Cochran Hose Company Patch


History of the Cochran Hose Company

From Horse-Drawn Carts to Modern Marvels: Charting the Evolution of Service and Bravery

First Years


The Cochran Hose Company was organized April 6, 1876. It was named after Captain George W. Cochran who was apparently the first to raise concerns about the lack of fire protection in the Borough of Sewickley. He is generally credited with arranging for the purchase of a hose cart and one-thousand feet of hose.

The company originally had twelve men on its roster and received $150.00 per year from the borough.

The organization meeting took place on the second floor of Mozart Hall at the corner of Broad and Beaver Streets.

Company officers were:

  • President: J. Bolger Jr.
  • Secretary: E.R. Kramer
  • Treasurer: John McElwain
1876 - 1880

On June 1, 1876 prices were requested for 200 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, a hose carriage, and ladders.  Joseph B. Coale was the first recorded foreman (Chief).  He was elected May 10, 1876 and served until 1879.

After having suffered several large fires, Sewickley reorganized the fire department on September 18, 1879.

From September 2, 1879 until January 1, 1880 another 400 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose was purchased.  On October 5, 1880, ladders were purchased.  They were delivered on October 11, 1880.

Through the efforts of Councilmen Frank W. Straw and H. J. Murdock, the borough purchased 2 hose carts and 2 chemical engines.  The chemical engines were called "Babcock Engines," and were essentially 30 gallon soda-acid extinguishers on wheels.  2 1/2 pounds of bicarbonate of soda was dissolved into 30 gallons of water.  Approximately a quart of hydrochloric acid was suspended above the mix.  When you got to the fire, you turned the tank upside down, the acid mixed with the bicarbonate of soda mix and this created carbon dioxide gas which pushed the soda-acid mix through the hose and nozzle to extinguish the fire.


March 1
Amazon Founded

On March1, 1881, the fire station lease was renewed for a year.  On may 3, 1881 a new fire bell was ordered  to replace the original one which was broken.  On August 5, 1881 a third fire bell was ordered to replace the second one which was also broken.

Sewickley must have had some kind of municipal water system by this time, since the fire department didn't have a pump to obtain water from wells or cisterns.  The first municipal well was in the vicinity of Ferry Street.  Eventually the predecessors of the current reservoirs were constructed in Waterworks Park and gravity did the pumping.


January - August
1883 -1884

On January 2, 1883, Charles Hilsman notified the company that their lease would not be renewed, and the company must vacate the building.

There being no place on the hand drawn hose and chemical carts for the storage of turnout gear (coats, boots, helmets, etc); the firemen had to don their heavy gear in the station and then run to the fire, pulling the carts.  The hand drawn hose carriage was weighed on August 8, 1884.  It weighed 1700 pounds, as much as a Volkswagen.

A public collection was held, and a hook and ladder wagon was also purchased.  All this equipment was drawn by hand.  The $150.00 per year was cut off and the company became purely volunteer.
Leet Neely was named Foreman.  He served as Foreman until May 1, 1886.

May - April
1886 -1892

On May 10, 1886 the company held their first parade.  The Sewickley Cornet Band was asked to march and provide music.

W. E. Patton was elected Foreman May 10, 1888.  He served until 1892 when Leet Neely was again re-elected to the position.

On April 19, 1892, all fire equipment was appraised at $2000.00.


The borough reorganized the fire department and renamed it the Sewickley Fire Department. The officers were:

  • Chief: Frank W. Straw
  • Assistant Chief: B. F. Campney
  • Captain – Chemical #1: Thomas H. Drynan
  • Captain – Chemical #2: David Merriman
  • Captain – Hose #1: Charles Prentice
  • Captain – Hose #2: Joseph G. Kaufman
  • Captain – Hook and Ladder: H. J. Murdock
  • Secretary: H. J. Murdock

The officers had electric bells in their home which were connected to the Central Telephone office. Upon receipt of a fire, they ran to the fire station, which was located on Division Street and rang the bell to summon the other firemen.

March - February
1895 - 1902

Frank Straw resigned as Chief as a result of an expense controversy on March 14, 1895.  He was reelected Chief on March 17, 1895, the same day electric lights were installed in the fire house.

