The history of the Little Falls Fire Department spans over 200 years. This chapter is part two of the formation of the volunteer companies.

As the village of Little Falls expanded in size and population throughout the 1800s, its need for a reliable water source grew along with it. The water system for most of the century consisted of wooden pipes that only went to businesses, larger homes (most small homes did not have running water), and a few cisterns (or tubs) spread out along Main Street that were supplied by springs and an aqueduct from the Erie Canal and Mohawk River. The cisterns on Main Street were supplied by hydrants, but those had little water pressure and were not sufficient for firefighting purposes.

The steam engines that began showing up in 1870 could throw more water than the old hand pumpers, but they could not completely solve the water issue either. By the end of the 1870’s, it was obvious something had to be done. Victor Adams, who owned a box factory in the village and served as chief of the LFFD from 1879-1881, led the charge. A proposal to build a modern waterworks system complete with new water supplies and modern piping expanded throughout the village passed in 1885 and was completed in 1888. The water supply problem was solved.

The drill team of the Erina Chemical Engine Company in 1892.

The drill team of the Erina Chemical Engine Company in 1892.

While the citizens rejoiced in their new water supply system, it led to the downfall of a proud but short-lived facet of the fire department. With more than enough water pressure coming off of the new hydrants that had been placed throughout the village, the steam engines were made obsolete. The engine companies needed to be reorganized into hose companies.

In 1888, after the opening of the new waterworks system, the companies of the LFFD were re-organized as follows.

  • The Zenas Priest Steamer Company No. 1 (former Cascade Fire Company) became the Victor Adams Hose Company and was headquartered on Ann Street.
  • The Protection Engine Company No. 2 became the J.D. Feeter Hose Company and was headquartered at the southwest corner of Second and Main Streets in a new station that replaced the one that had burned down.
  • The General Herkimer Engine Company No.3 became the Bailey Hose Company and, in 1896, the H.W. Warren Hose Company. They were headquartered at the site of today’s Benton Landing.
  • The Rescue Hook and Ladder Company No. 4 remained the same. They maintained social rooms at the Cronkhite Opera House building on Main Street, where the Berkshire Bank building is today, and stored their equipment at the Garden Street Hose House.
  • The Erina Chemical Engine Company No.5 remained the same as well. They had social rooms on Loomis Street but it appears they originally stored their engine at the Garden Street Hose House. In 1892, they began storing their engine at the Star Academy, which was where City Hall stands today.

Each of the five companies had 60 members.

Before becoming a city in 1895, the village of Little Falls was situated within three townships – Little Falls, Manheim, and Danube. Those borders within the village ran roughly along the lines of today’s wards – most of Ward One and all of Ward Two were in the Town of Little Falls, Ward Three was in the Town of Manheim, while Ward Four and a small part of Ward One were in the Town of Danube.

This is the drill team of the Victor Adams Hose Company that won the New York State Drill Championship in 1894.

This is the drill team of the Victor Adams Hose Company that won the New York State Drill Championship in 1894.

In 1889, one year after reorganizing into hose companies, the Little Falls Fire Department added a sixth company which was later known as the Charles King Hose Company. They were headquartered in the barn of Thomas Tighe at 95 Loomis Street, as since they were in the Town of Manheim section of the village, they were sometimes referred to as the Manheim Hose Company. This company had a hose cart and 450 feet of hose.

Company Number Six was reorganized as the Charles King Hose Company in 1895. Here is a copy of their petition and original roster.

Company Number Six was reorganized as the Charles King Hose Company in 1895. Here is a copy of their petition and original roster.

UP NEXT: The big fires fought by the Little Falls Fire Department in the 1800s (there were several).

Pictured here are members of the J.D. Feeter Hose Company. In 1896, their drill squad won the New York State Drill Championship.

Pictured here are members of the J.D. Feeter Hose Company. In 1896, their drill squad won the New York State Drill Championship.