Statement of Morris Meyers

Dublin Core

Description

8.5 x 14", Morris Meyers paid cheif of fire dept, discusses his views on the fires in the City of Danbury.

Abstract

Meyers discusses the salaries issued to the fire department of Danbury; Meyers' relationship with Ellwood and Ellwood's subsequent resentment of Meyers' appointment as cheif of the department. He discusses his belief that Ellwood is behind setting the fires.

Date

1891-01-15

Relation

MS020, 1/1

Document Item Type Metadata

Text

Statement of Morris Meyers
Chief Engineer Fire Dept
Made at Danbury, Conn.
Thursday Janu 15, ‘91
I have been connected with the Danbury Fire Dept since 1870, when it was the Old Volunteer Dept. The “paid dept” came into existence Feby 1- 1890.
The present department consists of nine separate companies, one being a steamer, and on the “Truck,” the rest being Hose Carriages. The full number of men should be forty (40) but at present there are only 30 men, twenty eight of these have handed in their resignations, and they are now in the hand of the Fire Committee. Previous to the paid dept system, pay was only given for “slushing” the hose after a fire, and at present the pay is
Chief Engineer $300.00
Asst. [so] $100.00
[Bunkers] $50.00
Call men $25.00
The object of the paid department was to get better service out of the men. The Pay when given was thought was not sufficient for the men not but that it would be raised to a better salary in a short time/ The $50 for Bunkers and $25 for call men was only understood would last for six months when a larger salary would be agreed upon, that six months have past [page break]

[Meyers Page 2]
and the men naturally ask and expect more. I at the request of the men sent in a petition to the Fire Commissioners asking for a raise, that the call men be raised to $50.00 and the bunkers to $100.00 and it was the Fire Commissioners that advocated the raise to $75 for call men and $200 for bunkers; theis was acted favorably upon by the Councilmen but was defeated by the Aldermen and as a result the wholesale resignations. Bunkers are supposed to be in the Engine house at 10p.m. if not they are reported, callmen are expected to keep clean the carriage and help slush the hose.
The feeling, so far as I am able to discover now in the department us good and all act and work in unison with each other. I can honestly say that so far I know I do not know one man not worthy of confidence, each performs his work assigned him in a good manner.
In regard to the two late fires, the alarm for the Osborn fire was given by Officer Dittman, and for Reed and [Beebe] fire on same night by Bradley. Osborn fire discovered by Officer Dittman and Reed and Beebe by John H. Ellwood.
Carlton Hack is a bunker of Hose No 2 but is at present on the sick list- he having a bummed foot.
Horatio Brown, Callman on Truck Company, Edward Lobdell is an Ex member of Hose Co No 2 [page break]

[Meyers Page 3]
was member of Company under the Volunteer system at time it was disbanded on Feb 1-1890- At that time the members of the dep’t could have been appointed as members of paid dep’t. had they so desired. Many of them did not accept, Lovedell was one of these that did not, he refused saying that if they were to be paid they ought to be paid a respectable sum for their work.
Howard Stevens was a member of the paid dep’t up to the time of his dismissal[.] I prepared charges against him, and discharged him for insolence and general misconduct and my action was approved by the Fire Commissioners, fires were quite frequent before the organization of paid dep’t and this was the real cause of the coming into existence of the paid dep’t. Stevens was always in favor of paid dep’t, Stevens was appointed Ass’t Engineer at the pay of thirty (30) cents an hour for actual service, and [G.F.] Eastwood Engineer at forty (40) cents an hour. I do not think that Stevens was ever a favorite with the company, he was too loud mouthed, he was also at one time Chief Engineer of Volunteer dep’t, but was not accepted on re-election by the Borough Committee. When the meeting of Hose Co’s 1 and 2 were held to talk over the raise of salary, I was appointed the person to present the petition[.] This was acted favorably upon by the lower house [page break]

