city vacates said street for the purpose of building an Engine House thereon; also the written opinion of D. Hall, Esq., to the effect that if the city vacates the street, the adjoining lot owners can give a good title for that part of the street and accompanied by the following resolution which he offered as a substitute.


Resolved, That the proposition of Messrs. Huger & Rusch donating a part of O’Connell Street for the purpose of an Engine House be accepted and that the Mayor be and he is hereby authorized to procure a title deed to the land named in said proposition.


Resolved, That so much of O’Connell Street as lays between Water Street and Rock River be and the same is hereby vacated.


The motion to substitute the foregoing resolutions was lost . . . . On motion the resolutions introduced by Ald. Pfundheller were taken up separately.


Resolved that the Committee of Finance be instructed to purchase in the name of the city from Joseph Lindon the North 39 feet of lot 2, block 12, in the First ward, for the price of $15 per foot front, for the purpose of building an Engine House thereon.  Adopted.   WD



The plans and specifications of the new Engine House, in the First Ward, have been prepared by Louis Charbeneau and the work, we understand, will soon be commenced.  The building is to be of brick, twenty-six feet eight inches front by forty-two feet deep and two stories high, with a basement.


The basement is to be eight feet between joists and the first story thirteen feet and the second story twelve feet high in front and nine feet in the rear.  This will give a structure of fair dimensions, with ample room for all the purposes for which it is intended.  Its location will be central and convenient. 


The Engine is now in the best working order, the Fire Department well organized, and the completion of a large and substantial house will put the company in a good condition for efficient and prompt service at any moment.  Our citizens should extend to this indispensable organization all the encouragement necessary to make it fully equal to any emergency that may arise to call forth its efforts.  All the members are ready and willing to do their duty as firemen and every occasion will see them rendering important and essential aid in saving property from destruction by the devouring flames.   WD



Alderman Pfundheller presented the petition of Pioneer [Fire] Co. No. 1 for certificates of membership.  On motion the prayer was granted and the clerk directed to issue them under seal of the city.  WD



Alderman Pfundheller, chairman of Committee on the Fire Department, reported in favor of entering into contract with A. Bornschein for building the Engine House.  On motion of Ald. Rogan the report was recommitted for the purpose of ascertaining whether a cheaper plan could be adopted.   WD



The following accounts were introduced against the city General Fund:  Edward Johnson, oil and sundries for [Fire] Engine Co., $6.44, D. and F. Kusel for lanterns, $7.   WD



By Ald. Phundheller:  Resolution, directing the Clerk to put, at expense of the city, a 5-cent Revenue Stamp on each Fireman’s Certificate.  Resolution laid upon the table.   WD



A dwelling house belonging to Mr. J. B. Van Alstine caught fire on the 7th and came pretty near burning up.  Mr. August Fuermann was promptly on hand with his rotary engine and by his efforts and activity put out the flames before much damage was done.  Engine Company No. 1 showed their good will by coming out, but Fuermann’s rotary had already finished the business.  Mr. VanAlstine’s loss is covered by insurance in the Aetna.   WD


___ 1865 __________________


Sunday night, the 15th of January, at about midnight, a fire broke out in the wooden building, known as the Pioneer Store, on the southwest corner of Main and Second streets.  The structure was totally destroyed by the winter blaze. The loss was total as there was no insurance on either building or contents.  At the time of the fire the building was owned by Mrs. Cordelia Gilman and had been occupied by Henry Vaudel as a saloon.  The adjoining building [115 E Main], owned and occupied by Frederick & Henry Meyer as a shoe store, was considerably damaged and would have been also lost if it were not for the strenuous efforts of citizens.  Jesse Moulton and M. Welsh [Welch] both removed the contents from their grocery stores in the two buildings to the west [113 and 111 E Main?], as they were also threatened at the time. 


As is too often the case, the Water Witch proved to be of little value.  After it had been pulled to the scene it once again was found to be out of order.  And once again Brewmaster Joseph Bursinger’s force pump was hurriedly conveyed to the scene of the fire and performed well in arresting the flames.  In fact, had it not been for Bursinger’s pump, the loss of business property and inventory on Main Street would have been much more serious and extensive.  On display, Pioneer Engine No. 1 is splendid, but when real service is required, for some reason or other, it is never ready when most wanted and generally proves to be a nuisance when around. 


It is high time this city had an efficient and reliable Fire Department.  Some hour this city may pay dearly for the continued neglect of so necessary a precaution against the desolation and ruin of the devouring flames.  It is far better to be wise, active and fully prepared in season.


The destruction of this building removed one of the landmarks of the city.  The Pioneer Store, as it was called, was the first business establishment built in Watertown.  It had been erected in the summer of 1841 by Luther A. and John W. Cole, who came here soon after Timothy Johnson, the first settler of Watertown, took up his permanent residence here in 1836.  The two Cole brothers cut the timber in the surrounding forests and sized the timber so to construct their wood frame store.  The labor was strenuous and much was involved by these two pioneers to finish and then furnish the first place of commerce in the settlement, situated in the midst of the surrounding wilderness.  The inventory of the Pioneer Store consisted of a stock of necessities, goods and groceries.  It was the place for citizens and area farmers to patronize and at the same time exchange the latest news and gossip.  To be sure, at the time, it was also the only place for conducting such exchanges.   WD



Common Council:  Resolved that all resolutions heretofore passed at this Council, with reference to the purchase by the city of certain property on Main Street owned by William Chapman, be and the same are hereby rescinded.


Resolved that a committee of three members of this Council be appointed by his Honor, the Mayor, for the purpose of receiving proposals for an Engine House and doing the work thereon; the Engine House aforesaid, to be erected upon the lot purchased by the city of Mayor Lindon and as near as practicable, in accordance with the plan furnished by L. Charbeneau, provided that the expense of said building complete, exclusive of the lot, shall not exceed $2,500.  Adopted.


Resolved that the special Committee, authorized to receive proposals for doing the work and furnished the materials for a new Engine House, be empowered to contract in the name of the city for such materials as they deem necessary.  Adopted.   WD



On the evening of February 19th fire was discovered in a large two-story wooden building standing on the southwest corner of Main and First streets. 


The fire originated on the second story room occupied by J. D. Kellogg as a Photograph Gallery.  The flames increased rapidly and in a short time the upper portion of the building was in ablaze.  All of the photographer’s property and stock was lost. 


The first floor level of the structure was occupied by a Mrs. Stallman as a millinery store.  Most of her stock was removed during the course of the fire.


Along First Street, adjoining the corner building, stood another wooden building, belonging to Henry Graves, and occupied by F. Meyer as a grocery store, which was badly damaged and rendered nearly worthless.


The next building along the Main Street side was owned and occupied by E. Sweeney as a grocery store, which escaped damage, as did the next owned by John Luber.  The next building is a brick block, owned and operated by Joseph Salick, as a jewelry store.  As a matter of prudence his stock was packed up and removed from the premises.  The upper story of this block was occupied by Mr. B. Wortkotter as a dwelling and all of his belongings were removed.


There being no organized Fire Company, the citizens brought out the engine and this time the water witch performed well.  It was given credit for confining the fire to the building in which it started.  If the engine had not been in good condition the fire would have been much more extensive and disastrous and there is no telling how far its ravages might have spread.   WD



[same date]  The most urgent and necessary want of this city is a well-organized Fire Department.  The reasons which make this important must be apparent to all.  Here is a populous city, liable at any moment to be desolated by fire, with a single [volunteer] fire company to arrest the progress of the flames, and no means of protection except the neglected engine, with nobody to work or take care of it. 


We are destitute of all other implements, such as hooks, ladders, ropes, axes, to help in pulling down or removing burning and exposed buildings.  Such a state of things ought not to be permitted to exist one hour longer than it is absolutely necessary to furnish these facilities. 


A single fire, which may break out at any moment in the day or night, may inflict a greater loss than the whole expense of procuring all the implements needed to save our stores and houses from certain destruction.  We have been fortunate so far in subduing the few fires that have recently taken place, but we cannot always be sure that the weather will be favorable, the winds calm, and common efforts successful.  The best is to be fully prepared for the worst dangers that may threaten us. 


We trust our city authorities will act in this matter without delay.  Though heavily burdened with taxes of all kinds, we believe our citizens are ready and willing to incur any reasonable outlay to remedy this evil and place themselves in a condition of tolerable security. 


One good Engine Company and one good Hook and Ladder Company are the least force that should constitute our Fire Department at the present time.  Now we have neither of these agencies to defend us from conflagrations.  


The Common Council ought to give its attention to this subject immediately.  We can only talk.  They can act to the purpose and do what ought to be done.



[same date]  Common Council Proceedings:  The Clerk read the report of the Marshal in which he states that he took possession of the following articles belonging to the Fire Department:  2 oil cans, 2 lamps, 2 speaking trumpets, 5 wrenches, 1 water pail and 1 stove.


