History

The South End Fire Company, youngest of the present four city fire companies was organized in the year 1895. It was in the fall of 1895, after a serious fire at the property of William Hillyard, whose property was located on the corner of Market and Germain Streets, that it was concluded to organize a fire company in the southern section of the city, to be known as the South End Fire Company. So the company was organized November 3, 1895 with Robert W. Haymaker, Captain and Joseph Rainsberger, Secretary.

A committee of six, with George W. Grim as spokesman, appeared before the city council and asked that body for a hose reel and 500 feet of hose. The council refused the request at that meeting. The following month, the Fire Committee, after several conferences with the officers of the newly organized company, offered them two second hand reels and 500 feet of hose.

The South End Fire Company accepted this offer and on December 3, 1895, the City Council in session passed a resolution giving the South End Fire Company the second hand fire fighting equipment.

The hose reels were kept in a shed on West Monmouth Street and the first Company meetings were held in the storeroom of Mr. George W. Grim located on the corner of Main and Monmouth Streets.

In 1897 the Company received an appropriation from the city for a building. About $100 was paid for the lot on West Monmouth Street and about $500 for a building, consisting of a reel room and a small meeting room in the back. It was completed and occupied September 27, 1897. This facility sufficed until 1907 when the original building was enlarged to accommodate the growing membership.

From the time of their organization, until 1921, the men of the South End Fire Company voluntarily raced on foot through the streets of Winchester, pulling the cumbersome reel with its heavy load of fire hose, fair weather or foul, day or night, whenever the call.

A campaign was launched in 1921 to raise funds to purchase a combination chemical and hose apparatus, backed by many prominent citizens, including Mayor W. W. Glass. William Gochenour was named chief driver for the Company after delivery of the new truck. In March 1922 the new apparatus was received by the South End Fire Company, paid in full. In May 1922 a big Firemen’s Parade was held by the entire Winchester Fire Department in celebration of the complete motorization of the Fire Department.

In 1930 the old one story building was torn down and a new modern brick building was erected providing the Company with a truck room, recreation room, and driver’s room on the first floor, and the entire second floor was a meeting hall.

In 1933 the truck was moved from its half-ton chassis to a one and half-ton chassis and a pump mounted on the equipment, putting the South End Fire Company on an equal basis with the other city Fire Companies. This truck and equipment was used until 1939. It was then sold to Stephens City and the Company in turn purchased a new modern Seagrave truck, which remained in service until 1974.

The material expansion of the Company was halted during the long dark years of World War Two, during this time, however, the Company actively supported all Civil Defense projects, invested practically all of its funds into War Bonds, and in spite of the absence of almost all of its young men, who were serving in the armed forces, the Company maintained an effective firefighting unit serving both Winchester and Frederick County.

After the war the Company began improving its equipment to more modern standards. A very notable change took place in 1948 when a full time second driver was added to each of the four city Fire Companies. Until this time William Gochenour had been responsible for getting the equipment to the fires at any time of the day or night, 365 days a year since the time of his appointment in 1922. Melvin Renner became the first driver to be hired since 1922.

On August 26, 1949 the Company was officially incorporated. Also during that year the four city Companies by mutual cooperation raised funds to purchase a Mulliken Portable Iron Lung, the only one of its kind in this area. The South End members raised their share of this fund by forming a dollar club among themselves and were joined by many prominent citizens in this, which proved later to be indeed a life saving project.

On April 6, 1950 the Company purchased a new Willy’s Jeep, which was equipped for fire fighting purposes and had proved to be a very useful and capable addition to the Company’s fire fighting equipment.

During the year 1951 the members of the Company began discussing plans for expanding, the South End Fire Company was again suffering growing pains and on February 16, 1952 the Company purchased the property of the late Charles Henry located on the corner of Main and Pall Mall Streets. Opposition to the location of the lot purchased by the Company finally won out and on October 23, 1954 the Company purchased the Quantz property located on Monmouth Street where the new fire hall now stands. Another significant event that also took place in 1952 was when the four city Companies installed a modern two way radio system on all the fire trucks. The South End Fire Company was chosen as headquarters for this new radio system. Cooperation of the four city Companies through the Winchester Volunteer Firemen’s Executive Association raised the money required for the radio system. On March 7, 1955 the Company viewed the first basic plans of a new fire hall planned for construction on the Monmouth Street lot. The Company sold the Henry lot on June 24, 1955 having determined this lot unsuitable.

On December 31, 1955 William Gochenour officially resigned as driver for the South End Fire Company, having served in that capacity for 33 years. Mr. Gochenour had accepted the position as Fire Inspector for the city of Winchester heading a newly created Bureau of Fire Prevention.

On February 25, 1957 at a Special Meeting of the membership, the membership, by both voice and proxy vote, agreed to build a new fire hall on the West Monmouth Street lot and empowered the Executive committee of the Company to proceed. Orin Ritter was named general contractor for the job, with the Winchester Electric Company and the Mervel Adams Plumbing Firm as subcontractors. The new fire hall, constructed almost entirely of concrete, brick, and steel represents a major achievement in the progress of the South End Fire Company.

On January 8, 1962 the Company authorized the Executive Committee, Mr. Harry Rainsberger, Jr., and the two Company drivers to serve as a new Truck Committee. A special meeting of the company was called on April 11, 1962 to vote on the truck committee’s recommendation to purchase a 1,000 gpm Seagrave pumper. The vote by voice and proxy was in favor of the purchase. The contract with Seagrave was signed on April 18, 1962 and the new truck was delivered on October 19, 1962.