Heritage Server > Story Bank > Miscellaneous > A Fireman's Life...
From the Fireman's Fund Record, October 1922

Readers of THE RECORD will probably recall the plan of the founders of the Fireman's Fund to donate ten per cent of the earnings of the company to the charitable fund of the San Francisco volunteer firemen and to place on every building insured this sign: "Insured in the Fireman's Fund."

They thought this plan would inspire the volunteer firemen to dispense with some of the horse-play that added so much to the sport of fire fighting and so little to its efficiency.

The story that follows is by George P. Morgan, Fireman's Fund agent at Columbia, California, a famous mining town of the Days of '49. It gives one an appreciation of the desire that prompted the founders of the Fireman's Fund to try to devise some method of impressing the volunteers with the seriousness of their work.

Mr. Morgan writes:

The engine as pictured is known as Tuolumne Engine No. 1, and was originally intended for the Sandwich Islands, (some say for the Samoan Islands). By a mistake in the shipment, it was landed in San Francisco, and as the freight bill was unpaid, it lay there for some time until bought by the Tuolumne Engine Company No. 1, of Columbia, California. This company was composed entirely of American-born members, none of foreign birth were allowed to join the company.

"This aroused the ire of the latter class of citizens and they organized a company called, Columbia Engine Company No. 2, and bought the Manhattan Engine from San Francisco. This is a very heavy engine and the San Francisco company was glad to get rid of it as it was hauled through the sand with great difficulty.

"Much rivalry existed between the companies, and frequent competitive drills were arranged which caused no little excitement in the then lively mining camp, and very often the drills or tests ended in mighty lively scrimmages between the members of the rival companies.

"Many jokes were played upon the rival companies by members of each of the two, such as soaping the hose when one company pumped into the tank of the other, to determine whether the company could pump the water into the tank faster than the other could pump it out. The soaping of the hose caused soapsuds, which naturally frothed over, causing the receiving engine to lose. A good lively scrap followed this test and there were sore heads and battered faces in abundance.

"Another test was given to determine which company could throw a stream over a liberty pole, 125 feet high, which stood in one of the public squares. Company No. 1 won the contest and was awarded the prize which was a large rooster painted by one of the local artists. This rooster caused the enmity existing between the companies to increase and, if a member of Company No. 1 saw a No. 2 member and crowed at him, a fight was sure to follow.

"One time, a wag placed a spool in the nozzle of the hose of Company No. 2 when it was out for practice, and, of course, the engine would not throw a satisfactory stream. When the cause was found the member narrowly escaped being mobbed.

"On Fourth of July celebrations, both engines were gayly decked with flowers; a Goddess of Liberty was placed in a seat on the top of the machine, and horses were hitched to the engine to pull it, while the members walked in their uniforms at the sides as guards of honor. "Time prevents me from giving many other very funny incidents connected with the 'Life of a Fireman' in the town which once contained a population of over fifteen thousand, while now it has about three hundred."

[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-3-4-33; 0406.]


©1998-99 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. All rights reserved.