Journey of the Fetzner Knipper Fire Wagon Story an Interview with Bud Steeb

Kay Pollok’s interview with Bud Steeb when Kay was Vice President, of the Historical Society of Greece September 25, 1972.

This interview with Bud tells the story of the Fetzner Knipper Fire Wagon:

Kay: Bud, how and where did you acquire this fire wagon?

Bud: I first became aware of the existence of this antique piece of fire equipment at a garage sale in Rochester in April, 1970. The owner, Mr. Henry Griffin of Paddy Hill Drive, Greece, took me to the nearby residence of his father-in-law where it was stored in the garage along with a hose reel which was used to carry additional hose. This is a picture of the equipment taken when it was owned by Mr. Griffin. Both vehicles were lettered for the Greece Ridge Fire Department Greece Ridge had them on display in the old firehouse and had lettered them for their company. When the old firehouse was torn down to make way for the new one, this equipment was returned to Mr. Ray Fetzner who was the real owner. This is a picture of the equipment as it was stored in the basement of Ray Fetzner’s garage. Actually, the units were never owned or used by Greece Ridge, as it was always privately owned. Mr. Griffin said that he understood this was the first wheeled fire equipment in the Town of Greece and that he wanted to dispose of it to a museum or a collector, and that he had owned it for a very short while I was afraid that it might be purchased by someone out of the Rochester/Greece area and immediately began to negotiate for its purchase. Mr. Griffin and I reached an agreement and it was acquired by me on April 21, 1970.

Kay: How did you learn the history since the man had only owned it a short time?

Bud: At the time of purchase Mr. Griffin disclosed that he had purchased it from Ray Fetzner, prior to the time Fetzner’s garage on Ridge Road was razed to make room for the expansion of the Greece Towne Mall. I knew Mr. Fetzner slightly and through various talks with him, I was able to put together a history of the fire wagon, which at this time was not complete and is subject to future additions. Ray Fetzner’s story is as follows: During the 1870s and into the 1900s Ray’s father and uncle operated the JMF Fetzner Carriage Manufatury which included blacksmithing and painting. This is a picture of the Fetzner business as it existed in the 1870s.

This business was conducted in two wooden buildings connected by a third structure also of wood construction. A photo of this business exists in the Greece Historical Society archives through the courtesy of Mr. Fetzner Adjacent to the Fetzner family business and a short distance to the west was Peter Knipper’s Hotel, which was later operated by his son-in-law, William Buckert, and known as Buckert’s Hotel. Sometime in the 1890s a fire damaged a Fetzner property since there were no organized fire companies in Greece, the Fetzner and Knipper families decided, for their mutual protection, they had better seek a better way to combat any future fires than by the old and only method known then, the bucket brigade. The result was the purchase of a then modern and sophisticated for the time, piece of firefighting apparatus which is our subject of discussion.

Where it was purchased and exactly when and by whose foresightedness, it’s not known today. But in retrospect, it certainly must have been a wonderful addition to the Ridge Road scene in those happy and uncomplicated Victorian days. Ray Fetzner, who admits to being in his mid-seventies, states that it was housed in a small shed between the Fetzner and Knipper establishments as far back as he can remember. This picture shows the firehouse we referred to and believe it or not, that is Ray Fetzner holding the hose This was apparently a demonstration of the fire-fighting equipment. Mr. Peter Knipper, who was the first chief, stands under the street light and Ray Fetzner’s father stands in the doorway of the firehouse Ray, as a young man, helped to pull the equipment to fight fires. A picture of the firehouse and the Fetzner garage which Ray operated for so many years, is also on file in the Greece Historical Society archives. Again, through Mr. Fetzner’s kindness.

Kay: Bud, who were the builders of this equipment?

Bud: Well, whether the fire wagon was imported to the United States complete as it now exists, or whether only the pressure tanks were imported, is not known. On each of the two tanks, which are solid brass of riveted and brazed, construction, are two identification tags which are soldered on. One square embossed brass tag has the following description: “Fire extinguisher, F Carlier’s patent, U.S. Monnet and Company, Paris, France, 40 Rue Notre Dame, Pat. March 30, 1869”. The other tag is oval in shape and is embossed “Bate and Pinkham, pat. March 30, 1869”. They apparently were the importers.

The hose reel is obviously a carriage shop fabrication and very nicely done. Ray Fetzner is not sure who made it, but in all probability, it was made in the Fetzner Carriage Shop. This is a purely personal opinion based on my examination of several commercial and manufactured hose reels.

Kay: How was this equipment operated, and how was it moved to a fire?

