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Museum (DUP) Early Days

Early Days

In early March of 1848, Mr. Shenston’s harness shop caught fire and had to be demolished to prevent the fire from spreading. This may have been the incident that led The Woodstock Monarch newspaper to call for the formation of a fire brigade on March 14, 1848.

The men who made the department work and who gave of themselves to protect the city is a story of which Woodstock should be proud. Some 160 men volunteered in the early days in three different brigades.

Volunteer Fire Brigades in front of the Caister House, late 1860’s
Volunteer Fire Brigades in front of the Caister House, late 1860’s

In 1848, in one evening, 64 men signed on as volunteer firefighters for the No.1 Fire and Hook and Ladder Company, which received its first charter in December of 1851.

In 1850 a second brigade, the Victoria Fire Company, was formed. Records show that the company held an anniversary dinner on March 8,1858, and the secretary C.C. Cartyer is mentioned. The sale of the hand-drawn fire pump of the company, the hook and ladder truck and some hose was approved by Town Council in April 1879, probably marking the closing of this brigade.

Around the same time a third brigade, the Operative Fire Co. No 3, counted among its volunteers Captain Chas Cook,  1st Lieutenant Geo. Robinson, 2nd Lieutenant J. Hopt,  and Secretary Treasurer H. W. Hill.

Fire Helmate
  • No. 3 Fire Company Helmet and Belt – worn by Captain James S. Scarff,1860’s
  • Fireman's Megaphone – used to call order to firemen and owned by Edward McJannette, Fire Chief From 1931 to 1940

The Reorganized Brigade

With the installation of the new town water system in 1881, the city felt it was time for a reorganization of the fire brigades. By May of that year, a letter in The Woodstock Sentinel-Review called upon all good citizens to support the newly formed 16-man brigade. In the same month, a letter of resignation from the No.1 Fire and Hook and Ladder Company was received by the town, signed by the Captain John Mitchell and the Secretary Thos. Izzard. Having served the town for 33 years, the brigade wished the city well in its new plan and noted that of the original 64 men volunteering in March of 1848, only Henry Teeple Burtch was a volunteer. The remaining funds of the brigade were given to the Woodstock Mechanics Institute for educational purposes. 

The Town’s position was that the new company should be small and manageable, going from about 160 men who volunteered their service and elected their own officers, to a brigade with a chief appointed by Council.  


  • Hat Badge – Woodstock Fire Department hat badge 13 worn by James Truscott, 1946 to 1979
  • Hat Badge – Woodstock Fire Department hat badge 19 worn by Art Hardy, 1948 to 1969

While several fire brigades operated in Woodstock prior to 1881, it was not until the town water system, with fire hydrants, was installed that the fire department became a single organized company, with partially paid as well as volunteer firemen. Today the firemen still continue to define themselves as they serve the city, often under extreme pressure.



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© 2017 City of Woodstock P.O. Box 1539, 500 Dundas Street, Woodstock, ON N4S 0A7


Phone: 519-539-1291
Email: General Information

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