Title: Fire Station Foreman
Birthdate: June 28, 1848
Death Date: April 19, 1895
Plot Location: Section 101, Lot 206
William and family came to Newark, Delaware from Ireland in 1856, after “the Great Hunger,” referring to the famine there from the mid-1840s to the early 1850s. Their family is an example of “chain migration” where one member of the family immigrated, then saved enough money to send back to their family so they could join them. In this case, the eldest daughter was in her early 20s in 1853 when she arrived in Philadelphia as a domestic servant for a wealthy family.
William was too young to participate in the Civil War but his brother Joseph did, whose own Notable story is here. William’s life is not well documented, but as a young adult he was a volunteer firefighter before the city organized a paid fire department in 1871. He married a woman named Kate and they had one child named Willie in 1874 who only lived about a year.
He worked for most of that decade as a police officer, as many Irish men did. By 1880 he was a paid firefighter with the rank of “hoseman.” As time went by he moved up to become “foreman” of Company 32, equivalent to the captain of that station.
In 1895 William answered his last call, responding to a fire on Front Street above Race (where the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is today). The four-story building was the New York Biscuit Company bakery. (It would merge three years later to form the National Biscuit Company, or Nabisco.) While trying to save an adjoining property, William died and five others were injured when they were buried under one of the bakery’s walls.
Kate buried him here, then died exactly eight months later. Presumably, Joseph and his brothers stepped in to erect this stone over their graves, including an inscription for “Our baby Willie” on one side.
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