Logan’s Firestorm Over New Chemical Fire Engine, Utah USA

Logan, Utah, USA

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Logan’s Firestorm Over New Chemical Fire Engine

By Larry D. Christiansen

The development of Logan from a pioneer settlement to the foremost city and county seat of Cache County had some interesting and noteworthy phases. One of these came after the city had experienced a series of serious fires in the late 1880s and then made an attempt to improve their capacity to fight and control such conflagrations. In the first two decades of the city's existence in regard to fires, it had relied totally on the actions of neighbors and other volunteers who went to fire scenes to fight any fire. Frequently these efforts became bucket brigades using water to douse the flames. While the efforts of concerned volunteer citizens were important, there were obvious shortcomings and inefficient for a growing city. The city began with some tiny steps, usually reacting to recent fires by creating the Logan Fire Department in 1880, which consisted of a paid chief engineer and volunteer firemen. It remained cost effective with the single paid employee receiving two dollars per month, while offering inducements to volunteer firemen such as being excused from the poll tax and receiving uniforms, which was paid for by contributions from businessmen. The firemen were expected to attend monthly drills but received no pay except praise and guaranteed space in most city parades. With the initiation of the city water works in the late 1870s, the city ordinances called for fire hydrants at a few locations with a promise for more as the city water lines were expanded. Still, fires remained a problem for the city, and from time to time citizens and the press offered suggestions for making things better. In this process in the early 1890s, a controversy of some magnitude came to the forefront and persisted for a few years. It was a multi-faceted affair that was stirred, churned and drawn out by the parties involved such as the city officials, politics and the press. The latter was perhaps the crucial factor as Logan had two opposing newspapers that hatred each other with virulent display. While all directly involved realized the city must do more to safeguard the community from the ravages of fires, there was no unanimity in how to do this.

Among the better suggestions came in a letter to the editor of the longest established newspaper in the city on April 23, 1887, a few days after the last serious fire in the city. The writer signed his article only as a “Taxpayer” as he summarized Logan’s history with fires, stating: “Some years ago Logan experienced her first mighty blaze, when the U. & N. round house burned [April 1881]; then the U.O.M. & B. Co. indulged in a series of small fires, and ended by losing a large and costly saw and shingle mill [1882-84]; meantime the railroad was again attacked, with the loss of the workshops [March 1885]; next Blanchard's large barn fell a prey to the flames [June 1885 and called at the time “The greatest blaze.”] ; then the Foundry was badly crippled by a similar process [May 1886], and Monday our citizens warmed their hands by a fire that cost the owners of the Board of Trade many thousands of dollars [April 1887].” The last fire received the designation as “Cache Valley's Greatest Fire” to that point in time. The writer claimed the entire loss in these mentioned fires was well over one hundred thousand dollars. Then he turned specific giving his opinion that much of this loss could have been saved if the city had a company of trained firemen who could be relied on to quickly fight the fires in a systematic way. The writer avowed he was “one of the first on the ground” at the Zion’s Board of Trade fire that destroyed four buildings, and he was convinced that at least two of the structures could have been saved if water had been available as it had taken “a long time” to bring water within a hundred feet of the buildings. The correspondent zeroed in on the fire issue in the form of a question: “Why could not a number of able-bodied and trusty residents of Logan be formed into a fire brigade, with the promise of remuneration for all actual service at a fire.” He didn’t think this would put a serious drain the city treasury, and it would provide the needed incentive for the men in such a brigade to drill and be instructed in fire fighting measures. In addition, he stated the city needed to place a “fire bell” somewhere in the center of town.1 Although he didn’t mention it in his letter, previous fire alarms were most often vocal and on a few occasions were supplemented by railroad locomotives nearby using their steam whistles and/or the Presbyterian Church ringing its bell. The suggested central fire bell and some payment for the firemen would become realities before long.2

Over the first decade of the Logan fire department, there was some progress, sometimes hesitantly taken with steps forward and sometimes backward. The city ordinance authorizing the department called for the formation of two companies with allowance to comprise a total of eighty men with the “chief engineer” seemingly authorized to organize other companies when deemed necessary under the direction of the city council. Apparently a considerable number of men signed up as volunteer firemen and their names and residences were kept on a list at the new fire station on Third Street, in the remodeled old city recorder’s office near Z.C.M.I., and a list posted at the police station. However, many on the list were not active in attending drills or fighting fires, and it was assumed their motive was only to escape the poll tax. So periodically the firemen’s list had to be revamped, eliminating those not serious about their role. The ordinance assigned the leaders of the department the duties to keep “the fire apparatus and implements” in good working order. The first noted piece of fire equipment was obtained within three months when they obtained “an Excellent hose cart” that had been made locally by the U. O. Foundry in Logan. This hose cart had some 200 yards of hose on it by mid-January of 1881. In March of 1881, the chief engineer was instructed to prepare a list of articles needed to equip the fire department. At the August 3, 1881 meeting of the city leaders the fire engineer presented a petition asking for an appropriation of $200.00 to supply sundry items for the use of the fire department. The list contained the most elementary or basic tools such as “Fire Axes, Monkey Wrenches, Rubber Buckets, Hose, Lanterns, Speaking Trumpets,” etc. The city approved the request with a sharp reminder to not exceed the amount appropriated. Shortly it was decided that each fireman needed a helmet, red flannel over-shirt and belt. It was supposed that this outfit would make the Logan Fire Department “a nicely uniformed and well equipped fire brigade.” The city did not pay for the uniforms and the business community was solicited for donations. In September of 1882, a local newspaper pointed out a need of assistance from the businessmen to put the fire department on a “serviceable footing,” decrying that the firemen should be compelled to pay for fixtures and apparatus, or clothing, and they needed a tower to dry their hoses. For the next seven years Logan relied on her volunteer firemen and concerned citizens with minimal equipment to safeguard the growing community. The city’s water works was extremely limited to a small area of the community, and more often the network of water ditches, or even wells, cisterns, had to be relied upon for the water to fight fires with bucket brigades.3

Periodically from the beginning of the city fire department petitions, and the like were made to city leader to improve the capacity of the volunteer group to extinguish fires. While much of the effort to improve the fire fighting efficiency was along the lines of organizing the manpower and their commitment to respond to fires, while in 1888 this extended to facilities and equipment with significant gains. On July 2 of that year a petition was received from “Z.C.M.I. and others” calling for immediate steps to be taken to prevent and extinguish fires in the city. After reading the petition, it was laid on the table without further discussion for the city leaders had earlier assigned their standing committee on the fire department to investigate and recommend steps to this same end. The committee came back with their recommendations and them to the city council on July 2, 1888, as follows:

GENTLEMEN.--Your committee with the Chief Engineer associated, would respectfully Submit for your consideration in reference to Fire Department.
1st. The premises known as the 4th Ward school house now owned by the city be put in suitable repair to be use as a Fireman's quarter.
2nd. That there be erected a bell and hose tower, which in the opinion of your committee can be so arranged as to serve two purposes and that a suitable bell be purchased to be used as an alarm in the event of a fire.
3rd. That a suitable number of men be enrolled to act as Firemen, as provided in ordinance as may be deemed necessary by the Chief Engineer and that each of said Firemen be compensated as follows: For every attendance to practice drill, or parade that may be ordered by the Chief Engineer, $1.00, provided that payment be made for only one drill per month, and for prompt attendance in answer to an alarm and for attendance at fire $2.00 (two dollars).
4th. That the Chief Engineer with your committee associated be empowered to take immediate steps to carry out the recommendations herein set forth.
[Signed by]H. C. PETERSON, THOMAS IRVINE, B. F. RITTER, and N. W. CROOKSTON, Chief Engineer.

The Logan City Council adopted the recommendations of its Committee on the Fire Department. Soon work commenced on the old 4th Ward schoolhouse, making it a more suitable firemen’s quarters with adequate space for all department equipment and room for additional equipment. Close by this new

location a bell and hose tower was erected. The remodeled firemen’s structure was completed by August of 1888, and the bell and hose tower a few weeks later. When the fire bell arrived it was positioned in the new tower and tested on September 11th and “found to give a strong and penetrating sound.” Much of the work was performed by members of the fire department, who with the limited compensation for their efforts, seemed to become more devoted to their status as volunteer firemen. A city ordinance in 1888 set the number of firemen at twenty-five. The change brought praise from the Journal thinking they were met by approval of the citizens as—“There has long been a want here for better protection of property from fires. A well organized and disciplined Fire Company is something that every city should have and it is pleasing to note that steps are being taken to have such a company in Logan. With a good fire alarm and properly organized company citizens may rest without so much fear of the fire element.” 5

There was still one more key element of the 1888 improvement of the fire department, which likely came as another step forward but possibly spurred on by a fire in Logan on July 21, 1888. The first and best report of the fire came from a daily paper in Ogden by their correspondent living in Logan. The fire broke out in stack of straw or rye on the premises of Judge J. Z. Stewart just in back of his barn. The fire spread in the stack yard and would have resulted in a very serious fire “had it not been for the timely aid of neighbors, both ladies and gentlemen. The ladies did excellent service in carrying water, etc.” The flames charred the side of the barn and the wooden fence adjacent to the barn until the bucket brigade put out the fire. The cause of the fire was ascribed to children playing with matches. The Ogden newspaper ended the article with a biting commentary that focused on Logan fire fighting capabilities: “It seem that our city has arrived to such dimensions as to warrant it in owning more extensive fire extinguishing apparatus. Outside of the water works there is no protection against fire. There ought to be revenue enough to spare at least to purchase a hand engine.” The “hand engine” mentioned was a hand operated pump that could deliver by hose a pressurized continuous flow of water on a fire. A day later the twice-weekly Journal had its coverage of the fire near Stewart’s barn where “timely assistance” put out the fire before serious damage was done. The day was windy and if the barn had caught fire much damage would have resulted in the whole neighborhood. The fire originated from children having matches with not a word on the activities of women at the fire. Having heaped praise on the capabilities of the fire department some eighteen days earlier, there was no comment of insufficiencies of the department. Instead, in the same issue of its paper in an editorial it expounded that the Stewart fire should serve as a warning to parents regarding children using matches. It covered boys and girls, little children and even included cigarette smoking as a way little children obtained matches.6

