Robert
A.
Wonsetler



ROBERT AUGUST WONSETLER was born in New Jersey on November 1, 1890 to John B. Wonsetler and his wife, the former Bertha Bridges. His father first appears in Camden City Directories in 1891. Robert Wonsetler was the oldest child. City Directories beginning in 1897 and the 1900 Census shows the Wonsetlers at 816 North 27th Street in the Cramer Hill section of Camden, New Jersey. John Wonsetler was then working as a machinist. There had been another child born to the family, who sadly had not died prior to the enumeration of the census.  

By 1910 the family had moved to 864 North 27th Street. John Wonsetler was then working as a cutter in clothing house. Two more children had been born, younger siblings John Charles and Mary. John and Bertha Wonsetler stayed at this address into the 1940s. Although well past 70, John Wonsetler was still working in late 1939 as a truant officer for the Camden Board of Education.

In 1916 Robert A. Wonsetler married Louis M. Vollmer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They made their home with Louise's parents, Frederick and Louise Vollmer, at 2712 Hayes Avenue. Two children were born before the decade ended, Roberta in 1916 and Frederick John "Jack" Wonsetler in 1919. 


When the census was taken in January of 1920 the Wonsetlers were still living at 2712 Hayes Avenue. Also at home were the Vollmers four other adult children, Estella, Carrie, Frederick, and Freda Vollmer. Robert A. Wonsetler was then working as an instructor in a machine shop. Not long after the Census was taken, Freda Vollmer married Samuel Unruh. Their first son, Howard Unruh, was born in January of 1921.

On March 1, 1923 Robert A. Wonsetler was appointed to the Camden Fire Department.

The 1924 and 1929 City Directories shows Robert A. Wonsetler living at 806 North 27th Street. When the Census was taken in April of 1930 the Wonsetlers had moved to 3281 Pleasant Street. Their in-laws, Frederick and Louise Vollmer, then lived with them.

In 1938 Robert A. Wonsetler was elected president of the state Fireman's Mutual Benefit Association.

By 1940 Robert A. Wonsetler had been promoted to Captain. He was still in that rank in late 1946. By 1951 he had been promoted to District Chief. 

In September of 1949, Louise Wonsetler's nephew, Howard Unruh, went on a shooting rampage on River Avenue, killing 13 people. Mrs. Wonsetler was mentioned a number of times in local and national newspapers as lending support to her younger sister in that trying time. 

The Cramer Hill waterfront was frequently the scene of such lesser campaigns. The Cramer Hill mud flats along the Delaware River extended northward from 27th Street and Buren Avenue, along Adams and Farragut Avenues to about 33rd Street. Along this area of shoreline was a grave yard for derelict barges and scowls, that ran for several city blocks. A majority of these discarded vessels, grounded and fully exposed at low tide, were comprised of rotting, heavy timbers with some being as large as two and three stories above grade. One especially spectacular blaze during 1951 started in Noecker's Shipyard on the river above 27th Street. Salvagers using torches to remove metal from a 182 foot long floating dry dock, accidentally set fire to ancient timbers. Attempting to put out the fire with hand extinguishers, they were soon driven back as flames roared out of control. Engine Company 11 arriving first due, found fire shooting 75 feet over the tree tops with large embers blowing down wind igniting derelict barges. District Chief Robert Wonsetler transmitted a second alarm on arrival. The heavily wooded area, remote from paved streets, posed serious access problems for responding companies. When the river tide was favorable, a Philadelphia Fireboat could often get in and darken the fire in a short period of time. But when the tide was out, the boat had no access. This remote area, also absent of hydrants, compelled fire fighters to stretch hoselines for several blocks, often by hand as they wore themselves out in the process of getting water on the fire. Over some twenty year period, hundreds of Mud Flat Campaigns were waged by Cramer Hill Fire Fighters, many of which were Greater Alarms.

Chief Wonsetler retired from the Camden Fire Department on January 1, 1955. He passed away in 1959.

Brother John C. Wonsetler (1900-1979) had a long and distingusihed career as an artist, muralist, and illustrator. He co-authored a number of books for young people with his wife, Adelaide Hill Wonsetler.


864 North 27th Street

May 7, 2005


World War I Draft Card


Circa 1937


Camden Courier-Post * February 17, 1938
WONSETLER HAILED AS NEXT PRESIDENT OF STATE
Dinner Speakers Predict Camden Man Will Get Association Post
N. J. OFFICERS ATTEND

Robert Wonsetler, of the Camden Fire Department, was hailed as the next state president of the Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association at the 41st anniversary dinner of Camden Local, No. 5, last night. It was held in Kenney's Cafe, with 150 members and their women folks attending.

The Camden man is now first vice president of the state association and state representative of the local. James Delaney, of Elizabeth, state president, and other state officers who were among the speakers predicted that when the local has its 42nd anniversary next year, it will have occasion to celebrate the election of Wonsetler as 1939 state president.

Other speakers were Mayor George E. Bruner, City Commissioners Mary W. Kobus and Frank J. Hartmann, Assemblyman Rocco Palese, Fire Chief John H. Lennox, Carlton W. Rowand, Bruce A. Wallace and Freeholder Edward J. Quinlan.

State officers attending, besides Delaney and Wonsetler, were Fred Bailey, Weehawken, second vice president; George Steele, Union City, recording secretary; Joseph Burke, Newark, financial secretary, and Jack Reed, Kearny, treasurer.

Surrogate Frank B. Hanna, who was toastmaster, referred to the three city commissioners present as "candidates for re-election without opposition."

Commissioner Kobus, head of the city fire department, was applauded when she announced wash-stands and showers are being installed in local firehouses and that windbreakers and new fire nets have been ordered.

"The firehouses in Camden are in better condition than ever before,"
Commissioner Hartmann said.

Officers of the Camden Local are Chester Andrus, president; W. Samuel Mountney, vice president; Nelson Andrews, recording secretary; Harrison Pike, financial secretary; Henry Zook, treasurer; Ralph Bingemann, sergeant-at-arms; William H. Harrison, chaplain, and Wonsetler, state representative.

Russell J. Anderson was chairman of the dinner committee, which included Harry Wagner, Arthur Batten, Harry Wilkers, David Humphries and Pike.


 

Camden Courier-Post
February 19, 1938

 October 17, 1938

 


Trenton Evening Times - October 17, 1938


World War II Draft Card


District Chief Robert Wonsetler in front of 2nd Battalion headquarters, 27th & Federal Street
1950s


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