Stevenson Sets Up Own Fire Department

By Jean Loveland, Sunday Post, May 13, 1951


Little by little, to use their own phraseology, the residents of Stevenson are “putting themselves on the map.”

Their latest achievement is the acquisition of a fire engine, obtained recently from the Bridgeport Fire department.

The immediate spur to action was a fire which occurred last summer, in a remote summer cottage. Although Monroe firemen responded post-haste to the alarm, they couldn’t make the scene of the blaze in time. They had had to travel the state road for five miles, then climb another mile and a half of steep mountain road, and by the time they arrived, it was too late.

The episode, tragic in itself, alerted Stevenson folk to even greater potential tragedy, should fire break out in a thickly settled area on a windy night. Assuredly, the Monroe fire-eaters would speed to the scene, but they could make the trip just so fast and no faster. What Stevenson needed, and vitally, was a fire engine of its own.

How the Project Grew

Backed by the Housatonic Trails association which a year or two ago was revitalized from a moribund civic organization, to improve incredibly bad road conditions in Stevenson, the community gathered to consider the fire engine project. All the people who had fought and all but bled and died, in several prior local skirmishes to improve the area, with backing of members of the Monroe Fire department, threw in their several strengths and the new project was gotten underway. Funds were solicited, and newer residents joined old in giving time, energy and ingenuity.

After several months, the engine began to look like a possibility instead of a dream. Saturday of last week, the dream came partly true at least in part. Partial realization, because the new pumper is just the beginning of the equipment which is needed. But at least it is a start. Also needed is hose, and helmets, and axes, and gadgets, and all of the things used in modern firefighting methods. A building site, and a building in which to house the pumper. Money and more money.

Knowing the Stevenson people, it is a sure bet that they will get it all, somehow. For they do not give up. Help? Yes, they would certainly like help. They will get it, for everyone respects the fact that they have scurried about and made the start.

Away back when --

And a start is tantamount to an eventual successful finish, in Stevenson. A geographical location in the town of Monroe and embracing a corner of Newtown, the town took its name from the railroad station which, until a few years ago, was the center of activity in the section. Here stopped the evening mail and passenger car train to Derby, calling residents to the gathering-place. Across the tracks was the Post Office and General Store building, owned for many years by George U. Burr and Edward Twist.

When railroad service was discontinued, the Post Office was removed to the railroad station, with John Nattrass, of the Newtown section, installed as postmaster. People complained bitterly, and Stevenson and its postal predicament were headlined in the newspapers. But the new stance was maintained, and mail was sorted and passed out in the former station.

Eventually Mr. Nattrass decided he wished to be relieved of his duties. Again a furor arose, for no one was willing to take over the job. Mr. Burr had become sole owner of the old postal and grocery building upon the death of Mr. Twist, but he refused, for a time to resume the postal duties. At length, he acceded, dusted off the old mail-boxes which had been left in the store building, and commenced once more to hand out the mail.

Stevenson Is Winterized

About this time, other things were happening in the area. The section was building up. Whereas a few years previous, only a handful of hardy Stevenson folk had been in the habit of wintering over, braving the rigors of winter travel from home to business, there was now an increasing influx of 12-months-a-year residents.

Summer homes were winterized, and new all-season houses built. More Stevenson children boarded the school buses each term, and more taxpayers began to call the area “home”. The new taxpayers attended town meetings-and began to request better roads in their portion of the town.

Results at first were nil. The roads got worse, and as did the taxpayers’ temper. Then the Housatonic Trails association, a dormant organization which had originally mapped out the area, was revived. With it as nucleus, Stevenson got going on the road situation. They built a stretch of road, paying for it out of Association dues, augmented by games parties and other social affairs as well as individual donation.

In the News Again

Stevenson was in the papers again.

The folk in that area heckled the town fathers for aid, and secured signatures of all residents who had turned property over the property footage necessary to make town ownership possible. For a time the fur flew, at one point, when the success of their cause looked dark, Stevenson folk even threatened to secede from the town, and make Stevenson a village in law as well as in name.

Meanwhile the area continued to expand. George Burr sold his store, feed-mill and small lumber business to Martin Sealander, a Newtown contractor. A thriving summer business sprung up on the state road, and a gas station joined the other mercantile establishments.

More folk moved to the hilly, controversy-rocked but beautiful area. At last, when the boiling-point was about reached, the town fathers acceded to Stevenson’s demands, and two years ago in May, a Monroe town meeting approved funds and authorized selectmen to accept the roads. Stevensonites were content. They had their road. And it was oiled and graveled in the summer, and plowed in winter.

The Right Sort of Change

Now, with the same do-or-die attitude, they are heading into the problem of creating adequate, near-at-hand fire protection. Here is change and innovation of a sort everyone approves, whether or not they are of the number who lament some of the changes-cessation of railroad service, for instance, the disappearance of the pot bellied stove from the general store, and the easy, long-winded chatter that used to center round the cracker barrel.

But no one laments, seriously, the dusty, all-but-unscalable mountain trail, nor the fact that, mighty soon, Stevenson will have a fire-department of her own.

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