The first fire organization in Allentown was that of the Perseverance Fire Company, which was organized on the 23rd of November 1818. A number of inhabitants met at the hotel of William Arnold for the purpose of forming a fire company. A constitution was drawn up and adopted.

The following are some excerpts from the Perseverance Fire Company original constitution:

“Each member shall provide himself with two leathern buckets to be marked with his name and to be kept constantly hanging up in some conspicuous part of the house as near to the front door as possible and in case the same be lost or injured at a fire the damage shall be repaired at the expense of the company and until this be done each member shall not be liable for any fine for want there of.”

“Each member on the alarm of fire, taking with him his buckets, shall repair to it the utmost expedition, and shall us every possible exertion toward the extinguishment, in working the engine, supplying it with water and in such other services as the President or Vice-President may direct to whose orders every member shall give implicit obedience.”

"The following fines on the officers shall be inflicted for the following faults: On the President or Vice-President for neglecting any duty required by these articles: fifty cents; on the Clerk for neglecting any duty: fifty cents; on the Inspector for neglecting to serve notices and to inspect buckets: six cents for each notice and each pair of buckets omitted; on the Captain and Engineers, for neglecting any duty: fifty cents.”

“The following fines shall be inflicted for the following faults: for not providing buckets: twenty five cents each for every three months; for not keeping the buckets hung up and in good order: twelve and a half cents each; for absence from any meeting after the list is called (the calling of which shall take place at half an hour after the time of notice): twelve and a half cents; for absence during a whole meeting: twenty five cents; for not repairing with buckets to any fire: fifty cents; for non-attendance at working the engine: twenty five cents.”

Ladders, fire-hooks and a hand engine, manufactured in Philadelphia, were purchased, and at a special meeting held November 28, 1818, five days after organization, a plan for an engine house was presented and approved.

The Persey engine was the means of saving the building that stood next to the corner store when that structure was destroyed by fire in 1844. The framework of it is now the barn that stands nearly in the rear of the Borough Hall.

The company’s fire buckets, including the handles, were of solid black leather, and were made by Daniel Leigh, of this town, who was the grandfather of Daniel L. Savage. The name of each member was printed in yellow on each bucket. The company seemed to conduct their affairs in a businesslike manner. Meetings were held twice a year, at which roll call was taken and the secretary’s report read.

The engine house originally stood on the easterly side of the driveway that leads to the rear of the Baptist Church Property. The fire ladders were hung in a rack that adjoined the building and extended along the line of the sidewalk.

The house remained in this location for many years, until its removal to a lot, which is now part of the former Catholic Church property. After remaining here for several years, it was removed to the opposite side of the street, on a lot owned by J. N. Carr. After the death of Captain Meyer, the company ceased to exist. The engine was neglected and finally proved to be useless. In 1891 the building was removed by Mr. Carr, and the engine was taken to a lot belonging to Enoch Cafferty on Pearl Street. The old machine has lately been dismembered and its part put to other uses. Thus has disappeared another relic of old Allentown, which should have been preserved as a specimen of an old-time fire extinguisher. About the year 1856 some of our prominent businessmen considered that the town did not then have sufficient protection from fire, with only one engine to depend upon. After getting the views of many of our citizens, Abel Cafferty, John C. Vanderbeek
and Elisha Robbins constituted themselves a committee to solicit subscriptions towards the purchase of another fire apparatus. The sum of $400, was finally secured, and an engine of Philadelphia make was then purchased.

An engine house had in the meantime been erected nearly opposite the gristmill. The morning of its arrival in town had been made a half-holiday for the school children, in order to give the boys an opportunity to take part in the reception ceremonies. The machine was brought from Newtown as far as Stout’s sawmill, where a halt was made, as a procession was there forming to escort the newcomer to its future home.

First in line was the old Allentown brass band. Then came the Perseverance Company with their engine, which was gaily decked for the occasion. This was followed by the new “Hope” which was drawn by school boys, each one of whom carried a bucket. The route was up Church Street to Hamilton, to Broad, to Main, thence to the engine house. It was then decided to give the two machines a trial, in order to show the superiority of the new purchase. The crew of each one determined to do their very best. Both threw streams over the roof of the gristmill, and to the surprise of all, old “Persy” did such wonderful work that a comparison between the two on that occasion was indeed a very slight one.

About the first time the “Hope” was called into service was in the summer of 1863, at the burning of the barn of Samuel Potter.

Although the barn was destroyed, the engine saved the residence of Henry Beekman by preventing the roof taking fire from the showers of falling cinders. It performed a like service by saving the Episcopal Church at the burning of the barn of W. C. Jimeson, which was struck by lightning in the evening of July 4, 1871.

