03/01/10 254 W, 1 I - + 4 - 1 Benson Officials Battle Over Town's First Fire Engine

Now let's turn to Harnett Johnston County, and the town of Benson, and a tug of war around an old fire engine. The apparatus in question is a horse-drawn, gas-powered pumper that dates to 1907. The first fire engine for the town, in fact. About 20 years ago, the fire department no longer had space to store the apparatus. Former Benson Commission Nathan Blackmon offered to store the thing in his business on Wall Street. That was Blackmon's Auto Sales and the showroom therein.

Cut to present day, and the town wants the thing back. As this WRAL story reports, the current Benson Commissioners have tried several times to regain possession. They want the thing displayed at the Benson Museum of Local History, when it reopens later this year after renovations. Mr. Blackmon, however, indicated that he wanted to be the person that put the fire engine in the museum. He's since changed his mind, the story reports. And he has no further comment, per his attorney's advice. 

The article adds that some work was done on the old engine in 2004. Firefighters raised money for new wheels, which Blackmon allowed to be placed on the apparatus. What happens next? Both sides indicate that the matter will be settled in court. Here's hoping that the issue resolves itself with minimal fuss and less expense. Let the engine live where it'll be both cared for and appreciated by the community that it once served. The museum.

WRAL photo

Next question, how long was the engine in service? Sanborn Maps from 1918 list the fire department as consisting of ten men with no horses, two hand-drawn hose reels, one hand-drawn pump, and 1,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm was a bell. Water supply was “not good,” listed as eight cisterns from which water was pumped for fire. Plus three private hydrants. Thus was the engine in service only about a decade, and supplanted by a higher capacity hand-pump, perhaps?

By 1925, the fire department was motorized, with ten men including a Chief and Asst. Chief, with a fire station, and a Ford truck equipped with hook and ladder, 1,500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, and a 30-gallon chemical tank. There were two fire alarm boxes in the business district, and they triggered an electric fire siren atop the bank building at the corner of Main and Railroad Streets. Water for the fire hoses was supplied by 65 double hydrants.

By 1935, the fire department— still with 10 men— had a Ford/Barton pumper, V8 engine, 500 GPM pump, 80 gallon tank, with 100 feet of 1/4-inch hose, and 1,500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Plus 200 feet in reserve. Still two alarm boxes and an electric siren. Plus fire alarms also by telephone.
Legeros - 03/01/10 - 21:16

The News & Observer has since covered this story as well, http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/03/04/3..
Legeros - 03/04/10 - 08:41

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