A week later at a Logan City Council meeting on August 1, 1888, the same Committee on Fire Department that gave recommendation in early July of 1888 had another significant report for the city leaders that stated:
Your Committee with the Mayor and Chief Engineer associated would respectfully recommend that the Mayor be authorized to purchase a hand fire engine, a hose cart and five hundred feet of hose as per attached proposition of Messrs C. G. Carlton and Co. of Chicago. The engine and cart as shown in photographs herewith.  The proposition is to furnish the above mentioned items for $1200.00. The freight on the same would be approximately $135.00. In the opinion of your Committee and those associated this apparatus is the most suitable for the time and will give such protection as the circumstances justify.

1885 – hand engine or pumper.

The city leaders approved this recommendation which their committee had been working on and evaluating for some time—a fire fighting apparatus that would improve the capability of the Logan firemen. In their investigation they had considered a steam engine pump but found the cost more than what they thought the city could afford and settled on a “hand fire engine” at one-third the cost of the steam engine yet suitable to the needs of Logan at the time. For $1,350.00 (freight included) they could upgrade their fire department considerably, thus a contract was made and a hand fire engine ordered. It would be a hand drawn manual fire engine or pump with an intake suction hose and pressurized outtake fire hoses mounted on a four wheel cart. No picture, sketch or diagram has been found for this particular engine bought, but another engine from 1885 (pictured to the left) measured thirteen and a half feet long, four feet wide and five feet high. All transport of the hand engine was by manpower and double quick time as much as humanly possible to the scene of a blaze. The equipment had to be positioned within a short distance of a water source of (pond, stream, ditch, etc.) and the intake suction hose immerged in this source with the outtake hoses extended to the fire. Then the two parallel lever bars were lowered to working height on each side of the engine cart, and actuated up and down by a crew of men (pumpers), typically eight on each side. The pumping action in conjunction with a pressure chamber created the  suction of water into the engine and the pressure to force it through the hoses to the fire. This device was commonly known as a hand pumper, however at Logan it was referred to as the pump, engine, hand-pump or hand-engine. The Logan firemen claimed it took twenty men to operate it satisfactorily in fighting fires with the allowance of citizen volunteers helping with the fatiguing work of the pumping.8

In early January of 1889, N. W. Crookston, the fire department’s chief, reported to the city leaders the present status of the fire company. They had twenty-five men enrolled and they met once a month in regular drills with special meetings with an average attendance of twenty-two. They elected their leaders and followed the Standard American Fireman's regulations. In the last six months they had two barn fires, and the first was seven blocks from the fire hall when “some time was lost in getting there,” but upon arrival with the “hand engine” they had good success in putting the fire out. The chief gave a listing of fire department equipment and its value as follows: “Head engine hose cart and 500 feet of hose”(valued at $1,329.80); “One large hose cart” ($75.00); 550 feet of 3 1/2 inch cotton hose ($450.00); 100 feet of 3 1/2 inch rubber hose ($6.00); and four axes, two spades, wrenches and hooks ($13.00). Plus they had paid $297.60 for the alarm bell and expended $951.65 to repair the new firemen's hall and built the tower. The new hand engine could be stored in this firemen’s hall. The first three months of compensation for firemen's services had cost $137.00. Perhaps as important, the firemen had formed a good rapport with each other and became an efficient team, almost like a social club becoming an auxiliary organization doing a host of non-fire related things such as planning parades and celebrations, hosting benefits, dances and fireworks at celebrations. There were at this time some complaints in Logan over a poor celebration for Pioneer Day and the need for a town band, and the city found it easy to call upon the firemen to help out in these non-fire situations. In this latter category the fire department was assigned to strengthen the newly formed Logan Brass Band. They tied it with the fire company and requested an additional ten men (musicians in the brass band) and even had the city pay for a music teacher for a few weeks to improve the music and obtain sheet music. As this evolved, two regular drill meetings a month became normal with the musicians now numbering fourteen, using this time to practice music while only the actual firemen participated in fire practices. The firemen built a band platform on the Tabernacle Square for band concerts. All appeared to be going well for the city and the firemen; the chief’s report for February had thirty-five firemen enrolled but fourteen were members of the fireman’s band, and described them as in a “lively condition” with high morale and cohesiveness. In 1890, the firemen began the process of replacing their nine-year-old uniforms with new ones.9

The only sour notes in the fire chief’s periodic reports to the city council dealt with getting from the fire hall to the fire; if long distance or hills were involved, some delay occurred. Then on June 7, 1889, a fire alarm rang at 2 a.m. reporting a barn fire in the 5th Ward when only eight of the firemen responded. Due to the lack of manpower, they only took out the hand engine which was drawn by hand, and “owing to the great distance and up hill travel,” they only arrived in time to “saturate the burning embers.” Thus, the Farrell barn, a shed, a team, a cow, sheep, swine and a wagon were destroyed. A month later an afternoon fire alarm on July 5, 1889, “called out the boys in red in a lively manner.” Twenty-six firemen responded to the alarm with both the hand engine and hose cart, and, according to their chief’s report, “saved considerable fencing and other materials and the residence property.” The loss to the fire included all of Johnson’s out buildings and hay stacks. The Journal didn’t see fit to cover the fire with an article but only briefly mentioned it with a few lines in its “Local Points” column of miscellaneous minor happenings. Logan had been in a quiescent period regarding fires, very few and minor.10 However, a storm of some magnitude was brewing and thrust forth at a City Council meeting in early January of 1891. The committee on the fire department declared the city could not afford the expense of the present fire force and recommended its size be reduced to ten members. The fire chief responded that the fire company needed at least thirty men to push or pull the equipment to the fire and manipulate the hand engine and hose carts. A discussion followed about obtaining a team of horses that might resolve the issue of transport to the fire where the curious citizens, who always gathered at fires, could provide the needed manpower to man the hand pump and other duties. Thereby the city’s expense would only be paying for the reduced fire company’s payment for fire fighting. While the minutes of the meeting don’t detail if the acquisition of a team of horses was so ordered, at the end of the discussion the city leaders ordered that Logan’s fire department be “reduced from thirty-four to ten.”11

The reaction was swift and negative. The firemen made it known that they would resign if this wholesale reduction was carried out. Almost simultaneously came two public outcries in the Journal of January 14, 1892. On the editorial page the newspaper stated its sentiments that the firemen’s complaint be shared by the city’s residents, and that their intimation of resignation was serious if not grave. The paper claimed “The fire department is not an expensive one,” and the drastic reduction might bring inefficiency along with “dangerous parsimony.” Its conclusion simply read that if the reduction and savings retained effectiveness of the firemen, okay, but if it came at the expense of efficiency, it was all wrong. Then on the front page of the newspaper came the firemen’s statement in the form of a letter to the editor. They acknowledged that for a time their manpower was from ten to dozen more than really needed, but that came about due to the brass band for the benefit of the people. However, the band had recently folded and at present their numbers were at twenty-eight, and this number was required to operate the hand pump and hose cart (“The pump that we have required twenty men to work successfully” and ten men to look after the hose cart.) Therefore, they contended that their numbers could not be safely reduced. They gave a scenario wherein with a ten member department if the fire bell should ring in the early morning hours of two or three o’clock and about six men arrived in response to the alarm, what could they do? They responded to their own query with, nothing more than get the pump and hose cart out of the firemen’s house and in readiness to be moved. They posed a similar situation on a fire on the far out-skirts of town, asking how many citizens would show up and render assistance until the last spark of fire was put out. In addition they reminded the city of all the extra things they had been involved in, giving their presence, labor and some personal means, asking why now they should be imposed upon? They claimed that every person in the city “more or less benefits” by having a good fire department with lower insurance rates and better fire protection. Then for extra measure, they asked for a comparison between this city and Provo with slightly more people, inquiring how could Provo support a steam engine and paid firemen costing more than twice as much as Logan. Pertinent, the firemen thought, since the city had recently been bragging about how well they were doing in modernizing compared to other cities their size. Their ultimatum was if the city leaders did not leave their numbers as they stood, they would resign. They closed by saying they would be “pleased” to meet appropriate city representatives at their next meeting a week later.12

In the evening of the same day the above newspaper articles appeared in the newspaper, the city leaders met in their regular session, and among several items discussed the matter on the firemen briefly and referred it back to the committee on the fire department for more deliberation. The stated committee met with the firemen and affected a compromise which was formally ordered by the city council. It set the manpower level of the fire brigade at twenty men, to be paid one dollar for every practice drill they attended but such drills were limited to one per month with pay for fires remaining unchanged. In addition the city directed “that each police officer in the employ of the city be required to serve as a fireman free except when attending a fire during the time he is not on duty. In such case we advise that he be paid the usual price for fires.” This settled the immediate issue and apparently the service of the policemen worked better than the one with the brass band.13

