Tuesday, December 30, 2014


On the night of Saturday, Jan. 31, 1914, Charles Ashburner, newly installed as Springfield's first city manager, swung his budgetary axe, hacking away at the fire and police departments.

The city dismissed 12 firemen and eight police officers, effective Feb. 1.

Ashburner  announced plans to shutter engine houses No. 2 on Wittenberg Avenue and No. 8 on Yellow Springs Street as well, according to the Feb. 1 edition of the Springfield Daily News, though those closures were later reversed.

(No. 2 was permanently closed in 1932 during the Great Depression; No. 8 remained open until a new station was opened in 1973, though it was briefly closed during the Depression.)

The new city manager, hired to root out political excess, cut debt and modernize municipal finances, justified his decision by saying motorization of the fire department allowed firemen to reach "any part of the city in five minutes or less," the Daily News said.

Ashburner also ordered Fire Chief Samuel Hunter to take up residence and sleep at the Central Engine House.

In all, the fire department's budget was cut by about $12,000 or about $283,000 in 2014 dollars.

Of the men struck from the rolls of the fire department, M.J. Dunn, the longest serving member (appointed 1886), qualified for retirement and pension.

The others didn't.

They were:

Frank Bancroft (appointed 1888)

John Oettlin (appointed 1901)

Daniel O'Neil  (appointed 1903)

Dominick Tracey (appointed 1903)

Daniel Fitzpatrick (appointed 1903)

Frank Moore (appointed 1903)

Joseph Garrett (appointed 1904)

James Dunn (appointed 1905)

Pierce Humphreys (appointed 1908)

Clyde Koontz (appointed 1908)

James Sullivan (appointed 1909)

The cuts weren't by seniority, as others with less time on the job remained, though the men received letters saying they would be recommended for reinstatement should there be any vacancy.

None of them returned.

Bancroft, however, was recommended for pension because of  his health.

The cuts left the fire department with Chief Hunter, seven marshals, a superintendent of fire alarm, four engineers and 29 firemen. (Marshals served as station commanders.)

H.T. Evans, of No.4 engine house on Lagonda Avenue, was reduced in rank. Appointed in 1903, Evans retired in 1923.

No new firemen were hired until l916.

In his first year on the job,  Ashburner reduced Springfield's debt to $40,000 from $120,000, according to the May 24, 1919, edition of A Journal of Democracy.