Critical periods in history demand action. In the Spring of 1896 fire destroyed property on North Main Street known as the Lockley property. A public meeting was held in the Old Methodist Church. On April 1, 1896, a meeting was held in the Vanderpoel and VanOrden Hall and officers were elected.
Injury to firefighters in those early years was addressed with a grace typical of the period. To wit the May 18, 1896 minutes note, “moved and seconded that a vote of sympathy be accorded to Edward Lapaugh and Francis Brako for the injuries they sustained at the fire at William Couser’s house.– carried.” Following the May 1896 meeting the company did not meet again till January 1897 at which time they met for eight Mondays in succession.
During 1897 many new members were added to the rolls of the company. Family names that are seen in today’s Greene County phone directory dot the pages of old minute books. The community as well pitched in that first year with donations of a stove, wall picks, fire buckets, truck space, and the like. Augustus Sherman prepared the Articles of Incorporation necessary for submission to the State of New York. Charles W. Mead designed the first truck house which was built on land purchased from Augustus Sherman.
By March 1897 it was necessary to have 60 additional keys made to the “Truck House” for members and a “lamp” was placed outside the truck house. Also, a bell was considered to be used to sound the fire alarm. The Sergeant at Arms was “empowered to compel members to hang their feet on the floor.”
At the May 3, 1897 meeting, card playing in the truck house was strictly prohibited at all times. Sick committee members were appointed on a monthly basis in rotation as these members had to sit with a sick comrade and possibly perform the fellow member’s chores. Attendance at meetings by September 1897 was so good that only rare absentees were listed in the meeting minutes. In fact, absentees were charged a penalty fee.
A circulating library was maintained for use of the members. Books were lent out for a two week period. Reverend Cornell’s picture which still hangs in the firehouse was enlarged in June 1897 by Pearsall’s of Albany. Preparations were begun for the formation of a Ladies Auxiliary during this time as well.
In June 1897 the company declined to attend the Greene County Fireman’s Association Convention and Tournament noting “the company not being sufficiently drilled and not being a uniformed company” but the company did join the association, the first year’s fee being $3. New Baltimore was selected as the site of the 1898 convention.
A “Moonlight Excursion” on the Barge Geraldine was held Tuesday, August 3, 1897. The Tug Willie was donated for the purpose. Music and refreshments were enjoyed for a fare of 30 cents with children less than 12 attending for free.
In October 1897 a $250 purchase was made, specifically a lot from Augustus Sherman for the new firehouse. The deed was completed with the deed made out and presented at a company meeting. The lot was on South Main Street opposite the Windsor Hotel with 45 feet front north and south east and west between South Main Street and the road leading to the shipyard (now known as Mill Street). The men laid the foundation themselves. In fact, one member, C.W. Mead was severely injured falling from a window during construction and in February 1898 Dr. Waller donated his services to the company in this matter. In November 1897 Social Friendship Lodge No.741 F.&A.M. approached the Cornell Hook & Ladder to provide a suitable meeting hall for Masonic meetings, a ten-year tenancy was accepted.
During the second week of ice cutting, December 14 & 15, 1897 a fair was planned to raise funds for the new truck house and this was held at the Methodist Church on Main Street.
On July 11, 1898, it was resolved to join the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York for a fee of $5.
Mrs. Andrew Colvin of Albany donated the use of a piano to be kept at the truck house. Her offer was graciously accepted on December 5, 1898. At the January 9, 1899 meeting, Miss Lizzie Kelly donated a full sail ship in glass case, specifically a painted and gilded tug boat and schooner made by P.J. Mead. This was given in remembrance of her father.
The Knickerbocker Ice House burned on October 19, 1899 at 1:30 P.M. The Hyer Ice house burned on August 4, 1908. The McCabe Ice House, (the site of Shady Harbor Marina in 1996) burned in 1909. The company responded to boat fires on the Tug LaVergne on September 10, 1900 and on the Tug Willie on July 6, 1902. The Imperial Hotel and most of the business district were totally destroyed by fire on May 14, 1929. As a result of this fire several nearby stores and the Cornell Hook & Ladder truck house experienced blistering and broken plate glass.
At 4:45 A.M. on February 26, 1905 the company responded to the fire bell, the conflagration was at the Colvin Store and Cornell Hall. Their barely seven year old truck house was lost. This would not be the company’s only sorrow or challenge for 1905. Henry Talmadge, first enrolled member of the company and its first foreman died in March 14, 1905.
Major adjustments were made to the bylaws in 1905 including limiting active memberships to town residents only. The evolution of the company bylaws as a living and adapting document was evident even in these early years
In July 1905 a lot was purchased from Leonard Colvin for the siting of a new truck house at a cost of $400. It was estimated that a replacement truck house would cost $6,000 to construct.
