History of the

East Durham Volunteer Fire Company, Inc

-taken from the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Association 114th Annual Convention Ad Book

September 2, 2002



            On September 23m 1927, a small group of public spirited men, realizing the Town needed fire protection, called a public meeting at Lawyer’s Hall.  At this meeting the name of East Durham Volunteer Fire Company was suggested and plans for the future discussed.


            At a meeting held on October 14, 1927, the following were elected to office:


                        President –                  Herbert E. Utter

                        Vice President –          John Lawyer

                        Secretary –                  William A. Fox

                        Treasurer –                  Harry B. Tubbs

                        Chief –                        Burton G. Snyder

                        Assistant Chief –        M. Jacob Coventry

                        Trustees –                    George Williams, Sr.

                                                            Millard Tubbs

                                                            Daniel Ahearn


With the leadership of these men, who received the cooperation of the residents of the Town, progress was made with exceptional speed.


            On November 14, 1927 a committee was authorized to purchase fire apparatus and on November 18, it was decided to incorporate the Fire Company as an independent company and not as a fire district.  It was also decided at this meeting to purchase land and erect a hose house.  Within a few days, a site was purchased and the erection of a building was commenced on December 8, 1927.  Exactly four months to the day, after the first meeting, the East Durham Volunteer Fire Company, Inc had been organized, incorporated, a hose house erected, and the first equipment (a 1927 Childs Triple Combination pumper) installed.


            The first regular meeting was held at the hose house on February 6, 1928 with twenty-four (24) members in attendance and during the month of May they joined the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) and the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Association (GCVFA).


            On September 16, 1930 the Fire Company hosted the Greene County Firemen’s Association convention in East Durham.  Thirteen (13) East Durham men marched in the parade in uniforms consisting of black hats, ties, trousers and white shirts; a nifty looking group, led by Howard Jennings on horseback.


Several of the firemen, Stanley and Raymond Lawyer, Millard Tubbs, George Williams, Jr. and Lyman Tubbs started a band called the “Catskill Mountain HotShots”.  They played for dances at the Fire House every Saturday night for years.  Refreshments consisted of hot dogs and soda and if you wanted something stronger, The Shamrock House was across the street.  Many good times and several marriages resulted from these Saturday night dances.


            As 1939 rolled around the need for additional equipment became evident and a three-quarter ton Ford truck was purchased and converted into a chemical hose truck by the members.


            In 1947, a Bean high pressure fog outfit mounted on an International chassis along with a Ward La France 500gpm pumper mounted on a Ford chassis was purchased.  At this time the ’39 chemical truck was sold.


            After World War II, a group of members asked to form a second company within the boundaries of the Town, to aid response time and protection in that end of the Town.  The Oak Hill-Durham Volunteer Fire Company was born and drew up their boundary lines and became a Fire Protection District collecting taxes to support the Company.  East Durham then covered the remaining portion of the Town.  Many of the life members of this Company were active members of Oak Hill-Durham Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. and Freehold Volunteer Fire Company.


            Because the hose house was used as a meeting hall by local organizations of the Town as well as Town Court and the Town polling place, on November 12, 1948 it was voted to purchased land adjoining toe hose house for Clarence Mackey and erect another building to house the fire equipment.  A 34`x50` building was completed in 1949 and the equipment housed.


            A First Aid Rescue Squad, comprised of fifteen (15) members of the Fire Company, was organized and trained through a Red Cross Fire Aid Course.  Through direct donations from the residents, a $700.00 Inhalator-Resuscitator-Aspirator was purchased in 1950.  This squad was credited with saving many lives in the Town.


            In March of 1957 disaster struck.  A fire broke out in the meeting hall, which was discovered by Stan Lawyer and Robert McDowell.  The meeting hall was badly damaged but left intact due to the superb fire fighting direction of Ray Rockefeller and Fred Mack.  It was that fall when the annual spring and fall roast beef dinners were started to help pay for the renovations that were done including a complete new kitchen with appliances.


            The main problem facing Fire Companies without hydrants is water.  Therefore, in 1959, it was decided the need for water at the scene of fires was apparent.  A used 1954 Dodge fuel tank was purchased and converted to a tanker.  This added an extra 1000 gallons of water to be used when ponds and creeks were not available.


            The operation of the Fire Company to this date was unique inasmuch as it was a Corporation and not a fire district.  The purchase of all property, erection of all buildings, the purchase of all equipment and maintenance of same were financed by donations and proceed of its fund raising events.


            The Company was not above suffering losses during the years.  Tragedy struck once again in 1963 when the large barn on the DeWitt Rockefeller property (located on Route 145 near the large lake) burned and the 1927 Child’s Triple Combination pumper which was being stored there, was lost in the disaster.  For years, this brought a tear to the eye of each fireman at Convention time when the antique apparatus was displayed.


            Due to escalation of equipment prices and cost of repairs after the war it became apparent that the Company could not function on the same basis although support oat the functions continued to grow.  Therefore, in 1966 a petition was circulated to start a fire district that would cover all that portion of the Town, not in Oak Hill-Durham district, in order to contract with the Town for tax money in the amount of $5,000 per year.


            A step-van was purchased in 1966 to convert to a utility truck to carry Indian tanks, extra coats, boots and helmets to fires plus other miscellaneous equipment.


            The Fire Police were re-organized in this same year and put under the capable direction of Fred Mack.  New equipment was purchased for them.


            The year 1967 saw many changes also.  A siren timer, which was donated, was installed; the siren has blown at noon each day, except Sunday in the Hamlet of East Durham.  The need for more equipment once again became apparent.  This time, a John Bean two-stage high pressure fog apparatus with a 750 gallon tank mounted on an International chassis arrived in time for the convention.


            East Durham hosted the convention again with 100% attendance from as far aware as Phoenicia.  Joyce Fuegmann and Elsy May Colvin made a banner for the Fire Company and were honored to carry it in the parade.  Once again, members were dressed in black trousers, shoes, ties and white shirts.  The Convention was a complete success, under the direction of Raymond Lawyer and Russell Cole, Co-Chairmen, including a steak dinner served at the Fire House to all Greene County firemen.


            The Catskill Valley Grange, No 1557 chose to help the Company with a community service project by offering to number the houses in the East Durham district.  A 4`x8` map was made with the numbers placed on it, which hung on the wall of the Fire House for many years.  Numbers were distributed to owners to be left on the property even though it changed hands and were used to report a fire.  Numbers 1 through 999 were used leaving the 4-digit numbers for the Oak Hill district if they desired to carry out the project.




            Reginald Goff donated a parcel of land in Cornwallville and a satellite building was erected on it by 1969.  This offered more protection to that area of the Town.  Oak Hill-Durham Volunteer Fire Company, Inc donated a tank truck to be housed there along with the 1946 Fog outfit.


            During 1971, it was decided by the Company to purchase the land adjacent to the fire house, remove the building and create a parking lot by grading and landscaping.  Ivan Turk, owner of the land, agreed and this was accomplished during the next one and on-half years.


            The need to update equipment saw the start of a monthly fund-raising project in 1974.  At this time, the annual Spaghetti and Chow Mein dinners were added to the Roast Beef dinners.  Also an annual Horse Show was started to raise funds for the Company as well as to give the local children an opportunity to bring their equine friends and have some fun.  This was developed under the expertise of Raymond Reed and held on the grounds of Rus Cole.


            The equipment committee decided on a four wheel drive International chassis with a Maxim fire apparatus including a 1000gpm pump and 1500 feet of four inch hose.  This piece of equipment arrived in 1976 and was the pride of East Durham.


