Site No. 12. Before Tiger No. 1, firefighting was little more than buckets and the good will and teamwork of neighbors. When the Newmarket Manufacturing Company came to town in 1823, it built a station house on Elm Street. This held “a tub engine, a line of hose, axes and about 100 good leather buckets”. After a few years, the mills replaced the tub engine with a new apparatus called the “Always Ready No. 2.”
In 1852 the town’s first fire company was formed, and it was voted to purchase a new engine. Mr. Lesley of Newburyport built the new machine—Tiger No. 1. It took him two months and he was paid $595. Shortly after, this engine house was built, and it served as Newmarket’s fire station for nearly a century.
In 1858, the mills bought a new handtub—“Granite No. 2.” For many years, Tiger No. 1 and Granite No. 2 were the town’s only engines. They were hauled around not by horses but by men. In one description of an old-time fire alarm, bells clanged and double lines of men pulled the engine and the hose cart over the roads….Hose was laid to the nearest water supply. Often the firemen would sing in rhythm to their pumping to get a strong flow of water. According to historian Nellie Palmer George, in 1857 during the fire in Mill No. 2 they sang “Charming Nellie Gray.”
By 1895, the Tiger Fire Station had been updated. Horsepower rather than manpower pulled the new equipment, and the old Tiger No. 1 was retired from active duty. The main fire alarm was the Congregational Church’s bell, and to ring the alarm, someone had to first get the key to the church from a nearby store—not the speediest way to alert the town. In 1902, a 2,000-pound bell was mounted on a steel tower, here on the ledge above the Engine House. Fire horses were lodged at a nearby stable.
In 1908, Prince the fire horse had just been let out of his stall. Then the fire alarm went off, and so did Prince. He ran directly to the fire station and backed into the traces of the hose wagon, ready to fight a fire.
In 1922 the horses were retired. Despite having several fire trucks crammed in, this remained Newmarket’s fire station throughout the Great Depression and World War II. It was not until 1950 that it moved across the street to the old Primary School building.
Between 2003 and 2006, this building underwent an extensive historic renovation. Among those who helped were members of the group that had repaired the Old Tiger No. 1 handtub. Over the years the Newmarket Handtub Association has participated in many historic musters all over New England. When it’s not on the road, our Tiger No. 1 resides here in its original home.
Site No. 13 is very close by, continuing toward town.
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
There is no record of any organized approach to fighting fires before 1823, beyond the use of the buckets that every household would have had.
The first fire engine ever operated in Newmarket was purchased by the Newmarket Manufacturing Company and kept on the mill yard. A very crude apparatus, it had to be operated by cranks: the water had to be poured into its “tub” and a tiny stream was thrown, which afforded little protection in a working fire. The Elm Street Station was constructed by NMCo, and could have been around as early as 1823—to house its firefighting equipment, which was listed on its October 1823 insurance application: “a full company of engine men, a tub engine, a line of hose, axes and about 100 good leather buckets”. This was the beginning of the Newmarket Fire Department.
Seven years later a brake machine was substituted for the hand-tub, which had been called “the Coffee-Mill.” This was not much of an improvement, because the water still had to be brought in buckets and poured into the box. It became known as the “Always Ready No.2”; and it was the extent of fire protection for both the mills and the town from 1823 until 1852.
The Tiger No. 1
In March 1852, a warrant article passed “To see if the town will vote to buy a fire engine.” The town formed a committee consisting of Mill Agent John Webster, Dr. George Kittredge, and Joseph Taylor; they were authorized to raise $1,000 for the purchase of a new machine. They chose the “Tiger No, 1” manufactured in Newburyport by Edward E. Lesley.
The following month a town fire company was created under the leadership of Captain Thomas W. Willey. This company would operate both the NMCo’s “Always Ready” (housed on Elm Street) and the new machine.
Tiger No. 1 took two months to build, and was delivered on September 28, 1852. It came with various pieces of equipment (suction hose, pipes, axes, and buckets, hose reels, etc.) It was built with 5-1/2 inch cylinders. The original suction was 5 inches and had been increased to 7 inches by the town fire company. The original discharge was 2 inches and it was increased to 2 and ½ inches. Upon delivery to the town, Mr. Lesley was paid $595.
