A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

History: First Annual Monmouth County Firemen's Parade, Matawan (1875)

The 27 Nov 1875 edition of The Matawan Journal described the events of the Monmouth County Firemen's grand parade, which was held in Matawan on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday 25 Nov 1875. The honor of hosting what was the first such annual parade was granted by the United Associations of Monmouth to Matawan's Washington Company, the oldest fire company in the county.

Recent rains had made the streets muddy, but the day was clear and bright.

The following fire companies appeared in the parade in order of seniority:
  •  Washington Company (the Washingtons), of Matawan, was represented by 45 men in red shirts and black pants. Their equipment was a single-deck hand engine.
  • Good Will Company (the Good Wills), of Freehold, was represented by only 25 men and a ladder truck stripped bare of its ladders, buckets, and other appurtenances. The company was indignant that the Freehold commissioners had limited the fire company's participation, especially that they had refused to allow them to bring their handsome steamer and stripped bare the ladder truck. The "noble few" arrived first, in carriages.
  • Navesink Hook and Ladder Company (the Navesinks), of Red Bank, was represented by 61 men in blue shirts and black pants. The men arrived on the 1:27 pm train and were met by their hook and ladder truck, complete with ladders, etc, which had been drawn to the event by two teams of fine horses.
  • Oceanic Company (the Oceanics), of Long Branch Village, consisted of 53 men in red shirts and black pants. They arrived by special train along with the Atlantic Company and were met at the station by the Washingtons. They brought their Babcock engine.
  • Atlantic Company (the Atlantics), of East Long Branch, consisted of 53 men in blue shirts and black pants. They arrived by special train along with the Oceanic Company and were met at the station by the Washingtons. Their one-cylindered steamer was the most handsome machine in the parade. They also brought their ladder truck, complete with appurtenances.
Also appearing were the following bands:
  • Jefferson Cornet Band, of Newark, a 14 piece band, accompanied the Matawan fire company.
  • Major Allstrom's Cornet Band, of Red Bank, accompanied the Navesink fire company.
  • Freehold Band, of Freehold, a 16 piece band plus drum corps, accompanied the Freehold and Long Branch fire companies.
The parade began at the Matawan railroad station, proceeded as far as the residence of John Suydam, then counter-marched down Main Street as far as the residence of Mr L Cady. The parade counter-marched to Church Street, then down Church to Broad Street, then Broad to Little Street, and up Little to the Engine House.

The firemen constructed a great archway over the intersection of Main and Little Streets to honor the county's firemen, who were greeted all along the way by citizens displaying mottoes of welcome, hanging wreaths, waving handkerchiefs, and draping flags from their windows. An estimated 5,000 persons attended the parade. Men, women and children thronged the streets and hung out of windows along the parade route.

The companies parked their fire vehicles at the Engine House and proceeded on foot to Washington Hall for a collation prepared by the ladies of Matawan. The newspaper took Lieutenant Hendrickson for a sneak preview of the collation. He reportedly compared the collation favorably to a reception prepared for the military at the dedication of the "soldiers' monument at Beverly."

When the festivities were over, the Freehold men departed in their carriages and the others departed by train. Foreman Sickels, of Washington Company, and his crew were given high praises by the newspaper for their untiring efforts to make the parade a success. Chief Marshall Sidney Walling, and his assistants Henry Stillwell, D P VanDeventer, and Charles A Geran were complimented on how they aptly preserved the order of the day on horseback, especially how they kept their steeds in check despite the din of the parade.

Other fire company news:

The 19 Feb 1876 edition of The Matawan Journal announced that the Washington Company would muster in full dress on 22 Feb 1876 at 7 o'clock. Also announced was the Centennial Firemen's Ball of Monmouth County, which would be held at John J Wheeler's hotel in Eatontown on 22 Feb 1876.

The 11 Mar 1876 edition of The Matawan Journal reviewed the assets of the local fire company and asked its readers to ask themselves if the fire company didn't deserve more support.
   1 - The firemen are well organized, willing and alert.
   2 - The engine house, if a bit costly and not large enough to stow all the necessary gear, is well built and paid for.
   3 - The company has an engine that works, albeit with great effort.
   4 - The company has a suction hose, but it's only barely long enough to reach the water in a typical well.
   5 - The company's ejection hose has such serious leaks that bystanders are guaranteed a good wetting. About 100 feet of the hose is good enough for hose practice but not for a significant fire.
   6 - The alarm bell in the engine house was cracked during the Centennial celebrations and is now useless. It's glory has departed, the writer notes.
   7 - The promised cisterns have yet to arrive.

The 29 Apr 1876 edition of The Matawan Journal announced the utter destruction by fire of the home of a colored man named David Schanck. The house had been located near the "camp meeting woods." The newspaper thought the property had been insured.

A letter to the editor in the 13 May 1876 edition of The Matawan Journal urged Matawan residents to turn their attention to the poor condition of its fire fighting vehicle, hoses, and equipment. "The engine is classed by experts as third class, useless in a case of a large fire; the hose now on hand is unfit for use; and there is not enough even of this to reach a fire at a short distance." The writer, listed simply as C D H, encouraged the replacement of the old equipment and purchase of new. He ended with a hope that this will wake some of the Rip Van Winkles of Matawan to a sense of their duty. . ." 

The 17 Jun 1876 edition of The Matawan Journal announced that the Washington Fire Company was arranging to acquire a new bell to replace the one in their alarm tower. That bell cracked while ringing in the Centennial year on New Year's eve. The company would parade at 1 pm on the 4th of July.

The 14 Oct 1876 edition of The Matawan Journal announced the upcoming Monmouth County Firemen's annual parade, which would be held in Long Branch on 19 Oct 1876. The article made mention of "the Washingtons," the local Matawan fire company, which would be represented at the parade. The writer noted that the previous annual parade was held in Matawan in Nov 1875.


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