Exploits of Mack the Noble Fire Horse
“Mack” was the veteran hose carriage horse of the Rescue Fire Company on South George Street in York, PA. This photo of a horse-drawn hose carriage, loaded with firemen, racing to a fire, is from the collections of the Library of Congress. Click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
In 1886, the Rescue Fire Company introduced horse service to their engine house, with the purchase of Mac and Major; per page 792 in Volume I of George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, PA. Prowell also wrote, “In 1907, Mac was still in service.” The day following the death of “Mack,” his obituary in the December 4, 1911 issue of The York Daily noted:
For 25 years “Mack” served the Rescue firemen faithfully, for a large part of that time being their only hose carriage horse. A powerful bay, he dragged the apparatus at a speed which brought exclamations of “Look out for Mack,” whenever the alarm sounded.
A photo of “Mack” follows, after 21-years of service; it was included with his obituary write-up in The York Daily. “After “Mack’s” retirement, the firemen realized that if taken from the engine house he would soon pine away and die. Accordingly he was given a box stall at the rear of the stalls of the horses in active service. He made a number of appearances in public, chiefly in firemen’s parades, until recently he became too feeble even for this.”
A few of the exploits of Mack are noted in his obituary:
On one occasion he nobly responded to a command to take the apparatus through a narrow passageway in the South End between flaming walls. He came out with all the hair burned from one side of his body. “Mack” knew the difference between the test alarms and real fire alarms, his dash from his stall to his place at the apparatus being much more vigorous on the latter occasions. In one instance when the sounding of an alarm at night found the lights in the engine house all extinguished, “Mack” was impatiently waiting in his place when they were resumed. His unfailing instinct had enabled him to go there directly in the dark.
The firefighters of the Rescue felt that “Mack’s” loyalty and longevity deserved special recognition. Well before his death, they established a fund to provide for a respectful burial plot and monument.
“Mack” was initially buried in the woods between, what is now Penn State York and Rathton Road. In 1913, a 5-foot tall granite monument was placed over his grave, inscribed with, “In memory of Mack, the noble horse of the Rescue Fire Company of York, Pa. Died Dec. 3, 1911. Aged 32 years.” The monument features a full size relief of Mack’s head, carved on the granite. The monument cost $140 and was constructed by George W. Birchall & Son, South George Street.
After the York County Fire Museum was established at 757 West Market Street, the monument was moved to the yard beside the museum. “Mack’s” remains were re-interred next to the monument, however not before “Mack” made a final fire call. While his remains were being transferred to the Fire Museum, the fireman transporting them responded to a fire call.
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