29 A Tale of Three Firehouses

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In the good old days, fires were plentiful, but ways to extinguish them were few. If you had a fire, you called in your neighbors with buckets or contacted the nearest community that had a fire company for help.

Most rural communities didn’t have fire companies or the equipment to put out barn or house fires effectively. Rocky Hill had a fire company in the late 19th century equipped with a hand pumper and a hook and ladder truck. In 1902, Rocky Hill had the first written record of their fire company, although it had been operational for many years before that.

In 1939, Belle Mead started the first fire company in Montgomery Township, so they’re celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. Like so many fledgling fire companies, Belle Mead Fire Company began with one piece of used equipment, a pumper that they bought from New Egypt Fire Company for $300. Belle Meade outgrew their original firehouse and built another one on Route 206. They finally built their current station on Belle Mead - Griggstown Road. It’s much larger and can accommodate their modern equipment. You can still see one of the old Belle Mead firehouses next to Belle Mead Garage, where it’s used for car repair today.

In 1939, Belle Mead Fire Company bought its first fire engine,

a 1920 Child’s Pumper. It became Blawenburg’s first fire engine, too.

Blawenburg Starts a Fire Company

The Blawenburg Fire Company, as it was known for years, had an unlikely start. As its website reports, “Many fire companies are founded out of tragedy - barns burning, children’s lives in peril, disaster looming. In a panic, the citizens rally to protect their community. Some fire companies arise from the ashes. Not ours.”

In 1946, Blawenburg was still served by the Belle Mead Fire Company, and many local men (yes, firefighters were always men at the time) volunteered with the Belle Mead company. One of those Blawenburg volunteers, Everett May, Sr., was also the mayor of Montgomery. He had an insurance business in Blawenburg, selling policies to many area residents. He knew that if Blawenburg had its own fire company, the insurance rates would drop. This sounded like a good deal to him, so Everett, along with local residents Albert Van Zandt and Walter Terhune, proposed forming a fire company in Blawenburg. The residents agreed with their proposal, and a group of residents along with Everett, Albert, and Walter set about forming Blawenburg’s first fire company. They quickly realized that they needed firefighting equipment if they wanted to call themselves a fire company. Along came an irresistible deal. Everett knew the Belle Mead Fire Company was buying a new fire truck, so he arranged the sale of the old 1920s vehicle to Blawenburg Fire Company for a dollar. Thus, the Blawenburg Fire Company officially was formed on October 10, 1946.