Bud: Essentially, this equipment comes under the classification of a soda acid, pressure-operated, hand-drawn extinguisher. This picture shows the equipment hand-drawn in the 1972 Barnard Firemen’s parade. It operates on the same principle as an extinguisher still used, which hangs on a wall on a hook and is activated by tipping upside down. The tanks on the fire wagon, which are mounted vertically,
employ a crusher to release a sulphuric acid which mixes with the soda water solution in the tank, thereby generating tremendous pressure. While I do not know exactly how the equipment was handled, I assume that the tanks were charged with a soda water solution, and a two-quart bottle of acid was placed in the crusher which was incorporated in the pressure-type cap The crusher was a brass cage built on the bottom of the cap so that when the cap was screwed on tight against the heavy gasket by means of a 26-inch spanner, the bottle was inside the tank ready to be broken by the crusher which was screw-operated from the outside of the cap. A seat placed between the tanks was occupied by a fireman with his feet placed on stirrups at the bottom level of the tanks, who on the way to the fire operated the crusher handle so that on arrival at the fire, the front tank was pressurized When the front tank was exhausted, the rear tank was used while the front tank was recharged This was accomplished by a system of valves and piping known as a Siamese manifold.

Kay: Bud, what are the physical characteristics of a fire wagon?

Bud: Well, the length is seven-foot-three, the draw-bar length is six-foot-six, with a quick detachable rig on it. The overall length of the wagon is 13 feet nine inches. The width is five foot eight, the height is five foot five. The estimated weight is 1,500 pounds. The tanks are 18 inches in diameter by 35 inches high of brass plate, tapered at the top like a thermos bottle. The front wheels are 38 inches in diameter. The rear wheels are 43 inches in diameter with brass hub caps and iron tires. The front toolbox has compartments for eight bottles of acid. The rear toolbox holds 50 feet of high-pressure hose and nozzles, a fire axe, a pinch bar, a spanner wrench for tank caps, wagon jacks, wrenches, etc. Other equipment consists of two kerosene fire department lanterns on brackets, two 100-pound pressure gauges (one on each tank) test petcocks, Siamese manifold with necessary valves, four coated fabric fire buckets, a leather embossed belt “alert hose #1” and a white chief’s helmet with a hand-painted tablet showing side arm hand pumper with initials PK which stands for Peter Knipper who was the first chief of this fire company. The hose reel is four foot six inches long with a draw-bar four foot four inches long, giving an overall length of eight foot ten inches. It is 48 inches wide and the wheels are 49 inches in diameter. It carries an eight-inch wooden drum with eight 18-inch winding handles on each side of the drum.

Kay: This equipment is now the property of Mr. Bud Steeb, who feels these historical items should not leave this area, but should always be associated with the Greece Historical Society. Thank you, Bud, for a job very well done.


(Bud Steeb sold this fire wagon to the Greece Historical Society for $1,500 in 1979.)

Typed: 5/24/88 Digitized: 11/07/2022

Bicentennial Snapshot # 16 – ‘ADA’ Ridge Hamlet

Map with each hamlet listed click to view a larger image

In the early years of the town, there were little hamlets or unincorporated villages that people called different sections of Greece, for example, you have ADA Ridge which is the intersection of Mitchell Road Long Pond Road, and Ridge Road, Jekin’s Corner/North Greece is located at Latta Road and North Greece Road, South Greece is at Elmgrove Road at the Erie Canal, Dewey Stone Hamlet is right at where Dewey ave meets Stone Road, Paddy Hill/Read’s Corner is at Mount Read and Latta.

This week we explore the Hamlet of Ada which is at the intersection of Mitchell Road, Long Pond Road, and Ridge Road, this is where the center of town offices was except for the Department of Public Works until 1997 when the complex moved to the Greece Center area just north of Latta on Long Pond. We first told you about how the ridge was a glacial ridge, then the stagecoach route in episode 11, and the toll plank road from Long Pond Road to Elmgrove Road in episode 12, we introduce you to William Anderson General store and that was the post office for Ada in episode 14. You might have learned about the early Rowe family with the settlement at King’s Landing in the 4th snapshot. and we look at Asa Rowes’ Nursery business in snapshot 13.

Anderson’s General Store

In Snapshot 14 we told you that there were many general stores that people would shop at to get items for everyday living and one of these stores was William Anderson general store. William H Anderson was born in October 1849 in a small community called Ada Michigan, and he came to Greece, New York later in life with his wife Lois E. (Hyatt) Anderson. It was in Greece that he became a postmaster and opened his general store on the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Mitchell Road.

William H Anderson General Store
William H Anderson General Store

Did you know that a portion of Ridge Road was a toll-based planked road?

