Greenwich Township, from which Gibbstown developed, had the largest population of the six townships in Gloucester County in 1695. The townships were formed using rivers and creeks as dividing lines and the inhabitants of the area between the Barclay River and Great Mantoes Creek requested that the land be divided and formed into the Township of Greenwich. The actual division was accomplished in 1695.
Ethan Gibbs, the town’s namesake, was a blacksmith in the early 1800’s who owned a large portion of land upon which the township is located. In 1835, William Beck purchased a farm and opened a country store for the accommodation of his neighbors, attracting other settlers to the town. However, it took the coming of the railroad in 1874 to entice more than several dwellings and a stone schoolhouse.
On January 31, 1880, Lammot du Pont started constructing a dynamite plant on a site known as Thompson’s Point after purchasing small riverfront farms from the Salisbury and Mullen families. This was the beginning of the Repauno Chemical Works. As the company prospered, the Allen farm to the west was added, followed by the Rambo, Casperson, Harker , Hawthorne, and the Green farms.
In 1890, the two communities in the Township, Paulsboro and Gibbstown, decided to divide, using Billingsport Road and Berkley Road as the dividing line. Paulsboro, not wanting the taxes on the huge sand pile that would become the Mobil Oil Company property, gave the property to Greenwich Township.
The building of the Du Pont Company plant from the original Repauno Chemical Works marked the beginning of growth of the small settlement of Gibbstown. As each operation in the plant was added, more housing was needed for the men who worked there. In 1882, four single homes and two duplex houses were built near the railroad station on both sides of Repauno Avenue. In 1914, Du Pont built 25 bungalows on the old Casperson farm, what is known as the “Old Village”. Four years later, 40 houses were built on the east side of Repauno Avenue, and this became known as the “New Village”. A private boardinghouse for the men who worked at the Repauno Works was built in 1903 at the comer of Repauno Avenue and Broad Street at the site of the current gas station. In 1918, a grand hotel opened next to the Du Pont Club, accommodating 111 guests. There were eventually four “camps” providing lodging for the workers. Today, evidence of the Du Pont influence is shown by the street names in the community — Du Pont, Morse, Patterson, Jackson, and Bacchus.
In the 1880’s, virtually every aspect of an employee’s life was influenced by his employer, from livelihood to social activities to housing. The Du Pont Clubhouse was constructed in 1883 to provide social and recreational activities to unwind after a long day’s labor. The Club provided a library, auditorium, bowling alley, billiard tables, luncheon counter, exercise room, gymnasium, and tennis courts.
The old stone, two-room schoolhouse became inadequate with the increase in population and in 1906 was sold to Thomas Munyan of Pitman who constructed a new frame, four-room schoolhouse for $7,000. An eight-room stone building was erected in 1923 and the frame building was replaced by stone additions in later years.
The original stone schoolhouse was used for church services until a frame Clonmell Methodist Church was built in 1879. This building was sold to Mr. Vitalino Verdinelli and the present stone church was built on the same site.
Prior to 1930, a priest traveled to Gibbstown every Sunday to celebrate Mass in a private home. A church was then constructed at the corner of Repauno and Broad Street. Attendance grew as the town enlarged, and a new church was built on Memorial Avenue in 1972. The Christ Presbyterian Church was erected in 1965 on Swedesboro Road.
The town roads in the early years were loose sand and oyster shells and were scraped once a year -just before Election Day! It wasn’t until 1922 that the concrete road that is now Broad Street was built. This road, then designated as Route 130, was one of the main corridors between New York and Baltimore and was in constant use by trucks moving between the two cities until Interstate 295 opened in the middle 1950’s.
Hiram Hall, inventor of the Hall Machine at Du Pont, drove the first car through town on May 5, 1899, completing a trip from Gloucester City to Gibbstown in 55 minutes.
