Gun-Toting Firemen
by Doug Welch,
Town of Manchester Fire Department Historian and Retired Firefighter

Frank Robinson (or 'Robbie') joined the South Manchester Fire Department in 1920 and retired in 1958 after holding a number of positions in the fire service and as an employee of the Cheney family and the Cheney Brothers Silk Mills.

Frank died in 1983 at the age of 90, and was very sharp to the end. In an interview I did with him in 1980, Frank told an interesting story.

On January 30, 1919, there was an attempted silk robbery of a freight car containing silk at the Cheney Brothers rail yard during which a Cheney security officer, William Madden, was shot and killed. Following that robbery, Cheney Brothers built a vault into which an entire railroad car could be stored as well as constructing a 'bonded warehouse' for silk storage. In addition, the Company No. 1 fire station on Pine Street was issued two 'riot guns'. They were kept in the battery room of the firehouse, just off the apparatus floor. Whenever there was a fire alarm received from the silk storage buildings, the fire fighters would throw the guns into the front seat of the Seagraves Chemical engine before responding to the alarm.

Thankfully, they were never used.

April, 2006