The Oldest Fire Company in Middletown Township to Host a Celebration on June 18, 2011 at their Firehouse in Navesink, New Jersey. 

MIDDLETOWN, NJ - In recognition of their 125 years of dedicated service, the members of Navesink Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 are welcoming the community to celebrate with them on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at their firehouse, located at 141 Monmouth Ave, in the Navesink section of Middletown Township.

The event will begin at 1PM with a ceremony to commemorate this milestone. Afterward, the company welcomes the public to join them for food, drink, and music by Pez Head. A gift auction is also being held to raise money for the fire company.

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Company photo taken on May 1, 2011 - our actual 125th anniversary date. Photo by Samuel Posten, III

Navesink Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 was established on May 1, 1886 and was the first company of what would later become the Middletown Township Fire Department. They are an all-volunteer organization that responds to emergencies involving, but not limited to, fire, carbon monoxide, natural gas, motor vehicle accidents, and rescues. The company primarily serves the community of Navesink, but also assist the other ten fire companies in Middletown. In addition, their neighboring towns have come to rely on them, as they have responded to Highlands, Rumson, Fair Haven, Keansburg, Sea Bright, and Atlantic Highlands when requested.

For more information about the Navesink Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1, please call Joe McCarron at (732) 580-8889 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

History of Navesink Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 

            On May 1, 1886 a meeting was held in the All Saints School House (Stone Church) to incorporate a fire company in Navesink to protect life and property from fire. A notice had been previously published in the Atlantic Highlands Independent advising the public of the meeting and requesting all interested persons to attend. The men who were most active in their endeavor were Timothy M. Maxson Sr., A.J. Swan, and Edwin E. Burdge.

The name chosen on this memorable occasion was The Navesink Hook & Ladder Co. # 1 of Navesink, New Jersey. The incorporation papers were signed and the following names were affixed to the document as charter members: Benjamin F. Burdge, A.J. Swan, Edwin E. Burdge, Thomas H. Golden, William A. Maxson Jr., Joseph Mount, Benjamin F. Tomkins, Charles E. Wilson, William D. Carhart, William E. Manning, George Brannin, and Timothy M. Maxson.

At this meeting, the following officers of the company were elected to serve until July 1, 1886:

President - Wm. E. Manning

Secretary - A.J. Swan

Treasurer - E.E. Burdge

Foreman - T.M. Maxson Sr.

1st Assistant - Benjamin F. Burdge

2nd Assistant - Charles E. Wilson

Fin. Secretary - Thomas H. Golden

            The new company faced many difficult years in the beginning. Equipment was hard to obtain since they had very little money to purchase the many needed items such as buckets, wagons, axes and other essential equipment needed in those days to fight fire. From the company's very beginning, the assistance given it by the community has been exceptional.

On October 27, 1886, Mrs. Eliza Barnes donated a wagon to the company and offered the use of her barn to keep it in and this generous offer was accepted. Her son, Walter J. Barnes, donated the first ladder, which was also accepted. This was our first apparatus and from time to time buckets were purchased as company funds allowed.

            Many affairs were held to raise money. Events, such as dances and card parties in the old Navesink Hall, were usually successful money-raising affairs. On August 12th and 13th, 1886, our first fair was held in the Navesink Hall. They called it a Peach and Ice Cream Festival at that time and netted a profit of $63.00. Each succeeding year the affair was held and became progressively more successful. Today it is one of the best-known Firemen's Fair's in the area. The slogan, "Meet your friends at the Fair," was taken literally by everyone, even back in the first days of the Fair.

            On October 6, 1887 the company rented part of the Stearns Building on Monmouth & Stearns Ave. for $50.00 a year and had both a Truck House and meeting room. On November 3, 1887, Joseph Stankiewitz, of Stone Church, built the first fire truck for the sum of $78.00. This was a hand drawn affair, which could be pulled by a horse if one was available at the time of the alarm.

On January 5, 1888, T. M. Maxson was elected Navesink's first Fire Chief of the Middletown Township Fire Department. At this time the only other fire company in the Department was the Everett Hook & Ladder Company in Atlantic Highlands, which was then part of Middletown.

On October 10, 1889 a gong was purchased for the first fire alarm. This was locomotive rim, which was mounted on a frame and struck with a heavy hammer.

