A year after the American Civil War ended, and five years before
Bismarck united Germany, the Cedarburg Fire Department was
organized by a group of Cedarburg pioneers in the fall of 1866.
The department was formed that year following a series of
meetings held at the homes of Conrad Horneffer and William
Boxhorn. The roster at that time was comprised of 31 members.
The first officers of the department were: Chief, Fred Schatz;
1st Assistant Chief, William Rettberg; 2nd Assistant Chief,
Philp Roth; Secretary, Chas. Wilke; Treasurer, H. Wehausen; Hose
Captain, John Weber; Assistant Hose Captain, F.R. Bergmann; Hook
and Ladder Captain, Anton Graeff; Assistant Hook and Ladder
Captain, John Roth; janitor, G. Stiehle. Fred Schatz served as
Chief from 1866 to 1880.
Following organization, the company’s first job was to get
a piece of apparatus. The City of Milwaukee had offered for sale
a hand pumper named “Metamora No. 2”. So in the spring of 1867
Conrad Horneffer and Fred Schatz were delegated to make the
purchase for a sum of $800. The pumper carried about 500 feet of
leather hose. Down payment on the equipment was $400 with the
balance on a note at 7% upon delivery. The two men had to
arrange for the hauling of the pumper to Cedarburg.
| The image above is of Cedarburg's first fire apparatus,
"Metamora No. 2". This hand pumper was previously owned
by a volunteer department in Milwaukee and before that a
volunteer outfit in Chicago.(CFD Collection)
Members then had to decide upon a house for the apparatus.
Several offers were submitted on lots and contracts for the
building. Members agreed to purchase a lot and build upon what
is now the present site of Downtown Dough. John Roth purchased
the lot for a sum of $500. The members took great pride in
constructing their first fire station. After a few months,
members were required to donate work time and two dollars each
towards the construction costs of the firehouse. Many
contributed more, yet the building once had to be stopped
because there was no money. Other members of the community also
help with the construction. Master carpenter Mr. Voistehn
donated much of his time building the structure. The masons of
the building were Asche & Weber who also donated to the
construction of the building. On June 11, 1867 the department
had its first meeting at the new but, partially constructed
The minutes from the first organizational meeting of the
Cedarburg Feuer Compagnie in 1867, a year after the department
was founded, were written in low German, and reported that “The
department had to fight many years for its existence because the
hose truck and all of the implements had to be bought by private
means.” The minutes for the next 50 years are also written in
Despite all of the efforts by the members to financially support the
department, a discussion was entertained to merge with the Turn
Verein at the beginning of 1868. The financial difficulty of the
department at this time was so great that a chattel mortgage was
put on the hand pumper to purchase $400 worth of hose from the
City of Milwaukee. In the year 1869 the Cedarburg Fire
Department and the Turn Verein merged, as both organizations
carried practically the same members on their rosters. The fire
department sold its unfinished firehouse and property to a Mr.
Hugh McElroy. A shed in the rear of the Turn Verein became the
temporary firehouse. The fire department owned the hand pumper,
and the Turn Verein owned the hose and ladder carts.
As in other communities, the fire department and Turn Verein ceased to
function well together as both organizations expanded. On April
27, 1875 the fire department became a separate organization
again. A few weeks later on May 14, 1875 the department held
elections as a separate organization. The State of Wisconsin
served an order to build a new firehouse, and in the fall of
1875 a new firehouse was constructed. The building was built on
a lot 25 feet by 60 feet and leased from School District No. 2.
The new firehouse was a single story wood frame structure with a
foot print of 18 feet by 38 feet.
A few years after the department built its new station, it was decided to
purchase new hose. 700 feet of new rubber hose was purchased to
replace the original leather hose that came with the hand
pumper. In order to dry the new hose, the firehouse was
outfitted with a fine new hose tower. A bell was mounted in the
top of the hose tower and used during rehearsals.
Edward Lanheinrich, in 1880, became the second Chief of the
Cedarburg Fire Department. The other officers at this time were:
1st Assistant Chief Henry Roth; 2nd Assistant Chief, A. Boerner;
Hose Captain, G. Wurthmann; Assistant Hose Captain, C. Boxhorn;
Hook and Ladder Captain, P.P. Dietrich; Assistant Hook and
Ladder Captain, G.H. Wirth; Treasurer, John Bruss; Secretary, H.
