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History’s Corner – July 2019

The City of West Plains is the county seat of Howell County and it’s history dates back to the mid 1800’s when the city was platted and began to develop. It quickly developed into a trade center for a farming and livestock-raising area. 

Because of its location near the Arkansas state-line, it was subjected to numerous raids during the Civil War from both Union and Confederate forces.

West Plains continues to be a city with many faces and is blessed with a number of manufacturers including flooring, pallets, furniture and electronic equipment, as well as footwear and truck bodies. Tourism is also important because of the city’s proximity to several lakes and the Mark Twain National Forest.

West Plains can also boast about their celebrities. Porter Wagoner, the star of the Grand Ole Opry and country music was born near West Plains on August 12, 1927.

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History’s Corner – MAY 2019

I rely completely on my next-door neighbor to help me keep track of all the tools and equipment for firefighters that have passed into the history category. The reason for that is because every couple of weeks he appears at my front door or texts me a picture of something new that he has added to his collection of fire service memorabilia.

A couple of month’s ago he came over with huge box that UPS had delivered to his house. I don’t think he had even opened it until he got to my front porch. Inside was a dark blue wool almost full-length coat with a very high collar. When I inquired why he wanted an old Navy Peacoat, he was not impressed and preceded to tell me that it was antique British firefighting coat from the 1940’s and that it was a real find! That “real find” was added to the hundreds of items he has displayed on the entire ground floor of his home.

Chris Ely is my neighbor and an outstanding member of the Branson Fire Department. I’m fairly sure he likes me because we have many common interests in the fire service. It might also be because I mow his grass every time I mow mine. I’m also sure that his wife Brandi is a candidate for sainthood because she allows this collection fetish.

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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 →