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Newtown Fire Department

Newtown Fire Department

Source: Lafayette Journal-Courier 4 Aug 1951 p 23

Remember as a boy or girl how the clang-clang of the fire engines used to give you an extra big thrill? Grown-ups, too, find it fascinating enough, even today to follow the big red, shiny trucks to a fire. Over at Newtown, in Fountain County, life hasn’t been the same since the fire department purchased a 500-gallon pumper, equipped with two reels of high-pressure hose and 550’ of two and one half inch hose. An 860-gallon water tank with an auxiliary pump also has been mounted on the old fire truck, a 1937 Dodge. Construction has started on a fire station. Arrival of the new apparatus in town was enough to send the town into a dither of excitement, and one older resident compared the merriment to “the old-time circus days.”  Curiosity soon gave way to pride, for the people realized that their fire department was one of the best equipped in the county. The new truck was delivered last May 1 by Clyde Zenther, representing the Central Fire Truck corporation at St. Louis, from which it was purchased, and Roy Donavant and Jack Stewart, members of the St. Louis Fire Department. It passed the required test at the Abolt gravel pit, averaging 505 gallons per minute for three hours. The next day Roy Mitchell and Max Bruner, Newtown firemen, went to Hillsboro to be instructed on the correct procedure for hooking onto a city fire hydrant.  The day of its arrival, May 1, the fire truck was pressed into service for its first run to a grass fire burning at the farm of Dan Messmore, west of Newtown. Funds for the added equipment were raised by public donations, some residents contributing as much as $200. The finance committee for the drive included JH Quigle, Mark Smith, Ben Martin, Don Hickman, Elijah Earl, Encil Marlatt, George Kirkpatrick, Orville Jones, Bill Gookins, Harold Shultz, Lawrence McKinney, Dallas McCauley, Lee Galloway, Omer Pevler and Roy Mitchell.  Older residents, and the newer generation too are proud of the town’s fire fighting facilities. The volunteer fire department dates back to the day of a two-wheel art for an old-fashioned hand pumper.  It had to be pulled by hand or if the trip was too long, had to be hitched behind a wagon or automobile. A fire in the 1930s which destroyed two homes and threatened several others on a hot mid-summer day directed attention to the town’s out-of-date fire equipment.  And so it was that the first organized fire company in Newtown came into existence.  Although the nationa then was in the midst of its worst depression, funds were derived from card parties, dances and benefit suppers to purchase a model A Ford fire truck to replace the former Model T. In 1939, a ’37 Dodge was purchased. The story is told that when the town bought its first chemical fire-fighting equipment, the hand-drawn pump in 1914, the salesman promised that his apparatus would put out any fire started voluntarily at a designated place agreed upon by him. Unknown to him, some citizens anxious for a joke had placed crates soaked with kerosene and other inflammable materials in the building where the fire was to be set. Naturally the salesman failed in his mission to put out the fire and his chagrin was great before he realized the joke. Before 1914, the old-time bucket brigade did a fairly good job of either putting out a fire or keeping it confined. A fire alarm in Lafayette – or any  large city – is taken as a matter of course. Screaming fire sirens and speeding red trucks attract only passive interest. People watch as the engines streak by but business goes on as usual. Not so in Newtown or the small communities. A fire alarm there means at least seven men and perhaps more, will lock up their places of business and run to the fire house. If at night, these same men will leave their beds, church, social functions or anything else in order to race to the fire station. Their hobby is protecting life and property in and around the town. They may be classified as “volunteer firemen” by the paid professional fire fighters of the larger cities, but they are no means amateurs. Not all the duties of the volunteer firemen are glamorous like fighting fire or saving lives. There’s the drudger of cleaning equipment after fires, keeping hose lines and chemicals in order and making certain all mechanical equipment is in good condition.  Newton’s first fire chief was LD Rickey, followed by John Pierce, AT Galloway, Omer Pevler and Fred Coleman, the present chief. Firemen on call at all times include Orson Bell and Daniel Mitchell ,electricians; Roy Mitchell, state highway patrolman; Bob Pevler, Charles Clark, Aaron Kemble and Glenn McClure, all employed at Harrison Steel, Attica; Ivan Lawson, Radio Materials corporation, Attica; Floyd Bell, retired; Max and Wayne Bruner, garage mechanics; Lee Galloway, garage owner; Gerald Algood, Brown Rubber Company, Lafayette and Paul Minnick. Realizing that an emergency exists in the nation, the Tri-County Fire Fighters association has been formed to put fire fighting on a cooperative basis. This is part of the civilian defense program with Crawfordsville, Waynetown, Wingate, Hillsboro, Veedersburg, Covington, Mellott, Kingman, Williamsport, Pine Village and Newtown as members. Counties represented include Warren, Montgomery and Fountain – LEA.  

Photos: Building the new fire station – from left (Roy Mitchell, Encil Marlatt, Ben C. Martin, Howard Quigle and Floyd Bell.  Other photo – new pumper with children of community.

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