TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF SERVICE
The year was 1761 when Williamsburg, later changed to Jonestown,
was settled. The citizens sensed the need for protection from fire, as most of
their homes were constructed of logs. Several homes were built of brick, and or
stone, however they were also subject to the ravages of fire. Residents of each
home were required to have located inside their front door a leather bucket, a
three-bushel bag, and an axe. When the call of fire in the town was spread each
family responded with their required tools to lend assistance with a bucket
brigade, or to assist in any way possible.
In the year 1803, a group of citizens met and pooled their
financial strength to organize the Jonestown Engine Company. The Court of
Lebanon County granted a charter in 1816 that was written in German, and
is now on display in the company museum located at Station 10. A means to
extinguish fires was foremost in the eyes of the company that created a vote to
purchase a Patrick Lyon engine manufactured in Philadelphia, Pa. Two
brothers Henry and William Heilman and William Rank took a team of horses to
Philadelphia, purchased the engine, and returned home with the engine in tow.
The Lyon engine was a double piston, double deck and stroke design, and could be
either hand drawn or horse pulled. This engine was preserved by former members
and is now on display in the company museum. The cost of the purchase was
$365.00, which was a lot of money at that time.
The Lyon engine remained in service until 1903 when an 85 gallon
Holloway Chemical Engine joined it. This unit required local horse teams to move
the engine to the scene of a fire. The combination of the two units was
effective based on early pictures on file in the company museum. The cost of the
Chemical Engine was $375.00. A name change was voted on in 1903 naming the
company Perseverance Fire Company of Jonestown. Several ballots were
taken to arrive at this new name after consideration of the other popular names
for fire companies at the time. The town was growing and in 1911 the
Consolidated Water Co. installed ten fireplugs throughout the town. To provide
firefighting water from the plugs a model 580 hose cart was purchased. This unit
is also on display, after being refurbished, in the company museum. The cost of
the hose cart was $92.17. Other cost of fire equipment was twenty cents a foot
for a wooden ladder, and a rubber coat and hat cost $23.00.
A new Borough Hall was dedicated in 1916, a joint venture of the
town fathers and the Perseverance Fire Co. The fire company had use of the first
floor for apparatus storage and the second floor as a meeting room. On
dedication day the fire company members and dignitaries are pictured in front of
the building with the apparatus, the men in their new parade uniforms of white
duct trousers, black shirt, and white duck cap, proudly displaying their
accomplishments. A fire bell was placed in the tower of the building as a signal
for the members to respond. Also the local Doctor S.T. Gilbert presented
25-parade axes to the members.
Motorized fire equipment was developing rapidly and the
desire to remain progressive led a committee to select a chassis, pump, and body
for the fire truck. Selected was a 1922 Ford chassis, Hale pump, and body for
the sum of $3,030.00. The ladies of the community formed the Ladies Auxiliary
with 103 members attending the first meeting. The auxiliary has provided large
sums of money to the company over the years. Moses F. Arndt granted a desire for
a larger pump and a heavier duty piece of apparatus, in addition to the model T
Ford, by donating his 1929 Packard upon which Hahn Motors placed a 500
gallon per minute pump and hose body. This unit was complete in every respect,
and cost the company $3,450.00. In 1931 the company became a member of the
Pennsylvania Fireman's Association. Fireman's parades were popular and new
parade uniforms were purchased consisting of a Cardinal Red shirt with
blue lapels, blue pants, blue tie, and a cap. The community was very proud of
the fire company marching unit.
Prior to World War II, during 1940, the fire company had a
demonstration provided by Hahn Motors of a new 500 gallon per minute rotary gear
pumper. Following the demonstration a motion was made and passed to purchase the
Hahn engine. The timing was perfect as during the war year's new engines were
almost impossible to come by. For the members of the company serving in the
armed forces, and there were many, the company provided each man with a wallet,
and continued to read each service man's name on active duty at every company
meeting for the duration of the war. 1945 was important in the history of the
company as the property of Dr. Stoner on King Street was purchased for use as a
social quarters, thus increasing the total membership. The first Lebanon County
fire school was conducted in 1946 and 5 members of the fire crew attended. Every
year all new members of the fire crew are required to attend this annual fire
school. Great strides were made in apparatus technology so that in 1952 a 750
gallon per minute American LaFrance 700 series engine was delivered for the
price of $17,658.00. The unit was the cab forward style, right side pump panel,
and rear booster reel. This engine was state of the art in every respect, and,
in August of 1954 two-way radios and a portable radio joined the Lebanon County
Fire Fighter safety was a prime concern, in that the men were
issued the latest in bunker coats, helmets, and boots. Also included were Scott
Aviation Air Packs, for entry into smoke filled areas. The cost of each air pack
was $229.00, with case. To supplement the engine with additional water E.H.
Gerhart Co. donated a used Dodge chassis upon which a used fuel tank was placed
with a portable pump mounted at the rear for the discharge of water. This was
the company's first tanker. The 1961 Jonestown Bicentennial was a gala week long
affair beginning with a Lebanon County fireman's convention and parade and
numerous other activities in which the company participated. The company Fire
Police were active with traffic and crowd control.
