EDWARD J. DODOAMEAD was born in New Jersey around 1848 to Thomas and Louisa Dodamead. Thomas Dodamead was a brass finisher who brought his family to Camden in the 1840s from Pennsylvania. Edward was the youngest of at least five children, according to the 1850 and 1860 Censuses, which shows the family living in Camden's South Ward. 

On October 20, 1863 Edward Dodamead enlisted in the United States navy as a landsman. He mustered out on October 19, 1864.

Edward Dodamead was one of the original members of the Camden Fire Department, entering service on September 2, 1869 as the tillerman of the Hook and Ladder Company, the original designation of what is now Ladder Company 1. Prior to entering the fire department he had worked as an brass moulder, which is to say he worked pouring molten brass into moulds at a brass foundry.. He was living at the West Jersey Hotel when he joined the department in the fall of 1869.

On September 2, 1869 City Council enacted a municipal ordinance creating a paid fire department. It provided for the annual appointment of five Fire Commissioners, one Chief Marshal (Chief of Department) and two Assistant Marshals. The City was also divided into two fire districts. The boundary line ran east and west, starting at Bridge Avenue and following the tracks of the Camden and Amboy Railroad to the city limits. District 1 was south of this line and District 2 was north. The commissioners also appointed the firemen who were scheduled to work six 24 hour tours per week. William Abels, from the Weccacoe Hose Company No. 2 was appointed Chief Marshal with William J. Mines, from the Independence Fire Company No. 3 as Assistant Marshal for the 1st District, and William H. Shearman as the Assistant Marshal for the 2nd District. Abels had served with the volunteer fire departments of Philadelphia, Mobile, Alabama and Camden for sixteen years prior to his appointment as Chief of the paid force.

On November 10, 1869 City Council purchased the Independence Firehouse, the three-story brick building at 409 Pine Street, for $4500. The building was designated to serve as quarters for Engine Company 1 and the 1st District. On October 29, 1869 City Council authorized construction of a two-story brick building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Arch Streets as quarters for the 2nd District. On November 25th the Fire Commissioners signed a contract with M.N. Dubois in the amount of $3100 to erect this structure. The 2nd District would share these quarters with Engine Company 2 and the Hook & Ladder Company and the facility would also serve as department headquarters for the new paid force. The original contract remains part of the Camden County Historical Society collection. 

Engine Company 2 with 1869 Silsby Hose Cart. Photo Circa 1890. Note badges upon derby hats worn by Fire Fighters.  

Two Amoskeag second class, double pump, straight frame steam engines were purchased at a cost of $4250 each. Two Silsby two wheel hose carts, each of which carried 1000 feet of hose, were another $550 each and the hook & ladder, built by Schanz and Brother of Philadelphia was $900. Each engine company received a steam engine and hose cart. Amoskeag serial #318 went to Engine Company 1, and serial #319 to Engine Company 2. The Fire Commission also secured the services of the Weccacoe and Independence steamers in case of fire prior to delivery of the new apparatus. Alfred McCully of Camden made the harnesses for the horses. Camden's Twoes & Jones made the overcoats for the new firemen and a Mr. Morley, also of Camden, supplied the caps and belts which were manufactured by the Migeod Company of Philadelphia. The new members were also issued badges.

This is the earliest known photo of fire headquarters on the northwest corner of Fifth and Arch Streets. Originally built in 1869, the building shows signs of wear some twenty years later. Note the weathervane shaped like a fireman's speaking trumpet atop the tower. Also, the fire alarm bell is pictured to the left of the telegraph pole above the rooftop. The bell was removed from the building once the fire alarm telegraph system was expanded and in good working order.  


This maker's plate once was attached to a harness made by A. McCully & Sons, 22 Market Street, Camden, New Jersey. This firm provided the first harnesses for the paid fire department in 1869.  

Badges worn by the marshals, engineers, stokers and engine drivers bore the initial letter of their respective positions and their district number. The tillerman and his driver used the number "3" to accompany their initial letter. The extra men of the 1st District were assigned badges 1-10; 2nd District badges were numbered 11-20 and the extra men of the hook & ladder wore numbers 21-30.

Although the Fire Commission intended to begin operation of the paid department on November 20, 1869, the companies did not actually enter service until December 7th at 6 P.M. because the new apparatus and buildings were not ready. The new apparatus was not tried (tested) until December 9th.

The new members of the paid force were:            

Hook & Ladder Company

Edward J. Dodamead, Tillerman; Frank S. Jones, Driver

Extra Men

Charles Baldwin 

Badge #21

Charles G. Zimmerman 

Badge #22

John Durkin 

Badge #23

William C. Lee 

Badge #24

James M. Lane 

Badge #25

James Cassidy 

Badge #26

Robert S. Bender   

Badge #27

Thomas McCowan   

Badge #28

Howard Lee                             

Badge #29

Abraham Lower             

Badge #30

The first style of breast badge worn by members of the career department in the City of Camden. 1869. (Courtesy of the C.C.H.S. Collection).


The Board of Fire Commissioners consisted of Rudolphus Bingham, Chairman and Samuel C. Harbert, Richard Perks, Jonathon Kirkbride and Jacob Daubman.

Leather helmet of natural grain believed to have been worn by Fireman Charles Baldwin, Hook & Ladder Company 1 when paid force was organized in 1869. Number 21 at bottom of frontpiece indicates member's badge number. (Courtesy of the Camden County Historical Society Collection.)

Annual salaries for the members of the paid force were: Chief Marshal, $800; Assistant Marshal, $200; Engineer, $600; Driver, $450; Stoker, $450; Tillerman, $450; Extra Men, $50. All but Extra Men were paid monthly.

Edward J. Dodamead moved from the West Jersey Hotel after joining the Fire Department, and made his home at the "2nd District Engine House", the equivalent of Fire Headquarters, on the northwest corner of Fifth and Arch Streets. He resigned from the Fire Department on October 8, 1872, and moved to 451 Henry Street. Edward J. Dodamead was reappointed to the Camden Fire Department on April 8, 1873 along with William S. Davis, G. Rudolph Tenner, William B. Gordon Jr., Henry Grosscup, George Leibecke, Jacob Kellum, and William Young

Edward J. Dodamead served more or less continuously as the Foreman (present-day Captain) of Engine Company 1 into the early 1880s. He was last re-appointed on April 7, 1878. He was not re-appointed in the spring of 1882, when records indicate that the Fire Commissioners reviewed all fire personnel.

During the 1870s Edward Dodamead moved at least four more times. He stayed at 451 Henry Street through the spring of 1874. By the spring of 1875 he had gone to 445 Berkley Street and by April of 1878 to 421 Broadway. The 1880 Census lists Edward Dodamead as boarding at the home of Benjamin Middleton at 311 Benson Street. The 1881-1882 Directory shows him at 308 Benson Street, and still working as a fireman. The 1882-1883 Directory lists him at 428 Stevens Street, but no occupation is given. Edward Dodamead does not appear in city directories after this edition, nor is he listed in the 1900 Census.

Philadelphia Inquirer - October 9, 1872
Click on Image for Complete Article
Robert S. Bender - E.J. Dodamead - Jacob Kellum
William S. Davis - Albert Doughty - George Horner
William Shearman

Philadelphia Inquirer * March 24, 1877

G. Rudolph Tenner - William Davis - Cornelius M. Brown
James M. Lane - George S. Hunt - W. Gordon - Edmund Shaw
Benjamin L. Kellum - Edward J. Dodamead - Henry Grosscup