SPRING LAKE FIRE COMPANIES
( A Brief History)
SPRING LAKE FIRE COMPANY NO. 1
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.
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.
GOODWILL FIRE COMPANY NO. 2
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.