Young Sr.


WILLIAM T.G. YOUNG SR. was born in September of 1837 in Pennsylvania. He was the son of John D. Young.

William T.G. Young Sr. was aboard the ferryboat New Jersey when on March 14, 1856 the ship caught fire. 60 people were killed in the disaster.

William T.G. Young was married, and the his wife Elizabeth bore at least one child, a son, William T.G. Young Jr., in 1859. The Youngs had six more children, by 1910 only three had survived, William Jr., Clara, and H. Mary Young.

William T.G. Young was a veteran of the Civil War, having served from May 23, 1861 through May 31, 1864 as a corporal with Company A of the 34th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. After the war he became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, belonging to the Thomas M.K. Lee Post No. 5 in Camden.

William T.G. Young Sr. became a member of the Camden Fire Department on December 7, 1869. He was then living at 15 South 5th Street and had been working as a salesman prior to his appointment to the Fire Department. He was assigned to Engine Company 2 as a stoker.

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).


William T.G. Young resigned from his position with the Camden Fire Department on October 26, 1871. He was reappointed as a Driver on April 8, 1873 but only served for two months, resigning on June 14, 1873. William T.G. Young Sr. was still living at 15 South 5th Street during his time in service with the Fire Department in 1873. 

In 1904 William T.G. Young Sr. was living at 508 Federal Street. When the census was taken in 1910 he and his wife Elizabeth were living with there daughter Mary Ivins and her husband Alfred at 225 North 8th Street.

William T.G. Young Sr. died in 1915 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. His son, a clerk by profession, had died on May 4, 1910 and was buried at Harleigh Cemetery.

N. Y. Herald - March 1856

Fatal disaster.

Philadelphia, March 16 --- 4 p.m. The terrible calamity on the Delaware last evening opposite this city, by the burning of the ferry boat NEW JERSEY, has thrown a gloom over the city which will take many years to efface.

The boat left Walnut street ferry at 8 o'clock last evening, for Camden, with certainly not less than one hundred passengers, and when in the canal cut through Smith's Island, mid way in river, was impeded in her progress through by ice. In backing out she took fire in the hold, midships, and instead of grounding, the boat immediately attempted to return, but in less than ten minutes the vessel was enveloped in flames.

The roars, shrieks and cries of those hapless passengers can easier be understood than expressed, and despite every effort to save, at least some thirty lives have been lost. Fifteen bodies were recovered last night and this morning, and as I close this, four more have been got up. 

Camden Courier-Post - August 25, 2007

An icy ferry ride turns tragic on the Delaware

For the Courier-Post

The need to cross the Delaware River has existed for centuries.

Ferry service, which began in the 17th century between Saxamaxon Street in Philadelphia and Cooper's Point on this side of the river, led to Camden's founding and growth.

According to records, ferry service between the two cities was formalized in 1687.

From the 17th to 20th centuries, ferries not only sailed out of Market Street in downtown Camden, but also from the foot of Vine Street in Camden, near Market, and from Kaighn Avenue. Ferries also crossed to Philadelphia from Gloucester City, Palmyra and Burlington City.

In winter, people sometimes walked or skated across the river. During the early 1800s, at the end of what was known worldwide as the Little Ice Age, the Delaware was routinely frozen almost solid in winter.

Ice floes created a hazard at times, and records show that George Washington encountered them while trying to cross the Delaware on Dec. 25, 1776, in his surprise attack on the Hessians in Trenton.

In 1856, they were the cause of one of Camden's most tragic events.

Walkers and riders

 Pedestrian traffic on the ice-clogged river during the early 1800s was expected, and it usually did not hinder the ferries.

Research at the Camden County Historical Society reveals that horses sometimes towed the ferries like sleds across the frozen river in winter. To successfully glide across the Delaware, the ferries had to be fitted with skids or runners on either side of their keels.

The ice wasn't always solid, though. When floating ice impeded the ferries, boats with very sharp bows were pressed into service. Extending from their bows was a platform, where a worker would sit. With boat hook in hand, he would brace himself with his legs and feet and push the floating ice away.

Sometimes, the ice was so bad that it would take a ferry from one to two hours to work around the floes and complete a crossing. It was that type of manuver that led to the Camden tragedy.

Saturday, March 15, 1856, was a cold and windy day. All day, ice floes had floated down the river past Camden, according to newspaper reports. Some thought the broken ice was the promise of an early spring, but there was nothing springlike about that day.

That evening, nearly 100 people climbed aboard a ferry called the New Jersey in Philadelphia, eager to get to their warm homes in Camden.

Sailing into darkness

 According to county historical documents and newspaper reports, the ferry, owned by the Philadelphia and Camden Steamboat Company, left the Walnut Street wharf at 8:30 p.m. and sailed into the darkness toward Camden.

Documents show that Capt. William S. Corson of Camden was in command. As he guided his vessel toward the channel, heavy ice floes made it impossible to navigate, so he turned the ferry upstream in search of another place to cross.

Moments later, smoke poured from a spot on the deck near the smokestack. When flames became visible, passengers notified the captain and tried to put out the fire.

They grabbed buckets from the walls, dipping them overboard, filling them with water and then passing them forward to douse the flames. In a desperate attempt to save the ferry, Corson turned the boat around and tried to make it back to Philadelphia, hoping to reach the dock before the fire raged out of control.

As the boat limped back, flames swept across the upper deck and forced passengers to the windward side, creating a bad list. It was reported that the New Jersey came within 30 feet of the Philadelphia dock when the pilothouse collapsed in flames, causing the boat to veer out of control.

Corson, who reportedly survived, watched as panic set in. He saw women try, in vain, to beat out the flames that engulfed their long dresses, and he saw men tear benches and chairs loose to help those who had jumped overboard.

He saw passengers leap into the frigid water and climb on top of ice floes. A short time later he followed them overboard. Those passengers already in the water clung to the benches, chairs and floating wood.

One report showed that 61 people perished in the fire, 30 survived and others were missing.

Eager for news

As the tragedy unfolded, families in Camden took to the streets waiting for the return of their loved ones or news about them.

Later, shrieks of joy sounded as survivors arrived in Camden on other ferries. However, the joy was short-lived as news spread about how many had died or were missing in what became one of early Camden's worst tragedies.

An investigation later showed that the ferry's boilers, fireplace and the brickwork surrounding them were defective. Other records revealed that the New Jersey had no lifeboats or life preservers.

Records also showed that a law requiring safety equipment on steam-powered vessels had exempted this type of boat because it was believed that such short trips could never place passengers in serious danger.

One newspaper reporting on the fire later said that every family in Camden had been touched by the tragic event through the loss of a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance.

By 1953, ferry service from Camden to Philadelphia was nothing more than a memory. The last boat between the two cities made the trip in 1952.

Thomas A. Bergbauer is a retired Courier-Post copy editor and can be reached at (856) 346-0371, tbergbauer@verizon.net, or through Communities, Courier-Post, P.O. Box 5300, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08034.