Buckland Fire Department Notes
compiled by Doug Welch,
Town of Manchester Fire Department Historian and Retired Firefighter

The village of Buckland is located in the northwest corner of Manchester. With fire department activity going on in other sections of Manchester, and being outside the boundaries of either of the existing fire districts in town, some residents of Buckland felt the need for fire protection. The Buckland Fire Department became a semi-organized body sometime around the beginning of 1908. With no municipal water system available, the department was a self-supporting bucket brigade which charged itself with the responsibility of fighting fires in the area of the Buckland village. The firemen made their first 'public appearance' on Thursday night, February 20, 1908, when they held a dance at Cheney Hall in South Manchester (a hall large enough to hold the crowd which they expected could not be secured in Buckland.) The dance was well attended with the fire department receiving the proceeds which they used to purchase equipment.

In early May 1908, the Manchester Water Company decided that it would be to their advantage to extend the water mains into Buckland village. Although water mains were to be laid into Buckland, there was a consensus that this would hardly affect the work that a fire department could do since the plan called for only three fire hydrants in the area.

Apparatus had been ordered for the Buckland fire department, although there is no record of what type they ordered or where it was stored. It was likely no more than a hand-drawn wagon to carry their buckets, extinguishers and gear since the purchase price was $185. The original bucket brigade was probably still of more use in Buckland than a company with a hose reel, since there was a large portion of the village that would not be within reach of one of the fire hydrants. The apparatus arrived in August 1908 and the members of the Buckland Fire Department invited the residents to inspect their new purchase. In order to be able to obtain much needed funding, the members of the department began considering the formation of a 'fire district' in Buckland encompassing the area of the Seventh School District patterned along the lines of the fire district in South Manchester. Should this occur, they would then be able to levy a fire tax to support their endeavor.

The effort that the members of the Buckland fire department made to have the Seventh School District take over the management of the department gained some momentum since a special meeting of the school district was called for Friday night, August 28, 1908. At the meeting, the voters passed a resolution in favor of the school district taking over the fire department. It was later determined, however, that the vote of the meeting was not legally binding and it would be necessary to have another meeting called for the sole purpose of taking action on the question. Representatives of the fire department went to the Manchester Selectmen and asked them to call a special meeting of the voters of the Seventh School District to take action on the question.

A problem similar to the one encountered a year earlier by the South Manchester Fire Department surfaced when the officers of the Buckland Fire Department learned that they were not a legally organized department. Their effort to have the school district take over their department was the first step to make the organization legal, however there were some people living in the district who did not care to see a fire district incorporated since they were not in favor of more taxes. Fire district opponents began to gather support for their side of the issue. After several attempts, a meeting was held in the Buckland School building on Thursday evening, December 3, 1908.

The meeting was largely attended by the voters of the Seventh School District since, by this time, there was much interest in the outcome. In order to allow only eligible voters to take part in the meeting, a voter check list was used and each attendee was checked. There was fear that there might be some trouble at the meeting, so police officer Samuel Gordon was detailed to be present. Henry Slater was selected as chairman and the meeting was opened. Attorney Harry M. Burke, who had been retained by those favoring the district, was given the privilege of the floor and explained the procedure that must be followed in order to form a fire district.

It was brought out that there were only three fire hydrants near the center of Buckland and residents not residing near the center of the district agreed they did not favor the formation of a fire district, since they would be taxed for fire protection they would not be receiving. James Bannon, a resident in favor of the formation of a district, offered a resolution to form a fire district which would encompass the territory comprising the Seventh School District. Resident Martin Gilman motioned that the vote be taken by ballot, and this was amended to require the voters pass in front of the chairman's table and deposit their ballots. Martin Gilman and Frank Wolcott were appointed tellers.

The vote resulted in the passing of the resolution. This seemed to settle the matter as far as the formation of the fire district was concerned and after some cheering the meeting got down to the naming of the district. The name selected was the "Buckland Fire District." As it was getting late, it was decided to defer the election of officers to the next meeting.