            September 6 through 10, 1977 East Durham once again hosted the 89th Annual Convention under the guidance of Alan Mack and Russell Cole.  Once again, a steak dinner was served to the men in the fire house.  Red vests, white shirts and blue trousers were white hats were the uniforms with the Grand Marshal being George Williams, Jr. (son of one of the Charter Members).


            Over the next few months, a used van was purchased to carry equipment for brush fire, coats and other gear.  The Jaws of Life, recently purchased by the Town of Durham for the Ambulance Squad was installed in this van as well as a 7500 watt generator and four halogen lights for night use at accidents and fires.


            With the size as well as number of trucks growing, the need for larger quarters loomed.  On August 6, 1984 construction was started.  The old hose house was razed by Ralph Borwegan and a new 60`x 80` Morton Steel Building was erected.  This building would have three bays in the front (capable of housing six trucks) and one bay across the back.  It would be connected to the original meeting hall by an addition that would house new larger rest rooms (replacing the one stall walk in-back out rooms) and a Chief’s office.  This was completed in time to be used for the 1987 Greene County Convention, under the chairmanships of Carlos Sala and Fred Heller and with a little bit of Irish thrown in.  Again a steak dinner was served in the new hose house complete with green and white decorations.  This time, the men paraded in the red, white and blue uniforms with white hats and shoes carrying banners to match.  Jackson Hose Company from Nyack with their green pumper with gold shamrocks was invited to parade the streets of “Little Ireland” (East Durham).


            During the construction of the new hose house, it was decided to purchased and bury a 20,000 gallon tank to use as a large water reservoir under the parking lot, making water accessible to all Route 145 buildings as well as a fill for tankers in case of fires.  All of this construction was paid for completely in one year with taxpayer’s approval.


            In the 1980 decade with Hans and Gretels Restaurant closed the month of February and the Fire Company in need for fund raising ideas, it was decided by a couple of firemen to hold breakfast each Sunday during February.  Dave and Laurie Jennings took charge and they were so successful that when Hans and Gretels changed to closing in January instead, the breakfasts changed with them.  This continues today.


            During the 1991-92 one of the Ladies Auxiliary members decided she would enjoy being a fire fighter.  Inasmuch as East Durham had never had women members before, it was a challenge for her to make the roster.  Needless to say, Mitzi-Su Jennings became a full fledged member and after breaking the ice several other women joined the ranks.


            About this time, the age of the Fire Company members was being considered and a need for younger people to join was realized.  A Junior Fireman squad was formed with four or five young men, age 14 or more.  Rules were set up for them and everyone hoped that besides having something to keep them busy, they would eventually become full fledged firemen.


            In 1994-1995 with the need for more water at fires, the Company built a tanker.  They purchased a chassis and with the help of Ralph Borwegan, added a 3800 gallon tank.


            Once again, the year 2000 saw a need to update equipment.  Replacing the 1967 John Beam pumper with a 2000 HME chassis with a SMEAL apparatus took place.  This was the first new custom five man cab chassis with a 1250gpm pump and 1000 gallon tank.  Although the Town would not go along with a one year payment, the taxes were raised sufficiently for it to be paid off in two years.


            New Uniforms were needed as members were added and lost in the marching segment.  After much ado about color and style, black slacks, shoes, white tailored shirts with green and gold accessories including a new patch and white hats were selected.  A nifty looking group marching down the street.


            In 2001 a group went to Morristown, PA and came back with a 1986 GMC truck with a Salisbury body which was considered a heavy duty rescue truck.  This came with a complete set of Jaws of Life and was added to the fleet and the 1973 P-Van was deleted.


            East Durham is proud to say we have had a Presidents of the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Association Burton G Snyder in 1931, Russell Cole in 1970, J Eugene Jennings in 1980 and Carlos Sala in 1990, all who have worked long and hard in both Associations.


            We would be remiss not to thank our friends and neighbors as well as the taxpayers, near and far, for their wonderful cooperation and support throughout the years.  Without their support at our functions, we would not have been able to carry on the traditions our forefathers stared many years ago.