Senior Vice President:
Junior Vice President:
Rev. James Stough
Executive Committee Chairman:
Executive Committee Vice-Chairman:
Donald Shutt, Jr.
Rick WittenLinks Section
The Dauphin County Volunteer Firemen's Association has our roots in the now long gone, but at the time very active Harrisburg Firemen's Union. The Union had nothing to do with the Capital City Paid Firefighter's Association, I.A.F.F. Local 428. That organization was formed in 1935 and represents the paid firefighters. The Harrisburg Firemen's Union was formed in 1884 and consisted of three delegates from each of the city's volunteer companies. They meet monthly to discuss whatever problems arose within the fire department and possible solutions. It was an effective organization at the time and lasted into the 1940's.
On June 12th, 1918, there was a meeting at the Friendship Firehouse in the City of Harrisburg. The Harrisburg Firemen's Union, invited various fire companies of the county to send representatives to the meetings of the Firemen's Union in the city. Present at this meeting were delegates from the out of town companies. They were, M. S. Mark and W. H. Haichelrode of Enhaut; H. B. Smith of the Citizen No. 1 of Steelton; George W. Thomas, Liberty No. 1 of Middletown; and J. P. Conrad of the Hershey Fire Company. The membership of the 4 county companies was 1,100 men, with the city having 2,756 men, for a total of 3,865 men.
The Firemen's Union met on a monthly basis and rotated throughout the city's firehouses. Either there was no meetings in July and Augustm a common occurrence in those days due to the heat of the summer, or if they were held, thet simply went unreported.
The next meeting of the Firemen's Union was on Tuesday, September 10th, 1918 at the Washington Hose Company house on Chestnut Street. This meeting was called for the purpose of effecting a county organization. A statement issued at the close of the meeting read as follows: "The firemen of Dauphin County effected a temorpary organization at the Washington chemical house last evening. The temporary company (association) officers are: President Col. H. C. Demming, president of the Firemen's Union, and J. L. Rebman, the secretary of the local Union." "The committe of five on the constitution and by-laws are Messrs, C. W. Rank, C. R. Bausman, J. E. Payse, George W. Lutz, and W. L. Jauss." At this meeting delegates were present, in addition to the Harrisburg companies, delegates from Steelton, Highspire, Middletown, Enhaut, Williamstown and Lykens were present. Also at this meeting the Washington chemical house was picked as the place of the meetings.
The Great Influenza of 1918 that took the lives of millions around the world was probally at its peak in central Pennsylvania at this time as there was no meeting in October.
The next meeting was held on November 12th, 1918, at the Veteran Firemen's Hall on Boas Street in Harrisburg. At this meeting, the new constitution and by-laws were discussed and after some discussion and amendments, they were adopted by a unanimous vote. Thirty-Two fire companies having a membership of over 7,000 men joined the association. Dues were set at $2.00 annually for every company or delegate. There was also a special fund for disabled firemen established. In a statement issued at the close of the meeting read the following: "The main object of the organization is to better the condition of each company for firefighting, to form a closer union between the various organizations, as well as the individual firemen, to have uniformity of hose and hose couplings, and to discuss in convention, and act upon, various appliances whereby every section of the county will be benefited."
At this meeting permanent officers were elected. They were as follows:
The Treasurer reported a balance of $112.65 on the books.
The following is a list of the charter members of the Dauphin County Volunteer Firemen's Association:
The first annual convention was held in Harrisburg on June 13th, 1919, in the Hall of the Harrisburg Aerie No. 122 F.O.E. Thhere was 44 in attendance4 out of an enrollment of 72 paid members. Perhaps Fridray the 13th was a good omen. At this convention proxy registration was permitted. This convention laid the foundation for some of the principles for which we are still fighting. Standardization of Hose and connection was one of the subjects much discussed. It is interesting to note the recommendations of the Executive and Audit Committees. After a six month probation period all members in good standing would be entitled to a $25.00 death benefit. The Recording Secretary would recieve a salary of $15.00 per annum for the first two years, the Financial Secretary $10.00, and the Treasurer $5.00. The 1919 convention also added the office of Chaplain to the list of officers to be elected with Rev. John M. Worden being the first elected Chaplain.
The first parade was held June 14th, 1919. The parade formed on Front Street with the right resting on Market Street. The Parade moved east on Market to Fourth to State to Front to Chestnut to Thirteenth via the Mulberry Street bridge. Thirteenth to Market to Front counter march on Market to Fourth and dismiss. There were 35 companies and 14 bands, also a body of returned sildiers, belonging to the association. In all more than a thousand marched and they passed over a route almost 4 miles in length.
At the next convention which was held in Harriusburg again, the Executive Committee was instructed to make application and procure a Charter of Incorporation.
The third convention was held in the Stran Theatre in Steelton. The Executive Committee reported that it had recieved the Charter of Incorporation and an offical seal. The members who made the application for the Charter were: William L. Jauss, Joseph L. Redman, John E. Shupp, Howard Holstein, William Norris, H. C. Demming, Charles W. Rank, George C. Geiger and J. H. Berkstresser. These same nine men are listed as the Board of Director's or Executive Committee. On May 14th, 1921, the Charter was signed by William L. Jauss, Joseph L. Redman, John E. Shupp, J. H. Berkstresser an William Norris. The Charter was issued by Wm. M. Hargest P. J. on June 8th, 1921 and certified June 8th, 1921 by the Prothonotary Charles E. Pass.
