Thursday, June 17, 2010
Courage Under Fire
On May 27, 2010, at 10:00 A.M., the Allentown Fire Department and the Cleveland Elementary School joined together to present a special program in the Union and West End Cemetery at 10th and Chew Streets. The program was free to the public.
The earliest beginnings of fire fighting in Allentown are shrouded in mystery. But one thing is clear; the Allentown Fire Department, formed in 1870, owes its creation to a disaster, the Great Fire of Ascension Day (June 1, 1848), and it is one of history's ironies that the man who might have caused the fire later became the Fire Department's Fire Chief! That and other mysteries were researched by Cleveland Elementary School Fifth Grade Students (and Scout Troop 99), D.J. Beller, Daniel Coalt, Johnny Czonska, Sam Gordillo, Ethan Sistrunk, and Emmanuel Torruellas, under the supervision of Teacher Evelyn Costelloe in the Spring of 2010, with the assistance of Barbara Miller and the Union and West End Cemetery Association.
Engine 4, Central Station, Allentown Fire Department
Boy Scout Troop 99 Color Guard
Troop 99 Color Guard
Troop 99 Flag, Nelson Velez; Pack 99 Flag, James Eggleston;
American Flag, Lance Pearyer-Benton
Allentown Firemen Buried in the Union and West End Cemetery
Simon P. Snyder, First Fire Chief (1867-1872), Union Lot 396
Werner K. Ruhe, Second Fire Chief (1875-1878, Union Lot 63
Jacob S. Reninger, Third Fire Chief (1875-1878 Union Lot 562
John P. Dillenger, Fourth Fire Chief (1878-1887), Union Lot 1079
George J. Kline, Seventh Fire Chief (1890-1893), West End Lot 501
Charles H. Cohn, Eighth-Eleventh-Fourteenth Fire Chief (1893-1896, 1902-1905,
1910-11), West End Lot 249
Charles D. Grim, Ninth Fire Chief (1896-1899), Union 558
Assistant Fire chiefs
Harry M.R. Poe, West End Lot 63
Peter J. Beisel, West End Lot 59
Calvin Boyce Roth, Union Lot 170
Edwin T. Carl, Union Lot 247
Harry W. Butz, Union Lot 70
Henry Focht, Union Lot 457
David Frederick, West End Sec "M" Killed at Grossman/Kluentor Furniture
Factory Fire, 6 February 1884
Henry Knauss, Union Lot 773
William Kranzley, Union Lot 1163
Henry H. Mertz, Union Lot 78
Charles Mickley, Union Lot 471
John R. Schall, Union Lot 1080, Died of Heart Attack after Rialto Fire
Edwar H. Simmons, West End Lot 201
Abraham Steinberger, Union Lot 426
John Czonska - Samuel Gordillo - Barbara Miller
John Czonska - Samuel Gordillo - Barbara Miller
John Czonska - Samuel Gordillo - Barbara Miller
Johhny Czonaka and Sam Gordillo
Hi, we are the Scouts from Cleveland Elementary School. We are here to tell you about the fire that burnt down 75% of Allentown.
It all started Easter Day 1848, not far from where you are now, between Linden and Hamilton Street on Hall Alley. Now its a parking lot but back then it was a tobacco stable.
We think the fire started because employees did not get the day off for Easter. Once the fire started , it spread like wildfire. There was a water shortage, high winds and no organized fire fighters. The city was doomed.
Luckily no one died. However, fire fighters was destined to change!
Mysterious Beginning: The Great Fire of Ascension Day, 1848
Allentown's Great Fire of 1848 began with a single spark, at about 4 o'clock on Ascension Day (Thursday, June1), 1848. It started in John Eckert's tobacco stable on Hall Alley (now Hall Street), where two apprentices were processing tobacco. In minutes, the stable was engulfed in flames. Northwest winds whipped the flames into a whirlwind. In 1.5 hours, much of the village of Allentown - 35 houses, stores, 42 farms and and stables, other businesses - burned to the ground. The village had a population of only 3,700 people and only a total of 610 buildings.
There was no Allentown Fire Department to fight the inferno. Allentown' three small volunteer Fire Companies (Lehigh, Friendship and Humane), with poor hand pump engines and almost no water, tried to contain it, but were helpless. Thick black smoke was seen as far away as Bethlehem. A Bethlehem Fire Company rushed to the scene, too late. Citizens tore down the market-house at Center Square to stop the fire from spreading eastward.