            The desire to own their own truck house was discussed at many meetings and on September 16, 1890, the lot across the street from the company's present building was purchased for $225.00. A building committee was soon formed to explore the costs of building a truck house. This committee was J. E. Williams, Edwin E. Burdge and T. M. Maxson. The following meeting, plans were presented by Ed Burdge and it was decided to build a building 18'x36' according to Mr. Burdge's plans. Mr. T. M. Maxson donated $250.00 in lumber and money was borrowed from several residents of Navesink. On July 30, 1891, the first meeting was held in the new Fire House. Most of the labor in building this Fire House was furnished by the firemen themselves, with a few residents' assistance. The total cost of the new building was $1100.00.

Furnishing the new firehouse with limited funds was a new challenge. A stove was purchased for $6.00 and 3 settles were bought for $3.00 each. Other furnishings were donated by members and residents of the village.

            The old minutes provide many interesting notes. In the annual report of 1891, it was noted the company had 2 fires, which were extinguished. In 1892, we had one fire for the year and saved the house of George D. Smith.

            On May 5, 1892 the company purchased a small bell to replace the gong for a fire alarm for $45.00 and paid 25 cents freight on the steamer "Sea Bird" to have it brought down from New York City.

            On September 4, 1902, the mortgage of $250.00 was paid off and burned at a Supper held at the Navesink Hall with appropriate speakers. In later minutes it was found that they still owed some money on the mortgage and eventually it was paid.

            The company's desire for improvement seems to have been one which began from the first meeting and still exists to this day. In 1904, a large 1000-pound bell was purchased and installed. The old bell was hung in a water tower on the Burdge property at Locust Point for a second fire alarm in that part of the community.

            On April 6, 1905 the Rev. Mr. Lord, Pastor at Stone Church invited the company to attend Good Friday Services at the Church in a Body and this was accepted. This was the beginning of one of the many company traditions, which has been carried out to this day. Each succeeding year the company has attended Good Friday Services at the Stone Church.

            On December 2, 1909, the company voted to put electric lights in the truck house in place of the kerosene oil lamps. Allen Beegle did the job for $28.50.

            On December 1, 1910, the company voted to purchase a chemical engine for $53.75 providing we could pay for it a little at a time. This proved to be much more effective than the buckets formerly used. However, on February 2, 1911, the company also added a pump and a 3-horse power engine for $125.00 along with 100 feet of fire hose at 35 cents a foot.

            We now had a truck that could be considered up to date but proved quite heavy to pull. As a result, Tom Garney was paid $3.00 for a horse to pull the truck for each alarm when available.

About this time the possibility of getting a motorized fire truck was seriously discussed at many meetings and on May 19, 1911, a committee of Albert Burdge and Edwin E. Maxson was appointed to look into the cost of such a truck. They reported back that a used 1911 Thomas Flyer automobile of 60 horse power in good working order could be purchased in New York for $750.00 and a pump for same could be purchased for $125.00, which could throw a stream of water 150 feet from the nozzle. The firehouse was again mortgaged and the car and pump purchased.

            Engineer Albert Burdge was empowered to have the car converted into a fire truck and with his experience put together our first motorized apparatus. This soon became known all over the county as a most successful and dependable piece of equipment. Because of this, the company was called out to assist at many major fires all along the shore and in Red Bank.

            On March 5, 1914, a telephone was installed in George Rogers' house across the street for fire alarms and cards were sent out to every Middletown resident asking for a 10-cent donation to defray the cost of installation and service.

On December 6, 1917, the company purchased a second truck, a Ford-Smith Forman, and rigged it up as a fire truck. The old hand drawn truck was to be sold but the company had no bidders. A chemical tank was placed on this truck, which proved effective at small fires and was later placed on another truck. This tank is still in the company's possession along with a number of other items, including the original clock from the old firehouse, the first bell, and the original head table.

            The many affairs held for the benefit of this company during these years were assisted by wives and families of firemen. On October 7, 1920, the company voted to allow the ladies to organize as an auxiliary and meet in the firehouse. However, on March 2, 1922 the ladies were ordered to disband because funds raised by them for the benefit of the company were not turned over to the company but were used for personal gain. It was not until March 15, 1958 that the Ladies Auxiliary was again organized into the present efficient organization that we have today.

            On November 3, 1921, the large bell which proved too heavy for the fire house roof was removed and given to the Belford Engine Company and the old bell again put up on the tower. This was used until October 4, 1923 when the first sterling siren was purchased from Elmer Hesse for $40.00; it was later replaced by a 5-horse power siren purchased from Elmer Hesse for $390.00.

