SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP’S FIRST VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT

On Tuesday night, September 15, 1914, “the peaceful slumber of Schaumburg was suddenly awakened at 11:40 p.m… by the clanging of the fire bell.  H.J. Gieseke’s hardware and grocery was burning.  H.H. Torrence, lodging at Krueger’s, first noticed the blaze and seemed to wake from an explosion which occurred within the building. He noticed that the south wall inside was afire and immediately sounded the alarm.  The fire, however, made such rapid headway that when the first men arrived it was already gushing through the windows closest to the south wall.  For a time it seemed Krueger’s barn and shed would surely burn, but the hose brigade finally got things adjusted and kept the roof well soaked.”  [Daily Herald, September 18, 1914]

The Gieseke hardware store that burned–or partially burned–was the building that is today’s Lou Malnatis.  And Mr. Torrence, who first noticed the fire, was staying at Krueger’s, which served as a tavern and hotel that later became known as the Easy Street Pub.  But, where was that fire bell located?  And, was there actually a fire department in rural Schaumburg Township?  The answer is “yes” to both questions.

The fire bell was in the fire barn that stood between Krueger’s and the Gieseke Hardware store.  You can see it in the photo above, hidden behind the tree on the left, with a belfrey on top of the building.

According to an article from the April 7, 1966 issue of the Daily Herald, a Schaumburg Township Fire Department was organized in 1897 by about 20 area farmers and was volunteer in nature.  The article says, “they purchased a second hand pumper from Palatine for $20 and sold shares in it.”

The intent was, that if a fire began and you owned shares, your farm would be served by the pumper as soon as it got there.  If you did not own shares, the pumper would not be available.  Later, local mutual fire companies operated in the same way.  If you didn’t purchase shares in the organization and a fire occurred on your property, the fire department would not respond.  It seems a bit cruel but, it was the only way to operate and stay finanically solvent in rural areas where there was not an organized governmental department.

This volunteer fire department is mentioned off and on throughout the next few decades.  A mention from the November 3, 1905 issue of The Herald states that the department would be holding their annual meeting in Quindel’s Hall to elect officers and enroll new members.  (At the time, Quindel’s Hall was the hardware store.)  In addition to the meetings, they held picnics to raise funds for the department and as a morale boost for the members.

The two gentlemen who seemed to be in charge of the fire department and pushed for new members were H.E. Quindel and John Fenz.  It was definitely in their best interests to have a fire department that could protect their businesses at the intersection of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads.  By 1913, this included their homes too which were both at the intersection.  This was the Fenz home.

This was the Quindel home.

By Feburary 20, 1920, the Volunteer Fire Department was “well organized and holding regular meetings the first Tuesday of each month.”  The article in The Herald also mentioned that the engine had been overhauled.  Another article in the same year mentioned that the Fire Department was selling a truck wagon.

However, when two fires happened in 1930 in Schaumburg Center, one was handled with a handheld fire extinguisher and the other, that occurred in the shed behind Lengl’s saloon and restaurant, was handled by the Roselle Fire Department.  This gives us a good indication that the Schaumburg Volunteer Fire Department was gone and local residents were relying on the village of Roselle for support.

According to the 1966 article though, “the pumper remained in the area until the 1940’s when it was purchased for $150 by a private party and subsequently returned to Palatine.  It remains on display in the Palatine fire barn and is used for parades and ceremonial occasions.”

The fire barn remained in place on Roselle Road .  It was subsequently rescued by Richard Gerschefske who lived nearby on Lengl Avenue.  He moved the barn to his property sometime in the 1930’s or 40’s.  We know this because it was in place for his daughter Marion’s wedding in 1947.   There it sat for a number of years until it was ultimately torn down around 1981.  (An article from the Schaumburg Record from March 18, 1981 mentions its imminent demise.)

Fire was always a concern in our rural area.  Thunderstorms and lightning strikes could ignite houses and barns.  Spontaneous combustion in haystacks was always a possibility.  Wearing long dresses and cooking with fire was a danger.  And, the fact that almost every building was wood accelerated every fire that occurred.  Pooling resources–whether it was manpower or equipment or buildings–was a crucial step that the Schaumburg Volunteer Fire Department took to try and fight fires successfully.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

Next week, look for a blog posting on the first village fire stations in Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, and Schaumburg. 

 

2 Responses to “SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP’S FIRST VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT”

  1. Fred Luft Says:

    Thanks Jane for posting this article. Its great to see some of the buildings that are no longer around and what the buildings that are still around look about the same.

  2. Marlene Rein Says:

    Very informative article love history! esp. when it relates to our hometown.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: