Many of the details of this early firefighting history were found in a small minute book of the first Brockville Board of Police which I had access to when it was stored in Brockville City Hall in the 1980s. Later, this book, along with a collection of other city documents and books, was deposited in the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.
24 November 1831 — from the Brockville Recorder.
Through the spirited exertions of Mr. Norton and other individuals, means were lately raised, a fire engine purchased, and a fire company formed in the village of Prescott. Brockville is thus outdone.
9 April 1832 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Ordered that Alexander Grant be appointed Captain of the Fire Company and Engineer and that he be directed to raise such a company, which shall consist of forty-eight persons, who will be required to provide themselves with a proper fireman’s uniform at their own expense, and that the said Alexander Grant be instructed to report the names of such persons, as he may select to compose such company, to the Board for their approval.
11 April 1832 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Mr. Grant, having been appointed Captain of the Fire Company and Engineer, gave notice to the Board that he would not act.
21 April 1932 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Resolved that it is expedient to provide a suitable place for the erection of an engine house, and that an application be made to Daniel Jones, Esquire, William Buell, Esquire, and the Hon. Charles Jones, to ascertain whether they have any ground upon the King’s Highway which they will gratuitously lease or sell, and upon what terms, for the purpose, not exceeding twenty foot square.
12 February 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Ordered that Mr. (Stephen) Richards be requested to proceed to Brattleborough in Vermont, or such other place as he may think proper, and make such arrangements as he shall thin advisable to procure the delivery of a fire engine at this place, for the corporation, at a price not exceeding £ 150, to be paid for on the delivery; and that his expenses will be paid and a reasonable allowance made for his time and trouble.
Stephen Richards, Sr., a native of Burlington, NY (1791-1863) was a young blacksmith who came to the village of Elizabethtown (later Brockville) about 1810. He met and married Phoebe, the daughter of William Buell, Sr., the first settler in the village. They had a family of 5 children. Their three boys, William, Stephen and Albert, became lawyers and leaders in the political life of this province. Following the first years of the Police Village founding, Stephen Richards, Sr. served as the official village street surveyor.
4 March 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Mr. Richards, having reported that in pursuance of the order of the Board, passed on the 12 Feb. last, he proceeded to Watertown, and afterwards to Albany and elsewhere, and having examined and procured information from the best sources in his power, on the subject of fire engines, he is of the opinion that the largest of “Rogers’ Patent” engines — one of those designed for 24 men, and discharging 200 gallons of water per minute, would be the most proper and advantageous for the purposes of the corporation.
Resolved, therefore, that Mr. Richards be authorized to write to the manufacturer immediately to order such an engine at the price of £ 125 to be delivered at Troy in the State of New York.
5 March 1833 — from the Brockville newspaper, the Antidote.
FIRE COMPANY MEETING
At a meeting on the 27th ultimo., at David Mair’s Inn, of the members of the newly-formed Fire Company of this town, Captain Grant in the chair, and Mr. Thornhill, secretary, it was …
Resolved first, that the members present highly approve of the appointment made by the President and Board of Police of the town, of Alexander Grant, Esq., as the senior Captain of the Company.
Second, that the name of the company shall be “The Brockville Volunteer Fire Company”.
Third, that the uniform of the company shall be a coat of scarlet, or bright red, with dark blue cuffs and collars, light blue pantaloons with scarlet stripes, blue belts, and a leather cap with canvas flap and leather peak.
Fourth, that John Bogert, Doctor Edmondson, Dr. McQueen, Ephraim Dunham, Daniel Jones, and Henry Thornhill, be a committee to draw up the by-laws of the company.
Fifth, that the company shall be commanded by four officers, to wit, a senior and junior Captain, and a senior and junior Lieutenant.
The Company then proceeded to elect the junior Captain and Lieutenants, when George Glasford was unanimously elected junior Captain; Doctor Edmondson, senior Lieutenant and John Welsh, junior Lieutenant.
A. Grant, chairman
Henry Thornhill, secretary
A meeting of the company will take place on Friday evening at 7 o’clock at the inn of Mr. D. Mair.
