History – 1800s
On April 29, 1889 the Town of Clayton purchased a hand truck from the Town of Smyrna for $65 and at that time, no doubt, it was thought Clayton had a full-fledged fire company. The enthusiasm wore off before long. Everyone would go to the fire and leave the truck in the firehouse due to its being heavy to pull, especially over dirt roads in the winter.
In 1891 the first fire company was organized with the following members as officers: Henry Seiders, president; Louis Hawkins, secretary; Thomas Holliday, treasurer; and Charles Stewart, senior chief. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company donated a hose reel and 500 feet of hose and members and citizens of the town gave suppers and received donations to lay a water main from the pump house of Mrs. Annie Allen’s corner, from Main Street and Clayton Avenue to Rodney Street. This was done without any cost to the town and the water was furnished by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
Soon after the company was functioning, the town promised to donate $1 for every active member of the company, not to exceed $25. This donation lasted for three years after which Council informed the company they could not legally make donations under their present charter. Therefore, that source of income was cut off. Thomas Holliday donated the hook and ladder and the buckets.
This same organization continued until 1908 when a hand chemical truck was purchased. It consisted of two chemical tanks mounted on a hand fire truck and was purchased from the U.S. Fire Apparatus Company in Wilmington for the sum of $650. The meeting place was in the Clayton Call building, present site of the Clayton Century Club (Seniors Citizens Center). The Officers at that time were: C.A. Neugebauer, president and chief; Oliver Pryor, treasurer; S. Skinner, first assistant chief; and Olin Vinson, second assistant chief.
In 1916, the town purchased a Stewart truck from Gomery & Swartz for $1,400. The tanks were taken off the hand chemical truck and placed on this truck. Everything was painted and looked like new. This was the first piece of motorized fire apparatus. The purchasing committee consisted of: I. Luther Laphan, William W. Blair, C.A. Neugebauer, William F. Clements and A.C.R. Seemans.
The Company did well for a while, but some of the members lost interest and it drifted along until May 16, 1917, when a citizen’s meeting was called and a reorganization of the company was affected. C.W. Hall was elected president; Charles Stewart, senior vice president; J.W. Hawkins, secretary; J.E. Catts, treasurer; C.A. Neugebauer, chief; W. D. King, first assitant; A.C.R. Seemans, second assistant. Trustees were W.R. Keys, W.T. Dayett and J.C. Bice.
History of the 1920s
Due to the lack of funds, the organization coasted along until May 12, 1921, when a meeting was called by C.W. Hall and interest was revived. At this time the company had a total of 3 cents in the treasury. A strawberry festival was given, which showed a net profit of $84.75. Little outside soliciting was done. Dependence on funds was done through festivals, bakes, etc. A donation was received from the Ladies Century Club. These fund raising activities cleared up all indebtedness and set the company on a sound financial footing. The Stewart truck was painted and was put into good shape. Meetings were now held in the Town Hall, present site of the old fire house.
Arrangements were made in May 1922 for the first carnival which opened on July 18 and was very successful, showing a net profit of $3,165. W.H. Tunis was president and M.A. Jones, secretary, at that time. The purchase of a pumping engine was considered but no action taken. This year the company joined the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
On January 11, 1923 new officers were elected. M.A. Jones was president; H.C. Jones, secretary; J.E. Catts, treasureer; and W.A. Skinner, chief. In March the company had to pay $15 to Mr. Clarence Downs for a calf that was struck by a fire engine while responding to an alarm.
In April 1923 the company purchased its first pumping engine, a Reo truck with a Northern pump and chemical, for $4,500, disposing of the Stewart chemical truck upon delivery of the new engine which was just in time for the second carnival. A net profit of $4,043.21 resulted from this effort.
The company was given permission by Town Council for use of the entire ground floor of the Town Building. In October 1923 the Clayton Fire Company was incorporated, with the trustees acting as directors.
In 1924 Oliver Pryor was elected chief, with all other officers remaining the same. In May of that year, a four-tank chemical truck with a Reo chassis, costing $3,647, was ordered and paid for on delivery that summer. The company received its first appropriation from Kent County Levy Court in the amount of $500 on October 9, 1924.
In 1926 R.H. Hollet was elected president. In March the Town Building was purchased for $3,250. This building is basically the southeast section of the firehouse from which the company moved into in 1968. In 1927 the officers were W.S. Collison, president; H.C. Jones, secretary; J.E. Catts, treasurer; and W.H. Ennis, fire chief. During this year the Town requested and was granted permission to set up their jail in the basement of the firehouse. In April a committee was appointed to look into the cost of remodeling the building.