The steamer Ursula was used for 1905’s Moonlight Excursion.
As early as February 1906 financial support of the Fireman’s home is noted, with the first support being drawn from the foreign insurance tax receipts. The Cornell Hook & Ladder Company Room at the Nelson Store was the site of a fire on September 11, 1906 at 5:30 A.M.
The 1906 Greene County Volunteer Fireman’s Convention was held in Hunter and after assessing the number of members who would attend notice was sent to Hunter to alert them of the hotel accommodations that would be necessary. It also seems that finally uniform caps, belts, and shirts were acquired for the purpose of marching. The company also looked into the possibility of being accompanied to the parade by a Drum Corps. In fact those 32 members who attended the parade were transported by way of Kingston as the Ulster & Delaware Railroad refused to run special trains by way of the Otis for the Hunter parade. Wm. H. Baldwin provided his team and wagon for transport of the marchers to the steamer that would bring them to Kingston.
The September 1906 meeting instituted the weekly drill.
January 1909 saw the institution of a rental fee of $30 for the Town Board to use the Cornell Hall as a voting location. It was further resolved that at all future dances at the Cornell Hall the “Barn Dance” be prohibited. February 1909 saw the first purchase of dishes for use of the fire company.
November 1911 brought about the institution of roll call at the firehouse after a fire call. This being necessitated because members were leaving ranks at a fire scene before being authorized by the foreman.
In 1914 plans were initiated to have a portrait of Henry Talmadge hung at Cornell Hall. The portrait now hangs at Station #1 on Gill Road.
April 1914 saw the planting of a maple tree north of Cornell Hall and a joint effort of both the Company and the citizens to host the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention that year. A silver cup was awarded to the best drilled company. Admission to the Firemen’s Ball that Labor Day weekend cost 75 cents per couple, 50 cents for a single gentleman, and 25 cents for a single lady. The sixteen-piece marching band for the parade cost $55.
Albert Wheat was elected second assistant foreman for 1917 to 1918. He was the great-grandfather of John Wallace Jr., chief from 1990 to the present.
The first meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary took place in the Company’s Meeting Room on April 18, 1917.
Christmas 1917 saw several of our members overseas or awaiting transport to Europe during World War I. They included: Fred Freuler, Thurston Engle (foreman from 1916 to 6/1917), Orville Engle, John Bortle, and James McGuire.
Plans were begun for the acquisition of a chemical engine in 1917.
Effective January 1920 company members were permitted to bring a friend to the company’s meeting hall to play pool on the newly purchased pool table. The pool table was purchased from H. Schillinger at a cost of $25. The cost of a game with a friend was 10 cents. In March 1920 cloth was purchased to recover the cushions of the pool table.
Plans for a toilet on the south side of the building were set in motion in October 1920.
The Ladies Auxiliary provided $275 to help pay off the mortgage on Cornell Hall. To this amount the company added $75 leaving only a $500 balance on the mortgage account. With the efforts of Francis W. Chapman and the Ladies Auxiliary subscriptions were provided by the community, including Dr. Waller donating $25. By January 10, 1921, the total $500 had been collected to pay off the mortgage.
March 1922 saw the consideration of placing a cistern at the Cornell Hall.
The Bylaws of the company were changed in March 1923 to finally permit card playing in the building, but only between members of the company.
The room that had been used by the Red Cross from World War I to 1923 was in 1924 granted to the Boy Scouts of America for the purpose of meeting and drilling
In August 1924 Winnie Wheat was appointed by the company to purchase white duck pants, black shirts, white bow ties, and white gloves for the company to wear as uniforms to the Greene County Convention at Cairo that year. After all the planning for new uniforms the twenty-four marchers attended in their old uniforms, not really desiring a uniform change.
In 1928 enough signatures from New Baltimore residents were gathered to establish a fire district, this being the same area as the already established Light District. In 1929 the Cornell Hall was deeded over to the newly created Fire District except for the furnishings in the Reading Room. At this same time the Fire Company turned over its treasury to the Fire District except for $250. $50 was used for a banquet before the building was turned over to the district, Coeymans Fire Company was invited to join in this celebration.
A devastating fire that nearly destroyed the second firehouse swept through New Baltimore’s business district in the dark morning hours of May 14, 1929. As reported in Albany’s Knickerbocker Press this caused $75,000 in damage to buildings and cars. The fire was believed to have started with a short circuit. The only injury was to a fireman who returned to the fire line after being treated for hand cuts. The fire alarm was sounded by the gas station owner who was awoken by his wife. They were able to flee with their year old infant to safety.
