A raging fire destroyed a dormitory on the campus of the Lawrenceville
School in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, January 19, 1929. Unfortunately,
all Lawrence Road Fire Co. documents dating from that period no longer
exist. But because of the severity of the blaze it is likely safe
to assume that Lawrence Road firefighters were called to the scene.
The following story was published on the front page of that nights
edition of Trenton Evening Times:
House, the largest dormitory at Lawrenceville School, was wiped out
at 3:30 oclock this morning in a spectacular fire that sent
students scampering for their lives. The loss exceeded $75,000. The
dormitory, a rambling frame structure donated to the famous preparatory
school by U.S. Vice President Charles Dawes, housed 43 students, three
masters and three servants. Boys sleeping in the second-story dormitories
were roused just in time to escape with their lives. Among them was
Dana Dawes, son of the Vice President. Sylvan Scholpp, who occupied
quarters on the first floor, prevented the disaster from becoming
a tragedy. Scholpp, awakened by the roar of flames, ran about the
building yelling an alarm. His cries reached boys on the second floor.
Already the flames were menacingly close when the boys on the second
floor were awakened. The stairways were spouting flames. The windows
offered the only way to escape with a long jump to the ground. Some
of the boys formed human chains by holding onto each others
hands and feet, and many escaped by climbing down the backs of their
companions. Others leaped to the ground. Barefoot and clad only in
pajamas, the boys left behind all their clothing and valuables. A
few snatched up overcoats before they leaped. Everett Noble, assistant
master of Dawes House, directed the escape from the blazing house.
He led some of the boys down a fire escape. The fire started in the
basement and was caused either by an overheated furnace or a short
circuit in electric wires. The blaze was discovered at 3:20 oclock.
Within then minutes the structure was entirely enveloped in flames.
An alarm brought the Kingston and nearby township fire forces, but
the firemen were too late to combat the blaze. A fortunate drift of
wind carried the long tongues of flames away from other nearby buildings.
If the wind had been in another quarter, it is likely that several
other buildings would have been destroyed. The supply building and
the doctors residence were only a few feet from the blazing
structure. The frame building burned with great rapidity. The flames
illuminated the sky in a glow that was visible for miles. Vice President
Dawes donated the dormitory to the school in memory of his deceased
During the meeting held on Monday, June 10, 1929, include: Chief
James Hindley reported that he fixed the search light on the engine.
The Quoit Ground committee stated that they got two loads of dirt
but wanted two more loads. The committee stated that they could get
two loads, same as city grounds, for $2. Moved and passed that W.
Godfrey Slover be authorized to procure same. Andrew Heck promised
to fix the tips on the pool cues provided we procure a scraper. Stephen
Ziegler reported that insurance adjusters would inspect the fire plugs
in reference to having reduced rates on fire insurance in this district.
During the meeting held on Monday, August 12, 1929, Chief James Hindley
reported the company had responded to a fire at the dump,
but the date of the fire was not recorded in the minutes. The chief
also reported the nozzle for the engine was here.
Late on Tuesday, August 27, 1929, members of the Lawrence Volunteer
Fire Association responded mutual aid to a structure fire in Hopewell
Township. The Trenton Evening Times published this account of the
blaze on following day, Wednesday, August 28, 1929: Police authorities
of Ewing and Lawrence townships are searching for persons who are
believed to have set fire to barns on the farm of Thomas Burbesky
on Federal City Road in Hopewell Township. The fire was discovered
by Officer Forst of the Ewing police about midnight. He notified the
Ewing fire department and in turn calls were sent into companies at
Prospect Heights, Pennington, Pennington Road, Hopewell, and Lawrenceville
Road (sic). Aided by a stiff breeze, the fire leaped from one building
to another and, in a short time, four barns and five smaller structures
had fallen prey to the flames. The house was saved when the wind shifted.
The firemen were handicapped by water and were forced to stand by
and see the flames march through the buildings. The fire was extinguished
several hours later. A brief examination into the smoking ruins today
revealed to Chief Prince of Ewing that the structures had been fired
by incendiarists. It was first believed that a still had exploded
in one of the barns but this was later discounted by police authorities.
