Radnor Fire Company history & members, Radnor High School, The Coffee House

“Be it known that the subscribers, having associated themselves together for the support of Fire Engine, Hook and Ladder and Hose Company for the control of fire and being desirous of becoming incorporated agreeably to the provision of the act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania . . . do hereby declare, set forth and certify that the following are the purposes, objects, articles and conditions of their said association for and upon which they desire to be incorporated.”

So reads, in part, the opening paragraph of the handsomely framed charter of the Radnor Fire Company which still hangs on the second floor of the fire house on South Wayne avenue. It is signed by 24 subscribers, and dated March 15, 1906. Isaac Johnson, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, attached his signature to the decree, as did R. J. Baldwin, Recorder of Deeds, and W. I. B. McClenachan, Deputy Recorder.

The first clause of the “articles and conditions of said association” sates that its name shall be “Radnor Fire Company of Wayne”. The second states that its purpose is “for the control of fire”, the third that its place of business is Wayne, Delaware County, Pa., and its fourth that the corporation is “to exist perpetually”.

The fifth clause gives the names of the subscribers while the sixth states that the corporation has no capital stock and is to be managed by a board consisting of seven members. According to the seventh clause, “the early income of the Corporation other than that derived from real estate will not exceed the sum of $25.”

The 24 names of subscribers in the order in which they appear on the charter are: Charles M. Wilkins, Charles E. Clark, L. B. Gault, Edward G. Fritz, Andrew L. Fritz, Nathan P. Pechin, Charles T. Worrall, George Deuber, John S. Detterline, Jr., Albert McAllister, Joseph M. Devereaux, W. H. Gault, John A. Duff, Howard F. Pennell, Richard Leary, A. A. Sellers, Patrick J. Duf, David P. Duff, W. Clarence Lucas, W. W. Gualt, George G. Lentz, J. Herbert Reynolds, Frederick H. Treat, and Charles H. Stewart. With the exception of Mr. Pechin, who lived in Radnor, and Mr. Stewart, who lived in St. Davids, all were residents of Wayne.

Directors for the first year as listed in the charter were the Messrs. Stewart, Worrall, Treat, Pechin, W. H. Gault and John H. Duff, with the president, who was still to be elected at that time, to serve in an ex-officio capacity. W. W. Hearne was later chosen for that office, serving from 1906 until 1917.

It is interesting to note that the first two subscribers to sign the charter have sons who now, some 46 years later, are actively connected with the Radnor Fire Company. “Eddie” Clark has been the popular Fire Chief for some 19 years past, while Leslie D. Wilkins, whose activities have extended over a long period, is the Chief Engineer and Secretary. Both Mr. Clark, Sr., and Mr. Wilkins, Sr., served at various times as chief of the Fire Department. The latter is now deceased, but Charles M. Clark is Fire Co-ordinator for the State Defense Council, he now spends most of his time in Harrisburg.

The first semblance of an organized fire company in Wayne was formed soon after the Civil War with headquarters in what is now the Legion House on Beechtree lane. It was called the North Wayne Hose Company. An organization formed slightly later was the Wayne Chemical Company. Subsequently these companies were sponsored by the North Wayne Protective Association and the Wayne Public Safety Association, which originally took over both police and fire protection for their respective districts.

The charter members of the present fire company, when it was formed in 1906, were drawn from the membership of both these groups. The nucleus of the buildings which are now the fire company’s headquarters on South Wayne avenue was built by the Wayne Public Safety Association sometime in the ’90’s. At that period the fire company’s chief piece of equipment was a chemical wagon pulled by horses hastily obtained from the R. H. Johnson Company, on Conestoga road, whenever the alarm for a fire was sounded. At that time there were both front and back exits through which a horse-drawn fire engine could be drawn. All of the ground back of the small building was an open field. The old Coffee House then stood on the site of the present high school building, while the high school itself was located in the present grammar school before the annex was added.

When the present Radnor Fire Company, as formed in 1906, had been in successful operation for ten years, the small building which it had been occupying since the Wayne Chemical Company had gone out of existence was formally deeded to them by the Wayne Protective Association. This was in 1916, and by then it had become apparent that the Radnor Fire Company needed larger quarters. The original building was placed on rollers and pushed farther back on the property in order to make room for the addition planned by the Radnor Fire Company.

Pictures of the original building show that its front door, which faced West, is identically the same door by which voters enter the polls after turning to the let when they first go into the fire house on the High School side. The present stairway, as well as the upstairs room and the room underneath, belonged to the original small building.

After this first addition was made in 1916, further enlargements came in 1936 and 1948. The ambulance, purchased in 1947, then found permanent quarters in the one-story annex tot he South of the older building.

For subsequent articles in this series much interesting material on the early days of the Radnor Fire Company, obtained from several of the Charter members of the organization, will be presented to our readers.

(To be continued)