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Among the early civic groups organized in the new Nebraska Territory were the groups of citizens in every community who were banded together for the protection of their homes and crops from prairie fires. This peril became less as the county was settled, and all the land homesteaded.

It was not until six years after Nebraska became a State that the first permanent Volunteer organization was effected in Columbus, and as other villages were incorporated in the County the early settlers formed similar groups to fight fires.

Through the years the Columbus Volunteer Firemen have been vitally interested in the general life and property welfare of the community. Outside of firefighting they maintain equipment for all forms of emergency service and first aid units, such as rescue squads for the operation of the iron lung, the pulmotor to save people from drowning, as well as other equipment for property and floods.

Besides keeping abreast of the times with the newest in fire-fighting and first aid equipment the Columbus Firemen have cooperated with Federal and State organizations in various ways to prevent fires.

The first step in this work was the introduction of fire inspection program work which was carried on by the officers and firemen. This work reached not only the mercantile and manufacturing interests but to dwellings, hotels, apartments and to all places where people live.

The Columbus Firemen when working together as a political unit have cooperated with schools, men's clubs, and women's organizations in carrying out civic programs. They also have contributed much to the social life of the community, and present a fine spectacle when on dress parade.


The first Fire Department was organized in August, 1873. The Columbus Volunteer Department is one of the oldest civic organizations, but since its inception, many changes have been made.

In the beginning, torch bearers, running carts, hand pumps and open water hole were in use. Today we have modem fire-fighting equipment.

The formal start of the Columbus Fire Department took place on August 23, 1873, when Engine Company Number 1 came into being. At that time, the group was divided into Hose Company Number 1 and Hose Company Number 2. Later on, one of the companies became known as Engine Company Number 1 and the other as Hose Company Number 2.


After May 30th parade, 1884*, Jim Pearsall, Chief, Dick Jenkinson, George Fairchild, Tam and Barney McTaggert, Henry Hockenberger, Louis Schwartz and Wm. Schilz.


J. B. Wells was elected the first chief, and D. D. Wadsworth, assistant chief. There were forty-seven members in the charter group.

On January 3, 1874, the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company was organized. The W. Y. Bissell Hose Company was organized June 28, 1887. The town council recognized the new company on July 2, 1887, but the records of the Fire Department show that the new company was not admitted to the department until February 27, 1888.


The Columbus Firemen practiced out-of-doors during the summer months to familiarize themselves with the handling of the equipment, and the application of new methods of training. During the winter months, an indoor fire school was conducted, where blackboard examples of fire-fighting problems were discussed and solved in round table discussions.

Secondary to fire prevention and fire-fighting, the Columbus Fire Department devotes some time to social activities and civic enterprises. The social activities of the past included Company parties and dances sponsored by each of the companies. An annual smoker for honorary members has been one of the outstanding events of the social activities.

Worthy civic enterprises have always been supported and sponsored by this organization. Included in this

*In front of City Hall, erected in Frankfort Square in 1870-1872 and in use until 1892.

The History of Platte County Nebraska


The Columbus Fire Deportment, 1949

list are: the Pawnee Park swimming pool, the kitten ball diamond in Pawnee Park, equipping of fire department club rooms, and financing two city hall elections.

The Columbus Fire Department's business and fire control has always been handled by members elected and properly qualified for their particular offices. The officers and members of the Columbus Fire Department for 1936 included: honorary chief, Albert J. Galley; 1936 chief, Otto B. Johannes; first assistant chief, Lennie Jones; second assistant chief, C. R. Galley.

President, William Haney; secretary, C. G. Snell; vice-president, Wallace Ott; treasurer, William Boettcher, Jr.; paid firemen, C. R. Galley, Harold Putnam.

Board of Fire Control: Otto B. Johannes, Lennie Jones, C. R. Galley, Frank Mills, William Ingold, Albert C. Galley, Howard Haney, Crawford Snell.

Board of Business Control: William Haney, Arnold Boettcher, Archie Snyder, Louis Mimmick, Albert Krumland, Crawford Snell.


Engine Company Number r (consisting of Hose Companies Number 1 and 2) : Harold Putnam, president; Martin Huggler, vice-president; Werner Alpers, secretary-treasurer.

Hose Company Number 1; Frank Mills, captain; Albert Krumland, junior captain; Ernest Hellsbusch (sic), William Haney, Carl Haney, Arthur Haney, Dick Selleck, Carl Talley, C. G. Snell, R. T. Lecron, George Bock.

Hose Company Number : William Ingold, captain; Harry Goc, junior captain; Otto B. Johannes, Elmer Moschenross, Harry Moschenross, Carl Ingold, Arnold Boettcher, William Baer, Walter Boettcher, William Schwantje.

W. Y. Bissell Hose Company: H. F. Abegglen, president; Archie Snyder, secretary; R. L. Karlin, treasurer; Howard Haney, captain; Lyle Johnson, junior captain; Zack Howell, Lennie Jones, Steve Czuba, Vincent Galley, Theodore Lund, Harry Spidle, Leo Stortz.

Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company: Edward Sullivan, president; C. R. Galley, secretary; William Boettcher, treasurer; Albert C. Galley, Captain; John Ingold, junior captain; Ray Drummond, lieutenant captain; Bert J. Galley, A. W. Frischolz, Wallace Ott, James H. Galley, John Smagacz, Edgar Gleason, Ed Nicolite, Leonard Briggs, and Louis Mimmick.


