January 7, 1934
Two children died in a house fire on Texas Avenue on Sunday, January 7, 1934. Members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded to assist Slackwood Fire Co. at the double fatal blaze. The Trenton Evening Times published the following account of the fire on Monday, January 8, 1934:
“Gasoline poured into a kitchen range by mistake during preparations for the baking of a birthday cake cost the lives of two children yesterday. Two others were rescued while flames caused by the explosion were sweeping through a bungalow on Texas Avenue off Brunswick Pike. Nancy Mahan, a 3-month-old baby, and her 5-year-old sister, Florence, perished. Parents and relatives made frantic efforts to rescue them but the intense heat balked all attempts. Harry Mahan, an uncle of the children, is in McKinley Hospital, suffering from burns about the shoulders, legs and face. He and a brother, Raymond, were burned in trying to reach the trapped victims. Harry’s condition was reported as fairly good, while Raymond left the hospital after receiving treatment.
“Mrs. Frederick Mahan, mother of the children, bought kerosene at a nearby store when the range fire seemed slow in igniting. She also carried home a can of gasoline to aid her husband in starting his car in a garage at the rear of the property. Picking up the can that she believed contained the kerosene, but which instead was gasoline, Mrs. Mahan poured a quantity into the range. She stepped into an adjoining room where the baby was in its crib, while Florence remained in the kitchen. In the parlor were Harry Mahan and two other children, 3-year-old Ruth and 4-year-old Harry. A fifth child, Fred Jr., was visiting at a neighbor’s home.
“With a roar, the gasoline in the stove exploded. Flames enveloped the kitchen and adjoining room. Harry Mahan rushed his niece and nephew to safety while his sister-in-law vainly sought to battle her way into the kitchen. The father of the children, Frederick, and his brother, Raymond, ran to the house as Mrs. Mahan’s screams added to the confusion. The flames were spreading rapidly, however, and entrance from either front or rear was impossible. Neighbors joined in the rescue attempt while firemen were being summoned. Two fire companies responded but the bungalow was all doomed before they could arrive. Coroner Frank K. Grove aided in removing the bodies of the two victims from the ruins…”
January 8, 1934
The Texas Avenue tragedy was discussed during the company meeting held on Monday, January 8, 1934, and it was decided by the membership to send a memorial donation of $10 to the Mahan family. Other business attended to during that first meeting on 1934 included: “The Auditing committee reported the books of the fire company were in splendid condition. Trustee James Balaam reported that Joe Olesse and Pat Pasquito should be given a rising vote of thanks for covering the pool table. A letter was read from past-President Stephen Ziegler thanking us for our Christmas greetings.”
January 30, 1934
Tuesday, January 30, 1934, is one of the most tragic dates in the history of the Lawrence Township firefighting community. Late that evening, an engine from Slackwood Fire Co. responding to a brush fire was involved in a horrible collision with a tractor-trailer. Four volunteer firefighters were killed almost instantly and a fifth Slackwood man died of his injuries several days later. The Trenton Evening Times published this report on the accident on Wednesday, January 31, 1934:
“…The collision was between the Slackwood combination fire truck and hose cart and a truck-trailer. It occurred at the intersection of the Brunswick Pike and Cherry Tree Lane. George H. Combs, 62, of 715 Valley Forge Avenue, and Howard Grant, 27, of 19 Graf Avenue, were killed outright less than a minute after the fire truck pulled out of the engine house on Slack Avenue, about 300 yards from the scene of the 11 p.m. tragedy. Frederick Russell Turner, 23, of 1701 Brunswick Avenue, and Walter Oliver Penrod, 20, of 1847 Brunswick Avenue, died a few hours after the crash in McKinley Hospital. John Morton, 20, of 127 Slack Avenue, is in Mercer Hospital, suffering fractures of both legs and a possible fracture of the skull. He was trapped beneath the overturned body of the truck that struck the fire engine. George Hancock, 21, of 844 Plum Street, is in McKinley Hospital, suffering possible internal injuries, a possible fracture of the leg and lacerations about the face. Wesley Gromikowski, 23, of 722 Trumbull Avenue, also is in McKinley Hospital, his face and body severely lacerated.
