Smithfield, R. I., First Fire Engine

     In 1829, the present day city of Central Falls, R. I., was still part of the town of Smithfield.  In some ways, it was “downtown” Smithfield.  On January 11, 1829, a fire destroyed a cotton factory belonging to Stephen Jenks & Sons in Central Falls.  Afterwards, some of the local citizens advocated for the purchase of a fire engine, but for reasons unknown, the idea was opposed by others.   It’s unclear if a fire engine for Central Falls was purchased at that time.  

       According to the history section the Central Falls Fire Department website, the Central Falls Fire District wasn’t established until 1847.  

     In June of 1848, two fire engines were purchased, one for Pawtucket, and the other for Central Falls.  Both were made by the L Button Company of Waterford, New York.  Both engines are believed to have been “hand tubs”.  

Smithfield’s first fire engine, the Water Witch. Chief Andrew Whipple in photo.

     The Pawtucket engine  later came to be owned by the Greenville Fire Company in Smithfield in 1876, and was dubbed by Greenville firemen “The Water Witch”.  The Water Witch saw service in Greenville until the early 1920s when a motorized fire engine was purchased by the fire company.   The Water Witch was then kept as a parade piece by the fire company until World War II when it mysteriously disappeared while on loan to the Chepachet Fire Company.  Its whereabouts today is still unknown.   

     To learn more about the Water Witch click here:  Mystery of the Water Witch 

     To learn more about the origin of the Greenville Fire Co., click here: Greenville Fire Company 

Click on images to enlarge.

Pawtucket Chronicle and Rhode Island and Massachusetts Register
January 17, 1829

Pawtucket Chronicle and Rhode Island and Massachusetts Register
January 17, 1829

Herald of the Times & Rhode Islander
January 21, 1847

Pawtucket Gazette and Chronicle
April 7, 1848

Pawtucket Gazette and Rhode Island and Massachusetts Register
June 30, 1848

Pawtucket Gazette & Chronicle
August 30, 1861

Pawtucket Gazette & Chronicle
September 20, 1861

Pawtucket Gazette & Chronicle
May 4, 1866

Pawtucket Gazette & Chronicle
November 12, 1869

Pawtucket Gazette & Chronicle
April 21, 1882


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