MOUNT VERNON -- Cars are so common today, it's easy to forget that even though they were invented in the late 1800s, it was still quite a while before they became common.
A good example is the photograph in this vintage, hand-tinted postcard from 1910.
It shows the fire-response crews, which are horse-drawn wagons. According to Frederick Lorey's History of Knox County 1876-1976, the photo was taken at the North Gay Street fire station, which served the city's third ward. This station stood where the annex to the Gay Street United Methodist Church now stands, between East High and East Chestnut Streets.
At the time of this image, the fire department in Mount Vernon had only been a professional outfit for less than two decades. Before being so organized in 1891, it was strictly a volunteer organization, which became untenable as the town grew. The first paid fireman was U. G. Pickard, who held the post of fire chief for an impressive span from 1891 to 1946. He simultaneously held the post of water superintendent. He retired at the age of 81.
Uly Pickard was born in 1864, near the end of the Civil War, so it's no surprise he was named after the Union hero General Ulysses Grant. According to census reports, he and his wife had no children, though in 1910 they had a 14-year old niece living with them in their house on Curtis Street.
One might expect the man in the center, between the two wagons, to be the boss, but if it is Pickard, the child with him is neither his nor is it his niece. Perhaps it was just a neighborhood boy who was a fan of the firefighters. After all, it was common for a child in those days to dream of growing up to become a fireman.
The need for speed in firefighting was quickly becoming evident as the new century ticked along. It was only four years after this photo was taken that Mount Vernon stabled the horses and purchased their first motorized equipment.