Pioneer Fire Company

City: Springfield

County: Sangamon

State: Illinois

Following a fire in 1855 in which half a block on Springfield’s square burned, the Springfield City Council and mayor of the city called for a subscription to raise funds for the purchase of fire engines. In anticipation of the arrival of the first of the subscribed engines, Fire Company Number One was organized in Springfield in May of 1857. Several other volunteer fire companies were quickly formed in the city, and Fire Company Number One became known as the Pioneers. These volunteer companies received funds from the city of Springfield, but also fundraised to support their firefighting services. In addition to fighting fires, the volunteer fire companies were also a social outlet for their members, and the companies organized regular events such as dinners, parades, and competitions. Abraham Lincoln attended one such dinner hosted by the Pioneer Fire Company in 1858. In 1859 the Pioneer Fire Company attempted incorporation through an act of the Illinois General Assembly. Rather than pass the act of incorporation, the Illinois House of Representatives amended an earlier act to allow volunteer fire companies to register their incorporation with local authorities. By 1864, the Pioneer Fire Company’s relationship with the Springfield municipal government had deteriorated, and the company proposed to withdraw from the auspices of the city fire department in protest over unequal financial support for the city’s four fire companies. The company was ultimately incorporated by an act of the General Assembly in 1865 under the name The Springfield Pioneer Fire Company Number One, but finding that volunteer firefighting companies were no longer sufficient, the Springfield City Council created a paid professional fire department in 1869.

Paul M. Angle, “Here I Have Lived”: A History of Lincoln’s Springfield 1821-1865 (Springfield, IL: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1935), 181-83; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 13 July 1857, 3:1; 16 October 1857, 3:1; 2 August 1864, 3:3; 4 August 1864, 3:2-3; 2 March 1865, 3:3; Report of Remarks to the Pioneer Fire Company of Springfield, Illinois; Illinois House Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 89, 140, 431; “An Act Amendatory of the Act Approved March 3d, 1845, in relation to Fire Companies,” 24 February 1859, Laws of Illinois (1859), 23; “An Act to Incorporate the Springfield Pioneer Fire Company, Number One, of the City of Springfield,” 16 February 1865, Private Laws of Illinois (1865), 575; History of Sangamon County, Illinois (Chicago: Inter-State, 1881), 628.