Union Fire Company

City: Jacksonville

County: Morgan

State: Illinois

Beginning in 1840, the city of Jacksonville, Illinois was served by volunteer companies of firefighters. The Union Fire Company, also known as the Union Fire Company Number One, was one of two volunteer companies in Jacksonville in the 1850s, along with the Rescue Fire Company Number Two. Funds for the Union Fire Company were supplied both by donations from community members and by the city government. In 1857 the Union Fire Company acquired a fire engine from Boston, known as the “Water Witch”. In addition to fighting fires, the Union Fire Company was a social outlet for its volunteers, and the company engaged in friendly competitions with the fire companies of surrounding cities, took part in civic ceremonies, and traded social visits with the volunteer firemen of Springfield. In 1865, Jacksonville city leaders confiscated the Union Fire Company’s engine in a dispute. The Union Fire Company was incorporated by act of the Illinois General Assembly in 1867. That same year Jacksonville organized a city fire department in which a paid chief and assistant oversaw the city’s volunteer companies.

Don Harrison Doyle, The Social Order of a Frontier Community: Jacksonville, Illinois, 1825-70 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 195-97; History of Morgan County, Illinois (Chicago: Donnelley, Loyd, 1878), 352, 361; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 18 November 1857, 2:3; Illinois Daily State Journal10 June 1861, 3:4; 12 May 1865, 2:3; 29 July 1865, 2:3; The Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 13 July 1859, 1:2; Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 12 September 1863, 1:4-5; “An Act to Incorporate the Union Fire Company, No. 1, of Jacksonville,” 22 February 1867, Private Laws of Illinois (1867), 953-54.