An examination revealed only a galvanized boiler in the debris.
Chief James Hindley, in giving an account of the Hopewell fire during
the company meeting held on Monday, September 9, 1929, reported that
no chemicals were used. During the meeting, details were
given about several other recent fires: The chief reported a
fire on Richmond Avenue, no chemicals used, on August 29; a fire at
the Fairfield Avenue dump, no chemicals used, on September 4; a fire
involving a Mack truck belonging to International Oxygen Co. of New
York City, two extinguishers and one big tank used, on September 8.
Also we answered an alarm at C. Reeves home, but nothing was
used. Other business attended to during the meeting included:
James Balaam reported that Mercer County Firemens Association
wished us to appoint a committee of five to meet at Mercerville firehouse
on Wednesday at 8 p.m.. They also asked that a committee of three
be appointed from the Ladies Auxiliary. A letter was read from Lawyer
Satterthwaite in reference to being recognized by the fire insurance
During a special meeting held on Monday, October 21, 1929, it
was moved and seconded that we decorate the firehouse and engine and
the company pay the expenses incurred at the parade. Moved we buy
12 white hats, six white overalls, and six blue shirts.
(Editors Note: This entry in the minutes refers to Lawrence
Volunteer Fire Associations participation in a parade to be
held in Trenton to commemorate the citys 250th anniversary.
The fire company decorated its 1917 Jeffrey chemical engine as a ship
honoring Captain James Dont Give Up The Ship Lawrence,
hero of the War of 1812. Maidenhead Township was renamed Lawrence
Township in 1816 in honor of the heroic sailor. The actual date of
the parade is unclear.
During the final meeting of 1929, held in December, it was moved
that we present the fire zone and fire tax petition to the township
committee. Pat Pasquito reported we made $58.53 on the Thanksgiving
turkeys. Moved we give the boys a rising vote of thanks. Robert Ross
reported progress on bill-board. Trustee James Balaam reported that
Joseph Pilla would fix the chimney and Robert Ross asked about the
slates on the roof. Robert Ross reported a member donated the piece
of tin under the engine. The Board of Governors reported the building
was cleaned and Charles Smith and Robert Ross cleaned all the lights.
Moved that the chief present the doctors certificates of active members
to the township. Moved that the secretary send a letter of thanks
to the Ladies Auxiliary for their help at the oyster supper. Moved
that we appoint a committee to meet with Lawrenceville and Slackwood
in reference to liability insurance. Nominations and elections
of officers for 1930 were then held. Robert Ross gave a good
report on new members.
During the meeting held on Monday, January 13, 1930, Chief James
Hindley reported the siren was in place and works okay. William R.
Sharp reported on liability insurance. Pat Pasquito reported $31.70
was made on Christmas turkeys. Moved and second that Joseph Pilla
be given a rising vote of thanks for rebuilding the chimney on the
During a meeting held on Monday, January 27, 1930, Chief James
Hindley reported that the township committee had appropriated $2,000
to the three companies for 1930. Moved and seconded the chief and
his assistants procure a map of our fire district and put same in
Chief James Hindley gave a report of the Lake fires and said
the members worked well, according to the minutes of the meeting
held on Monday, February 10, 1930. Unfortunately, no other details
about the Lake fires are recorded in the minutes.
during the meeting, Chief James Hindley reported progress on
the map. The chief also reported the machine was in good shape and
made a run to Mr. Colivetos in four minutes. The chief also
reported the new flashlight and new tools were received. Moved we
hold a card party and a committee of five be appointed. Moved and
seconded we get 500 post cards to be mailed out in our district asking
for old newspapers for the fire company. President Robert Ross reported
progress on the bulletin board. Under new business, Mr. Ziegler gave
a good talk about a new engine, hose, etc. Moved and seconded that
the same 1929 Hose committee (Edgar G. Weart, William R. Sharp and
James Hindley) be appointed to get prices on 700 feet of hose. Moved
and seconded that a committee of three be appointed to secure data
covering the benefits of having and costs, etc., of a pumping apparatus,
and report back to the company. Appointed to the committee were: John
McNeice, Spencer Cornell and James Hindley.
