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The community's first fire engine, a 1923 Stoughton Engine, was purchased from the Antioch Fire Department in 1947 for $500.00. Originally stored in the parking lot of a local tavern commonly visited by department members, the engine was basic yet functional.
Containing two booster reels of one-inch hose on either side, the bench seat had room for two to endure the elements while responding to emergencies. Without a windshield or doors, the 1923 Stoughton was rudimentary. A variety of hand tools littered the engine's sides, ready to be used at a moment's notice. With standing room only on the tailboard, Knollwood’s first engine was the heart and soul of the department.
Without a station to call home, members focused on the lone engine as the defining feature of the department. Later relocated to a Quonset shelter before the department erected a station of its own, the engine was neither pretty nor top-of-the-line, but every resident of Knollwood could proudly point to it and call it their own. Like the crank start of the engine, the engine provided the basic response of the developing fire department.
Five years later the engine was sold to Reeve’s Pharmacy in Antioch as a parade vehicle for the original purchase price of $500.00. The 1923 Stoughton has recently resurfaced on the East Coast, where a private collector has poured large sums of money into restoring the historic engine to its original condition. More than 10 years was invested in the restoration process, and now every detail of the 1923 Stoughton is near original condition, with the exception of a lantern that hung suspended over the tailboard.
Upon completion the engine was returned to its original home. It was a welcome sight, but Antioch Fire Department members inquired about the empty hook at the rear of the engine. The collector explained his epic search for a lantern to replace the one that had been missing since the 1940s and his failure to locate one. Upon completion of his tale, an older member of the department slipped away to the basement of Antioch Fire to re-emerge with the original lantern. Collecting dust for over 50 years, the lantern was an unknown quantity for current members.
Stoughton build fire engines until 1928 when the Great Depression hit America. Today the Stoughton Company is recognized as a national manufacture semi-tractor trailers.
The second engine purchased by the Knollwood Fire Department was bought on June 26, 1950, from the Grayslake Fire Department for $850.00. Beaten and extremely worn, the Dodge fire truck was sent to the Nickey Chevrolet Company to be restored. For $2,253.70, Nickey Chevy replaced the existing chassis with a new 2-ton Chevy chassis and removed the tanks, pumps, and equipment, installing them on the new engine.
Barely surviving financially, the Knollwood Fire Department remained small yet functional. In 1954 the department proposed the purchase of their first new fire apparatus. After several correspondences with engine manufacturers, a representative from the Peter Pirsch Company personally attended a monthly District Trustees meeting and invited all members to visit the plant and examine various apparatus designs. After a personal tour given by the owner’s son, the Knollwood Fire Department elected to purchase their first new, custom-designed fire apparatus from the Peter Pirsch Company.
Designed strictly for the Knollwood district, the new engine had unprecedented features on the smaller engine frame. To serve the community dependent on well water and to counter the lack of fire hydrants in the area, the new engine was equipped with a 1,000-gallon water tank. When the new engine arrived, however, its maiden voyage ended in failure, as the unprecedented 1,000-gallon tank proved too much for the smaller chassis. The excessive weight caused so much pressure on the front tires that the new engine was unable to be steered. Without regulative specs and fundamental blueprints of fire apparatus, the 1,000-gallon tank on the small chassis was a trial-and-error experience that proved to be an error.
The Peter Pirsch Company came to the rescue and cut the tank down to a size that made the engine safe for operation, and the new 650-gallon tank and engine were reunited with the Knollwood Fire Department.