Manchester Green Fire District
compiled by Doug Welch,
Town of Manchester Fire Department Historian and Retired Firefighter

The Glastonbury Knitting Company operated a large mill at the Manchester Green which maintained an organization of volunteer fire fighters for the protection of their mill. The company had a quantity of fire hose which was made available to persons fighting a fire in the vicinity of the mill. The Manchester Green area on eastern end of Manchester had no municipal water system. Water for fire fighting was supplied by the mill which had a steam pump to produce sufficient pressure for fire fighting, The pump, however, took time to get up steam during the hours the mill was not in operation. The Alvord Store at the corner of what is now Woodbridge Street and West Middle Turnpike caught fire in July 1897, but at 3:00 A.M. it took almost half an hour to get steam up in the pump, too late to save the store. Efforts were successfully directed at saving Joseph Woodbridge's home next door and the Woodbridge Tavern barn across the street. In addition to the store fire, there had been two disastrous fires in the mill itself in 1853 and 1889, as well as other serious fires in the area.

The Manchester Green area was one of the earliest settled areas of town, but was located outside the established boundaries of the fire districts in both North Manchester and South Manchester, and thus could not rely on fire fighting assistance from either district. Early in 1905, the Selectmen of the Town of Manchester were presented with a petition from residents in the area known as Manchester Green requesting the formation of a fire district. At a meeting held on January 17, 1905 in the office of the Glastonbury Knitting Company, an entity to be known as the Manchester Green Fire and Sewer District was formed. Their stated purpose was "to extinguish fires, to sprinkle streets, to construct sidewalks, crosswalks, drains and sewers." It was intended that there would be a president, clerk, treasurer, secretary, collector and a board of relief. The boundaries of the district were read and accepted at the meeting. Officers of the Fire and Sewer District elected at the meeting were: Aaron Cook, Jr., president; William V. Alvord, treasurer; Arthur Cook, collector; F. C. Jewell, Charles Bliss, and Isaac Quinn, assessors; and John Jensen, relief committee. Their task was to organize the Manchester Green Fire and Sewer District.

On August 7, 1905, the committee assigned to organize the new fire and sewer district met at the office of the Glastonbury Knitting Company to take the first steps toward the formation of a fire department for their section of Manchester. The initial proposal for the operation of a fire department consisted of equipping the fire fighters with extinguishers and a small cart to carry them, and also to instruct men in the use of the fire hose owned by the Knitting Company. The appointed committee proposed an organized department with elected officers governed in a systematic manner. It was felt at the meeting that the organizational committee had progressed sufficiently and that they should notify District President Aaron Cook, Jr. that they were ready to bring their proposal before the voters of the district, but there is no record of any further fire department action, possibly voted down by the residents of the area.

In the meantime, fires continued in the Manchester Green area. On January 21, 1906, a man taking an early morning walk discovered a fire burning in a barn owned by Ralph Cone, Sr. The fire was outside the boundaries of the North and South Manchester Fire Districts. The only way to sound an alarm was by shouting. After trying this unsuccessfully for a time, he began running from house to house trying to arouse residents. The entire locality was eventually awakened and started for the fire. A bucket brigade was organized and the old carriage shop and surrounding buildings were saved, although the barn was lost.

In 1909 there are reports of two fires of importance in the Manchester Green area. In August a barn owned by E. D. McCullam was burned and a few weeks later an automobile shed and auto belonging to Ralph Cone was destroyed. There was also a fire at the Glastonbury Knitting Company mill in November, 1909 which resulted in considerable water damage and closed a portion of the mill for a few days.

At a Manchester District Sanitary and Sewer meeting held on July 2, 1906, it was decided that it was time to form a fire department after the "disorganized manner in which the fire at the old Cone carriage shop had been fought." The meeting in the office of the Glastonbury Knitting Mill was the first District meeting since its organization on January 17, 1905. John Jensen spoke of the fact that the by-laws of the District provided for a fire department and it was time to put one in place. Once again the subject of equipping a fire department was brought up. The president of the Knitting Mill, Hewitt Coburn, stated that the mill owned five, fifty-foot lengths of fire hose which was available to the residents should they require it. Each length was located in a shed over a fire hydrant and all that was required to access the hose was to break a piece of glass on the side of each hose house to obtain the key. When it was brought up that a department equipped with extinguishers would be advisable, Mr. Coburn said that his company would purchase the extinguishers and present them to the district. A committee consisting of John Jensen, William Alvord, John Young, Timothy Young, J. Buckley and J. Williams was appointed to go forward with the formation of the fire department.

Although there are no further accounts of activity concerning the Manchester Green Fire Department, we can assume that some sort of organization came out of the meeting since some of the largest business owners in the Manchester Green area were present. Reports had it that Mr. Joe Albiston was made the honorary Chief of the Department and that a banquet was once held. A favorite joke about the fire department was that when their assistance was needed, the fire fighters were notified by postcard.