Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 6 - Page 16 & 17, Submitted by Shirley Plumb, June 12, 2012

City Welcomes Heroes Home
Local Firemen Take Highest State Honors

The Muscatine Relief Hook and Ladder Company won the championship silver state belt and the Rescue Hose Company, also of Muscatine, claimed second place in this first state tournament which was held June 11-12, 1879.

The following year when the second state tournament was held in Marshalltown, the Muscatine companies again outclassed all competition. The Relief hook and ladder company again captured first place and the Rescue Hose Company duplicate its feat of the previous year by carrying off second place honors.

Winning of the firemen’s honors had become almost a habit for Muscatine by the time the third state tournament was held at Council Bluffs in 1881. At this tournament was held at Council Bluffs in 1881. At this tournament the Relief Hook and Ladder Company romped away with the victory for the third consecutive year. The fourth state tournament was held in Muscatine in 1882 and in this event, the Rescue Hose Company won the championship state belt. As a result of the skill of these early volunteer fire units, the two state championship belts were retained permanently in Muscatine.

Joseph Morrison was the first fire chief and also the founder and first president of the Iowa State Volunteer Firemen’s Association. On June 28, 1881, James Mayes, a member of the Relief Hook and Ladder company was presented with a gold watch and chain by the company for having won the title of the champion ladder climber of the state.

The volunteer fire companies for many years were Muscatine’s sole protection against fire. Before they were organized here property owners could rely only on the informal assistance of neighbors and other residents when this great destructive force broke lose.

Before any sort of firemen’s organization was perfected and before there was any method of conveying water under pressure, the bucket brigade was almost invariably brought into use in case of emergencies. It was considered the duty of every man and even of every woman who was able to lift a bucket of water to join the bucket brigade when fire threatened a home or shop. The volunteers would quickly form two lines, facing each other, and extending from the fire to the river or some other liberal source of water. Up one line came wooden buckets filled with water and handed from one person to another until it was person to another until it was poured on the fire. The empty buckets were then sent down the other line and the process repeated.

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When fire raged through Harlan’s grocery store and Smith’s hardware store on East Second Street across from where Batterson’s store is now situated, the bucket brigade managed to keep the fire from spreading to the front of the building. The citizens considered this a commendable feat in view of the seriousness of the blaze. At other fires in early day Muscatine these bucket brigades were of great service, particularly if the wind wasn’t too strong and the fire was discovered before it had opportunity to spread to any great extent.

Records show that the first organization for any kind of fire department was on Jan. 7, 1875, when the Champion Hose Company No. 1 was organized. The headquarters of this unit was on Sycamore Street at the present site of the Central fire station.

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Organization of this company was launched when some 40 German citizens signified their willingness to become firemen at a meeting held in the mayor’s office for the purpose of establishing a regular system, Gus Schmidt prominent as a leader in this enterprise. The new organization on Feb. 27, 1875, received as a gift from the city a chemical engine and a number of buckets, hooks and ladders. The name adopted at that time was “Champion Chemical Fire Company.” Known affectionately as the “Soda Fountain,” the chemical fire engine was kept in an old livery barn opposite the Trinity church.

On May 31, 1876, the city placed a hose cart with a hose at the service of the company and the name was changed to Champion Hose, Hook and Ladder Company. In the winter the chemical engine was tested by building a house along the river, front and setting it afire after throwing kerosene on it.

The Relief Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized April 12, 1877 with a membership of 28. This hose house was located with the Champion Hose Company on the present site of the Central Fire station on Sycamore Street. The Relief Hook and Ladder Company went into active service on the arrival of the truck on May 1.

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The Rescue Hose Company No. 2 was organized April 26, 1876, and had its headquarters on Mulberry Avenue where the German Home society is now located. The Excelsior Hose Company No. 3 was organized in June 1876 and had a hose house on Cherry Street. The Relief Hose Company No. 4 was established in 1880 and its headquarters is still standing in South Muscatine on Bleeker Street.

These four volunteer fire companies together with four independent hose companies, including the units organized at the Hershey Lumber company, the Roach and Musser factory, Huttig Manufacturing Company and the Kaiser Lumber Company served, as Muscatine’s first five departments for 38 years.

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What the fireman of those early days lacked in equipment they had to make up for in skill and energy. The location of the fire could be signaled to the volunteers only in an indefinite way. The water works whistle sounded the alarm when a fire broke out and designated the fire to be in the first, second, third or fourth ward. The only way the men could get to the fire was by running or by commandeering convenient horses or rigs. Then, after a fast, fatiguing trip that sometimes involved many miles, the firemen began their real task of saving the building.

Sparks from a passenger train known as the “fire fly” were blamed for starting the most disastrous fire which confronted the volunteer companies, and also the largest fire Muscatine ever had. This fire, which occurred on June 12, 1886, destroyed an immense amount of property belonging to the Muscatine Lumber Company, extending from the present site of the Hawkeye Button Company cutting plant to the spot where the Hawkeye Lumber Company is now. The two sawmills, and the lumber, lath and shingle yards covered two city blocks along the railroad tracks from Mad Creek to the Huttig Manufacturing Company plant. All property and buildings of the Muscatine Lumber Company were razed by the flames and the Second Street Bridge over Made Creek was destroyed. Estimated loss from the conflagration was $225,000.

All of the volunteer companies were called out, together with the four independent hose companies. The combined city and independent fire units consisted of over three hundred men.

The fire department had ten streams of water on the fire from soon after it started until on into the night. It was a very hot summer day, and this combined with the extreme heat of the fire caused many of the firemen to be overcome with the heat and several had to be...

(Continued on Page 17)

Page 17

... taken to their homes.

