McSherrystown Fire Company 17
Adams County

Copyright © 2005-2017 Southeastern Adams Volunteer Emergency Services

All Rights Reserved



Southeastern Adams Volunteer Emergency Services

5865 Hanover Road – Hanover, PA 17331

Telephone (717) 637-9621 Fax (717) 637-4910

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The long tradition of service had its earliest beginnings in 1881 when the company was first organized. Records from that period are scarce and indicate that the company was run pretty informally.

By 1889, however, a group of 11 men recognized the need for more organization. On March 12, the company applied for its charter, and on April 8, 1889, the organization was chartered as McSherrystown Steam Fire Company No. 1. Its purpose, according to the charter, would be "the extinguishments of fires and the preservation of the lives and property of citizens at the time of fire."

The group’s first officers, the men who laid the ground work for the company as it is today, were Edward Shorb, president; Jeremiah Johns and John Noel, vice presidents; George L. Rice, secretary, and F.X. Smith, treasurer. Serving as the company’s first directors were Edward Shorb, Jacob Melhorn, V.H. Lilly, C.D. Smith, J.A. Poist, V.J. Timmins and S.L. Johns.

In the spring of 1894, they realized they needed a more efficient means of notifying members when there was a fire. They contacted the pastors of McSherrystowns two churches, and within a month, the company held keys to the churches. From that day, fires would be announced with the ringing of church bells.

Even in the earliest days, fund raising was necessity for the company. In April of 1894, a fair conducted by some of the ladies in town brought $350.76 to the company coffers. At their very next meeting, members voted to spend $90 of the fair proceeds for a badly needed hose reel. A week later, members okayed the purchase of hats and coats for the fireman.

In 1895, the company began checking into the possibility of building an engine house where all their equipment could be stored in a central location. Up until that time, equipment had been stored at various locations around town, mainly in the barns and sheds of citizens who had donated their use.

In May of 1895, it was announced that town council would build a hall for the company’s use. The building located on Third Street across from St. Mary’s Catholic Church, would come to serve as the town’s main gathering place. Town council held their meetings there, and the rear of the building housed the borough jail.

In 1897, the company ordered a 400-pound alarm bell for the price of 17 cents per pound. No longer would the church bells have to rung to summon fireman to the scene of a fire. And the new bell also came in handy for warning the town’s youngsters of the 8:45 p.m. curfew.

In December of 1897, the company’s work became a bit easier when the purchased a hose carriage. A few months later, a ladder wagon was also delivered to the engine house.

In 1916, the company purchased its first motor truck for a price of $1,675. Five men went before the town council with their proposal and council agreed to help the company find the equipment best suited to the town’s needs. Within a few months, the company had raised more than enough money and the company became the proud owners of an American-LaFrance Junior pumper. Early in 1917, five men were appointed to be drivers, quite an honor as well as a considerable responsibility. No one but the drivers were allowed to touch the truck, and they were responsible for keeping it in tiptop condition.

In 1929, the Penn Box Company at Ridge Avenue and Fourth Street was struck by lighting and the resulting fire caused more than $9,000 in damage. In 1932, the company fought five fires in the month of May alone, including one at a stable and another which caused $10,000 damage to farm buildings on the J.W. Keffer property.

In November of 1932, the company approved the purchased of a Standard Seagrave Junior 600-gallon pumper. The cost of the new truck was $6,250. The following June, the fire truck was dedicated and a parade was held in celebration.

A few years later, that truck would be put to its toughest test ever. In the early morning hours of February 16, 1938, fire broke out at Central Catholic High School and St. Mary’s Grade School on North Street.

The blaze was believed to have begun in the school’s boiler room, then spread into the walls and ceiling of the auditorium. Finally, the entire structure was engulfed in flames. Eight fire companies responded to the blaze, but were unable to salvage any part of the building. For four hours, the fire swept on uncontrolled, with flames leaping more than 100 feet into the air. When the roof collapsed, the firefighters feared that the flames would spread to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, located within 40 feet of the school building. Three firemen were injured fighting the fire, and the building was destroyed, with losses totaling $121,000.

In 1939, the company marked its 50th anniversary. The town turned out en masse to celebrate with its fire company, and to watch the parade which included 28 bands and fire companies.

