Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, November 29, 2001, pg. 16
The protection of our community has been a primary role of our Public Safety Department in both the law enforcement and fire prevention/fire fighting capacities. Albion historically has always been very supportive of its officers and fire fighters. Albion’s organized fire fighters date back to 1856, when the “Alert Fire Engine No. 1” department was organized. Albion’s early fire fighters were volunteers, and there were several successive fire-fighting organizations that operated here during the late 1800s. This includes the Engine Fire Co. No. 2, the Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, the Union Hose, and Union Hose No. 2 departments.
Membership was a serious matter for these organizations, and requirements were stiff. Members were expected to attend meetings, pay dues, and be at all fires. Attendance was taken at each fire, and some members were expelled for non-participation. Any member absent from a fire or a public parade without permission had to pay a fine of 25¢. Failure to attend a regular meeting landed you a fine of 10¢.
It is interesting to read the minutes of these organizations which reveal some of the challenges our early firefighters faced. One entry dated April 11, 1878 states, “The Hook & Ladder Company proceeded to the Albion House (Hotel) where the fire was discovered to be in the roof of said House. But as it had not got under very good headway, a few pails of water quenched the flames. And here allow me to say that our ladders were locked on the wagon and when we were about to take them off, we were short a key to unlock the lock. Consequently we broke the chain. Hereafter be sure the key is in a ready place or the breaking of the chain may be repeated at some future time. E. S. Atkinson, Secretary.” Oops.
History always seems to have a way of repeating itself. We all know about the successful request to the Albion City Council several weeks ago for a new fire truck complete with “bells and whistles,” as Councilman Ken Waito would put it. Our fire department of one hundred-twenty years ago had its own challenges, too. The January 6, 1880 minutes state, “Moved and seconded that the secretary be authorized to draw up a petition to the Common Council for 12 leather buckets and 4 lanterns for the Hook & Ladder Co., and that the ladders and axe be found and repaired ready for use. Motion carried.” The Council didn’t give them all they wanted, however. The December 11, 1880 minutes reported, “Report of Committee on Buckets and Lanterns report that the buckets have been ordered by the Council. The lanterns have not been ordered.”
The 1880s was a time of transition for the Albion Fire Department. In 1888 the Gale Manufacturing Company moved from its Cass St. location to new headquarters on N. Albion St. The City of Albion purchased the Gale warehouse at 107 W. Cass St. and converted it into the new Fire Department headquarters and city offices. The original fire department and village/city hall building at 115 S. Superior St. (erected in 1865) was sold at auction to Rev. William H. Brockway for $3,400 on February 18, 1889. The building still stands today in downtown Albion. The old Gale warehouse served as the location of Albion’s Fire Department until the present City Hall complex was erected in the 1930s.
From the Archives this week courtesy of the Albion Public Safety Department we present an 1883 photograph of the hearty group of members of the Albion Union Hose Company No. 2. in their uniforms. Their helmets state “ALBION 2 HOSE,” with a large “2” on their belt buckles. A large “A” for “Albion” on a shield covers the chest area and resembles a bib. Standing from left to right are: Fred Peabody, Collins Baldwin, Ben Cook, Ed Ransweiler, Frank Church, Mike Howard, Frank Boughton, Fred Gress, Charles Bush, and William J. Porr. Front row kneeling are: James Wood, William Sebastian, Seth Hoyt, William Boughton, John Porr, and John Church.
Albion Union Hose Company No. 2, in 1883
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic