BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Historical souvenir : Savannah Fire Department

by Fireman's Relief Fund Association, Savannah, Ga


By 1736 the town had reached considerable proportions and Francis Moore, Esq., thus describes its appearance: "The town of Savannah is built of wood; all the houses of the first forty free holders are the same size with that Mr. Oglethorpe lives in, but there are great numbers built since, I believe one hundred or one hundred and fifty; many of these are much larger, some two or three stories high, the boards plained and painted. The inhabitants are peaceful and happy and the town is altogether very prosperous."

The First Fire.

It appears that the town was very fortunate, as far as the loss from fire was concerned, and it was not until 1737, nearly four years after the colony was founded, that the first fire of any consequence occurred. Quoting from an old history it appears that "the first fire recorded in the history of this settlement occurred in 1737, at which time the entire population, with one exception, turned out and extinguished it, the exception referred to was a Mr. Jones, and against whom the settlers preferred charges for standing by with his hands in his pockets, looking on, while his townsmen were working passing buckets of water and using other methods for putting out the fire.'"

In 1748 the city consisted of "fully two hundred houses, built of wood, at a pretty large distance from one another, for fear of fire." No particular other precaution against fire was taken. Each individual occupant and owner exercised the greatest care and depended largely upon assistance from his neighbors in case of fire. Many of the houses were supplied with ladders, but as far as can be learned this was entirely optional with the inhabitants.

Fire of 1758 and First Fire Ordinances.

In 1758 the filature, which at that time added materially to the wealth of the town, was destroyed by fire, with its contents, consisting of a large quantity of silk and 7,040 pounds of cocoons. At this time Savannah consisted of 400 dwellings, a church, an independent meeting house, a council house, a court house and a filature. There were twelve streets besides the Bay, six squares and two suburbs—Yamacraw and Trustees' Garden. The limits of the town on the west was what is now Jefferson street, on the east what is now Lincoln street, and on the south what is now Oglethorpe Avenue. After the destruction of the filature, it

seems the town was awakened to the necessity of some improvement in the fire-fighting facilities. A hand engine was purchased, and in 1759 an act was passed by the General Assembly prohibiting the erection and repair of wooden chimney under penalty of five pounds sterling, which money was to be paid to the Wardens of the Parish of Christ Church for the purpose of keeping the fire engine in a proper condition of repairs. Fifteen of the townsmen formed themselves into a company and agreed to keep the fire engine "in good repair and attend upon any accident of fire." A very short time after this the Wardens and Vestrymen of the Parish of Christ church were authorized to procure fifty leather buckets and fifteen fire hooks, to be paid for by a "tax upon the citizens in proportion to the number of hearths in each house." Thus was the first fire company formed in Savannah and the first fire ordinance enacted.

In 1760 the owners of every house in the city was required to provide his property with a "ladder the height of his house for use in case of fire." This law was strictly enforced and appears to have been in -effect up to 1796. The importance of this measure of protection was fully recognized, and it is recorded that at a meeting of Council, held June 20th., 1796, "the information against the Mayor for lending out one of the public fire ladders was acted upon, and the fact admitted, ordered that the Mayor be fined $10,00."

Ship Fire, 1776.

The greatest destruction of ships that has ever occurred in the Savannah river, took place on March 3rd., 1776. The British forces having captured eleven ships laden with rice, which were lying off Hutchinson's Island, opposite Yamacraw, were attacked by the town militia, and after several unsuccessful attempts to recapture the vessels, the Council of Safety ordered the ships to be destroyed by fire. The Inverness, which was lying at the pier about where the Upper Rice Mill wharf now stands, was fired, and, under the direction of the Commander of the Militia, the vessel was drifted over the river, collided with the ships and set fire to a number of them. Seven were totally destroyed and three were badly damaged.

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