Lincoln-Era Fire Companies
Lincoln's Springfield was vulnerable to fire, Crowded wood-frame buildings, open flames in stoves, fireplaces, candles, and primitive gas lighting ineffective alarms, muddy streets, and inadequate water supplies---all combined to make fires potentially devastating. Springfield had its share of fires. In 1855 a portion of the block west of the statehouse burned down, prompting citizens to become more serious about fire threats. Still, it took two more years to collect subscriptions to buy a "modern" pump carriage and organize an official fire company---the Pioneers. More companies soon followed. Then in February 1858 flames broke out on the square's east side; the fire quickly spread along Sixth street consuming all the shops in its path. Rounding the southwest corner here on Adams Street, it destroyed more buildings, including Florville's barber shop. Firemen saved as much property as they could by dragging it into the street. Lincoln reportedly helped carry the iron stove out of Diller's burning drugstore.
There were no fire hydrants in Lincoln's Springfield. Firemen hand-pumped water from public cisterns and trampled over fences and gardens to reach private wells. As a homeowner Lincoln would have been expected to keep two leather buckets handy for an emergency bucket brigade. (Below) Firemen used speaking
Fire companies were important social institutions in Lincoln's world. Much like volunteer militiamen, volunteer firemen enjoyed parading in uniforms at community events and relished the parties dances, and banquets sponsored by their companies. Companies would challenge each other in competitions to demonstrate their fire-fighting prowess. In 1858 a Jacksonville company came to Springfield for Fourth of July festivities. But play could be dangerous as the real thing. During the competition a member of the Springfield company was severely injured by a bursting leather fire hose. In a banquet that day, Abraham Lincoln---an honored guest---offered the following toast to the hometown volunteers: "The Pioneer Fire Company---may they extinguish all the bad flames, but keep the flame of patriotism ever burning brightly at the hearts of the ladies."
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
Location. 39° 47.967′ N, 89° 38.733′ W. Marker is in Springfield, Illinois, in Sangamon County. Marker is on East Monroe Street. Touch for map. Between 7th and 8th Streets. Marker is in this post office area: Springfield IL 62702, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Florville's Barber Shop (here, next to this marker); Lincoln's Carriage Maker (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Animal Problems (about 300 feet away); Lincoln's Horse (about 400 feet away); The Children's Lincoln (about 400 feet away); Mary Lincoln's Family (about 400 feet away); The Lyceum (about 600 feet away); William Beedle House (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Springfield.
Categories. • Charity & Public Work • Disasters •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 5, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 414 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 5, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.