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.
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
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.
Fire Department History, Part II Town Departments Menu
Hopedale and Milford fire department info, late 19th and early 20th centuries
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."
Timeline by John Butcher
A History of the Hopedale Fire Department
by Gordon Hopper
Milford Daily News
August 5, 1975
Hopedale and Milford fire department info, late 19th and early 20th centuries