Wehausen jr. The department in 1880 also acquired new pieces of
fire equipment. Sammel Kannenberg designed and built a hook and
ladder wagon along with the ladders for a cost of $250. Over the
previous two years the department had not received a call for
With all of the growth in the community since its beginning in
the 1840’s the City of Cedarburg was incorporated in 1885.
John Armbruster was elected to Secretary in 1886, a position he
held for the next 39 years.
The Cedarburg Fire Department purchased a new hose cart in 1887
and kept the old on in reserve. In August of 1887 the department
responded to a fire that destroyed a house, barn, and some out
buildings. The some property was saved but the amount of loss
was about $3,500.
Gerhart Wurthmann was elected as the third Chief of the
Cedarburg Fire Department in 1889. The Cedarburg Fire Department
also purchased its first steam pumper in 1889. Named the
“Michael Colbert”, it was built in 1885 by the Ahrens
Manufacturing Company. This engine was in service for the City
of Racine at Engine Company No. 4 before coming to Cedarburg.
The cost of this steamer was $1,500 and was such a good deal
that the manufacturer offered to by the piece back for $2,500.
The engine house was renovated in June of 1889. In August of
1889 the Cedarburg Fire Department hosted a firemen’s picnic.
Here is an article from the Cedarburg New about the event.
THE FIREMEN'S PICNIC
"The firemen's picnic took place last Sunday and was a grand
success financially as well as otherwise. The engine house was
beautifully decorated with wreaths and flags and three wreaths
were spanned across the streets under each one the word
“Welcome” attached. At about 11 o'clock the different companies
from the neighborhood arrived, including West Bend, Port
Washington and Saukville. At one o'clock the firemen all
gathered at the engine house and marched up town, thence, back
to the mill race when an alarm of fire was sounded, and the
engine taken out for practice; after which the procession
proceeded to the Park, where an address of welcome was made by
Mayor F. W. Horn. The afternoon was spent most pleasantly by all
those present and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves."
1891 was a busy year for the Cedarburg Fire Department. The
department responded to five fires. Four of these fires occurred
in February and March. The fire on February 7th, was the first
fire that the steam pumper was used on. The most significant fire
occurred on May 26th, at the Thiel & Sons Wind Mill. During the
month of May the members of the fire department agreed to allow
electric fire alarms to be installed in their homes. These
alarms would notify the members of a fire alarm. The city agreed
to pay for the installation of the alarms in a few of the
members homes, but most of the members had to pay $5 if they
wanted the system.
During this time period, the fire department did not have the
amount of fires calls that we have today. Meeting and rehearsals
were typically the only activity that the members had to
participate in. Meetings were called to order by the highest
ranking person on the department, typically the chief. Roll call
was then performed and fines were collected. Sometimes there was
old business brought up, but most of the time the treasurer gave
his report. This report shows the monthly expenditures of the
fire department. It was not uncommon to see the department
paying for the services of liverymen. New business was then
brought to the floor. Such business typically included the
announcement of a firemen’s picnic. After this, the date for the
next rehearsal was set and the meeting was adjourned. The names
of the absent members were noted. Meetings were also held on the
rehearsal nights. Sometimes there was business to discuss, but
for the most part only the names of the absent members were
The Lincoln Building was built in 1893. This allowed the fire
department to move into the old school building. However,
modifications were needed. The lower level of the old school was
turned into the engine house by constructing two large doors in
the front of the building. The upper floor of the building was
reinforced to support the weight of the hose tower that was
moved from the old firehouse built in 1875. Once completed, the
second floor was used by the school district as 6th & 7th grade
classrooms. This building was used for the next 14 years.
|This is a picture of the Kuether Hotel. Next to this
building on the left is the public school building
before it was turned into a firehouse. (Courtesy of Ed
the public school building after it was turned into a
firehouse in 1893. Notice the little arches above the
2nd story windows. (CFD Collection)
The Cedarburg Fire Department was called for a fire at the
Woolen Mill on November 9, 1893. The fire caused $870 worth of
In 1895, a contingent of Cedarburg firemen took the hand
pumper to Milwaukee for their Semi-Centennial Celebration.