“The victims, all members of the Slackwood Fire Co., were at fire headquarters when the siren sounded an alarm of fire. Ironically, the blaze was merely a small grass fire, which burned itself out as the men summoned to extinguish it lay sprawled on the super-highway. As the fire engine swept out across the pike in second gear, a heavy truck-trailer coming from the direction of Trenton towards New Brunswick caught the engine broadside at the entrance to Cherry Tree Lane. With a splintering roar that was heard for more than a mile distant, the two vehicles collided. Morton was driving the fire engine, with two companions in the front seat beside him. The other men clung to the handrails on the back and sides of the vehicle. At the impact, all were hurled to the road, several of them thrown high. As Morton struck the concrete roadbed, the trailer of the truck toppled over upon him. The driver of the truck, Joseph Gross of Philadelphia, clung to the wheel of his vehicle and was uninjured.
“The impact was so great that the fire truck spun around three times, coming to a halt within four feet of where Joseph Smith was flagging traffic. Smith, of Cherry Tree Lane, was sent out in advance of the fire engine to flag traffic. He did not swing a red lantern to warn approaching traffic but motioned with his arms in the hope of clearing the way. Smith stood horror-stricken as the victims fell all about the highway. As the fire engine halted its mad plunge from the impact, Smith rushed forward and picked up one of the victims. The man was already dead. Smith handed the body to a spectator and rushed to the overturned truck-trailer, where agonized screams marked the spot where Morton lay trapped beneath the heavy body. Combs lay dead under the truck.
“Motorists and residents of the village flocked to the scene and swiftly removed the victims. Gross’ truck, consisting of a cab with a large box-shaped trailer coupled to it, turned over at the instant of impact and spilled its cargo of radios and merchandise to the road. McKinley Hospital sent an ambulance but all victims had been removed before its arrival. Combs and Grant, who was the first assistant chief of the company, were pronounced dead upon arrival at McKinley Hospital. Physicians said they had been killed instantly. James Smith, of 743 Trumbull Avenue, chief of the Slackwood Fire Co., and Harry Robbins, of the same address, first learned of the tragedy several hours later when Lawrence Township police awakened them…”
Over the course of the next several days, the Trenton Evening Times published updates on the investigation into the collision. The driver of the tractor-trailer was arrested and charged with manslaughter while a Mercer County grand jury was convened to sift through the details of the crash in an attempt to assign blame. In a story published in the newspaper on Friday, February 2, 1934, it was reported that:
“…Clashing versions of the mishap continue to arise. According to Hancock, who sat beside the driver of the fire apparatus, the truck-trailer was practically at Valley Forge Avenue, a block away from Slack Avenue, when the engine started across the highway. However, Gross, the truck driver, told county authorities that he was about 25 feet from the fire engine when it appeared in his path and he was powerless to avoid the crash. Hancock also stated that the fire engine had been running in low gear from the firehouse and had just been shifted into second, with the engine sputtering and pulling irregularly at the time it reached the crossing. Shocked by the loss of life and injuries to others, officials will ask the State Highway Commission to assist in installing a fire alarm signal light on the Brunswick Pike. When an alarm is received, the warning to traffic would flash and all vehicles come to a halt until apparatus had passed the intersection. Frank Carr, Lawrence committeeman, said such action should have been taken long ago…”
The Trenton Evening Times reported on Saturday, February 3, 1934, that “…more than 300 volunteer firemen from all parts of the county, along with Lawrence Township officials, visited the homes of the victims last night, with the Rev. Glenn Harris of Slackwood Chapel conducting services. The mourners assembled at the township firehouse and formed a two-by-two procession more than two blocks long. Impressive rites are planned for the funerals today.” Two of the survivors, Hancock and Gromikowski, slowly recovered from their injuries, but the driver of the engine, Morton, died in the hospital on Sunday, February 4, 1934
January 31, 1934
Lawrence Township firefighters actually had little time to catch their breath following the Slackwood tragedy for, in a grim twist of fate, a structure fire occurred on the morning of Wednesday, January 31, 1934, only a few hours after the fire engine accident. That day’s edition of the Trenton Evening Times described the blaze as follows: “Hampered by a lack of water, four volunteer fire companies waged a losing battle in combating flames which gutted the bungalow home of Smith E. Vanselous on Oaklyn Terrace, off Lawrenceville Road. The fire, of undetermined origin, started in the attic. It was discovered by the chance glance of a woman at the Albano Inn, across the Lawrenceville Road from the Vanselous home. She telephoned to the Lawrence Road Fire Co., several blocks away, and a quick response was made. Hose lines were run down to a nearby creek, but the water was frozen over and difficulty in pumping through the ice was experienced. Realizing the fire was getting beyond control, the Lawrence Road firemen summoned the Lawrenceville, Slackwood, and Prospect Heights companies. Firemen of the Slackwood company battled the flames with the grim thought of their buddies whose lives were snuffed out late last night in a collision with a truck as they were responding to an alarm. Much of the furniture in the Vanselous’ home was saved, being carried to the outside by firemen and other volunteers.”
