First recorded death of a black firefighter in North Carolina was Edward Peed of Washington

by February 15, 2017

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February 15, 2017

On February 8, 1902, Edward Peed, Nozzleman for the Salamander Fire Company, died while fighting a fire.He was the first recorded fireman to die in the line of duty here in Washington. And as far as records show, he was the first Negro fireman in North Carolina to die in the line of duty.

The fire began about 5:25 PM on a Saturday afternoon from a defective flue at the Atlantic Coast Line Freight Warehouse which was located on Washington’s water front. Shortly after 9PM, Edward Peed was throwing some water on the burning rubbish when suddenly and without warning, the western wall of the Hoyt Building collapsed on fireman Peed, killing him instantly.

Edward Peed had been a member of the Salamander Fire Co. for more than 20 years. He was 46 years old when he tragically died in the line of duty. All the citizens of Washington regretted his death. A monument was erected by the white citizens of Washington and to this day, the monument stands at the current Fire Station. The monument reads: “Edward Peed, born March 1, 1855 & Died February 8, 1902. A member of the Salamander Fire Company for over 20 years. He died at the post of duty. Erected by the white citizens of Washington, North Carolina in appreciation of his faithfulness.”

The first discovery of a record of a death of a black firefighter in North Carolina was Edward Peed of Washington.

Charles Yates began a search for the grave of Edward Peed in 1997. After a long and tireless effort he finally found the head stone in an old private black cemetery. The stone had been pushed over by vandals but he was able to read the inscription.

Peed’s death had been forgotten over the years until Charles Yates completed his search. His name is now a part of the history of the Washington Fire Department.

The following was written by Charles T. Yates, Volunteer Fireman, Washington, NC Fire Department 1951-1976:

Edward Peed

Photo courtesy Charlotte Fire Department

The Washington Fire Company, forerunner of the present Fire Department was organized in 1791. The present Fire Department organized 1892. The volunteer fire company known as the Salamanders wore red helmets and sang as they operated their hand pumps. ( This is mentioned in another area as a way to coordinate their efforts.) Membership in this company was highly prized and the company was composed of the most outstanding black men in the community. The company was led by Professor Sylvester Dibble who, with a partner, operated the only barber shop in Washington. In 1904 there were 201 volunteer firefighters in Washington of which 86 were white an 115 colored. The fire equipment consisted of One Silsby steam engine, one small hand engine and two large hand engines. Five 2 wheel hose carts one supply wagon and one hook and ladder wagon.

The year was 1881 when the Salamander Fire Company was chartered in the town of Washington, North Carolina. This all black volunteer company wore red helmets and sang songs as they operated their hand pumps at local fires.

 

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