Charles Machamer was elected president in 1928 and served in that office until 1932. J.M. Horn was secretary. The first Ladies Auxiliary was formed that year. The company did a good deal of parading in those days and won $20 in gold for being the best appearing company at the Camden-Wyoming parade. In December bids were obtained for remodeling of the firehouse.
1929 saw a new secretary and chief installed, Joseph R. Fleming and J.M. Horn, respectively. Also during this year the company joined both the Kent County Firemen’s Association and he Delmarva Firemen’s Association as charter members.
History of the 1930s
In 1930 all officers remained the same with the exception of H.R. Bodley being elected secretary. It was voted to build a firehouse on the east side of the railroad but the motion was never carried out. Instead remodeling was done with new automatic doors and a new roof being installed.
Oliver Pryor served as chief in 1931. During 1932 the officers were Pryor as president; H.R. Bodley, secretary; J.E. Catts, treasurer; and C.A. Hurd, chief.
C.W. Machamer was elected secretary in 1933 and retained that post until 1947. Two members attended a fire school in Dover for the first time. They were W.S. Ely and E.R. VanPelt. A fire prevention contest was started in the schools located within the Clayton district and has been conducted ever since. Also during this year, the company joined the National Fire Protection Association.
The officers were the same in 1934 with the exception of L.W. Walker being named fire chief. These men continued in their positions until June of 1939. A Studebaker fire engine was purchased for $4,465 and the firehouse again remodeled by changing the width of the doors and removing the interior stairway and placing it outside the building in order to accommodate the new fire apparatus.
In 1935 the old 1924 Reo Chemical truck was rebuilt and converted to a tank wagon. W.T. Graham, local oil dealer, donated an old horse drawn oil tanker with a capacity of 550 gallons which was installed on the chassis of the Reo. When completed, this apparatus was recognized as one of the first tank wagons in the country.
A new Mack pumper was purchased in the spring of 1937 for $3,623.75. Upon its delivery the 1923 Reo was sold for $15.
Fire Chief L.W. Walker was elected to serve as president of the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association in the summer of 1938. Chief Walker died in 1938 and Oliver Pryor assumed his duties for the rest of the year.
History of the 1940s
The officers elected in 1940 were F.E. Burke, president; C.W. Machamer, secretary; J.E. Catts, treasurer and Oliver Pryor, fire chief. The officers remained the same in 1941 with the exception of A.E. Sylvester being elected as chief. In the winter of that year the company purchased a one and one-half ton Ford chassis for $795.88. The tank from the Reo was placed on the Ford and the ’24 Reo was disposed of. The company purchased 25 feet of land on the north side of their building and voted to build an addition to the firehouse on this property.
In 1942 Oliver Pryor was again elected president with J.M. Horn serving as chief. The building addition was completed at a cost of $4,532.25 and is the present northern half of the old firehouse.
The officers remained the same until November 17,1944 when J. Elmer Catts passed away. He had served the company for more than 27 years. R.W. Horn replaced him.
During 1946 J.W. Montague was installed as chief with other officers the same. Also during this year modern tank, hose body and power take-off pump were installed on the chassis of the ’41 Ford.
In 1947, James Clark was elected president; Paul Bickling, secretary; Lawrence McClements, treasurer and Vaughn Griffin, fire chief. In May, Clark resigned and Robert W. Horn was elected to carry out the term. Also in May, the company purchased 25 parade uniforms.
1948 saw John Roth elected president and Fred Burke as chief.
Lester Smith was installed as president in 1949. Other officers for that year were Lambert Argo, secretary; Lawrence McClements, treasurer; and James Griffin, fire chief. In September, Fred E. Burke was elected president of the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association. In the fall of ’49 an International Pumper was ordered at a cost of $9, 858.48.
History of the 1950s
In 1950, the officers were F.E. Burke, president; Lambert Argo, secretary; H.E. Pinder, treasurer; and Paul Plummer, fire chief. During the year Burke resigned and Lester Smith carried out the term.
1951 saw the same officers with Frank Cole serving as president. Paul Plummer resigned in May and Lester Smith was elected chief.
In 1952 James Clark was president; George Knotts, secretary; H.E. Pinder, treasurer; and Fred J. Burke, chief. During this year the first two-way radio was installed.
1953 saw James Clark re-elected president; George Voshell, secretary; James Griffin, treasurer and Howard Pinder, chief. When Pinder resigned, Lester Smith was installed in his place.
