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The First Fire Brigade

In the spring of 1882 a group of citizens got together and resolved to organize a fire department. Ever since the birth of the News four years previously, Editor Orno Strong had been agitating for such a move and it is typical of his acrid editorial style that he wrote on March 5 of that year:

"About 25 young men of the town met last night and expressed their willingness to organize and serve on a village fire brigade. They are taking steps to urge the Common council toward purchasing a fire engine and if that body can be sufficiently egged and prodded we may yet have fire protection in our otherwise praiseworthy village."

The Council was evidently prodded because about a month later it appointed a committee of three to confer with a Chicago manufacturer of fire apparatus. For a price of $1,150 delivered, they bought a No. 1 Piano style Rumsey Fire Engine of 20-man capacity, together with hose and a dozen leather buckets. The agent, Mr. Newkirk, agreed to organize and drill the fire department and put everything in prime working order before leaving town with the money and later News items indicate that he more than kept his bargain.

On May 5, 1882, a meeting was held at the town hall and Nashville's fire department was organized. The following officers were elected: Foreman (chief) J. D. McCartney; First Assistant, Dan Smith; Second Assistant, G. B. Smith; President, Clark N. Young; Vice President, C. N. Dunham; Secretary, Frank Wolcott; Treasurer, Henry Zuschnitt; Trustees, C. W. Granger, Capt. F. T. Boise and C. L. Glasgow.

Early in June a colorful Fireman's Ball was held in the opera house under auspices of Engine and Hose Co. No. 1, netting over $80 toward new uniforms. After the engine arrived and before Mr. Newkirk left town several drills and test runs were made and the new engine threw a seven-eighths-inch stream of water ten feet above the top of the Methodist Church steeple. And that was back in the days when the old high steeple was still standing. On the level the 400-foot hose threw a stream 130 feet.

In the late summer of 1892 the Nashville company competed with the best hose companies in the state during running contests at Hastings and missed winning a championship by only a matter of seconds. Len W. Feighner was serving as fire chief at that time and said that the men took the business very seriously. They showed up faithfully for drills and when there was an alarm it was considered an almost permanent dishonor to be late.

In 1892 Nashville bought two new hose carts, making three in all. One of them was kept in the fire house, one near the Lentz Table Factory, and the third out on the south side. The fire station was located in the same building that is used today, although the front has been remodeled to allow a larger drive-in for modern trucks. The building was originally the Methodist Church and was moved to the spot after being damaged slightly by a fire.

Through the years many changes and improvements have come about. Up to 1947 the Fire Department was operated by the village. Then Castleton and Maple Grove Townships incorporated with the Village of Nashville into a Fire Department controlled by a Fire Board consisting of; President Cecil Barrett, Secretary Blair Hawblitz, Treasurer, Frank Scramlin, Trustees William Schantz, Russell Mead, and Rev. James Varner.

The parade held on Memorial Day starts at the north bridge on M-66 and marches to the cemetery. When it reached the Putnam Library, (now at the fire department across the road from the Library) the parade stops and a memorial service for the departed firemen (19 at the time of this writing) is held at the Old Fire Bell which was mounted in the Library yard (but is now in the Fire Department yard). In the cemetery Firemen's graves are marked and Firemen's Flags are placed on them. After the bell was put out of service, the fire department was served by Michigan Bell Telephone Co. There were 8 phones in different Firemen's homes which received fire and ambulance calls. All 8 phones rang at the same time. The person who answers first would push the button, and he could then talk to all of the other 7 who have phones. If it was a fire the switch was pulled and the siren would blow. When the phone in the fire station was picked up they would learn where the fire was and write information on the blackboards so late comers would know where to go. The first truck would then go out to the call. If the call was within the village they would flip a red light. The city truck was used in Nashville and the other truck was used outside of the village limits. Today the fire department is served through the Barry County 911 service.

Through the years the Fire Department has sponsored and helped with many activities; Harvest Festival, Maple Syrup Project, Christmas Tree Lights, direct traffic and supply ambulance on scene for football games, help at Maple Valley High School with traffic during Graduation Time.

They work with the Nashville Police Department and Barry County Sheriff's Department with accidents, drowning, and missing persons.

The Volunteer Fire Department men are constantly training so that they can better serve our community such as ladder, pump, first aid, and Civil Defense.