The Union Bridge Fire Company, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is considered to be the second oldest of the 14 volunteer fire companies in Carroll County. Only The Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1, which formally first organized in 1823, is older.
The beginnings of the town of Union Bridge — which was known for years as Buttersburg — date back to 1731.
It's one of the earliest settlements in Carroll County. In 1772, the Old Pipe Creek Friends Meeting House was built at the edge of town, according to a history of the town on the fire department website. Maryland's General Assembly finally got around to approving the charter of the town on May 2, 1872.
In 1862, the Western Maryland Railroad established its headquarters in town, and extensive workshops and facilities to support the operation of the railroad took root.
The need for a fire department in the town of approximately 1,000 citizens quickly became evident when, according to the department history, "Union Bridge suffered its first major fire loss on December 3, 1868, when the Western Maryland Railroad shops burned with a total loss of buildings and contents…"
The destruction of the train yard was a shock to the community since it was the main employer for the town's citizens. "Over the next few years, the town purchased two extension ladders, two hooks and fifteen rubber buckets, which were kept in a shed in the Western Maryland Railroad yards," the department notes.
The Union Bridge Volunteer Fire Company formally organized on March 10, 1887, with 30 volunteers.
Over the years there have been many changes. "The Fire Company remained on Main Street until January of 1925, when the building was sold and the town hall on E. Broadway was purchased for $3,500." That same year the department got its "first piece of motorized equipment, a 1925 Stutz pumper…."
The website also notes that, "in 1947, the company took on a new role, a service that the local funeral home had provided for many years" — an ambulance was donated by D.D. Hartzler & Sons Funeral Home so that injured or ill people could be taken to the hospital in Frederick.
Fast forward to present day: The department is celebrating its 125th anniversary this weekend.
On Sunday, Sept. 16, the department will host an open house and antique fire apparatus display beginning at noon, 8 W. Locust St. An anniversary parade will begin at 1 o'clock. After the parade, the open house and the antique display will continue through 5 p.m. Food will be available.
For more information, go to the Union Bridge Fire Company website at http://www.ubfc8.org.
When he's not in Union Bridge enjoying a fire department parade and open house, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.