The Badges of the West Haven Fire Department ~ The Fire Police

Welcome to our second installment in our Department Badge series.  This installment deals with the West Haven Fire Police.  Organized in 1899, the Fire Police would play a large role in our department for several years before disbanding in 1913 to make way for the organization of the Borough’s police force.










Above is a photograph of our Fire Police.  The first mention of the “Fire Police” appears in the revised 1898 Rules and Regulations of the West Haven Fire Department.

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Chief Charles A. Cameron

Charles Aubrey Cameron was born on February 28, 1872, in Kingsport, Nova Scotia.  He began his career with the West Haven Fire Service in 1892 as a member of the James Graham Hook & Ladder Company and, upon their demise in 1902, continued as a member of the West Haven Hook & Ladder.  He served as Assistant Chief under Chief Frank Sohn and became the department’s fifth Chief on January 10, 1905. Charles Cameron would hold the office of Chief for 12 years until December 31, 1917, becoming, by far, our longest sitting Chief prior to the modern era. In his quest to modernize our department he would often travel to other larger fire departments and bring their knowledge and experience back to West Haven, adopting these valuable ideas to further fire protection.  Most times he did this at his own expense. Continue reading

The Badges of the West Haven Fire Department ~ Our First Badge

From our department’s inception in 1888, on through to the present day, our members have worn a variety of different badges.  The department’s Historical Library staff has been busy researching and documenting the evolution of the department badge.  We have scoured our archives, reached out to our members both past and present, and have studied several private collections.  We invite you to join us on our journey through the years.  This is a work in progress and will continue to be updated as we gather more information along the way.

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Chief Adolphus J. Thompson

On June 6, 1893, just a couple of months after the resignation of Chief William Wilson, Adolphus Jonah Thompson became the second man to hold the position of Chief. In 1894, he would see the end of the two year feud between the James Graham Hook & Ladder and the West Haven Hook & Ladder as well as the construction of a state of the art Town Hall (which, ironically, would catch fire shortly before it was scheduled to be occupied). In 1895 Chief Thompson would see the formation of North End Hose Company #3 as well as Seaside Hose Company #4 (later known as Savin Rock Hose), expanding our department to five independent volunteer companies. On March 17, 1898, Chief Thompson would tender his own resignation. Continue reading

Dr. William V. Wilson ~ Our First Chief

William Virgil Wilson was born in Milford, Connecticut on December 26, 1845.  His father, Elisha Wilson married Julia A. Benjamin of Milford and together they had eight children.  Of the eight, only three survived; William V., Eugene B., and Lillian E.  William Wilson went on to be educated at Yale, graduating from the Yale Medical School in 1867.  Dr. Wilson then relocated to South Brunswick, New Jersey where he practiced for eighteen years,  twelve of which he spent working as the surgeon for the Pennsylvania Railroad in New Jersey.  Dr. Wilson Continue reading

In the beginning…

The formation of the Center District

To start at the very beginning, we need to travel back in time some fifteen years before Engine and Hose Company #1 was organized and the West Haven Fire Department came into existence.  In May of 1873 a resolution was passed through the General Assembly incorporating the “Borough of West Haven”.  Although the Town of Orange was still mostly farmland, the West Haven section of town was quickly becoming commercialized.  West Haven had a sawmill and a lumberyard, the West Haven Buckle Company, a ship building Continue reading

The 1911 Knox


1911 Knox

1911 Knox Combination Automobile Wagon. Click photo to enlarge.


Pictured in front of the old Engine House on Campbell Avenue, this 1911 Knox was one of three Combination Automobile Wagons in service by September of 1911.  On the back left tailboard is firefighter W. Charles Darby who would become one of the first six permanent paid Grade A firefighters in 1933.  The man on the sideboard with the cigar is actually an employee of the Knox Company who stayed in West Haven to teach the firefighters how to drive.  Prior to the purchase of the Knox apparatus all fire equipment was either pulled by hand or by horse.

Who was first, indeed.

The first fully mechanized fire department

Urban legend would have us believe that the honor of the first fully mechanized (or motorized) fire department in the United States goes to the fire department of Savannah, Georgia.  In 1911, after the purchase and successful operation of the new American La France Auto Combination Chemical Wagon, Savannah’s City Council placed an order for 11 of the new apparatus to upgrade their entire department, thus making them the first fully mechanized fire department in the country.  But were they really?  By September of 1911 the West Haven Fire Department had accepted Continue reading