Bernard Morman was installed as president and George Knotts as chief in 1954, with other officers the same.
In 1955, Arthur Dickerson was president; Francis Reman, secretary; Bernard Morman, treasurer; and W.L. Whalen, chief. A 1955 International chassis with a 500 GPM Hale pump and 800 gallon water tank was purchased for $12,941.31. This truck was delivered in the summer and replaced the ’34 Studebaker which was sold for $300.
In 1956, Marshall Clough was elected secretary and George Knotts, chief.
William E. Thorpe was elected president in 1957. During the year the president and secretary resigned and were replaced by Arthur C. Dickerson and James Clark, respectively. It was voted to donate the 1889 hand apparatus to the Delaware State Museum in Dover and a committee composed of Bernard Morman, Robert Berghorn, and Milton Voshell was appointed to work out details for a presentation ceremony for the antique.
In 1958, Robert Berghorn was president; James Clark, secretary; Bernard Morman, treasurer; and George Knotts, fire chief. The services of an architect was procured for the remodeling of the firehouse, with bids for $27,592. Twenty feet were added on the back, a fire escape installed on the north wall, existing walls between the two sections were removed and the whole of the interior completely remodeled. Also, the hand pumper was presented to the State Museum with appropriate ceremonies at the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association Convention held in Smyrna. The hand pumper is now a permanent part of the Firemen’s Exhibit at the museum. The company is proud to have played such an important part by providing this valuable antique.
Officers remained the same in 1959. During this year, the Ladies Auxilliary was reorganized and has been of much help to the company through their many fundraising activities and dinners. Officers elected were: Jerri Hurlock, president; Barbara Bilbrough, secretary; and Patsy Wilson, treasurer.
History of the 1960s
William L. Whalen was installed as president; William R. Carrow, secretary; Bernard Morman, treasurer; and Robert Berghorn, fire chief in 1960.
In 1961, Lester Smith was elected president, and William Bowers, fire chief, with other officers the same. During this year, the chief instituted a Junior Membership program for boys ages 16-18. This program was beneficial for both the boys and the company and is still being carried out under the direction of the chief. On September 8, the fist Bingo game since the days of the Firemen’s Carnival was conducted and showed a net profit of $28.86. Profit for that year was in excess of $1000. The games have been continued weekly ever since, with the exceptions of holidays.
Robert Berghorn was elected president in 1962. In January the company purchased a Dodge Recue Truck for $3,200 and sold the 1937 Mack for $400.
In 1963, new officers were elected: Lee Hurlock, president; Thomas Kennedy, secretary; Bernard Morman, treasurer; William Bowers, chief. Land was purchased for the construction of a new fire station for $6,500. The property site of the new fire station is located at the corner of East Street and Railroad Avenue. A dodge power wagon with four wheel drive for use as a field and woods truck was purchased at a cost of approximately $500 including equipment.
William Carrow was installed as president and Newlin Wood, secretary in 1964. An open house and fire prevention program was held during Fire Prevention Week with about 170 persons attending.
In 1965, Lee Hurlock was again elected president; John Davis, secretary; Bernard Morman, treasurer; Robert Berghorn, fire chief. An International truck with 500 GPM pump and 1000 gallon tank was purchased at the cost of $13,500.
Walter Eiermann was elected president; William Carrow, secretary; Bernard Morman, treasurer and William Bowers as chief for the year 1966. A committee consisting of Robert Faulkner, Floyd Warner and Lester Smith were appointed to formulate plans for a completely new fire station to be built.
In 1967, Robert Faulkner was installed as president. William Bowers was named chairman of the building committee due to the illness of Lester Smith. Robert Berghorn and William Carrow were also added. Final plans and specifications were authorized and in September the contract was let to Paul R. Scotton, contractor, for the construction of an all metal building measuring 70′ x 140′, with a large assembly hall, a modern kitchen, engine room, and recreational room. A committee consisting of Benjamin Roy, William Magee, Robert Berghorn, Lee Hurlock, William Bowers, and James Cubbage were appointed to hold dedication ceremonies when the building was completed.
In 1968, all officers were the same with William Magee being elected secretary. The building was complete in March 1968 at an approximate cost of $80,000 and on March 30 the new facilities were in operation. The old firehouse was sold at that time and all monies applied to the cost of the new station. Dedication of the building, housing of equipment, and an open house were held on May 19, 1968.
In 1969, the company updated their firefighting capability with purchase of a 1,000 gallon a minute Ward LaFrance custom pumper at a cost of $50,000.
