Chester
J.
Andrus


 

CHESTER J. ANDRUS was born in Pennsylvania on May 17, 1890 to Seth and Emeline Andrus. The family was living in Southport, New York when the Census was taken in 1900. Older brother John H. Andrus was serving in the United States Army in Cuba. After leaving the Army in 1902, John H. Andrus came to Camden, New Jersey. Chester Andrus' parents brought the rest of the family to Camden by 1906. The City Directory or that year shows them at 337 Warren Avenue. By the spring of 1910 Seth Andrus had passed away. The 1910 Census shows Chester Andrus living with his widowed mother, brothers Tracy and Vernon, and sisters Ethel and Mary, at 812 Birch Street. He was still at that address when the 1914 Camden City Directory was compiled.

Chester J. Andrus served in the armed forces of the United States in the mid-1910s, during the conflict in Mexico and during America's involvement in World War I. By the time the 1919 Camden City Directory was compiled he had married Edna Dickinson. Chester Andrus was then working as a chauffer and living at 570 Mount Vernon Street in South Camden. Chester and Edna Andrus were still at that address in January of 1920, and stayed there for many years thereafter. By the end of 1921 he had been appointed to the Camden Fire Department.

Chester J. Andrus was on duty with Engine Company 2 on the night of January 22, 1922 when the alarm came concerning a fire at the Economy Store at 427-429 Kaighn Avenue. He was on the roof of an adjoining building when a wall collapsed, sending a hail of bricks and burning debris down on him and five other firemen with him on the roof, hurtling them to the basement below. The captain of Engine Company 2, Martin Carrigan, died of injuries; Firemen Harold Lorang, John K. Voll, and George Boone were hospitalized with lesser injuries.  

Chester J. Andrus was a charter member of the Box 315 Association. Organized on January 1, 1928, the Box 315 Association was chartered for the mutual benefit of Camden Firemen, its principal purpose being to fund a commemorative badge for all members of the Department retiring at twenty or more years of service. In the event that an active member died before achieving retirement status, a death benefit in the sum of $20.00 would be paid to the member's estate. Its title, 315, was arbitrarily chosen as the number of the first Box transmitted over the circuits, following the organization's formation. A cabinet of Officers; a By-Laws Committee; Auditing Committee; and a Board of Trustees comprised of one representative from each fire company in the City, were designated by election and appointment.

All active members of the Department were expected to join the organization. An initiation fee of $1.00 and regular dues assessed at ten cents per month, funded operations. Any member of the Department that failed to join the organization within three months after completing his probationary period in the Uniformed Force, was required to pay an initiation fee of $5.00, plus the average of all dues and assessments incurred from the time he was eligible to join. The association met on the first Wednesday of each month.

Charter members of the By-Laws Committee were Chester Andrus, Chairman; Harry Wagner, Henry Zook, Harrison Pike, William Spencer and Nelson Andrews. The association is believed to have actively functioned until sometime during the 1940s.

When the census was taken in April of 1930, Chester Andrus, his wife Edna and son Chester Andrus Jr. were living at 570 Mount Vernon Street in Camden. Also living there was brother-in-law Charles V. Dickinson, wife Lillian and daughter Charlotte Dickinson. Charles V. Dickinson was named Public Safety Director for the City of Camden not long afterwards. This position took on added responsibilities as Chief of Police Lewis Stehr Jr. suffered a heart attack at the end of April and another on Thanksgiving, passing away on December 10, 1930. Dickinson later moved to Palmyra, New Jersey where he served as Mayor and was Director of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders when he died in October of 1957.

Chester Andrus had retired from the Camden Fire Department by the spring of 1942. He was then working for the R.C.A. Victor Corporation. Chester Andrus passed away in February of 1964, survived by his wife Edna, who remained at the Mount Vernon Street address into the 1970s.



Camden Courier-Post * January 18, 1922

POLICE TO PROBE $200,000 KAIGHN AVE. FIRE
FIRE CAPTAIN MAY DIE, FOUR OTHERS INJURED; DAMAGE IS $200,000
Economy Store and Other Buildings Near Broadway Swept by Flames Early This Morning- Falling Debris Carries Men Through Roof And Into Cellar- Sleeping Inmates of Apartments Roused and Invalid Carried to Safety- Mayor Sees Rescues

 Mayor Ellis has ordered an investigation to determine the cause of the $2000,000 fire which swept the properties at 427 and 429 Kaighn Avenue and caused injury to five firemen, one of whom may be fatally hurt.

 The fire centered about the property occupied by the Economy Store, formerly Handle’s, and quickly spread to four adjoining buildings.

 The fireman whose recovery is despaired of is Captain Martin B. Carrigan, of Engine Company No. 2, Fifth and Arch Streets. Carrigan, who lives at 618 West Street, is suffering from a fractured skull and severe burns and cuts of the face, legs, and body. He is unconscious at Cooper Hospital.

 The firemen were injured when a wall, weakened by the intense heat, crumbled and crashed through a roof upon which they were standing, dragging them through the floor below, and into a cellar. Sensational rescues followed as police, firemen, and citizens with bare hands tore at the hot debris. The men were quickly extricated and carried to the street.