6 April 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Resolved that tenders be received at the Police Office until Monday 15th of April at 10 o’clock in the afternoon from any person or persons that may be desirous of erecting a framed engine house — having at the same time and plan and specification of the building proposed to be erected.
Alexander Grant was replaced by William Hervey as Captain of the Fire Company.
A typical hand-pumped Fire Engine, as made by the John F. Rogers Company of Waterford, New York. This was the design known as the “Rogers’ Patent” and was produced in the early 1830s.
27 April 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
The President, having presented to the Board a plan and specification of the Fire Engine House proposed to be erected by the corporation:
Ordered that the same be enclosed to Mr. Francis Hackett, house carpenter, with a proposal to allow him £ 22 for the completion of the whole work, and that he either accept or reject the same by Saturday the 4th of May next
17 June 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Ordered that the Treasurer be requested to procure a draft on New York, in favour of John F. Rogers & Co. for £ 125 in payment of the fire engine.
20 July 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Francis Hackett submitted to the Board his account for extra work done to the Fire Engine House.
Ordered that the same be allowed to remain before the Board for further consideration.
Ordered that the balance of Mr. Francis Hackett’s account for erecting the Fire Engine House be approved, agreeable to his estimate, and that the Clerk give an order upon the Treasurer for the same.
19 October 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Ordered that the Clerk inform Mr. Francis Hackett to complete the Engine House according to estimate, it having been ascertained that the shingles on the rook were not sufficiently laid on.
The Captain of the Fire Company, having made a return of the members of the said company to the Board,
Ordered that the same is approved of by the Board, except that the members of the Board shall not form any of the members of the said company.
This map shows the layout of the village of Brockville in 1833. It is unlikely we will know exactly where the new Fire Engine House was located. I based the map on copies of other survey maps done at the time.
15 March 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
The account of Mr. Philip Clement for repairing Fire Engine __?__ amounting to £ 2.7.6 was allowed and an order for the amount was directed to be given upon the Treasurer.
23 July 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
The account of John Gereau (sometimes given as Gero) was presented to the Board and allowed, being for drawing the Engine to the Engine House, 2 different times, it was, therefore, ordered that an order be granted on the Treasurer for the amount, being 2/6 p.
4 August 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Ordered that Christopher Leggo be requested to examine the Fire Engin and cause it to be repaired fit for actual service.
Ordered that the appointment of Alexander Grant, Esquire, as Captain of the Fire Company be rescinded and that David Fairbairn be appointed in his place, and that he be requested to raise such a company to consist of not less than 48 persons, who will be required to provide themselves with a proper fireman’s uniform, and that the said David Fairbairn be instructed to report the names of such person, as may compose such company, to the Board for their approval next Monday morning.
Mr. Fairbairn accepted the office of Captain of the Fire Company and Engineer.
18 August 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
An account was presented to the Board of Police for freight and other charges connected with the forwarding of the Fire Engine to this place, presented on behalf of Bronson & Crocker, by Mr. Hervey, whereupon the Board ordered that the amount of £ 2.18 be allowed, and that an order be given on the Treasurer for that amount.
1 May 1835 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Alexander Grant was nominated and appointed Captain of the Fire Company.
5 May 1835 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Moved and adopted that Alexander Grant‘s resignation as Street Surveyor be accepted.
Moved and adopted that Stephen Richards be appointed as the Street Surveyor.
8 May 1835 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.
Ordered that Asa W. Graves‘ tender, offering to make 35 buckets at 9 shillings each, be accepted, subject to the inspection of Alexander Grant, Captain of the Fire Company.
Brockville later acquired more refined Fire Engines for the volunteer Fire Companies. This is a typical hand-pumper made by the Button & Blake Co. of Waterford , NY, successors to the Rogers company. This may have been used around 1845.
The “Queen” Fire Engine was apparently used in Brockville, before being acquired by a private owner. It was donated to Upper Canada Village, where it remains today in their collection.