Samuel
S.
Elfreth



Below: Chief Elfreth
 in his office in the
5th & Arch Street Firehouse, 1913. 

Click on Image to Enlarge

SAMUEL S. ELFRETH was born in Camden on August 13, 1845 at 109 North 2nd Street in Camden NJ. He was the middle son of Samuel D. and Martha Elfreth, coming after Jeremiah and before Charles Elfreth. His father was a prosperous blacksmith in Camden. Samuel D. Elfreth had become a volunteer with the old Perseverance Fire Company upon moving to Camden in the 1820s, one could very well say that Samuel S. Elfreth was born into his future career. After attending school in Camden, he worked for two years as a machinist, before entering the sash and blind trade at the age of eighteen.

Samuel S. Elfreth became involved in firefighting in Camden in 1865, when it was still an all-volunteer force, and served until the volunteers were disbanded in 1869. In 1871 he was appointed a member of the paid fire department, serving as an extra hoseman in Engine Company No. 2, when he was named to replace Abraham Bradshaw, who had been removed from service on May 16th. Samuel S. Elfreth was removed from service on December 5, 1871. He returned to service in 1873 and served into the spring of 1876 as Foreman (the equivalent of today's Captain) of Engine Company 2. He did not serve with the fire department during the period in which Claudius W. Bradshaw was Chief of the department.

In 1879 Samuel S. Elfreth was elected Chief, succeeding Claudius W. Bradshaw, who went on to become the Mayor of Camden. He served a three year term. He was succeeded by Daniel A. Carter, who served one term. Samuel S. Elfreth was reelected again in 1885 for another three year term. Robert S. Bender, who had been Chief in the early 1870s, won the election for the chief's position in 1888. Samuel S. Elfreth was reelected once again in 1891, and when the position ceased to be an elective office, he was retained, and served until his retirement in 1913. He was Chief from 1879 to 1882, from 1885 to 1888, and from 1891 until 1913, a total of 28 years, longer than any other person to have served in that capacity in Camden. 

Samuel S. Elfreth married Kate Baker in 1870. The marriage produced at least one child, a daughter Fannie. Fannie Elfreth later married Rollo R. Jones, who rose to the rank of Captain in the Camden Fire Department. The Elfreths lived through at least 1900 at 109 North 2nd Street, where he was born.

Chief Elfreth responded to his last fire alarm, at 445 South 5th Street, on November 1, 1913. He was succeed as Chief by Charles Worthington. By 1920 he was living at 638 State Street with his daughter, son-in-law Rollo R. Jones, and a grand-daughter. Samuel S. Elfreth died of natural causes on July 16, 1927.

Samuel S. Elfreth was a member of the New Jersey Fireman's Association, and he was Past Sachem of the Wyoming Tribe, No 55, Improved Order of Red Men in Camden.

BIOGRAPHICAL REVUE - 1897
...continued...


Philadelphia Inquirer
February 11, 1890

Frank H. Burdsall - Joseph Burt - William Bailey
James Logan -
Samuel S. Elfreth - Robert Stehr
John T. Lovett - Benjamin Hutchison
Samuel Vanatta - Charles Heliker - Robert Smith
William C. Hansell - Henry Winters
Frank F. Michellon - Dr. W.B.E. Miller

William T.G. Young Sr. - George E. Wilson
Harry Callowing - George Cooke
John Broome - Thomas Reed - Harry Walker
L. Peak
- James Stewart
Cooper B. Hatch - Charles S. Wolverton

D. Lewis Ireton - H. L. Lawler - George Wells
Thomas Bareford - Harry Twoes
William Schimp - James M. Lane - D.M. Freeman
Isaac C. McKinley - George F. Hammond
William D. WIlson - Harry C. Sharp

Heber S. Robinson - Joseph B. Fox
 Caleb Williams - Frank B. Sweeten
Albert Barber - Harvey Flitcraft - John Baker
William D. Hart - William Schregler
Dr. William S. Jones - Richard C. Mason

John Mesham - Maurice A. Rogers
John R. McCabe - George W. Thompson
Septimus Knight - Harry Mines
Dr. John D. Leckner - J. Oscar Weaver
Harry Gibbs - Benjamin Lawton
Harry Wolfe - Homer Snyder