On March 12, 1900 ten men banded together and established a Charter for the Gibbstown Fire Company. “We, William A. Gardner, John H. Mitchell, George Munyan, Frank Daniels, Charles Snyder, Samuel Munyan, William B. Tussey, Charles Wolfe, Robert M. Carter, and William H. Mitchell, all of Gibbstown, in the Township of Greenwich, County of Gloucester, and State of New Jersey, do hereby certify that we nave associated ourselves together for the purpose of protecting life and property from fire, and, having published notice of our intention to become incorporated under and in accordance with the provisions of an Act of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, entitled An “act for the incorporation of fire companies,” approved April 21 sI, A.D. 1876, and calling a meeting for that purpose to be held at the building of the fire company in Gibbstown, County of Gloucester and State aforesaid, at eight 0′ clock, on the evening of the twelfth day of March, A.D. 1900, and requesting the members of the said Association to be present thereat, notice of the same being published in the Paulsboro Press, a newspaper printed and published in this county, and circulating in the neighborhood where such company was intended to be formed, for two weeks prior to this date of said meeting, (the said notice being published two consecutive times immediately preceding the date of said meeting, to wit: once on March 2d, and once on March 9th, A.D. 1900, an affidavit of the publication of which is hereunto annexed and made a part hereof,) the following is a copy of said notice:
The members of the Gibbstown Fire Association are requested to meet at the fire company’s building in Gibbstown, County of Gloucester, and the State of New Jersey, at eight o’clock on the evening of the twelfth of March, A.D. 1900. The object of the meeting is to incorporate the said Association, according to the provisions of an Act of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, entitled “An Act for the incorporation of fire companies,” approved April 21 si, A.D. 1876.
And being now assembled at the time and place aforesaid, in pursuance of said notice, we do assume and choose as our corporate name “The Gibbstown Fire Company, of Gibbstown, New Jersey,” and declare the object of such Association to be the protection of life and property from fire in the village of Gibbstown, County of Gloucester , State of New Jersey, and that such Association is to continue from March 12th, A.D. 1900, until March 12th, A.D. 1950.” From this nucleus grew the organization that is today’s Gibbstown Volunteer Fire Company, No. 1, its object still the protection of life and property from fire. While we celebrate our one-hundredth anniversary based on the March 12, 1900 date, the first recorded minutes in our organization’s files are from a meeting held on November 20, 1899. However , at this meeting, minutes from the previous meeting were read and approved. Progress was reported on finding a place to put buckets and ladders and a Committee was formed to procure the buckets and ladders. Therefore, we assume that conception occurred prior to November 20 but birth was on March 12,1900.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE COMPANY’S SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
NOVEMBER 2, 1898
A disastrous fire destroyed the barn and crib-house of Joseph L. Baileyon property now owned by the Du Pont Company. Ten men met in the grocery store of Charles H. Hartman and, between eating peanuts, cheese, and crackers and smoking, agreed that something must be done to help a neighbor in time of fire. They discussed ways and means of organizing a substantial fighting force in case of another disastrous fire visited the village of Gibbstown. After about an hour of serious discussion, the men went to their respective homes and the plans died there.
MARCH 2, 1899
A terrible fire destroyed the house and barn of Michael Fiskey on Tomlin Road (now the George Miller farm). Again the concern was raised — no water, no buckets, no organization. Again peanuts, cheese, crackers, smoking and serious discussion in the same Hartman store and again, no action.
OCTOBER 6, 1899
The barn of Asa Harker was totally destroyed by fire. The group gathered again in the same store but this time ignored the peanuts, cheese, and crackers and set plans to secure a meeting place. Herbert C. Chase, the President of the Gibbstown Brass Band, gave consent for the Band House to be occupied by the then organizing Fire Company, promising free rent. The Fire Company would have to furnish fuel for heat in the old-fashioned cylinder stove.
NOVEMBER 20, 1899
First available recorded meeting minutes. Joseph Harker appeared with a new twelve-quart bucket. Benjamin G. Paul interceded for a charter, which was later obtained. Charles Snyder suggested that the Company obtain three thirty foot ladders to be kept at the firehouse. A motion was made to procure a small wagon to carry the ladders after Charles Wolfe objected to carrying them across fields to the fires. Frank Daniels made a motion to obtain twenty four twelve-quart buckets. Motions carried. Samuel Guant donated a small wagon which was modified with a twenty-foot sapling taken from the swamp by Andrew Wilson. Thomas Williams replaced the tongue with one eight feet long and fitted with a twelve foot long rope for the men to pull by. Later, it was found be nearly impossible to get enough water at a fire scene, so a large hogshead was placed on the wagon. Some pumped water, using a small pump similar to the one now in the Lobby of the Firehouse on Broad Street, and some carried water, as long as it lasted.
