HISTORY OF ILION VOLUNTEER FIREMEN
VILLAGE OF ILION
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y.
The following is taken from "Ilion 1852-1952." We thank the Mayor and other officials of Ilion for
granting us permission to provide this information to our visitors.
The history of the Volunteer Fire Department in the Village of Ilion
began a few years after the incorporation of the Village in 1852, and
some 35 years after the establishment of the Remington Armory in 1828.
The village had grown from 7 dwellings, 2 storehouses and one school to
a thriving metropolis of approximately 2880 souls. It was in the days
of mud roads, cinder sidewalks and the Erie Canal, the days of
arm-strong power, twisted mustaches, leather top boots, and the days of the
Ilion Independent and Loyal Herkimer Citizen.
Leaders in industry, the Remington Arms Company in 1863 took the
iniative and organized the Armory Hose Company composed of 48 volunteers,
all employees of the Remington Armory. Resplendent in their red shirts,
they were as proud of their uniforms as the Volunteers of today.
R. R. Bennett was appointed first chief engineer and Alfred Brooks and
Kitzmiller, 1st and 2nd engineers. The equipment consisted of 3 hand
operated pumps in charge of John E. Dodge. The company boasted of such
names as John Islam, Jacob Wells, Richard Winegar, J. F. Haley, A. N.
Ross, John Seaver, Summer, Wilcox, Servis, Groves, Alonzo Rasbach,
Kinney, Ballard, Kane, Harter, and many others.
Progressive and in back of every worthwhile civic betterment and
improvement, the Village Board, then as today, in 1870 purchased a new hand
engine for $1200 and formed Excelsior Hose Company No. 2 which later
became known as the C. W. Carpenter Hose Company and today is known as
Ilion Hose Company No. 2. Ilion Hose Company No. 1 is the original
Armory Hose Company formed by the Remington Armory in 1863.
After the establishment of the Remington Typewriter Company in 1874,
the population of the village increased to 4500 and in 1876 the village
purchased two Silsbee Rotary Streamers for $4,000 each.
The Ilion Water Supply System was installed in 1891 and the Fire Alarm
System in 1911 under the supervision of George O. Luce, the then fire
chief of the Ilion Volunteer Fire Department. In 1913 the first motor
fire truck was purchased and it was about this time our present chief
associated himself with the Ilion Fire Department. The fire department
was entirely volunteer until 1919 when the paid Fire Department was
organized withGeorge O. Luce, its first chief, succeeded by Sanford Getman.
The present chief, Charles France, was appointed in 1952.
Throughout the years Ilion has had its famous fires. There are those
today who may recall the Maben Opera House fire in 1878. Built in
1870 and enlarged in 1874 to a seating capacity of 1000, it became famous
throughout the State of New York as a place of entertainment and
gayity. In 1878 the rear and upper floor was destroyed by fire and it was
due only to the tireless efforts of the volunteers that the entire
structure was not destroyed. it was afterwards repaired and served its
community for many years for the holding of graduation excercises,
conventions, minstrels and movies.
In 1885 one of the Remington Cartridge buildings caught on fire.
Flying cartridge shells made fire-fighting most hazardous, but the blaze
was finally brought under control and extinguished without serious
The Nigabower fire occured in the fall of '88, during the night time.
Nigabower's Furniture Store was then located on the corner of Morgan
and Main Streets where the best Hardware Store now stands. The rear of
the store was used for living quarters. The fire was extinguished and a
search afterwards revealed the bodies of the owner and his daughter on
the third floor of the building where they had died from suffacation.
This is the only known Ilion fire which resulted in loss of life.
Perhaps one of the largest fires ever experienced in Ilion occurred in
1890 when the Ilion Skating Rink on Union Street, the Osgood Hotel Barn
to the rear of Russell's Drug Store, two stores on Main Street and the
roof of the Osgood Hotel where the Manufacturer's National Bank now
This was followed by the Grimes and Pelton Block fire in 1891, the
Hotaling Block fire in 1913, Morgan Mills in 1920 and somewhat later the
Other serious Ilion fires through the years include the Empire Block
on Central Avenue on Sunday, October 27, 1940; the Hotaling Block on
February 12, 1914, and the presbyterian Church fire in 1912.