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Finances of the Department’s Start

At the second official meeting on July 27,1926 a finance committee was appointed by Chief Benjamin Kinsey. Robert G. Ellsworth was selected as chairman. Serving on Ellsworth’s committee were Robert Ewald and Peter L. Peer. The committee’s first task was to have pledge cards printed and distributed. Working hand in hand with the finance committee was a publicity committee made up of William Shoppmann, Chairman, and members Charles Jagger, Joseph Sontgerath, John Harry and John Keever. The finance committee was requested to handle all donations, coordinate house-to-house canvassing for funds, and make reports at each regular meeting. The publicity committee would wage a campaign aimed at convincing Denvilleites of the necessity of a fire protection organization, and the need for monies for the Department.

At another meeting on August 3rd, a discussion was held on the matter of arrangements for signing checks covering debts incurred by the Department. It was quite obvious that Ben Kinsey as the paternal official should be the individual responsible for drawing on the Department’s account for its obligations. But it was also clear that Kinsey should do this in a separate identity from that of Chief of the Department. Charles M. Jagger therefore made the motion and seconded by Frederick Lidle (an honorary member) that Chief Kinsey be made president of a newly established Fire Department Association. The motion also proposed that the 1st. Assistant Chief be made 1st. Vice-President, and that the 2nd. Assistant Chief be designated 2nd. Vice President. These two subordinate officers were Horace Cook Sr. and William E. Keeffe Sr. respectively.

Incorporation of the Department was delayed for a long period on the advice of Henry Ewald Sr. Honorary Counsel. Mr. Ewald stated that incorporation of the organization was made unnecessary by the broad gravity inherent in the Township’s ordinance governing the Fire Department (In order to give the Department official status the Township Committee had an ordinance drawn up and subsequently approved on August 4, 1926. The ordinance laid down the rules and regulations under which the Department would function). However, the members felt the formation of an association was necessary for their own protection. Therefore the Denville Fire Department Association was made official at a regular meeting of the Department in August 1926. The Association was set up to deal with the Department’s financial arrangements and social functions.

The finance committee reported steady fund raising progress at meetings in August, but it was clear that a massive fund drive was in the wanting. When the books were audited the record indicated the Department had incurred the following financial obligations; the American La France type 12 combination pumper, $13,350; 2500 feet of 4-ply engine hose manufactured by the Eureka Fire Engine Co., $3,057.50; the alarm system manufactured by the Sterling Alarm System Inc., $800; and other miscellaneous items such as boots, badges, shirts, etc., $900. The grand total of the Department’s debt came to just under $18,000.

The plight for monies began to pick up momentum in September. The Town’s citizens were apprised of the Department’s financial circumstances through increased door-to-door canvassing and publicity. The townspeople were also made aware of the need for fire protection during these house-to-house visits. Denville residents could not help observing that these men comprised a serious and sincere organization now certainly well prepared to serve fire protection needs. The citizens responded generously.

By September 14 the sum of $3,290.95 had to be raised. The agreement with American La France over the engine called for a cash payment of $3,000.00. This payment was made on September 14 (The Department minutes read: Motion made by Theo L. Bierck and seconded by Reginald Vanderhoof that a check of $3000.00 be drawn in favor of the American La France Co. Inc. as the first payment on the engine. Carried.). This was a proud moment for Chief Kinsey and the Department. The next big payment made went to the Eureka Fire Hose Manufacturing Company. This payment amounted to $1,118.18, made in November of that year. The Department had established itself very early as a good financial risk.