[Meyers Page 4]
but laid over by the upper branch of the city government and as a result the resignations came, now the Boys are asked to wait one month longer to give the Aldermen time to act. There is a meeting tomorrow night, for on that day their resignations were to take effect, to see if they will stand by their original intentions and resign. I do not much think that they will, but will wait for the month, even if they all did resign there is not one but what would take a [head] this moment if a fire should take place.
The Kohanza Social Club is the outcome of the old Kohanza Hose No 2 disbanded and are the members that did not accept the terms made to them by the city on the advent of the paid dep’t, one of the most stringent rules of the Club was that no member of the Club shall be a member of the paid dep’t. This rule has been broken in two cases. One, that of Clifford Taylor Cap’t of Hose #2 and Myron Teller Callman of Hose #2. There has always been a most bitter feeling against the dep’t by the members of this club. Howard Stevens is not a member of this Club, but is admitted through Edward Lobdell. Their meeting room is cor[ner] of White and Ives Sts.
John H. Ellwood was Chief Engineer before the existence of paid dep’t.
In regard to John H. Ellwood it will be [page break]

[Meyers Page 5]
necessary for me to go back to the time Danbury became a city. While the charter was being drafted, John H. Ellwood came into my store one day and told me that he had got a notice from the Committee to appear before them to keep them in such matters as would relate to fire matters. I also received a notice and in Company I appeared before the Committee, and we both made suggestions that were accepted by Committee. We got the salary of Engineer to be placed at $300.00 and Ass’t Engineer at $100.00 at this time the Chief Engineer had not been appointed and Ellwood was an applicant for the place. He was a Republican. I was a Democrat[.] The Council was Democratic and the Alderman a tie, 2 and 2. I did not then want the place and used my efforts to get him appointed, it was seen afterwards that he could not be appointed, so he advised me to put in an application which I did. Up to this time we were the very best of friends, but he tried his very best with the members to throw me out using the most vile insinuations to effect his end, but at last I was elected, and at once took the oath of office on the street from Mayor Hopkins on Jan 15, 1890. At 10 pm that night I met Ellwood as I was leaving my store to go home , he stopped me on the [page break]

[Meyers Page 6]
street and said, “There will be hell for you before you are through with the Chief Engineer position.” We have not spoken since and he has always felt very bitter against me, if any man has had “hell” since then I have, his words in that respect have proved too true.
I want to say now, I do believe that we now have seen the last the “fire bugs.” My cause for saying so is this.
At the time of the Osborn fire Augustus Ising had his leg broken by the fall of a pile of lumber. He was not a paid dep’t man but helped at my request. I feel very sorry that anything should happen to him and I said I would apply to the State Association of Firemen for relief for him and said I would do anything to aid him that I could. Ising is a member of the Kohanza Social Club. [The] first I knew an invitation to come to a meeting at the Kohanza Club, this is the first time that I or even any of my friends ever saw the inside of the Club. When I knocked at the door it was opened and standing inside was Ellwood; his face when he saw me turned red, but he would not speak but turned away. I remained at the meeting and was appointed on a committee to help arrange a big benefit for Ising. After the meeting was over one of the members [page break]

[Meyers Page 7]
whose name I do not now recall, met me at the door and thanked me for coming up, and just ahead of me were two members and I heard one of them say “Well the fire bug is through now we will have no more fires,” this has as you know taken place since the last fire in December. I do not think for one moment that any person within the dep’t. has any hand in any of these fires. I think and have always thought that the trouble came from the Kohanza social club or its friends. As regards Stevens, I do not think that he has got the backbone to do anything of the sort. He in my opinion is half-crazy but he would be just the person to get someone to set a fire and this for the sake of a reward turn them up. Lovvdell, for the first time in two years, was in my store on last Saturday night.
There are some very funny things in regard to Ellwood’s discovery of the Reed fire, he claims to have discovered it, but why should he a man who takes such an interest in fires and fire matters be near Reed’s factory, when such a large fire was in progress at Osborn’s. Then again, he claims to have got part of the oil waste that it is claimed was used to set fire to the building. This waste he turned over to the Police Dep’t.

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Citation

“Statement of Morris Meyers.” Pinkerton Detective Agency Danbury Fires Investigation Collection, MS020. WCSU Archives, 4 Nov. 2015. Accessed on the Web: 26 May 2019.

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