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Forming the Riverton Fire Co. No. 1
Riverton, New Jersey

Riverton was developed as a summer community along the banks of the Delaware River starting in 1851 and Palmyra had settlers as far back as 1761, but prior to 1887 there was no fire department in either town. So after a disastrous fire roared up the 500 block of Cinnaminson Avenue in Palmyra threatening to destroy the town in May of 1886, volunteers from the two villages banded together to form the Independence Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 of Riverton and Palmyra. The company’s first meeting was held in George W. Hall’s Pool Hall on Railroad Avenue (Broad Street) in west Palmyra on August 8, 1887. The first firehouse was built in Palmyra on Railroad Avenue just west of Delaware Avenue and housed a new hand drawn hook and ladder truck purchased from Rumsey Manufacturing in Seneca Falls New York. After a number of fires in Riverton demonstrated a less than satisfactory response from the truck coming out of Palmyra, a second brigade was formed in Riverton in early 1889. The chemical engine, currently owned by the Riverton Fire Company, was purchased and housed in a shed on Howard Street on the site of the present day Riverton Firehouse. During the fall and winter of 1889 the water company was installing some of the first water mains and fire plugs in town when on January 11, 1890 disaster struck in Riverton. In the early morning hours, fire broke out in J. M. Roberts General Store at Howard and Main Streets consuming Robert’s General Store and several homes along Main Street. Efforts to control the fires spread were hampered by a lack of hose and the proximity of fireplugs to the fire. Seeing a need for their own fire company in Riverton, members of the Independence Hook and Ladder Company’s Second Brigade resigned en mass to form the Riverton Fire Company No. 1 in March.

Today the Riverton Fire Company is staffed by well-trained volunteers who undergo rigorous training in an effort to staff, operate and maintain the state of the art fire apparatus housed in the Howard Street Firehouse. In addition, members are charged with the task of continuously striving to find innovative ways to support the fire company’s fund raising efforts as they have for more than a century. The Riverton Fire Co. No. 1 stands ready to protect life and property from the ravages of fire and is always ready to respond at a moments notice, continuing a proud tradition of community service almost 125 years old.

R. Matthew Gideon
February 2011