Even with the changed noted above the Logan City Council continued to receive petitions from important citizens and businessmen as well as businesses to upgrade and improve the city’s status in regard to fire. Some were general in nature while others were specific to what should be obtained. Occasionally a councilman or citizen would attempt to press the issue by claiming that insurance rates would rise if Logan didn’t take action to improve its fire department. Often it turned into a political issue seeking an advantage as the old political divisions (Peoples’ Party vs. Liberal) gave away to the formation of Democrat and Republican parties in Logan. Perhaps a fire on Saturday, July 4, 1891, was the spark for a controversy that followed. In the forenoon the fire alarm rang while a large congregation had assembled in the Tabernacle for a literary exercise, causing a “great deal of commotion” some inside the structure and a great deal out. The fire brigade responded to the fire at a residence in the Seventh Ward and saved part of the two story frame building with the loss around $600 and where it was learned there was $800 worth of insurance on it. Thereafter, the petitions and requests for improved fire service seemed to gather momentum. At a council meeting in late April of 1891 a representative of the Michigan Chemical Fire Engine Work gave a presentation of their chemical engine showing photographs and a detailed explanation of how it work and its effectiveness. The issue of its purchase was referred to the committee on the fire department. By early July the committee had their report back saying they had investigated the matter and concluded that a chemical fire engine did not meet the demands of Logan. Instead, they favored the purchase of a more expensive steam engine pump, if the City Council thought they could afford it. The Journal published the committee's report on July 4th and added the paper's opinion that it should be easy for the council to decide they had more important things that were needed than a steam fire engine, which was a luxury when money was so scarce.14

In one of the council’s meetings in July, Councilman William H. Thain repeated some of the common talk about town concerning the city’s high insurance rates and that a certain business in the city had to pay $2,000 annually for its fire insurance. Then he declared that the purchase of a steam engine by Logan would reduce their fire insurance rate by twelve per cent. Logan’s largest newspaper, the Journal, fumed at this declaration: “If Mr. Thane does not want to be considered an ass, he will retract the statement that the purchase of a steam engine by Logan City will reduce the insurance 12 per cent. The statement is simply ridiculous. We want a water system, not a squirt gun.” A wordy explosion resulted with Logan’s two newspaper take opposing stands and turned up the heat. The Nation charged that a “vulgar insult” and vile language had been used against a respected citizen, and then tried to turn the issue around by saying they had all kinds of witnesses that the Councilman had not said what the Journal had him saying regarding the amount of insurance reduction. The two newspapers battled over this in several issues of their papers, each seeking to have the other retract its initial stand or apologize but to no avail. A resort was even taken to a dictionary definition of the three lettered “vile” word. The Journal stated boldly: “Not only do we not retract what was said, but we reiterate it.” From subsequent events it becomes clear that the Journal’s heated opposition was motivated by its strong view that an upgraded fire apparatus was not needed and by political considerations as its opposing newspaper (the Nation) used this fire related issue to advance the Republican cause (considered upstarts who under a mixed Liberal banner never had power in Logan).15 Perhaps some comment should be made on the assertion—“We want a water system, not a squirt gun.” The water system mentioned was the Logan City water works which was in its infancy and according to city officials was in “unsatisfactory condition” whereby the system could go down and be useless at any time. The “squirt gun” would come from purchasing a steam powered fire engine or pump. Depending upon the size engine acquired (there were at the time six classes), steamers could pump from 300 to several thousands gallons of water per minutes in a continuous stream with the ability to focus the water were it was needed.

If the Journal failed to do sufficient homework on fire engines compared to squirt guns, it believed that an expensive upgrade of the fire department was not needed, and as the organ for the Democratic Party focused on trying to ensure those rascal Republicans didn’t get political control in the city. The Logan City Council continued to receive petitions to upgrade and improve its fire department. Each was discussed, investigated to some extent with no decisive action as the city’s finances were not good and forced to get new loans to pay off old debts and loans. The firemen repeated their active roles in celebrations, dances, July 4th fireworks or whatever was asked of them. In mid-December of 1891, they wanted something for themselves as they formally petitioned the mayor and city council to remit their poll taxes, which was granted. However, with municipal elections for Logan scheduled in early March of 1892, most of the attention was spent on the two new political parties in the city affirming platforms, recruiting members and waging battle with each other in the first serious contest for power in Logan. For the Democratic Journal the new unthinkable disaster of political defeat likely haunted its thoughts and actions as the election neared. The bitterness and charges by both parties rivaled the rancor of the old Mormon versus anti-Mormon campaigns in Salt Lake City.16

The March election in Logan produced a Republican victory with James Quayle as mayor and a Republican majority on the city council. The losing side, according to their newspaper, saw it as a gain by the old hated Liberal Party only won by every Liberal voting to a man for the Republican ticket along with every apostate and by many others by the “church ticket” trickery by unholy influences. This was a changeover of power unknown in Logan and handled in an unusual manner, whether because those who had the power previously didn’t quite know what to do, or, as the Journal speculated, the greedy Republican members elected couldn’t wait for a ceremonious turnover, they called a council meeting and “turned the city government over to themselves.” Whatever, the groundwork had been laid for an unprecedented stormy period in Logan’s history. It came early when the new council had trouble appointing a new fire chief; they appointed one which caused a stir in the department and then appointed another only to have the firemen revolt with all but two of the twenty-five firemen resigning. The disgruntled went a step further and publicly stated their intention of organizing a new fire company, which would be second to none in Utah. They declared the old hand pump as almost useless at fires in the winter or anytime when away from large water ditches. Therefore, after the new organization was completed they would ask the businessmen of the community to assist in procuring better equipment. Their hope for new fire company never materialized, but the Logan fire department did recruit new members to fill the numerous vacancies by the mass resignation. Two weeks later the new fire brigade had a rehearsal on Main Street and a follow-up one a couple of days later using the hand engine in pumping water. The equipment was set up and the hand pumping began at 5 p.m. and an hour later when the Journal reporter left the exercise scene, all they had been able to pump was “blowing dust” and the only moisture was just the sweat from the perspiring firemen pumping with all their might. There were a few smart remarks on the fiasco demonstration as seen by some spectators and read in the newspaper reports suggesting more than perseverance at the old hand pump engine was needed.17

At this low point in the Logan fire department a regular meeting of the city leaders was held on June 15, 1892. A representative of the Holloway Chemical Fire Engine Company attended and presented a proposition to the city to purchase one of their fire engines. Again the matter was referred to the committee on the fire department. Then the regular order of business resumed and a petition from Robert Murdock and forty-four others was read asking the city to purchase a chemical engine with several members speaking on the subject. After which, this matter was referred to the committee on fire department, like a repeat of a year earlier. At the next council meeting held June 29, 1892, the committee reported back to the council that they “did not consider the city in a position to purchase one at present,” and by special assignment also reported on the amount the city could be bonded for at $93,579.00 per the latest assessment rolls. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the mass resignation of firemen created a need for new uniforms for the new recruits and so there was a petition from the twenty-six Logan firemen asking the city to pay for the new firemen’s uniforms at $8 each, referred to committee. For over a year the issue of physical upgrade and improvement of the Logan fire equipment had been stuck on high center without much movement, but shortly and with amazing speed that changed at the next council meeting in mid-July. A representative of the Holloway Chemical Engine Company was present again and stated his company would furnish a chemical engine of sufficient capacity for Logan for $1,600 (a stream engine pump would have been two to three times that cost). The advisability of such a purchase was discussed at “great length,” with the mayor and others arguing that the insurance companies were threatening to raise their rates in Logan if the city did not secure more adequate fire protection. The City of Provo was cited as an example wherein they saved $2,000 per annum by the purchase of a chemical engine, and this together with the loss of taxes when buildings burned, “decided the council in favor of purchasing one.” They authorized the mayor and others to conclude the negotiation for a Holloway Chemical Engine. By early August word was received in Logan that their chemical engine had been shipped from Baltimore.18

The new chemical fire engine arrived on the train and was unloaded and pulled by two horses to the firemen’s hall on Friday, September 2, 1892, and described by the local newspaper as “a beauty in appearance” with the observation: “If it is taken to the scene of a fire at as great a rate of speed as it was hauled from the depot at, it will always be on time.”19 To activate the chemical engine a carbolic acid-soda compound was dumped into the water tanks causing a simple chemical reaction with attended pressure energy making a true chemical engine. Using the chemical hose the pressurize soda-water gas mixture could be put on flames immediately upon arrival at the scene of a fire faster than other fire apparatus that had to he connected or hookup to a source of water. The most important aspect of the chemical engine was the speed in which it could be placed in service on fires. However, to many the new engine and its process in fighting fires was primarily a mystery which only heighten the interest in a scheduled test of the new chemical fire engine on the first Monday evening after its arrival in Logan. The September 5th test gave the new inexperienced fire company the shortest time to become acquainted with the new piece of fire equipment.


   To the left is the 1893 horse-drawn Holloway Chemical Fire Engine.

To the right is a sketch drawing of the same. Its main components were two horizontal tanks each holding between 26 and 35 gallons of water and the chemical hose dispensed from the hose reel behind the driver’s seat.

