Index























Then and Now #1: Down East Fire Departments

Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Lenoir, New Hanover counties



Welcome to a new feature where historian Mike Legeros presents early twentieth-century summaries of North Carolina fire departments as recorded by the Sanborn Map Company for their fire insurance maps. In addition to detailed information about streets, buildings, and water supplies, the cartographers also recorded fire protection information including personnel, apparatus, and alarm systems.

Early twentieth century fire protection in the Tarheel State ranged from hand pumps to horse-drawn steamers to motorized "automobile trucks." Fire alarms ranged from steam whistles to electric bells and summoned volunteer and paid firefighters alike. Firehouses included both dedicated engine or hoses houses and combination structures, such as town hall buildings or combination fire and police stations.


Beaufort's Robert E. Lee Fire Company in 1907. Courtesy Beaufort Fire Department

Beaufort, Carteret County
December 1913
One chief, two companies. Two stations. First Company (white) next to 406 Craven Street:  20 volunteers. One paid driver. One partly paid engineer. One horse with drop harness, used on street work during day. One Howe triplex gasoline engine. One hose cart with 800-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 1,000-feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Second Company (colored) next to Town Hall at 305 Broad Street: 20 volunteers. One hose reel with 800-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hand engine. Fire alarm by whistle. Population 3,200.

Today
One fire station, five pieces of fire apparatus, 10 career members, and 10 volunteer members protecting approximately 20 square miles. Population 3,810.

Belhaven, Beaufort County
February 1911
Volunteer, 25 men. Fire station at City Hall, 253 Main Street. Two hose carts with 1,400 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One chemical engine with two 35 gallon tanks. One hand ladder truck. Two Rumsey hand engines. Alarm bell in tower at City Hall. Population 3,400.

Today
One fire station, five pieces of fire apparatus, and 30 volunteer members protecting approximately 20 square miles. Population 1,937.


Caswell Fire Company in Kinston, 1906

Kinston, Lenoir County
July 1910
Volunteer, two companies. Two stations. Caswell Fire Company at Central Fire Station, 118 South Queen Street: One volunteer company of 29 men. Two paid drivers. Three horses. One hose wagon with 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One Silsby steam fire engine. One hook and ladder truck stored in separate building behind fire station. 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. East Kinston Hose Company, 700 block East Caswell Street: One volunteer company of 18 men. One hose reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Station to have one paid driver, one horse, and one hose wagon. Fire alarm bell at station rung by first person reaching the building. Horses work on streets during the day. Fire alarm by telephone. Bell alarms sounded with gravity ringing apparatus. Population 10,000.

Today
Three fire stations, seven pieces of fire apparatus, and 57 career members protecting 17 square miles. Population 23,139.

La Grange, Lenoir County
May 1919
Twenty volunteer members including chief. Fire station at 200 block South Railroad Street. One Howe 40 HP gasoline triplex fire engine. Two hose reels. 1,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm bell at 200 block South Railroad Street. Population 2,000.

Today
One fire station, nine pieces of fire apparatus, and 28 volunteer members protecting approximately 20 square miles. Population 2,825.


Morehead City hose wagon at New Bern fireman's tournament, 1913

Morehead City, Carteret County
December 1913

Volunteer, one company, 30 members. One paid driver. One horse, worked on streets during the day. Fire station at City Hall, 301 Evans Street. One Howe gasoline fire engine. One hose wagon with 800 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hand reel with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Alarm bell located in alley behind 314 Evans Street. Population 2,200.

Today
Two fire stations, four pieces of fire apparatus, 20 career members, seven part-time members, and 15 volunteer members protecting 17.5 square miles. Population 7,821.


Atlantic Fire Company decorated for New Bern bicentennial celebration, 1910. Courtesy New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce

New Bern, Craven County
November 1913

One chief, one assistant chief, 11 paid men. Four companies, four stations. New Bern No. 1 at City Hall, 45-51 Craven Street: Five paid men. One volunteer company of 28 men. Three horses, one of which alternates with Atlantic station. One hose wagon with 1,200 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One Button steam fire engine. One hook and ladder truck. 1,200 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Atlantic Hose, 51 Broad Street: Two paid men. One volunteer company of 35 men. One horse which alternates with New Bern station. One hose wagon with 1,200 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One Silsby steam fire engine. Fourth Ward, 139 Broad Street: Two paid men. One volunteer company of 25 men. One horse. One hose wagon with 1,200 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Riverside, corner George and Cypruss Streets: Two paid men. One volunteer company of 23 men. One horse. One hose wagon with 1,200-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. All horses used for street work. 6,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose total. Gamewell fire alarm system. 20 break-glass boxes. Five alarm stations, one at each fire station and one at Five Points. Population 15,000.