03 02       REGARDING KELLOGG GALLERY FIRE OF 19th  (see 02 23 entry above)

A CARD – At the time of the entire destruction of my photograph gallery by the fire of the 19th, I had engaged many unfinished pictures, a large proportion of which had been paid for.  I would say to my patrons that I will repay the money at any time, or if they will wait a few days, until I can get new rooms furnished and in working order, I will retake the pictures, and so fulfill my obligations at the earliest possible moment.  J. D. Kellogg, Watertown   WD


03 02       FIRE LIMITS

[same date] It shall not be lawful for any person or persons, company, association or corporation to build, erect, construct, or cause to be built, erected or constructed, upon any of the lots, pieces or parcels of ground named in the first section of this ordinance, any building or buildings of any kind whatever which shall not be made of stone, brick or other materials which are deemed and considered proof against fire.  


As the old wooden buildings one after another disappear from Main Street, either from decay or fire, they ought not to be replaced by structures of the same inflammable material.  To prevent this, and as far as possible obviate the present liability to a constant succession of fires, the Common Council ought to pass an ordinance making [marking] out certain limits within which no wooden building shall in the future be erected.  This is usually done in all cities after they have reached a certain state of growth, and the time has come when this step should be taken by us, as a protection against disastrous calamities from fire.


If this course is adopted, Main Street in a few years will have a much better appearance than it now has.  As the old and dilapidated buildings, which did very well ten or fifteen years ago, are gradually removed, they will be replaced by elegant brick blocks, and we shall have as fine a looking business street as can be seen in any other interior city of the state.  If we are going ahead at all, let us do the right way.


The above was written and put in type last week, but necessarily crowded out until this week.  We now call the attention of our citizens to the draft of an ordinance establishing fire limits in this city, which we publish elsewhere.  The object of making the proposed ordinance public is to get a general expression on the subject and enable those interested to learn its provisions.  We think all must concur in the opinion that some such measure as this should be adopted here without delay.  Those who would like to make suggestions or changes now have an opportunity to do so, before the Common Council disposes of the subject.   WD



[same date] It shall not be lawful for any person or persons, company, association or corporation to build, erect, construct, or cause to be built, erected or constructed, upon any of the lots, pieces or parcels of ground named in the first section of this ordinance, any building or buildings of any kind whatever which shall not be made of stone, brick or other materials which are deemed and considered proof against fire.


Sheds not exceeding twelve feet in height at the peak or highest part, and privies not exceeding ten square feet and ten feet in height at the peak, may be constructed of wood . . . All depositories of ashes within and without the fire limits shall be built of brick or other fire proof material, without wood in any part thereof.


In case of, and during the continuance of a fire, no intoxicating liquors shall be allowed among the firemen, or be brought on the ground for any purpose, except the same shall have been ordered by the Mayor; and any person or persons furnishing any intoxicating liquor or drink to the firemen during a fire, except as herein provided, shall forfeit and pay a penalty of not less than five nor more than twenty dollars for every offence, to be collected in like manner as other penalties and fines under the charter of the city and the laws of this State.   WD


03 23       FIRE LIMITS

Common Council Proceedings.  -  Amendments to an ordinance entitled “An Ordinance prescribing FIRE LIMITS and establishing regulations relative to fires in the City of Watertown.”  Ordinance was read the third time and passed as amended by an affirmative vote of all the aldermen present.   WD


03 23       WORK ON HOSE CART

[same date] Common Council Proceedings.  -  A report in favor of allowing the account of F. Gerbech and F. Harder for work on [Fire Dept.] hose cart and a report of allowing the account of Hill & Taylor for work on engine, $62.35.   WD



Resolved, that the City Marshal be directed to cause the ladders procured for the Fire Department to be painted and to procure four suitable hooks for said Fire Department, if not already provided, and that the word “Watertown” be painted on said hooks and ladders, and that the resolution heretofore passed on this subject is hereby repealed.  Adopted.  Common Council Proceedings.   WD



Alderman Moak called for the report of the Committee of the Fire Department upon the selection of L. Charbeneau for plans of the engine house but the committee was not ready to report.   WD



Ald. Prentiss moved that the committee appointed by the former council to contract for the building of the Engine House be reappointed by the present council, said committee consisting of T. Prentiss and A. Stein.  Motion carried.   WD



The contract for building a new Engine House on First Street in the 1st ward has been taken by Mr. A. Bornschien and we understand the work will be commenced this week.  The dimensions of the building will be 28 by 32 feet and three stories high.  In the basement a strong and safe lock-up is to be fitted up for the use of the city.  The style of architecture is neat and elegant and when completed the Engine House will make a fair appearance.  We are glad there is a certainty this long needed work is to be done without further delay.   WD



Mr. A. Bornschien, the contractor for building the new Engine House on First Street, has commenced work and is laying the foundation of the building.  He intends to carry it forward to completion without delay.   WD



The new Engine House on First Street is nearly completed and will soon be ready for occupation.  The next thing will be to organize a full and efficient company to take charge of the engine, keep it in working order and use the pleasant rooms that have been prepared for the members.  The basement of the Engine House has been fitted up as a city lock-up and we hope those whose conduct entitles them to fill it will be furnished with proper certificates of reception by the Justices before whom such cases are brought.  The knowledge of this fact will have a salutary tendency to prevent rowdyism in the streets and make those disposed to be noisy and offensive more quiet in their deportment.   WD



The day on which the last fair and cattle show was held in this city, Justice Ducasse fined no less than five disturbers of the peace, the proceeds of which goes into the city general fund.  Hereafter, if this remedy should not be sufficient to prevent quarrels and brawls in the street, the peace officers might add a brief sojourn [at the new jail] in the basement of the new Engine House, which would furnish an opportunity for reflection and reform on the part of those provided with such apartments at the public expense.  Let us have an orderly and peaceful city and have it understood that all who willfully violate law and decency must suffer the consequences of their folly.   WD



There has been considerable complaint this summer caused by the raids of boys in orchards and gardens.  This is a kind of mischief the boys had better stop now.  The new lock-up is finished and ready for the reception of those who are caught in such acts.  Heretofore there has been no way of punishing such offences, except by sending the convicted to jail at Jefferson.  The plunders of fruit and vegetables can now be accommodated with lodgings for a few days at a time under the Engine House, and if they do not stop their depredations some of them will very likely be furnished with rooms in the city lock-up, which they will find very secure, quiet and disgraceful.   WD



Common Council Proceedings:  Against General Fund, M. Cummings $9 for work at Engine House, P. C. Quentmeyer $465.46 for brick for Engine House.


Petition of F. O’Rourke and others for artesian wells.  Referred to Committee on Fire Department.


Resolved, That the Mayor is hereby requested and instructed to cause without delay, a public pond to be erected in the rear of the Engine House in the First ward.   WD



We now have an Engine House, a good Engine, but no Fire Company.  Steps ought to be taken immediately to supply this deficiency.  We are approaching the season when fires are most likely to occur and we should have some efficient means of putting them out if the flames should break out in our midst.  The importance of this subject must be evident to all.  After an expense of several thousand dollars, as things now are, the city is no better off than it was before this outlay was made.  There ought to be public spirit and enterprise enough to furnish us with a strong and well organized Engine Company and we hope those who feel any interest in this matter will act promptly.  We do not know how soon we shall want all the means we can command to save ourselves from ruin.   WD



[same date] Common Council Proceedings:  Resolved, That an order be drawn on the City General Fund in favor of William Wilson, to the amount of thirty dollars, to be in full for the fire bell.  Adopted.  Ald. Dennis moved to instruct the Committee of the Fire Department to have the fire engine thoroughly repaired.  Carried.   WD



Common Council Proceedings:  Resolved, That the Marshal cause the gas lamps to be removed from the posts from which they belong and placed in the Engine House for safe keeping.  Resolved, That the Marshal is hereby required to remove from the old Engine House the iron grating belonging to the city and take possession of the same and that he also recover the two screws belonging to the city.  WD


___ 1868 __________________


Mayor’s Inaugural Speech:  Our Fire Department has been shamefully neglected . . . “ 



A meeting of Pioneer Company No. 1 was held at the Engine House, on Wednesday evening last.  The meeting proceeded to the election of the following officers:


Foreman — T. Racek, Jr.

1st Asst. — G. Henze.

2d Asst. — C. Ceck.

Engineer — L. Jahnke.

Treasurer — J. Weber.

Secretary — W. H. Rohr.

Steward — F. Eberville.

Hose Capt. — A. Benkerdorf.

Asst. Capt. — L. Kehr.


The above names give us the assurance that we have at last one good reliable fire company established, and now would it not be a good move for some other portion of our citizens to organize another company.


There is nothing like emulation among fire companies for the advancement of a thorough fire department.


Let us have a rival company by all means, if for nothing more than for the fun of the thing.    The Watertown News, 05 27 1868


___ 1869 __________________


Organized on April 17, 1869.  First officers:  Foreman, John Reichardt; First Assistant, Nic Bruegger; Second Assistant, Fred Stylow; Secretary, Gustav Barthmann; Treasurer, Carl Goeldner.  The H&L Company vehicle occupied a portion of the South First Street engine house, alongside the pumper.


___ 1870 __________________

10 26       GAS SUPPLIED TO ENGINE HOUSE and Lockup on S. First St.


