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
Beaufort, Carteret County
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
Second Company (colored) next to Town Hall at 305 Broad
20 volunteers. One hose reel with 800-feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One
alarm by whistle. Population 3,200.
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
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
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
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.
Three fire stations, seven pieces of fire apparatus, and
57 career members protecting 17 square miles. Population 23,139.
La Grange, Lenoir County
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.
One fire station, nine pieces of fire apparatus,
and 28 volunteer members protecting approximately 20
Morehead City hose wagon at New Bern
fireman's tournament, 1913
Morehead City, Carteret County
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.
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
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.
Three fire stations, 8 pieces of fire apparatus,
55 career members,
volunteer members protecting approximately
29 square miles. Population 23,637.
Warsaw, Duplin County
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
One fire station, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 24
volunteer members protecting 49.12 square miles.
Washington Fire Department steamer
decorated for parade, courtesy
Washington, Beaufort County
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
One fire station, six pieces of fire apparatus, 29 career
members, and 22 volunteer members
8.56 square miles. Population 9,767.
Wilmington Engine No. 4 in action, circa 1910. Courtesy North Carolina
Wilmington, New Hanover County
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
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.
Nine fire stations, 17 pieces of fire
apparatus including fireboat, and 206 career members protecting 54 square miles. Population 92,668.
Washington Central Fire Station on
Market Street, circa 1895
Washington Fire Department, 1898
Wilmington Fire Department, circa
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
Why Isn't Your City or Town Listed?
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
County fire department photographs
Guide to Sanborn Fire
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
Fire and EMS Department
Bern Fire Department, unofficial site
Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department
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
A version of this article was published on
January 27, 2005.
Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Madison, McDowell, Surry, and Wilkes counties.