Samuel H. Stiles - Pierce Brown
Robert F. Stockton - Reuben Gaskill
Jacob Thompson - Samuel Stillwell
John Spitcher - James Brown - Miles Sage
Edward E. Jefferis - Mark H. Mapes
J. Wesley Sell

B.C. Lewis - Elijah Thompson
Frank A. Ward - Jacob T. Fish
W.K. Price - Edward Johnson
John Long - William Anderson
John Carmany

Gabriel Johnson - Horace J. West
Peter P. Custis - Jonas Mellor
Stephen Harvey - John Collins
Charles H. Helmbold - Lawrence Rhoads
Henry Sparrow - Samuel H. Mowery
James Ware Jr.

John N. Zanders - Martin Frank
Frank S. Heisler - L.B. Brown
G.W. Davis - Thomas Thornley
D.B. Curriden - Ulie G. Lee
Edward Weston - Dr. P.W. Beale
Frazier Baker

 

 

Philadelphia Inquirer
April 24, 1895



Robert Selah - Samuel S. Elfreth - Citizens Fire Company No. 1 - Samuel Welch Sr. - John G. Schramm
George Doerfuss - Frederick Feil - John Hoosey - Moritz Gratz - Charles Voigt - Jacob Walz
Joseph Diehm -
Christopher L. Dietz - Frank Powell - Thomas O'Hara - Charles Kleeman - Jacob Schiller
Thomas Tracy - S.H. Long - John J. Trost - Mrs. Brown - Jacob Bendinger - William Denneller
August Muench - Gottlieb EIsener - John Costello - Mrs. Rugart - Harry G. Vennell
Charles Mangold - Louis Everly - William Cronmiller - Edward Grantz

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 24, 1898

Citizens Fire Company - Samuel Welch 
Samuel S. Elfreth

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 29, 1898

Samuel S. Elfreth - John H. Chew - August HettmanspergerColumbia Hotel - Market Street

Philadelphia Inquirer - February 15, 1899

...continued...

Samuel S. Elfreth - Mrs. Ellen Keegan - Mrs. Hannah Mitten - Samuel Ludwig
Walnut Street -
Sixth Ward Republican Club - W.C.T.U. - Temperance Hall
Benson Street - South 4th Street - Frank Stanton - William Stanton
Broadway - South 34th Street - Highland Avenue

Philadelphia Inquirer - March 10, 1899

Julius Taylor
David Baird Sr.
George M. Beringer
Henry L. Bonsall
Samuel Elfreth
Joseph Maxwell

Penn Street
South 5th Street
Bridge Avenue

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - May 18, 1899

Samuel Elfreth

East Camden Firehouse

Joseph Potter - Fred W. George - Charles H. Ellis - Arthur C. Abele
H.D. Longacre - Walter Edwards - W.K. Burrough - Theodore Leas
Harry C. Kramer - Samuel S. Elfreth - Arnold H. Moses
Turner & Stewart (Frank Turner & Charles L. Stewart)

107, 109, & 111 North 2nd Street
circa
1900

Samuel S. Elfreth lived at 109 North 2nd Street
from his birth through at least 1897

Click on Images to Enlarge

Below: 101 to 1119 North 2nd Street


Philadelphia Inquirer - May 14, 1900
Click on Images for PDF File of Complete Article

Taylor Avenue
Federal Street
South 5th Street
Arch Street
Arthur Rose
Thomas Pinkerton
William Pinkerton
William Cowgill
William Grosscup
Mrs. James Morris
M.S. Irvin
B.F. Sutton
Charles WIlliams
Samuel Davis
Joseph Swing
Samuel S. Elfreth
Dr. Henry H. Davis
Cooper Hospital
George M. Beringer
F. Walter Toms
Camden Lodge of Elks No. 293
Edward Foster
S.B. Morris
Broadway

...continued...
Mrs. Robert Wible
Isaac S. Toy
Charles Foulon
Harry A. Miller
John Foster
John W. Cheney
C.W. Nichols
F.W. Potter
North Baptist Church
Thomas M.K. Lee Post No. 5, G.A.R.
New Jersey Safe Deposit & Trust Company
Berkley Street
Click on Images for PDF File of Complete Article