 “We certainly shall investigate this fire,” the Mayor declared today. “Just what was the cause and who is to blame has not been determined but there will be a thorough investigation.”

 “There have been too many of these fires during the past few weeks” continued the mayor. “Surely all of them did not just happen and I am sure there has been someone responsible in one or two of the fires.”

 The conflagration was one of the most spectacular of a series of large fires that have visited the city in the past six weeks. The block in which it occurred- Kaighn Avenue between Broadway and Fourth Street is one of the most prominent business squares in Camden.

 Flames shot 200 feet in the air, giving the sky a fiery hue and attracted attention for miles before the firemen brought it under control. The flame-lit sky was clearly seen in Philadelphia, Merchantville, East Camden, Gloucester and other communities.

 More than a score of families living in the vicinity were forced to flee from their homes in scant attire when the fire threatened them. They were cared for by neighbors.

 Fireman George Boone, 46 years old, of Engine Company No. 2, also is in a serious condition. He is suffering from burns of the right hand, right thigh and foot and probable internal injuries. Boone lives at 607 Mount Vernon Street.

The other injured foremen are:

John Voll, 22 years old, 509 Royden Street: both hands badly burned.

C.J. Andrus, aged 31 years, 570 Mount Vernon Street: burns of hands and legs.

Harold Lorang, 29 years old, 19 Hudson Street: burns of right hand and legs and sprained ankle.

 Firemen Prove Heroes

 Carrigan and Boone are in the hospital. The other firemen were discharged after their wounds were dressed. After being released from the hospital they returned to the scene of the fire and insisted upon continuing their duties. Chief Peter B. Carter, however, ordered them home.

 Most of the loss was suffered by the Economy Store. A few charred walls remain of the large building. The interior was completely gutted. It was estimated today that the damage to that property will total $60,000 At least $50,000 damage, it was said, was done to the stock.

 Morris Handle, local theatrical man, who owns the building, declared today that the property was insured for $30,000. “My loss will be quite heavy,” said Mr. Handle. “The insurance will not pay one-half the property damage.”

 The adjoining building at 431 Kaighn Avenue is occupied by Dr. S.I. Yubas, optometrist, and L.R. Yubas, his father, a jeweler.

 Invalid is Rescued

 The rear and upper floors of the Yubas property were gutted and the stock sustained a heavy loss, due to water and smoke. The damage will total $40,000, Mr. Yubas estimated today. 

Five persons who were asleep on the upper floors of the Yubas dwelling had narrow escapes. They were awakened by Samuel Goldstein, haberdasher, 417 Kaighn Avenue, who discovered the fire in the Economy Store and turned in the alarm. Mrs. L.R. Yubas, an invalid, was rescued with difficulty. 

The property occupied by Mrs. Sadie Bodner, a widow, at 433 Kaighn Avenue, as a house furnishings store, was scorched and also damaged by water and smoke. 

Adjoining the Economy Store on the west at 425 Kaighn Avenue is a vacant one-story structure, formerly occupy by the United Beef Company. Firemen were on the roof of that building when the west wall of the Economy Store collapsed. The wall tumbled down on the small roof and hurled the firemen through a hole in the roof, through the floor and then into the cellar.

Several Stores Damaged

Three policemen, Joseph Sparks, Thomas Cheeseman, and George Hill- and several spectators braved the fire and smoke to rescue the trapped firemen.

The property at 423 Kaighn Avenue, occupied by the Charles Jamison Department Store, was damaged in the rear and the stock ruined by water and smoke. The Kresge Five-and-Ten-Cent Store, at 519-531 Kaighn Avenue, was also damaged by water.

Louis Richelson, who owns the properties from 519 to 525 Kaighn Avenue, was unable to estimate his loss today. 

Collapse of Wall 

Hundreds of spectators, who were watching the fire from the opposite side of the street, shuddered as they saw a brick wall, weakened by the intense heat, totter and sway. Before the firemen on the smaller roof below could scurry to safety, it collapsed. 

A groan escaped the crowd as they heard the cries of the entrapped firemen and the deafening thud of the brocks as they landed on the roof where the firemen were at work. 

As the full weight of the brocks struck the roof, it caved in forming a gaping hole. The firemen were literally swept into the opening. 

The bricks tumbled down, causing another hole in the floor between the firs story and the cellar and dragging the imperiled firemen into the cellar with them. 

Mayor Charles H. Ellis was among the spectators who witnessed the collapse of the wall. Other officials were Chief James H. Long, of the Water Department; Fire Chief Carter, Assistant Police Chief Edward S. Hyde, Captain Lewis Stehr of the Second Police District, and Street Commissioner Alfred L. Sayers.

 Firemen Under Debris

 Observing the peril of the trapped firemen, Policemen Sparks, Cheeseman and Hill, together with a dozen other spectators, rushed across the street to the vacant store. They rushed through the smoke and fire, leaped into the cellar and 5reached the struggling firemen. 

