The following charter members organized the Vigilant Fire Company on December 2, 1893:
Fred E. Schoemblom (President)
Fred Tingler (Secretary/Treasurer) J.J. Snyder
William Koerner F.W. Willsey
George Frey J. Goss
Harry Shearer M. Ansteth
Andrew Bouckhouse Henry Schwab
Charles Eitel Gotteib Pfinger
Oliver White Ben Witzig
The Vigilant Fire Company was organized in 1893, and later incorporated in 1896. During these earliest days of the company, a four wheel pump cart was used to help fight fires. It took four men to operate the hand pumps, which had to be hand-pulled to a fire scene by firemen or horses. It was convenient that Henry Frey’s bakery was at 615 Main Street, just down the street from Vigilant, his horse, which was used for deliveries, was often pressed into service when the alarm sounded. The hand pump remained in operation until it was replaced in 1920 by a motorized fire engine.
The first audible alarm at the company was a large metal wheel rim off a railroad car from the Gardenville Yard of the New York Central Railroad. When a fire was spotted, the first member to the hallwould take a solid metal pole and smack the hollow metal wheel rim. The sound was unique and loud, and it carried for long distances.
Vigilant was one of the first fire companies in the area to install an alarm system. Each alarm box was numbered, when an alarm was turned in, a bell in the steeple of the United Church of Christ would toll out the number of the alarm box. For example, if box 24 was pulled, the bell would toll twice, pause, and toll four additional times. Each fireman had a white card showing the box numbers and location. If the fire apparatus had already left the hall by the time they arrived they could respond directly to the scene of the fire.
As much as Vigilant Fire Company was formed as a protection against fires, the company evolvedinto a center for social gatherings in the early years. The social environment of being a member still exists today, but in a much different manner. One has to imagine those early days in order to get a proper perspective of the times – no television, no cars, no radios, no computers, no refrigerators, no microwaves…and water had to be hand pumped. Well, you should be getting a pretty good idea that the community needed to entertain themselves. Vigilant served that purpose.
Music played an important role in the days before radio and television. At the time of the Armistice (November11, 1918) which marked the end of World War I, the members of Vigilant formed a band and drum corps. They purchased their instruments from Denton, Cottier, & Daniels Co., on Court Street in downtown Buffalo. Al Richt, Bob Pletcher, and Val Eich were the leaders of the drum corps and providedmusic lessons to the other members. The principle instruments included the drums, bugles, and fifes. The band played at the hall during the welcoming back party for the soldiers who in the war.
Sports was a major attraction for firemen of old, just as it is today. Back then, instead of watching games on TV,they played it themselves. The fire company sponsored a basketball team from 1921-1922 and the hall was converted into a sports arena. They played teams from neighboring fire companies and the city of Buffalo. The best players from Vigilant included Jim “Doc”Ehinger, Ed Mund, Earl Frey, Hal Webber, and Henry Moeller. Following each big game there was music and dancing. Vigilant Fire Company was renowned for having one of the best dance floors in Western NY.
During the early years a popular way of socializing and raising money was by holding card parties at the hall. PENDRO was the game most liked. The card and dance parties continued through the 1950s. After the card party there was dancing to live orchestras. During the 1930s, the Charleston, which was a popular dance and considered risque by some was banned at the hall. Not because it was risque, but because the hall floor would buckle when everyone danced to this tune.
~Information obtained from Vigilant Fire Company 100 Year Book
The Vigilant patch was first displayed on jackets and shirts worn by 30 Vigilant members who proudly paraded during the West Seneca Town Community Days, June 28, 2003. It contains a number of symbols and words, including some concealed in its meaning.
The outline of the patch was modeled after the New York Fire Department in remembrance of September 11, 2001 and the events that occurred that day. In particular, it honors the memory of 343 firefighters who unselfishly lost their lives while rescuing others from the burning towers.
Vigilant Fire Company, No. 1, Ebenezer, New York emblazed in a sunset gold represents the rich and colorful history of the fire company and the Ebenezer Community it has protected since its incorporation in 1896. The two most prominent colors, dark blue and silver white reflect the night and day commitment to respond to emergencies regardless of the danger and risk to the members.
Two flags are displayed with cross winds blowing in opposite directions. The American flag symbolizes the basic freedom and liberty we all enjoy and the West Seneca Town flag which demonstrates our commitment to the community.
Inside the patch is the Maltese Cross that contains four wings. Equally represented and balanced on the left and the right are the Star of Life, which symbolizes the member’s commitment to the community through our response to first aid and emergency medical calls and on the left are the traditional horn/helmet/axe/ladder which represents our response to fires and rescues. The wings on the top and bottom reflect our affiliation with the West Seneca Fire District # 6. The background for those letters is stitched in white, which reflects an off color grey when viewed from an angle.
The Maltese Cross is outlines in red, which was chosen to represent bravery and courage, the lifeblood of the traditional fire department.
Centered inside the circle of the Maltese Cross is a rendering of the first Vigilant fire hall. Built in various sections first dating back to the late 1800’s, the building represents a classic example of firehouse architecture. The peaks of the structure were added later to provide a lookout platform for spotting fires. During WW II, the platform was enclosed in glass and was used by the civil defense as a plane-spotting watchtower. The words SEMPER VIGILANTIA cradle the top and bottom of the firehouse.
“SEMPER VIGILANTIA” a Latin phrase, means “ALWAYS VIGILANT” This phrase has several underlying meanings and interpretations, but in essence if reflects the long line of tradition and perseverance of the men and women who have proudly held the position of being a member of the Vigilant Fire Company. And selflessly serving their community in trying times and periods of growth and prosperity. Clearly there is a sense of perpetuity in the pride and spirit of the company. A building may no longer exist, new apparatus is acquired and the old displayed as antiques, members join and leave us, but as the motto says, we are always vigilant!
Three members of the fire company, with suggestions from many members, designed the patch in May and June of 2003.