One of the local newspapers gave the following account of the test under the title of “The Chemical Engine:”

Hundreds of people witnessed the test of the Chemical Engine on Monday evening, And the general verdict was that it was a failure. A shanty 12x14 feet, and about 12 feet in height had been built, and was filled with shavings, straw, dry goods boxes, etc., the whole of which were saturated with kerosene oil.  When the torch was applied, the fire bell rang and the chemical engine came rushing up from a point about two blocks distant, at racing speed. So sudden was the stop that the tongue of the engine was broken. Chief Stanton of the Salt Lake department was present to superintend the test made, as he thoroughly understands the Holloway chemical, as it has been in use in Salt Lake for a long time.  By the time the engine commenced to play on the fire, the flames were leaping high in the air from the sides and roof of the building.  The effect was scarcely perceptible and the firemen had a roaring fire in a short time. It seemed as if the fire should be completely extinguished within a few minutes, but for a reason that has since been offered. They seemed to make no further headway than merely to subdue the flames, and the old hand pump was sent for, which extinguished the fire in a few minutes.  After the fire had been somewhat subdued, Mr. Stanton, finding that the engine was not doing the work  properly, went to it and claimed someone had opened the overflow cock, allowing the pressure to run down from 160 pounds, the proper pressure, to 60 pounds.  The general opinion though, is that while the chemical may be effective where the fire is confined within the walls of a building, it is no good on an outside fire.  The principle upon which it works, is the formation of carbolic acid gas by the mixture of pure soda, carbolic acid and oil of vitriol. This gas, by destroying the oxygen in the air surrounding the enclosed in a chamber from which all the air had been exhausted.  Judging from this, a person would naturally suppose that in the case of a fire exposed to all the winds of heaven, a chemical is N.G.20

The capitalized initials were for “NO GOOD,” with emphasis, and in an editorial in the same issue the paper continued to whack away at the chemical engine as nothing but a “Republican toy” that miserably failed to put out a small fire set purposely to show it off, but instead it only spouted as much gas as a Republican stump-speaker while the fire grew bigger and hotter. The Democratic paper concluded its volatile remarks saying: “The new chemical engine which his excellence? Mayor Quayle and the council purchased for $1,600, was pronounced a failure by all who saw the pyrotecnic [sic-pyrotechnic] exhibit.” The Journal had been upset by the Republicans gaining political control in Logan, and they now had an issue, a cause célèbre, and would endlessly recycle the story of the failure, the costs (discovering a freight charge of $227.40 to bring the engine in) and chastise their opponents directly and indirectly. Maintaining it was a pity that Logan must suffer another year and half the foolishness of those now in charge, but maybe it was “Logan’s chastisement for harkening to smooth bore protectionists” Republicans. The digs and partisan politics went on and on with the chemical engine called a “toy,” “fizzle,” “failure,” etc., wasting the citizens’ money and wasn’t needed. Into this mix came another Logan newspaper, the Nation that favored the Republican Party and praised the chemical engine making a war of words and repetitions as they argued and re-argued almost every issue from the purchase of the engine to its performance. In short the fight over the chemical engine became a three-ringed circus and in the center ring were the two newspapers—The Nation and the Journal—slugging away wildly at each other with little concern for the truth, at least the whole truth, producing much heat but little light.21

The Nation, which started as a Democratic organ but switched to the Republicans, charged the Journal with making the fire engine a partisan issue. The Journal countered that the other paper had the previous spring thought it was proper for the Republican council to refuse the fire department’s choice for a fire chief and chose a Republican outsider as the new chief. Furthermore, the Republican mayor and council had “wantonly waste the people’s money on an impracticable scheme”—the fizzled toy chemical engine—and now the opposition paper thinks the politics shouldn’t be mentioned. But the Journal claimed it would champion the people and exposure the political mistakes of the Republicans, which included a freight bill of “over two hundred dollars” to bring in a machine that “don’t seem to work.” Besides this, according to the Journal, a week after the failed test, the city authorities “persist in blockading Main street with the old building on which they practice with their chemical toy,” urging its removal before if frightened horses and caused a runaway.22

Three days later the Journal came forth with a long and involved editorial with the title—“TAKE IT BACK.” It began by calling attention to a willful perversion of the facts in the last issue of the Nation wherein that paper wrote: “We will take this occasion to remind our Democratic friends who have been trying to poke fun for political effect and who have very industriously been using their newspaper to that end, that it has not been many moons since a petition was filed with the City council by the Hon. Moses Thatcher and signed by 60 business men of Logan many of whom were Democrats, asking the City Council to purchase a Chemical Engine.” This time the Nation’s “Democratic friends” (The Journal) did more than poke fun, it poked holes in the Nation’s story, declaring it didn’t know what it was talking about. Then at great length it rehearsed the details of the petitions and actions related at the beginning of this article. It cited page numbers in the City Council Minutes and reprinted some of the contents showing the process in detail and delineated which council (Democrat or Republican) received what and the actions taken. In summary, the Journal’s investigation of the records revealed that the Thatcher petition did not asked the council to purchase a “Chemical Engine” but to consider purchasing a “fire engine.” The two recommendations by council investigators (one to a Democratic and one to a Republican) were ignored.23 The “Take It Back” may have been designed to have the Nation take back its untrue statements, which it never did; nevertheless, this was also the opening salvo in the larger contest on the engine itself.

In another article from the editorial page of the same issue as above, the Journal focused on “THE CHEMICAL FIZZLE.” The cause for this article came from an article in the Nation where W. A. Stanton, Chief of the Salt Lake Fire Department, had written a letter to that paper which was printed.

The Chief’s letter deplored the fact of putting fire and politics together in the discussion of the Logan situation stating: “It seems very strange that a small city in the mountains with a population between 5,000 and 6,000 inhabitants and a portion of that number and their paper claim that a Chemical engine is ‘N.G.’ when cities with a population of 80,000 to 100,000 inhabitants and knowing onus in these cities have dozens of them in use and have never yet found that a Chemical engine is ‘N.G.’” The Journal couldn’t let this stand without further comment, but did acknowledge the Salt Lake fire chief and his presence at the Logan test of the chemical engine by request of the Logan City Council and fire department, where, in their opinion, he had been shabbily treated by the city officials. Then the paper launched its account by asking the writer of the letter to read again its “N.G.” article for it didn’t mean or say that chemicals could not be effective in large cities where principally the building are made of stone or brick. But in smaller towns where the houses are most often frame, the paper maintained they didn’t believe anything was better to quench a fire than a stream of water. They quoted from their earlier article: “The general opinion though, is that while the chemical may be effective where the fire is confined within the walls of a building, it is no good on an outside fire. Judging from this, a person would naturally suppose that in the case of a fire exposed to all the winds of heaven, a chemical is N.G.” The Journal concluded its editorial saying: “We were not trying to make political capital out of the ‘chemical.’ But we regarded its exhibition as a miserable failure, and so did every one who witnessed it. Mr. Stanton took part in that performance and is well acquainted with such machines. He says in his letter to the Nation: ‘I claim that the engine gave a thorough test in extinguishing the fire.’ If that was a thorough test, it has conclusively proven that we don't need a ‘chemical’ here. That one sentence disproves all others assertions in his letter as well as all excuses made in the Nation.”24 In summation the newspaper declared its contention “we don't need a ‘chemical’ here.”

In the next issue of the Journal this hint or suggestion was furthered when the paper stated that its criticism of the chemical engine that doesn’t work should not be misconstrued to reflect negatively on the “fine set of boys” at the fire department. “Indeed one of them remarked in our hearing that he would give ten dollars if no chemical was bought.” Probably there was building of public opinion by the carefully designed to manipulate press releases that the chemical was indeed “N.G.,” a toy that fizzled and didn’t really work and had been an expensive failure that only the die-hard Republicans and the Nation could stand by. Whatever, in the third week of the firestorm circus at Logan, the Journal editorialize on “THE CHEMICAL QUESTION,” again prefacing its article as follows: “We ask the pardon of our readers for mentioning this matter again. But our Republican friend [editor] don't seen to know when he has enough of anything. With the records against him and the Protest of three leaders of his own party he still persists in his folly.” The Nation had not backed away from its earlier charges as to whom and how the request to buy a chemical engine was made, insisting that a request had been made for that specific engine. The Journal countered, repeating the whole sequences of events, petitions, investigations, and negative reports, emphasizing those aspects like “A CHEMICAL WOULD NOT BEST SUIT THE DEMANDS OF LOGAN CITY.” Closing with “Now our contemporary claims that the petition to which he made reference used the words ‘Chemical Engine.’ If he will show us such a petition we will gladly publish it in full,” ending with a subtle jab to the opposition paper, the Journal reminded the readers of the somewhat torturous course of the Nation that once claimed to be a Democratic paper, “don’t ye know.” Amid all the words, the Journal posed the question “So what difference would it make” if every citizen of Cache County had once asked for an investigation of fire engines, even of the chemical type, and an investigation made to prove the inefficiency of them, what justification could be found for the purchase of the chemical engine when the records opposed it? “But don't pretend that this council purchased the chemical because any Democrat recommended it--that is entirely too thin.” Still, in the following issues of the Journal much of this was rehashed with neither paper ready to quit the never-ending argument.25

