Soon after the Volunteer Fire Department was disbanded, a number of the old officers assembled at the house of ex-Fore Commissioner, Thomas Lawrence, under Jefferson Market, and formed the New York Firemen's Association, with ex-President Henry Wilson, of the old Board of Fire commissioners, as president; ex-Assistant Engineer Wm. Lamb, as first vice-president; Lewis J. Parker, second vice-president; Robert Wright, secretary; and Frederick A. Ridabock, treasurer. Over three hundred names were enrolled, among them Thomas C. Burns, Alderman Eugene Ward, Dearborn G. Piper, Abraham Clearman, Colonel W. R. W. Chambers, William J. Smith, Charles Miller, Jonas L. Coe, George W. Williams, John Underhill, Judge Alfred A. Philips, Frank Bryns, Andrew Holly, William Spear, Tobias Lawrence, Timothy L. West, Thomas Lawrence, and others. During the month of October, 1865, they visited Philadelphia, and took part in the last parade of the Volunteer Department of that city held. The same year they fitted up fine quarters on the northwestern corner of Sixth Avenue and Fourth Street, where they received many visiting companies. In 1870 they removed to No. 5 Sixth Avenue, having secured the entire building. Her they received delegations of firemen from all sections of the United States. In 1873 they removed to the "Bleecker building," corner of Bleecker and Morton Streets, where they remained until they broke up, along in 1876. The members, it seems became lukewarm, and soon after, the organization quietly passed out of existence.


On Sunday, November 18, 1883, the following advertisement appeared in the newspapers.


"All the members of the Old volunteer Fire Department are requested to attend a meeting at Military Hall, No. 187 Bowery, on Tuesday night, November 20, 1883, to take action in relation to participating in the parade on Centennial Evacuation Day.


This call was responded to by a host of old firemen--ex-chiefs and ex-assistant engineers, ex-foremen, and ex-assistant foremen, together with a multitude of rank and file. One hundred thirty one companies were represented. John Decker, presided; H. H. Cummings, of Hose Company No. 22, was Secretary; and George T. Patterson, of Engine Company No. 8, Treasurer. On motion, a committee of ten was to be appointed by the chairman, said committee to make arrangements for the Centennial Evacuation parade. The chair appointed:

Martin J. Keese, Hose company No. 60
P. Bullard, Hose Company No. 39
James Higgins, Hook and Ladder Company No. 12
William E. Bishop, Engine Company No. 24
Gilbert J. Orr, Engineer
George W. Anderson, Hose Company No. 22
George t. Patterson, Engine Company No. 8
Frank Mahedy, Engine Company No. 31
Peter P. Pullis, Hose Company No. 40
David Decker, Engine Company No. 16

Other committees were appointed in connection with the projected celebration. A meeting was held on the following Friday evening, November 23, to transact business, when four hundred and thirty-two firemen signed their names, requiring the appointment of several deputy secretaries. The committee of ten met until the twenty-sixth of the month. This was the inception of the Volunteer Firemen's Association.

In December, 1883, this unnamed association received an invitation from the volunteer firemen's Association of Philadelphia to attend their annual banquet on December 14. The invitation was accepted. Twenty-three firemen proceeded to the "City of Brotherly Love," were received, and feted to their hearts' content. While in Philadelphia, a close examination was made of the workings of the Volunteer Assocaition of that city. The New York committee was highly pleased with all the rules, by-laws, etc. The information they received was of vital importance at a later day.

A meeting was held at Military Hall, December 22, 1883, Chief Decker presiding. The report of the committee of ten was read and approved. Additional names were added to the committee, as follows:

E. W. Jacobs, Engineer
W. H. Arreson, Engine Company No. 25
Frank Bazzoni, Engine Company No. 45
Charles Miller, Engine Company No. 34.

This committee of fifteen met in the City hall Library, transacted some unimportant business, and adjourned to meet at Hall's Hotel, where an election was held. John Decker was chosen as the first president of the association. A committee of three on by-laws, consisting of William E. Bishop, George W. Anderson, and Peter P. Pullis, was appointed. The next meeting was at the Village House, Hudson and Banks Streets. Sixty members were enrolled and permanent organization agreed upon.

