Firefighters work to preserve heritage | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo courtesy of HENDERSON FIRE CO.
The original Henderson Fire Co. fire station on West Third Street in Lewistown, formerly a church.

LEWISTOWN — Firefighting in the Juniata Valley certainly has a rich history.

At one time there were several fire departments operating in Lewistown, including City Hook and Ladder, Fame Fire Co., Brooklyn Hose Co., Junction Fire Co., and Henderson Fire Co., to name a few.

Over the years, some fire departments merged and only a few survive today.

Henderson Fire Co. No. 1 was founded in 1853 and originally operated out of the old St. John’s Lutheran Church building on West Third Street in Lewistown. Local firefighters said the way Henderson got its name was special to those who worked with the company. “Henderson was founded and named after Dr. Joe Henderson” one of the officials recalled. Henderson was one of the founding members of the company.

Historians say the company entered into a $1 agreement under which the fire department could take over the building if it continued operations or relocated.

Photo courtesy of HENDERSON FIRE CO.
Historical memorabilia of Henderson Fire Co. through the years.

In the 1980s, Henderson purchased a boom lift that would not fit into the old church. After raising the doors to accommodate the equipment, the members ultimately voted to tear down the old building and build a new, modern building in its place. When the old building was torn down in 1986, the members saved part of it and put it in the new building.

The company no longer exists today, as Henderson merged with Fame Fire Co. in 1994 to form United Fire and Rescue Service. United Fire and Rescue later merged with Brooklyn Hose Co. and moved its headquarters to the Brooklyn Firehouse.

“You may hear rumors that we are creating a historical society under the Henderson name. Well, those rumors are true.” said Robert Corkins of Lewistown, who was a fire department photographer from 2018 to 2023.

Some remaining Henderson members want to preserve the history of the Mifflin County Fire and EMS department. They are holding an organizational meeting for a new Henderson “Hose” Hook and Ladder Historical Society meeting Saturday from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. at the Green Pavilion in Kishacoquillas Park, 1 Derry Park Drive, Lewistown.

“For some time we have been considering the idea of ​​establishing a historical society” added Corkins.

Photo courtesy of HENDERSON FIRE CO.
The Henderson Fire Co. fire station on West Third Street in Lewistown in the 1960s.

Corkins visited fire and training sites, took photos, and then posted them online.

The Corkins family also has roots in the Henderson family, as Robert’s father, Garth, was a longtime member; his grandfather, the late Max Corkins Sr., was a member and may have helped manage the company’s finances; and his great-great-grandfather, the late Lewis R. Peck, was a former principal.

Peck was the oldest living active Henderson firefighter when he died in 1948.

In December 2023, the company hosted a reunion to celebrate Henderson’s 170th anniversary.

The city welcomes everyone to participate, whether you are a history buff, a retired or active firefighter or EMS worker, or just looking for something to do in your free time. Henderson members are encouraging you to come out and show your support by joining the new Henderson Historical Society.

Photo courtesy of HENDERSON FIRE CO.
The last Henderson Fire Co. fire station in the 1980s, before the companies merged.

“I heard a few people want to come” Corkins said. “I’ve sent some stuff to people. I’m hoping some of the other companies will send someone. I’m hoping we end up with a lot.”

Officials will open the Henderson collection to the public, hoping it will inspire others to take action to preserve local history.

Other area businesses, such as Heritage Fire Co. — formerly Brooklyn and United — have their old Ahrens-Fox pumper at a museum in Huntingdon County. City Hook and Ladder Co. has preserved the historic items.

McVeytown Volunteer Fire Co. is also working on a historical display case, Corkins said. Henderson hopes to follow suit.

“There are three companies that are trying to preserve history and teach future firefighters about the history of their company” Corkins said.

Henderson officials organized a historical exhibit at the Fame Fire Co. Museum, located at 108 Valley St., Lewistown, last August. It included a jacket, helmet, axe and portable radio donated by former Henderson Capt. Sam Alexander.

They would ultimately like to find a dedicated space for a museum, office space, and storage for the historical society. The formation of the historical society is, hopefully, the first step.

For more information, visit their Facebook page: “Henderson’s Historic ‘Hose’ Hook and Ladder.”

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