A History of Firefighting in Beaver

The award-winning Beaver Area Historical Museum’s 2004 exhibit features the history of firefighting in Beaver, in partnership with the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

Highlights of the display are the well-known, bright red hand pump wagon that has been in continuous local service since 1836, mannequins dressed in firefighting gear of the 1950s and 2000s, demonstrating the tremendous advances that have been made over the years to protect firefighter safety, and vintage photographs of devastating fires in the town.

Throughout the year, officials of the museum and the fire department will jointly hold fire safety training for schoolchildren in the museum’s facilities.

The Story of the Hand Pumper – Built in England in 1795 by the Arrow Company, with a pump made by Newsham-Ragg, the pumper is just one of seven of its type known to be preserved in the U.S. today. It remains on active duty, is painted bright red, and is used primarily for public parades. For many years, this wonderful artifact was displayed in front of the borough building on Third Street.

The citizens of Beaver originally purchased the pumper from the City of Philadelphia in 1836 for $75, plus $50 shipping by railroad, with funds raised by public subscription. It was actively used for many years under the supervision of local constable Daniel Reisinger. The Philadelphia Fire Department in turn was founded in 1736 by American statesman Benjamin Franklin.

In the pumper’s heyday, residents of Beaver helped each other fight fires using a bucket brigade. Each family had their own bucket, one for each chimney in their dwelling. When the alarm sounded, buckets were thrown outside so that neighbors on their way to the fire could easily gather and take them along.

Fascinating Firefighting Artifacts – Among the artifacts on display
are alarm bells that hung in firefighters’ homes circa 1927, forerunners to today’s digital pagers; firetruck equipment such as nozzles, extinguishers and breathing gear; and a firetruck bell from the ‘30s that children may ring.

Beaver Fire Department History – The Beaver Volunteer Fire Department came into existence in 1836, the year the hand pumper was purchased, and received its official charter in 1909. The Presiding Judge was Richard S. Holt, and charter subscribers were Edwin Rowse, R.H. Fogg, Daniel A. Moore, William H. Snitger, J.W. Cisco and John E. Grove.

The first chief – Dr. Gus Scroggs – served from 1888 to 1895, the first of 13 chiefs to serve the community. The others, in succession, included Clifford C. McCord (1896-1900), William T. Farr (1901-1907), Daniel A. Moore (1908-1958), John Dawson (1959-1967), Eugene Watterson (1968-1969), Robert Barrett (1970-1976), Frederick E. Weigle (1977-1998), Thomas Patterson (1999-2002) and Alex Kaluza (2003-present).

Beginning in 1905, the fire department was housed in what today is the Borough Building on Third Street. After nearly nine decades, in 1992, the department moved to a new facility on Market Street. Among the most devastating fires in Beaver have destroyed Beaver College (1895), Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church (1898), Cook Anderson Lumber Co. (1920), the Beaver County Courthouse (1932), J.T. Anderson Furniture Store (1955) and the Concord Apartments (1955).

A Record of Safety and Training – The Beaver Volunteer Fire Department conducts ongoing training to keep up with ever changing standards and hazards. Its members also provide training classes for pre-school and elementary school students, as well as senior citizens to explain what they need to know and do in the event of an emergency.