January 1930 saw the first planning for the many years of Minstrel shows put on by the Company.
June 1931 saw the purchase of new uniforms. They included a blue cap, blue jacket, white pants, white gloves, and badges. Mr. Furhman and Mr. Wheat lettered the truck and the men marched during July at Coeymans and Ravena.
August 24, 1931 saw the sentiments that would soon lead to World War II expressed in the complaint brought by the caretaker that a member had brought an Italian into the Reading Room, and that said Italian had no business in the Room.
April 1932 saw the renewal of the twilight baseball league among the fire companies which made up the county association. Winnie Wheat was appointed manager of the Cornell Hook & Ladder’s Baseball Team. To defray the cost of the Baseball Club, the Stanford Dramatic Club came to New Baltimore to present a comedy, “Mary’s Castle in the Air,” on May 4, 1932. A baseball field was rented from Clarence Parsons for the season. Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention was held in New Baltimore in 1932.
On November 8, 1935, Bergen Bailey, the first president, gave an address to the company and related tales of the early years.
On Monday evening April 13,1936 a special program was held with orchestra music, letter readings, a presentation of roses to several past and present officers, a speech by town supervisor and member Dale Baldwin, and presentations from state, county, and regional firematic personages. President Fuhrman presented the first president, Bergen Bailey, with a gavel which was made especially for the anniversary. He also presented Mr. Bailey with a piece of the bell taken from the original truck house. The first fire company history was written for this event.
In April 1937 the men attended as a group the last sermon of a fellow member Rev. Cole as pastor of the Methodist Church.
In May 1937 a letter was received from the Atlantic Outboard Boat Company asking the fire company to establish a patrol fleet to serve on Sunday, May 16, 1937 when the outboard races will be held. A patrol fleet was established, a forerunner of our current marine firematic expertise.
In March 1938 the fire commissioners installed a fire siren.
Due to a change in NY’s state law in 1938 the company returned to the election of the foreman, but now the position was defined as chief. The election of the chief was held initially on April 6, 1938 with Winnie Wheat being elected again to lead the company in firematic activity.
By October 1939 plans were underway to extend the fire district. Mr. Paterson, a charter member, was noted to have actively engaged in fighting the fire of October 7, 1939.
November 18, 1939 a five horsepower, single phase, double head siren, 220v, 60cyc was purchased from the American La France Dealer in Saratoga Springs. It included a pull lever box and a remote control. In February 1940 the following system of alarms was established for the district: 12 alarms – village, 6 alarms – south of road running westerly through Rocky Store, 9 alarms – north of road running westerly through Rocky Store. In 1996, the Rocky Store school is still in use as the Town Hall.
At the January 1942 meeting Assistant Chief James Baldwin explained the new mutual aid program noting that the Sheriff’s Department would notify the neighboring department to stand ready until the first company is returned to its quarters. Chief Wheat gave a short talk on air raids, air raid wardens, and their duties. The nation was at War and the department was ready to respond as needed.
1942 saw the involvement of a Boy Scout Troop at Cornell Hall with support from our members. The Troop Charter was presented to the Company in June 1942. Old uniforms, baseball sweatshirts, and the like were turned over the Boys for their salvage committee which helped the war effort. The scoutmaster was Leander Griffen. Troop Scribe was Charles Drinkwater. There is evidence of Boy Scout troop being supported in several ways by the company at least into the mid 1960s.
For the war effort the men were cross-matched for blood type. The members also agreed that members who are on active military duty are exempt from dues for their period of enlistment, a custom we maintain to this day. In August 1942, Vernon Kendall, who had been serving in the Navy Air Corps was home on leave and was able to attend the company meeting. In 1942 a service flag was dedicated in honor of our members serving their country. Cliff Baldwin was noted to be serving in the Armed Services in India during 1953.
In August 1946 the members voted on a new uniform. This consisted of an oxford gray shirt and pants, a white cap, white tie, white belt, and white piping on the outseam of the pants. These were adorned by breast and cap badges. These uniforms would serve until 1952 when they were replaced at a cost of $608.
A 50th Anniversary meeting was held on February 24, 1947. In addition to inviting members from Medway-Grapeville, Coxsackie, Coeymans, and Ravena Fire Companies the Honorable Seth T. Cole of Albany and Mr. Roy Moon of Catskill were asked to join our members for the special meeting. August 1947 saw the purchase of a newer pool table and the donation of the old pool table to Henry Fuhrman. The Post Office burned December 19, 1947. Following this fire at the suggestion of Attillio Anatriello the company looked into the purchase of helmets and raincoats for the firemen.
