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 firehouse.

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 German.

 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 service.

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 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 noted.

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 Rappold Collection) Here is 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 damage.

 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 Collection)

 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 tournaments.

 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 happen.

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 again

1875-New engine house is built

1880-A new ladder wagon is purchased

1889-First Steam Engine is purchased

1893-CFD moves into old school building

1895-A group of firemen take Metamora No. 2 to Milwaukee

Members 1866-1906

Fred Schatz

William Rettberg

Philipp Roth

Chas Wilke

H. Wehausen

John Weber

Frank Bergmann

George Steiert 2/6/1885

Anton Graef

John Roth

Geo Stiehle

Chas Gottschal

Carl Vogel

Frank Luedke

Jacob Dietrich

William Weber

John Armbruster Sr.

Julius Ardnt

J.H. Becker

Anton Boetcher

G.A. Boerner

Emil Herziger

Walter Hoffman

William Horn

Herman Jaehnert

John Kapke

Fred Kuether

John Kuehfus

Sam Kannenberg

Chas Mielke

Fred Mohrman

Julius Pattenge

Geo Ritter

Fred Schuette

Frank Toll

John Vollmar

G.H. Wirth

E.G. Wurthman

William Moegenburg 7/1/1892

Hugo Lau 9/1/1893

Albert Hintz 9/10/1894

Ernst Schneider 7/2/1897

Otto Darkow 5/3/1899

John Lauterbach 4/5/1899

Henry Schuhmacher 8/4/1899

Herman Butt 12/6/1901

Charles Scherf 2/2/1902

Charles Scheider 7/3/1903


Ahrens Steam Pumper "Michael Colbert"

Hand Pulled, Hand Pumper "Metamora No. 2"

Ladder Wagon

Numerous Hose Carts