Otto B. Johannes was the chief of the Fire Department in 1949; Frank Mills, first assistant chief, and Mike Novicki, second assistant chief and department instructor. William F. Schwantje was department president, in 1947; Francis Shank, vice-president; James Gregorius, secretary, and W. L. Boettcher, treasurer. Francis Shank was president in 1948.

Personnel of the Fire Department of 1948 was as follows, a total of fifty-eight members:

Engine Company Number1 --- Frank Mills, Werner Alpers, Lee Jackson, Elmer Lohr, Lowell Grimes, Tom Liddy, Edwin Peterson, Albert Krumland, C. H. Whitaker, John Ingold, Louis Maier, Jr., Milton Gayer, Francis Shank, Arthur Haney, Louis Glur, and Herman Hoth, Jr.

Hose Company Number 2 --- Otto B. Johannes, Harold Putnam, William F. Schwantje, Elmer Moschenross, Martin Huggler, Edward Schmidt, Cecil Bator, Walter Phillips, Walter Garbers, Clarence Schmid, Emory Staub, Kenneth Simpson, Leo Boettcher, William Ernst, and Leonard Bator.

Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company --- A. J. Galley, A. W. Frischholz, Edward Sullivan, John J. Smagacz, W. L. Boettcher, Leonard Briggs, Leo Duranski, Gus Viergutz, Glen Smith, Harvey Roth, Mike Novicki, Hansen McElfresh, Walter Saalfeld, Carroll Gayer, and Lester Ernst.

W. Y. Bissell Hose Company --- Zack Howell, Lennie Jones, Archie Snyder, Howard Haney, Carroll Devlin, James Gregorius, Walter Gregorius, Clinton Cady, Jesse Wagner, Ed Kaminski, Leo Stortz, and Harry Blahak.

The department is amply equipped to meet any emergency it might be called upon to handle. Included in the mobile equipment are a seven-hundred-fifty gallon quad truck, Seagrave seven-hundred-fifty gallon pumper with one-hundred gallon booster tank, two Seagrave combination air-cooled chemical and hose trucks, a five-hundred gallon pump mounted on a trailer, and an emergency truck, commonly known as the "crash unit."


From 1873 to 1949, the Columbus Fire Department had only twenty-one chiefs. Here is the list and the years they served:

In 1873, J. B. Wells; 1874, D. D. Wadsworth; 1875-1877, R. H. Henry; 1878, J. A. Baker; 1879, R. H.

Commerce Organizations

Henry; 1880 and part of 1881, G. W. Clother; H. P. Oehlrich, part of 1881 ; 1882, E. D. Sheehan and G. W. Clother; 1883, August Lockner; 1884-1886, James Pearsall; 1887, George Fairchild; 1889, John M. Honahan and George Fairchild. 1890-1892, Richard Jenkinson; 1893, D. H. Smith; 1894, Louis Schwartz; 1895-1896, J. N. Killian; 18971899, Bert J. Galley; 1900, E. D. Brink; 1901-1902, Sam Gass, Jr.; 19031905, L. F, Gottschalk; 1906 and up to and including part of 1930, Bert J. Galley; part of 1930 to 1936, Otto B. Johannes; 1937 to part of 1942, A. R. Haney; part of 1942 and 1943, Lennie Jones; 1944 to 1949, Otto B. Johannes.

The "Honored Fire Chief" of the Columbus Fire Department, Albert J. Galley, established a service record which very few, if any, men in Nebraska have ever equalled. He joined the department on November 16, 1891, and was active in 1949. In 1909, he was the first Columbus man to become president of the Nebraska State Volunteer Fireman's Association.

He served as chief of the department for nearly twenty-five years, resigning when he was appointed chief of police in 1930. On July 28, 1930, the department voted him honorary chief for life. Mr. Galley admits that he is taking his fire-fighting "a little easier these days," but the department's roll still showed "Bert" Galley "present" at virtually every meeting and every fire call to 1948.

Through the years there have been many large and costly fires in Columbus. One in the last decade was the spectacular Montgomery and Ward blaze of December 27 and 28, 1941.


From Columbus Daily Telegram



Albert J. Galley

Approximately one hundred twenty persons attended the annual Fire Department dinner held Tuesday evening, November 16, 1949, at the Wayside Country Club in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Albert J. Galley.

The dinner was again named in honor of Mr. Galley, a practice adopted in 1945 when he had completed fifty years of service in the department. Present for the event were members of the Volunteer Fire Department and their wives, city officials and other guests.

John T. Hay, manager of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, presented a glowing tribute to the guest of honor, tracing the many services of "Bert" to the community over the years in the fire department and other activities.

Dignitaries present included E. C. Iverson, Lincoln, State Fire Marshal; J. I. Fetters, Lincoln, of the state department of vocational education; Otto B. Johannes of Columbus, president of the Nebraska Volunteer Firemen's Association; and Russell D. Salak of Schuyler, secretary of the Association.

Iverson, Fetters and Mayor Lee L. Nauenberg gave brief remarks. E. H. Lohr, president of the department, served as toastmaster.

Gold watches were presented to Werner Alpers and Arch Snyder in recognition of their twenty-five years of service to the organization.

The two received another honor from Mr. Iverson, who brought with him authority from Governor Val Peterson to commission them "admirals in the Nebraska Navy."

Turkey and all the trimmings was served by candlelight at seven o'clock. Following the dinner and program, the balance of the evening was spent in dancing.


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