William
Grant
Hillman


WILLIAM GRANT HILLMAN was born on August 10, 1865 in Camden NJ, the sixth of nine children of Edward Hillman and his wife, the former Margaret Grant. Edward Hillman was born on October 2, 1834, and had moved to Camden's Middle Ward during the 1850s. When the Census was taken in 1860, he was single, living at the home of Samuel and Abigail Osler, and working as a deck hand aboard a boat that plied the Delaware River. He married Margaret Grant soon afterwards; a son, James Hillman was born around 1862. By 1870 Edward Hillman was working as the pilot of a steam-powered ferry for the West Jersey Ferry Company. Still then living in the Middle Ward, when the Census was taken in 1870 the family included Edward and Margaret Hillman, and three living children- James, 8; William. 4; and Margaret, 2. Ten years later the family was living at 227 Benson Street, where they remained through 1882. Two other children were living there as well- Jesse, aged 5; and George, 2. Edward Hillman was still piloting the ferry, William, then 15 was still in school. Edward Hillman remained with the West Jersey Ferry until its was

absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and stayed on, working for the new management through at least 1890. 

Edward Hillman and family lived at the corner of South 5th and Stevens Street in 1883 and 1884. By 1885 they had moved to 624 South 2nd Street. The 1887-1888 and 1888-1889 City Directories show them at 312 Mickle Street. By 1890 the family had moved to 330 Royden Street

William Hillman first appears in the Camden City Directories in the 1888-1889 edition, working as a deck hand, most likely for the Pennsylvania Ferry, and living at 26 Market Street, a short walk from the ferry terminal. It appears that he followed his family to South Camden, the 1890 Directory shows him living at 617 South 3rd Street, near the corner of South 3rd Street and Beckett Street, and not far from his father's Royden Street home, this was the home of another West Jersey ferry pilot, George Hillman, who may have been a relation. William Hillman then worked as a "wheelman". In November of 1899 William Hillman secured an appointment to the Camden Fire Department. He served with Ladder Company 2.

At the time of the 1900 Census William Hillman was single. He boarded with Caroline Martin, a widow, 214 Beckett Street in South Camden, around the corner from his previous address. Margaret Grant Hillman passed away that year. Edward Hillman died on October 6, 1903.

On March 16, 1906 Fireman Hillman was killed along with brother fire fighters George Shields of Ladder Company 2 and  William Jobes of Engine Company 1, were killed in the line of duty while fighting a fire at the former Sixth Regiment Armory at 4th and Mickle Streets. 

Fireman Hillman was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery, on the southwest corner of Mount Ephraim Avenue and Ferry Avenue. He was survived by his brother George and his wife Louisa and their  children; and by his brother Jesse and his wife Mamie, all listed in the 1910 Census. 

The Hillman family apparently could not afford a headstone, so William G. Hillman's final resting place was unmarked until May of 2006 when, through the efforts of Camden Fire Department photographer Bob Bartosz and others, he received a headstone that reflects his heroic sacrifice.

Caroline and Arthur Martin had moved to 239 Beckett Street by 1906. It is quite possible that William Hillman was still boarding with the Martins up until the time of his death. 

George and Louisa Hillman had divorced after the compilation of the 1914 Camden City Directory. In January of 1920, he was still living in Camden, but was not living at that time with his wife and children. Jessie Hillman was also still living in Camden in 1920, he and his wife were still childless at that point. 

George and Jesse Hillman are not listed in Camden in the 1924 City Directory. George Hillman's daughter Emma had married Edwin Van Horn by April of 1930. The Van Horns lived on River Road in the Delair section of Pennsauken NJ, George Hillman and his youngest son, Frank L. Hillman, lived with the Van Horns. Oldest son George Jr, lived elsewhere in Delair, as did middle son, William K. Hillman, named for his fire fighter uncle, on Finlaw Avenue. The Hillman family is still in the area as of 2006.  


