History Last Updated: Jun 10, 2019 - 1:14:46 PM

Posted in: History
History - Dec 7, 2010 - 2:02:53 PM


The following history was compiled by Bob Devonshire Jr. This is the first comprehensive historical record compiled as to the best of my knowledge. All information is taken from the company minute books, word of mouth and personal experience. If you happen to find a mistake or want to add something please e-mail me.

Big Four Fire Company

October 4, 1920, is the birth date of the fire company. Originally a member of the Big Four Fire Company we were formed along with Lampeter, New Danville and West Willow Fire Companies.

On Monday evening October 4, 1920 a group of men from the communities of Lampeter, New Danville, West Willow and Refton met to discuss, after considerable agitation, the subject of fire fighting apparatus tof the communities. A meeting,held at the Lampeter High School, was called to order by the temporary chairman, Benjerman L. Herr. After much discussion the following men were elected as a Board of Directors:

  • President John F. Weavev
  • 1st Vice PresidentI. B. Graybill
  • 2nd Vice President William M. Musser
  • Secretary Benjerman L. Herr
  • Treasurer H. H. Snavley
  • P. R. Shellenberger, Emlin B. Mylin, Dr. A. E. Leaman, A.S. Hersh, A. R. Herr and A. W. Hess.

The first meeting adjourned after selectin "The Big Four Fire Company" as the official name.

Over the next several months funds were rasied through donations and pledges to order four Fire Trucks. On January 17, 1921 the contract was awarded to the Prospect Mfg. Company of Prospect, Ohio in the amount of $7,339.00 for four complete units, delivered to Lancaster.

The new machines arrived in Lancaster on April 1, 1921 and were turned over to the Big Four on April 7 after a final demonstration at the Willow Street Vocational School and to the entire saticfaction of some 200 witnesses.

Mr. Paul Graybill was the Fire Chief of Refton.

The Fire Chief's salary was set at $5.00 per mounth.

On May 18, 1922 it was approved to place and maintain a fire machine East end of Strasburg Borough.

On December 4, 1922 the Township Supervisors reported to the Big Four that they had laied a 1/2 mill tax for maintence of the apparatus of the Big Four.

As time marched on the indivual companies continued to grow until February 27, 1929 when it was decided that each company become one of its own and so the Big Four Fire Company was disbanded.


  • April 11, 1921. Toll House at New Danville Pike. Fire out when engine arrived. Trip made in 10 minuets from fire house.
  • July 9, 1921. Call to Quarryville to Walter Lefever's barn. Refton and Lampeter respponded. No property in danger because of direction of wind.
  • August, 1921. Call to Pequea Saw Mill, Pequea. New Danville and West Willow responded. Saved 250,000 feet of lumber.
  • September 6, 1921. Benj. F. Christ farm. Barn destroyed. Saved corn barn, hog stie, horse stables and tobacco shed. $8,000.00 worth of property approximately. Lampeter responded first, Witmer second and West Willow third.
  • October 15, 1921. Mr. Cowden near Strasburg. Three engines - Lampeter, Refton and West Willow saved summer house valued at $200.00.
  • October 20, 1921. Call to Issac Stoltzfus field fire. Lampeter and Refton responded. Not needed.
  • October 30, 1921. Mr. Smith at the Union. Two machines, Refton and West Willow responded. Saved house valued at $1,500.00.
  • December 8, 1921. John Bachmann's home, Lewis Johnson tenant. Fire put out in 20 minutes by Lampeter engine. Refton on the scene in 20 Minutes from the time of the first fire alarm. Property valued at $3,500.00 saved.
  • December 20, 1921. Enos Shaub's tenant house. Newton Dull tenant. Smoke house afire. Under control by fire extinguisher. Put fire out entirley. Engine at scene 10 minutes after fire was discovered.
  • December 24, 1921. Fritz Hotel and Stables at Quarryville. $50,000.00 loss. Saved what would probably have been a very severe confligration. The entire Big Four was on the job in record time. No other machines used except Quarryville's little 2 wheel machine. Lancaster sent a pumper, not used. Mechanicsburg came also, not used.
  • January 9, 1922. Refton Called to New Providence. Used 1/2 tank of chemical. Saved house belonging to Mr. Witmer occupied by Mr. Conrad. Possible value $2,000.00.
  • January 24, 1922. Call to Buck Hotel barn burned. Engines not needed on arrival. Refton and West Willow responded.
  • March 18, 1922. Al Smith farm, Lampeter. Engine called no benefit.
  • March 22, 1922. Lampeter School destroyed. All machines on scene in good time. Adjoining property protected.
  • April 24, 1922. Toll House on New Danville Pike. New Danville engine called. House saved.
  • May 2, 1922. Wagners Saw Mill, Refton, Lampeter, West Willow responded. No Benefit.
  • May 8, 1922. Ray Eshelman at Trout's Mill, Refton responded. Put out fire.
  • February 20, 1923. Call to farm of Mrs. Harry Rush near the Myers' Tannery. New Danville responded and West Willow. Chimney on fire. Fire under control when engines arrived.
  • March 1, 1923. J. H. Hildebrand butcher shop at Willow Street. All four engines on the scene. Adjacent property saved.
  • March 29, 1923. All engines responded to call in Pequea Township at Fulton home. The home was saved nothing short of a miracle because of the high wind. Lampeter had front wheel broke on the way to fire.
  • March 30, 1923. Refton engine called to put out fire on barn roof of Geo. Miller. Fire caused from sparks from low grade engine. Building saved, roof partial destroyed. A feature in connection with this call worthy of mention. A spark plug fowled on the way. Mr. Ed Evans, the mechanic, put a new plug in while on the way without stopping the machine, displaying courage and nerve.
  • April 11, 1923. Lampeter engine called to home of Benj. D. Leaman, East Lampeter house was on fire. Fire extinguished before engine arrived.
  • April 7, 1923. Strasburg called to fire at Mt. Pleasent. Engine mired. Unable to reach the place in time to be of use.
  • April 27, 1923. Fire in forest at White Oak south of Strasburg. Lampeter, Strasburg, Refton and West Willow responded. There were three other engines there also.
  • July 13, 1923. Lampeter called to Greenfield tenant house of Moses Landis, Walter Eckman tenant. Fire contained to second story. Witmer, Bird-in-Hand and Eden and Intercourse also responded. $1,000.00 damage.
  • September 13, 1923. Quarryville Body Works of Mr. Lefever and his home destroyed. Big Four engines all responded.
  • September 14, 1923. John Wentz, New Providence home destroyed. Refton responded, assisted by Quarryville. $4,000.00 loss.
  • September 17, 1923. Calvin Shenk home Snyders Hollow, Refton responded $3,000.00 loss.
  • September 27, 1923. Chester Geibe barn at New Providence, Refton engine called $2,000.00 loss.
  • February 3, 1924. Clyde Herr's house chimney, Lampeter and Refton responded. No damage, fire extinguished with one chemical tank.
  • October 21, 1924. Wiggins fire at low grade beyond New Providence. Barn and garage destroyed. Refton engine responded assisted in saving chicken house.