William Hankins, in speaking about the fire that burned the Potter barn, stated that he was on the kitchen roof of the Beekman house working with the bucket brigade. All of a sudden the stream from the hose turned on the house, and he himself received a goodly portion of it, which almost knocked him off the roof.

Perhaps the most notable occasion in the history of the “Hope” was the saving of the residence of Mrs. Eliza Zelley. On the morning of July 4, 1894, a fire was started in the roof by exploding firecrackers. The roof was entirely destroyed, and the whole building threatened; but the good service then rendered b the engine prevented the flames from spreading to the rest of the house. There are other occasions that might be mentioned where the engine was the means of preventing the spread of flames from burning barns, namely: The burning of Thomas Pearson’s on the Imlaystown Road; B. Gill’s at Eglinton; Mrs. Brown’s, just out of town; A. S. Taylor’s, on the Trenton Road; and the late D. M. Bnting’s, on Walker Street. The secretary’s records of the organization of the Hope Fire Company, with list of officers, etc. have unfortunately been mislaid or lost. It is very probable that the late J.C. Vanderbeek had such a record, and that he himself
was the secretary.

At one time the Hope Company was reduced to three active members. Finally on November 29, 1892 the Perseverance Company held it’s last meeting and was disbanded. Hope company continued on still undermanned until in 1907 the condition became so bad that a reorganization became necessary.

On July 18, 1907, a meeting of citizens for the purpose of reorganization a fire company was held in the Borough Hall on Thursday evening, July 11.

This resurgence of interest actually started after a bad fire destroyed all the outbuildings on the Presbyterian parsonage farm just after midnight on September 5, 1905. All buildings, contents of grain and machinery were lost. The Allentown Messenger said at the time: “Here was another fire, right on the border of Allentown. We have absolutely no protection against the flames. Should we balk at the cost of a water. – Ed.”

The Water Plant was built and the pipes laid in the streets in 1906. Eccerpts from the old minute books show that on July 2, 1909, the committee on alarms reported that they had looked up the matter of using heavier hammers for the alarms, and that one would weigh about 10 or 12 lbs would be about right, and would probably cost about $1.60. On July 6, 1914 it was reported that the old minute book of the Perseverance Fire Company started in the year 1818 was presented to the company by Joshua N. Carr and same was ordered stored in the vault of the Farmer’s National Bank.

A new chemical truck was purchased by Hope Fire Company on April 12, 1917 thus bringing about the transition from hand drawn apparatus to motorized equipment.

During World War I and through the early post war years (1917-1927), Hope Fire Company continued to purchase needed equipment, and developed money making projects to help supply the necessary funds. With the aid of a donation of $600, from the Borough Council in 1925, the firemen were able to obtain a siren and a tower was erected in the rear of Borough Hall on which the siren was placed.

A new Hale pumper was bought from a Mr. Willard H. Simmons representing Hale Fire Pump Co. for $3000.00.

Its work in national defense came in 1938 when the company joined the Mercer County “ Cover Up” System. Today this is called the “Mutual Aid” system, whereby neighboring fire companies assist each other in covering fire districts in times of disaster.

During this period the fire company began the practice of placing flags on the graves of deceased members on Memorial Day. The custom is still continued each year.

Other projects carried out through this period were: The purchase of uniforms for its members, life insurance for each of its members, a local Fireman’s Relief Association, a new signal system for the siren, whereby all calls would be received by Mr. And Mrs. Chris Theoharis in their store (The Candy Kitchen) on Main Street.

In 1946, the Hope Fire Company decided to purchased for $7500.00 the building across the street from the Borough Hall, owned by Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Nolan, and with financial help from the Lions Club, the fire company moved to its present location. The First Aid Squad took over the quarters on the first floor of Borough Hall, and became an independent organization. By 1949, Hope Fire Company owned three trucks, which greatly increased its fire fighting efficiency.

With all the services and activities these volunteer firemen perform in addition to fighting fires, one may wonder why any man would want to become a member of the Hope Fire Company. However, there is much fellowship among the men, and all is not work. The men who belong to Hope Fire Company are proud and happy to be part of such an organization. These men serve their community and in return, receive a deep satisfaction, well worth the effort, in knowing that they have taken a part in the protection of all its citizens.

The Hope Fire Company of Allentown NJ has served and will continue to serve with devotion and efficiency. They are constantly striving to improve their facilities and equipment to better serve the people in a rapidly growing fire district.

Allentown, NJ