In the September 24th issue of the Journal there came some self-proclaimed evidence of public opinion as the Democratic paper claimed it gained some new subscriptions from Republicans who couldn’t take the Nation any longer, and the Republican Party within Logan seemed “out of tune” with the paper that claimed to be their organ. Far more important to this paper was the news that the Logan City Council had decided “that the Journal is right,” and that theme, like much else on this issue, would be repeated more than once. The City of Logan sent a telegram to the Holloway Chemical Engine Company after being assured by their attorney that they could reject the engine if they wished to. The telegram stated simply: “Chemical engine does not perform efficient fire duty. Engine is at your disposal. Logan City does not accept it.” The telegram signed by, JAS. QUAYLE, Mayor, appeared in print by September 25, 1892, but had been sent on September 9th. In the meantime a representative of a Chicago firm, Champion Chemical Engine Company, appeared before the city council claiming to have a much superior and cheaper engine and asked the council to purchase one. The city officials decided to wait until the disposal of the Holloway engine had been made. However, that did not come about soon and a waiting period continued through the months of October and November, without reference or explanation in the Logan and Utah newspapers.26

What happened has to be gleaned from the Logan City Council meeting held Wednesday, December 1, 1892, and augmented by information from the newspapers. Apparently Mr. Charles Holloway, owner of the company, was away from Baltimore, Maryland when the telegram from Logan arrived. When Holloway did respond he explained the delay saying: “I would have answered your telegram of September 9th sooner but have been away from the city.” He was in no mood to take the chemical engine back claiming that too much time had lapsed over the ten day period in the contract and challenged the reasons given in not accepting it as failure to perform efficient fire duty. He stated he would enforce payment, if necessary, in the court for the engine. At the December 1st Logan City Council meeting Holloway’s letter that had been read at a previous meeting in November was given much consideration, including the company owner’s contention that “there was a conspiracy on the part of some of the citizens to prevent its acceptance.” At the November meeting of the council the matter was referred to a special committee to thoroughly investigate the difficulty. Their report found that the fire test and shanty were built under the direction of Holloway’s agent, and there was no conspiring by city officials or citizens to make that test unfair as claimed by Holloway. If the original trial of the chemical engine had been unfair, it was not due to intentional actions of city officials or citizens. Therefore, “The city recommended that Mr. Holloway be requested to prove by a satisfactory test that his engine is what he claims it to be.” The city recorder was directed to inform Mr. Holloway of the council’s decision with the proviso that the company bears the expense of its agents.27

After a two month respite the Journal had its second wind and jumped back into the fray with a biting editorial under the title of “INVOLVED IN A LAWSUIT.” Which it explained was threatened in spite of the ten day clause in the Holloway contract that gave the city ten days after receipt of the engine for inspection to accept or reject. However, “After inspecting the engine for several weeks and experimenting on bonfires, etc. the Mayor concluded that THE JOURNAL was right--that the chJmical [sic-chemical] did not do the work required of it.” The paper loosely chronicled the advent of the chemical engine at Logan—“This engine was received for inspection on or about September 1892. It failed to work at a public test made Sep. 5th. It was still here on the 17th when THE JOURNAL requested on behalf of the taxpayers of Logan that it be sent away.” According to this newspaper, there were some in the city determined to keep “the thing” whether it worked or not; “But the rights of our citizens were not to be overridden in order to favor an agent or a corporation; so THE JOURNAL insisted that it was sheer robbery to take the people's taxes and expend them on a mere ornament. . . .  Finally, after much quibbling, the Council rejected the machine at its session of Sept. 21. Mayor Quayle telegraphed the Holoway [sic-Holloway] company” that the city would not accept it. The Journal continued its account: “But the delay had been too great. Twice the time for inspection allowed by the contract had elapsed. The company paid no attention to the Mayor's telegram. . . . Negligence on the part of the Municipal officers to act when the time was ripe would have saved the taxpayers of Logan a lawsuit and maybe the enforced expenditure of sixteen hundred dollars for a worthless toy besides.” For good measure, the paper stated the same failure to look out for the public good had been shown by these same city officials in their handling of city bonds at a distant city rather than patronize an area bank for less expense. The editorial ended with a strong partisan declaration: “Hereafter let the people look after their own interests and only put in office men who will ignore petty spites and personal anamosities [sic animosities] when they conflict with public welfare.”28

In time for publication in the next issue of the Journal came a letter to the editor from the lawyer who had advised the city they could reject acceptance of the chemical engine taking issue with the paper’s previous statements. However, before the letter’s contents were printed, the paper placed in brackets its reason for mistaken information, if any, shifting the blame to others. Verbatim with its brackets it went--

[In the following communication, one of the city officers undertakes to shift the responsibility of keeping the chemical after its woeful failure at the test. It may be that Mayor Quayle telegraphed on the 9th,--but the Republican paper did not announce that fact till the 23rd. And all the while he allowed that misguided organ to go on fighting for the chemical and insisting that it was just the thing for Logan. It now transpires that the Holloway Company refuses to take the engine back. It is said the Holoway [sic] will enforce payment of the $1,600. The city has already spent $200, on the thing. Who is to blame for it all if some of the municipal rulers are not. As to those petitioners, as they are good business men it is not to be supposed that they want their taxes spent for something that the city can’t use.]29

Adolph Anderson, the writer of the letter to the editor, charged the Journal in its editorial column in the previous issue with “several misstatements of facts,” and then supplied the correct data so the information could be placed “before the public in a true and proper light, if so desired.” Like a school master instructing a pupil it went step by step—the engine arrived in Logan September 2nd, tested on the following Monday the 5th and a telegram to the company on the 9th of September, seven day after the engine’s arrival, thus the Mayor’s telegraph was timely. Not mentioned in this letter, the mayor’s telegram rejecting the chemical engine came at least eight days before the paper’s claimed date when it asked the city to send it back. Equally distasteful to this newspaper and at the end of this letter came the bad news that contrary to the Journal’s expressed view that the city council had purchased the engine of its own accord without any petition, now it was revealed that such a petition had been presented to the city council on June 15th and gave the names of several of the forty-four signers.30 It was cruel fate to be accused of spotty reporting, misstatements of fact and the possibility that the newspaper, who frequently claimed it was right all the time, sometimes came up short and on occasion tried to shift the blame to others.

This small setback didn’t dampen the celebration that in the early December school elections the Democrats were returning to power in Logan, carrying the city by a majority of 55 compared to the Republican majority of 77 last March, and soon the Republican shackles would be gone. Therefore, the Democratic rooster (party emblem before the mule) did much crowing at the dawn of freedom having returned with a brighter future. The celebration had some limits—“The roosters do not crow because the city is involved in a law-suit--that is indeed something to mourn over. . . . The roosters do not crow because the chemical is about to be forced on the city; nor because two hundred dollars were spent in bringing the thing here.” In communications from Mr. Holloway he promised to investigate the “chemical engine affair” and report to the city council and in the latter part of December the parties agreed to another test of the engine. In preparation for this Chief Stanton, of the Salt Lake Fire Department, arrived in Logan on Wednesday, December 28th and “a shanty was built as in the former trial,” and the following evening a test fire was set and the chemical engine came to the scene and extinguished the flames satisfactorily for the City Council. Whether the city leaders were impressed or just satisfied that acceptance of the engine was better than a law suit, the Journal was not intimidated and its disgruntled coverage of the test were very brief saying: “This time however, the fire was not allowed to make an interesting display. This test only confirms our opinion that in nine out of ten fires that occur in this city the Chemical would do no good. Where there is a regular fire department and an electric system of fire alarms, the chemical may be all right."31 It was evident this newspaper had not changed its views on the Holloway Chemical Engine.

Logan City’s acceptance of the chemical engine did not end the controversy over it. On Wednesday, January 18th after the firemen’s regular monthly meeting at the Fireman Hall, a planned demonstration or fire practice with the chemical engine was scheduled. At a specified time the partially burned test shanty used on the earlier test was to be set ablaze with fixed fire exercise to follow. However, a mischievous fellow, either for fun or with a hope of subverting the well-laid plans, set fire to the shanty ahead of the scheduled time. Still, without skipping a beat after the fire alarm was given, the firemen “ran the engine out in a hurry, and extinguished the flames in a short time. This test was the most satisfactory one made yet.” The following week at the city council meeting the chief of the Logan Fire Department recommended the purchase of the Chemical engine “as recent tests had proved satisfactory.” In addition they requested at least 500 feet of hose be purchased for the fire department, apparently for fighting fires using the city’s water works. On February 11, 1893, the Journal had more to say: “The Chemical Engine has been accepted and paid for. Strange as it may seem this chemical is the same chemical that was tried some time ago and found wanting. It is the same that the Mayor telegraphed Holloway would not be accepted because it failed to do the work. It is the same that cost the taxpayers of this city about eighteen hundred dollars. The very same.” Yet that needed a little explanation in another article in the same issue, as the city executed a corporation note for $1,500 to C. T. Holloway with Logan’s note payable two years after date.32

This somewhat mellowed outlook lasted about three weeks when the Logan newspaper learned from a Salt Lake City paper that Salt Lake’s Chief of the Fire Department was being investigated on several charges of bilking money using his chief’s position. Among a long list of charges was that he traveled to towns and cities for the Holloway Company, recommending their engines and ran the testing for them. Chief Stanton was paid by Salt Lake City and the Holloway Company. Logan was not the only place in Utah where Stanton used this double relationship. Six months earlier at the first Logan test of the chemical engine, the Journal praised him as a great man going the extra mile as a disinterested party to help Logan decide the usefulness of the chemical engine. When he wrote his letter to the Nation decrying the partisan politics in the evaluation of the engine, he was still a good disinterested party with different views. Now, according to the Journal, this exposé revealed his true colors, being the opposite of a disinterested party, and then hatched up an excuse for the failure of the first test and later told Holloway there was a conspiracy in Logan to prevent acceptance of the engine. “His sins have found him out, and he will undoubtedly get the G. B., [sic God's Blessing?], and feel lucky if he escapes a criminal prosecution. All of his misdeeds would not concern us much if Logan had not been added to his list of victims.”33 This depiction on Chief Stanton revived the old spirit of the Journal, and it would become more rabid in its grand crusade, sparing neither time nor ink.

