Perseverance - since 1803




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 Radio system.

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 Spring of 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


2003-2010 Jonestown Perseverance Fire Company

This page was last updated on 03/24/14 01:37:17 PM

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