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History of Washington County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

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market purposes until June 7, 1878, when the Coun-
cil ordered the market-house to be fitted up for an
engine-house and the old engine-room used as a

Fire Department. — The first fire which occurred
in the town of Washington of which any account is
obtained was tlie burning of the log court-house in
the winter of 1790-91. The accounts of the commis-
sioners of 1791 contain the following : " To pay James
Marshel for the use of his engine, 125." What kind
of an engine was owned by Col. Marshel, or for what
purpose he obtained it, is not known, as no further
reference to it is found.

In the history of the incorporation of the borough
reference is made to an article signed " An Inhabitant
of Washington," and dated Feb. 2, 1796, in which he
says, speaking of the powers of a borough, " It could
make provision against a calamity which every reflect-
ing man must dread^fire. In vain is our fire-engine
if we want water ; and it is well known that in a dry
season there is not one-tenth part of the water neces-
sary in case of a fire breaking out, yet there is no au-
thority to dig wells in the street." It is evident from
the above that at that time a fire engine was owned
and kept for public use by the town. And in a bill
presented to the commissioners in the year 1797 "the
Engine-House" is mentioned. In an article which
was published in the Reporter of Jan. 13, 1817, "A
Citizen," speaking of a recent fire and the e.xisting
fire system, says, " We have had more than twenty
years' experience of the inefficiency of the present
system." This implies that a fire company was or-
ganized about that time (1797), and was in possession
of an engine. On the 18th of May, 1801, the " Wash-
ington Fire Company" was organized with a roll of
eighty-two members. The engine was placed under
the care of two directors and sixteen men. On the
15th of January, .1816, notice was given by Henry
Yanaway, high constable, to the citizens of the
borough to meet at the court-house on the 16th, " for
the purpose of determining whether the taxes of the
borough shall be so far increased as may be necessary
for the purchase of a fire-engine." No account of
this meeting is found. There was existing in that

1 The reason of the market-house being set back from the main street
was that on the ;M of June, 1817, the coraruissioners laid off three lots
on the public square, Nos. 1, 2, a, twenty-two by twenty-four feet each,
being si,\ty-six feet front ou Main Street, and twenty-four feet on
Cherry Alley. These lota were leased for twenty-five yeare, No. 1 to
William Hunter, it being the north lot; No. 2, the tentre cue, to John
Neal ; No. 3, the south one, to Davjd Shields. On these lots a brick
building was to be erected one story in height, covering the whole area
and under one roof, and to be built in range with the public offices.
On the 20th of June, the commissioners thinking it would be better to
have the building two stories iu height, agreed with the lessees, Hunter,
Neal, and Sljields, in consideration of erecting ttie building two. stories
in height, to release them from the first five years' annual rent. The
buildings were thus erected, and when the market-house was built the
lease had not yet expired.

year a fire company called "The Franklin Fire Com-
pany," and John Cunningham, secretary, notified the
company to meet at the court-house on the 16th of
Ai)ril. The Reporter, of February, 1822, gives an
account of a meeting of the citizens of the borough of
Washington, held at the court-house on the 18tli of
February in that year. The Rev. Thomas Hoge was
called to the chair, and Joseph Henderson was chosen
secretary. The object of the meeting was to direct
the burgesses and Council of the borough to purchase
" a new water-engine" out of the corporation funds.
John Johnson, John Wilson, Alexander Reed, Daniel
Moore, and William Sample were ajjpointed a com-
mittee to wait upon the commissioners of the county
at their next meeting and " ascertain how much they
will subscribe for the purpose of purcha-sing a new-
engine and apparatus." The burgesses and Council
were instructed to ascertain how much can be raised
by subscription for the purpose of making reservoirs,
the subscribers to have credit in their taxes; they
were also requested to pass an ordinance requiring
every person owning a house of the value of §400 to
purchase two leather fire-buckets. The meeting ad-
journed to March 14th, the same year, at which time
the " Hope Fire Company" was organized.

