Janis' Genealogy Site
Daily Local, October 7, 1915
The Philadelphia Ledger of this morning has the following of home interest:
He stood on the curb at North Penn square yesterday afternoon, a tall, spare figure, slightly bent, old eyes alight with eager interest. With his long gray whiskers and a shock of nearly white hair, he was noticeable even in the jostling throng of hundreds. And he minded the pushing and elbowing not a bit, rather enjoyed it than otherwise, and maintained his place of vantage on the curb despite.
Jefferson Shaner celebrated his 87th birthday several months ago. For 68 years he had been an active member of Fame Fire Company, No. 2, of West Chester, and for 22 consecutive years has represented his company in Sate Conventions. Proudly he laid claim yesterday to being the oldest delegate in attendance at the Philadelphia firemen's convention, and there were none to gainsay him, though at least two other "old timers," volunteer firefighters of many years standing, ran him a close race for the "age limit" honors.
Shaner, sturdy beyond his years, came from West Chester yesterday to cast his vote in the convention and witness the Philadelphia Fire Department tests on North Broad street. "Different from the old days," he said, as the engines, chemical apparatus and hook and ladder trucks came clanging around City Hall, and in a few minutes a dozen high-pressure streams were playing on an imaginary fire.
"We've got the best fire department in America right over in my home town in Chester county," he declared. "Automobile engines and all the latest new-fangled fire-fighting appliances, but I often wonder how some of these young chaps would like to put out a fire with buckets, like we used to." The old man was easily persuaded to talk of fire fighting years ago.OLD-TIME BUCKET BRIGADE
"By cracky, that's the first time I ever saw one of those things work," he exclaimed as a fire tower went into action, drenching bystanders with its spray. "Gosh, if we'd only had that out home we might have saved what was our only three story building in the town in those days. The boys worked like beavers with buckets, and some of us even got to the roof, but the well ran dry, and while we waited for it to fill up again the fire had us licked."
"Everybody belongs to fire companies nowadays," he went on, "but when I was a young chap a fireman was considered by other folks as a tough customer. Some of the biggest men in the town belong to our fire companies now."
Stirring tales of midnight runs over frozen country roads when he was one of a score of husky youths manning the ropes which served to drag a clumsy hand-power engine to the scene of a fire found ready listeners. The old volunteer painted graphic word pictures, too, of water fights that often featured fire fighting methods in the old days. "Racing and turning the hose on the other fellows was part of the fun," he declared. "We worked just as hard and risked our lives lots of times getting the best of the flames, but it was a mighty poor fire if we didn't have some fun afterwards."
He was reluctant to tell much about himself. "Look at that now," he would interrupt as the test progressed and the reporter asked questions. Mr. Shaner has had an interesting career. He ran away from home to fight in the Mexican war under General Zachary Taylor, and he served in the First Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War. "I don't like to talk about that sort of thing," he said when urged to tell of some of his fighting experiences. Tears wet his cheeks when he recalled Spottsylvania and Antietam and told of the awful slaughter on those bloody fields. The old fireman was wounded at Antietam, and except for that experience, boasts of having never been really sick a day in his life.FOUNDED FIRE COMPANIES
Founder of the Fame Fire Company, then the Neptune Company, 68 years ago, Mr. Shaner has always been keenly interested in fighting fires. He has kept his knowledge of apparatus and fire fighting methods up to date, too, and rarely misses responding to an alarm of fire and "running" with his company, despite his years. He lives on a farm, about a mile outside of West Chester, but he explained, "I can hear the whistle and it don't take me long to jump on a horse and get wherever the fire happens to be."
Mr. Shaner was Burgess of West Chester for 12 years. He has always been an ardent fox hunter and still rides occasionally after the hounds. He owns a fine pack of dogs and is a member of the Rose Tree Hunt Club, at Media. First and last, he is a booster for his home town, and the one regret he expressed yesterday was "the folks'll be expecting me home and I certainly hate to miss that parade tomorrow, by cracky I do."
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