Andover Hook and Ladder Company

Andover Hook & Ladder Bldg. and Perkins House

Andover's Hook and Ladder Co. goes back 72 years. A record book was found that had the constitution and by-laws, beginning March 15, 1890. This particular book ended in 1903.

The first meeting was held at the Town Hall with a group of less than 18 for the purpose of forming a Hook and Ladder Co. in Andover. Owen Lovejoy acted as clerk at that March meeting and Stephen Cabot and Frank P. Thomas were elected to draw up the constitution. Three days later, the group met again and elected Frank P. Thomas, foreman; F. M. Thomas, assistant foreman; R. L. Melcher, clerk and treasurer; and George Huse, steward. It was voted to have M. P. Corson, F. M. Thomas, and H. A. Grover make up the by-laws.

The constitution stated that this organization would be limited to 25 active members (later changed to 40) with as many honorary members as would pay $3.00. The company was formed "for better preservation and protection of the community against fire; and to that end of procurement of a hook and ladder truck, six ladders of suitable length, 18 fire buckets, two fire hooks, necessary rope, two Johnson force pumps, rubber hose, two axes, and six lanterns."

The officers were to be elected at an annual meeting and serve from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of each year. Vacancies were to be elected at the next regular meeting by ballot. The officers were the board of finance. The clerk acted as treasurer. "No bills shall be contracted or paid or any other obligations incurred except by concurrent action of the board of finance and on expense exceeding the amount of money in the treasury shall be undertaken by vote of the majority of the members at a meeting called for that purpose."

The clerk kept a complete roster of all members and at each meeting a roll call was taken and a note made of all members absent. Members pledged themselves to obey all reasonable orders of the foreman or the assistant foreman while on duty. The constitution was not to be changed or amended except by vote of 2/3 of the members at a meeting called for that purpose. The Annual Meetings were scheduled for the first Monday of December and quarterly meetings the first Monday of March, June, and September.

"No assessment shall be levied upon the active members of the company except by vote of 5/6 of all the members. The honorary members shall pay $3 (later changed to $5). New members shall be admitted by ballot only."

The by-laws were voted upon in April, 1890. Article 1 stated "members shall assemble promptly at the hook and ladder house when the alarm of fire is given or when a regular meeting takes place. Absentees shall pay a fine of 50 and in all other cases 25 for each absence unless excused by the board of officers."

Article 2 stated, "The foreman shall have a roll call after all fires and at all meetings. Members failing to answer to their names for three successive roll calls shall be suspended. A written notice shall be given by the clerk." The articles went on to say that the foreman would preside at all the meetings of the company and at all fires have charge of the apparatus and all persons attendant on same. In his absence, the assistant foreman shall serve in these capacities. A refusal to pay a fine shall be followed by suspension, notice having been given in writing by the clerk. A member suspended may be reinstated by a 2/3 vote of the members at any regular meeting. Any person who planned to be away from town for two or three days had to notify the foreman and also get a replacement satisfactory to the foreman.

Never Got To Fire

The vehicles up to 1924 had been horse-drawn and it was a great day when, through subscriptions headed by Harry Poor, a new Model T with 30 x 3-1/2 tires and a 35-gallon soda tank was bought for Andover. The late Alvin Averill was driver and at the first call for help from Ed Hodsdon. Alvin jumped in the Model T and headed up Main Street. Coming through the covered bridge over the Ellis River was Charlie Jodrey. The two could not meet in the bridge and so the new truck smashed into the side of the bridge. The new truck never got to its first fire.

The second truck was a donated 1926 Buick from Sylvanus Poor. R. J. Swain donated a set of new tires and the tanks were taken from the old Model T. This truck was housed a lot of the time, winters, in the late Homer Richards' garage. The vehicle had a hand-cranked siren (now on the outside of the East Andover firehouse).

The third truck was a 1933 Chevy bought about 1937 and later sold to Swain for $50. In 1948 a 1942 Ford was bought frcm the Limestone A.F.B. for $1,900.