To 12 year-old F.J.F. Schantz, who had just come from school, it seemed like the end of the world. He never forgot "the ringing of bells, the cry of the people, the large volume of smoke that rose to the heavens...hurried movement of the people on the streets, the cry of the firemen and others who labored hard to arrest the advance of the fire."
When the smoke cleared, everything on Hamilton Street, from Market Square (now seventh Street) westward, the entire business district, lay in ashes. The losses were more than $200,000, an astronomical sum in 1848. Few properties were insured. Many families lost everything, many businessmen were ruined. Homeless families sought relatives in outlying areas for shelter. No one died, but the Lehigh Register reported a village in shock: "Weary worn and sick at heart with the labor and excitement of the last few days, we resume our pen to record the ruin of the fairest and most business portion of our Borough, by the most awful and destructive conflagration that ever [befell] us."All predicted that Allentown would not recover for decades, but the Great Fire was a turning point, a new beginning for the sleepy farm-market village that it had always been. The entire town rallied to help the victims. The next morning citizens met and formed committees to calculate losses, demolish tottering walls, and collect money and supplies for the victims.
The suddenly vacant land, cleared of rickety, old outmoded buildings, drew investors. New businesses and industries sprang up. The sleepy old market village became an industrial hub. A new Allentown arose from the ashes. Village leaders saw Thai they desperately needed a unified, professional fire department, not the disorganized neighborhood volunteer fire companies that existed. Today's Allentown Fire Department owes its existence to the Great Fire of 1848. Thus it is ironic that the Fire Department's first Fire Chief might well be the man who started the fire.
The stable where the Great Fire of 1848, started belonged to John Eckert, a tobacconist. On June 1, 1848 two apprentices were working in the stable when the blaze erupted. No one was ever charged with starting the fire. One of the apprentices was a young man of 18, named Simon P. Snyder. He was ab orphan who, with his brothers and sisters, had been adopted by Eckert as a young child.
Simon Snyder was no ordinary Young man. He was already a volunteer fireman in 1848, and belonged to the Lehigh Fire Company, one of the village's first volunteer fire companies. He understood fire and how quickly a single careless act could cause catastrophe. He knew that the tobacco stable was a tinderbox. Even if he did not personally cause the fire, he felt responsible for it. Somehow the fire started during his watch, and he failed to prevent it. He was there as the flames spread out of control. The event made a deep impression on Snyder. He dedicated the rest of his life to fighting fires, and became the first Fire Chief of Allentown' Fire Department when it was created in 1870.
John Czonska & Daniel Coalt
Terry Kennedy - Scout Leader extraordinaire
John Czonska & Daniel Coalt
Johnny Czonska and Daniel Coalt
Back then in 1811, when there was a fire, each ethnic neighborhood fire patrol would race each other to a fire to have first claim! Sometimes they would get into a fight over the fire instead of working together. This was not a good thing!
Let us give you an idea of what we had back then:
No fire trucks, only hoses carried by horse or by hand
No fire ladders until 1811
No fire hydrants until 1860
As a result of the fire of 1848, where 75% of Allentown burnt down, the fire fighters knew that they needed to change and work together. They elected a fire chief in 1870, who would bring all the fire companies together to teach the fire fighters how to work together and help them solve problems.
The first Fire Chief was Simon Snyder. Simon Snyder was the stepson of John Eckert and had first hand experience of the fire of 1848, which started in his stepfather's stable. He dedicated his life to saving people and property from fire. We not only honor him today, but all fire fighters and fire chiefs who put their lives at risk for us.
Wener K. Ruhe
Jacob S. Reninger
John P. Dillinger
Hafiz B. Cleveland
Edgar W. Wolf
Edwin P. Erb
Ernest E. Toth
We honor all that are serving us today. Thank You!
Simon P. Snyder, First Fire Chief (1867- 1872)
Simon Snyder was born at Trexlertown, Pensylvania, on July 19, 1829, to Thomas Snyder and Debby Weiss Snyder. His parents died when he was a young child. The children were fostered out to several families. Simon and some of the younger children were taken to Allentown and given over to John Eckert, a cigar maker and tobacconist. Simon was taken out of school early to be taught the cigar trade by Mr. Eckert and made that his lifelong profession.
