Citizens Fire Company
No. 1


On March 24, 1899 the City of Camden annexed the adjoining municipality, the Town of Stockton, whose citizens chose to join the City after a close and hard-fought election. Stockton was comprised of what today is known as Cramer Hill and East Camden, all of Camden that lies north of the Cooper River was originally Stockton. Cramer Hill became Camden's Eleventh Ward, and East Camden the Twelfth. Camden's City Council authorized the sale of bonds to build a new firehouse in the new part of town, at North 27th Street and Federal Streets (a library and police station was also built on the same ground), and in South Camden on Kaighn Avenue between South 6th and South 7th Streets.

Prior to the annexation, Stockton had been served by five volunteer fire companies. These companies remained on active duty as part of the municipal fire department for several months after the annexation to Camden. They went off-line at midnight, February 28, 1900, relieved from their duties by the newly organized Hook and Ladder Company No. 3, Hose Company No. 1, and Hose Company No.2. 

Of the Stockton volunteer fire companies, the first to organize was the William Penn Hook & Ladder Company No.1, organized on March 15, 1885 and incorporated June 21, 1889. The  Citizens Fire Company No. 1 was organized the following year, and in mid-1892 the Stockton Hose Company No. 2 was organized. Pavonia Hose Company No. 3 was founded about the same time, joined lastly by Rosedale Fire Company No. 4 few years later.

Citizens Fire Company No. 1 was organized on December 4, 1890 at a meeting in the home of Ferdinand Sell on Sherman Avenue above Cooper Avenue (present-Day North 27th Street) in the town of Stockton, which was made up of what we know today as Cramer Hill and East Camden. The company's minute journal from that meeting listed the following members: Dr. William Kensinger, Joseph Dowell, Frank Hartmann, George W. Carlin, Frederick Smith, William H. Clarkson, George Marple, W.C. Rodgers, Ferdinand Sell, John H. Pratt, Robert Law, Isaac C. Stone, Oscar Rheyno, Jonathan F. Southcott, Edward Heimach, Aquilla S. Shimp, Abner Taylor, Samuel Jaquillard, Joseph Widud, Dr. J.A. George, Antoine Kenna and Dr. H.H. Sherk. Temporary officers were elected, the meeting was adjourned for one week and then reconvened to elect permanent officers. Frank Hartmann became president, Ferdinand Sell vice-president, George Carlin secretary, Isaac Stone treasurer and George Doerfuss, Herman Ladowig, William H. Clarkson, Robert Law and William M. Petzelt trustees. Several additional men became members at this meeting.

The company was located on Cooper Avenue opposite Cleveland Avenue on lots #13 and #14, section X in Pavonia, a subdivision of Stockton. When the streets were renamed after the 1899 merger of Camden and Stockton, this address became 715 North 27th Street. The two lots had been purchased in early 1891 for $250 from Alfred Cramer, a member of the company. A temporary engine house was built and occupied 13th of that year and a used hand engine was adopted for service. Prior to that date, members met at the Pavonia School or at a member's home. The company's first new piece of apparatus, a four-wheel hose carriage complete with hose and purchased from W.W. Wunder, was successfully tested on September 7, 1891 and placed in service.

According to the company's minute journal, the Citizens Fire Company No. 1 answered its first alarm at 6:15 A.M. on November 24, 1891 at the home of R. Yeager at Front (later Harrison Avenue) Avenue and Howard (later Dupont) Streets in the Pavonia section of Stockton. This large frame dwelling sustained only $200 in damages. The company stretched 500 feet of hose from the river and played a single stream on the fire with great success.

The men of the company referred to their hand engine as the "Little Pet".

In 1893, Samuel M. Welch Sr., a blacksmith who lived at what is now 1014 North 27th Street, was named Chief Engineer by the Town of Stockton. He served for three years, supervising the activities of the volunteer fire companies.

The company erected its new headquarters at Cooper and Cleveland Avenues in the spring of 1893 at a cost of $3100. Edward Elliot designed the two-story firehouse which the company occupied on June 28, 1893. By the end of that year the company boasted a membership of eighty-seven men. On January 1, 1895 the membership voted to purchase a horse-drawn hose carriage for $585 - a Gleason & Bailey Pompier Hose Carriage (figure 610, number 0). On the twenty-fifth of that month the old hand engine was sold for $200 to Gleason & Bailey. The new hose carriage arrived on May 1, 1895, and a stable was built to shelter the horses. The company's motto was "Where duty calls, there you will find ·us".

When the Town of Stockton merged with Camden in 1899, the volunteer fire companies remained active for several months brief time. On June 25, 1899 the Stockton companies rendered assistance to the Camden Fire Department when the Moro Phillips Chemical Company factory at North Twelfth Street at Linden Street was struck by fire, resulting in $60,000 worth of damage and injury to three Camden firefighters, Joseph Maxwell, David Andrews, and William Hertline.

