History of Spring Lake
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Spring Lake NJ Historical Society

100TH ANNIVERSARY  (1919 – 2019)

WW I Ended With An Armistice
Rather Than A Surrender

Spring Lake Fire Companies
Spring Lake Schools
           November 11 would become a hallowed day.  In 1919, US President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, which in 1926 became a permanent legal holiday.  The day is also known as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations.  In 1954, the U.S. Congress – at the urging of veterans’ organizations – changed its name to Veterans Day to honor service members who had served in WW II and the Korean War as well.

           By November, 1918 both the Allies and Germany agreed to stop fighting rather than surrender.  An armistice was the fastest way to end the war’s misery and carnage.  An Allied invasion would have defeated a weakened Germany, but would have been costly in lives, resources, and morale.  The armistice achieved peace with victory for the Allies; although, the terms of the agreement later contributed to the rise of Hitler and WW II.

           Armistice Day, now known as Veteran’s Day is celebrated each year on November 11 and it marked the end of WWI on November 11, 1918.  The focus of this November brief history article will be the WWI experience of a soldier, Andrew Parker Hammitt, who summered on the NJ Shore after the war, and bought a house at 30 Ludlow Avenue, Spring Lake in 1949, living there until his death in 1965. The Hammitt family donated many items, among them is Lieutenant Hammitt’s Army and Navy Service Record containing useful information for this article. The family originally lived in Des Moines, Iowa where Andrew was born and raised. He attended high school in Des Moines where he was a running athlete, and then graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Illinois. After the war Andrew married Julia Gnichtel who called West Street, Trenton, NJ her home, also summering at the Jersey Shore.  Relatives still remain in Spring Lake area, including Andrew’s grandson, Fred Hammitt (Rich) who contributed information to this family history. Lieutenant Hammitt’s deceased daughter-in-law and Rich’s mother, Barbara Hammitt, was a former member of the Spring Lake Historical Society.

            Although the SLHS does not have any personal war accounts of other Spring Lake or area residents, it is known that Peter Stanley Brown, son of Ella Johnson and Peter C. Brown, and nephew of Mayor O.H. Brown served our country.  The Museum archives contains a picture showing a large group of men from the area in their WWI military uniforms.

           President Woodrow Wilson, in his War Message delivered to Congress on April 2, 1917 expressed the reasons for the necessity to declare the end of the U.S. neutrality in WWI and our country’s obligation to declare war against Germany’s inhumane acts and its violation of rules of neutrality. The President cited Prussia’s reckless and lawless submarine warfare against commercial, passenger, and hospital and relief ships resulting in the loss of lives, and enemy spying as a war against all nations.  Wilson strongly emphasized the rights of free and self-governed peoples of the world to insure observance of those principals.

           Lt. Andrew Parker Hammitt’s Army Service Record contains a photo of him and information about his service. Some interesting inclusions in the record help illustrate Lt. Hammitt’s tour of duty.  He entered the army on August 27, 1917 at the age of 26, and received his first training at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana as a candidate in the 9th Training Company.  The army sent him to Ft. Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula for further training.  He was then assigned to Ft. Adams in Jamestown, and Fort Getty in Newport, both in Rhode Island, to the 66th Squadron as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Coastal Artillery Corps.

            On July 18, 2018, Andrew left Ft. Adams and travelled to Boston, embarking for Liverpool England the next day aboard the Steamer Lancashire.  A postcard notification of his ship’s safe arrival was sent to his mother. Awaiting him at Knotty Ash Camp in Liverpool on August 3 was a message from king George of England. 


Soldiers of the United States, the people of the British Isles welcome you on your way to take your stand beside the armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battles for human freedom. The Allies will gain new heart and spirit in your company.  I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you and bid you God speed on your mission.
George R.I.
April 1918.

            Soon after arrival in Liverpool, Lt. Hammitt was sent from Knotty Ash Camp to La Havre France via Southampton England. Some interesting items from Andrew’s time in service in France include:  French coins, railroad tickets, a money order, a postcard to his mother who had moved from Des Moines to LaGrange, Illinois to live with her daughter, his service medals, military stripes, and his 66th Squadron medals. He was socially acquainted with the Haviland Family, whose American company was the biggest exporters of Limoge Porcelain, named after the town of Limoge in southwestern France.  Andrew had often stayed with the family and because of this friendship had accumulated much Limoge china according to Rich Hammitt. 

