BY MARGARET ELLIS
T-NN Staff Reporter
The word fire in Lincolnton prior to 1907 sent chills up and down spines and instigated discussions and plans devised at the courthouse, drug stores, hitching posts and other places and out of these discussions was born the Lincolnton Fired Department, which was formed and organized in 1907 with the following members: G.W. McAlister, contractor; Chief Guy M. Haynes, blacksmith; J.M. Smith, clerk; T.V. Lineberger, drayman; Guy Cline, bank clerk; C.B. Philips, drug clerk; O.A. Costner, oil man; Mason Pressley, schoolboy; L.H. Adair, express agent, and James A. Shuford, telephone manager.
But history goes still farther back with the information that years prior to the present organization there existed a fire company or at least a chief, who was Tom Hoke. Later the work of fighting fires was turned over to the colored people and Henry Taylor, a colored man was chief.
At that time the fire equipment consisted of a pump mounted on wheels so it could be rolled to the cistern made of wood situated in the court square where the water box on the wagon could be filled with water. Attached to the pump was a long handle on either side, which a number of men would operated by up-and-down movements; thereby, forcing water through the hose that was long enough to protect the crude wooden buildings around the square. An interesting antique in possession of the department today is a trumpet that was used to give the alarm when there was a fire.
A red letter day with the firemen was early in 1908 when they received the first rubber boots and coats.
The department gradually put on more modern ways and newer ideas and in 1910 joined the State Firemenâ€™s Association at the annual meeting held in Charlotte.
To keep pace with time and progress, the town purchased â€œBetsyâ€ the first fire truck on June 1, 1917 which was shipped December 11, 1917 and on its arrival, was noticed, examined and talked of more than Edisonâ€™s visit to Lincolnton in the first automobile.
In 1925, another red letter day, the news was heard that a contract for a 750 gallon pumper truck (Big Liz) was signed May 12, 1925 and arrived in Lincolnton September 25, 1951.
One of the most disastrous fires to strike Lincolnton in those early years occurred on Sunday, March 2, 1930. It was first detected on the second floor of the Square Store and with a terrific wind blowing it looked as if the whole business block was doomed. With the help of Hickory, Cherryville and Gastonia firemen who made a speed record in arriving here with their trucks, the blaze was confined to the Square Store, Lincolnton Furniture and Undertaking Co., and Betty Maeâ€™s Store.
The firemen set a speed record in August 1919 when the barn and feed store house of Troop I, Calvary North Carolina Guard caught fire.
The Lincoln Times stated that the firemen received the call, drove four and a half blocks, connected with the hydrant and were pouring water on the blaze in the short length of 73 seconds.
The following named have served as Chief of the department: G.W. McAlister, 1907 to 1911; J.O.Shuford, 1912 to 1920; A.W. Webber, 1920 to 1926; J.M. Smith, October, 1926 to January, 1928; J.O. Shuford, January, 1928 to October, 1934; C.C. Crowell, December, 1943; B.J. Ramseur in 1955, who suffered a heart attack was the only chief to die in office. White Tobey, 1955 to 1958, and Woody Armstrong, 1958 to present.
The following were members of the department up to 1933 and the date of joining: Horace Wilson, September, 1925; C.C. Crowell, July, 1924; G.W. Tobey, July, 1924; J. Thomas McLean, June, 1925; W.S. Lander, March, 1926; L.M. Kuck, September, 1926; B.J. Ramseur, May, 1926; A.E. Mullen, 1926; W.F. Hoyle, December, 1927; W.E. Adams, September, 1930; Harold Honeycutt, sleeper, February, 1931 – Regular Spetember, 1933; George Page, sleeper, January 1933; J.B. Mason, sleeper, March 1933, and three charter members who have served continuously since joining: Guy M. Haynes, 1907; Thomas Harrill, 1907; and James A. Shuford, 1907.
The history of the fire department thus far was taken from an article written for the Lincoln Times by James A. Shuford, charter member of the department.
During the years that followed, the Lincolnton fire Department continued to grow and improve as new equipment and modern methods in fire fighting were established.
Another red letter day for the department came in November 1952 when the ladder truck was delivered to Lincolnton. After which came the 500 gallon pumper in 1954 and a 1,000 gallon pumper in 1963.
In the years following World War II, great strides were achieved in fire fighting with such equipment as high-pressure pumps and the utilization of chemistry. This type of addition to the department turned the job of fire fighting into a matter of skill rather than just mere brawn brawn.
Some of the outstanding fires battled by the department during the period from 1938 to the present were Rhodes and Colliers barn, Dixie Grocery, Long Shoals Cotton Mill, Crown Converting Company, Lincoln Roller Mill, Reeves Gamble Hospital, Union School and Kincaid Carolina Furniture Company.
The Lincoln Fire Department technically covers the city limits of Lincolnton at present due to the growth and development of the volunteer units across the county. Their boundaries do not stop at the city limits however, as they stand ready, willing and able to assist any of these units in the fighting of fires.
Lincolnton has one of the most up to date fire departments that any town could have and maintains the lowest city fire insurance rates which is based on the number of paid employees in a department. More paid employees would be the only way to further reduce the city insurance rate.
The department is operated on a volunteer and paid member basis with seven paid members who are drivers and 26 volunteers. In comparison of growth, in 1938 there were only two paid members and 18 volunteers.
Present members of the fire department are: W.A. Armstrong, chief; J.T. Armstrong, Bill Avery, Vance Avery, Walter Avery, Mike Boyles, Miller Boyles, Hugh Brackett, J.C. Broome, Ken Carpenter, F.J. Costner, Jud Devine, Hodie Duncan, Bob Early, Calvin Harkey, Hollis Henderson, New Holly, Larry Mac Hovis, Kelly Kiser, Frank Kuck, Don Lawing, Ernie Little, Robert Lynch, J.T. McLean, Bob McSwain, E.W. Robinson, J.C. Rudisill, A.R. Small, Cecil Stroup, Hoyle Taylor, Henry White, Ralph Yoder and L. Ward.