The Early Years 1831-1874

The Engineers and The Valiant

The first organized fire department in Lewisburg started in 1831 with the purchase of the first fire engine. This was a small hand-powered unit which was operated by turning a large iron crank which required two men. Because of its odd shape and side cranking it was named “The Old Coffee Mill”. In 1836 the borough council levied a tax of $120 with to buy fire ladders.

There are no records of the company operation during these early years, but extracts from the minutes of the Lewisburg Borough Council between 1838 and 1873 shed some light on the early history of fire service in Lewisburg

  • February 9, 1838
    The council met at the shop of James Geddes; three petitions were presented for aid to the engineers of the Lewisburg Fire Company. On the motion it was unanimously resolved that the treasurer be authorized to pay for the use of the said engineers the sum of fifty dollars when called upon by the proper official.
  • March 5, 1839
    Council met and agreed to appropriate the sum of four hundred and fifty dollars to aid in the purchase of an engine, and to authorized Mr. Robert Hayes to examine the engine “United States” or any other of the city of Philadelphia that may be for sale, and report to their predecessors agreeably to the instructions given him by the present council.
  • April 6, 1839
    At a meeting of the Council of the Borough of Lewisburg on the above date the following resolution was unanimously adopted; That H. P. Sheller, the treasurer is hereby authorized and requested to call and see (when he goes to Philadelphia) the engine, “United States” on the recommendation of R. Hayes to purchase the said engine, to get it if he can on a credit of four to six months, to the amount of three hundred dollars, payable one year from the time the same will be due for the engine.
  • May 18, 1842
    Council met at the Town Hall to hear a petition presented by the Lewisburg Valiant Fire Company, praying the council to make an appropriation to the amount of fifty dollars, to pay sundry debts owing by them to said amount; On the motion it was unanimously resolved that the treasurer pay over to the engineers of said company the above amount so soon as the same shall be in his hands.

Eight years go by and it appears that the old fire company had ceased to function and so a new one had to be formed . . .

  • March 31, 1851
    Resolved that the fire engine belonging to the borough be loaned to the fire company now about to be organized, for their use, to be kept in good order by said company, and subject to the control of the Town Council, and to be returned to said council at any time they may see proper to demand the same.
  • May 31, 1851
    Town council met at the house of John Houghton. On motion of L. B. Christ it was resolved to purchase from George B. Eckert a speaking trumpet at three dollars for the use of the borough. The clerk is hereby authorized to pay the said sum out of the borough treasury, and to loan the said trumpet to the Lewisburg Valiant Fire Company, to be returned to the council at anytime they may see proper, the clerk to get receipt from the captain of said fire company.

Five years go by and appears that the fire company has again ceased to function.

  • July 7, 1856
    On motion it was resolved that Levi Sterner be a committee to examine the fire engine and get such repairs as he shall deem necessary to put it in working order.
  • December 1, 1856
    Resolved that committee consisting of Jonathan Wolfe, George Frick and John B. Linn be directed to take charge of the fire engine immediately, and report proper measurers for the case thereof, and such as shall be taken in case of fires, to a special meeting of the council on Wednesday evening next.
  • March 1, 1858
    On motion it was resolved that Byer Ammon be authorized to rent the shop of George Walter on Third Street for the term of one year at the annual rate of twelve dollars for an engine house for this borough, and that said Ammon be authorized to remove the engine thither.
  • May 7, 1860
    On motion the committee on the borough engine was continued with authority to have the necessary repairs made, to secure a permanent place, and report their activity to council.
  • October 1, 1860
    On motion it was resolved that the borough lease all the tenement on Fifth Street opposite Cherry Alley owned by Messrs. Ritter and Wolfe under the terms of a lease dated the 29th of September, 1860 for five years at the annual rate of twelve dollars.
  • June 2, 1862
    On motion it was resolved that the street commissioner take charge of the borough engine, and put it in repair for any emergency of fire; and also procure a lock and key for the engine house, the key to be kept with some proper person residing near the engine house.
  • April 6, 1869
    It was voted that A. M. Lawshe and W. Hutchinson be appointed a committee to have the engine house repaired.
  • July 8, 1870
    Also voted that Elisha Straub attend to having the fire engine cleaned and put in good working order. Also voted that Elisha Straub hereafter in case of fire shall act as director of the fire engine, having the entire control of the same, and that A. Stoughton and Jackson McLaughlin act as his assistants. Also that notice of the same be published in the Lewisburg Chronicle.
  • April 2,1872
    Also voted that a reward of five hundred dollars to be paid by the borough for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons that set fire to the Music Hall on the night of March 30 last, the same to be published in the papers of the borough.
  • October 22, 1872
    Also voted that Burgess appoint a committee to consult with the manger of Music Hall as to renting a place for fire engine and ladders.
  • July 1, 1873
    Also voted that town council approve of the formation of a fire company, and the Burgess, John V. Miller is recommended for said company, and given charge of the fire engine.

It is obvious from the foregoing excerpts that morale in the fire company was frequently low. The “Valiant” was not new when acquired, and it seemed to break down often. As more departments acquired steam engine the hand-operated “Valiant” came to be considered outmoded. The time was ripe for a change and a Lewisburg businessman named William Cameron saw a need.