Early Saturday morning on March 4, 1893, a fire was discovered in the office of Toombs’ Brothers Stable; the night watchman saw the fire which hadn’t made much headway but was more than he could extinguish by himself. He ran for the Fireman’s Hall and rang the bell. In the meantime a livery team pulling a sleigh of young men retuning from a dance at Hyrum saw the flames. They turned the sleigh around and started for the Fireman’s Hall intent to get the fire equipment, where many others had gathered due to the fire alarm. With several firemen they brought the chemical engine and the hose cart to the stable fire. As usual the Journal found the words to express the results as follows: “They might as well brought a syringe, as the chemical was frozen up and would not work. The hose was attached to the hydrant at the Bank corner and the fire soon extinguished.” The paper followed in another column saying: “That the strictures on the chemical engine that have appeared in the columns of the JOURNAL at different times have been well founded, was amply proven by the abortive attempt made with it last Saturday morning at the Tombs’ fire, when it proved to be not only useless, but positively dangerous. The chemicals reached the water inside the tanks, but no one could tell the amount of pressure, as the ice would interfere with the working of the gauge.” Six weeks later a fire broke out in two barns at the extreme northern part of the city beyond where the fire hydrant of the city water works. The fire department responded by sending the chemical engine and its hand pump. The newspaper report on this fire sarcastically related: “The Chemical was on hand but the work was done by the old discarded hand-pump.” Three months later in late August of 1892 in the evening the fire bell gave the alarm of a fire in the Fifth Ward, and the quickly gathered firemen reported to their hall, harnessed the team and hitched them to the chemical engine and “sped off at full speed in the direction of Bishop Hyde’s place” only to find that the nearby neighbors had succeeded in subduing the flames before the firemen arrived.34

The Journal’s reporting on anything concerning the Republican city council and the chemical engine was highly negative and often bias beyond normal partisanship. The newspaper sharpened its attack in the summer and fall of 1892 with its most biting editorial entitled “MISTAKES OF THE CITY COUNCIL” published September 20, 1893. It contented that the city, after almost two year in the hands of “republican officials,” was “at the end of her financial rope” with her funds depleted and credit exhausted. With a laundry list of bad moves that were harmful to the city, the paper focused on the purchase of the chemical engine as an “expensive folly” and rehearsed the investigations in the feasibility of such engine, unfavorable reports on it, and after obtaining it how the Mayor had tried to rescind the contract because it didn’t work, all “evidence of the inefficiency of the toy they bought.” For good measure the paper repeated much of it as “The Mayor even telegraphed the Holloway people that their engine was not what the people of this city wanted--that it did not fill the bill. Yet the city council purchased that identical engine and we have it on hand today. The notes in payment for it will fall due during the next city administration too.” After citing more mistakes the article closed as follows: “It may be that this eighty thousand dollars received by the present city officials has been spent in a perfectly legitimate way, but we doubt if it has been made to do the most good possible for the public in general. The mistakes above referred to would indicate that it has not.” The Journal must have believed this editorial was a masterpiece for it was reprinted in the issues for September 27, 30, October 4, 7, 11, 14 and 18, 1893.35 By now the Republican council and the chemical engine had become an obsession with the Journal and colored its coverage to a great degree, ensuring its mind-set carried the day.  It didn’t help when the opposition paper, The Nation, wrote: “It’s now high time the JOURNAL was ‘pulling in its horns’ on the chemical engine. At the fire the other night it did good work and saved much more than its cost, so now it’s about time the Democratic organ shut up on that score.” The Journal didn’t pull in its horns but flared them out and charged harder. It made fun that the opposition paper had “fallen in love with chemical engine” hoping to convert people who saw its “innumerable failures.” It wanted to know what fires the opposition paper was referring to as there had only been two recent fires in the fall of 1893. It quickly answered its own posed query relating that at the fire at the Saunder’s place the chemical did not arrive until “the fire was out and the people were leaving for their homes.” While at the Co-op fire the “chemical ‘didn’t squirt a chemic.’” Inquiring again, “So where did the chemical do such good works? There have been no other fires.” The Journal had another article on this fire in the same issue with some details. The Saunder’s building was a large brick building of two stories and owned by three men who also resided in the upstairs. None of the residents were at home when the fire was noticed shortly after dark on Tuesday the 3rd of October, and while some went to ring the alarm bell, others either tried to fight the flames on the inside upper floor or chose to remove furniture from the upstairs apartments. Considerable household furniture was removed from one of the apartments, but the fire became too hot to get most of the furniture and effects from the second apartment. In addition buckets of water were passed along and in “incredibly short time the fire was under control.” The firemen turned out and were active in the efforts, but the “chemical engine arrived too late to participate in the exercise as the last flame had flickered out before it was ready to work,” and could only discharge its gas upon the smoldering ruins. Such offhanded cavalier treatment was challenged not only by the Nation but by others including the fire chief who was directly involved in the fires. The fire chief stated it was standard policy to send both the chemical engine and hose cart to all fires and always the chemical arrived first, and the fire he experienced that day was vastly different from the Journal’s highly biased version (more on this later).36

Two days later on October 5th smoke was seen on top of the Z.C.M.I. three-storied building one-half block from the Firemen’s Hall (or the Journal’s “‘chemical’ stronghold”) and quickly the fire bell was rung and the firemen assembled, prepared and moved to the scene “with the chemical and hose cart attached,” where only smoke could be seen coming from a third-story window and the roof of the structure. Here, under the directions of their leader, the firemen unrolled hoses and attached nozzles readying for fighting the fire. With a fire hose they began climbing the stairs trying to find the source of the smoke and fire when all of a sudden some one shouted—“fire’s out!”—followed soon thereafter by the first stream of water from the hose of the firemen sprayed on the roof. Of course the Journal couldn’t end it there without some cracks about the thing that stirred its ire, so closed the fire scene with—“but the poor old chemical hung fire. She didn’t shoot a shot.” And “at the Co-op fire the chemical ‘didn't squirt a chemic.’” In between its bold headlines such as “OUR GLORIOUS ‘CHEMICAL’ TOY” and it catch phrases the newspaper briefly squeezed in some on the actual fire or better near fire from a participant. The manager of the institution gave the story of the fire trouble that arose while a man was engaged in tarring the building’s roof when a combination of gas escaping from the heated tar, wind and whatever, caused some of the tar to be forced back into the pot where a fire was kept to heat the tar, which in turn caught fire and the seething mass boiled over and began running down the sloping roof against a wooden hatchway which caught fire and partially burned which was “the extent of the fire.” The manager and some of his employees extinguished the flames with blankets, quickly extinguishing minor flames that could have in time resulted in a serious situation. As a result the chemical and other assistance was not necessary. However, the Journal wasn’t to end it there, not when it believed in going the extra mile or two in degrading the chemical with two tidbits as follows: “A confident republican shouted as the chemical dashed into sight, ‘Now, then, I’ve been waiting for a fire in this vicinity, so we could show you fellows what our chemical can do.’” Soon after the announcement that the fire was out, another well-informed supporter of high tariff for chemical exultantly declared: “Hurrah for the chemical! What’s the matter with the chemical! The chemical did that!” The Journal closed with its capstone, “Well, the chemical may be a good thing, but not to put out fires. ‘It never touched it.’”37

The anti-chemical engine newspaper received a letter to the editor which it printed on October 11, 1893, that had a suggestion for the city leaders to rend the chemical “of more utility to the general public.” Following a theme that the chemical was just an “expensive toy” without any merit in fighting fires and eliminating the expense of feeding and caring for a team used to pull it. Why not covert it into a “soda water manufactory giving employment to some who were out of work, and if a bottling apparatus was added possibly it could be used to pay at least the interest on the investment needed to pay for it initially. The letter closed with a somewhat Journalistic flair –“Hoop-la! the thing must be a ‘go.’ All orders promptly attended to. Correspondence solicited,” with the author listed as “MANUFACTURER.” The Journal frequently accused the Nation of developing articles using a variety of nom-de-plumes to provide needed support on issues. It cannot be ascertained at this late date if this deception worked both ways but the suspicion remains. With deceptive articles and biting fillers almost every issue of the Journal in this period had some disparaging remarks on the chemical engine. It told and retold innumerable times the terrible high cost of the chemical engine, or jested such as on the Saunder’s fire that the tidbit of fire left for the chemical could have been “put out with a wet sponge.” At an October 16th fire at Prof. Apperley’s barn near the depot, a young boy on a swift horse gave the alarm, and the firemen gathered to their hall, prepared and took the chemical and the hose cart to the fire. For at least the fourth time in print the paper reiterated it was a lucky and a good thing the hose cart was there due to the “woful [sic woeful] inefficiency” of the chemical plus recalling Mayor Quayle’s remarks some eleven months earlier that the chemical did not work. It observed that if the old standby hose cart hadn’t come, the fire, in all probability, would be burning yet. Squeezing in a line or two on the actual fire, the barn was too much ablaze to attempt saving, so all work was put in preventing the fire from spreading to adjoining property. The paper’s report on this fire only stated two streams (or hoses) from the chemical played on the fire the whole time, and when there was a shift in position, the blaze flared up again where those streams were plying. Then quick as a flash the minimal coverage of the actual fire to purposeful propaganda such as–“And ludicrous as it may seem two excited firemen were shouting ‘what do you think of the chemical now?’” While another fireman picked up a burning board and sprayed it with the chemical gas and cried out, “Bring on your wet sponge.” According to the Journal these were the “absolute facts. . . . No amount of published statements from the firemen or any one else will convince the people who were there that the chemical was any good at all, because they know better.”38 There will be more on the published statements from the firemen a little later.