DECEMBER 19, 1899
Buckets and ladders have arrived and are on the Repauno Chemical Company wharf. A committee was formed to procure axes. A motion was made to form a Fire Company.
JANUARY 1, 1900
Buckets and ladders have been received.
JANUARY 15, 1900
Two axes and four lanterns have been procured.
MARCH 12, 1900
The Gibbstown Fire Company Charter was established.
NOVEMBER 13, 1900
The Fire Company adopted a Constitution and Bylaws.
FEBRUARY 4, 1902
A motion was made to investigate the cost of a chemical tank. A chemical tank is a large soda-acid fire extinguisher mounted on a truck or wagon.
JULY 8, 1902
A James T. Boyd Chemical Tank has been purchased for $700.00.
SEPTEMBER 2, 1902
An agreement was entered into with Sarah F. Allen for the purchase of a lot on Repauno Avenue.
MAY 2, 1905
The Company approved a building for the lot on Repauno Avenue.
MAY 12, 1905
The Company joined the Gloucester County Firemen ‘ s Association.
APRIL 22, 1918
A Ladies Auxiliary was formed.
MARCH 20, 1918
The Company has been investigating the cost of a motorized piece of apparatus. Du Pont Company has offered to furnish an American La France for $6,000. The Company accepts.
MAY 21, 1918
One of Gibbstown’s most outstanding citizens, Dr. Chester I. Ulmer, who came to Gibbstown in 1916, was elected an honorary member free of dues. Later in the year, Dr. lnmer served the community with heroic efforts during the influenza epidemic.
OCTOBER 1, 1918
The hook and ladder wagon that apparently was built by the members was sold to Woodbury Heights for $20.
DECEMBER 30, 1919
The mortgage on the Firehouse was paid off.
AUGUST 31, 1920
The Chemical Tank purchased in 1902 was sold to Mantua No.2 Fire Company for $100.
SEPTEMBER 21, 1920
After much discussion and consideration, the siren was placed in operation. The cost was $385.
JUNE 12, 1921
The house of William W. Carson was consumed by a seething mass of flame before the Company could respond. A loaded double-barreled shot gun burned to a white heat but the shells did not go off
FEBRUARY 27, 1934
A service truck was purchased from Budd Motor Company in Woodbury .
DECEMBER 4, 1934
A horn was purchased and installed.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1937
A new building was being discussed.
AUGUST 5, 1938
A new Peter Pirsch pumper on a Diamond T chassis was housed. The truck was purchased through Ernie Day at Great Eastern.
APRIL 4, 1939
The need for a new truck was discussed.
JANUARY 9, 1940
A discussion about the location for a new firehouse was held with the Township Committee. A committee of firemen was formed with Clyde Shrivery, Frank Shuster, Frank Wohlrab, Harold Wohlrab, Al Gordan, William Leach, Walt Mattson, and Herb Hoyt as members.
APRIL 9, 1940
Final plans for the new firehouse have been presented to the Company and the Township Committee.
JULY 11, 1940
The Fire Company formed the Eagle Band and the first practice was held.
SEPTEMBER 3, 1940
Bids were received for the construction of the new firehouse. George Bachman of Camden was awarded the contract at a cost of $50,000.
SEPTEMBER 10, 1940
The need for an ambulance was recognized. A committee was appointed to raise money necessary to purchase an ambulance. Harold Wohlrab, Raymond Smith, Herb Hoyt, Clyde Shivery, Robert Gibison, Howard Cassidy, and Al Gordan were members.