February 12, 1934
During the meeting held on Monday, February 12, 1934, the members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association decided to make a memorial donation of $25 to the Slackwood Fire Co. They also appointed a committee to draft a resolution requesting a traffic light from the State Highway Commission. Also during the meeting Chief James Hindley reported there were four fires, including the blaze on Oaklyn Terrace. “It was reported that the gauge on the engine was not working. Anthony Pilla gave a report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting held at Princeton.”
March 12, 1934
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, March 12, 1934, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire at Rosedale. Charles H. Smith reported progress on the fire traffic light. President Robert Ross reported we could not get any CWA workers for the firehouse. Albert Schoeller reported that the parking lights were fixed. Moved that we have a committee to make arrangements for our 20th Anniversary. Communications from the families of the deceased Slackwood firemen thanking us were read and filed.”
April 9, 1934
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, April 9, 1934, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire at the Inman house with $400 damage, two grass fires in our district and one grass fire in Slackwood. The chief gave a report on hose and helmets. Charles H. Smith reported progress on the 20th Anniversary. Moved we leave the fire ring where it is. Moved we charge $10 for the hall for afternoons and evenings and $7 for evenings. Albert Schoeller Jr. and John O’Hara were appointed to captain the new member drive. Moved we appoint a Sport committee for the different tournaments.”
May 6, 1934
The fire company’s 20th Anniversary celebration was documented in the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on May 6, 1934: “The 20th Anniversary of the Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Association was observed this week when 200 persons attended the celebration. Among them were 15 of the charter members, two of whom were James Lindley of Brooklyn and Harvey DeVaul of Lavalette. A fine program of entertainment was provided. President Robert Ross introduced Charles H. Smith, the chairman of the anniversary committee. A letter was read from the first president of the organization, Stephen Ziegler Sr., who is now in Colorado for his health. A duet was given by Mrs. Frank Freeman and Miss Josephine Pilla, while selections on the guitar and harmonica were rendered by James Salt. A vocal solo by Mrs. William Borden, accompanied by Mrs. John Peterson, and a mock wedding by members of the Ladies Auxiliary completed the program. A fire in Eldridge Park late in April 1914 was directly responsible for the organization of the association. A meeting was held immediately after the conflagration when plans were discussed for the formation of a firefighting organization. (Editor’s Note: This is the only mention so far found about what led to the formation of the fire company; a search of newspapers has so far uncovered no details of a fire in Eldridge Park in April 1914). Plans matured rapidly, the organization perfected and Stephen Ziegler was chosen president, Edward Whitehead secretary, and Charles H. Smith treasurer and chief. The location on which the present building is situated was purchased and a frame building erected. A hand-drawn chemical engine was purchased and put in service. A few years later, a motorized chemical engine was secured and more recently a pumper was added to the equipment. A fine two-story building is now home of the association, which has a large membership.”