On February 14, 1884, the "Act of Incorporation: (or charter) was issued by the State of New York to the volunteer Firemen's Association, signed by John A. McCall, Jr., Superintendent of the Insurance Department, Albany, new York.

On February 22, 1884, a meeting was held at the Village House to elect officers for the ensuing year. The result was as follows:

John Decker


George R. Connor

First vice-president

Nelson D. Thayer

Second vice-president

William E. Bishop

Financial secretary

Charles e. Benedict

Recording secretary

George T. Patterson


Patrick Connory


Board of Directors: George w. Anderson, Joseph Niblo, martin J. Keese, James Higgins, peter P, Pullis, Edward Gilon, Thomas Goodwin.

In July, 1884, the association took possession of the house in Eighth Street, opposite the old "Astor Place Opera House" (now the Mercantile Library). A brief description of the place may be interesting. The business room, or office, is dedicated to the board o directors and the financial secretary; the latter, mr. William E. Bishop, does not find time falling heavily on his hands, as he is actively engaged from early morning to late in the evening. He has to transact business with over two thousand members, keep the accounts of each individual member, issue notices, receive dues, in fact, he transacts as much business as two or three ordinary bookkeepers. A huge safe is suggestive of the large amount of money received and disbursed by the association. The directors' table, the desks, account books, etc. five an accurate idea of the business transacted. The walls are hung with banners. Also old banners of Manhattan Engine Company No. 8, Americus Engine Company No. 6, Mechanics' Hose company no. 47, two guidons used by the Wilson guards (Peterson engine Company No. 5), a number of certificates, some dating back to the last century, engravings, etc., complete the furniture of the apartment.

The main room is a perfect fire museum; everything connected with the Old Department is represented, pipes of polished copper and brass, long and short, torches, lamps, ladder-jackets, trumpets, and signals, paintings of old-time firemen, engravings of celebrated fires, photographs of members of almost every old company, fire-caps old chiefs and assistant engineers, fire-cap fronts with such a variety of numbers that the eye wearies dwelling upon them. There is also a number of models of fire apparatus, beautifully made, and faithfully reproduced. The names of but a few can be mentioned: Empire Hook and Ladder Company No. 8, Mazeppa Engine Company No. 46 (Old gooseneck), Cataract Engine Company No. 25 (piano), Mazeppa Hose Company No. 42, Peterson Engine Company No. 31(double-decker). Among the antiques may be found back and panels painted by eminent artists. The first in order is from Neptune Engine Company No. 6, with Neptune surrounded by water nymphs; Eagle Engine Company No. 13, a mother rescuing her child from the eagle's nest; D. D. Tompkins Engine Company No. 30, a portrait of Governor Tompkins; Fulton engine Company No. 21, the witch of the water, a scene from Byron's Manfred; Washington Engine Company No. 20, Washington delivering his Inaugural; Howard Engine company No. 34, Howard, the philanthropist, visiting the distressed; Perry Hose company no 23, two views of Perry's victory on Lake Erie; Forrest engine company No. 3, portraits of Edwin Forrest and John Decker. All of these backs show unmistakable evidences of age and exposure; some of them are scarcely discernible; in one case the back was burned from too close proximity to a burning building. It is useless to attempt to describe the remainder of the articles, but it is very apparent that the association is in need of a larger building to transact its business and display its unique and valuable collection.

Board of Officers, 1886-'87

John Decker


James J. Ferris

First vice-president

William Lamb

Second vice-president

William E. Bishop

Financial secretary

Joseph S. Beer

Recording secretary

James B. Mingay


Board of Directors; John J. Blair, chairman; Andrew J. Brush, John Quigg, George F. Haller, John K. Costigan, Martin Senger, Michael Loftus, William F. Searing, Matthew McCullough and Isaac Mills, sergeant-at-arms.

Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 45, Part IV

By Holice and Debbie

Transcribed by


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