The new $13,000 truck has a 600-gallon water tank with pumps capable of pumping 750 gallons per minute. It will carry 1,000 ft. of two and one-half inch hose and 150 ft. of one-inch hose on one reel. There is an 18-foot extension ladder, a 10 ft. extension ladder, one roof ladder, and space enough to carry 1,500 ft. of one-inch-and-a-half hose that the town already owned.

A resuscitator was also bought in 1962. Also housed at the Andover house is a 500-gallon per minute Navy surplus pump mounted on a trailer given by Lester Farrington and Robert Swain. The state fire warden who assists the town department is now Robert B. Swain.

Chief Roger Mills, Jr. says that Andover is much better off on fire equipment than most towns of its size, with two trucks and three portable pumps. There are agreements to go to Upton and Roxbury Pond on call. The satellite station called once in the fall of 1961 and within five minutes the truck and men were at the blaze. The next project was to have radios for contact, Chief Mills stated. His assistant in Andover is Robert Hutchins. At East Andover, Sylvanus Glover and C. Freeman Farrington are his assistants.

South Andover had many homes lost. One of the largest was the Holt house near the Town line. This house was formerly owned by Harry Goodrich. Another house which sets back near where the David Smith house now stands and owned by James Hall was a loss when firemen arrived. Three houses below the fair-grounds known as the Aaron Cutting house (later owned by Langevine), the Hewey Gordon house, and the Moorehead-Mitchell-Llewellyn Hall houses were all bad fires.

In 1903, a house on Pine Street owned by Harry Bacon burned, leaving a large barn which was bought by Fred French. The firemen fought this blaze and at the same time battled a grass fire going behind the Sweatt house. Grass in the gutters of that house caught but the house was saved.

Andover Village lost two large hotels. One, the Andover Hotel, burned on a winter night with temperatures -40 degrees and a strong north wind blowing. The grandparents of the oldest lady in town now were the owners at the time. Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thomas had made the rounds of packing all the stoves in various parts of the building for the night. By the time the blaze was discovered, it was too late to save anything. Mrs. Gertie Smith, 91, has been a great help in compiling this article.

The "Bluemont Hotel" burned in 1910 when many of the men were away in the service. This building was long and covered an area from Marston's trailer to the Hutchins' residence. Both hotels had double piazzas and the rooms were usually filled to capacity.

The East Andover section of town was sadly hit by the only fire that took a life, on April 19, 1950, when the temporary house of Mr. and Mrs. Sylvanus Glover burned. The fire was caused when gasoline was mistaken for kerosene when being used to start a fire. Mrs. Glover had returned home and laid the tiny baby on the bed in the two-room building they were using while building their home. When fire raced through the structure she was unable to get into the next room. Since then the Glovers have had three daughters and in 1960 were blessed with another son.

The toothpick or Andover Steam Mill, located on the bank of the Ellis River near the Merrill bridge was lost in 1895. The Ronello Grover Dowel Mill burned in 1910. This was situated in back of the Ralph Hewey residence.

The R. J. Swain Co. had two bad fires. The first Dowel Mill burned in 1943. This was a complete loss with no insurance. At that time the saw room, paint shop, and finishing mill were all under one roof. In Dec., 1951, the Swains were awakened by horns blowing and shouts of "Fire!" This was fought by all men for miles around in sub-zero weather. Quick thinking of voluntary firemen helped save driving vehicles. The Rumford Fire Dept. was called that night to assist the Andover men. Later the town was billed $119 for its night's work.

Regardless of the many fires fought and lost, men in the community have always responded to the call of fire. In many cases, it was due to lack of water that the men could not save a home and its furnishings. Many times children and furniture were removed. Many cases of fire happened in the coldest weather and with all the elements against them...many times the men have saved beautiful homes when called for a bad chimney fire. Now, with modern heat there are less calls but many times when the wind blows and the temperatures drop to -20 degrees, you can hear the men around the stores say, "Hope folks won't plug the fires too much tonight. It would be a bad night for a fire."

Source: Andover: The First 175 Years, Prepared by the Andover Friday Club, Andover, ME, (1979), pp. 195-199, Reprinted with permission of the current owner, The Andover Educational Fund, Inc.

Copyright 1998 by Robert A. Spidell, All Rights Reserved

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