Today
Three fire stations, 8 pieces of fire apparatus, 55 career members, and 19 volunteer members protecting approximately 29 square miles. Population 23,637.

Warsaw, Duplin County
June 1921
Volunteer, six companies averaging 10 men each. Fire equipment stored in two locations, beside 25 College Street and at Clinton Avenue waterworks. Three hose reels with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose each. Two 50-gallon chemical tanks on wheels. One hook and ladder truck with 35-foot extension ladder. All apparatus drawn by hand. Population 1,200.

Today
One fire station, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 24 volunteer members protecting 49.12 square miles. Population 3,064.


Washington Fire Department steamer decorated for parade, courtesy www.beaufort-county.com

Washington, Beaufort County
August 1916

One paid man, others volunteer. Four stations. City Hall at 122-126 North Market Street: 44 men. Four horses. One automobile truck with 40-gallon chemical tank. One hose wagon. One third-class Silsby steamer. One hook and ladder truck. 2,500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose and 500 feet 3/4-inch hose. 302-306 North Pierce Street: 14 men. One horse. One hose wagon with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 100 block West 5th Street: 30 men (Negro). Two hose reels with 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 100 block East 8th Street: 15 men. One automobile hose wagon with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Gamewell electric fire alarm system, 31 boxes. Population 8,000.

Today
One fire station, six pieces of fire apparatus, 29 career members, and 22 volunteer members protecting 8.56 square miles. Population 9,767.


Wilmington Engine No. 4 in action, circa 1910. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Wilmington, New Hanover County
1915

Paid. Three officers. 32 men. Seven horses. Three stations, storage building, and fireboat. Headquarters Fire Station, 16 South 4th Street: Chief and 18 men. Two combination hose and chemical automobile wagons with 1,200-feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose each. One first-class Knott steam fire engine. One third-class Button steam fire engine. One hook and ladder truck. One chief's buggy. Station No. 2, corner South 6th and Castle Streets: 6 men. 2 horses. One two-horse hose wagon with 1000-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Station No. 3, 602 North 4th Street: 6 men. 2 horses. One two-horse combination hose wagon with 1200-feet 2 1/2-hose and two three-gallon chemical extinguishers. One third-class Silsby steam fire engine. General storage, 320 Princess Street: Two hose wagons in reserve. One double-tank chemical engine in reserve, 50 gallons each. Fireboat Atlantic, Chestnut Street: 3 men. Speed 10 miles per hour. American LaFrance pump, capacity 1,400 gallons per minute and driven by 125 HP gasoline engine. 600-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Gamewell fire alarm system, 57 boxes. Population 32,000.

Today
Nine fire stations, 17 pieces of fire apparatus including fireboat, and 206 career members protecting 54 square miles. Population 92,668.

Other Photos


Washington Central Fire Station on Market Street, circa 1895


Washington Fire Department, 1898


Wilmington Fire Department, circa 1910s


Kinston Fire Department Station 1, 118 South Queen Street


Kinston Fire Department Station 2, 104 North Tiffany Street


Beaufort Fire Department in 1933. Courtesy Beaufort Fire Department


Morehead City Fire Department in 1934. Courtesy The History Place


Morehead City motorized apparatus in 1950s. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives

Map

Why Isn't Your City or Town Listed?
Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are available online from NC LIVE for 162 communities in 83 of North Carolina's 100 counties. Most cities and towns were surveyed several times over several decades between the 1880s and the 1950s. Of those maps in the public domain, copyright 1922 or earlier, only 100-some communities in 64 counties had fire equipment or fire departments. See below link to view later-era maps, including the towns of Jacksonville (Onslow) and Wallace (Duplin).

More Photos
Historical Carteret County fire department photographs

References
Guide to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
North Carolina State Demographics

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps via NC LIVE
Requires password available from your local library. In Wake County, library patrons can view their current NC LIVE password by logging into their library account via the Library web site. After logging into NC LIVE, click Browse Resources and select Maps

Related Links
Kinston Fire and Rescue Department

Morehead City Fire and EMS Department
New Bern Fire Department, unofficial site

Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department
Wilmington Fire Department
Warsaw Fire Department

The Series
Then and Now #1: Down East Fire Departments
Then and Now #2: Northwest Fire Departments
Then and Now #3: Charlotte West Fire Departments
Then and Now #4: Triangle Fire Departments
Then and Now #5: Greensboro West Fire Departments
Then and Now #6: Fayetteville to Goldsboro Fire Departments
Then and Now #7: Warrenton West Fire Departments
Then and Now #8: West Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #9: Northeast Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #10: Western Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #11: Northeast Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #12: Dunn to Pinehurst Fire Departments

Note
A version of this article was published on FireNews.net
on January 27, 2005.

Coming Next
Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Madison, McDowell, Surry, and Wilkes counties.

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Copyright 2014 by Michael J. Legeros