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Illustrated History of the Dayton Fire Department
The Present Department




What has been Accomplished Since its Organization Twenty Years Ago.

Facts of Interest.


For several years prior to 1880 there had been serious complaint about the Fire Department—mainly because it was governed by politics, and finally in April 1880, the legislature passed an act establishing the present Metropolitan Department, which of necessity, under this act, is bi-partisan.

The first commissioners appointed were John S. Miles, J. Linxweiler, Jr., John K. Mclntire and E. F. Pryor. The last named has been a com-missioner continuously since the organization of the department, and in July will have served twenty years. The next in length of service is Mr. A. C. Nixon, who at the expiration of his present term, which expires April 15, 1891, will have served eighteen years. He and Albert Beebe were the two first commissioners appointed after the organization of the metropolitan department. Then followed Joseph Kratochwill, who served to his death, from 1883 to 1887. Michael A. Nipgen was appointed July 5, 1886, and at the expiration of his present term, July 5, 1902, will have served sixteen consecutive years. Charles H. Ware was appointed in 1888, and his successor, Charles Francisco was chosen in April, 1900.

There is not a man who has served on the commission, but what has proven himself a credit to the office, and the same is predicted and expected of the new member.

The first commissioners upon assuming control of the department in 1880, made this statement to the public in their first report:

"Upon assuming the management of the department, the board found it without a chief Officer, themselves inexperienced, and a general reorganization imperative. The houses in many cases were needing repairs- New hose was needed. The number of horses were not sufficient to move the apparatus, and in many respects the department was greatly in need of immediate improvement. The Committee on Fire Department of Council doubtless realized this state of affairs, as fully as we, but were as helpless financially, as we, to remedy the evil, and with less authority under the law, to raise funds for present wants.

"It has been the aim of the commissioners, as fast as possible, to effect a thorough discipline throughout the department; to get the department out of politics, and away from its influences; to encourage the men to make the business of a fireman a permanent one during efficient services and good behavior."

The first year of the metropolitan department, Council cut the levy for fire purposes, resulting in the department getting $2,000 less than the last year, it was conducted by a committee of Council, and yet they managed to make considerable improvements, and to add five men to the department. The improvements have been continuous from that day to this, always dependent on the money granted the department by the Council, and later, the Tax Commission, B. C. A. and Council. The principles enunciated by the first commission appointed have never been lost sight of, and are carried out with this as much determination today as in the beginning, and to this fact as much as any other is attributed the advanced condition the department now enjoys.

Today it is the possessor of about $202,000 worth of property, is much better equipped, comparison, than twenty years ago, but still is without many necessities for fighting fires, such as the city now with her extensive structures, is at any time liable to have. The present truck and ladder outfit is entirely inadequate for the tall buildings in the city, and while the city is fairly well mained with water, there are sections, thickly built up, where the mains are too small to maintain a pressure, with several lines of hose in use, to be effective on a serious fire; hence the necessity for a powerful engine. These two instances are here cited only as a means of. showing the disadvantages the department has and is laboring under, and to convey to one's mind the degree of efficiency the department is entitled to, in spite of these disadvantages. A fire well started, with a high wind to fan it, in the neighborhood of the Malleable Iron Works, would place the department in desperate straits, be-cause of the condition here cited, and there are other just as valuable property jeopardized by the same means.

The Department for the past few years has numbered from seventy-two to seventy-eight men, substitutes and relief men included, and has been conducted economically, the cost averaging about $65,000 per year. The following is the personnel of the department at present: Commissioners, E. F. Pryor, M. A. Nipgen, A. C. Nixon and Charles C. Francisco.

Daniel C. Larkin, Chief, Frank B. Ramby and George W. Kirby, Assistant Chiefs.


HOUSE No. 1 - CENTRAL.                 HOUSE No. 2 - EASTERN.

Stephen Green, Captain.                    John Korns, Captain.

Harry Engle.                                      Charles Click.

Edward Madigan.                               Frank Silmerhalter.

