This recording of the History of the Witmer Fire Protective Association was printed in the 50th Anniversary Celebration Book. The celebration was held August 20 & 21, 1960 at Conestoga Valley High School, jointly, with the Ronks Fire Company and the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company who were also celebrating their 50th anniversaries. The material has been copied from the booklet as it was printed, with minor editing for better understanding for the reader.
On February 4, 1910, twenty five citizens met in the store of Harry Kreider for the purpose of taking necessary steps to provide fire protection for Witmer and it’s vicinity. It appeared the community would give it’s financial support and the Witmer Fire Protective Association was organized with Martin E. Brenner as President, Dr. Donald McCaskey as Secretary, William Eckman as Treasurer. The committee to formulate rules to govern the Association consisted of: John H. Denlinger, Samuel Hurst and Jacob E. Bachman. The Fund Committee consisted of John H. Denlinger, Samuel Hurst, John K. Lefever, Samuel Beiler, Bill Shaub and Harry Latschar. The reported funds were$315.00.
February 12, 1910 the Engine Committee discussed a number of chemical engines: the Ajax, Badger, O.N.B., American LaFrance.
March 14, 1910 is recorded as a very important day. A demonstration with an American LaFrance chemical engine, 40 gal. capacity was held. The engine was mounted on two wheels and had a revolving cylinder pulled by manpower, and had a basket and hose and place for chemical and soda. They had a test of the engine and several hundred spectators observed it, not only to put out a huge bonfire but also threw a stream of water a height of nearly 60 feet over the top of the furniture shop of Adam Miller, a local Witmer merchant. The committee checked among people who witnessed the operation, everything being satisfactory, they bought the equipment. They also purchased a dozen buckets and two rubber suits.
James T. Troop was elected the first Fire Chief with Jacob Melinger, Ralph Miller, Harry Good, and Stephen King serving as Line Officers (?). David Kemmerly was Assistant.
Women played a part in shaping the course of events and the Witmer Fire Protective Association was no exception. In the early summer we find recorded that the Witmer sewing Circle, or Congenial County Co-Workers attended a meeting and offered their assistance in holding a festival to raise funds for the Fire Company.
They were rained out at the festival held July 16, 1910. They peddled their ice cream and turned in the sum of $18.05 to the men.
The second festival was held August 19th and 20th. The Committee consisted of Aldus Simmons, Amos Coble, Martin Coble and Will Shaub. They had a net profit of $159.43.
The records of September 16, 1911 indicate new apparatus was purchased from Mr. Brackbill of Strasburg, for the sum of $122.00. The fire truck was guaranteed to carry 2500 pounds for a period of twelve years. It was made to fit the 10 x 18 engine house and enough room to spare for chemical engine.
The fire truck was a two-horse spring wagon with low wheels in front, known as a cut-under for short turns, but the over-all length was too great for the fire house and the fire-eaters had to attach the tongue to the fire truck before they could go into action.
Mr. Adam Miller purchased harness in Philadelphia and reported at next meeting that the harness was working fine. There was also a gong committee and were instructed to install same.
The first Ways and Means Committee was appointed September 11, 1911. They also discussed providing for larger quarters. Land was leased from the Pennsylvania Railroad for the sum of $1.00 per year. By the spring of 1912 an agreement was reached. The Fire House was built by William Eckman, a local contractor.
The first meeting was held August 6, 1912 at 8:00 P.M. The first item of business was a report of a festival held that summer with a net profit of $235.45. The meeting room was nicely furnished with benches, lamps, hat racks, table, stove, and spittoons. The cleanest kind of a floor had been left as a result of the ladies of the Witmer Aid Society.
Window shades for the upstairs room were furnished by a window shade manufacturer and it was agreed to let them have their advertisement on shades.
In 1915, it is recorded that “This is the goal of all fire companies but it is seldom reached. No fires for the year.”
1915 claims to have more activity, with a series of queries of the greatest importance being weather it would be advisable to secure a charter or to motorize.
After the necessary investigation and formality, a petition was made to the Lancaster County Court for a charter. It was granted December 17, 1917. It is well worth while to view this work of penmanship.
1917 will also be remembered for another decision. After due consideration it was decided to motorize.
The records for February 13, 1917 state the following: They received bids for new fire truck. Manhattan Garage quoted: 1 rust truck chassis at $500.00. Will assist in collecting money and donate $25.00 if above is purchased. Small consideration for collecting money to be decided by us.
Penn Auto Company: One 35 gallon tank, 150 feet of hose and all equipment complete, mounted on Vim chassis for $1350.00.
Oshen Chain Boyer Company: New Ford Chassis guaranteeing 1150 pounds, all equipment complete, demountable rims, electric search light, lanterns, crow bar and axe, etc. $1050.00 delivered. Also charges for actual fires for five years.
