Monday, October 27, 2014

Dempsey Licks Willard

Jack Dempsey Beats Jess Willard

     Firemen from around Cincinnati just squared off against police officers in a charity boxing match at Horseshoe Casino called Guns & Hoses.  The firemen managed to capture the overall victory.  15 out of the 22 fights were fought by Cincinnati firefighters.  The competition raised over $80,000 for charity.  Given this recent interest in boxing I thought it would be a good time to share the following entry found in the company diary of Ladder 06.

     On occasion an event of cultural significance is recorded in the diary of a fire company.  Such was the case on 04 July 1919 when Jack Dempsey beat Jess Willard to claim the heavyweight boxing championship.

T06 Company Diary 1919 - Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum
Note the Entry for the 4th of July

     Jess Willard was the world heavyweight boxing champion for over four years and was nicknamed the "Pottawatomie Giant."  On the 4th of July 1919 Jack Dempsey delivered a bloody beating and claimed the title from Willard.  When Willard went down in the 1st round it was the first time in his career he was knocked down.  Dempsey would put him to the ground another six times before the first round ended.  Willard was no pushover.  In 1915 he knocked out the heavyweight champ Jack Johnson in the 26th round to claim the title for himself.  Jack Dempsey, "The Manassa Mauler," went on to hold the title until 1926.  His aggressive style and dynamic fights made him on of the most popular fighters of all time.

     To better appreciate the aggressive style of Dempsey which made him so popular, check out this great video of his fight:

Toledo, Ohio

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cincinnati's 1st Fire - Spring 1794

Cincinnati's 1st Big Fire - Spring 1794

     The 1st settlers in Cincinnati landed in December 1789.  These early pioneers built their cabins on what would become Front Street.  Because the cabins were very near the Ohio River there was little fear of fire.  After a few years of development the settlement had grown away from the river.  Land was constantly being cleared of trees and brush to make room for farming and planting.  By 1794 there was an area of town that started around 6th Street and extended north.  Here over 100 acres were contained inside a worm fence that had been built several years earlier.  One of only a few structures inside this area was a frame office constructed by the pioneer lawyer Thomas Goudy.  Goudy no longer used this building for work as it was found to be too far north of town to be convenient. 

A typical worm fence or snake fence

     In early spring 1794 one of the settlers in this northern section of town was using fire to clear brush along the western end of the fenced in area.  The brush and downed trees prevented the planting of crops.  A strong wind suddenly turned the small clearing fire into an uncontrolled wildfire.  The wind drove the blaze east and soon this entire northern section was burning.  The entire population turned out in an effort to save what they could.  Men with buckets took up position around Goudy's office while others worked to protect the fence.  Ultimately the building was saved but the fence was largely destroyed. 

     History does not record what ultimately caused the fire to be checked.  It likely burned through the available dry and loose brush covering this area before burning itself out.  Certainly the citizens did what they could to extinguish the fire as well.  After the excitement had subsided it was clear to the citizens that the risk of fire was not to be taken lightly.  From that point forward greater care was taken to clear brush off areas settled so as to prevent future wildfires that might threaten the settlement.  As the population continued to expand and more buildings were constructed the citizens of Cincinnati would soon consider more substantial means with which to control and prevent fire.  Soon laws would be passed to govern how citizens should respond to these emergencies.

1 - Centennial History of Cincinnati and Representative Citizens by Charles Theodore Greve
               Volume 1, published 1904
2 - A History of the Cincinnati Fire Department in the Nineteenth Century by Kathleen J. Kiefer
               University of Cincinnati M.A. Dissertation - 1967

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Martin Farrell LODD - CFD Roll of Honor Update

Martin Farrell LODD - Cincinnati Fire Department Roll of Honor - Newly Found LODD

Sunday 13 May 1877
The Mohawk Fire Co.12 diary records that the company was notified by Jakey Hughes that Martin Farrell was paralyzed while traveling on the engine to Box189.  Martin died that evening.

