GEORGE SAWYER HUNT served with the Camden Fire Department in the late 1870s and 1880s, initially as the stoker and later as the hose cart driver with Engine Company 1.
George S. Hunt was born in Missouri around 1854 to Isaac and Sarah Hunt. His father passed when he was quite young. Sarah Hunt and her sons James and George were living in Trenton at the time of the 1860 Census. George Hunt appears in Camden's South Ward in the 1870 Census, living with his mother Sarah Hunt at the home of his uncle, Jason Sawyer.
George S. Hunt married Clara Cook in the 1870s. There were three children, Walter, born in 1879; David, born in 1881; and John A.S. Hunt, born in May of 1884.
George S. Hunt was working as a laborer and living at 416 Pine Street when appointed to the Camden Fire Department in April of 1877. When reappointed the following year, brother fire fighter Edmund Shaw also was living at that address. The 1880 Census shows George Hunt, wife Clara, and son Walter at 814 South 4th Street. He was working as an oilcloth printer. The 1881 Camden City Directory shows him living at 411 Pine Street.
By March of 1882 George S. Hunt had moved to 441 Pine Street, Edmund Shaw was still living at 411 Pine Street. George S. Hunt moved back to 411 Pine Street by the end of 1882 and lived there as late as 1884. George S. Hunt was not reappointed to the Fire Department in 1882. A newspaper report states that he was reappointed in March of 1884, however, Camden Fire Department records have yet to confirm this. City Directories indicate that he was working as an oilcloth printer at L.D. Farr's works.
City Directories beginning in 1885 through 1888 show George S. Hunt living at 508 Pine Street, where he kept a saloon.
The 1890 City Directory show George S. Hunt was living at 417 Pine Street, working as a driver for the Camden Police Department. He was still a policeman and living at 417 Pine Street when the 1892-1893 City Directory was compiled. George S. Hunt died of tuberculosis on August 26, 1892. The 1896 City Directory lists his widow, Clara, at 816 South 4th Street.
In 1915 George Hunt's son, John Albert Stockton Hunt, was appointed to the Camden Fire Department. He had reached the rank of Captain, and was still working when the Census was taken in April of 1930. Sadly, Captain Hunt passed away in May of 1930, and was buried at New Camden Cemetery. Another of George Hunt's sons, David Hunt, was a member of the Camden Police Department in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. He served as a detective for much of his career.
Philadelphia Inquirer * March 24, 1877
Philadelphia Inquirer - September 12, 1889
|Camden Courier-Post - June 19, 1933|
A False Alarm of Long Ago
THERE were two alarms of fire Saturday evening, one at Fourth and Hamilton streets at 8:29 o'clock, and another at the West Jersey Ferry, an hour later. People in the vicinity of the first-named place turned out to look at the machines propelled at lightning speed by snorting equines, and wondered what it was all about; and some of them thought the wide-awake fire boys were beside themselves, as they asked, for the particular house, in the neighborhood of box 24 upon which, with steam up, their apparatus was able to put on, the water. The firemen and people were quietly informed by a party that drove away in a barouche that it was a designed deception.
Under date of October 6, 1879, that was the introduction to a two-column story under a display headline. But, it was, a single line-"False Alarms." Readers of the period must have been as much mystified as were the firemen and citizens mentioned in the article, for it was not until more than half a column had been devoted to that incident that the public was let into the great secret. It was a test of the first fire alarm system introduced into Camden.
Interest in that incident is revived by the city commissioners last week entering into a contract with that same concern to install in the new City Hall a system for somewhat more than $51,000. That first "system" cost the city $2000 but it was a big sum then and just about 10 times more space was devoted to it in the old Post than in the Courier-Post last Thursday week.
Paid Department 10 Years Old
Camden's paid fire department in 1879 was just 10 years old. It already was winning approval of even the recalcitrants, who had asserted back in 1869, that the old volunteer companies would certainly be missed; that the "professionals" would not have as much interest in putting out a fire as the boys who ran with the Perseverance, the Weccacoe and other organizations, usually bitter rivals. Not infrequently the volunteers battled over hooking up their hose while the fire burned, a event by no means outgrown since that occasionally happens even now, as files of the newspapers prove.
But on that Saturday night 54 years ago, it developed that those who drove away in the mysterious barouche were J. W. Morgan, Crawford Miller and F. P. Pfeiffer; fire commissioners of city council, along with R. S. Bender and Thomas Beatty. They were but carrying out orders to see that the system worked and it was John T. Bottomley who issued those orders. He was Camden's big mill owner but more to the purpose in that particular incident, president of city Council. He had approved the fire alarm system but did not intend putting his O. K. on that $2000 bill until he had seen it in practical operation.
So unknown to the firemen, and the citizens as well, it was determined to test that system by way of turning in the alarms. So an alarm was pulled at 8.29 and "Bart" Bonsall, son of Henry L. Bonsall, publisher of the Post, narrates, in just 15 seconds flat the bell was sounded at No.1 Engine House at Fourth and Pine Streets. In two minutes hose cart No. 1 went bounding out with Driver George Hunt at the reins, followed by Ben Cavanaugh and his faithful nag "Jim" with cart No. 2. Then came Jake Kellum and William Davis with the engine No. 2 drawn by "Dolly" in 2.45. After that was engine No.1 driven by Edmund Shaw and the horse "Alec," coming along in 3 minutes and 5 seconds. It was explained Shaw was held up by the sandy roadway at Fourth and Line.
Anyhow, it must have been a great sight for the old-time families who then resided along the Middle Ward Streets as the racing steeds bounded over Fourth Street, then into Third over a mighty bumpy roadway.
But they arrived and vainly sought the blaze. It was while they were hunting that the barouche came along and the commissioners let them into the great secret. "Bart" doesn't relate what the firemen said about the false alarm, but, like as not the heat of their expressions was a good substitution for the fire they failed to find.
The system was one of those nineday wonders that had the town on its toes. Everybody listened for the alarms in those days, for when they were sent in the bells in the fire houses pealed the number of the box. The strokes could be heard surprisingly far. Since there were but 11 boxes it was not long before many knew just where the fire was located and made a bee line for the scene. Old volunteers, particularly, never quite lost their interest in fires and, whenever they heard the alarm, hot footed it to the scene of excitement.
That was all right when Camden was little more than a village, but as the community grew it became a serious proposition, since the racing citizens often interfered with the firemen. Thus about 30 years ago the fire bells were silenced. Now none know of an alarm coming in save the various houses and the Courier-Post which has a wire attached from headquarters bringing in the alarms so that reporters and cameramen may get on the scene quickly as possible.
Ordinarily, little thought is given to the need for instant and accurate sounding of an alarm made possible through the expert work of City Electrician Jim Howell and his aides. If it were not for that perfection and the speed with which friend reach the scene the losses would he large. And the insurance companies would be around with a "pink slip" as they were some 20 years ago. That meant a 25 percent addition to fire rates. Camden's motorized department plus the work of City Electrician John W. Kelly soon rid the city of that "slip."
That system of long ago didn't include the cops. Now it takes in both departments, as it has done since the days of Chief Samuel Dodd, back in the early 90's.
Philadelphia Inquirer * August 27, 1892
RETURN TO CAMDEN'S INTERESTING PEOPLE PAGE
RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE