Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Call Fireman Sam Haskins
Engine Company 2
November 19, 1895
Died of injuries sustained while responding to fire.

* * * * * * * * * *

Engine Company No. 2
East First street, near Chicago street, Boyle Heights

Source: Los Angeles Fire Department Illustrated
December 1900

  Call Fireman Sam Haskins was the first black man hired by the Los Angeles Fire Department.  Born a slave in Virginia, Haskins came to Los Angeles sometime in 1880.  In 1892 Haskins was appointed to  the department as a "Call Fireman", a paid position that was part time, filling in for members off sick or on vacation.  Most call firemen filled permanent positions when one became available.  On November 19, 1895 an alarm came into Engine 2 located at 2127 East First Street.  The Engine Company responded, the hose wagon leading the way, the steam engine following.  Sam Haskins climbed on the rear tailboard of the engine alongside of the engineer.  Hitting rough pavement on North Main Street, Haskins lost his balance and fell forward into the large wheel on the left side of the boiler.  He was fatally crushed and died a short time later at the engine house.  Sam Haskins was a well liked person around town and had many friends.  He was the first member of the department to die in the line of duty and his funeral was attended by Chief Walter S. Moore, his assistant, Ed R. Smith and  Ira J. Francis, the electrician.  A large detail of thirty men from the fire department as well as members of the police department attended.  The cortege was headed by a band and Chief Moore delivered a grave side address.  
    The death of fireman Haskins prompted Councilman Ashman to direct the Fire Commission to organize an engine company to be composed of colored men.  A motion was put forward to the Fire Commission on November 26, 1895.



How Sam Haskins Went to
His Death



The Colored Hercules Crushed Between
Boiler and Wheel


Ten Minutes Consumed in Extricating the Man From His position and Five Minutes Afterwards He dies

    The unsightly depression in the street in front of the Baker block was the cause of an accident which resulted in the death of Sam Haskins, the call-fireman at engine house No. 2, at about 6 o'clock last evening.
     An alarm was rung at 5:55 p. m., and two minutes later the engine and hook and ladder wagon were tearing along over the paving stones and car tracks.
    Sam Haskins, the Herculean colored fireman, jumped to his place on the engine but, owing to the roughness of the pavement, the numerous car tracks and the depression before mentioned, the rapidly drawn engine was so unsteady that the unfortunate fireman lost his balance, flung his arms about wildly for a moment, then fell between the left hind wheel and the boiler and was crushed to death.  The engine was stopped at once, but it was fully ten minutes before the wheel was taken off and the mangled and dying man removed.  Meanwhile a large crowd collected about the engine.
    The fireman was the recipient of much adverse criticism for not putting out the fire which was rapidly heating the boiler and literally roasting the victim.
    Drs. Choate and McCarthy were summoned, and under their direction the dying man was carried to the engine house, where he was placed upon a mattress.
    Efforts were made to revive him, but he died about five minutes after he was removed from the engine.  The body was badly crushed by the force of the turning wheel.  A large iron rod on the boiler was bent to one side by the impact.
    Sam Haskins was a bachelor who came here from Virginia abut fifteen years ago.  He was a well-known character about town and had many friends.  His bravery was manifested at the time he defended Officer Valencia, who was attacked by De Camp several years ago.
    The horrible accident that caused his death was witnessed by a large crowd, most of whom give conflicting accounts of the matter. The above is the version of Professor Hutchison who witnessed the whole affair.


The Colored Callman Fell Between
the Wheel and Boiler of His
Engine and Was Mangled and


