Honoring our First Responders – Now and “Back Then”

BeeLines - March 4, 2018

By Marybelle Beigh, Westfield Town & Village Historian

Honoring our First Responders – Now and “Back Then”

Prior to the regular February 20 2018 Village Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Mike and the Village Board members met with members of the various fire department groups, as well as Supervisor Martha Bills, other Town officials, and Father Al Clody, FD Chaplin, for the dedication of the new emergency fire truck.

It was “history in the making” as well as the opportunity to honor 50-year members of the Westfield Fire Department. Prior to the start of the meeting, your Westfield Historian had the opportunity to explore the meeting room inside the Fire Hall to view and photograph a few of the historic items displayed in locked glass cabinets around the room.

One of the volunteer firemen spent the time guiding and pointing out items of interest including the photographs of the first Fire Chief of the department when it was formed in 1873, B.F. Rynd, and a poster display of invitations to Firemen’s Dances (or Balls) from the late 1800s. Since he asked if there was any history about these Firemen’s Balls, of course, your historian “took the bait” and dove into a fascinating exploration of Annual Firemen’s Parades, starting in 1873, that were apparently always concluded with a dance, hop, or ball.

Believe it or not (and this is Westfield, not Ripley!), Westfield Republican articles have been found (and printed out) for these parades, dances, and other events, from 1874 through 1899. And there are yet more to research in the early 1900s.

Research is also in process for the history of all of the first responders in Westfield, especially the Rescue Squad, Ambulance Service, EMTs and Police Department, since those groups seem to have the least amount of history written about them. At the dedication, Father Al did a blessing and a prayer for the safety of those using the new equipment, including hope that there would be no major emergencies requiring it’s use. What a sad shock it was to hear the fire/emergency signal later that evening, for an MVA on I-90 near Brocton, to which all surrounding first responders were summoned!

Please “stay tuned” for more articles on the history of Westfield’s First Responders and efforts to honor them in various ways.