The Old St. Vincent Firehall

by

Michael Ness

 

Fire, fire someone shouts and out of the firehall comestwo fire engines all set to fight the fire by themselves and to save thelives of the people who might happen to be trapped inside. When the firemen'sjob is done they will head back to the firehouse and clean their equipmentand put the trucks away in the fire house.

A firehall is a very important building to have, in town.St. Vincent is lucky for they have one of these buildings, but unfortunatelyit is no longer in use.

This building came to the community of St. Vincent in theyear of 1903. This building still stands today and has weathered throughmany tough winters. This building has guarded the homes and lives of themany people in St. Vincent from the years of 1903 to 1934.

The firehall was built by a carpenter and his sons. Thecarpenter's name was Ed Cameron. This building was built on the corner ofthe main street and four blocks from the Red River bridge leading into NorthDakota.

Originally this building was built facing north but duringthe winters the snow would block the doorways. So the next summer the buildingwas moved so the doors were facing east of the street. This is how it standstoday.

The doors on this building are big double doors in thefront so that the fire wagons could get out and a single door was for theentrance of the firemen. The large steeple built on the building still standswith the original bell still in the tower. On the tower are large beamswhere they use to hang the wet hoses to dry after fighting a fire.

Inside this building they housed their fire wagons andthey also had a big stove for heat. During the winter the stove was keptburning all winter so the water in the 10,000 gallon water tank under thebuilding would not freeze up. This tank held enough water to take care ofthe fires in the town. This was filled up by the men from the river. Theyused the fire wagon to haul the water to the tank and fill it up.

The firehall was mainly built right in the middle of thetown. The fires on the west side of the building were fought, with waterfrom the river if the fire was close enough to reach the river with thehoses. If the fire were in town they would haul the water from the tank.After this proved to be kind of slow they dug water holes or ponds in differentparts of the town so they would have water near the fires. This kept theinsurance rates on the houses down to a minimum of the water supply nearby.

The first fire wagon that St. Vincent had was an old timewagon with four big wheels on it and this was pulled by a team of horses.The driver sat up front in the buckboard and steered his team to the fire.He also rang the bell to signal the other horses off the street and outof the way. He rang the bell by pumping his foot on the pedal on the floorof the wagon which rang the bell automatically. A gasoline motor on theback of the wagon pumped water onto the fire. The pressure in this was sogreat that it could push the water up to eighty feet in the air. Anothercart was used to pull the hoses to the fire. This was pulled by the firemen.A few years later they acquired a newer version of a fire engine. This onehad an old Chevy engine mounted on it. This engine was put on an old wagon.Years later they bought a regular engine that was pulled by a truck or tractor.This proved to be a good machine and saved time.

The firehall was kept in good condition by the town marshal,Wallace Cameron. Every day at nine o'clock he rang the firebell for thetown curfew. The fire chief kept all of the fire fighting equipment in goodworking condition. All of the firemen were volunteers from the town. A fewof these men were Mr. Bennet, Mr. Lapp and Mr. Monroe. Some of the youngervolunteers brought along the ladder wagon to the fires if ladders were needed.They pulled this wagon by hand.

One of the biggest fires in the town of St. Vincent wasthe one when the old Lynch Saloon burned down. Mr. Lynch fell asleep whilesmoking a pipe and he dropped the pipe and the building caught on fire.Mr. Lynch was killed by the fire and his wife died shortly afterwards ofburns. After the saloon burned down, a barn caught on fire. This happenedon a bad night for a man had crawled into the hayloft to take shelter fromthe weather and he fell asleep while smoking and was killed during the blaze.In this barn were some horses and cattle that were lost in the fire. Thefiremen arrived in time to save just the surrounding buildings, but notthe barn.

Another fire in St. Vincent was the Smith Restaurant. Thefire spread rapidly through out the building and this was destroyed by theblaze. The quick thinking firemen then started to hose down the surroundingbuildings. One of these buildings was the store that the Lapp's owned. Therewas hardly any damage to this building.

During these days the fire engine got a lot of use. Thelast time the fire engine was called into duty was when the Harold Eastonbarn was burning. The men saved most of the barn and Mr. Easton built fromwhat was left.

The fire hall was closed down in the year 1934. St.Vincent then joined with the Pembina fire department to take care of thefires in St. Vincent from then on. This proved to be a lot less expensivefor it was cheaper to pay the Pembina fire department to fight the firesand keep the equipment in good shape. The old fire engine still stands inthe fire hall to this day along with the bell in the tower. At one timethe fire hall was used as a power plant run by hydro. But later on PembinaPower Company supplied the lighting to St. Vincent. Years later, Otter TailPower Company took over this problem. Another thing that the fire hall wasused for was a morgue. Whenever a person was killed in an accident, drowned,burned in a fire or died in the town jail his body was brought to the firehall and it layed there for the family to come and pick it up for burial.

The old fire hall still has lots of good use left in itfor the wild pigeons that nest up in the old tower bell since nobody isusing this building. For in this building live the memories of the old firemenwho fought the fire. To them, this is just like a second home. This buildingwill stay forever in the minds and hearts of the people in St. Vincent asone of the last memorial land marks left in the wonderful town of St. Vincent.

Bibliography

Gooselaw, Eli; Interview January 9, 1972

Skjold, Steve; Interview January 10, 1972

Clow, Ricky; Historical Essay 1971E=+1>Skjold, Steve; Interview January 10, 1972

Clow, Ricky; Historical Essay 1971