No record was kept of the laddies who "died in harness," previous to the organization of the present system.
The first death of this character of which there is a record, is that of Charles Richards, who was connected with the department for years. He contracted typhoid fever, followed by brain trouble, resulting in death. He was a good fireman and was respected by his fellow firemen.
The next death was that of Joseph Kratochwill, a commissioner, who passed away September 21, 1887, after a short illness. He was a citizen of well tried probity, earnest in all things, and invaluable in many respects. His public and private character was of a nature to place him among Dayton's most respected and influential citizens.
On the 26th of January, 1889, William O'Connell an efficient fireman, died from injuries received by being run over by a railroad train. He was considered a brave and noble member of the department, and his untimely end was greatly regretted by his companions.
The next death was that of William Wright, a very efficient and capable fireman. He had spent some years in the tropical climate in South America in service in the U. S. Navy, and on his return, the climate and hard, irregular life of a fireman, proved too much for him. He contracted pneumonia, which followed by hasty consumption, resulted in his death, January 25, 1891.
In the same year, two more worthy firemen were called to the great beyond; their deaths being due to pneumonia, the result of severe colds contracted at fires. The first was Samuel Randall, who died April 26, 1891, and the other Frank Schaffer who died December 10, 1891. Both are credited in memory as having been good firemen.
The department enjoyed a long respite from death after the year 1891. On September 16, 1899, Adam Dixon, an old fireman, and for years one of the most trusted members of the department, died. After the great Gebhart Lumber Yard and Lutheran Church fire, he took ill, due to exhaustion and exposure, finally resulting in his death. Charles Hagen also one of the bravest men on the force, has never recovered from the effects of this same fire, and though still alive, is a bed-ridden paralytic, perfectly helpless.
On April 29, 1900, the tolling of the alarm bell told of the death of William Getzendanner, another worthy fireman, who gave the best years of his life in service, protecting Dayton property and lives from fire.
The last death recorded is that of James Bear, who died on May 16, 1900, from injuries received the night before, by being thrown from one of the vehicles while running to a fire. The accident occurred on the corner of Webster and Second Streets. Mr. Bear served as a fireman for many years, and was among the valued members of the department.
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