            His scrapbook contains some interesting newspaper articles and his strong connections to Des Moines, Iowa.  The articles are about people he had served with, known, connected to Des Moines, or just information he found memorable.  One headline reads, NO EUROPEAN FOOD SHORTAGE   GERMANS HAVE PLENTY TO EAT   VIEW OF MAJOR JOHN RUSSELL.  Major Russell was commander of a sanitary train in France and had returned to Des Moines to resume his medical practice.  Major Russell’s views, according to the journalist was that the people in France looked, “rosy and healthy”, no one looked starved, the “French Bread” was “Good” - no butter or jam needed, and the “Doughboys” are the “Best Ever”.  Quoting the Major, “The American Boys surely are peppy and plucky.  You’d think they’d be sick half the time from exposure. But they’re not.  They sleep in damp barns and beside muddy roads and never complain.”  Another newspaper clipping tells of a high school history professor, N.H. Weeks, involved in Y.M.C.A. work overseas.  He worked for months in France and then on to Germany where, “He will conduct soldiers’ excursions to interesting points along the Rhine, among other duties.”  A small notice in a newspaper states Harper “Dutch” Snow was snowbound at a resort in the French Alps while on furlough. According to another news piece, after fifteen months in France, Captain Snow was commissioned a Major and would be sent to Washington to serve as a rubber tire expert. 
Major Snow, N.H. Weeks, and Major Russell had a common thread – they were from Des Moines, Iowa and had connections to West High School in that city. There are five other news clippings that concern servicemen from Des Moines, including two who had lost their lives in battle.  Published January 25, 1918, a Paris clipping’s headline states, YANKEES CAN NOW TAKE PICTURES. Restrictions were suspended by orders of the American general headquarters on photographing or shooting moving pictures of American expeditionary forces. 

            Lt. Hammitt's 66th squadron stationed at La Courtine France was being ordered to the front in November, 2018, but the armistice was announced on the 11th.  Fighting being over, the squadron then left Bordeaux France on February 18, 1919 on the ship Powhattan bound for New York City, arriving on March 5, 1919.  Unfortunately, influenza broke out on the ship with 102 cases and Lt. Hammitt and company were quarantined in the harbor at Hoboken, NJ. An Honorable Discharge Certificate was granted Andrew in March, 1919 at Camp Grant, Illinois.

            The SLHS is grateful to Lt. Andrew Hammitt and all our veterans who gave so much service to this country during wars and conflicts.  The Society would like to post the names of those from Spring Lake who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  These names are listed on the War Memorial at the west end of Divine Park.

James Marshall Braly                                John Reilly, Jr.       
C. Harold Chafey                                       Dominic Scatuorchio
Wilbur T. Fields
Leon H. Height, Jr.
John El. Lesher
Herbert J. Miller Jr.
Peter B. Roetzel
James W. Truax                                                      

Barbara Kolarsick-Harrigan
November, 2020


(A Brief History)


            Spring Lake Fire Company No.1 was formed in 1890, before the town was incorporated to service the needs of local residents. Spring Lake Beach had a growing number of hotels and many large cottages for summer renting, plus another resort known as North Spring Lake was adjacent to it.  Two other bordering areas included Villa Park and Como. Up until 1892, Spring Lake Beach had no borough incorporated government and was part of Wall Township as were the other resorts.

            The newly formed fire district’s area consisted of “Lake Como on the north, Newberry’s Pond (Wreck Pond) on the south, Wall Church Road to Manasquan Turnpike (Rt. #71) on the west, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.” The by-laws of the new fire company stated, “It shall be the duty of each member to assist in drawing the engine to and from a fire and to put himself in readiness to discharge all duties assigned to him by the officers in command.”

            To equip the company, a Number 4 Sesby Steamer and two hose carts were purchased and stored at Monmouth House Stables on First Avenue, plus a stove for the Stables was bought to keep the equipment from freezing.  A team of horses was donated in 1901, but keeping them soon became expensive so in 1907, the local livery stables were paid $2.00 for the first arriving teams. The first motorized equipment was purchased in 1915 and stored in Mayor Ellis Gant’s garage until room was made at the fire house.         

            The first fire house was built in 1892 at Fifth and Warren Avenues, across from the Lake. During the early years of the 20th Century, Spring Lake’s firehouse played host to various entities.  It was used as the local courthouse, public school classes, and dances and dancing school classes were held there. Gala events at the Monmouth Hotel, rebuilt in 1901 after the fire that destroyed the Monmouth House in 1900, became a place for major fundraisers.  Over the years new equipment was acquired and the company outgrew its home.  In 1957, a new building was erected on the same site and was enlarged with a second floor in 2004.  This addition contains space for community meetings and for training purposes.

            The first fire house was built in 1892 at Fifth and Warren Avenues, across from the Lake. During the early years of the 20th Century, Spring Lake’s firehouse played host to various entities.  It was used as the local courthouse, public school classes, and dances and dancing school classes were held there. Gala events at the Monmouth Hotel, rebuilt in 1901 after the fire that destroyed the Monmouth House in 1900, became a place for major fundraisers.  Over the years new equipment was acquired and the company outgrew its home.  In 1957, a new building was erected on the same site and was enlarged with a second floor in 2004.  This addition contains space for community meetings and for training purposes.