The Department didn’t limit its avenue for raising funds to canvassing alone. It turned to other lucrative means as well. A raffle committee was formed in the middle of September and ordered to purchase fifty books of chances at 25 cents a chance. The raffle committee was responsible for increasing the Department’s holding by some $500.00. Many other sources of revenue were discovered. Items were raffled off at public meeting places. A centerpiece donated by a Mrs. Hugo Siebke was sold for $25.00 to a Brooklyn woman named Mrs. Charles Busching. Department members’ wives held cake sales. Mrs. Horace Cook and her daughters gained some notoriety for their baking. It wasn’t unusual for one of these cakes to bring $100.00 at a single sale. Mr. William S. Green was the individual who responded so generously when a cake sale was held. Mr. Green proved to be the Department’s benefactor at a later stage of the organization’s development (the story of William Green, the Departments only Life Member will be taken up in the following pages of this history).

The members of the Department themselves contributed a great deal to the finances. The payments made to American La France and the Eureka Fire Hose Company, plus other miscellaneous disbursements amounted to approximately $4500. The Department was left with a $13,000 balance on their financial obligations. Notes were issued to cover a period of five years (the period allowed by American La France for the payment of the contract for the fire engine). The guarantors of these notes were individual members of the finance committee as well as other members of the Department. The Denville Herald in a story on the beginning years of the Department. Published March 5.1931, said the following of the dedication apparent in these men: “They pledged their homes and personal possessions. Here was a spirit of civic pride that was to set a standard. Sacrifices for the community’s benefit by a few was the actuating motive.” In the next five years the Department’s obligations would be reduced to approximately $4,500, a far cry from the original figure set at $17,850 in August 1926.

The First Permanent Fire House

The Department’s first fire apparatus had several homes in the beginning. Peter Hartman’s motor garage on Main Street (now the Denville Garage) served as a temporary storing place. Later Robert Ewald volunteered his garage for the housing of the engine. Ewald also gave permission for the Department to construct a firehouse on the rear of his property. His offer included a loan for the cost of materials amounting to $350 Ewald, along with Robert Ellsworth, said the labor for the building would be volunteered. However, the first permanent firehouse was to be erected on the property of Assistant Chief Horace Cook. Robert Ellsworth, who was a local building contractor, was appointed chairman of the Department’s building committee. Serving on his committee were; Robert Ronan, Robert Ewald, Horace Cook and William Keeffe. Chief Kinsey later appointed Byram Moore Sr. to help out on the building committee.

At a meeting on November 9, 1926 Horace Cook gave permission for the firehouse to be built on his property north of his house. Robert Ellsworth donated most of the materials and labor that went into the garage. At the same meeting the Chief designated the following Saturday and Sunday, November 13 and 14, for the start of ground breaking. All members were requested to make themselves available for the building activities.

Good progress was reported on the garage at subsequent meetings. Finally, on New Year’s Day 1927 the last big push was made to complete the structure. Even non-members Lewis Peer and Albert Dickerson came down to help out. George Vogel who was contracted to do the cement works on the firehouse finished up with his work and the inside of the building was completed. All the new garage needed now were a few odds and ends.

With the major part of the building completed the men set out to furnish doors and other miscellaneous items. The Secretary was requested to get a price on the doors from the McCouley Company. The building committee ordered stock doors. At a regular meeting on January 25, 1927, “a general discussion was entered by all present as to the advisability of having a gong outside the fire house in connection with the phone (inside) . . . it was decided to have a gong.” Horace Cook was given permission to have a phone installed in his house with an extension in the firehouse. The Bell Telephone number was Rockaway 470. Charles Kelso, later made an honorary member, reported at that same meeting that the siren was ready for inspection and service. The siren, purchased from the Sterling Siren System Co., was installed and inspected by the membership. Brother Kelso billed the Department $125.55 for his services. The building was about ready for occupancy. Heating was needed however. Floyd Hiler came to the rescue with his gift of a heating system for the garage. Hiler later received the following note; March 1, 1927:

“The Denville Fire Department Association wishes to convey to you their sincere thanks and appreciation for your thoughtful donation of the heater which has been received and installed in their fire house. Thanking you again we remain

Very Truly Yours,

The Denville Fire Department
James Gallagher, Secretary
The first meeting was held at the new firehouse on March 22, 1927.
The American La France pumper was no longer an orphan.

<< History Continued >>


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