Sparks, the first to leap into the cellar, reached Voll, who had been pinned beneath a pile of debris and was pleading to be rescued. The policeman feverishly extricated Voll from his precarious position and carried him out into the street to safety. 

Policeman Cheeseman had accidentally fallen into the cellar and, though himself injured, groped about in the dark until he found Boone, whom he dragged outside. 

Policeman Hill carried Carrigan out of the cellar in his arms. 

The five firemen were carried to a waiting police ambulance and rushed to Cooper Hospital. Carrigan was unconscious. He haws a slim fighting chance to recover. 

Carrigan was promoted to a captaincy the first of the year. He is popular among his comrades and has the reputation of being a fearless fireman.

Mayor Praises Firemen

 Mayor Ellis praised the work of the firemen and the bravery of the policemen who had risked their lives to effect the rescue.

 “Never did I see such remarkable work” said the Mayor. “When I arrived at the scene, it looked as if the whole block was doomed. The flames were shooting upward and the whole sky seemed lit up. The firemen tackled their job with dispatch and courage. I was proud of them. They knew their business and showed it by confining it to a comparatively small area. The work of the police also was commendable.

 Mr. Goldstein discovered the fire shortly before midnight.

 “I had just left my home at 417 Kaighn Avenue,” explained Mr. Goldstein, “intending to get a soda. As I passed the Economy Store I noticed strong odor of smoke. I peered into the glass doorway of the store. I immediately saw the place was afire.”

Rescues Sleeping Family

“Then I ran back to my store” continued Mr. Goldstein, “and I telephoned police headquarters. I went out again and returned to the scene. I remembered that the Yubas family were asleep on the second and third floors and rapped on the doors. Mr. Yubas came down in a bathrobe. He was not aware of the fire.”

 The six persons asleep in the Yubas home were Dr. Yubas, Mr. And Mrs. L.R. Yubas, Bernard Helfand, Miss Bertha Cuden and Anna Recowitz, a domestic.

 Mrs. Yubas, who is recovering from an illness, was too weak to make her way outside through the smoke. Assisted by her husband, Policemen Becker and Cheeseman and Constable John Cunningham, Mrs. Yubas was half carried downstairs, and out through the rear of the building to safety.

Blaze Had Big Start

“The fire had gained such rapid headway,” said Sergeant Thomas Cunningham, “that when the firemen arrived, smoke was actually issuing from cracks in the sidewalks and between the cobbles near the trolley tracks.”

 The second and third floors of 419 to 423 Kaighn Avenue are occupied by private families as apartments. In the rear were number of frame dwellings. More than a score of families were obliged to leave their homes in scant attire when the firemen began playing hose upon their properties as a precaution against the fire spreading.

Mrs. Catherine Fox, 410 Sycamore Street, and Mrs. E. Chambers, 412 Sycamore Street, whose homes are in the rear of the Economy Store property, had removed part of the furniture to the street. Even after firemen assured them the danger of their homes catching on fire was over, the women and children could hardly be persuaded to return.

Crumbling walls and cracking of glass hampered the foremen in their work and made their task hazardous. The firemen were further handicapped by the big start the fire had gained. Despite this, they stuck dangerously close to the flames.

To play hose upon the fire to advantage, several firemen scaled the outside walls of adjoining properties and reached cornices, from which they directed streams of water.

 High Wind Fanned Flames

 A high wind gave them great difficulty. A number of times, when the firemen seemed to have the fire under control, the flames burst out afresh and compelled them to retreat. Then the reflection would light up the sky overhead.

 Water Chief Long gave the firemen great service in maintaining the water at a high pressure to ensure facility in getting the streams to play upon the flames.

 Kaighn Avenue, between Broadway and Fourth Street, was literally alive with residents and passers-by attracted by the flames. Included among the spectators were scores of persons who came from Philadelphia and distant points, in the belief the blaze was much more serious.

 According to the estimate of the loss made today, the insurance on the property and stock damaged by the fore will not pay for one-half the loss sustained.

 Chief Carter was determined to take no chances with the fire because of the high wind and the fire was attacked on all sides. While firemen were fighting the flames from Kaighn Avenue several companies of firemen had worked their way into the yard in the rear, from whence they played streams of hose.

 An effort is being made today to determine the origin of the blaze.

 Thomas Shannon, Engine Company 6, was a spectator when the wall crashed in. Hearing the cries of the buried men, he immediately dashed into the dirt. Six men, including Harry Seeley, formed a human chain and pulled four of the men from the heap of rubbish.

 Someone had the presence of min to turn off the nozzle of a hose, which was playing directly o the mound. When found, the water was trickling through to the pinned men.


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 * July 30, 1941
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Bruce A. Wallace - Chester Andrus - James Conaghy - Albert S. Woodruff
Edna Andrus - Emma Kenney - Domonick Palese - Thomas Bolt - Marion Garrity
Joseph Moss - WIlliam Anderson - Burnell S. Hartman
Ruth Richardson - Mary Niewinski

World War II Draft Card

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