The Combination



On February 14, 1859 the New York State Legislature passed an act which provided for and regulated the election of a Chief Engineer and two assistant engineers of the fire department of the Village of Warren in the County of Rockland. This general election, were membership voted and graft was plentiful, was held until 1898. After new rules were adopted, the first convention of company delegates was convened to nominate 1 Chief engineer and 2 assistant engineer’s from all of the companies, allowing 3 of the companies to combine votes and keep the other companies from getting their ‘man’ as Chief. It was 36 years before each of the 5 companies got equal representation in the Haverstraw Fire Department.

In 1893, a petition was presented signed by 45 firemen asking the Village Board not to ratify the Department election that year in the United States Hotel, citing irregularities in the election. Although the Village Attorney suggested that the election was questionable, the board let it stand. Nick Murphy of Triumph Hose was ratified, and was the last Chief from Triumph.

In 1898, the Department adopted a system whereby each company would send 3 delegates to the Chiefs convention and nominate 3 candidates from any of the active companies. General Warren #2 Relief #3 and Lady Warren #5 dominated the convention and Department for the next 10 years. During that time, Triumph Hose was disbanded and Cosgriff took over their rooms on Middle Street.

In 1908, the two Middle Street companies not represented, the ‘old’ Rescue and ‘new’ Cosgriff, used their influence to swing General Warren their way, so for the next 6 years, the Middle Street Companies held sway. This would last until 1914, when Bernie Fox, the Democratic party leader in the village, and a member of Lady Warren #5 wanted to be chief. 

The year is 1914, and Haverstraw was hosting the Hudson Valley Parade and Convention. Thomas Flynn of Rescue #1 was in step for Chief. Lady Warren wanted Fox and needed the combination to secure this honor. With Relief and General Warren joining Lady Warren in electing Fox, the big loser was Tom Flynn and Rescue #1.  At this point, and for the next 20 years, neither Rescue #1 or Cosgriff #4 had a sitting Chief.

In 1921, a young man joined General Warren Hose Company and his name was Charles Fales. He was the step-son of Thomas Flynn, and being that the only thing deeper than politics is family, Smokey never forgot that Flynn got the ‘boot’.



Working the ranks of General Warren, serving as Secretary and Captain of the company as well as Village clerk, Smokey was elected in 1930 as 2nd assistant chief, thanks to the combination.

As with all enthusiastic volunteers, he was quickly named chairman of the By Law committee and soon had a group of rules up for review. Among them was a rule to allow the Election of one Chief Officer from each of the 5 companies, effectively ending the Combination and allowing equal representation in the Department. The by-law change died in committee, the matter left on the table. 

On Tuesday April 5, 1934, Smokey was elected Chief of the Department. After four years of pressure from the Middle Street companies, who were out of the combination since 1914, Smokey sensed a more reformist attitude within the Department, and that the time was ripe for change.

The Minutes show that during the Department Re-Organizational meeting on April 27, 1934, Smokey proposed an amendment to the By-Laws to allow equal representation to the Board from all five companies.

On June 7, 1934 a special meeting of the Fire Council was held for the purpose of adopting an amendment to the Constitution and By-Laws of the Haverstraw Fire Department to allow equal representation to the board by allowing election of one Chief and 4 assistants for the ensuing year. The amendment passed and an election was held that night to elect Chiefs from Rescue and Cosgriff.

At the Annual Meeting that year, the line consisted of the following:

Charles Fales     General Warren #2

Harry Joachim     Relief Hose #3

Jack Feeney       Lady Warren #5

William Babcock   Cosgriff Hose #4

William Pallett   Rescue #1



To this day, on the first Thursday after the First Tuesday in the month of April, the Haverstraw Fire Department convenes a Chiefs Convention at 8pm to select 1 Chief and 4 assistant chiefs to represent each of the five companies of the Haverstraw Fire Department.