Henry Harbarger.                                Frank Hagedorn.

George Nienabor.                               Andrew Poock.

George Griesmeyer.                           William Cunningham.

August Fisher.                                   Ellsworth Harrington.

William Flanigan.

Paul Daly.

Christopher Sherry.

William Cain.


HOUSE No. 3 – WESTERN                HOUSE No. 4 – MAIN STREET

Charles Tuhey, Captain.                     O. K. Cotterman, Captain

Luther Garwood.                                Thos. Hoban.

William Gerkins.                                Charles Wagner.

Edward McKenny.                             William Clark.

William Loeb.                                    Peter Caufield.

Michael Gavin.                                  Lupton Walton.

Clyde Vanden.                                  Jones Hash.

Henry Dietrich.

Edward Geilser.                        

Albert Crew.

Joseph Barnwell.

Charles McKenize.



Thos. Taylor.                                     Daniel Kallaher, Captain.

John Corson.                                     Elmer Mackrodt.

Gilbert Reilly.                                    Charles Kalbfleisch.

James Staley.                                   William Lumby.

                                                        Jos. Byrne.

                                                       William Silzell.

                                                       Michael Holhahn.



John Sheehy.                                  Daniel Maloney.

George Coy.                                   William Plunkett.

John Morrissey.                               Herman Koepnick.

William Hunter.                                James Grady.



Edward Doudna .                             Charles Taylor.

Jos. Huesman.                                William Kramer.

William Culbert.                               Robert Donoghue.

Charles Ferris.                                 William Eckert.



Michael McCarthy.                           Daniel Wolfrath.

Lawrence Kirchner.                          Charles Samuels.

Albert Fiorini.                                   Michael Caulfield.

Henry Swalem.                                Anthony Boga.



Charles Murphy.

Matthew Gitzinger.

William Hughey.



The efficiency of the department is best understood by the reputation it bears for prompt and effective work. No department in Ohio stands higher with the insurance companies and persons whose business is such as to compel an interest on their part in the fire departments. In the twenty years, since the organization of the present regime, Dayton has had 3728 fires, an average of 189 each year. During the past five years the number of fires has increased greatly, the number being as great as in fifteen years proceeding 1895. From 1880 to 1895 the city suffered from 1904 fires, of all kinds, descriptions and magnitude, and since then there have been 1824 fires, 330 in 1895, 353 in 1896, 207 in 1897, 304 in 1898, 323 in 1899 and 307 in 1900. These dates comprehend the fiscal year, ending with March 31st.

The loss on the fires for the first period mentioned was $683,402.76, and for the latter $883,387.94, of which nearly three-fourths occurred during the year here specified as 1900. The insurance involved in these fires aggregated about $12,000,000, and in many instances, there was no insurance carried, such cases amounting to about $50,000 in the twenty years of the department's existence.

The years 1899 and 1900, covering the fiscal year from March to March, was the most destructive Dayton has ever experienced, exceeding in total loss that of 1869. The great First Street fire, the two fires at Gebhart's Lumber Yard, the first also resulting in the destruction of the St. John's German Evangelical Lutheran Church on Third Street; the Dayton Spice Mills fire, the Globe Planing Mill fire, and others of lesser importance occurred within this year, bringing the per capita loss, estimating the population of the city at 90,000, to nearly $6.00. This was only exceeded once before, in 1869, when, because of the difference in population the per capita loss was greater, but the total loss less than the past year.

It is quite probable Dayton will lead the list in losses for the year, "but it is the dark chapter of the department’s history. The following shows the average per capita loss of nine of the leading cities of Ohio, for the five years from 1889 to 1894. Akron, $3.80; Cleveland, $2.84, Cincinnati, $2.90; Columbus, $4.89; Dayton, 8.88; Springfield, $1.81; Toledo, $4.57; Youngstown, $.95; Zanesville, $2.37.


