Our History

Purchase of the Hose Cart

During the year 1908, the water system was completed in the town proper and in June of that year the Fire Department, decided to purchase a new hose cart and hose. In September of 1908, a cart and 700 feet of hose were purchased from the Fabric Hose Company, for $626.00. When hose and cart arrived in March of 1909 a test was run for pressure at the Liberty Pole, in the center of town and at the Hilltop Church. Water was thrown up to the second Cornish on the Church and about 10 ft, over the liberty pole without the aid of a pumper.

In June of 1909 the Department received an invitation to parade in Plainfield, on July 7. The invitation was accepted and a drillmaster was hired to drill the boys. They must have looked pretty sharp as they took a prize for the Best Looking Uniformed Company in line.

Returning from a drill one evening the boys got tired and tied the hose cart on the back of John Hoffman’s car. Turning the corner by the Black Horse Inn, at HIGH SPEED, a wheel broke on the Hose Cart. So that this might not happen again the Chief was instructed to get two new wheels six inches smaller in diameter.

In January of 1913, a new fire alarm system was installed. This consisted of a clock, which had discs with slots cut in them for different numbers. These discs when placed in the clock would make electric contact with the bell in the First Presbyterian Church. The number rung told the location of the fire. Big weights were hung in the Church Steeple. These weights rang the mechanism and had to be wound up by means of a winch that took two men to operate.

Birth of Mendham Independent Hook & Ladder Company and Hose Company No. 1

In March of 1913 it was decided to incorporate the department and change its name to the Mendham Independent Hook and Ladder Company.

The necessary papers were drawn up in April of that year and signed and sealed. After this incorporation the Company handed the Borough Officials a resolution asking them to form a new company that would be under the jurisdiction of the said officials. This, the Council agreed to do, passing a resolution that formed the Mendham Hose Company. The Mendham Hose Company was organized in July of 1913. The primary purpose of this move was to allow the Borough of Mendham a means of helping support the Fire Department. Up until this time all equipment, the Independent Company paid for maintenance and housing. Further, the opportunity of forming a Firemen’s relief association was now opened. The Independent Company turned over equipment consisting of a hose cart, hose, nozzles and other necessary equipment to the Borough, and a list of charter members was set up.

The Independent Company now became the proving ground for the new men. Joining the Independent Company certain qualifications had to be met before they were recommended to the Council for election to the Hose Company. The same system is followed today as it has proven to be a very good way of education in the art of fire fighting.

On or about the first of January 1914, an Auto chassis was given to the Independent Company by Mr. Pitney. This chassis was of foreign make, S.G.V. by name. It cranked from the side and wound counterclockwise. It took two revolutions of the crank to turn the engine once. Not every one could start it. Mr. J.S. Gunther was given the job of preparing it for service. Body, 500 feet of hose, nozzles, axes, a 24 foot extension ladder, a 12 foot roof ladder and some other equipment cost the Company about $1100.00. This was quite an addition to the Fire Department, and it signaled the passing of horse drawn vehicles for fire use in Mendham.

In 1916, the meeting night was changed from the first Tuesday, to the last Monday of each month, and the annual meeting changed from the June meeting to December. Since that time there have been no changes in those dates.

nj-firemens-reliefOn March 20, 1914, the Mendham Firemen’s Relief Association was formed. The First Officers were, President: Frank M. Grenadine, Vice-President: Charles H. Day, Secretary: Frank Freeman, and Treasurer: George Delp. Trustees were elected as follows: J. Smith Gunther, Arthur B. Crane, and Leo Robinson. The necessary record books were set up. The Treasurer instructed in his duties as collector for the Association, and the necessary auditing arranged for. Except for change in officers, changes in bylaws (as set forth by the State Association), this Association has continued as originally set up. Relief to its members amounting to many hundreds of dollars has been paid by it. Doctor’s Certificates for all its members who joined after 1922, are on file with the State Office. In some cases these certificates were obtained many years after the members joined the Department. As is probably true in any organization some of its officers were less aggressive than others, its collectors in particular have been up and down. Nevertheless it has never been necessary to call on the State Organization for assistance and its treasury is presently on the increase.

1919 Ford Pumper. Erice Zeliff Driver, Frank Groendyke, Chief

1919 Ford Pumper. Erice Zeliff Driver, Frank Groendyke, Chief

In September of 1919, a new fire truck was received. This was a pumper capable of delivering 350gpm. It was the property of the Mendham Hose Company. The Independent Hook and Ladder Company donated $800.00 toward its purchase.

In February of 1920 the Independent Hook and Ladder Company purchased a Ford tractor equipped with a fifth wheel and the old ladder chassis was mounted on it. Refinements were made to the Ladder chassis and among these, one given serious consideration was the installing of a fifth wheel on the original front axle of the said chassis so that it could be used by hitching a team to it in the event the engine of the tractor wouldn’t start.

The First Siren

In March of 1922, after much listening to and inquiring about sirens, one was ordered. Evidently it didn’t work very well as a good deal of regulating and letter writing took place between March, 1922 and April, 1923, when a representative of the American LaFrance Company inspected it, and ordered a new one sent out by the factory. A new timing device was ordered by the fire company to come with the siren. When finally set up, everything worked out very well as the same siren and timing device were in use until February 1955.

In June 1924, the Independent Hook and Ladder Company purchased a new Ford truck, to be used as a supply car. On this was placed all tools needed to fight grass and woods fires, plus extra hose and other equipment.

In April of 1928 a representative from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company, was present at a meeting of the Fire Company and The Borough Council to explain the different types of trucks that were in service in rural areas. Considerable thinking and discussion must have taken place after this meeting as the next item on new Fire apparatus was in February, of 1930, when another American LaFrance agent was present at a meeting. No action was taken at this time, but things were getting hot. In March of 1930, the Company recommended to the Council that they purchase a new pumper. A committee of firemen drew up and presented specifications for this pumper to the Borough. Feeling that the new pumper needed a good mate, the Company also appointed a committee to purchase a new Hook & Ladder truck. This committee bought a GMC chassis and asked J.S. Gunther to change the old ladder rack over onto the new chassis. A great deal of work was necessary to convert the old horse drawn vehicle into a then modern motorized piece of equipment. Nevertheless all work and painting was completed by the last of October, when the Morristown parade was held. Mendham made quite a splash that year with two new fire trucks. It must be noted that the Borough Council purchased a Mack 750 GPM pumper, which was delivered in time for the parade.