 Sam Haskins, a call fireman and well-known colored politician, met death in a most agonizing manner yesterday evening.
  Haskins belonged to engine company No. 2, and was always prompt to respond to the call to duty.  An alarm was rung in at 6 o'clock yesterday evening and the engine and hook and ladder wagon were soon tearing along over the rough pavement and the rougher car tracks in front of the Baker Block on North Main street.  Sam Haskins sprang to his place on the rear of the engine, but, owing to the roughness of the road, he lost his balance, flung his arms about wildly for a moment, then fell between the boiler and the left hind wheel, where he was crushed and burned to death.
  The wheel of the engine had to be taken off before the victim could be removed from his perilous position, and it was fully ten minutes before this was done.  Meanwhile a large crowd gathered and offered a thousand suggestions, and the fire in the engine made the boiler hotter and hotter.  As soon as the wheel was taken off the dying man was carried to the engine-house where Drs. Choate and McCarthy attended him.  All attempts at resuscitation failed, and he died within a few minutes.
  Sam Haskins was a well-known character about town, and had many friends among the white as well as the colored population.  He was a native of Virginia and came to Los Angeles about fifteen years ago.  He was about 40 years of age and unmarried.
  The body was taken to Kregeio & Bresee's, where the inquest will be held when it suits the convenience of the Coroner.


Source:  Los Angeles Times,
November 20, 1895.

November 19, 1895.


The Haskins Inquest--Accidental
Death--Funeral Arrangements

    The inquest over the remains of Fireman Sam Haskins was held at Kregelo & Bresee's yesterday morning.  The verdict of the Coroner's jury was accidental death by being crushed between a wheel and the boiler of engine No. 2.  Haskins was not roasted in addition to being crushed, as appeared to be the case.  A casing of wood between the outer and inner steel coatings of the boiler makes it impossible to heat the surface from within.  No one is to blame for poor Haskin's sad fate.  He was extricated within all the dispatch possible.
    After the inquest the body was removed to Orr & Hines's undertaking establishment, from which place the funeral will take place at 2 o'clock this afternoon.  Chief Moore has issued orders for a large detachment of the fire department to turn out and show respect for their dead comrade.  The police force will also be represented.

Funeral of Sam Haskins.

  The funeral of Sam Haskins, the colored fireman who met death by an untimely accident Tuesday night, was held yesterday afternoon from the undertaking rooms of Orr & Hines.
  There were profuse floral offerings, among which were a wreath from the Fire Commissioners and a star from the police department.  A detail of thirty of the permanent firemen attended the services, which were conducted by Rev. John A. B. Wilson, pastor of the First Methodist Church.
  The interment was at Evergreen Cemetery, and there was an address at the grave by Chief Engineer Walter S. Moore.  The pall-bearers were John Rohrer, Frank Leiva, A. L. Smith, William Barry, George Earner (colored,) and Police Officer Robert Stewart (colored.)
  George Warner was formerly a slave in company with the deceased in Virginia.


November 21, 1895.

Source:  Los Angeles Times,
November 23, 1895.

The Colored Fireman Will Be Buried This Afternoon

    The funeral of Sam Haskins, the colored fireman who met his death while responding to an alarm last Monday night, will take place at 2 oclock this afternoon.  Chief Walter S. Moore his assistant, Ed R. Smith, Ira J. Francis, the electrician, and a detail of thirty men from the fire department will attend the funeral.  The cortege will be headed by a band.  The remains are to be interred in Evergreen cemetery.  The officiating clergyman will be Rev. Will A. Knighten.

HASKINS--In this city, November 19, 1895, Sam Haskins, a native of Virginia, aged 49 years.
    Funeral today (Friday) at 2 p.m., under the auspices of the Fire department from the undertaking parlors of Orr & Hines, No. 147 North Spring street.  Friends invited.  Interment Evergreen Cemetery

November 22, 1895.

November 22, 1895.

Councilman Ashman Wants a Few of
Them in the Department

    It has been the desire of Councilman Ashman for some little time to see one of the fire engine companies of the city composed of colored men. He says some of the Eastern cities have colored firemen, and he thinks that Los Angeles should have them, too.  Sam Haskins, who was accidentally killed a few days ago while responding to a fire alarm was the only colored man ever in the Los Angeles department.  His death makes a vacancy, which the Commissioners will no doubt fill with another colored man. Mr. Ashman would like to see more than this recognition shown to the Afro-American residents of the city.
    At this morning's session of the Council his motion that the Fire Commission organize and engine company to be composed of colored men was referred to the Commission.

November 26, 1895.

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