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Watertown Fire Department






Additional Segments  http://www.newadvent.org/images/navarrow-right.jpg 1900-1999  

Additional Segments  http://www.newadvent.org/images/navarrow-right.jpg 2000-2016  



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.







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




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



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



07 15       Rent for engine house paid Jacob Jussen    WD


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



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



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



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




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



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



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



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




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




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




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.



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



                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


1872                Habhagger Brewery fire


1873                Parade cancelled by tornado    07 04


1875                Bay State House fire



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


                Charles Kerr, charter member, fire engine driver


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



                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 ?



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



08 14       Article about a fire.  Firemen complain about the fact that there is not enough hose on the engines to reach the proper distances.  WD




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."



                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





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



-- --           FRAMED FIREMAN CARDS


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




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



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




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”



                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



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



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] 




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




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.




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.


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



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




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



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.


10 25       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



01 09       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


01 16       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.


09 25       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


11 13       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.




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




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