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History’s Corner – MAR 2019

The first part of this article published in the January/February 2019 issue of the newsletter would have been better suited as part two and this article part one. It seems that I got off on a tangent about the year of 1939 and didn’t do the city of Joplin justice by highlighting the total history of this very colorful and interesting department and city. 

Part of the fascination of the first article was the apparatus that we were featuring, the 1939 ladder truck. The modern version of ladder one shown above is equally as interesting to see in operation and more efficient than it’s 1939 counterpart. Also, slightly more expensive, the 1939 was $18,000.

Now that you are completely confused, lets start at the beginning and review not only the fire department history, but the of the city of Joplin itself.

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History’s Corner – JAN 2019

Joplin Fire Department, 1939 was a great year

By Bill Westhoff with assistance from Joplin Fire Chief James Furgerson, Battalion Chief Doug Nolan and Patrick Cox II – MU Journalism Major

Most readers of the “History’s Corner” section of the newsletter know from previous articles over the years that I am a huge fan of “vintage” fire apparatus. From the inception of motor fire apparatus in our country in the early 1900’s, literally hundreds of fire truck manufacturers have come and gone. Thousands of fire trucks have also come and gone in that period of time but lots of them have also survived to live on to support our fire service heritage. 

At one time in my life, our family actually owned as many as four “antique” fire apparatus. Fortunately for my continued effort to stay married for over thirty year’s we are down to one – the most important one – a 1939 Chevrolet/Central pumper built by Central Fire Truck Corporation of St. Louis. 

1939 Chevy/Central became part of our family in 1978 and has been featured in daughter’s and granddaughter’s weddings and tons of parades. It is all original with a 216 straight six engine, four speed manual transmission and has a Waterous 400 gallon per minute rotary gear mid-ship mounted fire pump.

This is the first 1939 rig featured in this article. It was delivered to the Montgomery City, Missouri Fire Department sometime in late fall 1939 by Jack Manning, a partner in Lang and Manning Company, a dealer for Central. According to Jack, they “shot water over the Court House,” and it was one of the first apparatus built by Central that was painted white.

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History’s Corner – November 2018

Missouri as a State and the creation of a Capitol City

August 10, 1821: Missouri was admitted to the union as the 24th state. From 1821 through 1826 legislators met in St. Louis hotels and in a temporary Capitol building in St. Charles. During 1821 an expedition began a search for a new Capitol city.

December 1, 1821: The Missouri legislature selected a site for new Capitol, located on the Missouri River in central Missouri, The new site was halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City by riverboat. During January 1822 the name Jefferson City was chosen by the legislature. The third United States President, Thomas Jefferson had a vision of westward expansion of the United States borders, Jefferson City was named in his honor.

November 1825: Jefferson City was incorporated and by 1826 there was a general store, a hotel and a tavern, thirty- one families lived in the new capitol city. A new capitol building was constructed on the end of Jefferson St. two hundred feet from the Missouri River. 

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History’s Corner – September 2018

Left to Right: Claude Owens, Happy Roberts, J.W. Thompson, on 1940 Hercules.

Columbia’s first paid fire department was formed in 1893 and consisted of Chief Albert Newman, an Assistant Fire Chief and 11 part-time or volunteer firemen. Newman received $30 a month and the Assistant Chief received $20.

Motorized equipment came to Columbia in 1913 following a series of major fires. A “Kissel” truck complete with 1,000 feet of hose, several ladders and a 40-gallon chemical extinguisher was purchased by the city and housed in a city-rented two-story brick building located on the northwest corner of Seventh and Walnut (the building located directly across Walnut former Fire Station #1). Beds were included for three fire fighters who were given four hours a WEEK to spend with their families and take care of personal business.

That same year, Earl Kurtz was appointed Chief with a salary of $75 per month. Assistant Chief F.W. Ketchum and Fire Fighters Edward Harrel, Thomas Walden and W.N. Griffiths comprised the remainder of the paid department. Additional personnel came from area volunteers. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – July 2018


Springfield’s earliest days as a community included a volunteer fire department organized in the 1840’s, beginning a rich history of service, compassion and valor.

On August 9, 1847, the City Council and the Fire Commission drew up an ordinance to form the first recorded Ladder Company to cover the City of Springfield. The company consisted of seventeen members, a hand full of painters’ ladders, and a two-wheeled cart that was pulled by two of the members. The seventeen members served as volunteers without pay, uniforms, or firefighting gear. Fires were fought in whatever clothes the men were wearing at the time. The men were highly respected by the community and in return, they took deep pride in the service they provided. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – May 2018


The 1904 Metropolitan, 1,000 gpm steamer saw much duty for Engine Co. 40. The horses are Blondie, Bismarck, and Jim.

The St. Louis Fire Department was established in 1857 and is the second oldest career fire department in the United States. Prior to 1847 a number of volunteer fire companies were in service in the city, starting around 1822. Members of these fire companies came from all walks of life and the fire company member’s wielded considerable political influence. It was the pride and ambition of each fire company to be the first to reach the fire and the most efficient to extinguish the fire.

It was one of the first departments in the nation in 1926 to establish a fire department training academy to study fire and to train recruit firefighters. The department also took the lead in exceptional apparatus, being one of the first departments to purchase a 100’ ladder truck. In 1987 the department was the first in the nation to use a “Total Quint Concept”, combining the traditional fire pumper and hook and ladder into one piece of equipment. The first of 30 new Quint apparatus were placed into service in 1987 and 1988. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – March 2018


Fire protection began in Kansas City with the spontaneous formation of bucket brigades in an attempt to control fires that broke out in the mostly wood buildings of the city.

On March 12, 1867, the Missouri legislature granted permission to the city to form a fire department, to create and enforce a building code and to utilize necessary tax dollars for fire protection.

One year later, the steamboat Kate Kinney delivered Kansas City its first steam engine for the fire department. Chief Frank Foster and his volunteer firefighters tested the new engine on March 14, 1868. The engine was named John Campbell No. 1. The tests were completed at 4:56 p.m. on March 14, 1868, and the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department (KCFD) has existed since that time.

On August 2, 1871, the first career fire fighter was hired. The volunteer force of KCFD continued to decrease and by May of 1872, KCFD was staffed mostly by career personnel. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – January 2018


The St. Joseph, Missouri fire service began in the 1850’s. Various political groups buy and establish fire companies with little standardization of equipment. These various firefighting groups both competed and cooperated at scenes. St. Joseph councilman General William R. Penick began a campaign to establish a professional fire department in St. Joseph in 1860. In 1865 this plan was completed with the election of General Penick as mayor of the City of St. Joseph.

In 1860 the citizens of St. Joseph approved a $25,000 bond for the establishment of a professional fire department. The uncertainties of the Civil War delayed the implementation of the plan. In 1864 the city council now guided by Mayor Penick approved $5,000 for the purchase of a steam powered fire pump. In May of 1865, the mayor presented the steam fire pumper named ”Black Snake” to the community.

The steam pumper was an awesome piece of equipment that could develop pumping pressures up to 165 pounds per square inch. Unlike the “Water Witch”, the unit already in service in the city, which required human powered and lots of it to develop pump pressure. Needless to say, there was a significant competition that developed between the two fire companies. At fire scenes, occasionally fire streams would be redirected from the fire toward member of the opposing fire companies. Continue Reading →