In 1946, the company purchased a vacant lot at Main and Third Streets for the purpose of building a new engine house. It was an idea which had been discussed as early as 1934. Over the next few years after purchasing the land, the company held numerous carnivals and festivals to fatten the building fund. Construction finally began on the new building in 1952. On July 24, 1953, the cement block and brick engine house, built by contractor U.H. Mecke, was dedicated and the following day, the town celebrated with a parade.

In 1955, the company acquired its first ambulance, a donation from the Lions Club. The company then purchased a 1956 Seagrave fire truck for the price of $19,000. That truck is still in use today, following a complete restoration undertaken in 1984. The work included the addition of power steering, a new paint job and all new chrome.

During the 1960s, the company was growing and becoming better equipped. In 1960, a new siren was installed in the engine house and the following year, an electric door was put into operation. In 1962, the company purchased a rescue truck which could also be used as a second ambulance, capable of carrying three patients. And in 1963, the company purchased a new ambulance, a 1959 Cadillac.

Also in 1963, the company bought a tract of land off South Street for use as a carnival grounds, and improved the lot with a building. The company carnival would be held there as a fund raiser for only a few years, though, as the company discovered that the event was not raising enough money to be continued. The carnivals ended a few years later, and the lot was sold to the borough in 1976 for use as a playground.

The year of 1963 was a landmark one for the company, as it helped the borough celebrate its bicentennial. Months of special events culminated in a big parade held Aug. 11, at which time the company also hosted the annual convention of the Adams County Firemen’s Association.

In 1964,the company hosted the Cumberland Valley Firemen’s Association convention, at the same time the company was marking their 75th year of service to the town.

In 1969, a 1969 Seagrave pumper was added to the company’s firefighting apparatus. The pumper, equipped with a 1,000 gallon per minute pump, was purchased for the price of $34,500, and in 1970, a 1965 Cadillac ambulance was added to the company’s fleet.

In 1974, the company decided to purchase the tract of land behind the engine house at the corner of Third and South Streets at a cost of $40,000. A year later, that land was put to good use as the company began construction of a spacious hall with fully equipped kitchen. The facility was completed in April 1976.

In April 1985, the company added it present ambulance, a 1985 Ford Chassis E-350 Blue Star ambulance, purchased for $44,704.

In late summer 1988, the company began construction work on an addition to the engine house. The 40-by-40 foot metal structure was built by Conewago Contractors, with all interior finishing work completed by fire company members. Total cost for the facility was about $75,000. The simple, two-bay addition was undertaken to alleviate crowding in the existing engine house, and also with an eye to a new and larger engine to be added in the near future.

In May 1989 the company replaced the chassis of the 1962 ford rescue with a 1990 international chassis. In March of 1992 the company paid off all loans on the social hall. At this time the company saw a need to replace most of it’s fire apparatus. The company took on a major project. A project that would eventually replace all of it’s existing equipment within a six year period. In 1994 the company took delivery of a Seagrave Engine that had replaced the 1956 Seagrave which was retired from service. In 1995 the company took delivery of a Freightliner / American Fire & Rescue unit that had replaced the 1962/1990 International Rescue. The old rescue unit was sold to the Evart Fire Company in Michigan. With the members hard at work trying to accomplish their goal a 1996 Ford / Med Tec Ambulance was placed into service the following year. At this point the members where just one step short of completing the goal they set forth 4 years earlier. The only remaining piece of equipment that needed replaced was the 1969 Seagrave Engine. In February of 1997 the Company ordered a 1998 Seagrave Quint type apparatus to replace this piece. This, the final part of a plan, set forth by the members was delivered to the department in May of 1998. The unit was placed into service at a formal dedication ceremony on July 26th, 1998. The ceremony was truly a celebration of the department for accomplishing a goal they had set forth some six years prior. The 1969 Seagrave Engine was sold to the Coalfield Volunteer Fire Company in Tennessee for the sum of $1.00.

Our current equipment includes: A 1994 Seagrave Engine, A 1995 Freightliner / American Fire & Rescue Rescue Unit, A 1996 Ford / Med-Tec Ambulance, a 1998 Seagrave Quint , and the 1956 Seagrave Engine that is used only for parades and other promotional type functions.

Today , as was many years ago, the members of McSherrystown Fire Company gather back at the engine house for the latest news and the best of company. They attend regular training sessions and are better equipped than their early counterparts. But their dedication and desire to serve their community is the same today as it was in 1889. The company has continued to earn the respect and gratitude of the town through their selfless service.

There are currently about 220 members of the McSherrystown Fire Company, including Retired members.  Active members number about 160.