Philadelphia Inquirer - February 23, 1901

Jackson Street
Colonel D.B. Murphy
Jennings Third Regiment Band
John Foster
Arthur Stanley - William E. Albert
Hugh Boyle
Sergeant Horner - Sergeant Bentley
George A. Donovan
Edward S. Hyde
Samuel S. Elfreth
Samuel Buzine - Benjamin Kellum
Ivy Fife & Drum Corps
Cooper B. Hatch

Click on Image for PDF File
of Complete Article


Philadelphia Inquirer - September 5, 1903



David Baird Sr. - J. Wesley Sell - Frank F. Patterson Jr. - E.V.D. Joline
E. Ambler Armstrong -
Frank T. Lloyd - F. Morse Archer - Robert L. Barber
William J. Bradley -
William D. Brown - Thomas P. Curley - Charles F. Currie
Isaac W. Coles - E.W. Delacroix -
John J. Burleigh - John Cherry - William Graeff
Theodore Gibbs -
John S. Roberts - Henry J. West - George Pfeiffer Jr.
Irving Buckle - Samuel Wood - Jonathan Watson - Maurice Redrow
Richard R. Miller - Lwis H. Mohrman - David M. Anderson - G. WIlliam Harned
Edward H. Chew - William Coffin - Dr. John B. Davis -
Dr. Henry H. Davis
Samuel S. Elfreth - Charles H. Ellis - Levi Farnham - John Blowe - J. Palmer Earl
Samuel P. Jones - George W. Turner - Henry M. Snyder - Lewis Stehr Sr.
Charles P. Sayrs - Henry J. Rumrille - William M. Palmer - Frank Peterson
Martin J. O'Brien -
J. WIllard Morgan - J. Alpheus McCracken - John R. McCabe
A.G. McCausland - Joseph Kolb - John M. Kelly - E.E. Jefferies - Jacob S. Justice
Robert Jaggard - Harry L. Jones - Upton S. Jefferys - William Kettler
John D. Courter -
Dr. William S. Jones - Mahlon F. Ivins Sr.
Samuel G. Hufty - Ephraim T. Gill -
Francis Fithian 

Of the many fires fought by the Camden Fire Department comes this account of the Camden Storage Warehouse fire of May 1904, written by Lee Ryan for the Camden Fire Department's 125th Anniversary history book, published in 1994:

At 4:57A.M. on May 6, 1904 a phone alarm and several pull boxes were received for a fire at the Camden Storage Warehouse at Delaware Avenue and Cooper Street. The massive five-story building contained 600 rooms with furniture storage. Smoke and fire could be seen coming from the fourth floor at the southeast corner of the warehouse. Upon arrival, Chief Samuel S. Elfreth transmitted a general alarm as the blaze spread through the entire fourth floor. Within minutes, engine companies had water on the fire as additional streams were directed from the roof of the adjoining E.G. Locke Paper Company. Hoselines were stretched down Penn and Cooper Streets and along Delaware Avenue to supplement water supplies.

Shortly after 5:00 A.M. part of the fourth floor collapsed, spreading the fire to the floor below. This collapse was quickly followed by the crashing of the fifth floor. By 5:30 A.M the front section of roof collapsed onto Cooper Street in a thundering roar, creating a shower of blazing embers that threatened numerous buildings along Amber Street. Within an hour of its discovery, the fire had engulfed the entire warehouse. Only through the gallant efforts of the firefighters was the huge blaze contained. While spectators described the fire scene as waves of withering heat, Camden's Bravest held there ground within forty feet of the walls. The City of Philadelphia offered assistance but Chief Elfreth declined and by 7:00 A.M. he declared the fire under control.

While battling the blaze, Foreman Amedee Middleton was struck on the head by falling bricks. Only his helmet, which cracked, saved his life. Losses were placed at $50,000. Chief Elfreth and Assistant Chief Buzine stated that the blaze was harder to fight than the Victor Talking Machine fire two weeks prior. Engine Company 1 assigned to the foreground detail remained on the scene until 7:00 P.M. and before leaving found two black kittens still alive in an office area adjoining the ruins of the burned warehouse.

