1865-At 3:00 a.m. someone lurking in the narrow confines of the tightly packed buildings around Blackberry alley east of Raspberry(Court) set fire to a frame stable owned by Henry Gilbert. The flickering orange tongues of flame and loud crackling and popping of the burning wood attracted the attention and turned out the area residents in their night clothes on this warm and humid summer morning. The cry “Fire!” was heard quickly followed by the tower bells at the Courthouse and the Friendship firehouse each located a block distant. As men ran to the different city firehouses, the heavy wooden doors were swung out, the drag ropes extended off their reels and the shiny and well appointed apparatus rolled to the fire. The Friendship No. 1’s and Washington No. 4’s were the first rigs to arrive and the firemen quickly went to work. By now the fire in the fully involved Blackberry Street stable had communicated to several brick and frame stables on Raspberry alley. These were all destroyed. Two adjacent dwellings also suffered some minor damage. Loss was estimated at $6,000. There were five engine companies, one hose and one ladder company in the fire department as follows:
Friendship Engine No. 1-1861 Amoskeag 450 gpm piston steamer and hose reel
Hope Engine No. 2-1864 Button 450 gpm piston steamer, hose reel, 1858 Shantz ladder truck.
Citizen Engine No. 3-1858 Button & Blake 450 gpm “second size” hand pumper, hose reel
Washington Hose No. 4-hose reel
Mt. Vernon H & L No. 1-1858 Fleming ladder truck
Paxton Engine No. 6-1857 Agnew hand pumper, hose reel
Goodwill Engine No. 7-1861 Button & Blake “second size” hand pumper, hose reel.
All apparatus was hand drawn with three engines having to be worked by hand also. Still not a bad sized fire department for the time period and size of the city.
(Today’s location of the fire would be about one block southeast of Market Square , probably under the parking garage at Court and Blackberry. Its difficult to pinpoint locations due to the lack of street addresses and sometimes vague fire records. Now I invite you to picture some Currier & Ives lithographs of the firefighting scenes of the time. Close your eyes, feel the heat, smell the smoke, and imagine the shouts of the firemen, the rapid stack exhaust of the Friendship’s Amoskeag and the rapid clanking and banging of the end levers of Paxton’s Agnew, or the Citizen’s big Button & Blake as they forced water through leaky copper riveted leather hose. Then feel the humid steam, drink in a wiff of wet wood smoke, laced with some horse manure and urine. Oh, man ‘o man if only for a brief time machine. . .!)