Mohawk Engine Co.12 Diary - 1877
B.Houston Collection

Mohawk Engine Co.12 Diary
The entry for Sunday May 13th records the death of Martin Farrell. 
Tuesday the 15th is indicated as the day of funeral services.
B.Houston Collection

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:
Cincinnati Enquirer
14 May 1877
     Engine 16 was riding at full speed to Box 189 when Martin Farrell fell off of the apparatus and onto the street at the corner of McMillan Street and Montgomery Road.  The engine continued to the scene of the fire and went to work despite Farrell's fall.  Farrell managed to stand up and walk to the curb.  When he was approached by people on the street he was found to be paralyzed and unable to speak.  Farrell had suffered a previous bout of paralysis about a year prior to this accident.  He was taken from the scene of the accident to his home where he died in the evening.  Farrell had previously served the fire department on Engine Co.09 and Engine Co.14
The story of Ferrell's accident was conveyed by The Cincinnati Enquirer to its readers on 14 May 1877 as follows:

The Cincinnati Enquirer
14 May 1877

     Martin Farrell's death was ultimately attributed to "paralysis."  He is listed as being married and 54 years of age.  He was born in Ireland and worked as a Fireman.  Dr. J. Jones pronounced him dead.  The undertaker Sullivan was given care of his body and he was buried at St Joseph's New Cemetery in Price Hill. 

Cincinnati Vital Statistics - Death Record
The following entry will be made to the Roll of Honor of the Cincinnati Fire Department:
Martin Farrell
Pipeman - Engine Co.16
Died 13 May 1877
Fell from engine while en route to Box189 - Died later that evening

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Tragedy - Newly Found LODD William Greve

Thanksgiving Tragedy - Billy Greve Killed - Newly Found LODD

The Cincinnati Enquirer
 27 November 1903


     26 November 1903, Night watchman John Myer was about to start his shift.  He was expecting a quite night as the warehouse he worked in had been idle all day in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.  His expectations were dashed when he opened the door only to discover the building charged with smoke.  He quickly rushed to the rear of the structure and found a working fire in the engine and boiler room.  Bolting for the exit he gave the call of fire.  George Frese, a passerby, heard the cry and pulled fire box 263 at 4:38p.  The fire department arrived on scene within minutes and a second alarm was pulled.  In all Engines 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 14, and 22 responded to the scene along with Hooks 1, 6, and 7. 

Engine Co.10
Stelter Collection
     The machine shop of Smith, Meyer & Schnier was situated on Front Street.  At this end the brick building was 2.5 stories in height.  In the rear the complex butted up to the river bank and was 1.5 stories high.  Access to the building was made difficult by the other factories on either side as well as the river.  The only point of attack open to the fire laddies was to be the Front Street entrance.  The men worked efficiently as they brought their lines to play on the blaze.  Crews from Engine 04 and Hooks 06 worked on the eastern side of the building.  Engine 01 and Engine 22 made way to the second floor and Engine 10 accompanied Engine 02 in making an attack from the first floor.  Several lines were in operation but the flames were still pushing toward the Front Street entrance driven by a steady wind off the river.  The men in the building had taken their places among the many heavy machines inside.  Hanging over the men working on the second floor was a massive mobile crane used to move machines around on the floor below. 
     Without warning the roof gave way.  The great crane came smashing down onto the second floor which then collapsed onto the first.  Firemen were scattered all around and on the building.  The crew of Engine 01 was on a ladder in the front of the building, two men were thrown clear of the debris while two others were partly buried.  Others jumped from windows or under machines after hearing the first rumbling of the structure as it failed.  Most were struck by falling bricks and beams as they made efforts to escape the building. 
     Chief of Police Millikin was watching from outside.  Upon witnessing the calamity he signaled for his patrol wagons to pull forward.  Immediately the firemen on scene were joined by policemen bearing stretchers.  The firemen of Engine 10 had been in the most unfortunate position.  They had been fighting the fire directly under the collapse.  Lieutenant Dennis Doherty managed to reach a doorway before being struck down.  Doherty's roughnecks, Billy Greve and James Keegan, were not so lucky. 
      Injured firemen were rushed via patrol wagon to the City Hospital.  As the wagons sped from the scene, citizens took notice and a rumor spread that a great many firefighters had been killed.  A large crowd began to make its way to the scene.  Policemen and Firefighters continued to pull men from the debris.  Fire Chief Archibald with the help of Assistant Chiefs McAvoy and Hurley took accountability of their companies.  James Keegan, Captain O'Neil, and Billy Greve were found to be the only members still missing.  It was felt the men were under the main portion of the debris.  The area was filled with choking smoke and hoses continued to play over the debris pile so as to protect the men that were still missing from otherwise certain death from the heat and fire that was still burning.  James Keegan was located first.  He had been pinned under heavy timbers and it took great effort to free him.  His right leg had been fractured in two placed above the knee.  Captain O'Neil then appeared, having managed to free himself from the debris and escape serious injury.  Greve was now the lone missing firefighter. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer
27 November 1903