On March 31, 1924, the company purchased a Buffalo-Reo 300 gallons-per-minute triple combination truck for $46.00. On October 2, 1924 the company voted to give the old hand drawn fire truck to Mervin Hallam who had stored it in his garage for a number of years free of charge.

The statistics of our 2 trucks recorded in the minutes of October 2, 1924 prove interesting in comparison to our modern trucks of today:

            Speed:                         25 mph                        20mph

            Weight:                       6880 lbs                      4510 lbs

            Width:                         5’ 6”                            5’ 6”

            Length:                       16’                               14’

            Front Tire:                  33 X 5                         30 X 3 ½

            Rear Tire:                   33 X 5                         32 X 3 ½

            Height:                        7’                                 6’

            On October 1, 1925, the company discussed the need of water supply in Navesink and voted to build a cistern on the corner of Meadowbrook Lane & Monmouth Avenue. This was built by Frank Hower at a cost of $122.94 and proved a very effective source of water for fire.

On April 6,1928, the company purchased a Chevrolet Chassis and traded in the Ford-Smith Forman. The allowance on the Ford was $41.00 and the chemical tanks and equipment were transferred to the new chassis.

            On April 4, 1929, the company purchased the lot across the street for $1200 to build a new firehouse. The company also voted to build a new building of hollow tile 26'x50', two stories and two bays. Bids were received at the following meeting and contracts awarded totaling $9758.60.

On September 12, 1929 the old firehouse was sold to Howard Maxson for $1025 and the first meeting in the new firehouse was held on January 2, 1930.                        

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Navesink firehouse and firetrucks circa 1932. Photo from company archives. 

           On May 30, 1911, members of the company observed Memorial by visiting area cemeteries where deceased members were buried. Flowers were placed on each of these graves, a tradition that is still carried out by the company to this day.

In 1934 the company purchased a new Seagrave 600 triple combination pumper and the old Chevrolet chemical truck was sold to Edward Jones who promptly converted it to an Ice Wagon and used it around the community for many years.

In 1936 the company purchased a 1928 Brockway hose truck from the Locust Valley, L.I. Fire Department. A 250-gallons per minute front mount pump and a 250-gallon booster tank was installed. This unit proved to be a very effective brush truck. The old Reo-Buffalo was sold to the Glendola, N.J. Fire Co.

In 1948, the company's first Mack - a 750 gallons-per-minute truck - was purchased and the Brockway was donated to the Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Company, which was received with great enthusiasm.

In 1960, we purchased another 750 gallons per minute Mack and commemorated the occasion with a dedication on June 5, 1960. In 1962 the company purchased a Dodge 4-wheel drive brush truck and sold the Seagrave truck to the River Plaza Hose Company.

            The Navesink Hook & Ladder Company for many years has earned the respect of the residents of the community for its outstanding work in community affairs as well as fighting fires. The company, with its own funds, has taken on many projects for the benefit of the people of Navesink. Among these projects were the first street signs, the purchase of the pond property on Lakeside Ave., rebuilding the dam and pond, building the Little League Ball Field at the rear of the fire house for the children of Navesink, and were chiefly responsible for having Millers Crossing cut through to Monmouth Ave. for the convenience of the people of Plattmont as well a providing better fire protection for that area.

            The proceeds of the company's Fairs and fund drives have benefited the community by providing them with funds to sponsor these civic projects as well as purchasing all present equipment and the building of the latest fire house, which was proudly dedicated in 1969. Not too long after, the membership constructed a kitchen and storage building behind the firehouse.

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From left to right: Our '74 Mack, our "new" (at the time) '84 Mack, and our '60 Mack, which the '84 was replacing. Photo 1985 by John Reith.

            The beginning of a beloved piece of company history began in October of 1967. Members reported that a small locomotive, two passenger cars, and railroad tracks were for sale in Long Branch, N.J. At the recommendation of the company, the train was inspected and purchased the next month for $400. Almost immediately, it was given the name “The Navesink Cannonball.” During the course of the next few months, the tracks were laid and the train restored. It was ready for it’s first ride at the annual fair in August 1968. In it’s first year, the Cannonball carried 1144 passengers.

In 1975 the company purchased a new Mack 1250 gallons per minute pumper to replace the 1948 Mack. The old '48 Mack was sold to the Feldschoesschen Brewery in Feldschoesschen, West Germany. During the first week of June 1975, the old '48 Mack was driven to Port Elizabeth and loaded on the Soviet freighter Pavograd. The truck arrived in Germany on June 20,1975 and was used to advertise that brewery's beer in German parades. In 2010, a tourist contacted the company with photos he had taken of the Mack still in use by Feldschoesschen! A search of their website shows the truck at some of their events, complete with our name on the hood, our Indian head logo on the doors and “Navesink, NJ” on the sides!