On Saturday night, Feb. 23, 1822, about twelve
o'clock, the law-office of Thomas M. T. McKennan
and a house adjoining took fire and were both de-
stroyed. After the fire was nearly over and the citi-
zens mostly dispersed, the double stack of chimneys
in the two-story frame house fell and killed four per-
sons and wounded five others. The names of those
killed were Henry Taylor, son of Matthew Taylor,
about seventeen years of age ; James Wilson, the
youngest son of John Wilson, Esq., who was about
fifteen years of age, and a student in Washington Col-
lege ; Jeremiah Decker, a married man, and by trade
a mason ; and Joseph Decker, Jr., about twelve years
of age, and a son of Joseph Decker. Of the wounded,
Alexander Addison, a son of Judge Alexander Addi-
son, and a promising attorney, died on the 28th of
February following from injuries received. David
Lingerfelter, a young man seventeen years of age,
was wounded by the fire-engine as it was returning
from the fire. Lockjaw set in, and he died on the 8th
of March.

The following facts are found in the newspapers and
records concerning the " Hope Fire Company:" It is
first mentioned in 1822. R. W. Harding was its sec-
retary in May, 1824. An annual meeting was held
May 29, 1824, and the following officers were elected:
Chief Director, Hugh Wilson ; Engineers, William
Hunter, John Wilson ; Directors of the Ladder Com-
pany, James Ruple, James Kerr; Director of the
Property Guard, Samuel Murdoch ; Directors of the
Water Company, Thomas M. T. McKennan, George
Baird, William Robinson, George Kuntz; Treasurer,
Jacob Slagle ; Secretary, John R. Murdoch.

In 1825 the annual meeting passed without an elec-



tion of officers. In 1826, C. M. Reed was secretary of
the company. On the 9th of January, 1829, the fol-
lowing-named officers were elected: Chief Director,
George Baird ; Engineer, Dr. Francis J. Le Moyne;
Assistant Engineer, Colin M. Reed; Captains of the
Ladder and Axe Companies, John Wilson and Henry
Chess; Captains of Water Company, Thomas M. T.
McKennan and Alexander Reed ; Captains of Prop-
erty Guard, Rev. John Graham, Dr. Samuel Mur-
doch ; Secretary, Alexander Wilson. The company
continued for a few years, and then disbanded.

On the 11th of February, 1837, the " Hope" and
" Washington" Fire Companies were reorganized,
and the following were elected officers of the Hope
Fire Company : Director, John Marshel ; Engineers,
Oliver Witherow, Jacob Keisler; Captain of the
Water Companies, Jacob Slagle; Captains of the
Axe and Ladder Company, Peter Wolf and John
Wilson ; Property Guard, Alexander Sweeney, Alex-
ander Reed, Daniel Moore ; Secretary, Henry Lang-
ley. This company maintained an existence for
about fifteen or twenty years, then disbanded.

About 1858 a company was organized and named
the " Hope Fire Company," which held its organi-
zation for several years, but through many discour-
agements. The next year (1859) an engine was
purchased. In February, 1866, the records of the
Council mention the "New Hope Engine" and pur-
chase of fifty feet of hose. In November, 1870, the
minutes of the Council mention the " Hope Fire Com-
pany" as lately organized, and on the 11th of Decem-
ber a committee from the company came before the
Council and submitted a constitution, which was ap-
proved, and the Hope Engine was given in their
charge. The engine at that time had eight sections
of hose, two branch-pipes, three nozzles, four span-
ners for suctions, and three sections of suctions. The
company has held its organization to the present
time. The engine is kept in the engine-room in the
town hall. The present officers are John P. Charl-
ton, captain; James Matthews, first lieutenant; A.
B. Means, second lieutenant. The company has at
present (1882) sixty-five members.

The Wa.shington Fire Company, of which mention
is first made in 1801, evidently retained its organiza-
tion, as in September, 1831, the burgess and Council
ordered that the engines then under charge of the
companies be kept in different parts of the borough.
On the 11th of February, 1837, when the "Wash-
ington" and " Hope" Companies were reorganized,
the following officers were elected by the Washington
Company, viz.: Directors, Dr. John Wishart, William
Smith; Engineers, Henry Shearer, Oliver Lindsey ;
Captains of the Water Companies, John Dagg, David
White; Captains of the Axe and Ladder Company,
Gen. Andrew Shearer, Freeman Brady ; Property
Guards, Abijah Johnston, Samuel Mount, John
Shaffer; Secretary, John K. Wilson. From this time
nothing more is learned of the company.

