Fire Chief Silver Saves the day

    During his service with the Fire Department, Joseph Silver became the last fire chief of Tiger No. One.  The following article depicts the challenges Chief Silver had to work around.  It was written in 1916 by William Small, who himself was a member of the Newmarket Fire Department and on scene fighting the fire he describes.

    Silver was then chief of the Fire Department and well knowing that the fire hose owned by the town was worthless, he purchased a thousand feet of first class rubber lined knit cotton hose.  As the selectmen refused to authorize payment, the hose was stored in Chief Silver’s carriage house behind the hotel.  But it was that hose, coupled to the fire pumps of the NMCo which saved the business section of this town in the Durgin fire of March 11, 1894. 

    On the Sunday morning after the fire a town official who resided less than ¼ mile from the fire arose early from his couch, and in pajamas and slippers removed from his front doorstep his copy of a Boston Sunday paper. 

    The first page of the paper in big scary headlines was the startling announcement “Newmarket N.H.  All Burned Up, Loss $20,000” which was the first intelligence he had of the fire.

    At the time… the preparedness of Newmarket for the extinguishment of fire consisted of two old hand-tubs of the vintage of 1854, each equipped with a few lengths of old leather hose, one play pipe about six feet long and also one other relic of antiquity named a “blunderbuss.” 

    While the old hand-tubs did not have to be fed and watered every day, they semi-occasionally developed amazing appetites for alcohol and grease… The alcohol was used to keep the hand-tubs from freezing up, and as every time they were used the alcohol was forced out with the water, after every fire in the winter they must have a big drink of alcohol, while the steward must give the hose a dose of grease. 

    One winter the consumption of alcohol and grease…became so excessive and the expense for the same became so great that the chairman of the board of selectmen raved, and declared that during the remainder of his administration, at least, Newmarket would be a “dry” town for hand-tubs and that not another drop of alcohol should be put in them at the expense of the town….

    When the stewards after the next fire called for alcohol at the drug store they were informed there was “nothin’ doin’,” and the selectmen ordered that kerosene be substituted for alcohol, with the result that, as kerosene and water will not mix, the hand-tubs played several gallons of kerosene into the next fire, which was around the chimney on the roof of Chief Engineer Silver’s hotel.  

    The kerosene… made a fine display of fireworks, at which the firemen laughed many a laugh, while the numerous spectators fairly howled with delight.  The Tigers got the first stream of kerosene on, and the hilarity of the occasion was increased when as the Granites were seen coming a citizen widely noted for his big mouth and powerful lungs shouted, “Here comes Granite torch light procession No 2!” 

    An insurance company settled for the damage to the hotel by the payment of $122 to Mr. Silver.  The day after that fire the chairman of the board of selectmen went into the drug store and said to the proprietor “Mr. P—-, you may let the stewards have alcohol for the fire engines hereafter; Joe is madder’n a wet hen about their squirting kerosene at the fire on the roof of his hotel.”

    For more details in the article about the other uses of said alcohol,  see The Newmarket Advertiser, May 19, 1916 (p. 5)

    The above photograph is of the Silver Hotel  shortley after it was purchased by George H. Willey. The name over the entrance changed from Silver to Willey,  but the Victoreian Era renovations that Chief Silver had done to the hotel remained for several years until Mr. Willey made renovations of his own. He restored the facade back to the earlier colonial/federal style that we see today.