Independent Fire Company
200 W. 2nd Ave., Ranson WV 25438 (physical address)
PO Box 925, Charles Town WV 25414 (mailing address)
304-725-2514 (voice)
304-728-6006 (fax)

History of Independent Fire Company

Our Story

On the night of July 14, 1884, the Independent Fire Company No. 1, Inc. was formed with the help of Charles Baltzell Rouss of nearby Winchester, Virginia. Charles B. Rouss provided the funds needed to construct the firehouse located in the 100 block of North George Street in Charles Town that is still known as "Rouss Hall" today and was the home of Independent until 1990. Steam, as a means of fire suppression was introduced in 1885 and Independent was motorized in 1916.

Although we have a large gap in our Company records with about 20 years missing, we have been able to piece together some of our past. Independent was originally called Independent Steam Fire Company, No. 1. Now whether the "Steam" part was there from the beginning (with the intent of getting a steamer) or inserted when Idella was purchased is lost to the ages. From 1884 - 1885 the Independent Fire Company held several money raising events in order to purchase a new fire engine. By September Independent had enough money to purchase the Theodore Button Steam Engine (Idella) - the latest in fire fighting apparatus at the time. Idella was originally built in 1872 and then re-build in 1885 after which time Independent became the owner. It was purchased from New York, and was capable of throwing a stream of water 150 feet. During a demonstration it threw a horizontal stream 254 feet within 7 minutes of lighting the boiler.

On Friday, January 10, 1896 Independent Fire Company dedicated the Charles Broadway Rouss Memorial Hall as the new home of what was then called the Independent Steam Fire Company No. 1. Independent called this home for most of the next 100 years due to a $1.00 lease agreement with the City of Charles Town. After Independent moved to a new location the ownership of Rouss Hall reverted to the City of Charles Town.

In 1926 Independent Fire Company purchased a modern automotive fire truck for $7600. The "Childes Pump, Chemical Engine and Hose" was able to deliver 500 gallons of water per minute, and it carried 1,250 feet of hose. The 40 gallon chemical truck was used primarily for quickly subduing small fires, and was instrumental in putting out fires before they could grow. On April 29, 1931, Independent Fire Company bought a new 500 gallon Mack pumper, thus greatly improving our repertoire.

Independent has had the misfortune to lose two dedicated firefighters through the years. On December 13, 1937, disaster struck Charles Town when Roger Clipp, a 20 year veteran of Independent was killed when the fire truck he was riding wrecked. Mr. Clipp was answering a Citizen’s company call and was heading to a burning farm in Myerstown when the truck lost control and crashed into a field. On a cold Tuesday morning in January 1975, fire broke out at the Miller Chemical and Fertilizer Company in Ranson. During the fire, Raymond C. Hufnagle was killed when the floor he was standing on collapsed. Hufnagle, age 39, had been a member of Independent Fire Company for over 10 years.

In the middle of the decade Independent Fire Company purchased a new Cadillac ambulance, and by 1957 was answering over 300 calls.

In the mid 1980s Independent purchased a building from Potomac Edison Electric Company which it converted to create a new fire station. By the late 1980s Independent was occupying its new quarters. Shortly after taking up residency at our new location, Independent purchased a house directly behind the station, this additional land that was purchased allowed Independent room to erect two ambulance bays as well as a social hall.

At present Independent Fire Company is in possession of 2 pumpers, 1 tanker, 1 rescue squad, 2 ambulances, 1 utility, and 1 boat. Independent is also still in possession of the 1884 Theodore Button Steam Engine which can be viewed in the new addition built in 2005.

The leadership of Independent has gone through an evolution over the years with titles changing along with the responsibilities of these positions. Upon the organization of Independent in 1884 the primary leader of the Company was given the title of Captain, this position was responsible for the administrative aspects of the Company as well as leading the fire suppression activities. In the official records of the Company the title president was not used for the primary administrative leader until 1954 when a separate member was elected as the Captain. Today a President, a seven member Board of Directors as well a Fire Chief and an Ambulance Chief, govern Independent.

Timeline of Independent Fire Company

  • Organized: July 14, 1884
  • Introduced Steam: 1885
  • Motorized: April 20, 1916 (cost of $990.00)
  • Concrete Bay Floor was completed: May 3, 1917
  • "Sister Organization" (The Ladies Auxiliary): June 1922
  • Telephone installed in the engine room: January 1935
  • Slot machine approved for the engine room: January 17, 1935. $580.00 collected in August.
  • First recorded Line of Duty death (Roger Clipp) died from injuries sustained in an accident when Citizens truck wrecked in route to a fire in Myerstown on December 13, 1937. Roger Clipp died on December 16, 1937.
  • Ambulance purchased: August 1, 1938
  • A ¾ ton Chevy truck was purchased for carrying equipment: February 28, 1942.
  • Purchased two-way radios for ambulances: June 5, 1952
  • Scott Air Pack Masks installed in salvage unit (Squad): June 21, 1956

Much of this history was taken from a book titled Charles Town Fire Companies dated May 19, 1984 in recognition of Independent and Citizens Fire Companies 100th anniversary. Much of the information in that book was credited to Mr. John S. Freund and Mr. Cecil Eby.

Past Captains (President / Chief)

J.C. Holmes

H.W. Bradely

Ben Shugart

C.F. Reininger - President 1926 - 1973 and Captain 1926 -1953

In 1953 in was decided that with the elections for 1954 that there would be a separate President and Chief

Don Clendening

Don Clendening President from 1974 - 2001


Jay Watson

James E. Watson III President 2002 - 2012

Past Chiefs since 1954

N. Clark Furr 1954 - 1976


Ernest Houser

Ernest Houser 1976 - 1989


Ed Smith

Edwin Smith Fire Chief 1990 -2010 and President 2013-Present


Jack Wysong

Jack Wysong Treasurer 1970 - 2000 and Vice President 2002 - Present

Our Lifetime Members

JB Barr - 1973 - Present

Don Clendening 1960 - Present

Doug Evans - 1972 - Present

Ernest Houser - 1953 - 2004 (Deceased)

Ed Smith - 1974 - Present

Bob Tabb - 1974 - Present

James "Jay" Watson - 1970-Present

Jack Wysong - 1965 - Present

View some of our Past Apparatus


Regular Games pay $50 Special Games pay $100 Jackpot $500 - $1,000 in # or Less Admission only $25. Payouts over $2,500 a night. Doors open at 5 p.m., Early Birds - 6:30p.m. Regular Games start Approx. 6:45 p.m. immediately following the Early Birds. 

December 18, 2017: BIG NEWS!  We've got lots of great items for our raffle tonight, including a TV and fine jewelry.  Come out and try your luck!