Soon after the reorganization of the Hope and
Washington Companies, another company was formed
and named " Good Intent." A small engine was pur-
chased for their use, and in December, 1844, the
company petitioned the Council for an engine-house,
which was granted, and a house was erected on Pine
Alley, and in the next year a hose-cart was pro-

In 1847 an engine bearing the name " Eagle" was
purchased at Pittsburgh for the sum of eight hundred
dollars. It has not been ascertained- that it was under
the charge of any company until the organization of
the " Eagle Fire Company" in January, 1857. The
officers were O. R. McNary, president; Marshall
Griffith, secretary ; John McKay, treasurer; John S.
Clohey, captain ; H. W. Wiley, lieutenant ; Robert H.
Elliot, first engineer; John McFarland, second en-
gineer ; O. R. McNary, captain of hose. The com-
pany disbanded after a few years, and the engine was

A company bearing the name of " Good Will,"
having an engine in their care, was in existence in
1866, and on the 11th of December, 1871, the com-
pany appeared before the Council and presented a
constitution, which was accepted, and the Council
ordered the " new suction-engine" to be placed in
their charge. At that time the engine called " Good
Will" was still owned by the borough. Nothing more
is ascertained of this company. On the 5th of Feb-
ruary, 1872, the fire committee were instructed to
purchase a " Crane-Necker" from Button & Son, but
this was not done.

On the 8th of November, 1872, the citizens pe-
titioned the burgess and Council to purchase a steam
fire-engine. A committee was appointed to confer
with the manufacturers of steam tire-engines, and on
the 2d of December in that year the agents of the
Amoskeag and Seneca Falls Companies visited the
Council and presented their respective claims. On
the 20th of January, 1873, the Council contracted
with the agent of the Seneca Falls Company for a
steamer for six thousand dollars. The burgess was
authorized to call the citizens of Washington together
for the purpose of forming a company to take charge
of the new steamer. About one hundred and fifty
persons were formed into a company, called the
Citizens' Fire Company. The steamer (the " Little
Giant") was given in charge of the Citizens' Com-
pany, which lasted but a short time, and another
company was organized, with twelve members, and
officered as follows: Samuel Brady, captain; Peter
Cunningham, first lieutenant ; George Thompson,
chief engineer ; and S. L. Wilson, assistant engineer.
The company remained with this number about two
years, when the number was increased to twenty ;
and after about two years the Council reduced the
number again to twelve, and allowed each member
two hundred dollars annually. On the 1st of July,
1879, the pay was increased to three hundred dollars



each, annually, provided the company would keep
twelve active members. They have at present tlie
Little Giant engine, two hose-reels, and fourteen
hundred feet of hose. The present members of the
Little Giant Fire Company are Samuel Brady, cap-
tain ; .Tacob Beck, flr-st lieutenant ; Jacob Cline, chief
engineer; Patrick Curran, first assistant; Charles
Scott, second assistant; Thomas Buckalow, James
Curran, Isaac Hunter, James Kennedy, William
Seaburn, G. W. Thompson, T. D. M. Wilson.

The first action taken by the Council to provide
public cisterns for fire purposes was in 1822, when
they appropriated money to build reservoirs in differ-
ent parts of the town. These had been kept in use
to some extent until February, 1866, when the Coun-
cil resolved to build new cisterns and repair the old
ones. On the 19th of March in that year Chief Bur-
gess Brady reported that he had contracted for three
new cisterns, — one of two hundred barrels near John
Harter's, one of three hundred bartels on the corner
of Beau and Main Streets, and one of two hundred
barrels on the corner of Main and Maiden Streets.
On the 19th of May, 1874, the commissioners of the
county met with the Council of the borough, and
offered thera one thousand dollars for the purpose of
building one or more cisterns near the county build-
ings, which offer was accepted. The cisterns were
built and completed in May, 1875.

On the 30th of June, 1879, the Council ordered a
cistern built near the seminary ; and on the 16th of
August, 1880, ordered two cisterns built, with a ca-
pacity of five hundred barrels each, one near the
foundry, the other near the corner of Ruple Alley
and West Beau Street.

The present engine-house in the rear of the town
hall, on the public square, was built in 1870. The
Council accepted plans May 27, 1870, and authorized
the burgess to advertise for proposals, which were
received June 1st of that year, and contract given to
Andrew Brady for seventeen hundred and twenty-five

On the 20th of September, 1880, the Mechanics'
Hook-and-Ladder Company was organized, and a
new truck placed under their charge. The company
consisted of seventeen members, and was ofiScered as
follows: Charles V. Harding, captain; James Curran,
first lieutenant; William Blackhurst, second lieu-
tenant. Their rooms are in the engine-house. The
three engines, "Good Intent," "Good Will," and
" Eagle," all hand-engines, were sold for old iron.

