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PART 4: Early History of The City of Gloucester City: Fire Dept./Police Dept./Water Dept.





An ordinance to establish a fire department in Gloucester City was passed by Common Council July 5, 1878. It was signed by Mayor William H. Banks, President of Council, Philip H. Fowler, and G. William Barnard, Recorder.

After the passage of this ordinance there shall be appointed, five persons citizens of Gloucester City, three from City Council, one from each district, for the term of one year, who shall be styled the Fire Commissioners of Gloucester City. Also appointed was one fire marshal, Patrick Mealey, assistants John Graham and John Lafferty. Department members were Henry Gilmore, Andrew Mosser, James Foster, Joseph McAdams, Lawrence Conlohan, James McMahon, Sr., James McMahon, Jr., Joseph Berry, Herman Klosterman and William Shimp.

The apparatus comprised one book and ladder truck, fire ladders, six fire extinguishers, six hooks, thirty-six buckets, axes, rope, grappling irons etc. There was no water works until 1883. The mill had their own fire dept. Water was pumped from private wells and passed from hand to hand in buckets.

In 1878 a horse carriage was purchased from Union Home Co. of Lancaster along with one thousand feet of hose. The book and ladder and hose carriage were pulled by the members all holding a rope attached to the vehicles. The first hose house was built of wood in the rear of the City Hall on Bergen Street and was replaced by one mad of brick. The present fire house is the third one to be used.

A part of the original fire ordinance states that immediately upon the alarm of fire during the night it shall be the duty of the respective policemen of the city to give notice thereof by crying fire or ringing a bell, and mentioning the street or direction where it may be and if any policeman shall neglect to do so he shall forfeit and pay a fine of ten dollars.

The fireman received no pay  but were exempt from the assessment of private property to the amount of five hundred dollars and were members of the firemen’s relief fund.



Prior to 1868 when Gloucester became a city, law enforcement was in the hands of constables whose duty it was to arrest and bring to court the offenders. Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.52.45

When Gloucester became a city under the charter and by laws for governing the city in article 20, it was stated that it shall be the duty of the constable or constables appointed in said city, to preserve and maintain at all times the peace and quiet of said city, to arrest and imprison offenders against the ordinances of said city or the laws of this state, and to perform such other duties, and under such penalties, as the common council of said city shall from time to time prescribe.

In 1882 the city police dept. consisted of William H. Banks Mayor and Chief, John Cavanaugh, janitor of city hall and in charge of the city jail. The policemen, who received an annual salary of 600 dollars, were William Byers, James Truax, Thomas Lenny and Isaac Marple. Special policemen were Lawrence Culahan, James McMahan, Robert Cattell, James Gilday, James McMahan, Jr. and Thomas Kelly.

Beginning of Gloucester City Water Dept.

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Gloucester City Water Dept.  (photo late 1800's)


In 1831, 13 years after Gloucester village was incorporated as a city, John Gourley and other members of city council had passed by a majority vote of the people an ordinance in favor of having a waterworks. Opponents of the measure with the assistance of the courts set the decision aside. The matter was dead for a while, when it was brought alive again by the Gloucester City Reporter, a newspaper edited by Benjamin M. Braker (Charles Hines, a life long printer, retired now, told me he was an apprentice printer on this paper) and was approved by a decision vote of the people.

Under an ordinance of August 3, 1882 for the purpose of constructing a water works the amount was insufficient, but under an act of the State Legislature enabling cities to supply inhabitants with water, passed April 21, 1876. Bonds to the amount of $20,000 were issued to build water works in the city and was passed by council March 22, 1883. The bonds were signed by Robt. Conway, president of council; William R. Taylor, recorder, and Frederick Shindle, mayor.

Council secured the services of John H. Yocum, a civil engineer of Camden, and in 1883 work was started. The first thought was to obtain the water supply from the head waters of Newton Creek near Mt. Ephraim where excellent water could be had. (I can remember ice being cut and stored from this pure spring water which was known as Mt. Ephraim Lake).

The estimated cost was $100,000 and bids were being considered when a strong petition to locate the water works on Newton Creek in the city limits because of lessened costs was presented to council and passed.

In excavating for a subsiding reservoir from which the water was to be pumped a subterranean stream of pure water was struck.

A standpipe 90 feet high was erected, and in case of fire a direct pressure from the pumps avoided the necessity of steam fire engines. Until halted by a State Board of Health law, when there was a fire, valves in water works were opened and creek water flowed into the city mains and pumps at water works gave the extra pressure needed. Joseph Finley was first engineer, followed by John Lane and Hamilton Brookls, assistant engineer.

In 1895 the council committee on water works was William J. Thompson, Patrick Mealey and Thomas D. Mannion, and they list the following attachments; hydrants 1205; baths 272; water closets 138; wash stands 89; wash paves 134; wash tubs 13; hotel bars 76; horse troughs 6; barber shops 4; drug stores 5; boilers 6. Members of city council in 1883 when building of water works was started were Robert Conway, president; L.G. Mayers, H.P. Gaunt, John Gourley, R.R. Allen, William Albertson, A.D. Husted, D.J. McBride and R.B. Lafferty.

I am told that in the building of the reservoir the bottom was a mass of springs which for a while delayed the completion. This condition continued to exist after out of town engineers were unable to overcome it. Councilman William Albertson had in his employ a man by the name of Chapman who solved the problem and work continued until the reservoir was completed and is still in use today.

In 1907 E. Frank Green and son built an addition to the boiler room at the water works under the direction of Mr. Vickers, chairman of water committee of city council. Coady & Cheeseman were the contracting brick layers. The water works was reconstructed in 1922-23 under Mayor Anderson in 1922 and McNally in 1923. The members of city council were Robt. C. Anderson, Morton Black, Walter Craig, Marcus Cramer, Joseph Flexon, Joseph Hammill, William Hyland, J. Harry Johnson, Charles Mailley. Robert Mayhugh, George Patton, Harry Wallace, Walter Whiley and City Clerk,  A.W. Redfield.

RELATED: Gloucester City History

PART THREE: The Battle of Gloucester; Frigate Augusta

PART TWO: Hugg's Tavern and The Marriage of Betsy Ross

PART ONE: Early History of City of Gloucester City




(CNBNews Editor's Note)--The above was copied from the booklet The History of Gloucester City, NJ. The year 1964 was the 341st Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 16.24.13anniversary of the State of New Jersey (1664 to 1964). That year Gloucester City's Mayor and Council authorized a Tercentenary Celebration with a number of events planned to emphasized Gloucester City's rich history. In 1964 a 50-page booklet titled THE HISTORY OF GLOUCESTER CITY compiled by the Gloucester City Jaycees, with the help of the Gloucester City Historical Society was published and distributed to residents. The book contained historical photos and documents,  that began with the early history of the different Indian tribes that lived in and around Gloucester City.