Philadelphia Inquirer

November 24, 1899

Cooper B. Hatch - George W. Whyte
William Penn Hook & Ladder Company No. 1
First Baptist Church - Edgar Bolton
John W. Vanhart - W. Scott Franklin
Benjamin Kellum - Charles Robinson
George B. Wade - Albert Jones
George Cox - Edward Weston
Samuel Peoples - Harry B. Middleton
Harry Burroughs - Robert W. Colkett
William G. Hillman - James E. Navin
Charles Todd - Daniel Smith
Peter B. Carter - Alfred Hayden
Henry Elliott - Josiah Sage
Samuel Price - William Rose
Charles Sturgis - Daniel Grimes
Harry Wagner - Augustus Kester
William Simpson

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Philadelphia Inquirer - November 26, 1899
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Cooper B. Hatch - George W. Whyte - Edgar Boulton - John W. Vanhart - W. Scott Franklin
Robert Gick - Joseph Till - Edward Kelly - Christian Stark - Frank Powell - Lewis H. Sasse
Samuel Collins - William Madison - John F. Renner - Josiah Pedigree 

Philadelphia Inquirer

November 28, 1899

Cooper B. Hatch - George W. Whyte
Edgar Boulton - John W. Vanhart
W. Scott Franklin - Robert Gick - Joseph Till
Edward Kelly - Christian Stark
Samuel Collins - William Madison
John F. Renner - Josiah Pedigree
Charles Robinson - George B. Wade
Albert Jones - George Cox
Edward Weston - Samuel Peoples

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Philadelphia Inquirer - March 19, 1906

George Shields - William Hillman - William Jobes
Josiah Sage - Seth Monnell - George Quinn
Martin Carrigan - J.W. Simpson - James Elberson
William Elberson - Charles Worthington
Harry Dease - Isaac Toy -
Harry A. Haines Sr.
Joseph Ernst - Joseph Gail - Samuel S. Elfreth
William SchreglerCharles H. Ellis 

West Street - Mickle Street - Beckett Street
Kaighn Avenue - Line Street - South 8th Street
Mt. Vernon Street - Clinton Street - Cedar Street
North 4th Street - Taylor AvenuePenn Street
Haddon Avenue - Bridge Avenue

Engine Company 1 -  Engine Company 2
Engine Company 4 - Chemical Engine Company

6th Regiment, New Jersey National Guard
Farmers & Merchants Market
Camden Opera House

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Frank G. Hitchener - William Morgenweck - Sperry & Hutchinson - Camden Bowling Alleys
M.W. Taylor Theatrical Agency - John Sherwood - Louis Certain - Richard Carpenter - Daniel Mehlin
Mrs. Ida Paul - Mrs. Farley - John Campbell - Harry Chase - John WIdden - H.W. Wilson
Gardner Corson - Mrs. Borquin - C.M. Alcott

Gardner Corson was appointed to the Fire Department in November of 1907.


Lima Daily News
Lima, Ohio
March 17, 1906

Altoona Mirror
Altoona, Pennsylvania
March 17, 1906

Charles Worthington, pictured at left, not only recovered from his injuries, but became the Chief of the Camden Fire Department in 1913.

Tragically, Chief Charles Worthington also died while fighting a fire, on May 8, 1914.


Philadelphia Inquirer - March 22, 1906
Charles H. Ellis - First Baptist Church - Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church
George Shields - William Jobes - William Hillman - Kaighn Avenue - Rev. John S. Heisler
Samuel S. Elfreth - Samuel Price - William Deno - Charles Robinson - Peter Carter
Joseph Ernest - George Quinn

In Memorium
a poem written by Alfred A. Holt
in memory of Fire fighters Shields, Hillman, and Jobes

Albert A. Holt (1844-1909) was the editor publisher of the Camden Echo, a weekly newspaper devoted to church news news and the prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The paper was published from 1884 until Holt's death in July of 1909. The paper was distributed free of charge and had some measure of influence at one time, but very little by the time of Holt's death. 


100 Years Later
Story and Photos by  Bob Bartosz, Camden NJ Fire Department Photographer
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Honor Guard Melendez standing guard as Captain David Dilks plays the bagpipes at dedication of headstone for Fireman William Hillman

On Saturday morning, May 20, 2006 a group of Camden Fire Fighters, Camden County Fire Fighters, retired members of the Fire Force, along with United States Congressman Robert Andrews, Camden  City  Mayor  Gwendolyn  A. Faison, Fire Chief Joseph Marini and Msgr. Michael T. Mannion, S.T.L. and other friends gathered at Evergreen Cemetery in South Camden for the 100th Anniversary of the tragic 1906 Camden Armory Fire that took the lives the three Gallant Fire Fighters. 

Fireman William Jobes of Engine Co. 1, Fireman George Shields with Ladder Co. 2, along with Fireman William Hillman of Ladder Co. 2 died in the Line of Duty that day. In recent years it was found out that Fireman Hillman had been buried in an unmarked grave, and a fund was set up to provide him with a proper headstone.  