The Camden Post-Telegram newspaper described the departing crew of Engine Company 1 as "water soaked and the color of coal stained breaker boys". A crowd of onlookers cheered the weary firefighters as thy left the scene after fourteen hours at the fire.

 


Philadelphia Inquirer - October 4, 1904
William Hill - Josiah Sage - Harry Haines Sr. - Samuel S. Elfreth - Harry Bassert - John M. Carroll
Fries-Breslin Rug Manufacturing Company -
Ferry Avenue - Atlantic Avenue - Webster Street - Broadway - Emerald Street
Engine Company 1 - Ladder Company 1 - Chemical Engine Company 2
Click on Image for PDF File

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 27, 1904

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 24, 1905


...continued...

James Cahill - Samuel S. Elfreth  - Joseph Maxwell - John Hines
Sitley & Son - Frank Sagers - C. Oscar Brown - William F. Thompson
South 2nd Street


Philadelphia Inquirer - January 31, 1906

Broadway - S. Asbell - L. Granoff - Samuel S. Elfreth

Philadelphia
Inquirer

February 18, 1906

William E. Albert
Edgar Boulton
Samuel Elfreth
Charles Worthington
Engine Company 5
Cooper Hospital


Philadelphia Inquirer - March 19, 1906
Click on Images for Complete PDF File

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 Avenue
Penn Street
Haddon Avenue - Bridge Avenue

...continued...

...continued...

...continued...

Engine Company 1 -  Engine Company 2 - Engine Company 4
Chemical Engine Company
6th Regiment, New Jersey National Guard - Farmers & Merchants Market
Camden Opera House -
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.


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

Philadelphia Inquirer * June 17, 1906

Henry Grosscup - George P. Cox - Walter Browning - John A. Stockton Samuel S. Elfreth


Philadelphia Inquirer - August 17, 1906

Dunn Oil Cloth Works - Story Furniture Company - Kaighn Avenue - Railroad Avenue - Jefferson Street
Miller Street - Broadway - Chestnut Street - Sycamore Street
John Schmidt - Harry HainesSamuel Elfreth


Philadelphia Inquirer
June 23, 1907

White Lead Works - South 6th Street
Everett Street - Kaighn Avenue
William Rose - Samuel S. Elfreth

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 5, 1909

Peter Hagan - Samuel Elfreth - Joseph Maxwell - 36th Street - River Avenue


Philadelphia Inquirer - January 11, 1910
Charles Worthington - Walter Browning - Samuel Elfreth

Philadelphia Inquirer - December 20, 1910

Philadelphia Inquirer * April 3, 1912

Cyclone of April 2, 1912

Anna Cleary - Anna Gehrend - Vine Street
Oxford Copper Company - North 4th Street - North 10th Street - Elm Street
Edward Francis - Mrs. Mills - Albert Roberts - Mary Goldy - Charles Houser
Edward Trappe - Joseph Layton - August Weber
Mrs. George Waldis - John Presher - Susie Aborn
Edward Priesendanz - Harry Curtis - Frank Nice - GeorgeBeckert
Mrs. A.M. Magrath -
Thomas Reed - George Eckenhoff - Lillian Rhoades
S.M. Blair - John Getty - Mrs. Howard Ivins - George Batchelor - Raymond Wallen
Charles Jordan - Michael Burke - Allen Naylor - William Conerdi
Matthew J. Lemon -
Dr. Howard F. Palm - William Ackley - Thomas Wescott
Frank Kears - Otto Shapiro
North 2nd Street - North 5th Street - North 8th Street - Linwood Street 
Elisha A. Gravenor
Samuel S. Elfreth
Scott Veazey

Click on Images for PDF File of Complete Article

Camden Courier-Post - June 25, 1933

On Keeping Chimneys Clean
First Act of Camden City Council, Over Century Ago,
Was to Cut Down Fire Hazard By Way of Ordinance for 'Sweeps'

By BEN COURTER

 COMPARING Camden's fire-fighting equipment of today with what the city had when it was incorporated, 103 years ago, the wonder is that some of the fires did not wipe out the tiny community. With their pumpers, chemicals  and water mains, the average suburb an town is protected like a metropolis when we consider the methods in vogue a century ago.

