HOWARD LEE was one of the original members of the Camden Fire Department, entering service on September 2, 1869 as as extra man of the Hook & Ladder Company, the original designation of what is now Ladder Company 1. Prior to entering the fire department he worked for the post office as a letter carrier. Howard Lee was living at the northwest corner of North 3rd Street and Plum Street when he joined the department in the fall of 1869. Plum Street was later re-named Arch Street.

Howard Lee was born in Pennsylvania around 1844, the son of Thomas McKane Lee and his wife Eliza. The family had moved to Camden's Middle Ward by the spring of 1850. 

It is unclear as to where Howard Lee was when the Census was taken in 1860. However, when the Civil War broke out in April of 1861, four of his brothers, Richard H. Lee, Thomas McKane Lee Jr., Joseph Lee, and William C. Lee soon answered their nation's call.

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

William C. Lee and Howard Lee were brothers. Robert S. Bender and Thomas McCowan were brothers-in-law. Abraham Lower and Assistant Chief Engineer William H. Shearman were brother-in-law, Charles G. Zimmerman and his brother Theodore A. Zimmerman, also a charter member of the Camden Fire Department, were brothers-in-law of Chief William Abels.

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.

As stated above Howard Lee was one of the original members of the Camden Fire Department, entering service on September 2, 1869 as as extra man of the Hook & Ladder Company, the original designation of what is now Ladder Company 1. He had worked as a letter carrier in Camden in the late 1860s, a job secured through the offices of his older brother Richard H. Lee, who was postmaster in Camden for sixteen years. 

Howard Lee was living at the northwest corner of North 3rd Street and Plum Street when he joined the department in the fall of 1869. Plum Street was later re-named Arch Street. This was the home of his brother Richard H. Lee. When the Census was taken in 1870 the household consisted of Richard H. Lee and his wife Ann, their children Thomas, Samuel, Harry, Matilda, and Ulysses Grant "Ulie" Lee, and brothers Howard Lee and Joseph C. Lee. Howard was working as a letter carrier, Joseph C. Lee as Court Clerk.

Howard Lee was removed from service with the Camden Fire Department on September 5, 1871. He married in the mid-1870s and moved to 406 Federal Street, where he opened up a stationary shop called Lee & Company. He also later established a house furnishings store at 336 Federal Street. When the 1880 Census was taken, Howard Lee was living with his wife Martha, 23, and their children Walter, Emma, and Lewis Lee. They stayed at 406 Federal Street into 1884. The 1885 Camden City Directory shows the family at 413 South 3rd Street. The 1887-1888 and 1888-1889 City Directories show that the family resided at 596 Carman Street. Howard Lee and family returned to 406 Federal Street by 1890 and stayed there into 1897. By 1898 they had moved to 447 Benson Street, where they still made there home as late as 1910.

By January of 1920 Howard and Martha Lee had moved to 520 Haddon Avenue where they lived with their son Walter and daughter Emma. The family stationary business had closed during the 1910s and Walter Lee had gone into the construction business. Walter Lee later worked as an investigator for the New Jersey Bureau of Taxation.

As stated above, Howard Lee and his brother William C. Lee were both charter members of the Camden Fire Department. Howard Lee's brother Richard H. Lee had been a Colonel during the Civil War, served as Camden's postmaster for sixteen years, and commanded the Sixth Regiment, New Jersey National Guard for a time. Brother Joseph C. Lee had also been a Colonel in the Civil War and had worked as court clerk in Camden. The Thomas M.K. Lee Post No. 5 of the G.A.R. in Camden was named after another brother, Thomas M.K. Lee. Howard Lee's son  Lewis A. Lee worked for forty years in the Camden Board of Health office, after being sponsored in the job by Dr. Henry H. Davis, for whom the Henry H. Davis Elementary School, and Dr. Marcus K. Mines


Philadelphia Inquirer - August 17, 1871
Howard Lee - Thomas Allibone - Charles Evans - Benjamin H. Connelly
Charles Daubman - Stephen L. Thomas

Camden Democrat * September 28, 1872
Abraham Lower - James M. Cassady - John Sands - Howard Lee - Thomas M.K. Lee - Samuel M. Gaul
William Lee - Boston Peter - Michael Kelly - William Osburn - George Gilbert - Josiah S. Hackett
 George Goetz - Goetz's Hotel - 336
Plum (Arch) Street

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 4, 1888


Thomas DudleyIsaac Shreeve - William T. Bailey - Christopher A. Bergen
Isaac Githens - George Barrett - Frank Welch -
Howland Croft - Samuel Bakley
David Freeman Sr. -
Albion Lane William Ireton - Howard Lee - Amos R. Dease
Christopher Mines Jr
. - John Brothers - James Hewitt - John C. Edwards
Malachi D. Cornish - J.Willard Somers - Frank C. Somers - John Wells - William H. Day
Dilwyn Pettit - J. Milton Powell - George Denny - Everett Ackley -
Samuel M. Gaul
Joseph Brown - Frederick Parker - John H. Milton - David Rankin - Samuel Roach
James Brown - Isaac Robinson - William K. Price - Reuben Gaskill
John W. Everman - Samuel H. Mourey - William H. Smith
Herman Heimbold - Thomas Watson - E. Thompson

Historical and Industrial Review of Camden, N.J. - 1890


MESSRS. LEE & CO., Stationers, Blank-book Manufacturers and dealers in Newspapers, periodicals, &c., are doing a large business. The place was established fourteen years ago by Howard Lee, but has been conducted by the present firm for the past ten years. The building has been enlarged and reconstructed three times within fourteen years and is yet too small. The salesroom has a frontage of 14 feet by a depth of 60 feet, and the firm has ample storage room.

A comprehensive stock of general Stationery, Fancy Goods, Toys and Bric-a-brac is carried.

There are three persons engaged as assistance in serving the extensive patronage, which grows steadily and comes from all quarters of the city. Howard Lee is the sole proprietor and is well known to the trade and the people.

Mr. Lee is a native of Philadelphia, but is satisfied with the prosperity he has achieved on this side of the Delaware and with the numerous friends and patrons he has made here.





Philadelphia Inquirer
May 1, 1891

John A. Furey
James M. Lane
Frank Burdsall
Charles Helmbold
Edward E. Jefferis
Dr. John W. Donges
Dr. John D. Leckner
Charles Lederman
George A. Frey
Arthur Bedell
Florence F. Hogate
Dr. Philip W. Beale
Robert L. Barber
Cooper B. Hatch
Dr. William B.E. Miller
Robert F. Smith
Joseph A. Starr
Joseph A. Ross
Howard Lee
Charles H. Sharp
Eugene B. Roberts
John Leighton Westcott
Maurice A. Rogers
George F. Hammond
Benjamin Lawton
Isaac C. Githens
Isaac Lord
Cornelius Scheperkotter
Dr. William S. Jones
Isaac Ferris Sr.

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 8, 1903

Charles G. Garrison - Dr. John R. Davis - William H. Carter - Harry L. Foulke - Harry A. Goodman
Howard Lee - Robert Lee - Cyrus D. Marter - William W. Mines - Edward Mills - George J. Schneider
William D. Wilson - Joseph Goddard - Robert Washington - Charles H. Peters

Philadelphia Inquirer - February 10, 1905