Col. Giles’ Forgotten Fire Company

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How many times have I (or you) driven north up Port Hope’s Barrie Road from Hope Townships 4th to 5th Line just north of the Sylvan Glen Conservation Area and noticed a large barn with a neglected and forlorn wooden clad building facing the road? It stands out mostly because of its many garage doors, six to be exact and what looks like a one- time very attractive living quarters on the second floor of the building. At the north end of the property is two, tall leaning posts with another across the top of them, possibly a former sign advertising the use of this building?

Because of my love for ‘rustic’ old buildings this one really caught my eye! See: I Love The Word Rustic. One day recently I stopped to snap a few pictures of it. Upon careful examination, a faint and almost illegible sign could be seen above the doors…it reads ‘The Colonel Giles Fire Company’. Now the building’s many doors suddenly becomes apparent.   Upon mentioning the ‘sign’ posts to my nephew David, he explained that the posts were there to dry fire hoses after a fire. The second floor of the building was the fireman’s hall. The slightly smaller door at the north end of the station was used to store a Landrover which would tow a trailer with a portable water pump.

Despite very limited historical information available, it seems that in the early 1960’s the locals decided there was a great need for a fire station in what was then Hope Township (now amalgamated with the Town of Port Hope). The only other fire department in the area was miles away in the town of Port Hope, too far away for a quick response to emergencies. A planning meeting was held for a new hall in Canton and not long after the project was completed despite plenty of local opposition (mostly from the Town of Port Hope?).

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In 1964, Hope Township reeve W.T. Lightle called a special meeting of council to deal with by-laws concerning the legal establishment of a fire department in Hope Township. Colonel A.S. Giles attended this meeting with recently obtained current by-laws for establishing a volunteer fire fighting group that had recently been formed. He wanted official recognition for the Colonel Giles fire fighting force as the official fire fighters for Hope Township. Councilor George Stapleton as leader of this group said the passing of the latest by-laws was necessary for the protection of the members of the fire- fighting company. He was quoted as saying “we have been cautioned by Fire Chiefs in near-by municipalities and the Ontario Fire Marshalls Office that we could be sued for causing water damage if we took it upon ourselves as a private group to fight a fire in somebody’s house”. Councilor Stapleton also cautioned “without these by-laws, we would not have a leg to stand on in a court case. Without these by-laws we cannot even put a siren on our truck to clear the way when racing to a fire, because it is against the law to have one on a private vehicle”.

The members of the Col. Giles Fire Co. would not be paid. They would fight fires with privately owned equipment as a voluntary community and would remain as an independent and unpaid group even after passing of the by-law. Now, thanks to Col. Giles the legal battle for the fire station was settled.

The success of this building was greatly aided by cash donations, advice, building materials (the required lumber was cut from Gordon Austin’s woodlot nearby) and labor from local residents. Some very prominent locals named for the buildings success were the Barrie family, Neil Boughen, John Pope, Gus Deuchamp, Brenton Andrus and John Wells. Other local names such as Sidney Bennett, Donald Budd, Gordon Austin, Murwin Austin, George Stapleton and Lloyd Kellogg also figured prominently in this story.

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The only record of a fire call I have found was from a local paper and reads “Charles Goheen’s barn, less than a mile north/east of Port Hope burned on Saturday afternoon with a loss estimated at over $20,000. Hope Townships Col. Giles Fire Company was at the scene, aided later by Cobourg’s Brigade”. Another article stated “a Hamilton Fire Department Pumper was obtained by the Col. Giles Fire Company in 1966”. I believe this pumper is now located at the Port Hope Firefighters Museum. See:The Museum Building.

George Stapleton served as Captain of the Colonel Giles Fire Company for several years before assuming the position of the Fire Chief of Hope Township from 1967 to 1978 when he retired. The Colonel Giles Fire Company would have closed sometime around the time the new tax-payer funded Hope Township Fire Hall #1 was opened in the Village of Welcome in 1978. The Hope Township Fire Hall #2 was opened in Garden Hill in 1982.

Regards, Ranger.

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2 comments

  1. Excellent write-up Ranger. I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile now. Thanks for all the effort.
    Bushwhacker

    Like

  2. Thanks Bushwhacker, this post took a while to write due to lack of information available anywhere on the topic. That great ghost of a building needed its story told before it is gone forever. The volunteer fire fighters who worked from here should also be remembered and thanked as well.
    Ranger.

    Like

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