How It All Began

$10,000 for a Steamer, Hose, and 3 Carts

The aquisition of a Silsby Steamer and the formation of the William Cameron Engine Company are well narrated in the Lewisburg Chronicle, a weekly newspaper of the period. The following accounts are taken directly from articles appearing in the Chronicle:

Special Meetings of the Lewisburg Council, February 2, 1874; On motion voted that nominations be made for chief of fire department whereupon Samuel D. Bates was nominated and unanimously elected to said office with the privilege of selecting his own staff and assistants. On motion voted that the burgess fit up the engine room in the Music Hall for the reception of steam engine, hose, etc. On motion voted that Town Council act as a committee to receive steam fire engine and fixtures from William Cameron Esquire.

The New Steamer Arrives
Lewisburg Chronicle, February 13, 1874

The new steam engine which is to be presented by William Cameron Esquire to the Borough of Lewisburg, together with the three reel hose carriages arrived here on Saturday last. The steamer is a magnificent piece of machinery. The apparatus was taken from the cars, and placed in the market house on Tuesday. The hose which was manufactured by a New York City firm is not yet here, and may not come for several days. It was to shipped on Monday, the manufacturer not getting them finished in the time expected by the Silsby Company. When the hose arrives and the engine is provided there will be a public presentation. Below we give a letter received by the burgess from the manufacturers:

Mr. John V. Miller, Burgess

Lewisburg, Penna.

Dear Sir;

We have the pleasure of enclosing you a duplicate bill of lading of steam fire engine and hose reels which will leave this station today.

The machine will be in charge of our engineer, Mr. J. P. Teller who will make a public trial of its working qualities, and instruct a man how to operate it. Our agent, Mr. Bernard Bosch will also be present at the trial, and settle with you in accordance with the term of the contract after the apparatus has been duty accepted. We have ordered the leading hose shipped to your address direct from the factory, and it will probably reach you as soon as the machine, if not sooner.

We have taken special pains in filling this order, and we feel confident your most sanguine anticipations will be abundantly realized. We earnestly hope the “William Cameron” will prove a valuable acquisition to your fire department, and that she may ever be as useful and efficient as she is beautiful and ornamental.

In conclusion, permit us to congratulate you on having in your borough such a munificent and public spirited man as he who is the donor of this elegant and valuable gift. Hoping the apparatus will soon reach you in good order, we remain, sir.

Very Respectfully yours

Silsby Manufacturing Co.

First Tests of the William Cameron
Lewisburg Chronicle, February 20, 1874

Last Saturday this beautiful machine was thoroughly and most efficiently tested; and to make a long story short, it threw a stream of water ten feet above the Baptist Church steeple, and that piece of architecture is 174 feet, 4 inches above the earth. Other tests were made and everywhere it more than exceeded the most sanguine expectations of our citizens. Below we give the proceedings of the special meetings of council on Monday morning, and the reports of the committees to the engines.

Special Meeting of Council, February 14, 1874

The Burgess and town council met at the office of the town clerk: present-John V. Miller, Burgess and Messrs. Lawshe, Baker, E.M. McLaughlin, Brown, Kelley, and Jackson McLaughlin, council.

The committee on first trial of engine, A.M. Lawshe, Chairman, made report; On motion voted that report be accepted. It is as follows:

Dear Sir,

The first trial was in getting up steam, and resulted as follows: In three minutes from the time smoke issued from the stack the gauge showed five pounds steam pressure; in four minutes, fifteen seconds, ten pounds; in five minutes, twenty pounds; and six minutes, thirty five seconds with a pressure of thirty five pounds water came through the nozzle, 1 3/8 inches and 100 feet of hose.

The next test was one stream through 500 feet of hose with 100 pounds steam pressure. She threw a horizontal stream 200 feet; with the same length of hose and 98 pounds steam pressure she threw a perpendicular stream 10 feet higher than the Presbyterian Church steeple, or counting difference in height of ground, 197 feet. The next test was through 1500 feet of hose, and resulted as follows: Steam pressure 100 pounds, one stream, 1 1/8 inch nozzle threw 198 feet horizontally. Steam pressure 112 pounds, 1 stream, 1 inch nozzle threw 204 feet horizontally.

The engine was then removed to Third Street.

Respectfully yours,
S.D. Bates
Chief Engineer

The report of the committee on second and third trial of engine, J.T. Baker and R.F. Brown, Chairmen make report as Follows:


At your request and by your directions immediately after the test from the river I ordered the “William Cameron” taken to the race on Third Street for further trial. Before detailing the result of the different tests I would observe that the water was very muddy, and hence unfavorable for showing all that could be done with the engine.

The first trial was through 950 feet of hose up Third Street, and up the spire of the Baptist Church. Steam pressure 105 pounds, pressure on hose 215 pounds, size of nozzle 1 1/8 inch, horizontal stream 178 feet. Steam pressure 115 pounds, pressure on hose 220 pounds, size of nozzle 1 1/8 inch, perpendicular stream 175 feet, or over the spire of the Baptist Church.

The second test was through 100 feet of hose: steam pressure 105 pounds, pressure on hose 180 pounds, nozzle 1 3/8 inch, horizontal stream 238 feet. Steam pressure 102 pounds, pressure on hose 170 pounds, nozzle 1 ¼ inch, horizontal stream 234 feet. In this last test we ran out of coal.

The third test was 4 streams through 100 feet of hose: steam pressure 75 pounds, pressure on hose 85 pounds, nozzle ¾ inch, horizontal stream 171 feet. It should be born in mind that in all the tests except the last the engine was made to do its best with a very high pressure of steam, and in the hands of experts.

It would never be advisable to use such extreme pressure, nor could it, in my opinion be maintained any considerable length of time. But in the last test it was shown that this engine with an ordinary pressure of steam on both boiler and hose will throw four effective streams about equal to eight thrown by the “Valiant” when fully supplies with water.

I cannot close this report without my strongest endorsement having been given as to the completeness of the “William Cameron”.

I would call your attention to the fact that the brake or lock can only be used by a person riding.

Respectfully submitted,

S.D. Bates, Chief Engineer

On motion it was resolved that the steam engine named the “William Cameron”, and made by the Silsby Manufacturing Co. of Seneca Falls, New York upon trial has proven entirely satisfactory to the town council and citizens of the borough of Lewisburg, and has more than filled the requirements of the contract.

On motion it was resolved that a copy of this resolution be given to Mr. Cameron, Esquire, and also one to Mr. Bernard M. Bosch, agent of the Silsby Manufacturing Co. On motion adjourned.

John V. Miller, Burgess
William Jones, Town Clerk