JAMES H. SUTTON was one of the original members of the Camden Fire Department, entering service on December 7, 1869 as an extra man with Engine Company 1. Prior to entering the fire department he had worked as a lather. He was living at 1112 Broadway when he joined the department in the fall of 1869. He was living with his parents when the Census was taken in 1870

James H. Sutton was born James H. Suthel around 1846 in Delaware to John and Welty Suthel. The family, which included older sister Martha and younger brother John W. Suthel, had relocated to Camden, New Jersey by 1860. John Suthel supported his family working as a carpenter. 

James Suthel served in the Union's armed forces during the Civil War, according to the 1890 Veteran's Census. Unfortunately, details as to his service are not listed in the Census sheets, nor did he draw a Civil War pension which would also provide that information. What does seem clear is that he became involved as a volunteer firefighter in Camden during the 1860s.

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:            

Engine Company 1

George Rudolph Tenner, Engineer; William H. Clark, Driver;
Thomas McLaughlin, Stoker

Extra Men (call members)

Thomas Allibone           

Badge #1

William Deith               

Badge #2

George Horneff  

Badge #3

John J. Brown        

Badge #4

William A.H. White            

Badge #5

James Sutton    

Badge #6

Cornelius M. Brown    

Badge #7

Alexander Peacock    

Badge #8

Samuel Buzine 

Badge #9

Jesse Chew 

Badge #10

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).


James Sutton was removed from service with the Camden Fire Department on April 3, 1870.

City Directories and Census records show James Sutton living at 321 Arch Street from 1878-1879 through 1884-1885. He was working as a laborer in the 1878-1879 edition, then worked as a carpenter and as a ship's carpenter. He next appears in the 1890-1891 Directory living and working  at 451 South 2nd Street, his brother John W. Sutton's bar. This arrangement continued through at least 1894. He moved to 136 Arch Street for a time, when he tended bar for Wilhelmina Geist, the corner of North 2nd and Arch Street. The 1897 Directory states that he had moved back to his brother's bar at 451 South 2nd Street. He does not appear in the 1898 and 1899 City Directories, nor does he appear in Camden in the 1900 Census.

James H. Sutton died in Washington, DC on April 24, 1910. He was brought back to Camden fir burial.

James Sutton's younger brother, born John W. Suthel, also adopted the Sutton surname. He served with the Camden Fire Department in 1876 and 1877 and from 1882 through 1884. John W. Suthel, better known as John W. Sutton continued to operate and own bars in Camden through at least 1931, lastly a bar best-known as the Century Bar at 28 Haddon Avenue, which he acquired in the late 1900s and that his family held ownership of into the late 1940s.

Philadelphia Inquirer

April 5, 1870

James Sutton- Charles Hart
John Graham - Joseph Nece
Robert Pine - William Henry "Harry" McKeen
Engine Company 1
Engine Company 2

Click on Image for Complete Article

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 25, 1910