From his youth, Simon devoted himself to fire fighting. In 1845, at age 16, he joined the Lehigh Fire Company. Later he transferred to the Humane Fire Company . He was working at Eckert's Hall Street stable when the Great Fire ignited there on June 1, 1848. The disaster changed his life forever. He devoted himself as much as possible to improving fire fighting in his home town. He helped to create the Good Will Fire Company in June of 1850. When the newly-incorporated City of Allentown voted to create a paid, professional Fire Department in 1870, Snyder was chosen as First Chief Engineer (or Fire Chief). He was Fire Chief from 1870 to 1875, and retired from active service in 1881, but remained a member of the Good Will Fire Company until his death, at age 90, on Saturday, November 1, 1918. In addition to being Fire Chief, he was a cigar maker and had a tobacco store on the first floor of his home at 108 South Seventh Street, Allentown.
Simon Snyder never spoke about the Great Fire of 1848. The secret of how it began went with him to his grave.
John Czonska & David Coalt - Presenting
research material to Chief Scheirer
Allentown Fire Chief Robert C. Scheier
Emmanuel Tourreullas, Ethan Strunk & Barbara Miller
at the grave of George J. Klein
By Ethan Sistrunk
Prople running fast,
Red flames in burning buildings,
Maps, axes, tanks and hoses.
The Screaming people
Engines roar, sirens blaring,
Crackling fire like the wind
They do many jobs,
Eat, sleep, coook, play save lives
Do more than you think
Feeling scared yet strong
They feel freedom mixed with pride
Confused but focased
Herp USA always prepared
Risking their lives to save us
By Emmanuell Torruellas
Lord, we come before you right now to ask you to keep our fire chiefs and fire fighters in your hands. Help them find peace and comfort in your presence. Each time they have to put their lives at risk, please keep them safe from harm and grant them courage and strength to see their battles through. In the name of the Lord we pray.
Jason McCully, Scout Master & ESOL Teacher
George J. Klein, 7th Fire Chief, Allentown Fire Department 1890--1893
George J. Kline was born on May 24, 1855, in Allentown. He joined the Liberty Fire Company No. 5 at age 17. He was a barber by trade. While fighting a disastrous fire in Allentown at the Hergesheimer building in the winter of 1879, at age 24, he collapsed inside the building and was subsequently drenched by the water fron the fire hoses. Fellow firemen discovered his frozen body only after the fire was extenguished. He was was so badly frozen that he lay in a coma for four days afterwards. He recovered, however, and became Allentown;s seventh Fire Chief at age 35, in 1890, and served as Chief for four years. his ordeal at the Hergesheimer fire had caused extensive nerve damage, and locomotoe ataxia resulted years later. The Allentown Morning Call reported that
blockquote>many of his friends attributed his later blindness to this fire and from that date the dreadful disease of locomoter ataxia began its slow but certain work. For [four years before his death in 1896] he has gradually been robbed of his sense of sight and means of locomotion. Following the loss of sight, the disease became evident in his walk. At first he resorted to the cane, but soon crutches were used, and finally he was not able to continue with these...100 of the citizens of Allentown bought him a rolling chair. While only 100 were needed to secure it, there were 500 ready to contribute to the same...In this chair, propelled by kindly hands, he was a familiar figure on the streets up to [one week ago].
His death will be mourned not by the family alone but by the hundreds of friends for whom he was an inspiration and example during his lifetime... Though, while well, he mingled with his fellow men with...light-heartedness and joviality...he had a faculty of leading and directing men and pacifying them that is given to few.
He was extremely popular. The Liberty and Allen Fire Companies purchased a team for him when he entered upon his duties as Chief of the Fire Department, which has since been turned over to every successive Fire Chief. He often attributed his success in fighting fires to the fact that he was enabled, with his team, to be at the scene early.
George Klein died on Monday, March 1, 1896, age 41, in his home at 248 North Fifth Street, Allentown. He was buried on Thursday morning,March 5, in West End Cemetery. His funeral was one of the largest ever attended in Allentown. The entire Liberty Fire Company, most of the men in Allentown's other fire companies, and numerous fire companies from across the Lehigh Valley attended. The hearse was drawn by the engine horses of the Liberty Fire Company, followed by the Chief's team led by Chief Kline's old horse "Dick."
Barbara Miller (front right) Evelyn Costelloe (back) program Coordinators
James B. Ruhf, Bagpiper, (far left)
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