As it turned out, the trouble over the formation of a fire district was not yet over. Those favoring the fire district again petitioned the selectmen to call another meeting of the voters. At the previous meeting the voters had voted to form the district and then took an adjournment. The adjournment proved to be bad for the promoters of the district plan and at the next meeting those opposed to the plan were out in force and immediately voted for an adjournment without delay by a vote of 31 to 23. Both sides consulted lawyers and it was learned that the only way to accomplish a resolution to the question was to again petition the selectmen to call a meeting and go over all the work again. A petition was started in the district and it was presented to the selectmen at their next meeting. At the next school district meeting, both sides were represented by counsel and every effort was made to get out the full vote by a house to house canvass.

At a special meeting of the voters of the Seventh School District on February 19, 1909, a petition was presented calling a special meeting of the voters again for the purpose of forming a fire district. The contest started at the opening of the meeting when M. L. Gilman was nominated as chairman. The opposition nominated R. J. Maloney. Mr. Maloney was elected as chairman of the meeting by a vote of 32 to 20. On taking the chair, Mr. Maloney gave orders for those non voters to leave the room with the exception of the representative of the Hartford Courant and of a local paper, Judge Bowers, who was present in the interest of the opposition, H. M. Burke, lawyer for those favoring the forming of the district and policeman Samuel Gordon, who was again detailed to the meeting to keep order.

There was some discussion about the boundaries of the district. A resolution was then presented to form a fire district. The vote was taken by aye and nay and was carried by those voting in favor. The question was raised that no remarks had been called for and another vote was ordered. This time the vote was taken by ballot, the check list being used. Thomas Ferguson, a registrar of the town looked after the check list. Frank Wolcott and Mr. M. L. Gilman were the tellers. An effort was made to present an amendment just before the vote was taken to have the district composed of a territory 1,000 yards square with the schoolhouse as the central point, but the amendment was ruled out of order and was not pressed. The vote failed to pass with 47 votes against and 33 in favor. The chair declared the opposition vote the winner and the district was not formed.

The members of the Buckland fire department apparently were not disheartened about losing the fire district battle and went on operating on their own. The evening after losing the vote, they held a fund-raising dance at the Grange Hall in Wapping. They made arrangements to have sufficient teams at Buckland Corners to take all to the dance hall that wished to go.

In 1909, there was but one fire of any consequence in Buckland, but the fire department did not learn of it for a couple of days after the fire was out. It was reported in the Hartford Courant that "a Pole who lived in the west part of the village slept in his barn one night and when he awoke in the morning found that his house had been burned."

The members of the Buckland Fire Department went on to make arrangements for better quarters. They negotiated a deal to occupy a building on Depot Street which housed a grocery store. The sale of the building and grocery store stock owned by George Hunt at Tolland Turnpike and Buckland Road was completed in February 1910 and the store was closed. The store which Mr. Hunt had operated was to be overhauled and when the changes were made it would be operated by Mr. Latting Caverly, who already ran a grocery store nearby. This meant that there would be one grocery store in Buckland and Mr. Caverly's former store would be vacant.

The store which had been occupied by Mr. Caverly was on Depot Street and was owned by Herbert Keeney. Once vacated, Mr. Keeney's building was turned into a club room occupied by the Buckland Fire Department. The company equipped a comfortable room and installed a pool table, card tables and reading matter. There was a small addition built off the south side of the store in which the firemen stored their apparatus. In order to try to keep up interest in the department, the members decided to have a social gathering each Friday evening during the summer months.

By June of 1911, interest in the department seemed to have waned. The members of the Buckland Fire Department decided at a meeting that the members of the Seventh School District had more claim to their truck than they did and voted to turn it over to the District at their annual meeting. The fire department disbanded but the members continued to function as a social club. Later that year, in October, there was again a movement in Buckland to organize a fire department, but there is nothing further known of it.