The Bylaws of 1874
What was it like to be a fire fighter in 1874? The William Cameron Engine company bylaws of 1874 provide some insight into what was expected of company members and officers in the late 19th Century.
The bylaws established the order of business, provided for payment of dues (ten cents per month, or about $1.80 in 2007 dollars) and established rules of operation with listed fines for violations of many kinds. The length of the list would seem to indicate that company members were expected to “walk the straight and narrow way”.
Some practices haven’t changed since 1874. The company meeting is still held on the first Friday of every month at 7:30 pm, and an investigating committee still interviews potential members of the company.
The Straight and Narrow Way
Whereas, it is at all times the duty of the members of society to assist each other when assailed by misfortune, but in no case is the dependence of man on his fellowmen more forcibly exemplified than when his property is exposed to the destructive ravages of fire: Thus next to Divine Assistance, relying upon the mutual aid and exertions of each other it becomes no less an object of policy than a principle of duty to associate for their mutual security-we therefore whose names are hereunto subscribed residents of Lewisburg, Pa. do hereby form ourselves into a Company styled the Cameron hose Co. of Lewisburg, Pa. and adopt as our motto “Willing Hands To Save”. And agree to adopt and be governed by the following Constitution and Bylaws.
The motto of the company shall be “Willing Hands To Save”, and its object to extinguish fires, and preserve and protect life and property.
The officers of the company shall consist of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, foreman and assistants and five trustees all whom shall be nominated at the stated meeting of the company in March of each year, the election to take place at the first stated meeting in April, all officers to serve one year.
It shall be the duty of the president to preside at all meetings of the company, maintain order therein, put all motions to vote when seconded and fully discussed, sign all orders upon the treasurer which have been previously sanctioned by the company, and at the request of six members call a special meeting, and at any other time he may deem proper.
The vice president shall preside at all meetings of the company in the absence of the president, and perform all the duties incumbent on the president at company meetings.
The secretary hall keep a true and correct account between the company and its members, receive all monies due the company, and pay the same to the treasurer taking his receipt for the same. He shall attend punctually to all stated meetings, and transfer to his successor in office all books and papers appertaining within two weeks after his removal from office or resignation, and shall receive such sum for his services as the bylaws shall prescribe.
The assistant secretary shall in the absence of the secretary perform all his incumbent duties and such other duties as the company may require of him.
The treasurer shall execute bonds with good and sufficient security in such an amount as the company may from time to time require for the faithful performance of his duties. He shall receive from the secretary or his assistant all monies due the company, and shall pay all orders of the company signed by the president, and attested by the secretary provided the amount does not exceed the sum in his possession belonging to the company. He shall make semi annual reports to the company of the condition of the treasury, and shall deliver to his successor within ten days all papers and funds belonging to the company, and shall when required settle his accounts with a committee appointed for that purpose.
The trustees shall superintend the keeping of hose and all property belonging to the company, and shall make a quarterly report to the board of fire officers of the condition of the same, and report any repairs needed. They shall examine all bills against the company certified by the officers ordering the same, and shall attend to all business of the company not within the sphere of any other officer’s duty. They shall hold stated meetings the second Friday of each month, shall receive the bond of the treasurer and deposit the same with the president.
The foreman of the company shall have charge of the men composing the company at all fires, and in the absence of the president shall take command. At parades he shall also have direct charge during all trials and drills of his company. The foreman, assistants and all members of the company shall be under the charge of the Fire Marshal or assistants while on duty at fires.
There shall be an assistant foreman to each section of the hose company, numbered respectively 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
It shall be the duty of the investigating committee to inquire personally into the character, age and qualifications of every person proposed for membership. All persons wishing to become members of the company must be proposed at a stated meeting, and if reported favorably at the next stated meeting of the company shall be balloted for, and shall require the concurrence of two thirds of the members present for their admission as members.
Any person having served five years as an active member, and during that time shall have attended one half of the fires, and is clear of the books may on application made in writing be admitted an honorary member, and may vote on any question that may occur. They shall have all the privileges of active members but shall not hold the position of Foreman or assistant, but shall be subject to fines for disorderly conduct.
Contributing members shall pay an annual fee of two dollars, and such assessments as shall be made by the company. They shall attend all meetings by the company, but shall take no part therein, and shall not be eligible to office.
All committees shall be appointed by the presiding officer except when otherwise directed. Final reports of committees shall be in writing and signed by a majority of the members. All reports affecting the finances of the company shall be referred to the trustees for their approval before being presented to the company.
A stated meeting of the company shall be held on the first Friday evening of each month at 7:30 o’clock. A quorum for the transaction of business shall consist of nine active members. In all cases a majority shall rule except in amending the Constitution and by-laws, in the admission or expulsion of members, or in the removal of an officer.
Every person on signing the Constitution and by-laws shall pay into the treasury the sum of twenty five cents, and no person shall be eligible to membership who has been rejected or expelled from any other company in town until all disabilities are removed by the board of officers. No resignation shall be accepted until all indebtedness to the company shall be satisfied.
The member first arriving at the Engine House shall be entitled to the House Horn, and shall have charge of the company until the arrival of the Foreman or his assistant.
The company shall not consist of more than one hundred active members. The trustees shall see that the president and foreman are provided with belts giving them their rank. The company shall not be dissolved while there are twenty members who wish to continue the same.
All by-laws and resolutions enacted in conformity with this constitution shall be equally binding as the Constitution itself. Amendments to the constitution will require a three-fourths vote of those present, and they shall have been presented at a prior meeting.