White Mills Fire Department History

Research by Glenn Haggerty

On August 12, 1910, a meeting was held in White Mills for the purpose of organizing a fire Department. After several meetings the first officers of the department were elected as follows: President, Joseph Stephens; Vice President, A.H. Howel; Recording Secretary, Chester Elmore; Financial Secretary, J.W. Toms; Treasurer, Dwight Dorflinger. The Board of Trustees was Marcus Elmore, Thomas Gill and George Kimble. The first fire chief was Fred Houth and John Dorlinger and John Boyle, Assistant Chiefs.

At various meetings throughout 1910, plans were made by the membership to erect a fire hall. The hall was erected in 1911, on land donated by Christian Dorflinger under the supervision of Fred Houth, master carpenter, at the pay rate of $1.50 per day.

Equipment purchased in 1911 consisted of a ladder truck, which carried 6 ladders, 4 ropes and 22 ten gallon pails. Engine #1 and #2 carried 4 lengths of hose, soda-acid extinguishers, lanterns and nozzles. Two hose carts completed the early equipment. All of these units were hand drawn.

In January of 1920, a Dodge truck was purchased from Conrad and Company for $1755.53. Several months later a 500 g.p.m. Barton front mount pump was purchased for $696.00 and installed on the Dodge truck in January 1920, bringing to this area the first mechanized pumper. Also in 1928, a Sterling general fire alarm siren was purchased and installed on the fire hall at a cost of $215.00. Several years later a booster tank was designed by Walter Johnson and built at the Gurney Elevator Company in Honesdale and installed on the truck.

In September of 1947, a Reo Chassis was ordered from Corners Sales & Serve ice and a contract awarded to W.S. Darley & Company to install the equipment. This apparatus was delivered to the department in August of 1948 at a total cost of $6800.00.

In July of 1959, the department received a 2000 gallon tank truck from federal surplus and re-built at a cost of $6200.00.

In December of 1975, a Dodge Mini-Pumper was purchased and placed in service as a first out unit.

During the year of 1951, plans were made to take over the holding of the White Mills Improvement Society. This consisted of four parcels of land and the opera house, then known as the "Community Hall". The opera house was built in 1896 and was used for many years for traveling shows. Also included in these holdings was land upon which stood the National Hotel. This hotel was built in 1891 by Mr. & Mrs. Neilson, and stood as a landmark until March 23, 1938, when it was completely destroyed by fire.

Realizing the need for a larger and more modern community center, the department tore down the opera house and built a new community center, which was dedicated in May of 1973 in memory of Dr. H.L. Masters and Fredrick Suydam. Three years later a new building was erected next to the community center to house the department's fire apparatus.

Throughout the year of 1940, members of White Mills and Seelyville fire departments met for the purpose of forming a Firemen's Relief Association. This association was chartered in 1941.

Space does not permit a listing of all fires in the village of White MIlls, but one of the most disastrous fires occurred on the night of May 25, 1892, shortly after midnight. Fire was discovered in the shipping room of the Dorflinger Glass Factory. The only fire apparatus in the village was a hand pumper, and lacking any means of communication, a messenger was dispatched to Honesdale for assistance. The Honesdale Company left Honesdale in the dead of night with a steam fired pumper drawn by four horses. The trip to White Mills over rough and hilly road took less than fifty minutes, yet much of the glass shop and finished products were destroyed.

The department has a large membership and has provided fire protection to White Mills and surrounding areas as well as supplying mutual aid to its neighboring departments.

The department is a member of the Wayne County Firemen's Association and the Northeastern Firemen's Federation.

The Ladies Auxiliary, which was formed in 1973, has contributed much to the welfare of the fire department. Projects undertaken and paid for by the auxiliary were drilling of the well, equipment for the kitchen and building of the truck room, to name only a few.