The writer of the Journal’s article was on a roll and before ending his piece he gave a soliloquy wherein the monologue told when, where and how fires should be extinguished and the chemical used. Certainly not on a fire spreading over a roof, on the outside of building, not on the Saunder’s fire where it was unwise to use the pressure gas to quench sparks and embers. After these instructions, the writer interjected: “Now, Chief Knowles ought to know that. And he ought to know that it costs the city something every time that chemical is charged. And he ought to know that every time he allows his men to discharge it on an outside fire he is throwing that much money in the blaze.” While disclaiming a desire to criticize the fire chief, the paper wanted to call his attention to facts he should know.39 Whatever the paper expected, they did rouse the chief to respond in a letter to the editor with things he wanted them to know. However, he should have known, being a subscriber of the Journal, that while his letter would be printed but he might not get the first word and definitely not the last word as by some devise, foreword or brackets, the newspaper called the shots on their pet peeve. The paper framed his letter under the title “The Chief Explains,” with a highlighted subheading of “But Let Him Read the Article ‘Thrice Rejected.’” The latter on the front page was a lengthy invective rant about the chemical engine that had been in the possession of the fire department for over a year, rehashing old arguments and actions whereby it had been rejected three times by their count. It was meant for the chief to read it as well as those readers of the paper. Chief Knowles’ letter on page five went in part:

Editor Journal: -- My attention has been called to an article that appeared in the last issue THE JOURNAL in regards to the fire at Wm. Apperley's barn in reply I would state that I was there and also ordered the machinery out that went to that fire, it is a standing rule in the department that the chemical goes to all fires and that it is the first piece of machinery out every time. I can also state that we are not the only department that has ordered the rule but Ogden and Salt Lake City have the same rules governing them. I can say also truthful that if the chemical had not been there the buggy shed on the south side of the barn would have been consumed before the water could have been gotten there. Some biased person might say that it was not worth much. I care nothing about that, suffice it to say that it was not burned down on account of the chemical holding the fire in check until the water got there.

I was one of the purchasing committee and can say truthful that we investigated the merits of the different fire fighting apparatuses and the chemical was recommended to be one of the best pieces of machinery that we could get for our department.

We visited Ogden and Salt Lake fire departments and got the opinion of some of the Most efficient firemen in Utah . . . . Captain Donnell the head insurance adjuster of the Pacific Slope and he told me that if Logan did not get a better supply of fire fighting apparatus that there would certainly be a raise in the insurance rates. He stated positively that a chemical was one of the best auxiliaries that the fire department could get.

Now in regard to the cost of charging the chemical it cost in sound [sic round] figures $2.40. That must be an immense amount of money wasted sure if it did no good, but such is not the case and I think that there could be no serious objections on that score.

You may put me on record as saying that I have endeavored to be as careful of the public funds as I am of my own personal property. And in regard to the Saunders fire I was there when the chemical got there. I know that the fire was neither out nor under control but on the contrary the fire gas coming out the south east window and the cornice was on fire. I was with C. B. Robbins and J. S. Balllif when they entered the building and I can verify their statements that it was impossible to go into the room until after the chemical was turned in. . . .

It does seem ridiculous that the chemical had to come to Logan to be tested on its merits.  BUT THE JOURNAL seems to know more than all the rest.
I am respectfuly, / J. C. KNOWES, Chief.

The Journal still had the last word, and by use of brackets injected its counter-explanation critique starting in a somewhat humorous vein. It began—“Now we have no desire to get into a personal wrangle with Mr. Knowles. He is about two hundred pounds heavier than we are. Besides he is a policeman and carries a club. But we trust he will not stop his JOURNAL if we mildly suggest” a different version than what the chief stated. The chief had thrown his personal support to the account by the first two firemen to ascend the stairs taking the fire hose to the upper level in the Saunder’s building. They had said they couldn’t have reached the upstairs room until after the chemical engine was put into use, and now the fire chief , directing the fire fighting and personally viewed the situation taking place inside the burning structure confirmed their claims. The Journal quickly reviewed opinions of citizens on another fire (Apperley’s barn) wherein they believed the chemical engine had no effect on the fire and they knew “that water alone put out the fire,” before turning to the fire chief’s letter and responded: “So far as your statement regarding the Sanders fire is concerned, we have no desire to quarrel with you. And yet we know that men were in that room when the chemical arrived; and we know that men had been in that room long before the chemical arrived; we know that M. J. Steinyard, Will Sanders, John M. Wilson, and others were in the room fighting the fire with buckets of water before the chemical arrived; and we believe that the fire was under control before any hose was taken up the stairs.” Then the newspaper concluded its critique by stating: “But other men have different opinions and it may be that we all were more or less excited. One thing should be borne in mind; that THE JOURNAL has none but the warmest praises for the firemen, one and all. But the chemical, once rejected by the Mayor and council, is still rejected so far as we are concerned.”41

Perhaps the last few words by the two sides in and around the fire chief’s letter sized up the chemical engine controversy as well as any. Fire Chief Knowles hit the nail on the head with his “It does seem ridiculous that the chemical had to come to Logan to be tested on its merits. BUT THE JOURNAL seems to know more than all the rest.” Together with the newspaper’s last sentence: “But the chemical, once rejected by the Mayor and council, is still rejected so far as we are concerned.” Probably in such a climate it wouldn’t have done any good, and apparently at the time no attempt was made, to truly evaluate the various situation and different opinions. In the fire at Saunder’s, men were indeed in the upper rooms where most decided to remove the furniture and personal effects until the progression of the fire prevented this in the second apartment, and the upper level was evacuated until the firemen took a fire hose up the stairs and used the water from the city water works to bring the fire under control and put out the fire. Those contending otherwise that the bucket brigade had done the real work and had the fire under control may well have had the time sequences mixed up along with political reasons for their expressed viewpoints and/or brainwashed by the Journal’s long crusade. Even back to the first test of the chemical engine there were a few kinks in the trial. The shanty’s fire was accelerated by the use of much kerosene to the point it was raging when the engine arrived, those volunteer firemen had the team pulling the engine go at breakneck speed and someway the engine’s tongue was broken and the overflow cock improperly set allowing the pressure that pushed out the chemical mixture gas to be only 60 pounds instead of 160. Three days prior to the publication of the fire chief’s letter the Logan paper had incorporated a short filler from the Park City newspaper. It mentioned that Logan was having considerable debate over the chemical fire engine. “The cause of the kick is that the machine is never in shape for work when needed. In this respect it is a good deal like the Park City machine.”42 With two Amen’s! and the testimony of a dozen fires, it would have been better if Logan’s fire controversy could have been oriented more along this line and ways to correct it.

In the fall of 1893 at Logan the controversy continued with the two newspapers dishing out their “truths” in their ways with little to no regard to correct facts. A short time before the November election the Journal used a devise they called “The Double Barrelled Column” in which it placed the two political parties’ views side by side covering their platforms, partisan views on the fire department, political mud slinging, etc., and the chemical engine was not forgotten. There was nothing new, just a seemingly endless repetition of republican follies which included the chemical engine by the Democratic paper. On Saturday, November 4, 1893, the Journal on the fifth page in another of its “The Double Barrelled Column” had the following: “REPUBLICAN PLATFORM - Experience has already proved the value of our chemical engine. And such engines are now recognized as a necessity in every well equipped fire department. Adopted Oct. 21, 1893.

A CANDIDATE'S MESSAGE. - "Chemical engine does not perform efficient fire duty. Engine is at your disposal. Logan City does not accept it.
[Signed] JAMES QUAYLE, Mayor.  [From the Mayor’s telegram some fourteen months earlier.]

Three pages earlier it had given the Democrats’ platform for Logan City with position No. 8—“ We are in favor of an improved fire department fully able to protect the property of the taxpayers of the city and pledge ourselves to the support of such an organization.” The following Tuesday, November 7th was the election, when, according to the leading Logan newspaper’s headlines--“Logan Redeemed,” in an election that was “more than a political victory . . . a triumph of Truth over libel, Of Right over wrong.” The Republicans who, according to the Journal, had foisted on Logan City so many bad things went down in defeat. Just how much the Journal contributed to the victory can be debated.43

At times the newspaper’s repeated thundering against the republican council and its chemical engine long after the city had the fire fighting apparatus seems quixotic, much like beating a dead horse over and over again (jousting with windmills of chemicals, mayors, Republicans, etc.), wherein a fantasy took precedent and became the sorry excuse for the repetitive journalistic onslaught. However, in the end the tireless knight-errant (The Journal) was on the winning side. But, the short term victory may have been to Logan’s disadvantage in the long term. The long controversy seemed to have been a factor in the city’s failure to again attempt a significant improvement of their fire department until a severe fire in 1912 so shocked the city into doing something.

