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Peabody (Mass.) Fire Department Records

Peabody (Mass.) Fire Department Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Title:Peabody (Mass.) Fire Department Records
Quantity:1 linear foot (2 boxes)
Abstract:The records of the Peabody (Mass.) Fire Department consist of records for the Torrent Engine Company, which later became known as Hose Company #3 (for the years 1830 to 1923), the Excelsior Steam Fire Engine Company #2 (1874-1887) and the Eagle Hose Company #1 (1879-1891).
Collection Number:MSS 262

Series List

SERIES I. Torrent Engine Company/Hose Company #3
SERIES II. Excelsior Steam Fire Engine Company #2
SERIES III. Eagle Hose Company #1

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Peabody (Mass.) Fire Department consist of records for the Torrent Engine Company, which later became known as Hose Company #3 (for the years 1830 to 1923), the Excelsior Steam Fire Engine Company #2 (1874-1887) and the Eagle Hose Company #1 (1879-1891).

Series I. Torrent Engine Company/Hose Company #3 consists primarily of record books that record: the by-laws and constitution; lists of members each year; annual, monthly and special meetings; and fires and alarms answered. There are no records in this collection for the years 1850 to 1869 and 1900. Mentions of fire musters attended by the company begin showing up in the 1870s, and some of the later books mention social events held by the company, such as dances and bean suppers. The last record book contains much more information about social events and more information about some of the fires attended. Notes about the regular meetings become almost cursory by 1915. The loose material in B1 F5 consists of fire certificates granted to John O. Buxton, and other miscellaneous papers. Some loose materials removed from the record books are located in this folder as well.

Series II. Excelsior Steam Fire Engine Company #2 consists of a record book containing records of all club meetings. The meetings discuss business matters, such as the purchase of clothing and attendance at fire musters. There is no mention at all of fires attended until May 1883; after that date, however, fires and false alarms are often noted.

Series III. Eagle Hose Company #2 consists of a record book spanning the years 1879 to 1891. This record book is set up so that records of the regular and special meetings, fires and alarms attended, and accounts of the company do not necessarily fall into chronological order but can be found using the index at the front of the book. There are also several pages of accounts for Hose Company #2.

Historical Sketch

The Peabody, Massachusetts, Fire Department probably began as a collection of fire clubs. Fire clubs were organizations in which men joined together to form a club, paying dues, electing officers and holding annual and monthly meetings to discuss business, etc. By the rules of the clubs, members were generally expected to attend to all fires and alarms; failure to do so usually resulted in a fine. The mentions in the record books of fires and alarms are notable for their lack of information about the fire (beyond the date and location), but they often list absent and fined members. Although by the mid-1870s these hose companies were listed in the business section of the Peabody city directories under "Fire Department," they still functioned as clubs; members continued to elect officers and hold monthly meetings. In general, they operated as a club or organization would, rather than as a municipal fire department would, as we understand it today. By the mid-1880s, however, members were no longer listed as having been absent from fires; by about 1915, regular meetings are scarcely mentioned, and the record books consist almost entirely of alarms answered and notes on the social events organized by the companies.

The area now known as the city of Peabody was originally part of Danvers, Massachusetts, until 1855, when part of Danvers broke away and named itself South Danvers. South Danvers, in turn, renamed itself Peabody in 1868. The records in this collection begin during this period when Peabody was still part of Danvers; however, due to a gap in the materials, there are no records in the collection that pertain to the South Danvers period.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Buxton, John O.
Eagle Hose Company Number 1 (Peabody, Mass.)
Excelsior Steam Fire Engine Company Number 2 (Peabody, Mass.)
Hose Company Number 2 (Peabody, Mass.)
Torrent (Fire company : Peabody, Mass.)
Fire clubs (Cooperative societies)
Fire departments--Massachusetts--Peabody
Danvers (Mass.)
Peabody (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Peabody (Mass.) Fire Department Records, MSS 262, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The majority of this material was purchased on May 25, 1993. The certificates for John O. Buxton were removed from the Essex County Collection. The record book of the Eagle Hose Company number 1 was purchased at an unknown date.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Jane E. Ward, October 1993. Updated by Jessica Cosgrove, November 2015.

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