Tiger No. 1 immediately went into active service, beginning its 44 years of fire protection until its last fire in 1896 at the Piecuch farm.
For the year 1852, the town paid:
In 1853 the town built an engine house to store the new Tiger Number No.1. The Newmarket Manufacturing Company had leased to the town a lot at the foot of the ledges at South and Main Streets for $1 a year for twenty years for the purpose of building an engine house. As was typical with NMCo leases, the land was to revert back to the NMCo at the end of the 20-year period or earlier if at any time it was not used as an engine house. As it turned out, this 1853 building would outlast the NMCo’s presence in town, continuing as Newmarket’s Fire Station for nearly a century.
The Town Fire Department in 1853 consisted of:
The below correspondence is between Mill Agent John Webster and E.S.Leslie concerning the procurment of the Tiger No. 1.
Five years later the NMCo, realizing the need of more equipment, bought another hand brake machine made by the Hunneman Corporation. The company sold the old “Always Ready” to Newfields, and took its number (2) and named the new hand-tub “Granite No. 2”. It was housed in the Elm Street Fire Hose House which was opposite and just west of the library. That firehouse was designed with a tower in which to hang hoses to dry out. The original hoses were leather riveted together, and oil was rubbed over them to keep them supple. Later hoses were made of rubber covered in cloth.
So in 1858 the town had two fire stations and two hand-tubs—Tiger No.1 & Granite No.2. Both of these had to be filled via buckets, but the fire companies soon added suction hoses as well. Leather buckets continued to be used for close work, along with ladders and axes.
But these were not yet horse-drawn engines. According to Nellie Palmer George,
In those early days the hand engines were driven by manpower. The speed of their getting to the scene of a fire depended on the condition of the road, and the number of men at the rope pulling desperately to reach the water supply closest to the fire, as there were no hydrants. The old time fire alarm meant a clanging of bells, and double lines of men pulling the engine and the hose cart over the roads. Crowds of townspeople hurried along ready to help if needed.
“When near the fire, a line of hose was laid to the nearest water supply. With brakes fully manned the captain shouted the order, “Brake her down.” This was answered by rhythmic action at the brakes. In the hands of those old time firemen, the hand brake engines were wonderfully effective. They frequently encouraged themselves with a singing a chorus with a strong rhythm in time to the rhythmic pumping of the hand brakes to get a strong solid flow of water to flow through the hose. The burning of Mill #2 in 1857 was accompanied to the tune of “Charming Nellie Gray”.
By 1895, the Tiger House had been repaired and updated, making it a modern fire house built for reception of a horse carriage and apparatus, as well as for the new hook & ladder equipment.
Kent Stables housed both “Dime” the fire horse and the hook & ladder pung (a wheeled box carriage designed to be drawn by one horse).
In the absence of a fire alarm telegraph system, the following was adopted by the Board of Engineers April 19, 1895. Frank A. Brackett was the Chief Engineer.
1) The Congregational Church bell is the fire alarm for the town. Key to the church is at Dearborn’s Drug Store, the B.F. Haley Company, and Joseph Bennett’s livery stable. The alarm will be a rapid, continuous ringing of the bell until the town is thoroughly aroused.
2) The rapid, continuous ringing of the bell on No.2 Mill of the NMCo will indicate a fire on that corporation and will at once be followed by the ringing of the church bell.
3) The continuous blowing, in short blasts of the steam gong on the Newmarket Shoe Factory will indicate a fire in that vicinity, and will be followed by the ringing of the church bell.
4) FIRST ALARM – Tiger Hose No#1, Granite Hose #2, and Hook & Ladder Company
5) SECOND ALARM – All substitute and call firemen will report to their stations. Stewards of the stations will see that all reserve apparatus except hand engines is forwarded to the fire.*
6) THIRD ALARM- Call upon the NMCo. Hose Company for assistance.*
7) * a second or third alarm will be rung only by order of the Chief Engineer or officer in command of the fire.
8) ENGINEER’S CALL – Three rapid strokes of the church bell, repeated three times (if necessary, call will be repeated). Hose Companies and Hook and Ladder Company will at once report, with apparatus, in front of Town Hall or Congregational Church and wait for orders.
9) ALTERNATIVE CHURCH BELL – If, for any reason, the Congregational Church Bell cannot be rung, either of the other church bells may be rung for a fire alarm.