In 1963 a new Chevrolet Tank Truck was purchased with a pump to
discharge water. Quick dump valves had not been developed at
this point in time. This unit had limited cabinet space, suction hoses, and a
ladder added by the Junior Fireman through their fund raising projects. Lacking
storage space for other tools and the need for light duty rescue tools the
company purchased a used Bethel & Mt. Aetna Ford line truck in 1965. A winch,
compartments, and the authority to purchase additional tools necessary for light
rescue put the company in the rescue business. The problem at hand was where to
house this equipment under one roof. In September of 1965 a contract was let for
construction of a four-bay fire station at King & Queen Streets in Jonestown.
Three bays for the fire company and the fourth for the Lion's Club Ambulance.
The cost of the Station was $16,780.00. A discussion was held at a company
meeting in 1966 concerning making major apparatus repairs to the 1952
American LaFrance or to purchase a new piece of apparatus. After discussion a
motion was made to purchase a new American LaFrance engine, to be delivered in
the fall of 1967. Committee specifications included a 1000 gallon per minute two
stage pump, a 750 gallon water tank, and the first diesel engine in Lebanon
County. The cost of this new engine was $27,711.59. Dedication of the new fire
station and the housing ceremony for the new engine were held on October 7,
1967. Due to the demand of social members the enlargement of the Social Quarters
Club included a new entry, ballroom and restrooms which were completed in 1968.
The Agnes Flood of 1972
required 5 days of continuous service from the fire crewmembers. Water rescues
were carried out; several community citizens lost their lives, and the Company
pumped water from numerous basements. A challenging time for the fire
crewmembers to perform this demanding rescue work. In 1973 a new Rescue Truck
was purchased equipped with the latest heavy-duty rescue equipment. Swab Wagon
Company in Elizabethville, Penna. built the l973 Chevrolet cab-over style
chassis with a Diesel engine, the walk-in crew body, with a 250-gallon water
tank and pump and the ability to carry ambulatory victims similar to an
ambulance. Due to lack of motor power and the inability to upgrade the engine
the water tank and pump were removed to lighten the load. The need to provide
fire protection at the scene of motor vehicle accidents and possibly act as an
ambulance was not practical.
In 1974, the Company made a major equipment purchase, advancing to a new state
of the art supply hose known as Large Diameter Hose (LDH). The Company was the
first fire company in Lebanon County to purchase LDH by initially purchasing
1000’-4” LDH with Stortz couplings. In order to carry a greater amount of LDH
the Company purchased Engine 10-1 a 1979 American LaFrance 1500 GPM Pumper. This
allowed the Company to carry 5400’ of 4” LDH on the two engines. Engine 10
served as an attack engine and carried 1400’ of 4” LDH and Engine 10-1 carried
4000’- 4” LDH. Engine 10-1 was specifically designed to carry a large amount of
LDH by extending the hose bed over the pump panel. Engine 10-1 cost the Company
$89,999.00 and is Diesel powered with an automatic transmission carrying 1000
gallons of water. The Company realized the value of LDH and converted from 4”
LDH to 5” LDH.
In 1989, the Company purchased a 1989 American LaFrance Century 2000 stainless
steel pumper. Engine 10 was purchased to replace the old 1967 American LaFrance
workhorse engine. Engine 10 is a 1500-GPM attack engine carrying 1500’- 5 “ LDH,
5 pre-connected attack lines, a 50 gallon pre-piped foam system, a 6-person
enclosed cab, a 750- gallon water, front suction, a mounted deck monitor and is
powered by a diesel engine with an automatic transmission. Cost $209,000.
An increase of company responses to motor vehicle accidents and other rescue
type responses during the years leading up to 1995 led to the need for replacing
the l973 Heavy Duty Rescue. Rescue 10 is a 1995 Swab Heavy Duty Rescue Truck on
a Spartan chassis with a 10-person cab. Rescue 10 carries two Hurst systems,
6-6000 psi air cylinders, an air cylinder fill station, supplied air reels, 20kw
Amps generator to power the exterior light and the Wil-Burt light tower. Cost of
this unit was $260,000.
The expansion of Station 10, located at King and Queen St. was begun in the
2002 and is now complete. The Dedication of the expansion will take place
immediately following the 81st Lebanon County Convention and parade on June 21,
2003. The expansion totally re-built the original station and is a 2-story
building that includes 4 apparatus bays, bunk facilities, kitchen,
administrative offices, and a crew lounge.
Throughout the past 200 years the Perseverance Fire Company has supported many
Local and countywide community activities and charitable events. This factor has
won high praise and good will in the Jonestown area.
Not to be forgotten are the men who have devoted many hours of themselves and
their families to making this a progressive Fire Company for the past 200 years.
Reviewing the past historical records mostly men composed the membership of the
company, however not to be forgotten is the work of the Ladies Auxiliary and in
recent year several females serving as firefighters.
To Be Continued!!!!!!!!!!!
Henry Skip Gerhart
Former Fire Chief
Member Historical Committee