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 disaster.

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 stands, burned.

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 Empire Block.

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.

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Created 4/8/02
Updated 11/18/02
Copyright © 2002 Paul McLaughlin/ Judy Breedlove/ Martha S. Magill
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