History of the 1970s
Robert Faulkner served as president and “Ace” Carrow chief in 1969 and 1970. In 1971 Lee Hurlock was named president, followed in 1972 by Robert Berghorn, with Carrow contrinuing as chief.
In 1973 the company realized the need for additional space and authorized construction and renovation of the existing facilities at a cost of $85,000. The new addition included a new radio room, workshop, recreation and office facilities, storage room, a new lobby, and rest rooms. The main hall was completely paneled and new ceiling installed, plus major renovations to the kitchen.
In 1974, the Clayton Fire Company, along with the Citizen’s Hose Company of Smyrna, co-hosted the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association Convention held in September. That was the first time Clayton had been involved as a convention host.
In 1976, the Clayton Fire Company hosted the 47th Annual DEL-MAR-VA Volunteer Firemen’s Association for the first time ever. The convention was held on May 14-15, with a gala parade held to end the convention on Saturday, May 15th. The outgoing President of the Association was “Ace” Carrow, the first ever association president to be from Clayton.
During the period of the seventies, Clayton Fire Company began to establish itself as a contender in each parade that they participated in, a long line of trophies and awards as evident in the trophy case in the fire station attest to their success at this endeavor.
History of the 1980s
In September 1983, the company hosted a convention, this time it was the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association annual convention held September 8-10. This convention was hosted by the company itself and proved to be a successful affair. The outgoing state president was “Ace” Carrow, the first state president from Clayton in 33 years and only the third one in history. Also, in 1983, the company purchased a Dodge Van (45-8) from Rothwell Garage for the sum of $12,000, this van is replaced yearly through the courtesies of Rothwell’s.
In September 1986, the Clayton Fire Company was back in hosting the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association Annual Convention, this time for the Kent County Firemen’s Association. This convention was financed by an assessment from all Kent County Companies and has proven to be the fore runner of convention hosting since that time, where several fire companies in the county join forces to host this annual affair.
In 1989, the company purchased a Dodge pick-up for the Fire Chief at the cost of $17,000. This unit known as 45-15 enables the Chief to respond to emergency situation directly from his home and save valuable time in assess of the situation. They also constructed a lighting unit for the cost of $6,500; this unit can operate independently and be left on the scene, if necessary, for an extended period of time, thus, releasing other units.
History of the 1990s
Perhaps the highlight of Clayton Fire Company’s success over the past 100 years was reached on November 11, 1990, when the company, with the help of its neighboring companies, housed a 1990 Saulsbury Rescue/Salvage Unit mounted on a Simon-Duplex Chassis to be known as R45-6, this unit, cost $322,000.
The Fire Company celebrated a great milestone in 1991 when we celebrated our 100th anniversary. In May of that year during weeklong events we honored all those members that have served and continue to serve the citizens of Clayton and surrounding area’s. The highlights of the week was a large parade through Clayton and a formal banquet.
History of the 2000s
In 2001 another member of Clayton rose to serve the members of the Delaware Volunteer Firemans Assocation as President. James L. Cubbage Jr. served as President from 2000-2001. In September of that year our nation saw the largest loss of life of firefighters when 343 NYFD firefighters died in the attacks of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Firefighters and citizens around the world mourned their’s and all those lost on that day.
The late 1990’s and early 2000’s was a growing time for the company. In 1994 the company started on replacing all of it apparatus on a regular basis. From 1994 to present the company has been able to replace 2 of it’s engine’s, completely refurbish the 1980 Ward LaFrance, replace the brush piece, command vehicle and van and replace the Salisbury Rescue with a Pumper Rescue. The highlight was in 2006 the company placed a American LaFrance 75′ Quint in service. The unit is equiped as an aerial ladder and engine and can perform many functions. The unit cost cost to $600,000.00 with equipment and we help the members better serve the growing Clayton area.
Though our company is old in years of existence, time has taken its toll and at the present time only one of our members, Robert E. Berghorn has been associated with the Clayton Fire Company for 50 years or more. Four of our members have served as President of the Delaware Volunteer Firemen’s Association – Lewis Walker (1939), Fred Burke (1950), and William R. (Ace) Carrow (1983), Jmaes L. Cubbage Jr. 2001.
The Clayton Fire Company takes great pride in our unit, our community, our county, and our state. Our goal is to provide this fire district with the best equipment and firefighting knowledge possible. We pride ourselves as being “professionals”, dedicating ourselves and this Company to keep “Station 45” as one of the best, not only in our county, but in the state as well.