The Town of Scituate, Rhode Island
Scituate, Rhode Island is a rural town located roughly 10 miles to the west of the City of Providence, Rhode Island. Bordered by Glocester and Smithfield in the north, Johnston and Cranston in the east, Coventry in the south, and Foster to the west and covering an area near 55 square miles, the town is well known for it’s many farms, sawmills, and gristmills. It is also famous for it’s man-made reservoir built along the banks of the Pawtuxet River in the 1920s, which provides nearly 60% of the State of Rhode Island with water. The Scituate Reservoir, as it is known, occupies 7.2 square miles of the town with an aggregate capacity of 39 billion gallons of water.
The Town was incorporated in 1731 and in 1765, the Brown Brothers and Stephen Hopkins purchased land in Hope, one of seventeen villages in the town. It was on this land where they established the Hope Furnace for making iron, also where cannons were cast for the Revolutionary War effort in 1776. The availability of water brought manufacturing to Scituate in the early 1800s. Larger mills produced cotton and woolen goods, shoe and corset laces, shoes, and combs. Machine shops, wheelwright shops, and blacksmith shops as well as the Nipmuc Quarry, which provided the City of Providence with granite for projects, also operated in the area.
As the town grew, the abundance of water made the town a booming manufacturing center. The Hope Cotton Mill was constructed in Hope in 1806. Due to the booming industry, a five story mill building was later constructed on the same site in 1844. Shortly after construction, the mill realized the need for fire protection. They decided to purchase a Hand Tub, a man-drawn and hand operated fire pump used to increase water pressure, and a hose cart, used to transport fire house, and put them into service in the mid 1800s protecting property owned by the mill. The apparatus was housed in a shed located near the entrance to the site and was maned by mill employees in the event of a fire. The employees of the Hope Mill and the mill’s apparatus also rendered aid to the local Jackson Mill, located between Hope and Fiskeville, in the event of a fire on their property.
The Formation of the Hope Jackson Fire Company
In the early 1920s, a fire broke out at a home on Main Street in Hope. Although it was not owned by the mill, employees responded with the mill’s apparatus and assisted in extinguishing the fire. After extinguished, the mill decided that no longer would they aid in extinguishing any fires on property not owned by themselves. Residents of the Hope area came together and met about the issue at hand, and it was at this time that it was decided that a volunteer fire company was needed. Otis Luther and Family, Charles Campbell, the Lambert Family, Joe Donley, Clifford Nutall, Waldo Waley, and Forest Leach were a few of the residents of the area who were instrumental in the founding of the Hope Jackson Fire Company, which held it’s first meeting on December 13th, 1924.
Otis B. Luther, a janitor and school bus driver for the Hope School, became the first Chief, and among many others, took charge in establishing the Company. The Company received it’s first apparatus in 1924, which included both the Hope and Jackson Mill’s Hose Carts as well as the Hope Mill’s Hand Tub. The apparatus was kept in a barn located at the intersection of Main Street and Jackson Flat Road until 1925, when the Company purchased land located on Main Street from Mrs. R.G. Howland for $1,000. The school annex building located on the property was converted into the Fire House. Barn doors were added to the front of the building in place of windows, and apparatus parked on the hardwood floors where classes were once taught. It was here that members of the company from the surrounding area would respond if a fire was reported.
on June 7th, 1929, the Company voted for $20 to be appropriated for members to have chowder on July 4th. Around the 4th of July every year, family outings were held at the field on Doctor’s Lane off of North Rd. These outings were ment to get the members and their families together, and overtime, these outings became public events. Still held today annually on the 3rd of July, clamcakes and chowder are served and fireworks are held at the Fire House.
On May 5th, 1930, the Company met with Alfred G. Chafee, an attorney, and formed itself into a corporation. This act allowed the company to “make contracts, incur liabilities, and borrow money.”
Over the next six years, fundraisers were held to raise money for the purchase of fire equipment and to donate to help in war efforts. In 1931, using money gathered over the years, the Company purchased it’s first fire engine, a 1931 Maxim, for $2,537.50. The purchase of Engine 1 was a major advancement for the Company, as it cut down response times significantly. Nearly 90 years later, the Hope Jackson Fire Company still owns the 1931 Maxim, and uses it as a parade piece.
In 1935, the Company purchased a 1935 Reo, which was equiped with a 500 gallon per minute pump and a 300 gallon tank. This truck was frequently called upon mutual aid for fires due to it’s water tank capacity.
In 1943, the Hope Jackson Fire Company purchased it’s first new ambulance. The 1943 Chevrolet Ambulance was purchased new from Packard-Providence for a total cost of $3475. As one of the only ambulances in the area, the Company often responded mutual aid to the surrounding communities to provide medical assistance to patients in need.
During World War II, members of the Hope Jackson Fire Company were sent to war. Shipped overseas with often little or nothing to their name, the Company sent care packages that included cigarettes and other supplies.
After the war, the Company began to expand due to the fact that the Firehouse was the center of the community. The hall was frequently rented out for events held by organizations such as the Hope Jackson Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary.
The Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1932 by Mrs. Lottie Luther, the wife of Chief Otis B. Luther, among others. Comprised of women of the community and the wives of members, the auxiliary would gather during major fires and make sandwiches and coffee for the firefighters. They would also raise money to better the Firehouse and the Company.
To Be Continued….