Tiger No. 1 Retires
In 1896 Tiger No.1 made its last duty call to the Piecuch farm. It was then retired as an active piece of firefighting apparatus and put into storage where it stayed for over half a century. In 1954 Frank Willey, with the help of George Griswold and Bob Keller, rebuilt the machine and got it back to working order. Tiger No.1 was then returned to where it had begun service. Old and abandoned, the fire station was eventually spruced up by dedicated volunteers.
There are only two Lesley Hand-tubs still in existence today. Newmarket’s Tiger No. 1 hand tub is the only one in the nation housed in its original firehouse. (NMCo’s Granite No. 2 would meet a different fate, consigned to scrap metal at the onset of World War II.)
Town reports over the next five years reflected many changes in Newmarket’s firefighting capabilities:
Concerts and balls were popular ways of raising funds. But a lively carnival (despite being a major endeavor to sponsor and run) with games of chance, rides, music and “carny” food always brought in the most profit. Whenever a major appropriation was needed, Newmarket’s Fire Department pursued the carnival as a guaranteed source of revenue to reduce any tax which had to be levied.
1902- New Fire Alarm System:
A 2,000-pound bell (cost of $215) and striker mounted on a steel frame tower ($125) was installed on the ledge on Zion’s hill below the high school and above the Tiger Fire Station.
Total costs of erecting, blasting ledge for foundation and hanging of the bell were $440. Also included were two 18-inch fire alarm gongs; 12 fire alarm boxes; 7 miles of wire and the necessary batteries. The system had 54 two-way hydrants.
The entire alarm system cost was $1,701.76. The Fire Department raised $800 of that via concerts, special dances, and entertainments; $150 was donated by Mill Agent A.J. Nichols; the cost to the town was $741.76.
Manpower and Horsepower
While 1905 showed the lowest rate of fire damage in ten years ($412 in property loss), it was hardly a typical year. The Fire Department continued to keep nearly 50 men on the rolls for many years:
In 1905 each company was allowed 5 substitutes (paid by their principals when acting as such); but that practice was abandoned at some point.
A 1908 Horse Story: Prince the fire horse had just been let out of the stall by Kent Stable employee Herb Smart. Then the fire alarm went off, and so did Prince—with Herb in hot pursuit. The horse knew the route and ran directly to the fire station—an automatic response. In no time, Herb backed him into the traces of the hose wagon and they headed out to the fire scene.
Despite Prince’s equine excellence, times were changing—and not in favor of horse power. In 1912 Chief Hersom proposed an “automotive fire apparatus”, as the end result would be a much better response time and less maintenance costs: “Presently NFD pays $60 per horse hire & $50 for drivers. Automotive upkeeps would be but a few dollars, and for gasoline and oil.” The Chief’s proposal was not approved, and horses continued their firefighting duties for another decade.
The firemen from the Newmarket Manufacturing Company (originally the Granite No. 2 group) were pulled from their employee pool. From 1910 to 1919, the mills expanded on the town’s alarm system, adding to the fire bell tower on Zion Hill. First they installed a 10-inch steam gong; several years later they had a 12-inch steam whistle.
Alarm steam whistle:
In July 1921 three barns were destroyed in fires – all caused by lightning strikes: the NMCo. barn, the Labonte barn on Bay Road, and the A.J. Rich barn on Bayside Rd. (Might that have prompted the town to finally approve an “automotive fire apparatus”?)
A new auto combination chemical, hose and hook & ladder truck was put into commission in April 1922 at a stubborn chimney fire at Dr. Elkins house on Exeter Street. The truck – called “Combination #3—was stationed at the Hose #1 house with the Ford Chemical (affectionately called by firefighters “the Soda Truck”).
The phase-out of the Elm Street Fire House began that same year. All members but the steward of the Granite Hose Co. #2 were transferred to Fire Station #1 (Tiger), which became known as “Central Fire Station.”
This caused a space crunch in the old Central (Tiger) Fire Station; and in 1927 the town appointed a committee to plan for a new fire station. Initial cost estimates were about $15,000, with the new structure to be erected on the site of the existing station. However, this plan was put on hold due to local and national events—the ensuing years’ mill closure with the major reduction in the tax base, followed by the Depression and the onset of WW II.