S. Y. "Sid" McFarland was elected Chief on October 11, 1900.

February 20, 1902 a letter was sent to Mr. Ed Becker thanking him for hauling the fire carts to a fire at the Cochran Stable.

Edgeworth VFD and Cochran Hose Company signed a Mutual Aid pact on August 4, 1910.


We have pictures taken in 1912 at the time of the dedication of our present building showing horse drawn apparatus.  There was a Combination Chemical and Hose Wagon and a Ladder Wagon.  These were apparently drawn by borough horses, since no record exists of the fire company having their own.  The outline of a door from the old stables is still visible at the end of the lockers on the Washington Street side of the original Apparatus Room.  The harness was suspended from the ceiling in front of each wagon.  When the alarm rang, chains securing the stalls dropped and the horses ran into the apparatus room and stood in front of their respective piece of fire equipment.  The first firemen into the building lowered the harnesses onto the horses, put the bits into their mouths, hooked the trace chains to the wagons and off they went.

The story has been passed down that is they horses were out on the streets during the day and the fire bell sounded, the driver had better be nearby because the horses would run to the building on their own and patiently wait in front of the apparatus room for someone to unhitch them from the borough wagons so they could be hitched to the fire apparatus.

1913 -1917

Council was asked to purchase a fire whistle on November 11, 1913.

On May 13, 1915, the company officers met with the Osborne, "Glen Osborne" back then, Borough Council regarding providing fire protection for the borough.

On June 15, 1915, a committee was formed to investigate the possibility of purchasing a motorized fire apparatus. The members wanted a "chemical car with pump and Firestone solid rubber tires," but voted against an electric starter. This was ordered by the borough on December 21, 1916. The manufacturer was to be the American-LaFrance Fire Engine Company of Elmira, NY.

Charter Member Phil "Pop" Doughty was appointed to be the Engineer on the still to be delivered motor fire truck, which arrived by railroad car at 3:00 pm on May 10, 1917. It was driven to the fire station by American-LaFrance representative Mr. Raymond. Council formally accepted the truck from the manufacturer on May 19, 1917.

The apparatus made its first run to a chicken coop fire on Blackburn Avenue. This was at 4:00 am on September 17, 1917.

The Cochran Hose Company was formally chartered in Commonwealth Court by Judge John C. Haymaker on October 24, 1917.

1918 - 1920

On October 10, 1918, a fire location blackboard was hung in the apparatus room. This board is still in use and can be seen on the Washington Street wall near Engine 1.

A coded air horn signal system went into use on April 10, 1919. The borough was divided into quadrants meeting at Broad and Beaver Streets and different combinations of long and short blasts indicated which section had the alarm.

On June 12, 1919, six smoke masks were ordered from Mine Safety Appliance Co. of Pittsburgh.

On March 29, 1920, the company voted to begin a subscription campaign to purchase a new hook and ladder truck. The goal for the drive was $10,000.

On September 9, 1920, the company voted to purchase a 4-cylinder ladder truck from the Seagrave Company of Columbus, Ohio for $10,500. The overage of $526 from the drive was used to purchase a model T Ford roadster to be used as a Chief's car. It was ordered on December 9th.

On November 20, 1920, an electric starter was purchase for the 1917 pumper.

1913 -1917
On February 20, 1921, the old horse drawn ladder wagon was sold to the Glenfield Volunteer Fire Department for $150.

The new Seagrave hook and ladder was delivered on November 19, 1921.

On September 2, 1927, the company recommended to Council that a new 1000 gpm pumper be purchased.  American-LaFrance must have had one ready to go, as the company voted on November 24th to have a picture taken of the new truck after delivery.  This picture hangs in the stairway to the meeting room and is dated 1928.  The truck is still owned by Cochran Hose Company and is known as the "Triple".  It is being refurbished at the present time and once it is returned it will be used for parades, celebrations and funerals.  It is kept in operating order and will still pump its rated capacity.

On October 8, 1928, the company participated in the first Fire Prevention Parade held in Pittsburgh.