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The Ghost of Seagrave

by Walt McCall

You never know what history lies in your own back yard! For some years I had noticed a domed private mausoleum in Windsor Grove Cemetery about two miles from my Victoria Avenue home.

One day I took a purposeful drive through this cemetery to take a closer look at this odd structure, clearly visible from busy Howard Avenue. I was amazed to find the name "Seagrave" carved in stone above the iron door. I knew the Seagrave Company of Columbus, Ohio had established a Canadian branch plant in Walkerville at the turn of the century (see The Walkerville Times, Issue #7).

There were certainly no other families with that famous name in the area. I made an appointment to stop in at the cemetery office to look at the burial register. The handwritten ledger was fragile, but readable. I carefully scanned the long list of "S" internments and was absolutely thunderstruck to find not only the name of Frederic Scott Seagrave himself but that of his wife Adelaide, too. Mr Seagrave had been entombed in February 1923 and his wife nine years later.

The next chapter in this fascinating saga took place on Labour Day, 1984. I wanted to take a picture of my very own Seagrave fire engine in front of the last resting-place of this great company's founder.

mccalls's-seagrave.jpgI had carefully positioned my 1925 Seagrave pumper in front of the mausoleum when a woman tending some nearby graves strolled over and politely inquired why I was taking a picture of a fire engine in a cemetery.

I showed her the oval Seagrave nameplate on the radiator of my truck then pointed to the name over the door of the mausoleum. "Is that...him?" she asked. I nodded and proceeded to tell her how Mr. Seagrave had started out making ladders for Michigan's apple orchards over a century earlier, and had gone on to establish one of the largest and best-known fire engine companies in the world - a company still in business today, 119 years later.

 Ironically, the Seagrave nameplate returned to Olde Walkerville in 1991, when the Windsor Fire Department's Station No. 2 at Walker Rd. and Richmond St. was assigned one of two new Diesel-powered Seagrave pumpers. Seagrave Fire Apparatus, a direct descendant of the original Seagrave Co., relocated from Columbus to Clintonville, Wisconsin in 1964, built engine 2.

Engine 2's big lime green Seagrave pumper was stationed on the same block of Walker Rd., on the same side of the street where the former W.E. Seagrave Fire Apparatus Co. plant still stands- 96 years after it was built.

On the night of June 30, 1985, the old fire engine factory almost went up in flames when the former Gotfredson Corporation plant across the street was destroyed in one of the most spectacular fires in Windsor's history. It's unlikely that the firefighters who kept the raging flames to the east side of the street knew the heritage of the structure across the street they were protecting!

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