Happy Birthday, Georgetown Fire Department!

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Happy birthday to the Georgetown Fire Department! The first records of the organization have been lost, but the January 26, 1882, Williamson County Sun reported that Hook and Ladder Company 1 of the Fire Department was organized and the following officers were elected: John H. Leavell, president; W.F. Steele, vice president; J.C. Cameron, secretary; Emzy Taylor, treasurer; J. W. Kincaid, foreman; S.T. Atkin, first assistant foreman; and W.C. Pfaeffle, second assistant foreman. According to the Georgetown Fire Department, Emzy Taylor also serves as first department chief.

About the same time the Hook and Ladder Company was founded, a second company, the Rescue Hose Company 1, also organized. All personnel of those early years were volunteers.

The truck was pulled by manpower to the fire, and then a bucket brigade sent water from the hose wagon to the fire. This may have primitive, but it saved many a home and building in Georgetown.

The Georgetown Fire Department was organized in part to avoid conflagrations like the great fire that destroyed almost all of the business section of nearby Taylorsville (now Taylor) on February 25, 1879. That fire, exacerbated by the strong winds of a norther that had blown through, destroyed 29 buildings, leaving 16 families homeless and 34 businessmen unemployed. Only 4 business houses were left standing.

Captain Emzy Taylor of Georgetown was also a railroad magnate, founder of the 15.5-mile Georgetown and Granger railroad, which was meant to connect with other lines that crisscrossed the state. Emzy’s prominent merchant father Josiah had built the county’s first two-story house in Georgetown. Josiah opened a bank in 1882 in Georgetown, helped organize both the Georgetown–Round Rock and the Georgetown–Granger railroad lines and started the town’s waterworks. Financial problems resulted from expansion attempts, however, and Emzy Taylor committed suicide in Georgetown in 1895. The MKT finally bought the line and finished the tracks from Granger to Austin via Georgetown in 1904.

Three years after the Georgetown Hook and Ladder Company was formed, the Sun announced on January 5, 1885, that a new fire house was being built north of the standpipe for the truck and hose carts.  That fire station still stands at the corner of Main and 9th, a few yards south of the courthouse square. The restored 2-story limestone building was built to house Georgetown’s volunteer fire department and municipal operations. The building was constructed in an L-plan around a metal standpipe that stood 100 ft. tall (15 ft. in diameter) and held the city’s water supply (234,000 gallon capacity). The perimeter of the standpipe can still be seen in the pavement. The fire department no longer occupies the building, and unfortunately the Firefighting Museum inside the station that displayed firefighting memorabilia and equipment from the past had to be closed as well a couple of years ago to make space for other operations.

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