The present property of the Fire Department is
the engine-house, steamer "Little Giant," two hose-
reels, fourteen hundred feet of hose; the "Hope"
(hand-engine), hose-reel, six hundred and fifty feet
of hose, honk-and-ladder truck, six ladders, pikes,
axes, and drags, the whole under control of Fire-
Marshal John McGuffie.

Town Hall, — The first reference to a town hall in
Washington borough is found in a deed made in Oc-

tober, 1839, by tlie county commissioners to the bor-
ough of Washington, in which it is recited that
whereas the commissioners of the county on the
21st of June, 1816, did grant to the inhabitants of
the borough a certain part of the public square to be
used as a market place, and whereas tlie (then) pres-
ent commissioners " are about to cause to be erected
new public buildings upon the said square, and are
desirous of obtaining for the use of the County that
part thereof so granted as aforesaid, and upon which
the present market-house is built, and Whereas the
Citizens of the said Borough in' Town Meeting have
signified their willingness to relinquish all their right
and interest in and to the said ground provided the
said Commissioners do grant and convey to the Bur-
gesses and Inhabitants of the said Borough a part or
portion of the opposite or southern end of the said
square for the purpose of erecting thereon a new
Market House and Town Hall;" for which reasons
the commissioners "do give and grant unto the
Borough and Inhabitants of the said Borough the
following part or portion of the public square afore-
said viz — Beginning at a point on the northern edge

of alley on a line with the front of the new

court house hereafter to be erected, thence north fifty

feet, thence west feet to the fence now enclosing

the public ground in the rear of the brick building
occupied by Samuel Surratt aud others, thence South
fifty feet to the Northern edge of the said alley and
thence along said alley to the place of beginning for
and in exchange of and for all the rights and interest
of the said Borough in and to that part of the public
square upon which the present market house is erected,
and the said Burgesses and Inhabitants of the said
Borough have likewise on their part given and
granted and by these presents do fully freely and
absolutely give and grant unto the said Commis-
sioners for the use of the County all that part or
portion of the public square now occupied as a mar-
ket place and all their right and interest in the same
by virtue of the within instrument a/orementioned.
To Have and to Hold the said parts or portions of
the said public square so as aforesaid exchanged unto
the said Burgesses and Inhabitants of the said Bor-
ough and unto the Commissioners and their successors
forever. Provided always nevertheless that the said
Burgesses and Inhabitants aforesaid are to use and
enjoy the said ground hereby granted and exchanged
'for a market place and for the creation of a market
house and Town Hall and for no other purpose what-

It will be seen by this deed that a part of the public
.scpiare was leased to the borough on which to build a
market-house in 1816, and this deed was an exchange
of location on the public square by reason of the pro-
posed erection of a new court-house. On this land
so exchanged the borough erected a market fronting
the alley, and the old one then standing where the
sheriff's house now stands was sold. On the 3d of



March, 1842, the borough of Washington purchased
the old Grick buildings on the public square for $360.
Two days later the commissioners of the county re-
solved to deduct thirty-three percent, of the purchase
money of above buildings "in consideration of erect-
ing an engine-house on the public square, which was
afterwards built in the rear of the market-house. On
the 5th of May, 1842, the commissioners "granted,
bargained, and sold" to the borough of Washington
the lot on which the public offices stood, as is shown
by the record of the commissioners of that date, viz.:
" All the public ground on the public square lying
south of a line commencing at the curbstone on
Main Street, nine feet south of the new court-house,
and running west until it strikes a lot of Mr. Smith,
late the property of William Hunter, deceased. In
consideration of said grant the burgesses and inhab-
itants aforesaid agree to erect a town hall on said
ground, otherwise the conveyance to be inoperative
and of no effect, ... as per deed dated and concluded
on May 5, 1842, and recorded."

