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As the City of Oshkosh began to develop and grow in the mid 19th century, the threat of fire destroying this new development evolved as well. This new city was founded on the sawmills with both process and product producing a hazard of fires along with the threat of conflagration that any dense development brings.

The need to protect the lives and investments of its citizens was recognized early in Oshkosh’s history with action taken as early as 1854 to purchase hooks and ladders to be used in the event of fire. This action was followed up less than two years later with the formation of the first volunteer fire company in Oshkosh.

On October 23, 1856 Pioneer Engine Company Number One, the first organized fire company, was born as the members gathered at Marks Hall. The name of this company was changed a short time later to the Number One Niagara Company. William Wall was elected as the foreman of this company at its first meeting. The funding for this company came from a special tax levy of one percent issued just the day before on October 22, 1856. The Niagara was followed by a second company on February 4, 1857 which was known as the Germania Fire Engine Company Number Two. As the name would imply, its ranks were primarily of German decent and they elected Jacob Gruenwald as their foreman. These first two volunteer fire companies operated independently until April 21, 1857 when Captain N. Emerson was elected the first Chief Engineer overseeing the entire City department. The Union Hook and Ladder Company was also formed in these early years, putting the number of fire companies with their own stations in the City at three.

Click here to learn more about the history of the Oshkosh Fire Department