            In 1986, the company purchased a 1984 Mack, 1250 gallons per minute pumper to replace the old 1960 truck.   The 1960 Mack was sold to Walkersville Volunteer Fire Company in West Virginia.

1986 also brought the 100th Anniversary of Navesink Hook & Ladder. An event was held on May 10 that welcomed the community, dignitaries, and fellow firefighters to the firehouse for food and music.

            In 1992, the company replaced the 1962 Dodge brush truck with a modified Ford F-350 4X4 chassis, with a 250 gallons per minute, 250 gallon capacity pump. The Dodge was given to the Monmouth County Park Service, who kept it in Navesink by placing it on duty at Hartshorne Woods for a few years.

The company made room for yet another new truck not too long after the Ford. In 1995, the company received a Pierce Lance 1500 gallons per minute pumper, with a 750-gallon tank. The 1974 Mack was sold to a company named Interfire and is believed to have been sent to South America. Both the Pierce and Ford were celebrated with a double wet-down on August 26, 1996.

It’s interesting to note that the Pierce was the first apparatus in Middletown to be delivered with a white roof on the cab. Until they were changed just before the Pierce was ordered, Middletown Township Fire Department by-laws required that all fire trucks be solid red. The 1984 Mack, which had been a demonstration piece before purchased, originally had a white roof. It was painted red when the company bought it to meet department protocol. After the change in by-laws and the delivery of the Pierce, the roof of the ’84 Mack was repainted white.

On August 7, 1997, the company dedicated a monument to the children of the community. Built next to the firehouse, this tribute contains the original bell that the company purchased in 1892 along with a plaque acknowledging the contributions children have made to the company throughout it’s history.

Discussions of an addition to the current building date back to 1988, but did not become a reality until 2002. Construction on the addition began in March of 2002 after nearly a year of planning. Minutes from the November 2002 company meeting note that the construction done, inspections were complete, and that “the building addition is ours.” The structure gave the company two new offices, storage areas, an elevator, and a handicap bathroom.

            The new addition became the home to a piece of company history. In 1969, when the previous firehouse was razed, member Ed Banfield salvaged the sign that hung across the front of the building and had it hung in the warehouse of his moving business. When he retired in 1999, he returned the sign to the company. It was restored by local resident Richard Ledergerber and hung on the side of building addition for all to see.

            In 2004, a new Spartan Smeal 2000 gallons per minute pumper was purchased. It’s 1250 gallon tank is largest the company has ever had in one of their fire trucks. A wet down for the Smeal was held on June 18, 2005. The 1984 Mack was sold to neighboring Highlands Fire Department, where it is still in service today.

2004 also brought the construction of one more building on company property – a permanent housing for the Cannonball on its tracks. Previously, the train was kept in the storage building and each car had to be separately rolled across plywood, so not to damage the blacktop, to get it to the tracks. Built by members, the train house becomes a tunnel when the train is in use.

It is with sorrow that the company’s history includes some heartbreak. In 1985, Firefighter Christian Abbes lost his life while attempting to remove highly flammable tanks from a trailer that was on fire at his job on a construction site. Firefighter Thomas “Murph” Ryan responded to a call in December of 1997. On his way home from the assignment, he suffered a fatal heart attack and became Navesink’s first and only line of duty death.

From these tragedies came triumph. In 1986, the company established the Chris Abbes Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded to children of members of the Middletown Township Fire Department. Originally, one recipient received $500 towards college, but the fund has grown that three winners each year can earn $1000 for their continued education.

Many donations were made in Murph’s memory after his death and the company decided to use these funds to purchase a defibrillator that would be placed in service on the Pierce. During the annual fair in August 2002, a man collapsed in front of the firehouse from a massive heart attack. Quick thinking members preformed CPR on and ultimately saved the man’s life with the use of the defibrillator.

            Today, our present trucks – the 2004 Smeal (Engine 110), the 1995 Pierce (Engine 111), and the 1992 Ford (Brushtruck 112) - are among the finest fire fighting equipment to be found in the area. They were purchased and are maintained through the generous patronage given to the company by the community. This patronage has helped Navesink Fire Company to help the community and is deeply appreciated by each and every member of the company.