12 28       EMPIRE MILL FIRE

One of the most serious calamities that ever befell our city occurred on the night of 28th of Dec. 1870, by the total destruction by fire of the Empire Flouring Mills, on the west side of the river, together with its contents, including a large amount of flour and wheat. 


Immediately on the north side, and within 40 feet of the mill is situated the Woolen Factory, owned by Mr. Daniel Jones, and containing valuable machinery and stock, and adjoining this building is the Sash and Door Manufactory of Mr. G. B. Lewis.  As a precautionary measure against fire, Mr. Smith had surrounded his mill, which was a frame building, with brick walls, and the saving of the Woolen Factory is mainly due to this fore thought on the part of Mr. Smith for all endeavors to save this building would have been unavailing had not the north wall of the mill stood as a barricade between the intense heat and angry flames and the Woolen Factory.


While the flames were at the height of their fury, there occurred an appalling accident, which carried dismay and consternation to all hearts.  Mr. Nathaniel Blanchard, while on the roof off his own mill, on the opposite side of the river, endeavoring to protect it from flying cinders, lost his foot-hold and fell a distance of about forty feet, striking on the ice, breaking both legs and arms, and otherwise injuring him so fatally, that he survived only twelve hours.     Wttn Rep, 01 04 1871


___ 1871 __________________

                GLUE FACTORY FIRE

Glue factory [former Plank Road Brewery] burns to the ground


Memory   1871, RISING MOON MISTAKEN FOR FIRE - Letter from Bainville, Montana:  Nice Bruegger, formerly of this city, writes from Bainville, Montana:  There is a saying that history repeats itself and it seems that it is true.  It corresponds to what occurred, if I remember rightly, in 1871, when the fire bell in Watertown called out the fire department and by the time the boys assembled it was found that the moon rising was the cause of the alarm.  On Feb. 10th inst. there were two liquor[ed] drummers at this place and it was getting towards spook time here when the editor of our weekly paper adjourned by himself and after he got outside the saloon where the drummers had been “setting ‘em up,” and took a survey of the planets he discovered something—he rushed back to the saloon and said “Boys, Mondak is on fire” (15 miles away).  Mr. Doyle, the saloon keeper, with the rest of the boys, ran out.  Mr. Doyle said it is Mr. Lundquist’s barn, 2 1/2 miles from town, and went to the next saloon and ordered someone to go and call Mr. Lundquist, who is running a general store here.  And, lo and behold, it was the moon rising, as in the case in good old Watertown way back in 1871.  Am well and doing well.  Best wishes to all old friends.”   WG of 03 05 1909





09 06       LOW WATER.--The amount of water in Rock River at the present time is considerably on the decrease. Water has not flowed over the dam for several weeks, but all summer the water has been unusually high.  Fall rains are now needed to bring it back to its proper head. Our mill owners for the first time this season are beginning to feel the want of water to run the machinery with.   WR



The Peshtigo Fire was a forest fire that took place on October 8, 1871 in and around Peshtigo, Wisconsin.  It was a firestorm that caused the most deaths by fire in United States history, with estimated deaths of around 1,500 people, possibly as many as 2,500.  Occurred on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire.     An Eyewitness Account.    The Great Fires of 1871.     Wikipedia article. 



10 11       NINE FIRES IN THE WOODS.  Jefferson County is not escaping from the effects of the present extreme drought which is working such terrible devastation all over the country, and especially in different portions of Wisconsin.  Early last week a fire broke out in a swamp near Waitsville, in the town of Farmington, which spread with great rapidity, increasing as it moved forward and carrying everything before it.  The fire threatened the destruction of the mill property of Wait, Wood & Co. and at one time over one hundred were engaged in stopping the progress of the flames.  The fire is now under subjection, and no immediate apprehension is felt for the safety of the property.  A fire from a burning marsh passed over the farm of Mr. Fred. Schulte, living some three miles east of the city, on the old Milwaukee road, Sunday afternoon last, and so dry and tinder-like was everything in its path that nothing could be done to stop the progress of the flames, the high wind blowing at the time carrying them forward with great velocity, until the dwelling, stables and granery were reached by the devouring element, and the buildings were soon burned to the ground, despite all exertions to save them . . .   WR


10 25       DANGER YET--Notwithstanding the recent rains everything is as parched and dry as tinder again, and great danger of fires still exists.  Many persons appear to be wholly indifferent as to the dry condition of things around them, and by their extreme carelessness are placing property in great danger. We see that some parties are burning rubbish, which at a time like this is extremely dangerous and should be strictly prohibited.  The use of firearms should be dispensed with, for the time being, as in the present combustible condition of things hunters are apt to start fires in the woods and on marshes, from shooting.


The setting of fires by blacksmiths should be done with the greatest caution, and in fact every fire, whether about a dwelling or place of business should be watched closely until the present critical period is over. Let all be on their guard at this time, and carefully scrutinize their premises that no accident endangering property may occur. There would be but little chance to stop a fire should it break out anywhere in our city at present, and therefore it is the duty of everybody to practice the utmost vigilance and precaution.   WR


11 01       RAIN

A copious rain commenced falling Tuesday morning, which finally turned into snow, and continued long enough to thoroughly saturate the earth, and prepared the ground well for ploughing, very little of which has been done In this vicinity this fall, owing to the extreme drought.   WR


11 15       RIVER RISING

Because of the recent rains there has been a rise of several inches of water in the river.  The ground is now in good condition for ploughing, and a few weeks fine weather will give our farmers an opportunity of finishing it.   WR


___ c.1871 __________________


Len Jaehrling, who by the way, is one of the oldest tonsorial artists in the city, tells of the members of a volunteer fire company forty years ago or more who, upon the sounding of an alarm of fire, hastened home and put on their belts and helmets.  The old hand engine, manned by John Reichardt and others, called the “water witch,” did yeoman service in those days.  She could be set on a river bank, a creek or alongside a tub of water and could be worked like a Trojan.  But there were not many regrets when the steamers were put into service in 1876.


Barney O’Byrne, the pioneer boot and shoe maker, was an early day fireman.  He afterward ran a little saloon where the express office is now, and his cherry “fill the bill, me lad” was a most welcome sound in the morning, as he was up with the lark.    Watertown News, 10 11 1918


___ 1872 __________________

                HABHAGGER BREWERY fire



A little before 5 o’clock, last Sunday morning, the 29th inst., the Union Depot building, at the junctions of the Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Chicago & Northwestern railroads, was discovered to be on fire by the watchman. 


The northern train on the Northwestern road, which was considerably behind, had passed only about half an hour before, at which time there was no appearance of fire.  The flames broke out in the Express room, but how they originated seems to be unknown and unexplained.  The alarm was given, and as soon as possible, the Engine and Hook & Ladder companies went to the rescue.  The depot building being built of wood, the flames spread so rapidly that when the firemen reached the spot, it was seen that their chief business was to save the neighboring structures. 


The Bay State House, owned by Mr. J. W. Mathese, was in great danger, the cornice having already caught fire from the heat or flying sparks. 


In the meantime, the depot itself was being rapidly consumed, the firemen making the most active efforts to confine the flames to it alone, and the platform adjoining it, which they succeeded in doing.  That portion of the platform touching the burning depot was ruined, and other parts more distant badly injured. 


The depot itself was completely destroyed, very little within being saved.  The telegraph instruments were got out and a few other things.  All the baggage in the baggage room was taken away, but most of the express matter, which had just been received, was lost, though every exertion was put forth to remove it.


But for the heavy steady rain, which had been falling for some hours, this fire would have been much more extensive and disastrous. 


The Bay State House and the machine shops would have been burned beyond a doubt.  As it was, the Bay State House escaped with a slight scorching, and a few broken windows, which can be easily repaired. 


Notwithstanding the distance the mud and the storm, the firemen promptly came out, and used their best endeavors to keep the flames within the smallest possible bounds, and they were remarkably successful, considering the conditions in which they found things when they arrived on the ground.           Watertown Democrat        10-03-1872


___ 1873 __________________

07 04       Parade cancelled by tornado  


___ 1874 __________________


Last Saturday night at 12 o’clock the frame building of Mrs. Agnes Hastings, near the -railway junction in the Third Ward, and occupied by her as a restaurant and dwelling was destroyed by fire, together with all the contents, with the exception of a few household effects saved from the burning building.  The fire was not discovered until the flumes had made considerable headway on the roof, and Mrs. Hastings and her 12-year-old daughter at the time asleep in their bedroom.  Three doors had to be burst open before they could be apprised of their danger, and it was only through the utmost exertion that their lives were saved.  By the time the fire company reached the scene the fire had made too much progress for it to be of any service, and the building was soon a mass of ruins.  Mrs. Hastings’ loss, it is estimated, will amount to about $1500 and the most distressing feature of the affair is that she did not have a cent of insurance on the property destroyed.  Her case is a very sad one under the circumstances and calls for the charitable consideration of our citizens.


