William
H.
Hawkins


 

WILLIAM H. HAWKINS was a volunteer fireman in Camden in the 1850s and 1860s, and held a number of government positions in later years. His son, J. Miller Hawkins served briefly with the Camden Fire Department in the 1870s.

William H. Hawkins was born in Pennsylvania around 1828 to WIlliam and Rachel Hawkins. He married Adelaide Wonderly in the late 1840s. A son, Jacob Miller Hawkins, who went my his middle name, was born in July of 1849 in Philadelphia. The Hawkins were still living in Philadelphia when the Census was taken in 1850. Shortly afterwards, The family moved to Camden. William H. Hawkins became active as a volunteer fireman, serving at different times with the Fairmount and Independence fire companies. 

George Reeser Prowell wrote about the two companies in his History of Camden County, New Jersey which was published in 1886.

The Independence Fire Company No. 1, organized with Lambert F. Beatty, president; William S. Frazer, secretary ; and Joseph Wagner, treasurer. Among the early members were Jacob Prettyman, David Page, Thomas Stites, Andrew Stilwell, Francis E. Harpel, Restore Cook, John Wallace, Claudius W. Bradshaw, William H. Hawkins, Christopher J. Mines, Henry Bradshaw, William E. Walls, William Howard, Albert Dennis, Elwood Bounds, Samuel H. Stilwell, Albert V. Mills, Robert S. Bender, Lewis Yeager, Thomas McCowan and William W. Mines. The company met in a building at Third Street and Cherry for a year, when it was burned. Lewis Yeager gave the company free use of a lot on Third Street, above Cherry, where an engine-house of slabs, donated by Charles Stockham, was built. In 1853 a lot on Cherry Street, above Third, was purchased and on it a frame house was built. This was used until 1859, when, owing to a defect in the title, the sheriff advertised the property for sale. When he reached the ground on the day of the sale he found the house, with its contents, and a number of the members of the company, on an adjoining lot belonging to James B. Dayton, who permitted the action. The following year, 1860, they bought and built, on the north side of Pine Street, above Fourth, a three-story brick, then the most complete fire-engine house in Camden, and which was sold for four thousand five hundred dollars to the city. The Independence was a hose company until June 4, 1864, when they secured an Amoskeag engine, being the first fire-engine in use by the fire companies of Camden. Early in 1869 they purchased a larger engine and when the volunteer firemen were scattered, in the latter part of that year, they sold the Amoskeag to Millville, and the later purchase was kept until 1874, when it was sold to the city. Lambert F. Beatty, John Wallace, William H. Hawkins, J. Kelly Brown, William W. Mines and Edward Gilbert were presidents of the Independence, while its secretaries have been William L. Frazer, William W. Mines, Mortimer C. Wilson and Thomas McCowan ; and the treasurers Joseph Wagner and Robert S. Bender, who, elected in 1854, served until October 13, 1874, when, with a roll of sixty members, they met. President Gilbert in the chair, paid all claims against them and formally disbanded.

On July 4, 1852, the Fairmount Fire Company was organized by William C. Figner (president), William J. Miller (secretary), Frederick Breyer (treasurer), William H. Hawkins, John W. Hoey, Henry A. Breyer and Alfred H. Breyer. They rented a one-story frame building on Pine Street, below Third, which the Shinier had vacated, and the City Council gave them the old Fairmount engine. George W. Watson, Anthony R. Joline, Thomas Francis, John L. Ames, George W. Howard, William F. Colbert, Francis Fullerton, John S. Boss, Joshua Spencer, Lawrence Breyer, William H. Lane and James Scout were enrolled as additional members. On February 17, 1853, a charter of incorporation was obtained, and on February 10, 1854, the name of the company was changed to " United States Fire Company, No. 5." James Scout was chosen president, and George Deal, secretary. They secured a first-class engine, bought ground and built a commodious two-story frame house at No. 231 Pine Street, which continued to be the headquarters of the company until it disbanded, with the other volunteer fire companies, in 1869.

A saddler by trade, William Hawkins served as a constable in Camden's Middle Ward in the late 1860s and early 1870s, and in the late 1870s was a member of Camden's police department. As stated above, son J. Miller Hawkins served with the Camden Fire Department, for approximately a year from his initial appointment in May of 1876. 

The Hawkins family was living on or near the northwest corner of Broadway and Mickle Street in 1875. The Hawkins family moved around quit often in the 1870s, 1880s, and into the 1890s. City Directories from the years between 1878 and 1897 record no less than nine different addresses. In 1878 the family was at 35 Broadway, in 1879 and 1880 they were at 22 Haddon Avenue, in 1881 the address was 726 Federal Street, 833 Bridge Avenue in 1883. The 1884 Directory shows the Hawkins family at 218 Amber Street, and at 208 Point Street in 1885. By 1888 the family had gone to 218 Royden Street, and 1890 saw them at 136 Mount Vernon Street. By July of 1890 they had again relocated, this time to 1024 South 2nd Street. By the latter half of 1892 the Hawkins family was living at 814 Market Street.

From 1883 through 1887, City Directories show William H. Hawkins working as a watchman at the Camden Safe Deposit Company bank, which in time became known as the Camden Trust. Thomas McCowan, who had been a member of Independence Fire Company No. 1 with William H. Hawkins, was a co-worker at the bank.  

The 1888-1889 City Directory shows that he had gone back to work as a saddler. He was working in that profession when, in 1890, despite being over 60 years of age, he secured an appointment to the Camden Fire Department. He worked for the department into 1891, most likely in the role of a houseman, whose job it was to secure the firehouse once the apparatus and firefighters had left quarters. William H. Hawkins secured another government posy in 1892 when he went to work as a messenger in Vice Chancellor's Court. He served as the Court's Sergeant-at-Arms in 1894 and 1895. The 1896 Camden City Directory states that he was once again working for the Camden Fire Department, as a houseman. No occupation is given in the 1897 Directory. The 1898 Directory states that William H. Hawkins was working as a clerk. 

William H. Hawkins' son J. Miller Hawkins died on October 3, 1897 and was buried at Harleigh Cemetery. The Hawkins remained at 814 Market Street into 1898, then moved to 411 Arch Street the following year. 

William H. Hawkins passed away on June 14, 1901.


Philadelphia Inquirer - October 6, 1897



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