            Spring Lake Fire Company No. 1 plays an integral part in educating local school age students on fire safety.  Each year in October, some of the crew instructs the children in both schools on prevention and safety in their homes.  The fire fighters bring their gear and equipment and allow the younger grades to experience first-hand what modern day apparatus is like. (They may just be planting the seed for future firefighters.) The volunteers take on an arduous and time-consuming job, contributing so much to the community for which we salute them. In 1959, both companies were memorialized on the plaques at the monument on East Lake Drive and Mercer Avenue.     


            In December of 1901, concerned citizens of North Spring Lake met to establish their own fire company to service the residents and establishments of what is now the center and north part of Spring Lake. (North Spring Lake was not yet incorporated into Spring Lake Beach.)  The disastrous fire of 1900 destroyed most of the Spring Lake Beach business area around the Lake, the Monmouth House, the Carleton Hotel, and some guest cottages. Third Avenue was expanding and becoming the major business area.  Third Avenue was in Brighton, part of North Spring Lake, and it was decided by those with major interests in keeping their residents and establishments safe to add more fire protection security north of Spring Lake Beach.  (At that time, there was only horse or hand drawn fire equipment, a slow response to emergencies and it required a lot of manpower.) Two names for the new company were proposed, Olive Branch Engine Company Number 1 and Goodwill Engine Number One, the second one chosen.  It is not known exactly when the name was changed to Goodwill Fire Company No. 2. 

            In 1903, Goodwill was offered Spring Lake Fire Company No. 1’s building for keeping their equipment and was lent the use of its fire bugle.  Goodwill’s first piece of equipment was a circa 1900 hand-drawn chemical engine and hose. The “smoke-eaters” were called to action by a hammer clanging an iron ring; where, upon arrival, they hand-pulled their fire rig to the scene of the blaze. In the first part of the 1900’s, the company’s headquarters was established at 311 Washington Avenue.

            The firefighting equipment has certainly changed over the years, but Goodwill remembers the services of the “antique” pumpers starting with a 1905 three-cylinder Chase Hose Truck and the 1914 Seagrave Pumper.  The company keeps their favorite 1930 Seagrave Pumper in excellent condition and parades it around town whenever the occasion arises.  Goodwill is a member of the antique fire apparatus organization, winning many awards and distinctions of pride. Needing upgrades and space for modern day fire-fighting engines, etc., the Borough laid the cornerstone in 1989 for a new state of the art fire building and police station on Washington Avenue on the site of the demolished buildings.

            On the Golden Jubilee anniversary in 1951 of Goodwill’s founding, the parade was considered the biggest ever held in the Borough.  Fire companies from all over the state sent representation.  Goodwill’s outreach to the community has expressed itself in many activities including sponsoring the Boy Scouts of America Troop N. 31 for which the company won a Gold Star Plaque in 1974 for 50 years of doing so.  History over the years shows a comradery group of firefighters holding various types of fund-raisers, entertainment, and membership in the South Monmouth Bowling League, as was Company No. 1.  For the children of Spring Lake Goodwill sponsors an annual Easter Egg Hunt, Santa Claus Ride, and Halloween Parade and Party as well as taking part in safety education.
            October 31 being Halloween, I thought I’d focus on the part Goodwill Fire Company has played in making it a special treat for the children in town.  According to Ed Megill, the tradition of Goodwill Fire Company’s Halloween Contest started in 1939, making 2020 the 81st year of this ongoing event.  According to Russ Brahn, committee chair from 1972-2016, the parade always started with firetrucks and participants at the flagpole and ended at Mountz School, as it did before his tenure.  Participants were allowed to ride the firetruck instead of marching on foot. At Mountz School, students’ costumes were judged by different age groups as well as best overall for all age groups.  John Boles is now Halloween Committee Chair and the party and contest have been held at the Spring Lake Community House.  The treats now include gift cards to local businesses as prizes.  This year of the Covid Pandemic, treating the Spring Lake only resident children continues with more safeguards in effect, but promises to be another generous and much-appreciated event offered by Goodwill. Many thanks goes to you, Don Brahn, Jr., for gathering some history of the Halloween Parade and Contest.
                   The names of the many volunteer firemen of both companies in town are too extensive to mention and there’s always the possibility of leaving important ones out.  Research shows a substantial number of Spring Lake founding fathers were involved in actually serving and or starting these fire companies.  Three mayors were firefighters:  E.V. Patterson, O. H. Brown, Ellis Gant, and Frank Marucci.  Many government officials and town businessmen also were “smoke-eaters” who set a good example of volunteerism at its best. The Brahn Family has to be mentioned for their continuous service by many generations, starting with Charles Brahn.  We are so grateful for all the firemen’s service to our community.

            Barbara Kolarsick-Harrigan

            October, 2020

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