GEORGE LEIBECKE was one of the original members of the Camden Fire Department, entering service on December 7, 1869 as the driver of Engine Company 2. He was born in Pennsylvania around 1819.

Prior to entering the fire department George Leibecke had worked as a blacksmith and as a whitesmith. A whitesmith is a person who works with "white" or light-colored metals such as tin and pewter. While blacksmiths work mostly with hot metal, whitesmiths do the majority of their work on cold metal (although they might use a forge to shape their raw materials). The term is also applied to metalworkers who do only finishing work – such as filing or polishing – on iron and other "black" metals. Whitesmiths make things such as tin or pewter cups, water pitchers, forks, spoons, and candle holders.

George Leibecke was living at the 315 Pine Street when he joined the fire 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 Engine Company 2:            

Engine Company 2

William J. Ross, Engineer; George Liebecke, Driver; William T.G. Young Sr., Stoker

Extra Men

Isaac Middleton 

Badge #11

Samuel Patton 

Badge #12

Elwood Cline

Badge #13

George W. Bates 

Badge #14

Robert Pine

Badge #15

Theodore Zimmerman

Badge #16 

Benjamin H. Connelly

Badge #17 

Richard Houghtaling 

Badge #18 

Abraham Bradshaw 

Badge #19 

Richard Githens (does not appear in CFD roll book)

John Graham

Badge #20

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).


George Leibecke was transferred to Engine Company 1 on August 1, 1871. Camden Fire Department records presently at hand indicate that he served through 1874, then was reappointed for another year in 1876. The 1878 City Directory gives an address of 911 Reese Street. The 1880 Census shows him and his wife Eliza residing at 211 Senate Street. Both records gave his occupation as blacksmith. Neither George or Eliza Leibecke appear in the 1882-1883 Directories or those thereafter. 

Eliza Leibecke had been active in fraternal circles as a member of the Lydia Darrah Home Communion, No. 2 of the Brotherhood of the Union, and was a charter member of Palestine Lodge of the Ladies of Pythias.

In 1886 George Reeser Prowell wrote the following about Brotherhood of the Union's Lydia Darrah Home Communion, No 1 and of the Palestine Lodge, No. 1 of which Eliza Leibecke was a member:

LYDIA DARRAH HOME COMMUNION, No. 1, meets in Mechanics’ Hall, Fourth and Spruce, and was instituted by S.W. George L. Toy, in Independence Hall, Fourth and Pine, May 12, 1867, when these officers were installed: G., Benjamin M. Braker; H.S.K., Wm. J. Maguire; P., Hannah G. Ivins; H.R., Sarah T. Winner; H.T., Philip Beaber. The Past Grand Guardians are: Hannah G. Ivins, Susanna Quinn and Elizabeth Portz, and the Past Guardians: Margaret Boyd, Margaret Caperoon, Mary E. Sloan, Missouri Pierce, Ruth A. Ross, Josiah Bozarth, Emma Knipe, Margaret Deith, Augusta Oeherle, Sarah Kirby, Rachel B. Stone, Elizabeth Eames, Annie Curtis, Lizzie Eames, Annie M. Quick, Mary M. Davis, Rachel Stephen, Benjamin Smith, Isaac Warr, Emily Weldey, Elizabeth Cleaver, Elizabeth Stricker, Samuel W. Stivers, Keturah Tenner, Sarah Wiatt, Eliza J. Leibach, Elizabeth C. Butler, Margaret A. Davis, Mary Ore, Julia Coleman, Sallie Tracy, Emma J. Doyle.

The Home has had a useful life, and after assisting many has eight hundred dollars invested, with a membership of eighty-one. The officers for 1886 are: P.G., Mary Ore; G., Rachel Stephen; Pro., Benjamin Smith; Prophet, Maggie Caperoon; Prophetess, Emily Weldey; Priest, Mary J. Cooper; Priestess, Emma J. Doyle; H.S.K., Annie M. Quick; H.R., Rachel B. Stone; H.T., Elizabeth Cleaver; W.D., Clara Davis; W.N., Emma Horneff.

Palestine Lodge, No. 1, I. O. Ladies of Pythias, was organized April 1, 1874. The fol lowing were the first officers: P. W. C, Catharine Johnson; F. C, Rebecca Adams; Second C, Emma Johnson; Scribe of R., Annie M. Quick; Scribe of F., Sally Carty; Bankress, Ruth A. Ross; First Guide, Kate Hagerman; Second Guide, Kizzie E. Sparks; First M., Eliza J. Leibecke; Second M., Emily Kelley; Sentry of I. G., Mary L. Fields; Sentry of 0. G., Margaret Doyle; Ex., Mattie Gibbs; Dv., Hannah Connelly. The pres ent officers are : P. W. C, Elizabeth Eames; F.C., Mary Winters; S. C, Ellen Biddle; S. R., Annie M. Quick; S. F., Kizzie Sparks; Bankress, Ruth A. Ross; F. Guide, Margaret Whittle; S. Guide, Elizabeth Casto; F. M., Rachel Piper; S. M., Elizabeth Lilly; S. of I. G., Lizzie Eames; S. of O. G., Lois Wrifford; Ex., Elizabeth Long; Dv., Elizabeth Cleaver; Guardsmen, first, Catharine Johnson; second, Isabella Dobleman; third, Mary E. Whirlow; fourth, Margaret Davis; fifth, Han nah Snyder; sixth, Emma Kessler. The number of members is sixty-five. The evening of meet ing is Wednesday and the place the Hall of the Mechanics, Fourth and Spruce Streets.