On April 15, 1886 the Bellville Hook and Ladder Company1 was organized. E. Holtkamp was named the first president of the company. Arrangements were made for the purchase of a firefighting outfit. On April 24, 1886 addition officers were elected. The the first Foreman(Chief) was Gus Maetz.   Incorporation charter was applied for under laws of the State of Texas.  By the time the charter was received on October 19, 1889 the organization had been in existence more then three years.

Charter members of the Bellville Hook and Ladder Company No.1 were J. H. Machemehl, Willie Harloff, Julius Mittanck, Edw. Kastrop, F. W. Luhn, Will Washam, George Young, Fritz Westermann, Ben Grandville, E.O. Finn, Gus Kopisch, Henry Louwien, John Buelow, William Wennenweser, Colbert Glenn, Gus Louwien, Charles Wolf, Herman Hellmuth, Fritz Roensch, Will Heyne, Gus Maetze, Ed Jaeschke, and C. Schauerhammer.

On September 16, 1915, the Bellville Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 held a special meeting at the courthouse.  Secretary of the organization,  A. Meissner made a plea to local businessmen and citizens of Bellville  concerning  the problems confronting the fire company.  The equipment in use was described as old, practically worn out and almost useless. The bell on the roof of the courthouse was out of order and in the event of a fire could not be sounded. The truck house, built in 1886 and moved in 1907 and was old dilapidated.  In short, the fire company was now “very much crippled and inefficient.”

During the next year,  steps were taken to correct several the problems.  New housing for their apparatus was secured, and a motorized fire truck was purchased.  Then on September 20 1916,  a meeting was held by the Bellville Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.  It was voted to reorganize and secure a new charter under the name of the Bellville Volunteer Fire Company.  C. R. Johnson was elected President and William Willrodt was elected as Foreman(Chief).

Another major milestone was reached in the sping of 1928, when a new water system for the city was completed, Included in the system were 37 fire hydrants.  The city government purchased 1000 feet of 2 1/2 inch fire hose in 50 foot lengths for the Bellville Volunteer Fire Company.

On May 4, 1928, th Bellville Times  reported the first stream of water from the city’s well had been run through the mains the previous Monday.  All fire plugs were thoroughly flushed, and “it seem the pressure will be tremendous”.  Fire Cheif E. J. S. Pescke had the boys out Wednesday night for practice with the new fire hose and fire plugs in the city. This was the first time the firefighters ever had an opportunity to attach a hose to a real standard fire plug.

Following Gus Maetze as Foreman of Hook and Ladder Company were William Harloff, Colbert Glenn, William Willrodt and D. Dornberger. Beginning with William Willrodt on September 20, 1916, the head of the fire fighters was known as the chief. Willrodt was chief until April 16, 1919. He was followed by Ed Peschke, April 16,1919 to September 16, 1942; Joe a. Peschke, October 29, 1942 to January of 1971; Edger Steinbach, January of 1971, to December 31,1979, Warren Klump, January 1980, to December 31, 2008, when Anthony Rolater became Chief.

Sounding the fire alarm, the local newspaper frequently reminded its readers of the correct signals and the importance of giving them clearly “so you may know which way to run to reach the blaze.”  The signal agreed upon was a single tap of the bell for a fire to the north of the courthouse, two taps for one to the east, three taps for south, and four taps for west.  The same signals were used well into the nineteen hundreds, except that in the later years the bell sounded rapidly several times before giving the directional signal.

The coming of the telephone simplified the reporting of fire.  In a newspaper of November 26, 1908, readers were reminded to “ring No.4 so correct signals may be given by the central alarm.”   The bell at the top of the courthouse was in use, and A. C . Frank was in charge of ringing it once a call was received. Also, telephone operators would give necessary information regarding fires to any fireman who called.

The first siren used to sound fire alarms was installed in March of 1930.  Switches for the siren were located in the telephone office, the fire house , and at the east side of the courthouse.  Later in the 60’s the Plectron alert system was added to the alarm system.  Each member had a unit in there home and were dispatched by the Austin County Sheriff Department dispatcher.  The siren was still used to alert firefighters because if you were not at home you would not know when there was a call.  The first fireman to the station would write the location of the call on the blackboard in the apparatus bay. In the 80’s the department went to personnel pagers for an alert system.

Information from Bellville Times by Isabel Frizzell

Comments are closed.