While researching the events of this tragic fire some very strange and unusual and ghostly events had surfaced.  All of the details have been documented by newspaper clippings and personal encounters from members of the present fire fighting force.  

This story starts on the morning of March 16, 1906 when Fireman William Hillman is attending Roll Call and is physically upset, his Foreman says to him, "Bill what's  wrong?"

"Captain I have one of my bad feelings today.  We are going to have a bad fire and some of us boys are going to get hurt."  

The Captain said he tried all day to talk Hillman out of his feelings but could not.  He said, to him "Bill where is the fire going to be at?"   

Hillman says "We are going to get the Armory on fire and some so us are not going to return."

( Note:  in 1906 Camden firemen were paid $600.00 a year and worked a straight 24 hour shift for twenty or more days before having a few days off.  Each Member was allowed to go home for 1 hour a day for lunch or dinner, many of the firemen were in walking distance to their homes.).  

On the afternoon of March 16, 1906 Fireman Jobes of Engine Co. 1 had left the Station to go to his home and have dinner with his family.  About the same time Fireman George Shields left Ladder Co. 2 Station to walk a half of block to his home at 525 Kaighns Avenue which was just down the street from Ladder 2 Station. 

( Note: Fireman Shields was a veteran fireman coming on the department in the 1890's, his parents presented him with a shiny ID Tag with his name and fire company No. and his address on the ID Tag.  These were similar to what Civil War soldiers carried to identify themselves if they were  killed in battle.  Shields had this ID Tag with him at all times. We feel that he may have had this ID Tag pinned to the inside of his fireman's uniform coat.)

Shields had just arrived at his home and hung his coat in the closet near  the kitchen and had just set down to dinner with his wife and children when he heard the bells from Engine Co. 8 clanging as they were leaving the station just up the street from his house.  He knew that Ladder Co. 2 would be following them in a few more moments.  He apparently raced from the table and grabbed his coat from the closet and out the front door as Ladder Co. 2 slowed which enabled him to jump on the side of the truck next to Hillman.  And off they went into eternity. 

( Note:  When Shields grabbed his coat from the closet his ID Tag apparently fell from his uniform coat onto the floor of the closet, falling into a crack in the floor.  There it would remain for almost 90 years.) 

Almost at the same time Fireman Jobes, from Engine Co. 1 was told of the blaze and he to left the dinner table and his family and returned to Engine Co. 1's quarters, picking up his leather helmet and rubber coat and boots and preceded to walk the 8 or 10 blocks to the fire. The fire was located at Box 174, on the corner of  4th and Mickle Streets at the Sixth Regiment Armory building. Hillman's prediction was coming true. 

When Jobes arrived at the fire members of his Company and members of Ladder Co. 2 with Hillman and Shields were stretching a 2-1/2 inch line through the front door of this heavily involved building, which at one time was the home of the New Jersey National Guard's Sixth Regiment and now housed a huge bowling alley, pool hall and many shops. Surrounding the building were many rows of two and three story dwellings.  

As Jobes, Hillman and Shields along with eight other firemen were advancing the line into the blazing building, hoping to cut the spread of the fire off before it reached the homes, a worker yelled at them, "Boys don't go in there, the roof is going to fall in and you will be killed" but to no avail.  

The men were in about 50 feet with the charged line working when the roof came crashing in onto the second floor, which was housing the pool hall section with heavy slate pool tables, sending the tables and the floor crashing down to the first floor trapping all eleven firemen. Eight firemen were able to dig themselves free, many with cuts, burns and broken bones.  Finding the hose line they were able to follow it to the outside where they were rushed by police and civilians to the nearby Camden Hospital.  It would be many hours later before they were able to work there way in and recover the bodies of the three missing men.

The City of Camden went into mourning and thousands of Camden residents paid their respects to these three gallant firemen. The firemen were all poor, only making about 11 cents an hour. A fund drive was setup to raise money for the families.  As it was found out later only Jobes and Shields had headstones on their graves.

It would be almost 90 years later when this tragedy would come to light.  An off duty Camden Fire Chief found a postcard at a local flea market.  The postcard had three photos of firemen with their names under the photos of Jobes, Shields, and Hillman, "Heroes of the Armory Fire, Camden N.J. March 16, 1906."  

The Chief brought this unusual post card into Fire Headquarters one day and showed it to Chief Joseph Marini, who was also a Fire Buff and knew quite a lot of the history of the Camden Fire Department.  Chief Marini had not heard of this fire and did not know that we had lost three firemen at the same time.  The postcard was placed into his desk drawer where it sat for a few more years.