Voters in 1927 did approve a pay hike for firefighters, laddermen and hosemen: $22 in addition to what was required by state law. And during the years of the Great Depression Newmarket managed to purchase two fire trucks—in 1933 (Chevy fire truck), and in 1941 ($7000 Seagrave fire engine).
In 1937 three men joined as volunteers: Robert Keller, James Nesbit and Herbie Philbrick. Still active with the Fire Department in 1987, they were recognized with a 50-year honorary celebration.
The October 1946 fire in the nearby Primary School (Site No. 10) prompted new plans for a larger fire station, as the damaged school building was deemed too expensive to repair as a school. Over the next several years, funding was budgeted.
1948 – Article 16 of the Town Warrant: To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $24,000 for the purpose of repairing and equipping the fire damaged Primary School for the use of the Fire Department, $2000 to be raised this year and the balance of amount to be on a long term note payable at $2000 a year until paid, and authorize the Board of Selectmen to borrow said amount.
Volunteer labor was crucial in finishing this project, and by 1950, it was pretty much complete. The refurbishing costs listed for that year were $1,008—which also included the cost of rebuilding the 1933 Chevrolet truck.
As the Cold War raised new concerns, a new department of Civil Defense was set up in 1959, bringing with it more training and additional equipment. Civil Defense Director George H. Hauschel was able to help the Fire Department in its expanding role. For $500, he purchased $9,254 worth of government surplus—much of it to be used by the Fire Department:
1) 15 KVW generator for the Water Dept;
2) A new 7.5 horsepower motor for the police/fire rescue boat;
3) A panel truck for the fire dept fully equipped with a portable pump, generator, resuscitator, Scott air pack, gas masks, canvas, rope, and wrecking bars. Most of this equipment was carried on the fire trucks previous to the purchase of the emergency truck. This equipment is all on one truck which is a great advantage to the department.
4) A new generator through matching funds for $143.00 for use of the Fire Department. This is for use in any existing emergency and will run the furnace and lights in the fire house. This generator can also be taken to the scene of accidents, fires, etc.
5) 60 cots which cost the town $30.00, cost to the government $450.00. These cots have been distributed among the various departments.
6) Also many small tools, for use of fire, police, and highway departments.
In 1964 a new forestry truck was purchased. This proved extremely timely, as 1964 and 1965 were very dry years:
Two manufacturers—Smith Shoe and Gallant Mfg.—connected their sprinkler systems to the town fire alarm system in 1966, giving the fire department an early warning of any fire there. And radio communication was enhanced with a new transistorized radio base-station that connected with the radios in the fire trucks, and provided two portable walkie-walkie sets.
Civic support for the Fire Department got a boost in 1969 when a Fire Auxiliary was formed. The “Smokettes” assisted and supported the Fire Department for a number of years. They started out with 17 active members. Officers were: President, Mrs. Fred (Betty) Harclerode; Vice President, Mrs. Leonard (Cathy) Provost; Treasurer, Mrs. Charles (Louise) Clark; Secretary, Mrs. Richard (Madeline) Homiak.
Betty Philbrick became Newmarket’s first female Deputy Fire Warden in 1972. Thirteen years would pass before the town had a female firefighter—Sue Beaulieu, in 1985.
The 1960 town Warrant established a Capital Reserve Fund for an annual amount $2,000 for the future purchase of fire apparatus (at that time, the existing inventory consisted of: a 27 year old Chevrolet, used for ladder and hose; a 20 year old Seagraves, used as a pumper and hose truck; and an 8 year old Chevrolet, used as a tank truck). Ten years later, the N.H. Board of Underwriters notified the Department that the only equipment currently meeting the minimum standards for a town this size was the 29-year-old pumper. It was time to use that capital reserve fund.
By 1972 the new fire truck was in service—an American LaFrance combination pumper tanker capable of 1,000 GPM. And in 1973 Richard Gallant donated a 1,000 gallon tanker—which was put to good use at the dump during the summer months. Another town purchase in 1975 was the American LaFrance Attack 1,250-gallon pumper truck. And new firefighting techniques prompted investment in a new high expansion foam called JET-X –extremely valuable in extinguishing gasoline and oil fires.