May 14, 1934
During the meeting held on Monday, May 14, 1934, “Chief James Hindley reported there were two grass fires and a barn fire at Senator Reed’s. A successful fire drill was held at the Battery. Mr. Miller from the Crowell Publishing Co. spoke about finances for the fire company. Charles H. Smith reported a good time was had at our 20th Anniversary. Moved with give the Anniversary committee a rising vote of thanks. The committee on the quoit ground reported progress. Moved to have the secretary write to the State Highway Commission about traffic lights in front of the firehouse. A communication from Ewing Township about their parade on Decoration Day was read. Moved we accept the invitation and leave the arrangements to the chief.”
June 11, 1934
News that the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association participated in the Decoration Day parade in Ewing and won the cup for best company was reported during the meeting held on Monday, June 11, 1934. Other business reported during the meeting included: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire at the Lawrence Township dumps on Brunswick Pike. Chief Hindley gave a good report of placing flags on our departed members’ graves on Memorial Day. Moved we have proper letter-head printed. Our letter to the State Highway Commission and their answer were read and ordered filed. Moved that the Crowell Publishing Co. be given authority to canvass our fire district. A discussion on fire police was laid over to next meeting. Moved we appoint a committee of four members to meet with the Lawrenceville and Slackwood companies in reference to having a firemen’s picnic. Moved we allow the chief and members go and be in the parade at Newtown, Pa.”
July 9, 1934
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, July 9, 1934, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire at James Tucker’s home at Eggerts Crossing. Damage was about $500. John O’Hara, Pasquale Pilla, Walter Schoeller, and Joseph Olessi were appointed fire police officers. President Robert Ross reported that no report had been made from the Crowell Publishing Co. Moved that we charge 5 cents per game of 31-point quoits. Moved that we put a notice on the bulletin board with the prices of pool and quoits. Moved that we appoint a committee to find ways and means to raise funds for the fair company and that money be used to pay for half the cost of uniforms for the members. Moved that a list of all members in good standing be placed on the bulletin board.”
October 8, 1934
During the meeting held on Monday, October 8, 1934, “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire on Allen Farm and that the dam was finished at Eggerts Crossing on Bunker Hill Road. President Robert Ross and the other delegates gave a report of the Atlantic City convention. The resignation of Joseph Shropshire was accepted. Charles H. Smith reported the oyster supper will be October 19. President Ross reported Stephen Ragolia would have windows fixed by next meeting.”
December 10, 1934
During the final meeting of 1934, held on Monday, December 10, “Chief James Hindley reported there were two fires and that coats and hats are here for active members. Anthony Pilla gave a good report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association held meeting at Nottingham firehouse. Moved we have open house on New Years Day.” Officers were then elected for 1935.
January 14, 1935
The first meeting of 1935, held on Monday, January 14, 1935, began with a moment of silence being held in observance of the death of Stephen Ziegler Sr., a charter member and the first president of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association. He died on December 26, 1934. Also during the meeting, “Chief James Hindley reported no fires. 2nd Assistant Chief Albert Schoeller gave a report on active members. John O’Hara, chairman of the Auditing committee, reported the books were examined and found to be in good condition. Anthony Pilla gave a good report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting held at Groveville. Joseph Olessi, Barry Pilla, John O’Hara, George Arrowsmith and Walter Schoeller were appointed fire police for 1935. Moved that we appoint a publicity agent. Albert Schoeller and his little brother Walter Schoeller were appointed. A letter of thanks from Alice Ziegler was read and filed. Chief Hindley reported he received $100 from the Ladies Auxiliary for the Engine account. Moved the secretary write a letter of thanks for same and all their help.” The following resolution was also recorded in the minutes of the meeting:
“Whereas, Stephen Ziegler, a charter member of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, died on the 26th day of December 1934, whereas we feel the loss of one who was ever a devoted member of our company and an attached friend of all its members, one who was marked by his simplicity of manner and kindness of disposition, sincerity of purpose and unflinching devotion to the best interests of his company, whereas we regret his loss as a companion ever genial and hopeful, openhanded in charity and strenuous in helping all who needed or asked his aid and sympathy, be it resolved that we respectfully tender our sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the family who sorrow for their dead, and in their dark hour we invoke the tender compassion of Him who drieth the mourners tears. Be it further resolved that these resolutions be spread on the minutes of this company and a copy be sent to the family. Signed, James Balaam, W. Godfrey Slover, John Hutchins, William R. Sharp, and Spencer H. Cornell.”