     James Connry of Hooks 01 was feeling his way over the debris pile about 25 feet into the front of the structure when he spotted Greve laying on his back, pinned at the neck and stomach under large beams.  Flames were burning the beams very near his body and his expression made clear the agony he had suffered.  He had suffocated under the beams, pinned in a position that left him unable to protect his face from the smoke and water that surrounded him.  After hours of work with axes, saws, and crowbars the body was finally recovered. 
     A great many of the firemen working the scene that day experienced close calls.  A.J.Carroll of Engine 06 had jumped under a heavy machine for cover.  The machine shielded him from the beams that fell from above.  Dick Rathkamp of Engine 01 was found hanging from the cornice of the building with flames licking all around him.  Len Westcott reached him as his grip started to fail and helped him down a ladder.  Fred Huesmann, pipeman of Engine 22,  was trapped between a machine and the wall.  His cloths began to catch fire as the men reached him.  They managed to free him and pulled him out a nearby window just as the floor collapsed around him. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer
27 November 1903

     The fire left a lasting mark on all the men that were there to experience it.  Some of the men would also suffer physically for years to come.  James Keegan, who had been at Greve's side at the time of the collapse, was disabled by the fire and it was uncertain if he would ever serve the fire department again.  Their officer, Lieutenant Dennis Doherty sustained a skull fracture and internal injuries but he was expected to recover.  Bart Fanning of Hooks 06 fell and injured both his legs.  Fanning would later die from an accumulation of injuries sustained while working as a firefighter.
     Word of the tragedy continued to spread through the city as the members of Engine 10 slowly returned to quarters.  The men had suffered the loss of their fellow firefighter and fiend Billy Greve and others of their company were now being treated in the hospital.  As they turned onto 3rd Street and their firehouse came into view they had still more pain to witness and endure.  Greve lived with his family across the street from the firehouse.  His children never missed the chance to run along side the engine as it left quarters and they were always present to welcome their father home upon its return.  When the engine neared the waiting children they could not see their father among the men on the engine.  Firemen provided evasive answers when questioned.  It was at that moment that Ella Greve, Billy's wife, burst from the doors of their apartment building.  She was sobbing and grief stricken, having just learned the news from a friend.  It was only then that the children realized their father had been lost. 
     Services for Greve were conducted at Saint Xavier Church on Sycamore on Monday December 01.  The hose wagon of Engine 01 that had carried Greve to the scene of the fire on Thanksgiving now carried him to his final resting place in St Joseph's Cemetery. 
     It was later learned that Greve had been sleeping in the firehouse when the alarm came in.  His Captain, Peter O'Neil had returned from servicing his hydrant and it was Greve's turn to ensure his assigned hydrant was free of water, such was the procedure in cold weather.  Rather than wake Greve, the captain decided to take care of Greve's hydrant as well.  This kept Greve in quarters and thus he was able to respond on the initial alarm where O'Neil was delayed in his arrival at the scene.  Had Greve been awake and set out to service the hydrant he might not have arrived at the scene in time to find himself in the middle of the collapse. 

     The Enquirer noted that, "Greve gave up his life, but as long as the department exists his memory will be cherished."
     The Following will be added to the Cincinnati Fire Department Roll of Honor in memory of our line of duty deaths:
Firefighter William Greve - Engine Co.10 - Killed 26 November 1903 - Box 263 at  621 to 627 West Front Street (Smith, Meyer, & Schnier) 2 Alarm Fire - Building Collapse/Suffocation

Cincinnati Fire Department


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