___ 1875 __________________

                Bay State House fire


___ c.1875 __________________




1876          Steamers were put into service     Watertown News, 10 11 1918


                Phoenix Fire Co, No. 2.  Organized 1876.  127 N Water St


                Charles Kerr, charter member, fire engine driver



Proper tribute to the Centennial Fourth of July.  The two fire companies with their beautiful steamers, surmounted with brilliant floral decorations, made a splendid display, and were greatly admired.  The Phoenix boys with their Silsby machine came out in their new and beautiful uniforms for the first time, showing a fine appearance by the side of their gaily dressed comrades of the Pioneer Company.      WR


08 24       Fire at ice house of Exchange Hotel   WD   Pioneer and Phoenix respond; reservoir on Second St


08 24       Proceedings of a regular meeting of the Board of Street Commissioners, held August 21, 1876 . . . Motion by Com. Woodard; That the City Treasurer is hereby requested to loan to the city general fund from the school fund, until January 1, next, the sum of $310 for the purpose of purchasing a site for an engine house on the West side of Rock River, and paying freight for the Silsby fire engine.  Motion carried.   WD


___ c.1876 __________________

                Alarms sounded with stick and old tin pan by Charley Huber Sr.


___ 1877 __________________

                Washington’s Birthday in 1877; second appearance of Phoenix Co. clad in new uniforms; S. M. Eaton having the contract for hauling the “Phoenix steamer,” and Mr. Mannegold of the east side had a similar arrangement with the city for hauling the “Pioneer” to fires.      WG, 02 26 1909


                Fierce fire broke out in a warehouse at the C.&N.W.Ry. depot and spread rapidly.      WG, 02 26 1909


                The officers and engineers of engine companies in 1877.      WG, 02 26 1909


    c.1877 ?


___ c.1877 __________________


An old photo of a horse carriage

Description automatically generated 

Hook & Ladder, Ahrens Steamer, unknown vehicle with harnesses for horses suspended in front


Cross reference note <> Building removed in 1929:  The old brick building next to the Wethonkitha Club has been razed to the ground. It had quite a history in its day, being at one and the same time the city council room on the 2nd floor, the fire department on the ground floor and the city jail in the basement.


___ 1878 __________________

01 02       TOWER FOR ENGINE HOUSE No. 2

The Committee on Public Buildings verbally reported that the tower to Engine House No. 2 was built and finished in a good and workman-like manner (excepting the cistern which could not be completed on account of superfluous water) and recommended that the tower may now be allowed to be used by the Fire Department.  Recommendation adopted.  Whereupon Alderman Flinn moved that the Clerk issue orders in the amount specified in the contract ($480) in favor of Squyres the contractor, excepting and retaining therefrom the sum of 15.00 until the cistern shall have been completed to the satisfaction of this Board.  Motion adopted.


01 02       [same date]  KUNERT BLDG FIRE

Our citizens were aroused from their slumbers at about 4 o’clock New Year’s morning by an alarm of fire.  The cause proceeded from the burning of Mrs. T. Kunert’s frame building on 4th Street, 2d ward (217 N. Fourth St), occupied by Kunert Brothers as a Gunsmith and Gas Fitting shop.  The flames had made considerable headway before the engines could get on the ground, owing to the terribly rough condition of the streets, but the Silsby was soon at work followed in a few minutes by the Ahrens, and both did excellent service.  The fire was got under complete control in a short time, and the building saved in a damaged condition.


Kunert Brothers were able to save a portion of their tools and stock, but the loss on their immovable machinery such as work benches, etc. is considerable.  The building was insured in the Phoenix, of Hartford, H. A. Wedemeyer, agent, for $250, and it will take fully this amount, if not more, to restore it.  Kunert Brothers had their stock, tools and machinery insured in the same company for $1500, and they compute their loss at about $1000.  The origin of the fire is unknown, but probably the result of accident.



Last Monday night at about 11 ½ o’clock a fire broke out in the frame elevator warehouse of Mr. John Betz [1] on the railroad track near the depot of the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Cos., in the 1st ward.      [1] |Betz, John, grain dealer, cor 5th and R R (City Dir, 1875-76)


The fire spread with rapidity and the building was soon enwrapped in flames and destroyed together with all the contents, composed of barley, principally.  The fire at once communicated to the frame eating house, adjoining the warehouse on the east, belonging to Mrs. C. Sneer and occupied by Mr. Louis Street [2].      [2] Street, Louis, baggageman, res Hyland, e 3d. (City Dir, 1875-76)


Owing to the want of a sufficient water supply near the fire, the two steamers, although promptly on hand, were powerless to do any good, and the flames soon performed their work of destruction on the eating house, leaving a smoldering mass of cinders where a half hour before had stood both buildings.


Two freight cars of the Chicago & N. W. Railway, standing on the track on the side of the Betz warehouse, one loaded with coal, and the other with lumber, were burned along with their contents.  The coal and lumber belonged to Messrs. Hamlin & Ford, the cars lying on the track at the time in proximity to their lumber yard awaiting to be unloaded.


Of course the loss is a total one to them.  Mr. Street was able to save nearly all his effects from the eating house and his lose, except of being thrown out of a home and business for the present, will be inconsiderable.  Mr. Betz had an insurance of $1,000 on his warehouse in the Home of New York, and $1,000 on contents in each of the following companies:  Franklin of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Fire and Home of New York.  Mrs. Sneer’s building was insured in the Aetna of Hartford for $800.  Mr. Street was uninsured.


It appears to be the prevalent opinion that the fire was caused by incendiarism.  From all we can learn it is hard to account for it in any other way.  This fire has demonstrated the necessity that exists for reservoirs on the part of the city where it occurred.  An abundant supply of water in the vicinity of Monday night's fire would have been the means of saving at least a portion of the destroyed property.  Steps should be taken as soon as possible for the building of more reservoirs throughout the city and the erection of additional platforms for the steamers along the river bank.    Watertown News


01 19       BETZ MILL FIRE

The most disastrous fire known here for some years occurred on Monday night in the burning of an elevator owned by John Betz, with the adjacent row of buildings, and located near the depot on the C. M. & St. P. road.  The buildings were like tinder and the fire spread rapidly, licking up in its way two freight cars of the C. &. N. W. road and loaded with coal and lumber, and which belonged to Hamlin & Ford.  The old warehouse and belonging to Mrs. C. Sneer is included in the ruins and was insured for $800.  Mr. Betz held but $2000 insurance.  The loss, whatever it may be, is deplorable, so far as the parties are concerned, but the riddance to Watertown is glorious.  The buildings were an eyesore to the town and while all sympathize fully in the loss sustained they realize equally well — “It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”  The fire was unquestionably the work of an incendiary and there is not the slightest question but we have parties among us engaged in such pursuit.  The frequency of fires in isolated places goes strongly to strengthen such conviction and not withstanding we have two properly organized companies with the best steamers constructed, it behooves all to keep watch and ward.  As usual our gallant firemen behaved nobly on the occasion and did all possible to subdue the flames.   Harger Times

Cross Reference:  John Betz, grain dealer, corner 5th and RR:  Watertown City Directory of 1875-76


___ 1879 __________________


      The Fire Fiend After Us

Last Sunday morning at the unseasonable hour of 5 o’clock be alarm of Fire was sounded on the streets and flames were seen issuing from the roof at the rear of John W. Cole’s brick block, corner of Main and Second streets, 2nd ward.


The fire seems to have got its start in the room on the second floor occupied by Louis Boehlke as a tailor shop.  The fire spread rapidly and the flames soon communicated to the office of the Republican on the same floor.  The fire was principally between the ceiling and roof, situated hard to reach, and the density of the smoke made it a most difficult task for the firemen to work on the flames with effect. 


The constant streams that were poured upon the building, however, and the splendid working capacity of our two steamers, soon told on the fire and it at length was brought under subjection without doing further damage, the fury of the flames being confined to the second floor, doing most injury to the ceiling and roof only a small portion of the floor being destroyed but making bad havoc with the walls, doors, widows and casings.  So far for the effect of the fire on the building.


Perhaps there is no class of property so badly used up by a fire as a printing office and to this general admission the Republican office bore complete testimony after the fire was out and a fair view could be taken of the pathway of the flames.  There stood the presses, hard looking agents of “the art preservative of all arts,’’ smoky, begrimed and warped, appearing as if injured beyond all future movements; the type scattered in all directions, racks, stands, cases, cabinets, either burned up or badly maimed; imposing stones bereft of frames, the card cutter busted, the proof press sick, forms pied just ready to lock up, the most perplexing thing in life to overtake a printer; the thousand and one little articles incidental to a printing office gone up, to be no more seen forever, and above all a woe begone looking proprietor gazing upon and musing over the sad scene of desolation with numerous satellites in a bond of sympathy with him, and we have a picture well worthy the study of an artist. 


All we have to say, is no more fiery ordeal for us while in the printing business at least.


Mr. Boehlke lost all his effects saving only a sewing machine in a damaged condition. He counts his loss at about $300 upon which there was no insurance.  The Republican printing office material was insured in the Insurance Company of North America, Philadelphia, Wm. L. Norris, agent.  The loss on a portion of the material was fully covered while on other parts the insurance was not adequate to fully indemnify.


Joseph Harvey, occupying the first floor of the building as a saloon, sustained some loss by the removal of his goods and by water.  Mr. Harvey was uninsured.  Mr. Cole carried no insurance on the building and his loss is therefore a total one amounting, perhaps, to $500.


