WILLIAM DEITH 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 rigger. He was living at 1118 Locust Street when he joined the department in the fall of 1869. His name was originally entered into Camden Fire Department records as "Deitz", this however, is in error. It was also misspelled as "Dease" and "Dietz" at various times.

William Deith was born in Pennsylvania in 1842 to Charles and Margaret Deith. The family had come to New Jersey by 152. William Deith was the oldest of four children who were alive at the time of the 1860 Census, the others being Charles, Henry, and Nicholas. The elder Deith worked as a ship rigger. William Deitz was married at this point and was working in a sawmill. His wife Emma by that time had given him three daughters, Emma, Ida, and Alberta. 

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).


William Deith served with the Camden Fire Department from its inception until his death in February of 1889 except for the first year of Claudius Bradshaw's tenure as Chief and the period when Daniel A. Carter was Chief. 

As stated above, William Deith was living at 1118 Locust Street and working as a rigger in December of 1869 when he entered service with the Fire Department, and assigned, as "William Deitz" Badge #2. Fire Department record for the year 1871 show Badge #2 belonging to William Deith, a rigger, living at 915 Locust Street. This continues until April of 1876 when Chief Bradshaw came into office and brought in a new crew of firefighters. Not all of them worked out, and in April of 1877 "William Dease", a rigger, of 915 Locust Street, was assigned Badge #2. He was reappointed in 1878 and 1879, as "William Dease" in 1878, and as William Deitz in the second, in both years, same address, 915 Locust Street. No address is given in Fire Department record for 1887 (his name is misspelled Dieth in this year) and 1888, but his final entry into Camden Fire Department rosters, on January 14, 1889 gives an address of 714 South 3rd Street.

City Directories for the years 1878 and 1879 give addresses of 921 Locust Street and 844 Locust Street. The 1880 Census shows William Deith and family at 844 Locust Street. The family included his wife Emma and children Margaret, Ida, Alberta, William H., Emma, and Charles. The 1882-1883 and 1883-1884 City Directories show William Deith at 236 Line Street. By the end of 1884 he had 257 Pine Street

In 1886 the Camden Steam Fire Engine Company Number 1 was located at 409 Pine Street in a three story 20 by 90 foot brick building (the old Independence Fire Company No. 3 engine house). The company's apparatus was an Amoskeag second class steamer (maker's plate 6318) drawn by two horses and one Silsby two wheel hose cart drawn by a single horse. The company was equipped with 1000 feet of good hose, axes, lamps, etc. The company roster included John Stockton, Foreman; G. Rudolph Tenner, Engineer; William Deno, driver; William W. Laird, stoker; Wilson Bromley and Jacob F Nesson, hosemen. Call Men were William Deith, Andrew Miller and William Bogia. Bromley and Bogia would later suffer line of duty deaths.

When the 1887 Directory was compiled, William Deith had moved to 714 South 3rd Street, his final address. William Deith passed away February 10, 1889 at the age of 48. 

Philadelphia Inquirer * March 26, 1877

Philadelphia Inquirer - February 14, 1889
Click on Image for Complete Article