By; Louise Shallenberger
Waverly is fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteer firemen that has been in service since March 1855.
Today's fire companies do have the advantage, however, with more modern equipment available. The four groups, The Tiogas, The Hooks, , Cauyta Hose, and the Fire Police maintain three class A. pumpers, a tank truck and an emergency truck, two rescue boats and a variety of specialty tools.
The fire department, which numbers over 400, protects one of the largest fire districts in Tioga County and is in the process of building a mobile communications trailer for use in any emergency. The need for a command post is an outgrowth of the comprehensive evacuation and emergency plan that has been developed by the department over the last few years.
Formation of some means of fire protection was one of the first acts of the new village government when in May of 1855 the citizens appropriated $ 900 to purchase a fire engine. Joseph E. Hallett" Uncle Joe " who had 30 years as a fireman in New York City, soon purchased a hand operated engine and Neptune Engine Co. No. 1 was organized in May of 1855. A fire house was erected that same year.
The 68 members of what came to be known as " Old Neptune " managed to fight several small fires in spite of the problems with water supply and equipment. Early records indicate it took 40 men to operate the engine and that often dry cisterns were the only water source.
Fires in 1871 proved just too much and in spite of help from Elmira, 25 businesses were destroyed. Local papers took up the issue of better fire protection but it was not until another series of fires in 1873 that residents were convinced to purchase a new fire engine. When the new Opra House was damaged by fire for the second time, a petition was presented to the trustees asking for a solution to the problem.
A Silsby Steam Engine and hose cart with 300 feet of rubber hose were purchased at a cost of $5,000, but there was still only one fire company - Old Neptune.
With the creation of Tioga Hose No. 1, in April of 1875, the original fire company that had put forth it's best effort to protect the growing community was disbanded.
In 1876, the Tiogas were joined by Hook and Ladder Co. No. 2, and firemen not only served as firefighters but brought culture to the community. Under the auspices of the Tioga's many famous lecturers appeared and the McGuffee band and orchestra were well - known throughout the area.
The " Hooks" organized a drama club and one of their most acclaimed shows was " Uncle Tom's Cabin " presented in 1877. Many concerts were held with performers from the area as well as from Elmira. The " Hooks " fair became an annual event with the whole community donating items to benefit the fire company.
Spalding Hose No. 3, named in honor of Owen Spalding, was formed in 1879 and remained an active fire company until 1930 when diminished membership led to disbandment.
The Fire Police was organized in 1877, and officially incorporated in Apr. 1897.
Cauyta Hose Co. No. 4, was organized in 1890 and as soon as the village laid out pipes and placed hydrants in East Waverly, this newest company was outfitted with the necessary equipment. The Cauyta fire house was built in 1905.
All of the fire companies are now ( 2000 ) in one group, in a new fire house in Barton, N.Y. under the name of Waverly, Barton Fire District. This fire house was erected in 1998.
What use is to become of the old Cauyta and fire station in Waverly Town Hall is being debated.
From "A History of Waverly, N.Y." by Capt. C. Albertson:
Jospeph F. Hallett "Uncle Joe" was born in Lispernard Street in N.Y.C. on Oct. 17, 1810. He was the son of Joseph and Betsy Hallett. He became one of the firemen of "Old 23 Machine" in N.Y., located on Pearl Street. At twelve years he became a torch boy as streets were very poorly lighted at the time. In 1827, he became a signal - bearer and in 1829 became a full member, donning the red shirt and leather helmet.
He also learned the carpenter trade, working with his father until 19 years of age., when he moved to Circleville, N.Y. In 1832, he married Mary Ann Houston, a cousin of Gen. Sam Houston. She was born June 10, 1810 in Circleville, N.Y. and died Sept. 7, 1894 in Waverly, N.Y. In March of 1833, they drove to Waverly with his brother, Gilbert and his wife and three children. Joseph rented a part of old Shepard tavern in Villemont.
In April following, Joseph bought a piece of land of one hundred acres on the north side of Chemung Road, from 207 Chemung Street to Cadwell Avenue for $1,100. The house they built at 153 Chemung Street was the second house in the area. Both Joseph and Mary Ann are buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Waverly, N.Y.
When the Hallet's came to Waverly, there were only 15 homes in the area, known as Shepardsville, Villamont. Joe died Oct. 25, 1891 in Waverly.
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Ernie Miles...... This page was updated Wednesday, 26-Mar-2008 06:38:12 PDT.