“Who Says There’s No Fire Department in Quakertown?”
"What's all this talk about organizing a fire department for the Pittstown-Quakertown area?", Dr. Morris H Leaver asked Kenneth Myers. "Why, there's been one in Quakertown for 25 years!"
Hunterdon County Democrat, 1951
From its beginnings as a Quaker community in the early 1700s to its development into a thriving agricultural district in the late 19th century, the area now known as Pittstown has had an overwhelming sense of community and fellowship throughout its history. It should come as no surprise then, that in 1914, community members banded together to form the first local fire protection organization in Franklin Township- the Quakertown Fire Company. By October 15th 1915, they were officially incorporated, led by 9 charter members:
Dr. Leaver, Charles Mathews, Edward Martin, Wallace Suydam, Gardner Hoagland, Arthur England, Fred Nixon, George Race and Frank Robinson.
In 1916, the first piece of apparatus was purchased, a chemical engine from the Watchung Fire Company, for a staggering $25. It was delivered via the Lehigh Valley Railroad to then operating Pittstown Station for an additional $3.94. The apparatus answered only one call for service, which would prove fateful. While being towed by car enroute to the fire, the engine overturned in an intersection. The damage was deemed catastrophic, and the engine was retired to Dr. Leaver's barn, where it would later be scrapped. The Company became dormant soon afterwards, to be forgotten, were it not for the memory of Dr Leaver.
In 1951, the citizens of Pittstown once again saw the need for a fire department in their town. While fire departments from Clinton, Kingwood, and Flemington responded to the area, residents felt as though a station was needed locally to improve response times. On April 30th, a public forum was held at the Franklin Township School. A new organization was proposed, what they believed to be the first in Franklin. That plan changed, however, when Dr. Leaver arrived. He explained that not only did a Fire Company formerly exist, but it's incorporation remained. What's more- while there had been no activity within the organization for a quarter-century, they had a balance of $21.14 in the treasury. There was still even quorum for a meeting of the Quakertown Fire Company of days past. A week later, Ernest Oakes, the original Vice President, called the meeting to order, with Dr. Leaver, Charles Mathews, Harry Oakes, and Clarence Haver present. Dr. Leaver, continuing his role as secretary-treasurer of the Company, read the minutes from the last meeting- May 10th, 1916. That night, those 5 voted to suspend the bylaws and induct 46 new members into the Quakertown Fire Company. The reorganization had begun, and there was once again a fire department in Quakertown.
The membership of the Company was as follows-
Kenneth Myers- President
William T. Snyder- Vice President
Joseph Kreitler- Secretary
Joseph E. Stout- Treasurer
Dr. M.H. Leaver- Trustee
W. Clifford Eichlin- Trustee
Edward J. Arnitz- Trustee
By Laws Committee
C. Barton Smith
Water Supply Committee
James B. Raesly
John W. Little
James D. Lowmaster
Albert C. Leaver
Peter P. Burger
Franklin H. Rozzo
Robert R. Theisz
Julius F. Lautner
Albert J. Barrick
Manning L. Douglass
Harry P. Britton
Freeman L. Cole
Robert E. Allen
H. Richard Compton
Carl von Ehrn
Delaven J. Mathews
In November, the first operational officers were elected. Charles Conover was elected chief in absentia. John W. Snyder and Lloyd J. Trout were named to the board of trustees. Harry Britton was named chief engineer. Chad Gerow was named fire marshal.
In 1953, a triple combination pumper was purchased from W.S. Darley & Co. at a cost of $9,634.05. The first fire answered by the pumper was a triple-barn fire in Flemington on Harry Mannon's property. The barns burned, but the farmhouse was saved by the teamwork of the Flemington and Quakertown crews.
In February of the same year, a tenant house on Clifford Snyder's property caught fire. In an effort to escape the blaze, 4 children jumped from the 14 foot windows and were thankfully caught by their father.
The Quakertown Engine responded in two and a half minutes. Fire damage was limited to the residence's kitchen. First Assistant Chief Al Barrick led the operation.
