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Maquoketa Fire

Laddies First Organized in 1882


When the east side of Main street was destroyed by fire in 1882, Maquoketans realized that if their property was to be safe from conflagration the town must have a municipal water works.  The project had been considered previously but the recent disaster brought added pressure and the water system was installed. 

Just as the days of the "bucket-brigade" as a fire fighting means had passed, so had the old hand pump which was operated by no one in particular or by anyone happening to pass along.  During the same year that the water system was installed, a group of seven men met in the Hatfield barber shop and determined to form a volunteer fire company.  The seven men were Fred Fischer, Gene Hatfield, Alf Hurst, Bill Jacobsen, Will Reeve, Frank Slaughter and Sam Struck.  Of these, Will Reeve is the only charter member living.  It is interesting to note that Fred Fischer was the father of Harry, present fire chief, and Ben Jacobsen the father of Ben and Adam, veteran fire-fighters.

The Fire Kings, as they called themselves, purchased a hand-drawn cart and began their service of the city.  The company became well known as a running team and Hurst's Hose Team became known far and wide for its speed and prowess.  Each morning during the spring and summer the men went early in the morning to the Hurst pasture north of town to practice and would pull their hose-cart over a 300-yeard course.  At the many exhibitions they gave they would run against time, trying to beat their own record, but quite often they entered hub-and-hub contests with teams from other towns.  One of the gayest events in the history of Maquoketa was the state firemen's convention which was held here, when the crack teams from all over the state participated in contests.

Eventually two other companies were formed, the Barnes Hose Co., and the Hook and Ladder Co. Each of these was equipped with the old hand running carts until the advent of the automobile when each company purchased a Ford truck.  The city purchased the hose and paid each fireman 50 cents a fire.

On January 16, 1928, the city council decided to reorganize the fire department, and disbanded the three companies which at that time had a total of 60 members.  The building which the city had built to house the Fire Kings truck became police headquarters.  A modernly equipped truck was purchased and a company of 15 members and a chief was organized.  Under the present system, each fireman receives $1.00 for each fire he attends.

Present chief is Harry Fischer, son of one of the charter members of the Fire Kings, and who has been in the fire department for more than 30 years.


SOURCE: Jackson Sentinal Centennial Edition, 1938.  (We would love to have photos to go with this story.)