The Founding of Washington Hose and Steam Fire Engine Company No.1

In 1871, a fire at a Fayette Street business destroyed the building, caused the death of the proprietor and threatened the borough's business district. Later, a fire at the Plymouth blast furnace, which was located within the boundary of Conshohocken, escalated beyond the control of the furnace-men and their factory's fire fighting equipment. As a result, vital employment was lost while the furnace was being rebuilt.

Norristown's firemen were generous in their response to calls for help, but the time required to move their man-drawn pumper over the unpaved roads of a century ago, limited the county seat firefighters in their efforts to aid their Conshohocken neighbors.

Many agreed that Conshohocken must have its own fire company, and after a informal meeting of borough residents in Charles Wells' market near the Reading Railroad depot, a formal town meeting was convened on December 13, 1873. Thirty-eight men responded to the popular invitation to meet at Davis Stemple's Hall on Hector and Forrest Street to organize a hose and steam company for the Borough of Conshohocken.

The organization elected Jacob M. Ulrick, president; James Colen, vice president; John S. Moore, secretary; E.B. Nuss Sr., assistant secretary; William Howard treasurer. James M. Ulrick presided over the meeting and William Heywood was secretary. Thirty-eight citizens signified their intention of joining the company. The officers convened a committee to secure a charter and the initiation fee of $1.00 instituted.

No time was lost in getting the company started and at the same meeting it was decided to purchase a second hand Clap fire engine, a hose carriage and 1000 feet of hose. A committee consisting of Jacob M. Ulrick , John Knox, John Fields, Thomas Robinson and John Smith was named to solicit subscriptions towards the purchase of a fire apparatus.

The following Saturday evening, December 20, 1873, the first stated meeting of the Washington Hose and Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 1, was held in Stemple's hall. The regular meeting night was set for the first Saturday evening in each month.

The new company moved fast in getting under way. A committee comprised of William Heywood, George Baker and William Nungesser was appointed to draft by-laws for the company and the secretary was instructed "to write to the Burgess and Town Council notifying them that we are now an organized body and wish to go on as such, keeping always in view the end for which we organized."

The new company was anxious to get in condition for service and met the following Saturday evening at six o'clock, sharp. A building committee was appointed consisting of President Ulrick, William Morrison, John Knox, William Nungesser, Joseph Bell, George Baker and Frank Harrison. An offer to sell the company an engine, carriage, and hose was received from Thomas H. Peto.

The future of the company was assured at the fourth meeting held on January 24, 1874, when members of town council attended the meeting and Frederick Light, spokesmen for the councilmen, informed the company that town council had voted $1,000 to the company for use in purchasing fire apparatus but that the company would have to enter into an agreement with the borough and council had instructed lawyer Charles Devis to draw the agreement. This good news started other activities to raise funds and it was decided the company would give a ball, the admission price to be $2 and the following committee was named to make the arrangements; J.M Ulrick, chairman; William Nungesser, John Heffeninger, Joseph Bell, William Heywood, john S. Moore, James Colen, H. Townsend, George Baker, John Knox, E.B. Nuss, M. Stemple, William Neil, Thomas Pope and J. Crossmore.