We doubt if any city in the can boast of a more efficient or better working volunteer fire department than Watertown.  This is very evident to all who have witnessed the splendid, effective service our firemen have done on many occasions similar to the one Sunday morning last.  Time and time again have our citizens seen the wisdom displayed by our city fathers in securing two fire engines instead of one.  Both steamers move finely and are manned by as gallant, intelligent and hardworking boys as can be found in any fire brigade in the country.                The Watertown Republican, 30 Jul 1879



The cry of fire was again sounded Sunday morning at 2 o’clock caused by the burning of a frame barn on the premises of Charles Mink in the 7th Ward.  The flames made quick work with the structure and the fire next communicated to Mr. Mink’s 2 story brick dwelling house situate a few feet south.  Both steamers were prompt in getting on the ground but were powerless to be of any service on account of the scarcity of water in the vicinity.  Had there been an adequate supply of water or a sufficient amount of hose to reach to the river, the dwelling house might have been saved before much of any damage was done to it.  As it was the building completely succumbed to the devouring element before the eyes of the fire department.  The dwelling was occupied by four families who saved all their household effects.  The house was insured in the St. Paul Fire and Marine for $700.  The Watertown News, 13 Aug 1879


___ c.1870s __________________


The hum of machinery in a country mill gave off soft music in the small hours of the night, bringing assurance to the timid that men were awake and about their business.  Its low pitched whistle was the FIRST TO SOUND THE ALARM OF FIRE, summoning the volunteers to their duties.  It stood sentinel over the sleeping town.    "The Globe Milling Company, Watertown, Wisconsin, 1845-1945."


___ 1880 __________________

                FRED NEWMANN retirement (discharge certificate) from fire department

      he shall be hereafter, so long as he shall reside in this City, exempt from Poll Tax and from Serving on Juries and from Military Duty, except in case of insurrection or invasion. “


Henry Bieber                      City Clerk

William H Rohr                  President, Watertown Fire Dept

Carl Goeldner                    Treasurer, Watertown Fire Dept


07 07       BLANCHARD MILL FIRE (Yellow Mill)

On Monday night fire broke out in the south end of the old Blanchard Custom Flourishing Mill in the First ward and before the fire department reached the ground for duty the flames had made such rapid headway that all the efforts made by the two steamers to stay the fire were unavailing.  Fortunately, the mill was not very heavily stocked; but Mr. Pritzlaff’s loss was heavy notwithstanding, as the place was only insured for $3,000 and the machinery and contents alone were valued at $15, 000.


In the destruction of this mill one of the oldest landmarks of Watertown was removed, it being the first mill in this locality.  The fire was one of the most disasterous which has ever visited the place and resulted in the destruction of a plant which the people could ill afford to lose.     WR


___ c.1880 __________________



Name of Wm. Schulte, second Fire Chief, noted on the Silsby steamer


___ 1881 __________________

-- --           FRAMED FIREMAN CARDS


Society holding, previously owned by John “Putt” Reichardt, early Fire Dept. member


___ 1883 __________________


The platforms on the west side of the river, built for the use of the fire department, are in a very unsafe condition, and the approaches to them anything but safe.  A few dollars invested now in pine lumber and a few loads of gravel may save hundreds of dollars worth, since at any time during a fire when it may be necessary for the fire company to seek the platform in search of water, horses, engines and all are liable to fall through them.  WG



[same date] Many of our citizens seem to be dissatisfied with the action of the School Board in concluding to build another school house, claiming that the present school accommodations are sufficient to meet the requirements of the number of children here, believing that the expenditure of so many thousands could be far better utilized.  Among the many reasons brought forward in support of their claim are the following:  In case of fire, Union School No. 1 is badly provided for, sufficient water not being obtainable in that locality to quench an ordinary blaze, although a cistern was sunk there for that purpose, but of a kind that is almost useless.  A few hundred dollars might be well expended for the purpose of remedying this. . . . Still other portions of our citizens consider the necessity of providing a suitable "lock-up" and a better and safer building than that now used by the Pioneer Fire Co., for the use of the company.  Editorial  /  Watertown Gazette, 07 13 1883


07 27       Dr. CODY HOME FIRE

Monday morning last at 10 o'clock the alarm of fire was sounded and the fire department called out, the occasion being the turning over of an oil stove and its immediate explosion in the kitchen of Dr. Cody's residence.  The fire was extinguished, however, before the engines were ready for work.  The woodwork in the kitchen was badly scorched, and the damage might have been more serious had it not been for the heroic efforts of Miss Kate Rooney, the domestic, who endangered her own person in subduing the flames.   WG


___ 1885 __________________

LEO RUESCH, FIRE CHIEF, Commemorative Coffee Pot


“From Phoenix Fire Co. No. 2 to Leo Ruesch, our Chief”

Leo Ruesch was Phoenix Fire Department Chief in 1884-1885


___ c.1885 __________________

WATERTOWN’S “WATER WITCH” races from Phoenix Engine House

A group of people standing next to a horse and buggy

Description automatically generated with medium confidence   


___ 1886 __________________


The following bids for building and erecting a stable in connection with the Phoenix Engine House were opened and read:

J. F. Dornfeld, $2157

C. Schmutzler, 1922

W. B. Squires, 1495

W. P. Quentmeyer, 2049

On motion by Com. Solliday the Committee on Public Buildings was instructed to enter into a contract with the lowest responsible bidder, for building said stable as soon as that part of O'Connell Street be vacated for that purpose.



Last Sunday at 2 o'clock a fire in the rear of Bott's frame building on the west side next to Kusels' hardware store called out the fire department.  The prompt and efficient response of the Phoenix Co. made short work of the flames.  The damage is estimated at about $50.  The fire is supposed to have originated from a match or cigar ashes thrown on the floor in the first story, where the fire started, and ran up inside the plastering to the roof.  WR



    Pioneer Company No. 1




C. E. Straw:  Now located in Watertown and running a Silsby fire engine”


___ 1887 __________________

                PIONEER FIRE DEPARTMENT No. 1 

  Watertown Historical Society Collection



We, the Phoenix engine boys, have received such liberal patronage from our citizens for the purpose of sprinkling the streets the coming summer, that we wish to express our thanks to all our subscribers for the purpose and say to them that, notwithstanding all reports to the contrary, we intend to carry out our plan of doing the sprinkling and in a manner that everyone may rejoice in a work so well done.  PHOENIX    Watertown Gazette, 03 11 1887


The Republican reported in April the new sprinkling cart manned and equipped by the Phoenix Fire Company boys made its appearance on the streets for the first time.  The Company owned its own team, which, “when not in use on the Silsby is made to turn an honest penny in keeping down the dust on the streets.  The sprinkler had a large number of patrons, and promises to do very satisfactory work.”  The sprinkler was built after the style of carts used for street sprinkling in Chicago, and sprinkles one-half of a street at each drive through it.  The cart was ornamented with the advertising of several local merchants.  Sim Robinson handled the ribbons on the cart, and “takes particular pains to see that none of the ladies get their shoes or dresses wet who chance to be near a crossing as he passes by.”     Watertown Republican, 04 20 1887 and Watertown Gazette, 04 22 1887.



      Junction fire; rail mill, machine shop, carpenter shop and blacksmith shop.   WD



Eighteen fire companies have already registered who intend to take part in the firemen's tournament which is to occur here on the fairgrounds during the Central Fair exhibition this year, and all of them are energetically at work practicing for the event.


It will be one of the most interesting contests that has ever taken place in the state, and will draw out an immense crowd of people.  Many of the localities are making arrangements to come in special cars.  In the tournament held here a few years only five companies participated, still the interest was great and the crowd attracted very large.


In this year's tournament some 20 companies will participate, and therefore the interest will be all the more, and the attendance proportionately large.



   Anchor Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 ribbon, "Pat. Oct. 18??, Mar. 7, '98"


___ 1888 __________________

07 20       JOHN WEISSERT

John E. Weissert, 1847 – 1888; Department in funeral procession for   WG


POLL TAX:  Firemen exempt from paying

In 1888 it was provided that persons who had served for ten years in the Watertown Fire Department were exempt from paying the poll tax as long as they continued to live in Watertown.  [source] 




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Built alongside the Rough & Ready dam in 1847 by Heber Smith, Luther Cole and John Richards.  It burned to the ground in 1888.


___ 1889 __________________


Charles Hoeffner funeral; the Phoenix Fire Co turned out in uniform.


10 30       ANCHOR VOLUNTEER FIRE Cos. No. 1

     composed of Anchor Hook and Ladder Cos. & Anchor Hose Cos. 


At a meeting last evening the name of the Anchor Hook and Ladder Cos. [100 block N. First St] was changed to the Anchor Volunteer Fire Cos. No. 1, and will be composed of the Anchor Hook and Ladder Cos. and the Anchor Hose Cos. 


The following officers were elected: Ed. May, pres.; A. Meyer, vice-pres.; A.A. Hardie, rec. sec.; O. Wegemann, fin. sec.; A. Jaeger, treas.; Geo. Henke, trustee for 2 years; John Henke, foreman A.H.&L.; Otto Walters, asst, foreman; C. Hoeffner, hose foreman; P. Berg, asst, foreman; Aug. Welk, hose captain; Geo. Henke, asst, hose captain and A. Goeldner, house overseer.




