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CHARLESTOWN HISTORY BEFORE 1874

This page provides readers with a history of the City of Charlestown Fire Department up to January 5, 1874, when Charlestown was annexed to Boston.


A rendering of the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Burning of Charlestown, June 17, 1775
A rendering of the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Burning of Charlestown, June 17, 1775

A fire bucket from the Franklin Fire Society of Charlestown, circa 1830.
A fire bucket from the Franklin Fire Society of Charlestown, circa 1830.

The back of the Franklin bucket, with 'Charlestown' inscribed.
The back of the Franklin bucket, with 'Charlestown' inscribed.

A picture of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown that was destroyed on August 11-12, 1834
A picture of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown that was destroyed on August 11-12, 1834

An 1837 auction notice listing property that was burnt in Charlestown on August 28, 1835
An 1837 auction notice listing property that was burnt in Charlestown on August 28, 1835

Seal of the City of Charlestown.
Seal of the City of Charlestown.

May 24, 1852. The Fire at Charlestown and the Burning of the Ship 'Bell Rock' from <i>Gleason's Pictorial</i>, May-June, 1852.
May 24, 1852. The Fire at Charlestown and the Burning of the Ship 'Bell Rock'
from Gleason's Pictorial, May-June, 1852.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/ / CC BY-NC 2.0
The organization of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1861.
The organization of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1861.

Members, apparatus & firehouse of Howard Steam Engine Co. 1, at 11 Elm St., c. 1870. Members, apparatus & firehouse of Howard Steam Engine Co. 1, at 11 Elm St., c. 1870.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/ / CC BY-NC 3.0









Date(s) Activity
1628 The Town of Charlestown is founded.
May, 18, 1724 A sum of 30 pounds was appropriated to purchase the first fire engine for the town.
1735 The second fire engine for the town is purchased for a sum of 117 pounds.
November 8, 1743 The Ancient Fire Society is formed.

Ancient Fire Society

Ancient Fire Society Rules and Regulations (printed in 1815).
June 17, 1775 During the Battle of Bunker Hill, British troops set fire to the town. Much of the town was destroyed, with estimates placing the count at over 500 houses/buildings lost.
1795 The Phoenix Fire Society is formed.
1800 The Washington Fire Society is formed.
Washington Fire Society Constitution (printed in 1811).
1807 The Jefferson Fire Society is formed.

Jefferson Fire Society

Jefferson Fire Society Regulations.
July 12, 1821 A New York newspaper account of a fire in Charlestown.

Fire in Charlestown in 1821 Fire in Charlestown in 1821

Read another Newspaper Story on the fire.
May 31, 1826 Boys playing with firecrackers caused a major fire which destroyed many buildings in the area of Main, Bow, Richmond & Union Sts. Read a Newspaper Story on the fire.
August 10, 1830 The Franklin Fire Society is formed.
August 11-12, 1834 The Ursuline Convent (Catholic) is destroyed by fire by a large group of citizens in a religious/ethnic disturbance.

Read an account of the Fire, published in 1834.
An Account of the Conflagration of The Ursuline Convent.

1834 5 engine-houses exist and the town population is 10,000.
Hancock 1; Bunker Hill 2; Jefferson 3; Warren 4; Washington 5; Hook & Ladder.
August 28, 1835 The most destructive fire since the 1775 Burning of Charlestown takes place. The fire extends from Warren Avenue, including City Square, to the Charles River and nearly to the Navy Yard.
Newspaper story (Haverhill (Essex) Gazette, 8/29/1835)
1838 The Town established a new engine-house to house 'Mystic No. 6' at Washington & Prospect Sts. in the current City of Somerville (Union Square). The Town of Somerville split from the Town of Charlestown in 1842, with 'Mystic No. 6' owned by Somerville.
February 15, 1840 An Act of the Massachusetts Legislature establishes a Fire Department in the Town of Charlestown.
November 22, 1841 A destructive fire occurred at 3AM in a large building on Franklin Place. It later spread to other structures, including a block of dwellings on Bartlett Street. Newspaper story
August 15, 1845
Newspaper note on the death of two Charlestown firemen in Boston, August 15, 1845
February 22, 1847 Charlestown incorporates as a City.
February 27, 1847 Annual Report of Expenditures of the Fire Department.
1848 Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1848.
1849 Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1849.
1850 Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1850.
1851 Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1851.
1852 Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1852.
January 31, 1852
Chief Engineer Conn retires from the Charlestown Fire Department.
May 24, 1852 A large fire early on a Saturday morning at Tudor's Wharf, Charlestown, involving buildings and the Ship 'Bell Rock'. Newspaper story
1853 The mayor's annual message contains Fire Department info.
Link to the story.
August 13, 1853 Hoseman George Estey, Franklin Engine Company 7, Charlestown Fire Department, died on August 13, 1853 from injuries received at a fire in Boston on March 31, 1852. The fire destroyed the Tremont Temple, located at 88 Tremont Street, near School Street, Downtown. Franklin Engine Co. 7 responded on Mutual Aid to Boston to lend assistance at this fire.
LODD Info    Newspaper Story

1855


1855 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer

1856 1856 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer

Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1856.
1857 1857 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer

Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1857.
1858 1858 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer

Charlestown Fire Department engineers.
Engineers of the Charlestown Fire Department in 1858.
November, 1858 Hibernia Engine Co. (Philadelphia) visit to Charlestown in 1858
February 28, 1859 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 29, 1860 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 28, 1861 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
January 17, 1862 Bill of Fare of the Franklin Fire Society dinner.
February, 1864 The annual report of receipts and expenditures of the City of Charlestown is reported in summary. Newspaper article
February 29, 1864 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 28, 1865 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 28, 1866 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 28, 1867 Annual Report of Expenditures of the Fire Department.
February 29, 1868 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 28, 1869 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
November 12, 1869 A new Fire Alarm system is installed in the city and placed in service. It consists of 18 street boxes wired to the headquarters at the firehouse at 11 Elm Street.
January 1, 1870 City Ordinances (relating to the Fire Department) in force from or after January 1, 1870. Charlestown Ordinances
February 28, 1870 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
July 18, 1870 The most destructive fire to afflict Charlestown since the City Square Fire in 1835 occurs. The fire destroyed the linseed oil factory of the Tudor Company on Charles River Ave. Newspaper article
February 28, 1871 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
February 29, 1872 Annual Report of Expenditures of the Fire Department.
March 15, 1872 The Harvard School on Harvard St., City Square, is destroyed by fire. The fire occurred while 350 children and teachers were in the school. Story of the fire
February 28, 1873 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
January 5, 1874 The City of Charlestown (in Middlesex County) is annexed to the City of Boston (in Suffolk County).
January 12, 1874 Annual Report of the Chief Engineer
(1888) 'Fire Societies', excerpt from A Century of Town Life by James F. Hunnewell (1888)


To find the historical development of early Charlestown fire companies, see the chart below.

Engine 1 Engine 2 Engine 3 Engine 4
Engine 5 Engine 7 Hose Co. Hook & Ladder




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