AUGUST 19, 1941
The Trustees were authorized to sell the present Firehouse and set aside the funds for the relief of the Firemen of this Company.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1941
A celebration was held for the dedication of the new Firehouse. Fire Companies numbering 120 from Camden, Salem, and Gloucester Counties took part in the parade and dedication ceremonies. Frank H. Wohlrab, Jr. headed the committee on arrangements and other members included Walter Mattson, Fred Troutman, Albert Curnmings, George Williams, Raymond Gibson, William H. Leach, and Frank P. Schuster, II. Chairman Charles E. Cooke of the Township Committee presented the completed building to the firemen and Frank H. Wohlrab, Jr. accepted it on behalf of the Company Trustees. The parade formed at Greens Station and proceeded west to Allen Avenue, thence to Democrat Road to Broad Street, east on Broad Street to the Firehouse where the parade disbanded. The Eagle Band, sponsored by the Fire Company, participated as well as the Italian American Citizens Band of Gibbstown. Other bands accompanied visiting Fire Companies. The Fire Company is headed by Raymond Smith as president and Clyde Shivery as Chief and boasts 30 active members and 28 exempt firemen. Fire Company equipment, second to none, includes an American La France Pumper, a Peter Pirsch Diamond T Smoke Eater Pumper” and a Brockway Supply and Chemical Tank.
OCTOBER 7, 1941
A Cadillac ambulance was purchased from Wolfington Body Company to serve the residents of Gibbstown.
House Rules were established for the new Firehouse. Visitors must be accompanied by a Fireman. No one but Firemen are to use the first floor shower and men ‘s room The building must be locked when you leave. No alcoholic beverages are allowed. No smoking is allowed in the Engine Room. No spitting on the floor.
OCTOBER 21, 1941
The building in back of the old Firehouse was sold.
NOVEMBER 11, 1941
The old Firehouse was sold.
JANUARY 20, 1942
The Fire Company sponsored Troop No. 17 of the Boy Scouts.
OCTOBER 13, 1942
A pool table was purchased for $40.
JANUARY 29, 1946
The purchase of a new fire truck was discussed.
A television was purchased for the Firehouse.
FEBRUARY 17, 1949
A new truck, a Peter Pirsch purchased from Great Eastern, was delivered.
MAY 7, 1949
The Pirsch was housed with a joint celebration with the V .F. W. for their new building dedication
FEBRUARY 7, 1950
A resolution was drafted to incorporate the Fire Company permanently.
FEBRUARY 21, 1950
A letter was received from Mr. E. Klaisz stating that the Company is permanently incorporated.
NOVEMBER 27, 1951
A committee was formed to consider a new truck.
FEBRUARY 19, 1950
An extra exit was requested for the basement.
FEBRUARY 10, 1951
The Eagle Band was dissolved after twelve years and seven months of existence.
MAY 5, 1953
The new truck, built on a Diamond T chassis and purchased from Ernie Day of Great Eastern, was accepted.
JUNE 8, 1954
A Benefit Fund was established.
A new Cadillac ambulance was delivered, replacing an ambulance purchased in 1947.
The new Diamond T was delivered.
A committee was formed to consider the purchase of a new truck.
JUNE 4, 1960
A new Mack fire truck was delivered and-a housing celebrated.
JANUARY 12, 1965
McCorkle’s Garage was purchased and is now No.2 Firehouse and the Township Garage.
MARCH 5, 1968
A committee was formed to consider the purchase of a new truck.
JULY 3, 1968
A new ambulance was delivered.
APRIL 4, 1969
A new Ward La France pumper was delivered. This is the first 1250 GPM Diesel-powered pumper in Gloucester County.
JUNE 7, 1969
The Ward La France was housed.
JANUARY 13, 1970
A new ambulance was delivered.
FEBRUARY 1, 1971
The Township Committee approved a new truck.
JANUARY 18, 1972
The restoration of the 1938 Diamond T was discussed.
MAY 13, 1972
The new Ward La France was delivered.
JUNE 2, 1972
The new Ward La France was housed.
JUNE 5, 1972
The 1953 Diamond T was sold to Aura.
AUGUST 8, 1972
The Diamond T leaves for Aura.
An Easter tragedy claims the lives of three children in a house fire on Broad Street.
OCTOBER 17, 1974
The new ambulance was received.
MARCH 18, 1975
A chassis was ordered for a new rescue truck.
MAY 20, 1975
The rescue truck chassis was completed.