February 11, 1935
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, February 11, 1935, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire on January 27 at Jay Corliss’ house on Devon Avenue; a false alarm at the 112th Field Artillery; and a fire at Sackes’ on Rosedale Road on February 5. Anthony Pilla gave a good report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting held at Colonial. Moved the secretary make a list of members for our Lawrence Township relief.”
March 11, 1935
During The meeting of Monday, March 11, 1935, “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire on March 4 at the home of Andrew Carbone on Altamawr Avenue. Chief Hindley and his assistants were appointed to see the township committee about have stones or ashes places around fire plugs. Moved we appoint a committee to revise our bylaws and report at our next meeting. Moved that our Lawrence Relief Association dissolution papers be filed with the state by our treasurer and pay for same and collect from Lawrence Township Relief Association and that the secretary notify the county clerk and township clerk. A letter from the secretary of the Lawrence Township Relief Association was read and ordered filed.”
April 8, 1935
Highlights from the company meeting held on Monday, April 8, 1935, include: “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported there was a grass fire at E. Weart’s and a truck fire at Wilcox’s. On March 29, there was a fire at Mulryx. Small Damage. On April 4, the was a fire at Peter Warner’s. Chief James Hindley reported that the township committee dumped ashes around the fire plugs. It was reported that the $1,000 from the township committee has been placed in the Engine Account. Dr. Smith reported about first aid assistance. Anthony Pilla gave a good report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting held at Hamilton. Leo Balaam reported progress on the Lawrence Township Relief Association. Stephen Ragolia reported progress on the cupboard. Moved the fire company pay the dues for fire police for 1935. Moved that Walter Schoeller be recommended as delegate to Atlantic City to the Lawrence Township Relief Association. Moved we buy a bag of cement for use on the fire ring at Coliveto’s. Moved the secretary write to Mayor Kroessen and thank him for the axes.”
June 10, 1935
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting on Monday, June 10, 1935, include: “Chief James Hindley reported one fire for the month – a chimney fire at Mendrey’s on Meadowbrook Avenue. The chief also reported receipt of the flashlights. Pat Pilla gave a report on the fire police meeting. Leo Balaam gave a report on the Lawrence Township Relief Association. Moved that James Hindley be made trustee of the relief association and the Mercer County association. Nominations and elections for Mercer County delegates were held. James Hindley gave a report for the Memorial committee. Motion made and passed that the iron fire gong be moved to the side or back of the firehouse. William Sharp gave a report of compensation paid for Slackwood accident, totaling $4,563. Leo Balaam asked about the making up of credits for fires and a general discussion followed.”
June 23, 1935
A special meeting was held on Sunday, June 23, 1935, to fill the recording secretary post made vacant by the death of Spencer H. Cornell. During the meeting, it was “proposed and seconded that Frank Freeman be appointed acting secretary until the regular July meeting.”
July 8, 1935
During the meeting held on Monday, July 8, 1935, “Chief James Hindley reported three fires for the month – a truck fire, a field fire, and a barn fire in Ewing Township. The chief also reported on fire drills, placing emphasis on time hook-ups to fire plugs. The best hook-up time reported was 51 seconds. The chief also reported receipt of winter helmets. Chief Hindley reported the fire ring was removed from the front of the firehouse. The chief reported on the visit to the Burlington County Firemen’s Association meeting in June. George Arrowsmith reported on the fire police meeting. He informed fire police officers to turn out at the next meeting at Hopewell to get badges. Walter Schoeller reported on the relief meeting. He reported the Cornell claim has been sent to Newark. He also reported that a record of all members would be sent to Newark at the next relief meeting. He also brought up whether or not the exempt members desire to form a township exempt association. As there was some discussion as to the advantages of such an association no action was taken at this time. Moved that the trustees go over the insurance policies to determine if they are in good order. Trustees were empowered to take out any new policies if necessary. Moved that a resolution of condolence be sent to the Cornell family and also to William Sharp. Albert Schoeller reported a proposition of a carnival to make money for the fire company. Motion made a committee of five be appointed to investigate the proposition and report back. Albert Schoeller, chairman of the Bylaws committee, presented the bylaws changes in typewritten form, these forms to be circulated among the members before the next meeting when the changes will be voted upon.” The business of electing a new recording secretary was held. Frank Freeman was elected. John L. O’Hara was then elected to fill the trustee post made vacant when Freeman moved up to recording secretary.
