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Simcoe Fire Department History

The Erie Fire Company

At one time, the Simcoe Fire Companies consisted of two separate companies, No. 1 Company and The North Ward or “Wellington Brigade”. No. 1 Company had its fire department on The Market Square, while the firehouse of The Wellington Brigade was located on the south side of Windham Street, about halfway between Colborne and Talbot Streets, just south of the present North School building. Many years ago, this building was sold by the town and has since been used for residential purposes.

A few paragraphs from Lewis Brown’s History of Simcoe 1829-1929 give the following account:

“After the new engine was installed, the old “cataract” which had done service for more than 25 years, was, at the sug­ gestion of Councillor Coates, taken to the North Ward, overhauled, and the poles on either side lengthened so as to accommodate three added men each to increase the power. A frame building was erected as shelter and a comfortable hall upstairs for a meeting place. This was the Alpha of the North Ward Fire Company, and as it turned out, although they had only the old engine, they “cut some ice.” We don’t mean on Sutton’s pond, but at the fire when there was one downtown.” “There was many a race between Number 1 and Number 2, and although Number 1 had the best of it for distance, it was not at all infrequent for Number 2 to head them off. Too much praise cannot be given to our North Ward Fire Brigade for all these fifty-odd years. When there was something doing they were ever “Johnny on the job.”

The Old Fire Hall

The Old Fire Hall was built in 1889. It faced Talbot Street with the Bell Tower on the south side.

The Simcoe Arena, on the west side of Talbot Street just north of Robinson, was built in 1948 in the same location as the Old Fire Hall and Bell Tower seen in the above photo. This picture, taken in 1907, shows the Fire Brigade and their equip­ ment of this time. The photographer was standing in the centre of the  Market Square Block, looking east toward the back of the fire hall building. The white house in the background was located on the east side of Talbot Street just north of the present Armouries. Apparently, the old Town bell was originally in a different location on Market Square and was once the subject of a lawsuit.

The following news items from various issues of the Norfolk Reformer tell this story:


“Jones, the maker of the bell in the Market Building, has again sued the town for payment for the bell. The suit being entered in the County Court, Toronto, which is now sitting.”

MARCH 17, 1870 –    “The long pending suit respecting the town bell was decided on Saturday against the town. The council will, therefore, have the pleasure of paying for a bell that, for all practical purposes, is perfectly useless to the town. What is to be done now? Is the bell to be used, or are we to have one that can be heard a couple of blocks away from the market square? The town has suffered inconvenience enough and it is high time something should be done .”

In subsequent issues of the Reformer, we discovered that the town appealed this lawsuit but lost the lawsuit in the Court of Appeal and had to pay not only the cost of the bell but also the cost of all the trials. The British Canadian reported on October 2, 1889: “The brickwork on the fire hall on the market square has been completed, and the tower has an imposing appearance. It is said the town bell is to be placed in it.”