Date & Time: Call Type:
07-20 09:37 ASSAULT
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Every able-bodied male citizen of Williamsport at one time in the early life

of the community was a fire fighter.


A system for combating fire had its beginning with the crude bucket brigades

organized to fight the flames.  In some cases, the ladies helped in the bucket

brigade operation, generally in filling the buckets with water which the men

passed from one to another from the source of the water to the flames.


Reflecting back, Williamsport was founded after the Revolutionary War by

General Otho Holland Williams, a hero of the war.  In its early beginnings,

wood was the only fuel used in the homes and almost all the roofs of the town

were made of wood.  Because of this, chimney fires were a major hazard.


In 1818 an effort was made to provide better fire fighting apparatus.  The

Maryland Legislature granted authority to the town commissioners to levy a

tax of $1,200 to purchase the first fire engine.  As existing records state “…

the citizens of the town honored this deed as a privilege.”


It is interesting to note, the Williamsport Company, an unofficial name,

answered the call in 1834 to General Samuel Ringgold’s mansion at Fountain

Rock, the present site of Saint James School. Reflecting back, Williamsport

was founded after the Revolutionary War by General Otho Holland Williams,

a hero of the war.  In its early beginnings, wood was the only fuel used in the

homes and almost all the roofs of the town were made of wood.  Because of this,

chimney fires were a major hazard.


The first official fire company in Williamsport – known as the Williamsport Fire

Company – was organized November 14, 1839.  This Company was adequate for

the small, but steadily growing community.  It purchased a piece of equipment, an

engine known as “The Lark.” It was destroyed during the Civil War – the conflict

between the North and the South.


The second Company, under the name of the Potomac Fire Company – was

organized April 27, 1906.  The officers were Abraham Roth, President;  John B.

Newcomer, Vice President;  J. A. Hawken, Secretary;  and Dr. J. M. Wertz,



The Certificate of Corporation recorded the name of the organization to read:


 “Potomac Fire Company Number I of Williamsport, Maryland.”


The historic document read, in part:


            “… The Corporation so formed is for the purpose of protecting

            the property and lives of the citizens of Williamsport and vicinity, by

extinguishing or suppressing fires…”


This Company was equipped with a Hood and Ladder truck, chemical

extinguishers, and buckets with the old familiar steamer which was a wood

and coal burner pulled by two horses.  The chemical truck followed which was

short lived.  The home of the Potomac Fire Company was located in the

building on North Conococheague Street, across from the City Hall.


The Williamsport Fire Department, as it is known today, was formed on

October 9, 1928. 


Prior to this date in its history, membership cards were sent to interested

citizens of the town.


The first official meeting that October night was called to order by President

R. G. Hoffman.  After his short address, the meeting was open for business. 

On motion of J. A. Hawkins, which was approved by the members present, all

persons whose name appeared on the application cards to date were to be

considered charter members.  They were authorized to sign the Constitution

when it was adopted.


The Constitution was then read – each article separate – and acted upon.  Upon

motion of C. D. Bell it was adopted and the signatures affixed.  The name of the

association was recorded as the Volunteer Fire Company.


The President then appointed a committee of O. L. Beachley, Joe Lemen, J. B.

Heffner, W. M. Seymour, and C. D. Bell to secure data on supplies and equipment

for the company.

The minutes of the first meeting ended thus:


“…There being no further business – meeting adjourned to meet on the next

 regular meeting night, Monday, October 19.


                                                                            Charles N. Harsh, Secretary



At the next meeting, the following officers were elected:

R. G. Hoffman, President;  R. G. Hawkens, Vice President;  Charles N. Harsh,

Secretary;  and J. L. Madison, Treasurer.


Also at this meeting the matter of dues was discussed, the fire siren reported

installed and the suggestion made that it be tested each week day “at 12:30

o’clock … with notice to be placed in the local paper.”


W. H. Beard made a motion that was carried that anyone in Williamsport or vicinity

who contributed five dollars or more per year to the Company should be regarded

as having rendered a worthy service and would thereby become an honorary member.


It is interesting to note, the first three months of the newly formed Fire Company had

a membership of nearly fifty.


The new year began with application being made for the Company to seek membership

in the Volunteer Firemen’s Association of Maryland, a donation to the treasury of fifty

dollars by the Town Council, the membership attended in a body a religious evening

service at the Lutheran Church.  It also saw the opening of the club room, and

cooperation with the Williamsport Community Band for the street carnival during

Old Home Week.”


Drill practices, fire badges, and uniforms were forthcoming by may in time for

participation in a parade in Greencastle.  Bylaws were also adopted, pertinent

equipment purchased, including helmets.  And the treasury showed a balance of



The next few years were to see several projects materialize:  bingo and a turkey

raffle.  The proceeds from these functions were used periodically to purchase gas

masks and first aid equipment.


An important date in the history of the Volunteer Fire Company was October 30,

1935.  On that memorable dated at 10:00 a.m. the Williamsport Volunteer Fire

Department was incorporated.


The document read, in part:

“… This is to certify … hereby under and by virtue of the General Laws

 of the State of Maryland authorizing the formation of corporations,

 associate ourselves with the purpose and intention of forming a corporation…”


It was recorded in Liber 128, Folio 425, the Charter Records of the State Tax

Commission of Maryland.