by Harold Bowen, from Tales of Olde Ipswich, Volume 1. (published early 1970’s). He adds, “It is hoped that after my story is read this week, those persons who delight in sounding a false fire alarm will perhaps have found a lesson in this tragedy on South Main Street.”
George Gilmore was a carpenter and contractor in Ipswich, and there was none better. Many of the houses on Brownville Avenue, and even Brown’s Mill, were built by this man. The house which he lived in on County Street (Lavoie residence) was moved from around the footbridge on South Main Street to its present location. It had been a shoe shop and George Gilmore made it over into a home.
It was on a Friday, June 28 of 1906 that Mr. Gilmore had just arrived home for the weekend from a job at Lake Sunapee, N.H. He was constructing a camp up there for Dr. Keyes, a town dentist. It was about five o’clock in the afternoon and Mr. Gilmore had noticed that a few slats in the lattice-work of his piazza had come off and so he proceeded to replace them. He had just started his task when the fire alarm began to sound.
George Gilmore was a call fireman on the old horse-drawn ladder truck behind the Ipswich Town Hall. He threw down his hammer and saw on the piazza and headed for the Town Hall. When he arrived, the horses had been hitched to the ladder truck and all was ready to go.
Mr. Gilmore jumped on the side of the truck and off they went down Elm Street towards Market Square. The iron rim of one of the wheels had just been repaired a week before. The trolley car tracks ran along South Main Street, and when they were passing the Savings Bank (where the B.P. Gas Station stands now), the wheel got caught in the tracks. Part of the iron rim came off and struck Mr. Gilmore in the face and left a terrible wound on his face. It completely tore his moustache and upper lip off, which was found at the scene later.
As there was no hospital here, he was carried home unconscious. And three hours later, he died. He left his widow and four children. For two years, Mr. George Schofield fought at the town meeting for a pension for his widow. He was finally successful, and she was granted $300 a year for life. Her pension was never increased, and when she died in 1954 she was still receiving $300 per year.
The fire, as it turned out, was across from the present fire station. It was put out with a bucket of water. The same thing could happen today, with a fire large or small. Firemen and fire engines racing to answer an alarm is dangerous business. Someone could get killed, as did Mr. Gilmore. — HAROLD D. BOWEN