The house where fireman George Shields lived was now run down and vacant along with the rest of the homes on this block.  Numerous fires had occurred in a few of these homes and on one afternoon, Engine Co. 8 and Shields former unit, Ladder Co. 2 were dispatched to the 525 Kaighns Avenue for a report of an vacant house fire.  As the Companies arrived they found heavy fire showing which was soon knocked down and brought under control.  As members of Ladder Co. 2 were overhauling and shoveling debris out, one of the members of Ladder Co. 2 spotted a shiny object on the floor.  He picked it up and placed it in his pocket.  When they returned to Ladder Co. 2's quarters he showed the shiny object to his Captain.  He said, that he found it on the closet floor of the burned out dwelling they had just left.   

As they cleaned the object up they found that it was an ID Tag.  On the tag was written "525 Kaighns Avenue, George W. Shields, Camden Fire Dept. Camden N.J." They though it was quite unusual for a fireman to find another fireman's ID Tag in a burned out home.  They preceded to Fire Headquarters with the ID Tag to show Fire Chief Joseph Marini to ask him if he had ever heard of this fireman.  

Chief Marini said that the name sounded familiar and as he opened his desk drawer, there sitting in front of him was the old 1906 postcard with the three firemen's photos on it, and the middle picture was a fireman by the name of Shields.  It would be amazing that these two events would come together but still no one ever heard of the fire or these men. 

At the same time a committee was now working on a book to mark the 125th Anniversary of the Camden Fire Department.  Chief Marini gave the postcard and the ID Tag to the committee to research.  This is how the "Mystery  of the Three Gallant Firemen" came to light.  

It was later found out that Shields did lose his ID Tag on the night he was killed. Was this a hidden message telling his brother firemen "Don't forget about us"? How strange is it that a brother fire fighter from his same Company, Ladder Co. 2 would find this hidden message almost 90 years later. 

It took another 10 years of in-depth research, over many hours of looking into microfilm of 1906 newspapers to find out more information about the fire, where it was found out that fireman Hillman did predict the Armory fire and his death. It took over three  more years to find out the location of the three fireman of their burial sites. Evergreen Cemetery, at the southwest corner of Mt. Ephraim Avenue and Ferry Avenue, where Shields and Hillman are buried was under very depressed conditions and had been badly vandalized. 

It was found out the Shields did have a headstone and so did Jobes, who is buried at Harleigh Cemetery not far from the grave of Walt Whitman, but fireman Hillman had lay buried in a cold unmarked grave for over 100 years. 

Was it the ghost of these men, especially fireman Shields who left his hidden message with his lost ID Tag for his brother firemen to find to bring this story to an end?  

A fund was started and a beautiful headstone was purchased. On the headstone is a picture of fireman Hillman along with an original photo of the 1906 Horsedrawn Ladder Co. 2. Hillman is standing next to Shields in this picture which is now embedded into this headstone.  

On May 20, 2006 the tears from heaven started to pour down as brother firemen lined up at the opening ceremony on this 100 year Anniversary for the dedication of Hillman's headstone.

As Fire Chief Marini saluted firemen Hillman's grave, the sun came out, the rain clouds were no longer in the sky and a beautiful sunny day was now upon us. As if firemen Jobes, Shields and Hillman were saying Thank You. All of us from the Camden Fire Department are saying, Rest In Peace Brothers for your Gallant Sacrifice. This  story has reached its Happy Ending.

US Congressman Robert Andrews, second from the right, speaking at the dedication of the new Headstone for Camden Fireman William Hillman.  Left to right in photo are, Honor Guard Camden FF David Melendez, Camden Chief of the Department Joseph Marini, in background Captain David Dilks with his Bagpipe, Congressman Robert Andrews and Msgr. Michael T. Mannion, S.T. L.

US Congressman Robert Andrews and Camden Mayor Gwendolyn A. Faison remove the cover from the headstone, as Honor Guard Camden FF David Melendez looks on.

 

Camden Fire Chief Joseph Marini saying a few words about the tragic fire in 1906 which claimed the lives of three Gallant Fire Fighters- Jobes, Shields, Hillman.

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Chief of the Department Joseph Marini gives a final farewell salute to Fireman William Hillman who died in the Line Of Duty in 1906.

Firefighters admiring the new headstone at the gravesite of Hillman at the conclusion of the ceremonies.

Flags and wreath at the grave site of Fireman George Shields who also died in the tragic 1906 fire.

Flags and wreath at the grave site of Fireman William Jobes who also died in the tragic 1906 fire.


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