Shown above are three views of the long-gone Hopedale Street fire station. It was known as the Hose House. The Bancroft house, just north of where the library is now, can be seen in the picture at the left. Click here if you’d like to go to a shorter version of the fire department history.  

Hopedale fire truck – picture from a 1910 post card. The card was addressed to Boylston Street, Boston, and dated March 26, 1910 Hopedale, MA.  “Arrived here Ok. Everything same as when left. I am going to Boston some time tomorrow. Will see you or phone. Weather great Hope it will continue. J. K. M.”

A History of the Hopedale Fire Department

by Gordon Hopper
Milford Daily News
August 5, 1975

This is a historical documentation of the activities of the Hopedale Fire Department.  Information prior to the time when Hopedale became a separate town is sketchy and very difficult to locate.

Some early material was gleaned from old books, records, and newspapers, thus allowing a brief coverage to be generated. Better records were kept starting in 1886 and were sufficient to give a fairly good insight into the history of the fire department. It is presented here in two installments.  This section gives details about men and equipment from the inception of the fire department until the 1920s.

Two fire steamer companies, one hook and ladder company, and three or four hose companies had been providing fire protection for Milford and Hopedale combined. Extinguisher No. 1 was stationed in Hopedale as early as 1880.  It had a compliment of 12 men including Charles E. Pierce, foreman, George H. Williams, Thomas H. Bradley, Edward Walker, and others. In 1882, Extinguisher No. 1 was still providing active service.  Its personnel remained at 12 men including George Frink, foreman, George Cole, A. Stone, E. Chichester, Charles E. Pierce and others.

An early documentation dated June 6, 1884, stated that 20 men of the Hopedale Hose Company No. 3 under its foreman, Edward Chichester, marched in the procession that celebrated the laying of the cornerstone for Milford’s Memorial Building. Former Hopedale Fire Chief, Charles Watson related that when the two towns separated, Milford presented Hopedale with the first apparatus.  Identified as Fire Extinguisher No. 2, it was housed on Adin Street where Judge Larkin now resides. Early equipment owned by the new fire department consisted of 900 feet of hose, four ladders, and 36 fire pails.  Also included was a hose carriage (probably Fire Extinguisher No. 2).

In 1886, the total fired department personnel was 15 men, and the payroll for the first year amounted to $500. The fire company, believed to be Hose Company No. 3, included F.A. Mooney, T.F. Mathews, G.W. Burgess, T.F. Burrows, E.S. Adams and T.E Stevens among its members. Charles E. Pierce was selected to be Hopedale’s first fire chief and he served this post from 1886 to 1896.

The No. 1 Hose House was a wooden structure located on Hopedale Street (then a dirt road) adjacent to a wooden building that was part of the Draper Company.  There was a hose drying tower attached to the station and a large cast iron warning bell was located at the top of the tower.

Hopedale’s first officially recorded fire was on October 22, 1886, around the noon hour.  A chimney fire at a boarding house owned by the Hopedale Machine Company drew a prompt response and caused $200 damage.

Horses that were used to draw the hose wagon to fires were borrowed from the Hopedale Stable Company and a rule put into effect during 1887 required that every member of the fire department be employed by the Draper Company.   During 1888, the amount of hose possessed reached 1500 feet.  Shovels, an arrow gun, and a fire escape were added to the department’s equipment.

1889 was an eventful year for the Hopedale Fire Department as the first large piece of fire fighting equipment was obtained.  A new horse drawn hook and ladder truck made by Rumsey & Co., and extension ladder built by Fox, McDonald & Co., and two fire extinguishers were purchased.  At the same time, the fire house was enlarged.

The installation of a Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system started in 1891 was completed in 1892 at a cost of nearly $5,000.  The system consisted of eight fire alarm boxes, five of them located inside the Draper factory, and three strategically placed around the town.  Possession of its system resulted in less time being lost and a considerable reduction the amount of fire losses.

