History of Somerville Central Hook
& Ladder Company No. 1
In the summer of 1880, several
members of the Somerville Engine Company #1 decided there was a need in
Somerville for a hook and ladder truck. They resigned from the Engine Company
and together with several other volunteers, organized Central Hook &
Ladder Company #1 in June of that year with 18 charter members.
A hand-drawn ladder truck
was purchased with money raised by the sale of $5.00 bonds in Somerville
and Raritan. Later these bonds were paid off with interest. The truck was
housed in a small frame building on Union Street, rent for which was paid
by the members. This first truck was sold to Roselle in 1896 and a hand-drawn
"Wonder" truck was purchased.
At this time, a movement
was started to procure larger quarters. Entertainment, minstrel shows,
and card parties were held to raise funds, and finally a lot was purchased
on Division Street. A three-story brick building was erected and dedicated
in 1902. Entire cost of the building was $6,500. The truck room was on
the first floor and a public pool and billiards room was on the second
floor, a source of income to help pay for the building. Meetings were held
on the third floor. To raise additional monies, the Hooks used their team
and dump truck to collect garbage in town, and it was the duty of the Treasurer
to collect 25 cents a week from each customer.
The second apparatus was sold
to Port Reading in 1909 and a horse-drawn Seagrave hook and ladder truck
was purchased. Horses were stalled in the rear of the truck room and their
harness hung from the ceiling with ropes and pulleys in front of the truck.
When an alarm sounded, horses were brought to the front of the truck and
the harness dropped and buckled in a matter of seconds. The last team of
Tom and Jerry was retired to the Harry Doyle farm in Neshanic in 1924.
That year, the Company received
from the Borough a motorized Seagrave truck with a booster tank and complete
set of wooden ladders, the largest being a 50-footer. A custom was started
by the council at that time to replace each truck every 20 years, so in
1945 the Seagrave was replaced with a Peter-Pirsch 65-foot aerial truck.
In 1965, this truck was sold to the Borough of Raritan, and we received
a 100-foot Seagrave aerial, which will extend to the top floor of our highest
building. In parade competition, this truck won many trophies together
with the fine showing of the men in line. In May of 1984, the Hooks accepted
delivery of a new 100-foot Seagrave aerial which features a totally enclosed
cab, extensive compartmentalization and updated equipment and is still
in service today.
Family names that have been
prominent in the life of the Hooks for two generations and longer are:
Varley; Hardgrove; Gunzelman; Henderson; Kinney; Rostron; Miller; Adams;
Starner; Angelakos; and Sutphen. As the years pass by, may the Hooks continue
to enlist dedicated men who will carry on the high traditions of the Somerville
Hook & Ladder Company Today