Purchased Ford chassis from Neuhauser Bros., Bird-in-Hand, for the sum of $255.00. It had been decided to purchase at this time the following: two 35 gallon tanks, 150 feet of hose, four ply, with couplings, 1 brass nozzle, 1 extra acid receptacle, 1 soda canister, 2 head lights, 2 side lights, 1 tail light, necessary wrenches. Regular equipment with Ford chassis, Goodyear tires, rails with ladder hangers and painted standard color.
The 1921entry states : The Lancaster County Fireman’s Association was organized to bring about a better understanding among fire companies and to encourage co-operation and co-ordination in fire company matters. For some unknown reason, it was 1926 before it was officially discussed by the Witmer Fire Protective Association and a decision was made to join. The first delegates were: Mr. Martin E. Brenner and Mr. harry M. Weaver.
1926 con’t. The matter of more up-to-date equipment to meet the increased demands was again the matter of important discussion. The purchase of a Seldon truck from the Buffalo Company, consisting of : 2 chemical tanks, 350 gallon Hale rotary pump, 6 charges, 1 bell, 3 hand extinguishers, 30 feet suction hose at a cost of $5900.00.
In 1927, the company held a sale of obsolete equipment. The records also read “Installed a siren. This siren is in service at the present time. Installed a phone in the Chief’s house.”
In 1929 Jonas Helm presented the Company with gavel and block.
In December, 1930 The Witmer Fire Protective Association was host to the Lancaster County Fireman’s Association.
On August 6, 1931 A Fireman’s Relief Association was organized.
On November 2, 1932 The Ladies’ Auxiliary was organized. The record reads “It would be quite difficult to do justice to this laudable undertaking, and we let their deeds speak for them. The Ladies’ Auxiliary has been of material assistance and an inspiration to the Firemen of the Witmer Fire Protective Association.”
On March 11, 1935, Past President W. A. Smith suggested that we give some thought to erecting a new fire hall at some future date.
On December 9, 1935, Witmer went for nationwide publicity. It is recorded that an article titled “Matches for smoke ignites whiskers of Santa Claus.” Was published, reading:
Lancaster, PA., December 10, 1935. A.P. A good time was had by all at the Witmer Firemen’s Christmas Party until Santa Claus’ whiskers caught fire. Santa behind the hand, or rather behind the whiskers. It was Paul Rye who lighted a cigarette after passing around the gifts. Then it happened. Fellow firemen tore away the crackling whiskers, and part of Rye’s costume. He was given First Aid for burns about the face and upper part of his body. He is recouperating at home.
On April 12, 1937 A committee to investigate and negotiate for the purchase of a site for the erection of a fire house was selected.
In 1940, Our membership was 544. Activities included: Chicken Corn Soup Suppers, Big Shot Night and Plays. More new equipment included an E. F. Mack that was purchased and built to our Firemen’s own specifications at a cost of $2339.25. This truck was in service at the time of the 50th anniversary celebration in 1960.
On July 10, 1944 the company bought the present site of the fire hall from Menno G. Sauder – at the time, a lot consisting of 11ft. front, 283 ft. depth, for the sum of $898.00.
In 1945 the Association appointed a committee to secure plans for the new fire hall. The Committee consisted of: Menno G. Sauder, Sherwood A. Miller, Jonas S. Helm, William Plank and William Latschar. It was necessary to secure blueprints and have same approved by the Public Service Comission, Harrisburg, Pa.
The Excavating of Witmer Fire Protective Association’s new Fire Hall took place September 4, 1947.
The November 1948 meeting was the first meeting held in the new fire hall.
This building was completed at a cost of $23,711.67. We had a Building Fund for this purpose. At this time they had a mortgage of $9,000.00.
On October 29, 1948 Dedication ceremonies were held in the new Fire Hall.
In 1949 the association sold the old, vacated Fire House.
In 1948 the association purchased a 500 gallon Hale Centrifugal pump at a cost of $1400.00. This was installed by our Firemen at a saving of several hundred dollars.
In 1952 The President appointed the following committee for the mortgage burning ceremony: Jesse Mellinger, Clarence Burkholder and Menno Sauder. This was held January 22, 1953.
We purchased an American portable pump. More land was brought from Menno Sauder to increase the parking area and a two-way radio was installed on our fire truck.
Through the years to the present time, the Ladies’ Auxiliary and the Witmer Fire Protective Association keep active by holding regular meetings and having suppers to maintain Fire Hal and equipment for the purpose of fire protection to this community.
This excerpt, which has been edited, gives a good description of the “older” history of the association. In time, we will make an attempt to update this page with “newer” history as more research is done and records are reviewed.