On February 4, 1947 a barn fire on the property of Dr. Charles Snyder, known as Church Farm in Stevensville, broke out. The two closest companies, Queenstown and Centreville responded with haste but were too far away to save the building. On February 7, 1947, in Myrtle Seymour’s store in Chester, MD, four men, Benton Gardner, Joseph Baxter, George Taylor, and Leonard Risley met and discussed starting a Fire Department on Kent Island. Captain Orville Nash donated the first $10.00 accepted by Benton Gardner.By February 14, 1947 at the first meeting in the Stevensville School, these four men along with Emory Horney had collected $1500.00 to begin their journey. On April 1, that same year the original charter of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department was drawn up and on property donated by John Benton, the Fire Department officially began on April 14, 1947.
The Queenstown Volunteer Fire Department officers consisting of Charles Anthony, Charles Bishop, Benny Lane and Henry Melvin attended several meetings to help the Kent Island firemen to organize their company. The original officers were:
President Lee G. Bell
Vice President Benton Gardner
Treasurer Barnes Legg
Chief Ed Dawkins
Elected to active members were:
E. R. Langley Emory Horney Fred Coleman
S. J. Stallings Joseph Baxter Medford Clendaniel
Owen Lewis Charles W. Thomas Donald Thompson
J. Fred Stevens Leonard Risley Lingard Dietz
Lemuel Kirwan Earle Smith Jr.
The original charger member listed consisted of:
Lee Bell Josh Bullen F. W. Coleman Ed Dawkins
Walter Denny William E. Denny Lingard Dietz Benton Gardner
Charles Grimes Henry Grollman Julius Grollman Sol Grollman
Holton Harris Lemuel Kirwan William Lane Barnes Legg
Oliver Legg Claude Lowery John Milner J. C. Paca
Francis Price Leonard Risley Robert Snyder John D. Sparks
George Taylor Orem Thompson C. W. Thomas Jack Williams
(C. W. Thomas and William Lane are the only living members today)
Dedication of the fist firehouse was held on June 3, 1948. Heading the building committee was Leonard Risley and construction handled by Orem Thompson. On October 16, 1948, the lights of the newly completed $25,000 Fire House were turned on and the $11,000 – 1948 Oren Pumper with 1,000 gallons of water, 1300 feet fire hose and 250 feet booster line pulled up to the door. Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department (KIVFD) has been in existence for 18 months.
Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro of Baltimore donated the first ambulance on April 11, 1948 (new in 1941 it cost $3,000). The first ambulance call was a car accident at the Matapeake Ferry on April 22, 1948. On board were Billy Thomas, Julius Grollman and James White.
The first fire alarm system consisted of calling Mr. Henry Grollman’s store to report the fire and he would set off the siren. Then, he would call the pay phone at the firehouse to tell the person answering what the emergency was. Years later, Ray Baker and his father installed amore modern system.
In April 1947, the Ladies Auxiliary was formed and the officers were:
President Mrs. Emily Denny
Vice Presidents Mrs. Ida Denny Mrs. Irma Palmer
Mrs. Hilda Lewis Mrs. Audrey Sparks
Secretary Miss Katherine Kirwan
Assistant Secretary Miss Betty Gardner Mrs. Charlotte Severa
Treasurer Mrs. Charlotte Taylor Miss Mildred Nash
The member committee consisted of Dorothy Risley, Charlotte Taylor, Goldie Mossman, Catherine Jones, Helen Daniels, and all officers of the auxiliary.
Fund Raisers were Whitefeld Coleman, Claude Lowery, Bill Denny and Barnes Legg.
The first carnival was held August 1947 and it raised $3,000. It consisted of turtle races, rides, and a drawing for a gas range and a space heater with 100 gallons of oil. Ernest Burns won the gas range and Lawrence Sullivan won the space heater. Mrs. Jacob Haspert on the turtle race. The KIVFD Carnival very quickly became known as "The Biggest Carnival on the Eastern Shore."
Some highlights over the years:
In the early 40-50’s, the firehouse had a tenant by the name of James Ball. Mr. Ball was a teacher at Stevensville High School. He also was an artist who had easels set up in the firehouse where he would paint in the evenings, as well as has the lights on, door up, and engines ready for fire calls. His nativity scene that he constructed still occupies its rightful place in front of the firehouse each Christmas season. He died at the firehouse in the early 1950's.
In 1950, the entire food bill for the carnival week totaled $60.14, and that included 15 pounds of crabmeat, and 42 pounds of ground beef.
In 1965, the true landmark, The Love Point Hotel, was destroyed by fire of suspicious nature. It was a devastating fire and a sad day for Kent Island who recalled many wonderful memories of this once beautiful place.
In 1968, were remember our community rallying around the Walbert family when their 5 year old son, Ritchie drowned. Again, our company responded in force to aid in the rescue, prepared and served food and provided comfort wherever needed.
In 1975, one event stand out in our minds is the part our fire company played in the tragic death of our beloved friend and state trooper, Wallace Mowbray. We served breakfast to hundreds of police officers from all over the Eastern United States that had come for the funeral. The police cars lining our town brought home the reality that our lives were changed forever. Robbery, murder, manhunt, and our wonderful friend gone and KIVFD became an integral part of it all.
In 1977, the controlled burning of the Islander Motel and Restaurant to make way for the now Kent Island Shopping Center.
In 1980, the tractor trailer perilously dangling by one cable over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge were our men risked their lives to bring the driver to safety.
We remember the impact of events on the day our firemen waded for hours neck deep in foam when a gas tanker overturned on Route 50. Any small spark could have taken all present and part of the town, but the fire department and Ladies Auxiliary worked side by side at the scene to get the job done. We remember the man driving by, rolling down the window with a “lit” cigarette in hand to ask what was happening. Talk about panic!
We remember our Fire Chiefs over the years:
1947-48 Ed Dawkins
1949 Sol Grollman
1950-51 Benton Garnder
1952-53 Julius Grollman
1954-56 John Holden
1957-58 Benton Gardner
1959-64 John Holden
1965-77 Duke Moore
1978-79 Paul Fuld
1980-91 Calvin Duncan
1992-97 Tracy Schulz
1998-99 Doug Thomas
2000-06 Tracy Schulz
2007- Paul Schlotterbeck