1872 map by F. W. Beers
1872 map by F. W. Beers

Note on the map on the left the Y-shaped conjunction of Long Pond Road, then known as Greece Centre Road, on the left, and the road that borders the property of farmer Erastus Walker on the right. In the 1860s there was a section that was planked it was from Long Pond Road to Elmgrove Road (Henpeck Road). It was a 2.5-mile stretch that was plank which means the road was made of wooden planks it was thought to have been 9 1⁄2 miles (15.3 km) and chartered on October 23, 1848, and there was a court case involving Kenyon vs the Seeley over the tolls that were collected on this plank road. Locals didn’t think it was necessary to pay to use the road. Erastus Walker used to cut across his fields to bypass the toll gate. After being used by so many, so often it became a right of way. Just south of the Walker property was land owned by the Mitchells. Eventually, the Mitchells would own the Walker Land and the name of the road changed to Mitchell Road.

Greece Baptist Church

Greece Baptist Church was one of the first churches in the town. The first building for Greece Baptist Church was built in the 1830s at the corner of Ridge Road and Long Pond Road. Picture in the video was its home until 1962 when the new home for Greece Baptist church was built at the end of Walker St a street that runs east-west and parallels just north of the ridge it runs just behind Buckman’s Plaza and now it connects the newly formed Greece Baptist Church Parkway. The Cole and Kenyon families are founding members of the Greece Baptist Church, Cousins Deb Myers and Maureen Murphy are descendants of the families who attended this church and help found Greece Baptist Church. The reason for the Church to move 700 feet was the community was growing by leaps and bounds after world war 2 and Ridge road expanded from one lane in each direction to a four-lane with two lanes going eastbound and two lanes going westbound. It recently turned 190 years and in ten years it will be celebrating its own bicentennial.

The Rowe Tavern

The original Rowe tavern that Asa’s father started in the early 1800s no exact date of the day it opened but we believe it was somewhere around circa 1804 but with no exact records or proof other than on a map showing that shows where it was located. The Rowe Tavern burned down in 1845 while being operated by R.P. Edgarton at that time while Asa was running his Horticultural and Nursery farm. It was later rebuilt.

St. Johns Church, the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church.

1875 Picture of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church
1875 Picture of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church
St Johns 1964 Church
2014 Picture of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church Now photo by Bill Sauers

St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church was founded as a satellite parish of Our Mother of Sorrows Church. The original 20 congregants met in the Rowe tavern building from 1865 until 1876 when they were able to construct a church on the site. The tavern building became the priests’ rectory. Later on, the Church would expand to add a school and then a completely new structure set back further from the road to its new Church which is featured in two separate recordings about the Architect James H. Johnson (May 2012) and the Architecture of James H. Johnson (May 2019) but later on the church would sell the old rectory and school. The St Johns school lot became a Royal Car Wash.

We also had a Tuesday program with one of the families that were part of the original St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church her name is Carolyn Kerhaert a descendant of the VOLKMAR family who came to Greece about 1865 and help found St. John’s Church.

Up Close with Two Greece Pioneer Families – the Volkmar and Cole/Kenyon families May 10, 2022

The Falls Hotel

A little way down no more than 30 feet was the Falls Hotel. It opened under the ownership of William Fall, later it was operated by T. B. Hiett this would explain why the street Hiett Rd runs parallel to the Ridge and ends when you enter into the parking lot of St. Johns Church, the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church.

Second Falls Tavern from GHS
Second Falls Tavern from GHS

The Falls hotel also had a fire this was not till 1883 when the hotel was under the management of Willam Gentle who was the proprietor at the time of the fire. The Falls Hotel would later be reborn but it took some skills and lots of logs to basically move the Old Rowe Tavern from where the old Rectory for St. Johns Church stands today and move it across the road to where the entrance to Red Robin at the Mall at Greece Ridge is at today. The deal made to move the Tavern involved the congregants, the Pastor of the church, and the proprietor of the building moving it across the way to build the church.

The Fetzner Family

Fetzner Blacksmith and Carriage shop

The Fetzner family ran a Blacksmith and Carriage shop also they were one of the first families that ran a fire company in the hamlet of Ada at the intersection of Ridge, Long Pond, and Mitchell Roads. In 1876, two brothers, Frank and John Fetzner, opened the Fetzner Brothers Blacksmith and Carriage shops on West Ridge Road across the street from the St. John the Evangelist Church and next door to the Falls Hotel. Peter Knipper who was married to the Fetzner’s cousin, Mary Mura, bought the Falls Hotel in 1889.

In this 1960s picture on the Left is Fetzner Garage | Richards on the Ridge to the right
In this 1960s picture on the Left is Fetzner Garage | Richards on the Ridge to the right

They were one of the groups of merchants who went in on a soda acid chemical to fight fires in the area of Ada in the museum we have a soda acid chemical hand-pulled truck.

Buckman’s

Stay tuned for a snapshot of Buckman’s Dairy and Bakery but in the meantime, we have a program on Buckman’s Dairy History recorded in July 2017, and here is an article from our newsletter titled Buckmans Dairy. Homer J. Buckman – Sold Milk, Cream, and Lollipops!!! – From the historian’s Files.

Facebooktwittermail