A gift from P. M. Musser of a fire truck in the spring of 1816 marked the transition from the volunteer fire department system to the paid system which is now in effect. The new fire truck was run by two men, who were paid for their services. The volunteers said that since these two men got paid they could have the sole responsibility of putting out the fires and refused to offer their services on the old basis and the old volunteer companies were disbanded. The citizens then bargained with the city and stated they would buy a second truck if the city bought a third. This arrangement proved satisfactory to all concerned and an efficient, fully paid fire department was established.

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Basketball, Favorite of Sports, Was Leader During Pre-War Days.

Basketball, long the king-pin sport in Muscatine did much to earn its dominate position in the city’s sports firmament during the immediate pre-World War period. It was during the years of 1914 1915, 1916 and 1917 that Muscatine turned out the famous Tourist basketball team, which toured the nation and added much to the everlasting basketball fame already won for the city by the Traveling Muskie of a decade earlier.

The tourists were composed primarily of star members of one of the greatest Muscatine high school teams in history—the team of 1912-14. Soon after graduation, members of that crack Musky quintet banded together, enlisted several stars from the local Y.M.C.A. team, and launched a campaign which proved nearly as sensational as that of the earlier Muskies.

Managed first by Warren “Hank” Davis and later by George Volger, the Tourists gathered together playing personnel composed of Davis, Ralph Lohr, Ab Gould, Jim Cullen, Sheldon Schreurs, Elmer Bloom, Bob Hasbrook, Chester Lilly, Eugene Healy and Raymond Jeffries. Of this group, Gould, Davis, Lohr and Healy had been crack members of the 1912-14 Muscatine high outfit which won recognition as the champion of 12 middle western states.

During the years of its existence, the Tourist quintet did most of its playing on Muscatine courts, but took occasional long jaunts to distant points in all part of the nation. Among its opponents were included the University of Chicago quintet, the famous “Hans Wagners” of Carnegie, Pa., a team managed by the great Honus Wagner.

The Tourist team continued in active competition until 1920 when Mr. Volger, its manager, was killed by a business rival. During the six-year period from 1914-20, the team took on all comers and compiled a record of victories which rivaled that of the Muskies of the earlier era.

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Correspondents Maintained in Nearby Towns

Affording coverage for The Journal and its readers on news events developing in nearby communities and rural areas is an experienced corps of correspondents. Their news coverage is in addition to the Iowa news material received daily by means of Associated Press trunk wires, and is forwarded daily to The Journal by mail, telegraph or telephone.

Well acquainted in their respective communities, many of these correspondents have held their positions for a number of years. The Journal’s staff of correspondents at present includes:

Mrs. C. A. Arihood, Grandview.
Mrs. Stella Bannick, Wilton.
Emma Bartenhagen, Fruitland.
Mrs. Harry Bohnsack, Stockton.
Marie Borgstadt, Nichols.
Mrs. E. Brisbine, Illinois City.
Mrs. Fred Buckman, Conesville.
Mrs. H. E. Cover, Wapello.
Mrs. Ray Downer, Sweetland.
Mabel Flint, Atalissa.
Mrs. R. C. Fry, Cranston.
Mrs. Elizabeth Grimm, Pleasant Prairie.
Mrs. Marion Hildebrand, Letts.
Laura Jacobs, Downer.
Mrs. V. L. Jarvis, Cedar Valley.
Mrs. Carl Kistler, Buffalo Prairie.
Mrs. D. A. Kleist, Drury.
Mrs. Arthur Krueger, Eliza.
Mrs. Joe Lang, Settlement.
Miss Eva Marolf, Moscow.
Mrs. Frank Mills, Bay Island.
Mrs. Roberta Musser, Lone Tree.
Harold Nesbitt, Aledo.
Irma Rann, High Prairie.
Mrs. Roy Reeves, Fairport,
Mrs. Mark Schafer, West Liberty.
Mrs. E. E. Shellabarger, Concord.
Mrs. Charles Stratton, West Branch.
Musa Todd, Columbus Junction.
Mrs. Ivan Toyne, Bloomington.
Mrs. E. Vincent, North Prairie.
Mrs. Marion Wetzel, Montpelier.
G. W. White, Tipton.
Mrs. Loren Willits, New Boston.

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G. W. Fulliam
Botanic Physician

Thankful to his friends and patrons for past favors, would respectfully inform them that he is prepared to treat the various ills to which flesh is heir in accordance with the principles of the system he professes; and that he may be found at all times, when not otherwise engaged, at his office, one door west of J. C. Gordon’s store Second Street, Muscatine, Iowa. His employers may rely upon prompt attention and humane treatment, and they are assured that his remedies in eradicating one disease will not leave the seeds of a worse and incurable one in the system.—May 31, 1851.

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Travel on Stilts

Photo ~ Railroad tracks, set on stilts are prominent in the foreground of this picture taken from the high bridge, presenting the Mississippi River front in the days before Riverside Park was more than a dream. Cabin boats, row boats, canoes and sailboats line the city’s waterfront where the club house of the American Legion and that of the Muscatine Power Boat club now stand.

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This Familiar Second Street Store Front Continues
To Be Identified With Good Merchandise and Fine Values.

Photo of Spurgeon’s Store

Since 1929 Spurgeon’s—Muscatine’s thrift store—has kept in step with buyers demands for good merchandise at thrift prices. Always alert for new styles and pointing the way to better service, Spurgeon’s is one of Muscatine’s leading stores. Every buyer whether it be candy, dress goods, millinery or many other items will be more than satisfied when she buys at Spurgeon’s.

“The Thrift Store”

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Page created June 23, 2012 by Lynn McCleary