The Hermann Fire Company Museum was established in 1971 and is located at 214 E. Second St. in downtown Hermann.
Fire department volunteers salvaged and restored old fire equipment that had been stored in sheds throughout Hermann. Much of it was in poor condition having barely survived several floods.
Their work paid off because several pieces, which were among the oldest in the state, have won trophies and ribbons that line the shelves of the display cases at the museum.
Many of the vehicles used by the Fire Company through the years also are displayed.
They include two hand pumpers, the Consiquence and Spritzen Washington, a hook and ladder that was built in 1901 in St. Louis, two hose reels, and a 1955 International Seagrave pumper, with its 7,000 original miles, that is still used as a front-line pumper.
A life-size mannequin of a firefighter dressed in full uniform stands proudly in the museum. He represents the members of the Hermann Fire Company, who took pride in their uniforms and wore them in all parades and celebrations. Regular members wore blue wool shirts with red trim, while officers wore red shirts trimmed in black. Each wore blue trousers with a red stripe.
During parades, the men carried banners, trumpets, and drums. The drums displayed at the museum were purchased in 1865 and are still in usable condition. The Fire Company had its own drummers, and it was the organization that led all of the local parades. Two types of trumpets were used, parade trumpets and working trumpets. Since there were no loud speakers, the men hollered orders through the trumpets. Samples of these items can be viewed at the museum.
In addition to the equipment, which is in mint condition, the department has maintained a set of records of all of their meetings. Records were kept in German until 1939. From then on they were written in English. Those that had been written in German were translated to English by the late Elmer Danuser, a former Hermann school teacher.
Hermann Fire Company No. 1 dates to 1859, but the idea of a fire company started even earlier when the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia found its new home in the "Rhineland" of Missouri in 1836. During a meeting of the town fathers in November of 1837, at which the plan of the town was adopted, it was determined that a Market Street would run north and south, and that the street was to be ten feet wider than Market Street in Philadelphia. A firehouse and market house were to be constructed there between Fourth and Fifth streets. They were completed circa 1856.
The Market House was a two-story, frame building that housed the Town Hall above the marketplace. The firehouse was a single-story, frame building with the fire bell in the cupola. The bell was the only way to alert the volunteers of a fire.
Having Frene Creek and the Missouri River as water sources, all buildings were built as near as possible to these waterways. Fires were frequent, particularly in clapboard buildings, as raiders would shoot burning arrows or throw burning torches onto these structures.
At a meeting held on Sept. 7, 1859, a constitution and bylaws were approved to form a brigade called Hermann Fire Company No. 1. Included among the company's earliest equipment, along with the Consiquence and Washington, was a steamer. This was used until 1912, when the city installed a water system. It was traded to purchase the first motorized equipment, a rubber tired, 1932 Chevrolet quad truck that included ladders, hose, pump and water tank. It can be seen at the museum.
By 1971, the city was expanding to the south, and it was apparent that another fire station was needed at the southern end of the community. Architectural plans for the new building included a room for the museum, which opened the same year.
In February of 2006, when the new firehouse opened on East Second St., the museum was relocated there. This large, modern fire station was built for the future so the department can expand with the times. Currently there are 42 active all-volunteer members in the department and a total of 14 trucks, which serve the community from three locations, two in Hermann and one at Swiss. The Hermann Fire Company operates through memberships and donations. It is not tax supported.
Dave Schulte is fire chief, a position he has held since 1999. Prior to heading up the department he served as assistant chief for 11 years. Fire fighting has been a way of life for many Hermann families, including the Schultes, where several generations have served as volunteers. Dave's father was fire chief for six years, and his son, who is currently a member of the department, is studying to become a full-time firefighter.
While the Hermann Fire Company Museum is not always open, tours can be arranged for any individuals or groups who are interested in seeing it. Dave and his crew are proud to show it off. Contact Dave at 573-486-2461 to schedule a tour.