On July 5th,1895 P.H.Jacobs and Henry M. Phillips attended a regular meeting of the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Company (now known as Company #1). At this meeting, both residents, along with other community members, expressed an interested in joining the company. At the time they were considered “uptowners”. This was anyone who at that time lived north of a point about 4th street or Valley avenue.( These streets were only paths at the time.) “Uptowners” in some instances, we have been told, were considered of questionable value to the town. These men were denied membership. Intolerance is one of mans greatest weaknesses, and in 1896 these two men again presented themselves before the company at a regular meeting to inform the members that they now represented a duly organized and incorporated fire company. It consisted of 15 members besides themselves, recognized by town council, and expressing a desire to work with the older company in protection of life and property.
They sought an engine the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Co. had and was due to be replaced by town council. Their offer was graciously received and the equipment turned over with the proper festivities. The Independent Volunteer Fire Company of Hammonton (now known as Company #2) was on its way to a vital force in the fire service of this community.
Henry M. Phillips was one of these men. He later proved to be one of the primary leaders of the Hammonton Fire Department during his lifetime. Not only was he devoted, but he was dedicated to his work as if it was his religion. Mr. Phillips had an admirable following, was disliked by others, but was always respected in the community.
Original charter members included: A.E. Snow, E. Swift, F. Swift, F. Sutton, G.A. Elvins, H. Jacobs, P.H. Jacobs Hon., H.M. Phillips, J.H. Garton, J.W. Lysinger, A.E. Holman, G.W. Elvins (Elvins Store), W.P. Keyser, E.W. Cathcart, Henry Liebfried, W.J. Slack, along with W. Hurd Parkhurst.
The men who started Company #2, fueled by the example set by the men of Company#1, their frustration of not being admitted , pride in themselves, and an honest desire to serve the community, led them through the insurmountable obstacles they had to overcome in order to succeed. A strictly rural area, no business places except Elvins Store, and relatively little known financial strength among themselves or their neighbors whom they wished to serve. Their first firehouse (located on what is know as the White Horse Pike) was built on ground donated by G.W. Elvins. The labor in construction of the building was “ given” by the members as well as donations of the material and the like. These members like those of today were devoted, persevering, and self-sacrificing.
On January 18th , 1897 a delegation from Company#2 visited with Company#1 and suggested a joint meeting to nominate a chief for approval of town council. Company #1 concurred with the suggestion and it was decided to hold the first Department meeting on the 3rd Monday of September, 1897 resulting in the first chief of the department, J.W. Marshall. In September 1898 at the second joint meeting of the Department elected for approval by town council S.E. Brown, Chief and Henry M. Phillips, Assistant Chief. Over the next several years the position of Chief changed hands several times between the men of Company #1. In 1919 the Department elected Henry M. Phillips as the first Chief from Company #2 to serve as Chief of the Department, which he did for several years.
Through research, many of the big fires of the early era received no particular mention in history books or local papers. Perhaps because no active firefighter could be an observer. For example, there was no record of the instance of the Tilton Fire, the Wooley Fire, the Inhoff Lumber Co. Fire of 1910, the W.L. Black Building Fire, the Cranes Lumber Fire, the Minot’s Cannery Fire,and the Marts Livery Fire. Strange as it may be, the fires that were fatal to human life were never considered in the light of conflagrations, which is a credit to both companies. Throughout the one hundred plus years of service both companies have served equally well. Company #2 was unfortunate in the loss of personnel as the result of a call for service. G.W. Lysinger, A. Ebinger, and Thomas Elvins gave their lives in the line of duty.
Today Company # 2 serves out of a three bay building with a hall attached to it. The building is called “ Elvins Hall” named after the family who has given to the Independent Volunteer Fire Company of Hammonton so unselfishly over the years. It is located on the White Horse Pike at the site of the original firehouse.