In July 1948 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the 300th Anniversary of Volunteer Fire Companies in America. The company also purchased new stationary depicting the new fire truck. The President provided a first issue cover of this stamp to each member of the company.
In 1952 the Echo Grange cooperated with the Cornell Hook & Ladder Fire Company to place street signs in the village.
In September 1954 a resolution was passed by the company and provided to the Town supporting the proposed County Fire Radio System.
Boy Scouts from Buffalo were lodged at Cornell Hall during the Boy Scout Day events at West Point on October 30, 1954. President Wheat noted later that they “were a fine bunch of fellows.”
For several years in the 1950s members of the company participated in a Minstrel Show that was presented throughout the area as a fundraising function for both Cornell Hook & Ladder and several surrounding fire companies.
In 1955 President Wheat and Chief Baldwin presented “rules pertaining to fire apparatus which might be called to fight fires on the Thruway and made suggestions as to the use of a minimum number of cars to carry firemen to the scene of the fire.”
Based on recommendation of members Charles Drinkwater, John Wallace Sr., and Harold Rhodes the company began the annual Calendar Drive in 1957. While New Baltimore’s fire truck was equipped and ready for the initiation of the County Radio System, the County equipment sustained many delays and was not on line till 1958.
June 1958 saw the burning of the Knaust Mushroom Plant in Coeymans to which New Baltimore responded with manpower and equipment.
In 1959 the company paid for an orchestra for the “Year of History” Field Day that was organized on a town-wide basis. The company also ordered Air Packs in the July of 1959 and participated in the Hudson Champlain celebration.
After much planning and training the company implemented a Fire Police unit in November 1959. Don Tanner was the first Chief of Fire Police.
In April 1961 discussion began on the issue of numbering homes in town for improved response. Thirty-five years later we still have not completed the 911 process, but it is expected soon. In 1961 the company was also instrumental in having the town pass ordinances forth improvement of dilapidated properties.
August 1961 saw the installation of a phone for the first time at Cornell Hall. August 11, 1961 also saw the creation of the additional executive office for the company, specifically, Financial Secretary.
In December 1966 a dinner was held for past Chief & President Winnie Wheat and money was given to the fire commissioners to provide for a radio room and plaque in Chief Wheat’s honor.
In February 1967 a contract was let for a 1000 gallon pumper to Ward-LaFrance. The new truck was to be called ETA 86. In June 1967 tetanus shots were made available to the firemen.
The Grand Opening for the “new” Firehouse was October 15, 1967. At that time the pool table was completely refurbished including the legs. October 27, 1967 saw the onset of the addition of new line officer positions including Captain and Lieutenant.
Charles (the squatty bottom siren ringer) Drinkwater was elected Chief in 1968 and was also second vice-president of the Greene County Firemen’s Association.
June 13, 1968 a testimonial dinner was held for Past-Chief James Baldwin at Bartke’s. In 1996 Bartke’s restaurant is the site of the Circle of Friends Preschool.
In May 1971 we adopted a funeral service to honor our departed members when this option was chosen by the members survivors.
June 1972 saw the 75th Anniversary Celebration with a parade including several guest companies. Later in the year an Anniversary Dinner Dance was held as well.
In 1980 Cornell Hook & Ladder Fire Company with Medway-Grapeville Fire Department cosponsored the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention.
In November 1981 the company purchased ETA 201, the truck called “Little Jim,” a Dodge pumper tanker, from the District. Members started to investigate the possibilities of restoring it to original configurations. The first Emergency One truck was purchased to replace the Dodge for firefighting.
In 1992 Cornell Hook & Ladder was one of many fire companies in the region who hosted a rabies immunization clinic during the fearful rabies epidemic period. In the Fall of 1992 a storage building was supplied to the company by the Marriott Corporation.
Throughout 1992 and 1993 formalized program operations procedures were developed to comply with federal OSHA standards. Hepatitis shots were administered to all firemen
In 1993 the company worked hard to put a specially refitted boat that had been donated by Shady Harbor Marina into service. The vessel is outfitted as both an emergency medical response vessel ad a firefighting vessel. She saw frequent service even in her first season.
June 1994 saw the passing of Past Chief James Baldwin. He was buried in his Cornell Hook & Ladder uniform and ETA 201, “Little Jim,” carried him to his final rest.
August 1994 saw the 25th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival and many long hours of volunteer time by our members when temperatures dropped to unseasonal lows and rain caused parking areas to become impassable.
For the past 100 years the nearly 1000 members have at one time or another offered their serices to New Baltimore through the service time given to the Cornell Hook & Ladder Fire Company. This tradition will be carried on by our posterity and we wish them health and happiness in their endeavors.