Organization of the Pottsville Fire Department
The Pottsville Fire Department was organized in 1877 with the following five charter member companies:
– Good Intent Fire Company No. 1
– Phoenix Fire Company No. 2 [Formerly Schuylkill Hydraulians]
– Humane Hose and Steam Fire Company [currently Humane Fire Company No. 1]
– American Hose Company No. 2 [Formerly Rough & Ready Fire Company]
– Atkins Fire Company [Later Disbanded]
Atkins Fire Company
The fifth member of the department, Atkins Fire Company was organized on September 29, 1873. The applications for the charter was filed on that date at the Prothonotary’s office and the charter was recorded in December, 1873. The company was formed as a protection to the Fishbach mill and the adjacent property in the sixth ward. At that time, there was a Men’s Club connected with a chapel in that part of town. The club had been formed as a debating society and to provide recreation for the men who worked at the mill. There were about 125 members. A discussion arose as to what should be done with the dues which had been collected, and it was resolved to form a fire company and appropriate the funds for the purchase of a hose carriage. The company met for some time in a small 1½ story frame building opposite Doerflinger’s packing house. The borough built a brick building on the site of this building, the old frame building being sold for $510. April 17, 1894, the Atkins Fire Company went out of existence, the borough minute book stating that, “the Borough being burdened with too many fire companies, the Atkins Company was read out of service.” The hose carriage was stored in a stable for a time and during the firemen’s parade for the county centennial in 1911, it was drawn by boys in the line of march.
***Some of the history of the Atkins Fire Company is referenced from J.H. Zerbey’s History of Schuylkill County (1933).
More Companies Join
The Yorkville Hose Company would later take the place of the Atkins Fire Company in the Pottsville Fire Department. The Good Will, West End, and Greenwood Hill Fire Companies were later admitted membership after their organization in the years that followed. The companies joining the organization after the initial charter were not permitted to have red apparatus colors. Yorkville had white apparatus for many years, Good Will still has white apparatus to this day, Greenwood Hill has always had orange apparatus, and the West End previously had lime colored apparatus, and their old emergency car was black.
Interesting Dates In PFD History
1858 – The Young Americans Junior Fire Company formed under the auspices of the Good Intent. They disbanded on 7/4/1866 when the wheels were stolen from the apparatus.
1890 – The Gamewell Box System was installed in Pottsville. The fire alarm bell was installed at the Humane Fire Company tower, 3rd & Laurel Streets.
1910 – The Good Intent Fire Company purchased the first motorized apparatus in the City, a Robinson 700 GPM triple combination pumper, at a cost of $8,500.00. In 1914 the Good Intent was the only fire company assigned to respond to all boxes.
The oldest fire company in the City of Pottsville, well here is a great debate for historians. It all depends on how you want to classify it.
The Schuylkill Hydraulians were the first organized fire company in the City in 1829. However the Hydraulians briefly disbanded to fight in the Civil War then reformed under their current name, Phoenix Fire Company.
The Humane Fire Company is the oldest continuous charter in the City also dating back to 1829. However they were originally formed under the name Pottsville Fire Company, then became the Humane Hose and Steam Fire Company in 1859, and in 1939 again amended their charter to become the Humane Fire Co. No. 1.
The Good Intent lays some claim to this “oldest” company debate in that they were organized in 1846 and forever remained under that same charter, and name.
The oldest standing firehouse in the City is Humane’s original building at 14 North 3rd Street, presently occupied by the Historical Society of Schuylkill County. This building was the home of Humane beginning in 1829, and was later used as the Town Hall.
The oldest occupied station house is the American Hose, where the cornerstone was laid on September 9, 1876. The next oldest is the Good Intent dating back to June 17, 1882.
Station Numbering System
Where does the station numbering system come from? Good question, right now I have no positive history on where the Station numbering system comes from. There are a few stories about it, but nothing concrete.
It definitely does not go by the age of the companies, you could argue age stating that Good Intent (10) is the oldest continuous name, followed by Phoenix (20), and Humane (30). But that theory falls apart at Good Will (40) since the Good Will was formed in 1882, after the American Hose (70) which was formed in 1848.
Geographical location doesn’t make much sense since the farthest company South is American Hose (70), the farthest North is Good Will (40), the farthest West is Yorkville (60), and the farthest East (throwing out Greenwood Hill since they didn’t form until 1946) is Phoenix (20). So geography doesn’t work.
Another logical choice is alphabetical, but that doesn’t work either. There is one story that the numbering system came from the way the apparatus lined up for parades many years ago, this is possibly where it came from but I am unable to confirm that at this time.