In February of 1954, the engine was still located in Harry Britton's garage, with the tanker quartered in Charles Conover's Quakertown farm. The Company covered all of Franklin Township, and parts of Union and Alexandria. The Company consisted of 90 men, and had just purchased their second self contained breathing apparatus. The company considered multiple properties, including John Snyder's land in Pittstown, adjoining with the train station. This area was deemed by the Fire Underwriters Lab to be most suitable due to its central location and the availability of manpower in the area, but the land itself required much work, and was prone to flooding. Ultimately, it was decided to purchase a plot from the Quaker Hill development, on Quakertown Road. The firehouse still stands on this property, 67 Quakertown Road, despite much renovation and expansion. Much of the funds used to purchase the land were raised by the Quakertown Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary, who maintained an independent membership of 89 women, their own bylaws, and treasury. The Ladies fundraised constantly, holding bazaars, dances, plays and sales. There is no doubt that the Quakertown Fire Company as it stands today would never have been possible without the efforts of the Ladies Auxiliary.
While apparatus, members, and fires changed, the Company remained much the same after 1954. The mission remained the same as it was in 1914, "to protect life and property from fire in the village of Quakertown and in the surrounding community."
In 1969, our first Mack was purchased, a CF600 engine. The engine featured four seated riding positions, a 500 gallon water tank and 1000 gallon per minute pump. The truck served in a first-out capacity until 1996, and is maintained as a reserve engine to this day.
In the late 1980's, a fatal accident involving two young residents led members to strive for a change in their community. The firemen arrived at the accident first, but had no means to extricate the victims, who were trapped in the vehicle. Rescue squads from Clinton and Kingwood responded, but it proved too long of a wait. Hydraulic rescue tools were purchased and placed on the 1987 Mack R Rescue Truck. QFC became the first fire department in Hunterdon County to provide vehicle rescue services, and in 1996 placed the first "Squad" in service, a Mack Saulsbury Rescue Pumper.
As a private organization, the Company received funds from Franklin, Union, and Alexandria Townships for their services, but relied heavily on fundraising events to purchase vehicles and equipment as well as maintain the firehouse. Weddings, banquets, dinners, fish frys, and most famously breakfasts, were held frequently by the Company and Ladies Auxiliary. At this point, with calls rising over 10% annually, the Fire Company looked to the residents of Franklin Township for stability. They could no longer continue to fund the Fire Company by cooking breakfasts and soliciting for funds from the public to keep them going.
A Fire District needed to be formed within the boundaries of Franklin Township to serve the residences of Franklin. A governing body which would be comprised of five (5) Commissioners, elected by the public for three year terms. These Commissioners would be responsible for overseeing Fire Protection to Franklin Township and portions of the neighboring communities of Alexandria and Union Townships.
These Commissioners are also responsible for negotiating fees for services to the adjoining communities that the Fire Company serves, paying for the services of mutual aid companies, hydrant use taxes, Office of Fire Prevention and other associated operations of the Fire District.
The Franklin Township Committee on June 6th 2002 passed an ordinance creating the Fire District in The Township of Franklin. A special election was held shortly after State approval and the first five Commissioners, James Stashluk, Roger Foor, Art Barrick, Charles Patkochis and David Dalrymple were elected by a special public vote in November and the first meeting was held on November 26, 2002.
In December of 2009, after previously providing first-responder EMS services, the Fire Company was selected by the Franklin Township committee to provide Basic Life Support services. Two ambulances were placed in service and have answered every call our area of Franklin Township since. We are one of two fire departments in Hunterdon County to operate ambulances, and do so with great pride.
Our response area, community, and membership has changed vastly since our reorganization in 1951. While we have always maintained a strong and active membership, it was recognized that most volunteers do not work in Franklin Township, and the amount of members available for daytime calls was decreasing, while call volume increased. With the incredible support of the Franklin Township Fire District No. 1 and the taxpayers of Franklin Township, 2-3 paid Firefighter/EMTs staff our station during Monday-Friday daytime hours. These personnel, combined with our volunteers, continue to provide an unrivaled level of fire protection and EMS.
In 1985, the Quakertown Fire Company responded to 65 calls while operating three engines and a mini-pumper. In 2018, we answered almost 600 calls for service. We currently operate one engine, one squad, one tower ladder, one rescue truck, two tenders, two ambulances, a brush truck, and three support vehicles. We take great pride in our history and accomplishments, but look forward to the future of our organization, and constantly seek to improve our level of service to the residents and business of our community and beyond.