The Department also purchased a new Gamewell Central Office Control Switchboard, which transmitted all fire alarm boxes on the system. Approved by the National Fire Protection Association, this new system increased the amount of street boxes that could go on the line. Soon all old fire alarm boxes and much of the old wire were replaced. By 1975, there was a pager system for Alarm Fire Notifications, and October 1977 saw a new Dispatch Center at the Fire Station, open 24/7.
A major Fire Dept. acquisition in 1987 was a new Forestry Unit (a one-ton GMC 4-wheel drive pickup truck) with a 200 gallon water tank and pump with various hand tools for fighting brush fires. Unfortunately, the major fire of 1987 took place in the center of town: On Sept. 19th Newmarket’s Town Hall was destroyed by fire.
With the displacement of town offices and the Police Department, it was time to reassess town needs regarding public safety. A task force in 1988 was appointed to do that.
In 2001, the Newmarket Ambulance Division and the Fire Departments merged as one Department. A new ambulance replaced the 1986 ambulance and a new forestry truck was purchased. And by the end of 2004, the merged department with all its vehicles and equipment was able to move into a new facility on New Road.
“This new building is important to the town. We can now buy the apparatus to fit the town, not just the building,” Capt. Richard Clark said. The 45-member volunteer department had been in the last building, a former school, since the 1940s. In addition to the new tanker, the department has two engines; a pumper tanker that doesn’t hold enough water to really be a tanker, according to Assistant Chief Tony Phillips; two ambulances; a forestry vehicle; and a utility truck. Approximately 75 percent of the firefighters are certified as emergency medical technicians. There are no paramedics, but six are certified as intermediate EMTs, the level below paramedic. Phillips, who is retiring this month after nearly 16 years, said the hardest part of his decision to move was leaving the department.” — Portsmouth Herald.
In May 2006, the Department faced a new challenge, responding to 164 calls due to what became known as the Mother’s Day Flood. The members of the Department put in approximately 3,600 volunteer hours during that time.
With the assistance of Newmarket residents and 25 members of the National Guard, they filled over 10,000 sandbags; they also helped with numerous evacuations, as many residents were in danger of being stranded or flooded in their homes. The community also provided tremendous support that week, with people providing food and kitchen supplies.
A second “Hundred Year Flood” in April 2007 once again featured evacuations by boat and sandbags placed along the edges of the dam.
A look at the data for 2017 and 2018 helps paint a picture of the demands on this department, as well as its dependence on volunteers.
2017: Fire & Rescue responded to 1,133 calls; of which 759 were EMS calls and 374 fire calls. The department had 45 volunteer members, two full time employees, and one part time employee. In 2017 volunteers logged 19,493 hours of duty.
2018: Fire & Rescue responded to 1,062 calls; of which 709 were EMS calls and 353 fire calls. The department had 43 volunteer members, two full time employees, and one part time employee. In 2018 volunteers logged 22,176 hours of duty.
2020: there was a 15% decrease in calls, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic Lockdown.
2021: Fire & Rescue responded to 1,075 calls which was a 19% encrease from the previous year. Of those calls: 780 were EMS calls and 295 fire calls. The Department had 44 volunteer members, two full time employees, and one part time employee. In 2021 volunteers logged 29,218 hours of duty. This was a difficult year for the Fire Department as several staff had to quarantine at times, and some contracted the virus.
The Hantub Association dedicated its Auguts 3rd, 1974 muster to past and present fire chiefs of the town. In the adjacent photo from left to right:
Albert Caswell Sr., Chief 1950-1957; Chief Wilfred “Tideo” Beaulieu (1971—1988 and Robert Keller who were chief’s from 1958-1970) - Service from 1950-1988
 It carried 750 gallons in its own tank and came equipped with a Stang Deck gun, 2500 Watt generator, 2 Scott Air Packs, 2000 ft. 2V2 inch hose, 700 ft. 1/2 inch hose, 500 ft. booster line, and smoke ejector.
 The Committee was comprised of Jay Dugal, Judi Harvey, Jeff Anderson, Karl Gilbert, Frank Schanda, and Roy Kent. Their report and recommendations can be found on our website.
 John Elmer Kent had bought Bennett’s stable in 1895.
 Elm Street
 This engine house at the corner of South Street and South Main remained active until 1950, after the old Primary School (Site No. 10) had been rebuilt into a new fire station.
 Nellie Palmer George, Old Newmarket. 1932