    The fire calls were taken from the minuets of the Big Four Fire Company

Refton Community Fire Company

After the Big Four disbanded we became known as the Refton Home and Improvement Society. This organixation was primaraly responcible for the war effort in the Refton area. It took part in air raid drills, black out drills and first aid assistence in the event of bombings. They also constructed a 30,000 gallon cistern, built sidewalks and installed the srteet lights that are still in opperation today.

On September 11, 1942 the members decided to get chartered and be known as the Refton Community Fire Company. This became official October 23, 1942 when the charter was recorded in the Lancaster County Court House.

During the summer of 1942 a Dodge chassis was purchased and the chemical truck was rechassised. This truck was a large soda ash extinguisher, it had no pump.

The fire house was located to the rear of a garage owned by Paul B. Graybill, the first Fire Chief. This is where the current Post Office is located.

On October 9, 1942 the members decided to have thier first fund raiser. They raffeled off five turkeys and two $25.00 war bonds.

We joined the Lancaster County Firemans Association on January 8, 1945.

The Ladies Auxillary formed April 17, 1947.

May of 1948 the members purchased ground from W. H. Schnieder for $1,950.00 in order to build a fire house. Students from Stevens Trade School architect class designed the building and presented plans to the members on November 15, 1949. Ground was broke May 1951 and the building was finished in 1954.

The members ordered the first Pumper in April 1951. They chose a 1951 International - Central 500 gallon pumper.

March of 1955 the members purchased a 1000 gallon International tanker to replace the chemical truck.

Over the next several years the members held fund raisers, includeing festivals, dinners and block shoots.

In 1973 the members purchased a 1973 International - Young pumper. A 750 gpm front mount pump and 500 gallons of water on an all wheel drive chassis. The new pumper replaced the 1951 pumper. This piece continues to serve the department today as Engine 5-9-1.

July 1980 a 1500 gallon International Car-Mar tanker was placed into service. This replaced the 1955 tanker.

In June of 1986 the members decided to add a new pantry and modern bathrooms to the fire house. We also gained much needed storage in the basement of the fire house.

August 1990 we placed into service a 1989 Ford - E-One pumper. 1,250 gpm and 1,250 gallon tank. This replaced the 1980 tanker and is our current first out attack piece and is Engine 5-9-2

1992 we celebrated our 50th anniversery of our charter. We celebrated with a large fireworks show in August at our festival. We also had an open house along with several displays from our neighboring fire companies of fire fighting.

We purchased a 1973 GMC Suburban from Willow Street Fire Company to place in service as Squad 5-9 in 1995.

In 1995 we began to look into the posability of expanding our engine room. Over the next four years we replaced or existing 900 square foot engine room with a 2,900 square foot, three bay wide two bay deep engine room. 95% of this project was done with the help of local resident and businesses as well as members. The only parts of the construction that was subcontracted out was the concrete floor, the bay doors and the brick work on the front.

After the expansion of the engine room was well under way it was decided to look into placeing a new tanker into service. In December of 1998 we placed into service a 1998 Peterbuilt - New Lexington 3,500 gallon tanker with a 1,750 gpm pump. This was added to our fleet as Tanker 5-9.

<< prev page    next page >>

Latest Headlines
Recent Incidents
2021 Mud Sale Announcement
2020 Mud Sale Announcement
2020 Mud Sale Update
Live Webcad
No articles in this category.
No articles in this category.
Executive Officers
Executive Officers
Operational Officers
Fire Officers
Fire Police
Fire Police
Annual Events
2019 Annual Events
Rescue 59
Special Unit 59
Squad 59-2
Retired Apparatus
Engine 5-9-2
Engine 5-9-1
No articles in this category.
Fund Drive
2012 Fund Drive
Photo Gallery
Member Photo
Reflective Green Signs
Reflective Green Signs
22nd Annual Mud Sale
Breakfast with Santa
Website Maintenance Complete
Items For Sale
Winross Trucks
Links Page
Contact Us
Now on Facebook
Contact Us