On Sunday, April 6, 1930, members of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association
responded to a fire on Ridgemont Avenue. Used one chemical.
Slackwood and Lawrenceville were there, according to the brief
report entered in the minutes of the meeting held Monday, April 14
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday,
May 12, 1930, include: Chief James Hindley reported that 80
gallons of chemicals were used at the woods fire at Eggerts Crossing.
The chief reported the tool box was partly complete. E.G. Weart reported
progress on drivers insurance. John McNeice reported that we
have a reduced fire rate as of April 1, 1930. The Board of Governors
reported they had given the old flag pole to the Princessville Cemetery.
Quoit grounds in good shape. Moved and seconded that we have a light
over the bulletin board and a red light over the fire alarm box. Moved
and seconded we have a light over the quoit grounds.
During the meeting held on Monday, June 9, 1930, Chief James
Hindley reported progress on the lights and engine. The chief reported
on a fire on June 2 at Mike Simonellis garage. One large and
one small chemical used and 300 feet of hose laid. House saved. And
a fire at the township dump. The chief reported he bought seven new
rain coats and 12 brooms, and 250 feet of 2.5-inch hose was ordered.
Joseph Radlinsky was given a rising vote of thanks for wiring and
working on the engine. James Balaam ordered flowers for William Brearley.
President Robert Ross asked the brothers for a moment on behalf of
Brother Brearley. Moved that the chief and assistant chiefs send a
list of names to committee for appointment as special officers at
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday,
July 14, 1930, include: Moved we discontinue collecting papers
and sell what we have on hand. Moved we notify the people that we
are not going to collect papers. Chief James Hindley reported no fires
and that he took engine over to Battery B with five active members
on June 20 and 21 for the horse show. He reported he bought two new
Indian fire extinguishers and 250 feet of 2.5-inch hose. Chief James
Hindley reported he could buy a new battery for $7.50. The chief was
instructed to buy a battery. Moved we donate $10 to the Princessville
Memorial Cemetery. There was a lively discussion about firecrackers.
President Robert Ross said that no more firecrackers would be allowed
in the firehouse.
During the meeting held on Monday, September 8, 1930, the chief
asked that the garbage man be instructed not to set fire at the dump
on Saturday night or Sunday. Moved that a committee be appointed to
wait on the township committee about same. Moved that badges be sold
to members for $1 each. The secretary was instructed to write to the
Newark office and ask if it would be permissible for the assistant
chief to represent the chief at the convention if the chief is not
able to attend.
Highlights of the meeting held on Monday, October 13, 1930, include:
Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported we responded to a false
alarm on September 29 on Darrah Lane. James Balaam reported the sauerkraut
supper for the baseball team was a success. Chief James Hindley reported
the engine was okay. Moved that the old fire engine committee be discharged.
Moved that a new committee of all active members, with Chief James
Hindley as chairman, be appointed to canvass the fire district and
see what amount of money they could get pledged for a new fire engine.
Joseph Pilla was appointed to clean the property on the outside.
During the meeting held on Monday, November 10, 1930, Chief
James Hindley reported two fires. One in Eldridge Park and one on
Brunswick Avenue. Small damage. Charles H. Smith reported that $188.10
was made on the recent oyster supper. Walter Schoeller reported progress
on the new fire engine. Paul Paak suggested we make two or three coat
racks. Moved we donate $5 to the old members at Boonton for Christmas.
First nominations for officers were held.
During the meeting held on Monday, December 8, 1930, Assistant
Chief Anthony Pilla reported we responded to a grass fire on DeCou
Road. No damage. Chief James Hindley reported progress on the new
fire engine. The trustees reported the front door will be fixed this
week. James Hindley gave a good report about the Mercer County Firemens
Association meeting and reported the next meeting would be at our
firehouse. Under new business, it was approved the company buy 400
feet of hose and two gas masks. It was then decided that the
traditional open house would again be held on New Years Day.
Elections of officers for the coming year were then held.