Lincoln-Era Fire Companies

Lincoln-Era Fire Companies (HM12R5)

Location: Springfield, IL 62701 Sangamon County
Country: United States of America

N 39° 47.967', W 89° 38.733'

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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 trumpets to communicate over the din at fire scenes.

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."

HM NumberHM12R5
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 3:31am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 273502 N 4408846
Decimal Degrees39.79945000, -89.64555000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 47.967', W 89° 38.733'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 47' 58.02" N, 89° 38' 43.98" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 701-799 E Monroe St, Springfield IL 62701, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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