This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: This venerable organization has its roots in the 19th Century and was incorporated in 1908?

A. Chestertown Farmers Market

B. Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company

C. Kent Conservation

D. UMMS-Shore Health Chestertown

The Answer: B. Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company.

Last week on March 4, Kent County’s Station 6, the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. celebrated the 113th anniversary of its formal incorporation in 1908.

Its history extends much further back — through decades of fires when precious time pressed firefighting pioneers to respond in a hard-charging manner while strong winds swept flames from building to building, when water was scarce, and buckets were passed hand-to-hand.

Time, determination, bravery and technical progress have brought us far from 1845 when the Mutual Fire Insurance Company created a more official fire control organization, inspired by the brutal fire of 1842 that decimated three houses and three stores in the downtown area.  An engine house was built in Fountain Park and a horse-drawn fire engine was purchased along with accessories.

The water supply remained a problem, but that was fortuitously solved in 1884 when a new town water system was completed, including the installation of 29 fire plugs.

In Kevin Hemstock’s insightful article featuring great fire details (to be found in the Kent County News, December 29, 2011), he states that “In November 1886, a fire company of 26 volunteers was formed, with Robert Calder as captain and Robert Boston as the manager of the hook and ladder brigade.”

By 1908 and the fire company’s incorporation, a new firehouse was built on South Cross Street to replace the one in Fountain Park. The building was constructed by firefighting volunteers who crafted its “blocks” themselves. George Cannon was its first Chief. A bell was donated in 1909 and is on display at today’s firehouse.

In 1938, the town benefitted from the Great Depression’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) and federal funds by receiving a handsome new fire house at 118 North Cross Street. That’s right, it was where the current Town offices are located.

Chestertown’s newest and present firehouse stands with pride on Maple Avenue. Two groups that have been added since the early days and have fostered another dimension to their work are the Ladies Auxiliary in 1927 and the Exploration in Firemanship of the Boy Scouts of America in 1963.

The fire bell donated in 1909

When we hear our firehouse’s demanding siren arcing over the town calling “Come! We need you NOW!”– we know help is on the way. But, take a minute and think back to the days when the firemen’s great bell on South Cross Street rang and how it must have sounded when the bell was then companionably joined by the ever-ready church bells.

We have made progress for sure, but we will never outgrow the need for our brave dedicated volunteer firefighters.

If our readers would like to learn more about Kent County’s Station 6, please visit the station on Maple Avenue both outside the front door to see the old bell and information there and inside the building.

The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey, local newsman and history sleuth Kevin Hemstock, and columnist Kate Meehan contribute to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.

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