The Old Lindon House Barn with all its contents totally consumed; James Casey’s Warehouse burned to the ground; Conley’s Saloon slightly damaged and several other places badly scorched.




Last Sunday morning at about 2 o’clock one of the most disastrous fires that has ever occurred In Watertown broke out in the old Lindon House barn on the West Side, and before the firemen could get the fire under control some $15,000 worth of property was consumed.


The old barn fired up like a powder mill and in a few minutes after the blaze was first discovered over half a dozen places took fire therefrom.


James D. Casey’s warehouse and contents were totally consumed; Tremont House badly damaged; Conley's Saloon slightly burned, and all the sheds in that vicinity were reduced to ashes.


At one time it looked as though the whole business portion of the west side might succumb to the flames, but by the heroic and excellent work of the firemen the flames were confined to the immediate vicinity where they were first kindled.  The firemen in all the companies did good work, especially when it is taken into consideration that two blocks of frontage had to be protected by them.  It was with difficulty that the American House and barns were saved, also Casey's blacksmith shop, Conley's saloon and Seager’s barbershop.


For the fine work of the firemen, they are deserving of great praise from our citizens. . . .     WG



Sunday noon A. Meyer, Nic. J. Simon, E. J. Voigt and H. J. Heilmann, of the Anchor Fire and Hose Cos. were seriously injured by the Hook & Ladder truck being tipped over onto them, while responding to a second alarm of fire from the Tremont House.    WG



All the firemen injured lately by the turning over onto them of the hook and ladder truck are able to be out again, except Nic. Simon, who is still in a very serious condition.


___ 1890 __________________


At 2:30 o'clock last Saturday morning a destructive fire occurred in the city and at one time it looked as though a large portion of the west side would be destroyed.  The entire box, bee-hive and section factory of G. B. Lewis & Co. the and -Watertown Woolen Mills, owned by Mrs. James Chapman, were totally consumed.  The loss of the former is about $15,000 insured for $4,500 . . . .  The buildings burned were located adjacent to two large lumberyards, the Empire flour mills and several frame buildings.  Had it not been for the good service of the fire department the loss would have been very great. The origin of the fire is unknown . . . .      WG



Another disastrous fire visited our city Monday evening, making an almost total wreck of the livery barn of George W. Evans, located on North First Street.  Fortunately, sufficient help arrived in time to save the entire stock of horses, carriages, buggies and harnesses.  The barn was stored with 5,000 bushels of oats and about forty tons of hay, all of which were completely destroyed.  The front wall, part of the side wall and the office addition were saved and it may be that they are sufficiently preserved to be used in rebuilding.  But on the whole the building is a bad wreck and it was one of the worst fires Watertown has experienced . . . . The Ahrens engine, as luck would have it, was delivered by the Kunert Manufacturing company to the fire department during the day and did excellent work in connection with the ever reliable old Silsby engine that has never failed in any emergency up to the present time.  The fire started very mysteriously in a small cow stable on Mrs. Mannegold's lot adjoining the barn and from it spread to a shed addition of the barn used for storing rubbish, both forming a strong nucleus for a fire.  Mr. Evans will probably rebuild at once and continue his business, which had become quite large in the livery line. . . . WR



[same date] The regular meeting of the Board of Street Commissioners Monday evening was broken up by the fire.  It is not a little singular that there was to have come before the body a proposition from a Chicago company to put in water works here and supply the city with 100 hydrants and an outlay of $5,000 a year.  We believe a majority of our citizens have come to the conclusion that the next improvement wanted in Watertown is a complete system of water works, embracing ample protection from fires.  Should this be done our citizens would save something in the lowering of the price of insurance, to say nothing of other benefits to be derived.   WR



From the minutes of the Board of Street Commissioners meeting held Monday evening, May 1st, 1890:  Clerk read proposition from Jas. H. Thompson, of Chicago, submitting to the Board a proposition to erect and maintain water works to furnish a supply of water for public and private usage; guaranteeing to erect and maintain a perfect system of pumping works with two steam boilers, two duplex steam pumps having a combined capacity of 2,000,000 gallons in 24 hours---10 miles of street mains of proper size for distribution of the water; also to erect 100 fire hydrants, of Ludlow pattern each to have 2 ½-inch hose connections to fit hose now in use in the city; water to be clean water; to furnish all water for public schools and other buildings owned by city free of charge; provided the city pays an annual rental of $50.00 for each of the 100 hydrants, and the city to have the right to purchase the water works, should it so desire.  It is further agreed to furnish the same pumping works with seven miles of street mains with 70 hydrants at an annual rental of $60 for each hydrant.    WR



The proposal of the health officer to occupy the old engine house on First Street as an emergency hospital, provided the privilege is granted by the council, meets with some opposition, especially from those living and doing business in the vicinity.


If it should be the intention, as is supposed, to care for patients with infectious diseases, the central location of the building would make jeopardizing, no doubt, to the general health of the city.  On the other hand, cases here of persons away from their homes needing urgent and immediate medical attention, or particularly from accidents, which are the cases the health officer wishes to provide for, are not numerous enough to make it worthwhile to go to the outlay and troubles suggested.  We believe not more than three or four such cases have occurred in the city for the past six or seven years, and in case of great emergency the marshal’s office would, we think, meet all the requirements wanted.     WR



[same date] Shortly before midnight Saturday night the fire bells rang, the alarm being caused by a fire breaking out in the barn building of J. P. Herzog, Second ward.  The fire department at once responded to the call and the streams applied smothered the blaze before much harm was done the building.  A lot of chickens in the barn quietly roosted away all through the commotion and flew around as lively as ever next morning.


07 09       WE ARE TO PAY $50 PER HYDRANT

The Republican is for waterworks, but in securing them the board should exercise judgement and caution, and endeavor by every means possible to have them established here at as low a cost as other places have obtained them for, all things being equal.  By the committee's report to the board, it will be seen that Portage under her system pays only $40 per hydrant, while we are to pay $50 per hydrant.  Proportionally, Watertown aught to have her hydrants cheaper, because she takes 100, while Portage takes only 80.  Perhaps this difference against Watertown is easily explained, and if so, we would be glad to give the space for the explanation.  The Republican admits that it is not familiar with matters connected with the establishing of waterworks, but It can see that if a saving can be made of $10 a year on each hydrant, it is worth considering.    WR


07 16       100 HYDRANTS TO BE RENTED?

With the natural advantages possessed by Watertown, she wants waterworks as another Inducement to offer those aspiring to settle here, whether with a view of starting a business or making this their place of residence.  Parties are ready to put in a system of waterworks and run all the risk of the project paying, if the city will bind itself to take 100 hydrants at a rental to be agreed upon beforehand.  As to the amount of rental for 100 hydrants, say $5,000 a year, the tax payers get a return in the extra facilities for putting out fires that they obtain through the hydrants, thereby cheapening the insurance, and the saving that will come by the city being able to get along with a smaller fire department.  At present . . .     WR



Last week Thursday evening while playing around a bonfire the five-year-old daughter of Carl Tietz, of 2d ward, was fatally and frightfully burned, from the results of which she died next morning.  Her body presented a sickening sight, being burned and charred almost beyond recognition.  The parents of the unfortunate child are certainly entitled to great sympathy, this being seven or eight children they have lost in a few years.


11 05       FIRE BUG WEIGEL

Edward Weigel, aged 11 years, whose home is on North First Street, was taken before Justice Halliger, October 21, under a criminal complaint for having stolen a watch, the property of G. Boehn, and the youthful culprit was committed to the Reform school at Waukesha.  Other offenses came out against him in the examination, such as stealing dinner pails from the children of St. Henri's school, from which is was evident that he required to be taken care of.


Sometime before the boy had been charged with tempting to set fire at St. Henri's church, having sprinkled oil, obtained in the church, on the floor and then scattered matches over the surface so that a person walking might ignite the matches and set the blaze going.  But Justice Halliger, from his proofs, decided that there was no cause of action and discharged him. 


And now come the startling denouement.  When Deputy Sheriff Graewe was leaving the Reform school to return home, young Weigel confessed to him and the keeper to having set fire to Paul Herzog's barn and since then the astounding intelligence is received that in addition to this burning he admits that he set fire to the factory of G. B. Lewis & Co. and Geo. W. Evans' livery stable, involving a destruction of some $25,000 worth of property.


