Monsey Memories: Brewer Fire Engine Co.
By: Yitzy Fried
It is an icon of old Monsey, a landmark known to generations of Monsey residents, and older than anyone alive.
On Saddle River Road, near Grove Street, sits the Brewer Fire Company, which has so heroically protected the homes and people of the city for so long… close to 150 years long!
The story begins with a group of 24 men who gathered in the home of Levi Sherwood—the Monsey train station master, who had his store near the Monsey train depot (which was located near the intersection of Main Street and Route 59). Many fires had been cropping up in the area, and they sought to form a company to protect the residents from the ravages of fire. H. Sherwood was selected as Foreman (another title for the fire chief), and thus the company that would serve Monsey for the ensuring century-and-a-half was formed.
The members set to work procuring fire-fighting equipment, which, in those days meant horse-drawn wagons with a water pump fixed upon it. As vehicles gained popularity, this changed the game.
In the extensive photo collection in possession of the Brewer Fire Co. (which they graciously allowed us to publish here) the earliest photo is of a 1915 Speed Wagon Chemical Engine, manufactured by the REO Motor Car Company.
An early patron of the Fire Company—and its namesake—was Mr. Abraham Brewer, who became a member of the company and provided much financial support as it was getting started.
In contrast to those early days when the carriages contained barely enough water to put out the fire, today’s trucks dump more than 2000 gallons per minutes onto fires.
On October 7, 1902, the residents of Monsey petitioned the Rockland County Board of Supervisors to form the Monsey Fire District. By forming a Fire District, the residents of Monsey would elect 5 Fire Commissioners who would oversee the fire protection needs of the community.
In addition to the incredibly hard work of fire fighting, the company needed to employ creative ways to raise funds to sustain the fire company and its equipment—a function that is today filled by the Rockland County Budget.
As the community has grown, the Brewer Fire Company has grown and adapted along with it—as we read in a recent interview with Monsey’s Fire Commissioner—who, along with heroic colleagues, continues the glorious history of this 150-year-old-Monsey institution.