The City of Camden assumed responsibility for fire service in Cramer Hill and East Camden at the end of February, 1900. With that, the Citizens Fire Company No. 1 and the other Stockton Fire Companies disbanded. Some of the Stockton volunteers ended up joining the Camden Fire Department, most notably Robert Gick of Pavonia Hose Company No. 3, and Elmer Ellsworth Stevens of Stockton Hose Company No. 2


.Citizens Fire Company No.1
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This photo, most likely taken in 1891, shows members, family and friends of the Citizens Fire Company No.1 in front of their quarters on Cooper Avenue across from Cleveland Avenue, which, after 1899, was known as 715 North 27th Street. This building was replaced by a new, two-story firehouse, in 1893. 


Philadelphia Inquirer
June 17, 1894

Citizens Fire Company No. 1

William Penn
Hook & Ladder Company No. 1


Stockton Base Ball Club
David B. Ristine

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Complete Article


.Citizens Fire Company No.1
Click on Image to Enlarge

Members of the Citizens Fire Company No.1 with hose carriage are pictured in front of their new firehouse in the mid 1890s. The building was located on Cooper Avenue across from Cleveland Avenue, which, after 1899, was known as 715 North 27th Street. From 1900 to at least 1914 the building was known as Citizen's Hall. As early as 1924 through 1929 it was called Red Men's Hall, and was the home of the Black Hawk Tribe, Improved Order of Red Men. The 1947 City Directory shows Harry's SIgn Shop and Post Office Substation Number 8 sharing this address. 


Philadelphia Inquirer - November 18, 1894

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - January 27, 1895

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 24, 1895
Citizens Fire Company No. 1
Samuel M. Welch Sr. - Samuel S. Elfreth

Philadelphia Inquirer - October 6, 1895

Citizens Fire Company
William Penn Hook & Ladder Company

Philadelphia Inquirer
November 29, 1895

 

Philadelphia Inquirer
December 21, 1895

Citizens Fire Company No. 1

William Penn
Hook & Ladder Company No. 1


Frank J. Hartmann Sr.
H.B. Schlam - D.J. Whelan
Walter Sellard - Richad Law
August Goeble - O.E. Schmid
George Williams - Alexander Dick
Charles Oehler - Louis Beiser
F.A. Buren - B.C. Cholister
G.A. Williams - Oscar Lane

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Philadelphia Inquirer - December 29, 1895

 

Helmet worn by
Samuel M. Welch Sr.
during his term as
Chief Engineer
Town of Stockton, New Jersey
1893-1896

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Philadelphia Inquirer - November 26, 1897
Robert Gick - Martin J. Ryan - George Bremen - Millard Daly
Jesse Milby - Samuel N. Johnson
William Abels - Samuel S. Elfreth - J.C.T. Trachsel - Colonel A.H. Troth
Stockton Hose Company - Citizens Fire Company - Rosedale Fire Company
William Penn Fire Hook & Ladder Company

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 24, 1898

Citizens Fire Company - Samuel Welch 
Samuel S. ELfreth

Philadelphia Inquirer - December 1, 1898

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - January 8, 1899
Dr. A.L. Sherk - Improved Order of Red Men
Rosedale Fire Company
Joseph H.K. Johnson - Clarence Furman
Simon Watkins - Eber Hutchinson - John W. Coleman
Jesse Milby - B. Reed - W,T, Waller
Citizens Fire Company

Philadelphia Inquirer - January 22, 1899

 

 

 

 

19th Century Volunteer Fire Companies often had children as company mascots who were attired in parade dress for official functions. This small leather tunic belt and frontpiece belonged to a company mascot of the Citizens Fire Company No. 1 of East Camden. Circa 1890.

Classic 8" high leather frontpiece was mounted upon a helmet worn by a member of Citizens Fire Company No. 1. Partial initials at bottom of front-piece indicate initials of member's name. Circa 1890.


Frank J. Hartmann Sr.'s Fire Department Badges

Frank J. Hartmann Sr.'s hat badge from the Citizens Fire Company. Note that it indicates the Town of Stockton.

Frank J. Hartmann Sr.'s breast badge from the Citizens Fire Company. This badge was  issued before Stockton was merged with Camden. Note the "C.H. (Cramer Hill) & V. N.J."


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Many of the photographs on this website are from the limited edition book "Fire Department Camden NJ 125 Anniversary 1869-1994" and were taken by Department Photographer Bob Bartosz. Others are courtesy of Joel Bain of the Camden Fire Department and Vern Welch, grandson of Samuel M. Welch.

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