In 1893, another hose wagon with its equipment was added, making it necessary to form a second hose company.  Consequently, in 1894, Hose Company No. 2 was originated, and six men assigned to it.  Hose Company No. 3 remained with no changes. The largest fire to occur during the first ten years of the fire department’s operation occurred on November 28, 1895 when a barn owned by J.B. Bancroft was destroyed at a loss of $1,000.  Eight months later, a barn owned by Edmund Barrows at South Hopedale was destroyed.

In 1896 a Gamewell Company fire gong was installed on the fire house. In that year, four of the six men assigned to Hose Company No. 2 were Martin L. Clark, Thomas H. Gaffney, Francis E. Crawford and William H. French. Frank L. Andrew was appointed fire chief in 1897, succeeding Chief Pierce.  He retained this position until 1900.

By this time (1900), it had become very evident that space for the fire department was woefully inadequate.  Although some work had been done in the Hopedale Street building, it was still not large enough to house two hose carriages and the hook and ladder truck. To alleviate this space problem, a small wooden structure at Patrick’s Corner (Mendon Street at Hopedale Street) was rented from the Hopedale Highway Department for several years at an annual cost of $40.  It was designated as the No. 2 Hose House. Six men were assigned to Hose Company No. [2?] including Fred Crockett, foreman; Thomas H. Gaffney, first assistant; and William H. French. Personnel of the Hook and Ladder Company together with Hose Company No. 3 was 15 men.  The hose company was under the guidance of J. P. Durgin, forman; and two assistants, E.H. Ingram and Charles L. Whitney. Four of the six men stationed at the Patrick’s Corner hose house in 1900 included Fred. B. Crockett, W. McLennan, Thomas H. Gaffney, and W. H. Cox. George Jenkins was appointed as Hopedale’s third fire chief in 1901, succeeding Frank L. Andrews.  He held this position until 1906.

A complete set of regulations applicable to the operation of the Hopedale Fire Department were put into effect during the year of 1903. Starting in 1903, it was required that one fireman be on duty at the Hopedale Stable Company’s barn every night plus Sundays and holidays.  It had been determined necessary to keep a man there to hitch horses to the fire equipment in case a fire alarm was rung in. A fireman was kept at the barn until 1912, at which time the use of horses was eliminated as the department had become completely motorized.

Four of the six men stationed at the No. 2 hose house in 1904 included Fred G. Crockett, Michael J. Higgiston, Thomas H. Gaffney and E. C. Estes.

The first piece of motorized fire fighting apparatus owned by the department was purchased in December 1905.  It was a new electric chemical truck built by Howe Engine Company and cost about $3800.

Samuel E. Kellogg succeeded George Jenkins as fire chief in 1907 He served for 36 years until he passed away in 1943. Equipment at this time consisted of one hose house, two horse drawn hose wagons, an electric chemical truck, a horse drawn hook and ladder truck and 4500 feet of hose.

The sum of $6,300 was expended during 1908 to remodel the hose house on Hopedale Street.  Enlarging the building eliminated the necessity of maintaining the smaller station at Patrick’s Corner and both hose companies with their equipment eventually became housed in one structure. The smaller station reverted back to the Hopedale Highway Department, who proceeded to sell it.  In recent years it has been located behind the home of William Francis at 142 Dutcher Street in use as a private garage. A mobile water tank that had been housed in this building and no longer required by the fire department was taken over by the highway department.  Many people recall the tank being used for many years to water trees around Hopedale.

The fire station on Hopedale Street was a two-story high wooden building.  Originally, it had two sets of Dutch doors on the front but after the building was remodeled in 1908, it had three sets of Dutch doors.  It remained like this until replaced in 1916 by a new station. A steam gong was installed on the building around this time, eliminating the old manually operated bell.