Fire ever has been man's most implacable foe, and eve yet it is merely a matter of degree ­from barbarian ancestors and their rude thatched shacks, to modern skyscraper as to the terror it inspires. Camden, in the late 20s of the last century, was merely a clutter of tiny dwellings, only the more prosperous citizenry such as the Coopers and Kaighns having brick domiciles graced with attics.

It was thus in keeping with the times to have thought first for safety from the fire demon when City Council held its first session, April 11, 1828. That was by way, of an ordinance directed against those inclined to be careless and let their chimneys collect through the years, a great mass of soot. There were those who kept their chimneys clean as the proverbial whistle, first, so the fire would draw, and again to remove the fire hazard, But many apparently, took pot luck and let things go with little thought of what might happen until it did- oft-times in the dead of night with long tongues of flames wiping out their humble domicile.

Wood Exclusively Used

Electricity was little more than the mysterious force Ben Franklin had toyed with over the Delaware. Coal still was to be brought from its carboniferous beds in Pennsylvania. It had not even been proposed as "stones that would burn and give heat." Oil came from whales and such and was used sparingly on new fangled mysteries called machinery. So the thick, clumps of trees here about were hewed down for heat in winter and to cook the meals. It was that constant use of wood that filled the chimneys with soot and soot evidently was most of the cause of fire.

When a fire started in Camden village it was a serious affair. If it wasn't caught in the nick of time the house burned to the ground. So council passed its first ordinance to help the boys of old Perseverance in keeping down the fire record although in those days there were no records kept, of course. That first company, by the way, was on Second Street above Market, about where the National State Bank first built. The little frame shack was still there in the 70's when the bank enlarged its building and tore it down, the company meanwhile having taken its quarters to Third Street.

But getting back to the ordinance of council, it required the thorough sweeping of every chimney at least once in three months. If a sweep tried the short cut to earning his money by burning out a chimney he was fined $1 because that method was declared to endanger surrounding property. The sweep was supposed to get into the chimney or at least sweep it in regulation fashion and not "cut corners," as some persons have a habit of doing whether it's sweeping chimneys or building a house.

That part of the ordinance is interesting for it provides "that if any person from or after the first day of May next, ensuing, shall burn his, her or their chimney, or suffer the same to burn or blaze out of the top thereof, unless the roof of the house thereof is covered with snow, or during the time of a storm of rain or snow, every such person shall forfeit and pay the sum of one dollar." If a chimney should take fire the house owner was required to prove that it had been properly swept out within three months.

Further, it was provided if such a chimney burst into flame after it had been swept out the chimney sweep was to forfeit a dollar. That evidently was due to the determination of Laning, Cowperthwaite, Sloan and Lawrence, the city fathers, to make more and better chimney sweeps and to aid the Perseverance boys in staying the ravages of the flaming foe.

Outstanding Fireman

And if any of the boys of the present generation imagine they have the niftiest apparatus hereabouts; with all their compound engines, extension ladders and what not, they have nothing on Samuel D. Elfreth, who "ran" with old Perseverance so soon as he came to Camden, in 1824. Old annals relate, he was always on the spot when "she" was needed, meaning the hand engine, and was regarded as the outstanding fireman of Camden. In 1882 my grandfather wrote in the Courier that Elfreth, although verging on 80, was then still one of the most active volunteer firemen in Camden. He then resided within the shadow of his beloved old company and was filled with reminiscences of the days when he ran with the boys. His son, Samuel (S. Elfreth), then was chief of the paid fire department as he was in later years until his death some 15 years ago. Charles F. Elfreth, a veteran attache of the city's finance department, is a grandson of the first Elfreth, a nephew of the late chief.

Those old ordinances relative to keeping chimneys clean seem amusing now, but they were vitally important then. They were, in fact, the very beginning of the present day system of keeping down fire losses by way of every possible method in alarms, in equipment, in man efficiency. It is from such humble beginnings that have evolved the methods in battling blazes in skyscrapers, in extensive plants, in keeping tabs on the very last thing in conquering the foe ever ready, and seemingly willing, to raze the works of man.


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