As a postscript on the controversy, a little more on the chemical fire engine that fell out of the news suddenly with only two slight mentioning found for 1894. As told by the manufacturer and fire experience the primary advantage of the chemical was its speed in being put to use on any fire. In January of 1894 the fire department was interested in securing a better team to pull the engine and began checking them out. On the volunteers’ monthly day of service, they inspected some teams being considered and the various teams were hitched to the chemical engine and then ran along Main Street “back and forth as fast as they could go.” The tidbit was not followed by any word on the chosen team. Two months later in late April a fire alarm sounded, according to the paper, and “in just one minute from the tap of the bell” the volunteer firemen were speeding along Main Street with the chemical engine and hose cart headed for the Logan Livery Stable. Upon arrival they learned there was no fire, just an experimental practice run to see if they could “get out in less than three minutes.” The stated time periods were reported by the fire chief and his assistant, being the only persons aware of the experiment, while the public and volunteer firemen were caught by surprise and had to first “run from their various places of business.”44 Possibly more remarkable than the speed attributed to the firemen in getting ready, was the change in the newspaper coverage to being a news item rather than a propaganda tool.

In late January of 1895 the city council had to discuss how to pay the promissory notes used to purchase the chemical engine two years earlier. The Journal took up its account in an editorial under “THAT CHEMICAL AGAIN.” It reverted to its old form and argument of how the previous administration had gutted the Logan treasury and then plunged it deeper in debt to buy the “worthless” engine, rehearsing for the nth time how the former mayor and council had refused it at one time because it didn’t work, making a mess that had to be dealt with by the new leaders. Still, after possessing it for over two years, the paper counseled: “Of course, now that we have a Holloway engine, there is nothing to do but make the best of it.” In the next issue of the paper under a news items echoing that the chemical engine had been a foolish, extravagant thing costing $2,000 on the “so called ‘Toy,’” it advised it still should be taken care of—for “There is only one thing to do with a bad bargain and this to ‘make the best of it.’ If it is bad to purchase what is not needed, it is worse to take no care of the article purchased.”45

The Holloway chemical engine was used at almost every fire in Logan, but unless something noteworthy or different occurred, it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the newspaper except when it had to do with paying off the note used to buy it (Feb. 13 and Oct. 31, 1896). Otherwise the newspaper coverage specifically mentioning the chemical was very seldom. The chemical was used at a fire on Monday, September 16th and a day or two later one of a volunteer firemen was engaged in re-charging one of its tanks when, in some unexplained way, an accident happened in the placement to the sulphuric acid triggering device causing it to splash onto his arm leaving some bad scarring. In mid-November of 1896 at the Agricultural College’s barn some workmen spilled a boiling bucket of tar onto some flammable hay, straw, etc., which took fire and was noticed by some cadets drilling nearby. The flames were reported as several yards high around the barn’s door and a fire alarm given. The firemen quickly assembled at the new fire hall and the team hitched to the chemical engine and hose cart and sped off in the direction of the college “in pretty good time.” But someway the tongue on the fire engine broke during the run and it didn’t arrive until the fire had been put out. Fortunately, the cadets attached a garden hose to a nearby hydrant and extinguished the fire. In mid-February of 1897 the paper credited the fire department with the chemical engine making “a good run on Second street” to a fire the previous day but no details.46

On April 17, 1897, the Journal reported on the recent fire at Bowen’s and offered some commentary upon the fire situation in Logan. Apparently fire hydrants connected to the city’s water works were not involved, and fortunately the wind was not blowing so the fire didn’t spread, but the performance by the fire apparatus (the chemical and the old hand pump) was inadequate and the hand pump wouldn’t work.

The newspaper finally decided to call a spade a spade possibly some five years late saying:
The city council makes a mistake when it forgets everything but the fact that it was elected on a platform pledging an economical administration. Economy is one thing, parsimony is another. The citizens of Logan are certainly willing to pay for a fair measure of protection from fire, one adequate to the needs of a modern city of six thousand inhabitants, and they should have it. Logan can easily afford to pay for the service of at least one good man to keep the fire apparatus in good working order and have everything in readiness for instant use, and should give its volunteer firemen some encouragement by holding occasional paid practices meetings. Better to spend a few dollars in this way than to have an expensive chemical engine that looks as if it had come out of a junk shop, a pump that will not work, and, possibly, a fire in which thousands of dollars worth of property may be needlessly destroyed."

The discontent was not eased in late July at the night fire at Gabrielsen’s when “the inefficiency” of the Logan fire fighting equipment became again apparent. The paper observed that if the fire had been on Main Street it would have spread beyond control before the fire equipment arrived. Duly noting that the firemen were as prompt as could be expected since under the existing circumstances they had to be awaken by the fire bell, arise, dress and hurry to the fire station. Then they had to harness the team and hitch it to the fire apparatus and then drive to the location of the fire, all while valuable time was lost. Therefore, the paper stated: “It is a false and foolish economy that condemns Logan to such a penny wise, pound foolish, utterly inadequate service. . . . The city council should give this matter immediate attention. Surely Logan can afford to pay at least one man for his entire time, and pay him well, too.” The city counsel took up the issue at its next meeting and assigned a committee to investigate and report. They reported back a recommendation which was adopted. They hired a fire department chief at $30 per month to take care of all needs and to be “on hand at fire headquarters all the time.” Furthermore, the fire department committee was directed to have the chemical fire engine repaired along with other repairs needed. The Journal was starting, as was the city, in taking tiny steps, to improve and upgrade the community’s fire protection. Its vision was not very clear for as late as October of 1897, it referred to the “chemical engine toy” without suggesting such a toy be replaced.48 Possibly the firestorm over the purchase of the chemical fire engine in 1892 and 1893 was still a crucial factor in taking on a significant improvement of Logan’s Fire Department.


End Notes:

1 The Utah Journal (Logan, Utah) April 23, 1887.

2 The Logan Leader (Logan, Utah) April 8, 1881. The Utah Journal, Aug. 11, 1883, June 27, 1885, May 15, 1886, June 9, 1889.

3 Ibid., The Utah Journal, Jan. 5, 1889. The Logan Journal, Sept. 27, 1890. Logan City Council Minutes of Aug. 3, 1881 (pages 308-309) photocopies of the handwritten furnished through the courtesy of the Logan City Library by Jason Cornelius.

4 The Utah Journal, July 4, 1888.

5 The Utah Journal, July 7, 1888.The Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Ut.), Aug. 1, 1888. The Standard, Sept. 13, 1888.

6 The Standard , July 24, 1888. The Utah Journal, July 25, 1888 (two articles pages 2 and 3.)

7 Logan City Council Minutes of Aug. 1, 1888, photocopies of the handwritten minutes furnished through the courtesy of the Logan City Library by Jason Cornelius.

8 Ibid. The Logan Journal, Jan. 14, 1891.

9 The Utah Journal, Jan. 5, Feb. 9, March 16, Aug. 10, 1889, The Logan Journal, Feb. 8, March 12, June 21, 1890.

10 The Utah Journal, July 6, Aug. 10, 1889. The Logan Journal, Feb. 8, 1890.

11 The Logan Journal, Jan. 10, 1891.

12 Ibid., Jan. 14, 1891.

13 Ibid., Jan. 17, 31, 1891.

14 Ibid., April 4, July 4, 8, 1891.

15 Ibid., July 22, 1891.

16 Ibid., April 11, May 23, June 20, Dec. 19, 1891.

17 Ibid., March 9, 16, 23, 1892, April 27, 1892, May 14, 1892.

18 Ibid., June 18, 1892, July 2, 16, 1892, Aug. 8, 1892.

19 Ibid., Sept. 3, 1892

20 Ibid., Sept. 7, 1892.

21 Ibid., Sept. 7, 10, 1892.

22 Ibid., Sept. 14, 1892.

23 Ibid., Sept. 17, 1892.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid., Sept. 21, 1892

26 Ibid., Sept. 24, 1892, Oct. 1, 1892. The Standard (Ogden, Utah), Sept. 25, 1892.

27 The Logan Journal, Dec. 3, 7, 10, 1892.

28 Ibid., Dec. 4, 7, 1892.

29 Ibid., Dec. 10, 1892.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid., Dec. 14, 31, 1892.

32 The Journal (Logan, Utah), Jan. 21, 28, Feb. 11, 1893.

33 Ibid., March 4, 1893. The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), March 11, 1893.

34 The Journal, Mar. 8, May 24, Aug. 26, 1893.

35 Ibid., Sept. 20, 1893. (Repeated in Sept. 27, 30, Oct. 4, 7, 11, 14 and 18, 1893).

36 The Journal, Oct. 7, 1893 The quote from the Nation reprinted in this issue.

37 Ibid., Oct. 7, 1893.

38 Ibid., Oct. 7,11,14, 18, 1893.

39 Ibid., Oct. 18,1893.

40 Ibid., Oct. 21,1893.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid., Oct. 18, 1893 used the Park City Record article.

43 Ibid., Oct. 25, 28, Nov. 4, 10, 1893.

44 Ibid., Jan. 27, 1894, April 28, 1894.

45 Ibid., Jan. 30, 1895, Feb. 2, 1895.

46 Ibid., Sept. 21, 1895, Nov. 19, 1896, Feb. 18, 1897.

47 Ibid., April 17, 1897.

48 Ibid., July 31, 1897, Aug. 21, 1897, Oct. 28, 1897.

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