JUNE 7, 1975
The Seventy-fifth Anniversary of our Company’s Charter was celebrated with a parade, refreshments, and entertainment. Thousands attended.
JUNE 24, 1975
The body was ready to be installed on the rescue truck.
AUGUST 1, 1977
The new rescue truck was received. It was placed in service on August 12.
JUNE 7, 1977
The Pierce Mini-pumper was received. The Peter Pirsch was removed from service.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1977
A parade was held to house the pierce Mini-pumper, the 1975 Rescue truck, and the restored 1938 Diamond T.
DECEMBER 7, 1977
Our Company participated in fighting the Rollins fire in Logan Township.
A fire in a storage tank in the Mobil tank farm took three days and the efforts of300 men, and 102 pieces of equipment to put out.
MARCH 4, 1980
MAY 18, 1982
Five members left for Wisconsin to pickup the new Pierce fire truck.
JUNE 8, 1982
The new truck is in service.
JULY 6, 1982
The 1960 Mack was sold to Rollins.
OCTOBER 9, 1982
The new truck was housed and the Company hosted a parade.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1983
The first discussion was held on separating the Ambulance Squad from the Fire Company.
FEBRUARY 7, 1984
A proposal on separating the Ambulance Squad and the Fire Company was passed.
OCTOBER 29, 1985
The owner of the 1918 American La France offered the truck to the Company. No price was stated. No action was taken on the offer because of lack of space to store the truck and limited time to work on it to restore it. The truck was ultimately purchased by someone in North Jersey and restored.
JANUARY 5, 1989
A new truck was delivered from E-l from Ocala, FL for $146,000, replacing the 1969 Ward La France.
The Fire Company purchased a new Chevrolet Suburban for a little more than $19,000.
A 1992 KME 1500 GPM Rescue Engine was purchased for $177,000. The 1972 Ward La France Pumper, the ‘977 Chevrolet Pierce Mini-pumper, and the 1974 GMC Rescue Truck were sold for $70,000.
APRIL 7, 1992
A Junior Firefighter Program was adopted.
The Building Committee began working with the Township Committee on plans for a new firehouse. A Future Planning Committee was organized in March, 1989 because of concerns about the replacement of equipment and the perceived need for a central firehouse location to replace the old firehouses then in service.
A specialized rescue team was formed with East Greenwich Township Fire Departments.
The Township Committee and the Fire Company finalized the new Firehouse plans. The facility will be located at the site of the No. 2 Firehouse and Municipal Garage and will combine Stations 1 and 2 into one facility.
MAY 3, 1994
A new Chevrolet pickup was purchased and converted to a Brush Unit.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1994
The new Brush Unit was placed into service.
After permitting and bids were completed, construction began on the new Firehouse.
NOVEMBER 7, 1995
The last meeting was held in the Walnut Street Firehouse, home of the Company since September 20, 1941.
The Company moved into the new Firehouse. The Company contributed $120,000 of the $650,000 cost of the facility. The sum was raised through contributions of industry and our citizens.
A four-door cab Ford pickup was purchased to be used as a utility unit and to tow the marine units. The 1991 Chevrolet Suburban will be used as a command unit.
A KME Pumper Tanker was purchased for $249,000. The truck carries 3,000 gallons of water and has a 1500 GPM pump. It replaces the 1988 E-l Pumper that was sold for $100,000.
New KME 75 foot Quint was purchased to replace the 1981 Pierce Squirt. The new ladder truck cost $465,000. The Squirt was sold to the Sidney, Illinois Fire Department for $100,000 to offset the cost of the new unit.
JUNE 3, 2000 –
Marks the 100th Anniversary for the Fire Department. A celebration was held, beginning with a parade that started on Broad Street at the VFW and ended at the Fire Station. The day included food, beverages and music. Trophies were awarded to winning apparatus from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
JUNE 3, 2001 –
Rescue Engine 2112 and Engine 2111 were involved in a collision while responding to a reported vehicle fire on Route 295. Unit 2112 was totaled in the accident and 2111 required extensive repairs. The Department continued normal operation with the help of loaner apparatus from Bridgeport, Deptford, and Mount Royal Fire Departments. A special thanks to all those who assisted.