Personnel in 1909 included six men in Hose 2 and 16 men in Hose 3. The second piece of motorized equipment, a new Aubrey hook and ladder truck costing $4,300 was purchased in 1910.  At this time, the old horse drawn hook and ladder truck was sold and extensive repairs were made to the electrical chemical truck. Personnel increased in 1910 to include a driver-electrician, a steward (man who kept the departmental records and was caretaker of the equipment), and one fire police (a policeman detailed to traffic duty at fires) in addition to members of Hose 2 and Hose 3 companies. Hopedale’s town meeting of March 6, 1911, authorized the Board of Fire Engineers to install a storage battery in place of the gravity feed battery being used by the fire alarm telegraph system then in use. Retired Fire Chief Charles Watson recalled the difficulties experienced by the Milford Light and Gas Company in supplying constant power into Hopedale.  Power for the fire alarm system was obtained from the Milford, Framingham and Uxbridge Street Railway Company for many years.

The electrical chemical truck was replaced by a new combination pumper and hose truck during 1911.  A combination pumper and ladder truck together with a forest fire truck was obtained in 1912. All mobile fire department equipment had been motorized by 1912 and the use of horse drawn vehicles came to an end.  The No. 2 hose wagon was sold to the town of Franklin in 1913. Personnel had increased now to include 17 men assigned to Hose 3 and 8 men assigned to Ladder 1.

A committee was formed at a town meeting in 1914 to investigate a suitable location for building a new central fire station.  During the next two years, progress was made and another town meeting in 1915 appropriated $50,000 to build a new fire station on
Dutcher Street. The No. 1 Hose was sold to the city of Bath, Maine in 1915. Robert Allen Cook, an architect-designer and W.L. Mellen, a building contractor, were selected to build the new fire station.  Mr. Cook must have had excellent foresight because the fire station he designed 60 years ago is still in use and is still a modern station. The main floor contains three bays for the large pumpers and a larger bay for the ladder truck.  Two bays in the basement are still being used. Dutch doors on the front of the building since it opened in 1916 were replaced with overhead doors in 1947. A 94 foot hose drying tower on the fire station was originally used for hanging and drying wet hose.  Twenty years ago the tower was found to be structurally unsafe and a heavy fire bell was removed.  Since then, half the tower has been used for hose drying and it supports the air whistle and a communications antenna.

One section of the large meeting room contains a collection of trophies, badges, and ribbons which have been won at numerous competitive events.  Other awards are for fire truck qualities and appearance in competitions.  These awards signify achievements of the Hopedale Fire Department personnel and are a credit to the department. An air compressor purchased in 1950 is used to activate the audible alarm signal on the hose drying tower. An interesting feature about a standby air compressor in the station is the fact that it was originally used between 1919 and 1946 by one of the electric freight motors belonging to the Grafton and Upton Railroad.  It is still providing excellent service.

A new American LaFrance chemical truck was purchased in 1916.  Major equipment possessed by the department now included the new Central Fire Station, Combination Truck No. 1, Chemical Truck No. 1, Ladder Truck No. 1, Forest Fire Truck, the fire alarm system and hose. Personnel had been increased to three companies which included 9 men assigned to Ladder 1, 12 men to Combination 1, and 9 men to Chemical 1.  In addition, there were 2 steward-drivers and 6 drivers. The advent of the permanent firefighter came in 1916.  Two men were appointed this year, one more in 1930, 1941, 1946, 1947, 1960 and the most recent one was in 1968, making a total of 8 men.

A new American LaFrance hook and ladder truck with a right hand drive costing $10,800 and a car for the fire chief were purchased in 1923.  The old ladder truck was sold.  In 1926, a new Ahrens-Fox pumper was received.  It cost $14,000 and was capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute.  This truck performed excellent service for 35 years and was identified as Combination Truck No. 1.  Sometime during 194? [last digit of the year missing in newspaper], several members of the department were searching an area off Mellen Street for a lost person.  A strange casualty resulting from this affair was the loss of a watch belonging to Chief Kellogg.  The lost person was located but the watch was never found.

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 Hopedale and Milford fire department info, late 19th and early 20th centuries

        Firemen’s muster, 1986 (35K views)                    Fire truck parade and muster, 1986

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Timeline by John Butcher.

Fire Department History, Part II                  Town Departments Menu

Hopedale and Milford fire department info, late 19th and early 20th centuries

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