August 12, 1935
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on August 12, 1935, include: “Chief James Hindley reported one fire for the month – a truck at Bakers Basin. The chief reported the new Indian tanks were complete. The chief reported the fire truck for sale at Groveville was not suitable for our purposes. Walter Schoeller reported on the fire police meeting. He reported the proposed capes would cost $1.25 each. Walter Schoeller reported on the firemen’s relief meeting. He stated that Anthony Pilla’s life membership in the state association had been received. He also reported the Cornell claim had been paid. He also reported receipt of a letter from Newark containing information that a man can join a fire company after 35 years of age, serve seven years, and receive all benefits except the burial fund. He also reported that after serving seven years it is not necessary for a man to belong to the fire company to receive benefits. Stephen Ragolia reported on the advantages of a township exempt association. He reported that an employed exempt member has rights similar to civil service in that any member of 10 years employment cannot be discharged and replaced by someone else. Attorneys would be furnished free of charge to fight the case. A further report of this association will be made at the next meeting by Walter Schoeller. President Ross reported we have an invitation from Somerville for their 100th Anniversary on September 11.”
October 14, 1935
During the next meeting held on Monday, October 14, 1935, “Chief James Hindley reported one fire for the month – a barn in Lawrenceville’s district. Chief Hindley complained about the condition of the hall and also the method of renting same. A hot discussion followed. It was moved that all members available report to the firehouse Wednesday, October 16, for the purpose of cleaning up. Moved that the House committee take care of the ping-pong table situation. Stephen Ragolia reported on the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting. Anthony Pilla reported on the Hightstown parade. Walter Schoeller reported on the fire police meeting. These meetings will now be held every other month. Walter Schoeller also gave an excellent report on the Atlantic City convention. Of special interest was the report of 813 deaths for the year. Stephen Ragolia reported the cabinet for the cups would be installed by October 18. John O’Hara reported on a fishing trip – no fish were caught. Moved that the old piano be donated to the Eldridge Club providing they move it. It was requested a letter be written to Maxam and Groseclose requesting them to recognize Mrs. Cornell as our agent in connection with the blanket insurance and pay her any commission due on same.”
November 11, 1935
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, November 11, 1935, include: “Chief James Hindley reported three fires – grass fires at Dunn Field, Prospect Heights, and Slackwood. A communication was received from Mrs. and Mrs. Clinton Eldridge thanking the fire company for the work done at their fire. Chief James Hindley stated he had chances on poultry for sale to benefit the Mercer County Firemen’s Association Christmas party. Charles H. Smith thanked the members for their assistance with the oyster supper. The House committee was asked to take under consideration some method of heating water in connection with future suppers. Joseph Olessi reported on Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting. President Robert Ross suggested a cabinet be made to keep dishes in. Moved that the chest in the quoit room be cleaned and prepared for this purpose. Chief James Hindley suggested the House committee buy varnish for the woodwork. The House committee was asked to take this under consideration. The junior fire patrol was discussed by Albert Schoeller. Moved that a committee be appointed to take up this question.”
April 17, 1937
Three alarms worth of Trenton firefighters responded to help Lawrence Township volunteer firefighters battle a massive fire at the Muehlhausen Cooperage on New York Avenue on the morning of Saturday, April 17, 1937. The fire in the three-story frame barrel factory, which measured about 150-feet by 200-feet, was discovered by workers shortly before 1 a.m.