The Council of the borough of Washington, on the
23d of March, 1843, appointed a committee, consisting
of Robert Officer, John S. Brady, and Thomas Mc-
Griffin, to report a plan and probable cost of a town
hall, which committee made a report which was
accepted. A plan was presented by Mr. Erret and
adopted by the Council. An article published in the
Examiner two days later says, " About eight or ten
months since at a meeting of citizens nineteen-twen-
tieths of the people who acted declared in favor of
the erection of a hall. A disagreement as to the mode
of raising the money had sprung up. One proposition
was to procure the passage of an act to empower the
Council to borrow money, the other was by direct
taxation. The Council called another meeting of the
citizens, but before the meeting was held the com-
mittee reported a plan to the Council which was
adopted. At the meeting held the 6th of May, in
response to the call mentioned above, the citizens
refused to sanction any method of raising money,
and the project for a town hall was laid over indefi-

No further effort towards the erection of a town
hall was made until 1868. The commissioners of the
county on the 4th of May in that year requested the
Borough Council of Washington to remove the market-
house and council chamber from the public square.
On the 19th of May a committee of the Borough
Council met with tlie commissioners to discuss the
question of tearing down and removing the public
buildings of the borough on the public square of the
county, and the erection of a new engine building,
with council chamber, town hall, etc. No definite
conclusion was reached, and on the 16th of November,
1868, at a meeting of the Council, it was resolved that
the citizens be called " to take into consideration the
erection of a public building for a town hall and
engine-bouse." On the 22d of December of the same

year the generous offer of Dr. F. J. Le Moyne was made
to donate "from five to ten thousand dollars for a
public library, provided the borough put up suitable
buildings." The question was then discussed as to
the propriety of erecting a town hall with rooms for
the above purpose. On the 5th of January, 1869, the
commissioners conferred with a committee from the
Council on the subject. The following is from their
records :

" This evening was appointed for a meeting with a committee fiom
the Borough Council to confer in regard to tlie erection of a town hall,
engine-house, and council chamber on the public square. Committee
from the Council, Jlessrs. John McElroy and Samuel Hazlett. I). S.
Wilson, Esq., attorney for the commissioners, being present, stated that
if the borough could satisfy the county the above erections would sub-
serve a public benefit in the way of protecting the public buildings, then
the commissioners might safely ask the Legislature to confer upon tbem
the right to grant the ground for the purposes of the above buildings.
And it was therefore agreed by the commissioners if the borough would
erect such buildings as would meet their approval, they the commis-
sioners would join with the Borough Council in a prayer to the Legis-
lature to confer upon them (the commissioners) the power to grant or
lease so much of the southeastern portion of the public square to the
borough for the term of not less than fifty years for the purpose of erect-
ing the said buildings."

At a meeting of citizens held at the court-house,
Jan. 15, 1869, the subject was thoroughly discussed
and considered favorably. On the 18th of January
the Council ordered a special election to be held on
the 2d of February, the result of which is shown by
the following resolution of the Council on the 15th of
February : " Whereas, an election of the citizens of
Washington was held on Tuesday, the 2d day of Feb-
ruary, 1869, to decide the erection of a town hall, said
election resulted by a vote of eighty-nine majority to
erect said building; therefore, resolved, a committee,
consisting of three persons, viz., J. D. Boyle, John
McElroy, and T. Hazlett, was appointed to meet and
arrange with commissioners of Washington County
for a lease of sufficient ground on the public square
upon which to erect said building."

On the 18th of January, J. D. Boyle, chief burgess,
and Samuel Hazlett were appointed a committee to
obtain plans and specifications for a town hall and
submit them to the Council. This committee pro-
cured plans and specifications from Joseph Kerr, an
architect, of Pittsburgh, which were approved. The
committee appointed to meet the commissioners re-
ported that it was decided to ask the Legislature for
the passage of an act authorizing the commissioners to
lease a portion of the public grounds to the borough
of Washington on which to erect a town hall, to be
used as a post-office, and for other purposes. A pe-
tition was so presented to the Legislature, and an act
passed to that effect (approved Feb. 16, 1869). On
the next day (February 17th) an act was passed " au-
thorizing the borough of Washington to borrow a
sum of money not to exceed thirty thousand dollars,
to be applied to the erection of a town hall in said
borough upon the ground leased by the commissioners
of Washington County to said borough of Washing-
ton for that purpose." The lease was made, and on



tlie 5th of May, 1869, the chief burgess was author-
ized to advertise for proposals to furnish four hundred

Online LibraryBoyd CrumrineHistory of Washington County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 133 of 255)