In the Line of Duty (Part 2): The Technology Changes; the Danger Doesn’t

In 2009 a section of Trinity Park was set aside as a memorial to Fort Worth firefighters and police officers who were killed in the line of duty.

The centerpiece of the memorial is bronze statues of a firefighter and a police officer flanking a horse.

The statues are a static depiction of a funeral procession in which a horse follows the casket of a fallen comrade. The boots in the stirrups of the horse’s saddle face backward, symbolizing the fallen comrade looking back at life as he or she rides toward the afterlife. This last rite, in a version in which the horse was sacrificed, may date back to Genghis Khan.

One plaque in the memorial honors John Bennett, who on July 31, 1911 was the first firefighter to be killed since the city formally organized the fire department in 1893, according to the Star-Telegram.

bennett longerIn 1911 the fire department still had not replaced its horse-drawn wagons with gasoline-powered trucks. Streets were still unpaved. Buildings were still mostly wooden, wood and coal were burned for heating and cooking, and fires were all too common. The South Side suffered a major fire in 1909, and a year later Fort Worth High School on the South Side burned.

Until 3:30 a.m. July 31, 1911 John Bennett’s commute to “the office” had been a short one: He lived at 2812 Lipscomb, two houses south of fire station 10. The scene of the accident—6th Avenue at Weatherbee Street (today’s Allen Avenue)—was about thirteen blocks from Bennett’s fire station 10. In the clip  a doubletree is part of the apparatus for harnessing two horses. (Clip is from the July 31 Star-Telegram.)

face hayneThe Star-Telegram said John Bennett was the first fireman killed since volunteer Al Hayne (see bust) had been killed at the Texas Spring Palace fire of 1890. Hayne has long been honored as a fallen firefighter, but historian Richard Selcer says Hayne was not a Fort Worth volunteer fireman.

A fund was established for Bennett. Firemen and their survivors did not have many benefits a century ago. Police officers and firefighters were independent contractors.

After the death of John Bennett in 1911, three years would pass before the fire department suffered its second fatality. By 1914 the fire department had changed, modernized. It was using more “auto fire engines,” fewer horse-drawn wagons. It had more neighborhood fire stations. But the dangers had not changed. On July 23, 1914, another fireman—also from station 10—was responding to another South Side fire. A few blocks east of where John Bennett had been killed, a tire of the auto fire engine blew out, and a fireman was thrown from the engine and killed. He was Captain Louis E. Ferguson—the man who in 1911 had been John Bennett’s captain and who had tried to save Bennett as Bennett was thrown from the horse-drawn wagon.

fire lipscomb10 1910 UTALFire station 10, designed by Sanguinet and Staats and built in 1910, still stands at 2800 Lipscomb Street. Fire stations, like schools, were numbered according to their ward (district). Fire station 10 was in the Tenth Ward. (Old photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

bennett graveJohn Bennett is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

bennett 8-2-11On August 2, 1911 a Star-Telegram reader suggested a memorial to the fallen fireman. It took ninety-eight years, but John Bennett finally got his memorial.

In the Line of Duty (Part 1): “He Sees Naught of the Danger There”

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11 Responses to In the Line of Duty (Part 2): The Technology Changes; the Danger Doesn’t

  1. earl belcher says:

    al hayne may not have been on a roster of official men.but he volonteared himself for the job.

  2. Kevin Foster says:

    Rick and I will never agree on this one but Hayne WAS a firefighter. As a matter of fact, he was spoken of by name and his heroics at the dedication of the Texas Volunteer Firefighters memorial in Austin at the Capital. He was spoken of frequently at the state firemen’s conventions for years.

    His memorial even has a hook, ladder, and fire helmet carved into the stone above his bust.

    But we are all subject to lost paperwork, one way or another.

    • hometown says:

      His memorial certainly makes it clear that he was honored as a firefighter or by firefighters. And he certainly died as a firefighter. I could find so little about him in the newspapers of the time. I am impressed that you and Selcer found out so much about him.

  3. earl belcher says:

    MORE GREAT WORK FROM MIKE. MR. HAYNE MADE ONE MISTAKE. SUPPOSEDLY HE WAS NOT AN OFFICIAL VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER. SO HE MAY NOT HAVE HAD PROPER TRAINING FOR FIRE FIGHTING, THEREFORE BE WARNED IF A PERSON SHOULD WANT TO PITCH IN TO DO THEIR PART IN SUCH AN EMERGENCY DON’T DO IT. BUT STILL HE DESERVES CREDIT. HE TRIED BUT LOST HIS LIFE FOR HIS EFFORT.

  4. Kevin Foster says:

    Thanks – I appreciate that!

  5. Kevin Foster says:

    Nice article and I noticed you used a photo of the bust of Al Hayne.

    When I did the memorial research, I set about to find out if Al Hayne was a volunteer fireman. I found many mentions of him in the years after his death, mostly from the State fire conventions. On a couple occasions, wreaths were presented in his honor. When the volunteer firefighter memorial was dedicated at the state capital, they mentioned Hayne by name, referring to his bravery in Fort Worth.

    After many years of viewing his memorial, I finally stopped to really look at it. On the north side of the memorial, above the bust, is a fireman’s helmet,hook and ladder and klaxon carved into the stone. I have a photo if you would like it.

    Hayne’s name is on the memorial along with a a couple of more volunteers.

    Just thought I would share.

    Have a great day!

    • hometown says:

      Mr. Foster:
      By jingo, you’re right. I just looked at a side shot I took ages ago. Usually I am too busy photographing his bust or the weird little creatures. By the way, I certainly appreciate books by you and Dr. Selcer.

  6. George Studdard says:

    The late Jerry Ward lived on College Ave or Henderson (?) in District 15. Jerry appointed me at age 17 to be his unpaid Assistant District Manager. Jerry eventually became the Star-Telegram’s VP of Circulation in the 1970-80s. Federal Judge John McBryde also served as a Star-Telegram Carrier Salesman, as Amon G Carter called us, on District 15 during the WWII era…of course, he was just a teenager like the rest of us.

  7. George Studdard says:

    Fascinating fire department history. Thanks, Mike.
    During WWII, I subbed each summer for a fellow S-T carrier on Route 15-M, which included the 1600 block of Lipscomb St. I remember Fire Station 10 well, but had no idea of its history. Being a “southside” kid, I roamed S-T district 15 until I joined the US Army. District 15 was bordered by Hemphill on the East, Rosedale on the North, Enderly Place on the West and W. Arlington on the North. That area is essentially the now famous “Fairmount” District. Over a period from 1943-1947 I delivered papers on each route in the district, sometimes in addition to my own, 15-F, which ran from the 1500 block through the 1900 block of Fairmount, and from 1700 through 1900 block of Hurley. An aside…my future boss, Guy Vance, lived at 1920 Fairmount. Other S-T employees on my route, 15-F, were, Hal Coffin, award winning Editorial Cartoonist, George Woodman, Mechanical Department Supervisor, Mr.(?) Grace, Country Circulation Manager and Charles McCash, mailing room employee

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