It may be this boy is trying to make a great hero of himself, and that his admissions must be taken with some grains of allowance, but that he is an evil-disposed youth whose presence is dangerous to society and should be made to pass through a lengthy penitential period will not be disputed.   WR



John Schluter a lad 14 years of age of the 5th ward, was arrested Thursday morning on the charge of being implicated in setting fire to Lewis & Co.'s factory which was destroyed by fire last February.  Mr. Parks visited Waukesha on Wednesday and called on young Edward Weigel, a lad 11 years of age sent from here to the reform school at that place October 21st.  It will be remembered that at that time Weigel claimed to have set fire to several places here, and on Wednesday last told Mr. Parks while in conversation with him that young Schluter was implicated with him in firing the Lewis factory.  Schluter is now in jail awaiting his examination.    WG



In our issue of last week we referred briefly to the arrest of John Schlueter charged with setting fire to G. B. Lewis & Co.’s bee hive factory in February.  As stated, Mr. Parks, the junior member of the company, visited the reform school at Waukesha for the purpose of getting a confession out of Eddy Weigel, a boy 11 years of age sent from here to that institution last October, with the suspicion hanging over him that he knew all about the various fires that were kindled here the present year, involving the loss of over $25,000 worth of property in the destruction of the G. B. Lewis Co.s bee hive factory, the Watertown woolen mill, Geo. W. Evans’ livery barn and the Herzog and Lange barns.


When Mr. Parks first began interviewing young Weigel, he was reluctant to telling all he knew about these fires, but he finally made a clean breast of it.  He stated that he fired Evans’ and Lange’s barns merely for the sake of seeing a fire, and Herzog's barn because some of the Herzog family were mad at his folks, and called him names because they did not buy beer at Herzog's saloon, and he fired the barn to get even with them.


With regard to the Lewis fire, he stated that he and Schlueter planned this fire because they had applied for work at the Lewis factory and were refused.  Early in the evening they passed some time in a barn back of the William Pell house in the 5th ward, and then strolled down towards Weber’s lumber yard, thence down to the river bank, and waited around the mills and factory until the electric lights went out.  Weigel gave a minute description of the interior of the factory at the place therein where they started the fire on the night in question, so that there can be no doubt of his story being correct.


As soon as the electric lights were turned off, both entered the basement door on the south of the factory leading from the alley way between there and the woolen mill, Schlueter applied the match whilst Weigel stood guard outside watching so that they could not be surprised in their nefarious work.  When everything was ready, Weigel went outside to watch, but returned again to inform Schlueter that a man was passing by and they had better wait awhile longer.  They did so, and both returned to their respective posts. 


Schlueter applied the match to a pile of shavings in the fore part of the basement and then skipped outside, calling to his partner to run.  Both started on the run, got separated in Weber's lumber yard, but came together again near Jesse Stone's residence, and then proceeded to Hughes' barn nearby, where they passed the night.


On arriving home from Waukesha, Mr. Parks had Schlueter arrested.  He was closely questioned as to his connection with the Lewis fire, and told substantially the same story as above. . . .


. . . . It is a relief to know that older persons were not engaged in this work.  Both boys will probably spend the best years of their lives in the reform school, if not in the state prison, and it is hoped that with this as an example before them, other boys here may be prevented from ever engaging in such despicable work. 


The reform school and state prison, to our mind, is altogether too mild a punishment for such acts.  It now remains to discover who fired the old Lindon House barn, and let us hope that the guilty one may also be found out.     WG


___ 1891 __________________

----         DEATH OF HAVENS WILBER, supporter of department



The alarm of fire last Thursday evening was caused by some shavings taking fire in the blow-pipe of the G.B. Lewis company's factory. No harm was done, but the fire department was on hand prepared for any emergency.     WR



A close-up of a building

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09 04 <> Large article about the burning of the Valerius barns.  Picture to go with it


09 09 <> The fire last Thursday morning (09 03 1891) which destroyed Dr. N.P. Valerius & Co.'s horse barns situated on the north side of West Main Street, Fourth ward, and cremated thirty-three horses, thirty-one of which were Clydesdales, and two Jersey cows, proved one of the most destructive conflagrations that ever occurred in the city.  It was a fortunate circumstance that Dr. Valerius had taken twelve horses from the barns for exhibition at the interstate fair at La Crosse, for had these animals been in the barns there is little doubt they also would have roasted alive with the others.  The fire started at 2 o’clock and spread with such rapidity that not an animal was taken out of the buildings alive. . .   The fire department was promptly on hand, and all worked heroically against great odds to stem the tide of the fiery element.  Efforts being futile on the barns, the department devoted its efforts towards saving surrounding property.        WR


___ 1894 __________________


The cistern for the use of the fire department at the corner of Sixth and Main Street has been repaired with new planking and is now in proper condition to hold water.   WR


04 11       SMALL SHED FIRE

The alarm of fire last Thursday afternoon was caused by a blaze in a small shed on the place of Henry Arndt, directly opposite from the Phoenix engine house.  The Phoenix boys soon had a stream of water on the fire, and it was extinguished in short order.



On Thursday morning the fire department was called out by the burning of Kennedy property near the Junction, occupied by Peter Schauss as a residence.  This is an old landmark, being erected many years ago by ex-assemblyman P. Davy of this district.  The building is almost a total wreck, but is fully covered by insurance.     WG



     The Main Building of the University Group Struck by Lightning. 


Shortly after 10 o clock Monday night, during the storm which had set in just previously, the terrific electric bolt which was so generally noticed for its severity struck the flag-staff on the belfry of the main building of the Northwestern University, and in hardly less time than it takes to tell it the belfry and the entire roof were completely enveloped in a sheet of flames.


The fire department bustled to the scene of action as soon as possible, but was unable to render effective assistance in subduing the flames until an hour later, owing to the distance of the steamers from the burning building which was fully a half mile, at the cistern on the corner of Main Street and College Avenue.  This made it difficult for the engines to force water through the hose with sufficient strength to be of any aid.  Finally a good stream was secured by placing one of the streamers half way between the cistern and the building and forcing the water from that point when it was received from the other engine.


The firemen worked all night and until noon yesterday over the ruins.   After the fire had gained a good foot hold on the roof it spread rapidly to the inside of the building and completely gutted it.  Nothing but the massive brick walls are left, and these may possibly have to be torn down for safety.  The rainfall in progress at the time no doubt prevented the fire from touching the adjoining buildings and making it even more destructive than it was.   Some good work was done in saving the contents of the building.  A portion of the furniture and a considerable part of the valuable library were removed by willing hands.


Some insurance was carried, but how much cannot be exactly ascertained as yet. The board of trustees had charge of this and it was carried in Milwaukee agencies.  It is thought it does not amount to over $5,000 or $8,000, which is very small in comparison to the whole loss.  This is conservatively estimated to be at least $25,000 above the insurance.  Nothing can be said at this writing of the plans of the board of trustees, of which Rev. Mr. Bading, of Milwaukee, is president, as to replacing the building.


09 26       THE PHOENIX BALL

At Turner Opera house this evening occurs the eighteenth annual ball of the Phoenix Volunteer Fire company.  Arrangements for a very pleasant time have been made, and there will no doubt be a large attendance.  The company’s faithful services to the city are of inestimable value, and there should be shown a hearty appreciation of the same by a liberal patronage this evening.



The Watertown Manufacturing company have completed the repairs on the Phoenix fire engine (Silsby), and Monday afternoon it was tested on Main Street bridge.  The steamer performed its work very satisfactorily, and the firemen and city authorities were much pleased with it.  It seems to be as good as new.  The repairs were apparently done in a first -class, workmanlike manner, reflecting great credit upon the company and their skilled mechanics who had charge of the job, Messrs. Boardman and Reichardt.  The city saved considerable money by entrusting the contract to them at $650, as another firm wanted $1,900 to do the same work.   WR



There were fifteen bids before the council last evening for the job of keeping openings in the ice at all bridges and platforms for the use of the fire department, and cistern covers free from snow, during the winter.  The bids ranged from $25 to S70.  William Schulz was given the contract at the first named figure.       WR


___ 1895 __________________


A test of the efficiency of the city's fire department was made about 8 o'clock Saturday evening.  Chief McLaughlin sounded the alarm, the steamers were sent to Main Street bridge and the companies ordered to work.  It took the Ahrens engine and the Anchor Hose company just three and one-half minutes to get to the bridge after the alarm, the Silsby engine and the Phoenix boys arrived a few seconds thereafter, the difference being accounted for in the greater distance their house from the bridge.  The Phoenix boys had a stream of water through their hose almost immediately after their arrival, but for some reason the Ahrens engine failed to pump and it was twenty minutes before it could force any water.  There is something palpably wrong with this steamer.  Lately it has failed to perform its work several times.  The city authorities are investigating the matter and will endeavor to ascertain where the trouble lies.  Monday morning it was again tested and this time worked satisfactorily, a stream being thrown in a very few moments after starting.  WR



[same date] The matter of keeping fire cisterns clear of snow and holes cut in the ice for the use of the fire department has in the past occasioned considerable trouble to the council and the letting of bids.  Why not appropriate a certain sum say $75, and give the contract to the fire department, each company taking it in turn?  If such were done, the city could be reasonably certain that the work would be satisfactorily performed.  WR


01 09       EMPIRE MILL FIRE

A fire was discovered at noon yesterday in the Empire Mill of the Globe Milling company, and for a time it was feared the company would suffer a loss like that sustained last August in the destruction of the Globe mill.  But the alarm was hastily given and the firemen were at work without delay, subduing the flames before any headway had been gained.  Several streams of water were at work, both on the outside and inside of the mill, and the chances were altogether against the fire spreading.  The flames were located in the bran room, connected with which is a conveyor from the elevator.  One of the buckets of this conveyor had in some manner got out of running order, thereby stopping the movement of the belting, and the continued revolving of the drive pulley – which was directly at the head of the conveyor, where the grain was discharged to the bran room produced a friction on the belting which in time burned the latter.  The communication of the flames to the bran followed, the fact being discovered by William Wurtzler and others of the mill hands just as they were about to leave for dinner.