Metamora No. 2 was Milwaukee’s last hand pumper.
|This is a photograph taken
in Milwaukee on Vilet St. in October, 1895 for
Milwaukee's Semi-Centennial Celebration. (CFD
Firefighting in these times hardly resembles what it is today.
Members were notified of fire by at steam whistle at the power
plant. The members then rushed to the station either on foot or
by team of horse. Once they were at the station, the horses were
hooked up to which ever piece of equipment was left. Most
members arrived on scene wearing only their normal clothes, rain
coats and hats were eventually purchased. In order to save as
much as possible firemen would run into the building that was on
fire and remove personal items. This all depended on the amount
of fire that was in the building. The engine was moved to the
nearest source of water, Cedar Creek or a cistern located
throughout the city, the hose wagon would lay hose from the
engine to the fire and water was then put on the fire. The
equipment on the ladder wagon was used for reaching greater
heights and pulling down burning materials. Other pieces of
equipment such as the old hand pumper and hose cart were pulled
to the fire by firemen.
The Cedarburg Fire Department still has many of the same
traditions that were started during this time period. A
constitution also still exists to organize the department. From
the constitution, a business meeting is held on the first Friday
of the month. The department still holds an annual meeting in
the month of May to elect the, Chief, Assistant Chief,
Secretary, and Treasurer. Members of the Cedarburg Fire
Department donate countless hours of time to help the department
raise the money it needs to purchase the best firefighting
equipment and for the upkeep of the equipment. The members of
the Cedarburg Fire Department continue to volunteer their time
on fire calls.
The fire department used to choose its
members by bringing them up for a vote before the entire
membership. The vote was done using white and black marbles. If
a person had a majority of white balls they became a member. The
members of the department always looked for citizens of good
standing and with the ability to participate in activities of
the department. The biggest activity was the firemen’s
tournaments held by the Badger Firemen’s Association and the
Wisconsin Firemen’s Association. Such tournaments were held all
over the state allowing departments to show off their
firefighting skills. Cedarburg was always a participant in these
A notable fire occurred on November 19th 1902. The fire
caused $800 worth in damage. In 2011 this would have been
$20,000 in damage. A little over a month later on December 30th,
there was a fire at the Boerner Brothers Company Warehouse.
Damage was estimated at $400.
|The above image was taken on
the 4th of July, 1904. The men shown are from left to
right: Chief E.G. Wurthmann, A. Hintz, W. Ott, O.
Darkow, C. Scherf, C. Schauble, O. Hespe, J. Moegenburg,
L. Pergande, H. Butt, C. Schneider, H. Schumacher, and
E. Schneider. (CFD Collection)
On September 2, 1905 the Cedarburg Fire Department was call out
to the Groth’s dwelling for a fire at 12:10am. The fire caused
an estimated $300 in damage.
By 1907, the Cedarburg Fire Department was thriving and a well
recognized department in the State of Wisconsin. After
struggling to exist, the members built up the department through
their dedication. The department consisted of a steam pumper,
ladder wagon, hose wagons, hose carts, and its original piece of
equipment the hand pumper “Metamora No. 2”. The Cedarburg Fire
Department was respected by the entire community and was
considered a first class fire apparatus outfit. However, an
event that would test the resolve of the membership was about to
A Disastrous Blaze
1866-Department is founded
1867-First piece of equipment purchased
1869-CFD merges with Turn Verein
1875-CFD becomes a separate organization
1875-New engine house is built
1880-A new ladder wagon is purchased
Steam Engine is purchased
1893-CFD moves into old school building
1895-A group of firemen take Metamora No. 2
George Steiert 2/6/1885
John Armbruster Sr.
William Moegenburg 7/1/1892
Albert Hintz 9/10/1894
Ernst Schneider 7/2/1897
Herman Butt 12/6/1901
Charles Scheider 7/3/1903
Ahrens Steam Pumper "Michael Colbert"
Hand Pulled, Hand Pumper "Metamora No. 2"
Numerous Hose Carts