In the years before 1894, the inhabitants of Rutland, MA relied on their neighbors for assistance in fighting fires in their homes, barns and places of business. When a fire broke out, the bell on the steeple of the Congregational Church was sounded to bring together as many people with pails and hand forced pumps as might be available. On many occasions, these efforts saved much property for our residents.
One difficulty encountered at these fires was the absence of ladders. Several home-made ladders from Spruce trees had been fashioned along with an old wagon to carry them on, but these items were far from adequate. It was decided at an informal meeting at Town Hall to secure ladders and a wagon to carry them on. At a Town Meeting on March 6th, 1893, $150 was appropriated to buy extension ladders, pails, and a hand-pump fire engine. The older ladders and pails were given to citizens in West and North Rutland for use there. The fire engine that was purchased consisted of a mill pump mounted on a two-wheel truck with a 1-1/2 inch suction inlet and a 1-1/2 inch discharge hose. A wood fiber tub was secured and placed as near to the fire as possible and was supplied from wells and streams as the case may be. The pump was operated by two to four men.
Hand-in-hand with the need for good equipment is the need for manpower. With that thought in mind, twenty-six residents met and formed a fire company on the night of January 6th, 1894. This was the beginning of a formal approach to fire fighting in Rutland. At their next meeting the following Saturday night, the name the Rutland Volunteer Fire Brigade was chosen and by-laws were adopted. During the first twenty-five years of the life of the Fire Brigade its first Captain, Henry Converse, was in command. He gave liberally of both his time and money to the success of the Brigade. Henry Converse was over 80 years old when he gave up leadership of the Brigade, and then only when incapacitated by illness.
The Massachusetts General Court passed legislation authorizing the use of water from Muschopauge Pond for domestic use and for extinguishing fires. A pumping station was erected to pump water into a water tower on the crest of Rice Hill. With the advent of the waterworks came the need for hose and a wagon to carry it in. The Fire Brigade took $75 from its treasury and, by soliciting citizens, secured enough funds to buy 500 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose and a suitable wagon.
In March of 1897, the Fire Brigade voted to put $200 towards paying for the Hose House, the Town's first Fire Station. Now often referred to as the "Old Fire Station", it's located on top of the hill across the street from the Naquag Elementary School. With the Town also appropriating money, this building was constructed and then dedicated in September of 1897. In 1932, through the efforts of Louis Hanff, the Town of Rutland received a grant from the government to raise the roof of the Old Fire Station. Also at this time, the building was renamed Converse Hall after the first Captain of the Fire Brigade, Henry Converse.
As we celebrate more than a century of community involvement, here is a quote from T.C. Murphy from the History of the Town of Rutland:
"The service rendered to the community by volunteer fire fighters is unique in public service. The meager stipend received for their service does not compensate for their readiness to respond at any hour of the day or night for duty under conditions that are not only arduous, but dangerous. It is fact the type of service where arduous effort is no inconvenience when exerted in a cherished cause."