Berwick’s Oldest Fire Company: The Reliance Fire Company, No. 1


In the year 1899 a group of ambitious young men wanted to do something beneficial for their town. These men joined together and decided to form the organization we now know today as Berwick, Pennsylvania’s Oldest Fire Company;
Reliance Fire Company, No. 1.
On May 19, in the early 1900s, Reliance submitted an application for a charter which was printed in the two newspapers of general circulation in Columbia County at the time, the Berwick Independent and The Berwick Enterprise. The charter was notarized by the Notary Public, J.S. Jacoby. The men taking oath for the charter were: John T. Smethers, A. Bason and Frank Ent. The application was presented to the Court by James L. Evans, Esquire and the presiding Judge was R.R. Linn. The recorded date of the application presentation was August 11, 1900.



On July 30, 1900, before the application presentation, a committee of five members was appointed to divide the town’s fire protection into five wards. The appointed committee members were: Archie Averill, D.E. Davis, W.G. Fowler, E. Eveland and Parvin Groh.
The first place the members of Reliance met was the old Town Hall on Second Street; from there they moved to the Patriotic Order Sons of America (P.O.S. of A.) Club Room; then they moved to the Morrison Jackson barn on Mulberry Street and on April 2, 1902 money was loaned to the company and they bought the Berger property across from the barn. A three story building 35x50 feet was erected on this property. On August 11, 1919 a retaining wall was built on the south side of the property’s driveway. The mortgage and bond held by John Fairchilds was cancelled on November 3, 1919 and on January 1, 1920 the company burned the mortgage and celebrated by inviting all members and their families to a New Year’s dinner which became an annual affair. Over the years the New Year’s tradition was not continued, but Reliance still likes to try to get together at least once a year to celebrate the Company. The present day location of the Reliance Fire Company is 501 West 3rd Street in Berwick.


Around the same time the Reliance Fire Company was created Borough Council decided to give the Company a four-wheel cart to use which they converted into a horse cart. The horse they used was property of Ed Averill. Later the Company purchased a new hand cart, 500 feet of hose and eventually a whistle which was placed on the electric light plant from where all alarms were sounded. In May of 1916, the borough gave the Company a Reo chassis and the members built a body for it, this was their first truck. The committee members appointed to look after the truck were: W.L. Smith, Dea Terwilliger, H.L. Williams, William Terrill, John F. Splain and Walter H. Lee. On January 9, 1923, the Company asked Borough Council to purchase a hook and ladder truck which was bought shortly after. On March 21, 1927, the first payment was made on the LaFrance pumper and on April 25 the company sold its first truck; the old Reo.
Historical information taken from: 1941; 3rd Annual 4th of July Berwick Firemen’s Celebration Pamphlet