The following table shows the efficiency of the department, as compared with other cities, giving the average per capita loss for the past five years. They are compiled by the statistical committee of the National Board of Under-writers, and are accepted as officially correct:

  1894        1895       1896       1897       1898

Akron .......................                $ 3.74      $2.54      $2.41      $1.34       $3.41

Canton......................                ........         ..........    1.12        1.44        2.10

Cincinnati..................                   1.63        2.11       1.14        1.89         1.21

Cleveland..................                    1.51        1.41        1.24       1.48        1.33

Columbus..................                   2.05        3.85        ..........      .86         .46

Dayton......................                     .84          .25         .74          .37        1.10

Springfield…………...                    3.33         1.85         .17         .18           .34

Toledo.......................                 10.90         2.19       2.07        1.56         4.73

Youngstown…..........                      .81           .85        .83        2.44           .60

Zanesville..................                    ......         2.62        .40        1.28           .72


These figures show the total average per capita loss in Dayton for five years to be 66 cents per year, as against $1.10 for Youngstown and $1.17 for Springfield for the same years, they being the two next lowest. Toledo's per capita loss for five years $4.29; Columbus, $1.80; Cincinnati, $1.59; and Cleveland, $1.39.  The levy for fire protection in all these cities exceeds that of Dayton greatly. In Toledo, the expense of their department for the past five years has exceeded $150,000. This city has the benefit of a law providing for not less than two and one-half mills levy for fire purposes, while Dayton's average for the past few years, including the present levy is one and one-half mills, giving the department about $65,000, as against Toledo's $150,000. In Columbus—these three cities, Columbus, Toledo and Dayton, ranking together, though Dayton surpasses both in point of manufacturing, and consequently probable large fires—the department exceeds $200,000 in its annual expense.

Detroit, which is given credit for possessing the best and most efficient fire department in the country, has only twice in the past twenty years had a lower annual per capita loss than Dayton, and the per capita expense is twice as great.


The following taken from the report of the Committee on Statistics of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, covering eleven cities of the country, that rank with Dayton in size and population, presents an interesting array of facts bearing on the efficiency of the Dayton Department, The population of the cities is from 75,000 to 110,000, and the per capita loss is given for the two last years reported, 1898 and 1899.


1899         1898

Los Angeles, Cal. ...................$ 2.80        $ 1.30

Hartford, Conn……………………   .87             .94

Evansville, Ind. ………………….  1.00             .72

Des Moines, Iowa………………   1.60           1.21

Cambridge, Mass...................... 2.54            .55

Grand Rapids, Mich. ................. 1.12            .48

Reading, Pa.............................. 1.32          1.07

Houston, Texas..........................2.25          1.54

Salt Lake City, Utah...................1.20          1.74

Troy, N. Y…………………………   .65          1.87

Dayton .....................................1.10            .37


When the present regime was inaugurated in 1880, there were nineteen men serving as firemen for the city. Before the close of the year the number was increased to twenty-eight, and year after year, as the growth of the city required it, more men, houses and apparatus were added, until now the membership numbers seventy-six, with two vacancies to fill, there are twelve fire houses, all moderately well equipped, excepting the large central houses, where, as heretofore stated, more improved and larger apparatus is needed, two more fire houses are to be added, one in Miami City, and the other in Riverdale, as soon as they can be erected. The plans are all perfected, and they will be erected before the end of the year, when several additional firemen will be added to the force.

A law was passed by the last legislature, increasing the pay of Dayton firemen, but it is a law that remains inoperative until such time as the municipal authorities see fit to put it in operation by providing the necessary money the increase demands.

Among the men now in service: Robert Donoghue, stationed at the Edgemont House, has been the longest in continuous service—twenty-five years, though George W. Kirby and Henry Swalem were firemen some years previous to Donoghue's appointment. They however left the department at different times, but always drifted back again. They are both considered among the most valued men on the force. William Culbert, stationed at the Dayton View House is another "old timer" and valued man, having served twenty-one years continuously, and next to him is Chief Larkin, who in July will have completed his twentieth year. There are a number of the men who have put in ten years or more in the service.

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