Owing to alterations being made in the flouring department, the mill was running only its feed department.  No material loss was occasioned by the fire, the principal damage being done by the large amount of water poured into the building.  This affected the machinery and other contents considerably.  It is thought the loss will be at least $1,500.  The property is amply insured.  It was a narrow escape from a most serious conflagration, and everybody is thankful that if was no worse.  The company will be delayed some by the cleaning-up process.   WR



The loss occasioned by the blaze at the Empire mill last Tuesday was not nearly as large as first reported.  It was adjusted by the insurance company at about $200.   WR


02 06       STACY HOME FIRE

On returning home last Sunday afternoon from a call, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Stacy discovered fire in the sitting room of their residence, 410 West Cady Street.  The carpeting and some of the furniture was damaged to the extent of $25.  It is supposed to have caught from the igniting of a match in the straw under the carpet, which was probably stepped upon as they left their dwelling an hour or so previous.   WR



The property owned by William Jaedecke, surrounding the southwest corner of Main and Seventh streets, was visited by the fire fiend at an early hour Sunday morning and considerable damage was done.  The fire extended to the lumber yard of Brittingham & Hixon, adjoining on the west, but aside from the burning of a few piles of lumber and cedar posts, no great damage was done in that quarter . . . There is perhaps no more dangerous locality in the city for a fire than this block, and with the high eastern wind prevailing at the time it is a marvel that more property was not destroyed.  Excellent work, however, was performed by the fire department, under the supervision of Chief McLaughlin, and this, coupled with the lucky rainfall, prevented the flames from spreading.  The firemen are entitled to much praise for their heroic and tireless effort in the face of many obstacles, the principal of which was the lack of water.  The origin of the fire is unknown, although many circumstances point to incendiarism.  It is said that there was a strong smell of kerosene during the fire's progress.



On West Main Street; one doubts that it was of incendiary origin.



A barn on the premises of Luke Dunigan, on River Street, Seventh ward, caught fire about 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon, and, fanned by the brisk breeze, the flames made rapid progress, soon rendering the structure a mass of ruins.  The department responded to the alarm, but before the firemen could begin work on the blaze the destruction was complete.  WR



The location of street hydrants of the water system was definitely arranged at the council meeting Saturday evening.  There are to be 149 of them, which will pretty thoroughly cover the city.


___ 1896 __________________


Shortly after midnight last night the barn on Alderman H. Wertheimer’s place, 217 North Fifth street, was destroyed by fire.  The fire department was out and prevented the flames from spreading to adjoining property.  The barn was insured for $100.  The origin of the fire is unknown.                       The Watertown News, 13 May 1896


___ 1897 __________________


To the Honorable, the Mayor and Common Council of the City of Watertown, Wisconsin:  The board of public works and the committee on public building's, to whom was referred the plans and specifications for a morgue and the advisability of constructing the same and the probable cost thereof, make the following report: We disapprove of the plans and specifications, but deem it advisable to construct a morgue, and recommend the “Old Engine House" site situated in the First ward of this city [116 S. First] as the proper place for the same; the probable cost of repairing the building, including roof, and fitting room in same for purpose of a morgue will not in our opinion exceed the sum of $500.


Before the question on the adoption of the report was put, the mayor stated that unless objection was raised Edward Specht would be allowed to speak on the recommendations of the report.  Mr. Specht said petitions had been freely signed remonstrating against the location of the morgue as proposed.  He called attention to the fact that it is in the heart of the city and that the surroundings are not suitable for its establishment there; that the property in question has laid idle for twelve years, is in very poor condition and a detriment to the neighborhood.  He was ready to purchase the property at a fair price if necessary to prevent the proposed action.  In reply to his remarks a number of the aldermen were heard.  It was the opinion that the charter would not permit the property to be disposed of except at auction, which would not be advisable, as no price could be guaranteed.  It was doubtful if a morgue could be located elsewhere as cheaply and suitably.  Alderman Needham explained that the plan was to locate the morgue in the basement, with a rear entrance, out of sight of the surroundings.  The report was adopted by a unanimous vote and a resolution calling for plans to refit the building to be submitted at the next meeting was passed later in the session.


NOTE:  Morgue was eventually located in City Hall on N. First St.



At a meeting of the Watertown Fire Department Monday evening Ferdinand Link was elected assistant chief engineer in place of Charles Pientz, whose position on the police force prevented his qualifying. Mr. Link received 33 votes against 32 for Herman Conrad.      Watertown News


___ 1898 __________________


The Common Council of the city of Watertown do ordain as follows:


Section 1.  The duties of the engineer of the fire department shall be to keep the fire engine No. 2 in good repair and ready for use and properly care for the same, and to run it at all fires when it shall be called out by the chief of the fire department;  To keep clean and well-oiled and wiped engine No. 1, so that the same will not rust; to attend as a fireman all fires, going with the hose wagon; but if the fire engine shall be called out, he shall return and run it; to be janitor of the Phoenix engine house and keep the same clean and in good order, and to sleep there; to wash the hose after fires or when used, and to change them in the hose-wagon as often as necessary, so that they will not crack; to run the steam roller when requested so to do by the city engineer, and to keep the same clean and properly wiped and oiled when not in use. 



A steam whistle has been purchased by the board of water commissioners and is erected to be in place on the power house in a few days.  It is a three-chimes whistle and will serve several purposes, one of which will be to notify consumers of the closing time for lawn sprinkling both morning and evening, and another to proclaim, in case of fire, the number of the ward in which the fire is located.   WR



Friday morning last, about 3 o'clock, the old frame building at the northeast corner of West Main and Monroe streets was discovered to be on fire [Cross Reference: Edward Schenck, 616 W Main,1899-99 City Dir; today 614?].  The west end of the building, including a bowling alley extending about forty feet north, was badly damaged.  Mr. Schenck was the occupant of the premises, using a portion of the west end for a grocery store.  His loss on stock is about $250. No light has been shed on the origin of the fire, although one story is that it was the work of a couple of tramps who were refused aid and were determined to get even.  Probably spontaneous combustion was the real cause.   WR



A smokehouse on the premises of John F. McGolrick, Seventh ward, caught fire yesterday afternoon, but the blaze was extinguished before any damage aside for the burning of some meat was done.  The department was called out, but its services were not needed.  Cross Reference:   John F. McGolrick, wood and coal, 1014 5th St; residence at 218 Mary (Watertown City Directory, 1899-1900)  WR


___ 1899 __________________


Several water mains have been found to be frozen, and steps have been taken to put them in condition for use in case of necessity.  Fire Chief Roy has taken the matter in hand, and made proper provisions for the use of the fire engines should it become necessary.  R.W. Wood, assistant in physics at the state university, has originated a new plan for thawing out water pipes.  By his plan an electric wire is attached to the water pipe at the meter, if the freeze is outside of it, and another to the nearest hydrant. The current is then turned on and the electricity does the rest.  At the residence of W. F. Viles, in Madison, Monday afternoon, 150 feet of pipe in the frozen section was thawed out in twelve minutes.   WR


03 22       FIRE DEPT TEST

The fire department was given a very satisfactory test yesterday afternoon, being called out on an alarm sounded by Chief Roy. The three companies made the run in an extremely short time.  WR



A small blaze in the rear of the residence of Wm. Buchheit called out the fire department Friday evening, a section of the fence having taken fire from burning refuse.  The fire was easily extinguished, and no damage of any account resulted. 


04 26       THE EXCITED IMAGINATION of a small boy resulted in the bringing out of the fire boys Sunday evening.  The glare of a blazing coal fire in a window of J. T. Moak's residence attracted the attention of a little fellow who was passing by, and his frantic yells of "fire, fire!" were quickly re-echoed along the line, and soon a large section of the           city was in commotion.  But they did have a "hot" time at the ball game in the afternoon. WR


05 30       Lewis Monument dedication participant


08 04       SHOE FACTORY “FIRE”

Last Monday evening the fire department was called out by an alarm of fire being sent in from First Street.  A pile of brush was set on fire south of the electric light building, and the fire reflected in the shoe factory windows making it appear that the interior of the building was all on fire.  When it was announced the shoe factory was “on fire", people began to express regrets, for it was feared that many would be deprived of employment should its burn down.  When it was learned to be a false alarm, all felt at ease.    WG



A fire run by the local department was on the program, and it proved a most agreeable surprise.  Eight pieces of apparatus, including the wagon carrying the chief and assistant chief, were used and the run was a most exciting and thrilling feature.  It was cleverly conceived and carried out without a hitch. . . . As the float of the William Hartig Brewing company, one of the last in the parade, neared Main Street bridge, it caught fire from the burning of red light and had to be taken out of the line of march.  The fire alarm was sounded and the department promptly extinguished the blaze.  This was the only accident that occurred to mar any of the three days’ proceedings.






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History of Watertown, Wisconsin