The Worland Family in America and Beyond

I began my life in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, on an island filled with forests and wild rhododendrons. I was separated from my Worland family there at an early age. Recently, I was reunited with my family and learned of my heritage. And so, this journey to know my ancestors began. The Worlands, Gideons, Newtons, Conards... they were the colonists, the settlers, the pioneers. They fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War. This is their story, and the story of a nation. -Deci Worland MacKinnon

Friday, January 8, 2010

1736- Ben Franklin, Fireman

The first volunteer fire company in America, "The Union Fire Company," was founded by Benjamin Franklin and four associates on December 7, 1736. Franklin served on it as America’s first volunteer fire chief.

It lasted for eighty-four years.

After an extensive fire in Philadelphia in 1736, Franklin created a fire brigade called The Union Fire company with 30 volunteers.
 So many men wanted to join Franklin's Union Company that he suggested it would be more beneficial to the salubrity of the city if they formed their own fire brigades. In the next several years, Philadelphians witnessed the birth of the Heart-in-Hand, the Britannia, the Fellowship, as well as several other fire companies.

In the 1884 book History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, John Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott described the organization of the company:
The Union Fire Company was an association for mutual assistance. Each member agreed to furnish, at his own expense, six leather buckets and two stout linen bags, each marked with his name and the name of the company, which he was to bring to every fire. The buckets were for carrying water to extinguish the flames, and the bags were to receive and hold property which was in danger, to save it from risk of theft. The members pledged themselves to repair to any place in danger upon an alarm of fire with their apparatus. Some were to superintend the use of the water, others were to stand at the doors of houses in danger, and to protect the property from theft. On an alarm of fire at night it was agreed that lights should be placed in the windows of houses of members near the fire "in order to prevent confusion, and to enable their friends to give them more speedy and effectual assistance.'

According to Scharf and Westcott, the company was limited to 30 members who met eight times a year and were fined if they were late to or missed a meeting. The company had no president, but a treasurer and a clerk, take in turns from the general membership, who not only managed communications with other members but also inspected the gear.

With respect to the equipment, Scharf and Westcott note the following:

At this time engines and buckets were the only available apparatus, as pumps were few, and the supply of water scant. The engine of the Union Company, it is believed, was imported from England, as were also those of the other companies formed down to 1768.

The engine of the Union Company was probably kept in a house in Grindstone Alley, which runs north from Market Street to Church Alley, west of Second Street.

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