At the 1922 convention it was noted that some of the Municipalities of Dauphin County did not have relief associations. Steps were taken to see that firemen would be informed of thier rights and afforded the protection to which they were entitled under th Foreign Fire Insurance Law. The matter of an old age pension, supported by the State, was discussed and a committee was appointed to work with other organizations in support of legislation to obtain the same.
In 1924, companies were allowed to send two delegates to the convention instead of just one. Ladies Auxiliaries were also suggested. In 1925, the first $500.00 was invested in Building and Loan was reported. In 1927 it was $1,000.00. Also in 1927, Past President buttons were recieved and presented to Past Presidents and retiring Secretaries. In 1933 with the depression in full swing, meetings were held, however parades were not. In 1936 the fourth Vice-President was added and in 1937, Booster Meetings were authorized. In 1939 a picnic committee was organized, but no picnic was held. In 1943 because of the war there was no parade. In 1945 another picnic was authorized, with this one actually being held and 381 tickets were sold. Again booster meetings were being discussed and and 1946 under the able leadership of President Fox and First Vice President Dressler, we were on our way with booster meetings.
In 1947 the executive committee was increased from 15 to 20 and in 1948, the formation of fire police was discussed several times. In 1949 the executive committee was reduced from 20 to 15. In 1951, the Fire Chief's Association was finally started with Chester Rhan of Hummelstown as its guiding light. Also in 1951, the executive officers were made bonafide members of the executive committee. The little folder listing the names of the officers and committees that are now handed out at meetings, was first distributed in 1952. In the meantime, death benefits were increased until today we pay $100.00.
Selling advertising was very difficult during the early years of our Association. Merchants were hard to convince this kind of advertising is more effective then the daily newspaper. Our early books had 24 to 30 pages. The 1967 book had 120 pages and the 2005 book had 154.
During World War II, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, many members of our association served and died for our country. Many who were unable, because of physical handicaps or age, to enter the armed services, distinguished thenselves by aiding the war effort at home. The Dauphin County Volunteer Firemen's Association was called upon to assemble data for use by Civil Defense. Make, model, size and condition of all equipment, quantity, quality and sizw of all hose and couplings, adaptors available, thread on fire plugs, all water supplies checked, and everything that is in any way connected with the fighting of fires was compiled.
For many, many years the Dauphin County Volunteer Firemen's Association had worked for a fire school in Dauphin County. This was finally realized in October of 1988 when the new Public Safety Training facility at Harrisburg Community College was offically dedicated. As of June 1993, more than $85,000.00 had been paid out to 889 of our members who have passed on.
With the events of September 11th, 2001, the face of firefighting changed forever. With the deaths of 343 of the nations finest from the FDNY, accountability of personnel was shoved to the forefront. Within 2 years, with support from the DCVFA, a county wide accountability system was in place, and is now in the process of being updated. Terrorism was also shoved to the forefront of the emergency services. Responding to HAZMAT incidents, Terrorist incidents took a more heightened awareness compared to fires.
In 2004, hisotry was once again made when Darlene Deitz was elected as the association first female President.
In 2011, a major change was made to our by-laws, which was making the term of president 2 years instead of the previous one year term. The first president to be in office under the new by-laws was Sean Grimm of Millersburg.
We are now an association with over 1,000 members strong in our membership. The small turnover of officers would indicate a very stable organization. The men and women who have served as officers are:
Recording Secretary - J. L. Redman, 1918-1923; Clyde Heckert, 1924-1931; Earl Keim, 1932-1943; Martin Wert, 1944-1946; D. Edgar Fox, 1947-1965; Earl Buffington, 1966-1969; Jeremiah Kling, 1970-1971; Robert Patterson 1972-1974; Robert Raffensperger, 1975-1979; Charles Hartmar, 1980-1984; Larry Cook, 1985-2003; Sue Cain, 2003-2010; Beth Pendal, 2011-2011, Sue Cain, 2011 - 2012; Ron Eichelberger, 2013 - Present.
Financial Secretary - Charles W. Rank, 1918-1919; George G. Geiger, 1920-1938; Robert Squires, 1939-1961; Jacque Wertz, 1962-1981; Archie Hammaler, 1982; Dennis Laman, 1983-1984; Wm. Beistline, 1985; Lee Witman, 1986-2005, Jerry Cain, 2005-2012; Jesse Shutt, 2013 - Present.
Treasurer - S. S. Staub, 1918-1919; Charles W. Rank, 1920; Victor R. Grove, 1921-1936; John E. Shupp, 1937-1948; C. R. Balsbaugh, 1949-1972; George Nace, 1973-1991; Darlene Deitz, 1992-2002, Donald Deitz, 2003-2005; Darlene Deitz, 2005-2012; Bart Shellenhammer, 2013 - Present.
Chaplain - Rev. John Worden, 1919-1931; Rev. E. Martin Grove, D.D., 1932-1949; Rev. John H. Treder, 1950-1953; Rev. C. E. Shore, 1954-1958; Rev. Lloyd E. Beamesderfer, 1959-1983 and became Chaplain Emeritas in 1984; Micheal Martin, 1984; Robert Gelbach, 1985; John Brandt, 1986-2005; Rev. James E. Stough, 2005-Present.
As the years continue to go on, many more people will hold the honor of serving as an officer with the Dauphin County Volunteer Firemen's Association. Much more history will be made in the years to come.
Parts of this history were taken from the following articles: "75 Years of Volunteer Firemen in Dauphin County" by Dave Houseal in the 1994 Convention yearbook, and "The 1st and 14th annual Dauphin County Convention" by Dave Houseal from the 2005 Convention yearbook.
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