There was some confusion in sounding the alarm, however, and the first call went to the Hamilton Township police department. The caller, who claimed to be the watchman at the cooperage, told a Hamilton police sergeant to “send out the Hamilton Township, Trenton and Lawrence Township fire departments!” The sergeant called the Trenton Fire Department dispatchers and, as a result, the first alarm on Box 4532 was transmitted at 1 a.m.
The cooperage was “such a raging inferno when the Trenton firemen arrived,” the Trenton Evening Times reported, that Battalion Chief Thomas Gilligan sounded a second alarm at 1:10 a.m. Just 10 minutes later, at 1:20 a.m., the third alarm was sounded. Meanwhile, authorities in Lawrence Township were eventually notified and volunteers from the Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville fire companies raced to the scene to join the battle.
The blaze was fueled by the thousands of wooden barrels and raw lumber that filled the building. The flames shot through the roof, and attracted a large crowd of spectators. Firefighters had to draft water from the nearby Delaware and Raritan Canal. Eventually, the structure was reduced to a collapsed mass of charred timbers and debris. Long after the blaze was brought under control, Lawrence Township firefighters remained on the scene to hose down hot spots.
1936 – 1939
The minutes for the meetings held from 1936 to 1939 have unfortunately been lost.
Sometime during this period, Charles H. Smith served as president, according to a list compiled for the fire company’s 50th anniversary in 1964.
A Diamond T pumper was purchased by the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association sometime in 1937. Sadly no photos of the apparatus have yet been found.
The following letter, dated Saturday, March 20, 1937, was sent by the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association to the Sanford Motor Truck Co. of Syracuse, N.Y.: “Gentlemen – We have one of your 500 gallon booster trucks, which has given excellent service. We find, however, this unit is insufficient for all requirements. We are therefore in the market for a smaller booster job and we would thank you to send us information on what you have to offer with prices. We would welcome having your representative call if he is in this territory within the next two weeks. In an event, we must have definite information before April 12. If your representative should call, he should get in touch with Chief James Hindley.”
The following letter, dated Saturday, April 24, 1937, was sent by the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association to the Sanford Motor Truck Co.: ‘Gentlemen – We regret to inform you that your recent bid on a new fire truck was not successful. It was extremely difficult for us to reject the Sanford based on the past performance of our present truck, but we had an exceptionally good offer from the General Fire Truck Co. which was too good to refuse. This was no doubt based on the fact that ours was to be the first “General” installation in the East. Chief James Hindley especially sends his regrets but he wishes to advise you that Sanford Co. will always receive his best recommendations. He is especially thankful to you for past courtesies…”
On Saturday, July 3, 1937, the first-annual New Jersey State Firemen’s Field Day was held at the Trenton Fair Grounds. The daylong festival featured a parade, demonstrations of firefighting apparatus and displays of equipment. In a story published on July 4, 1937, the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser reported that Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association tied with Pemberton for third place in the booster line contest. Second place was awarded to New Egypt, while first place went to Denville.
The following story was published in the Trenton Evening Times on Tuesday, December 14, 1937: “Mercer County firemen who qualified for membership in the fire police association after a nine weeks’ course at the Wilburtha state police barracks were presented with letters of accomplishment last night by Col. Mark O. Kimberling, the state police commandant. Twenty-seven men received the awards. In addition to Col. Kimberling, speakers included John Elder of Ewing Township and Sgt. John V. Conover, who conducted the training class. They stressed the value of the course as a mans of furthering cooperation between firemen and police. The class, the second group to take advantage of the training since the idea was advanced by Elder and Fire Marshal David Newell last January, received instruction on motor vehicle laws, fire and police laws, arson investigation, traffic direction, procedure in making arrests and court activity. Fire companies represented by the class graduated last night included DeCou, Groveville, Rusling Hose, Lawrenceville, Union, Robbinsville, Lawrence Road, Hopewell, Pennington, Washington Crossing, Slackwood and Mercerville.”
According to the 1939 List of Active Firemen filed with the state by the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, the company responded to 32 fires and attended 12 drills during the calendar year 1939.