The Newtown Volunteer Fire Department came into existence in September 1843 and my great-great-great grandfather, Johannes Schafer, joined the Winfield Company shortly afterward, thus beginning a long family relationship with fire fighting in Queens and the City of New York.
Johannes had a farm located near Fisk Avenue and Hell Gate Road which is now in the vicinity of 67th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. He had a son, Anton, born in January 1843, who followed his father into farming and also became a Fire Volunteer.
After the New York State legislature passed the Rural Cemetery Act banning all future Manhattan cemeteries, church groups and other organizations rushed to purchase land in Queens County for their burials and the price of farmland became financially untenable. The family then moved into the florist and gardening disciplines to service the numerous burial grounds.
Anton met and married Barbara Kleber in the late 1860s and moved to a village named Columbusville which was located near the intersection of 69th Street and the Long Island Expressway. He maintained his membership in the Newtown Volunteers but now was affiliated with the Maspeth Company. In the early 1890s he became one of the original members of the Middle Village Fearless Company.
Anton’s son, George, followed him into the Middle Village Volunteers where he became friends with my great-grandfather, John T. Linnemann. John eventually dated George’s sister, Anne, and they married. John and
Anne took up residence on Frederick Street (today’s Bleecker Street), mere footsteps from Fresh Pond Road.
Within a short time, John moved his growing family to Mount Olivet Crescent, where he became a leading florist and advanced within the Fearless Volunteers.
In the early 1900s he and several
other members from the area founded the Metropolitan Company of which he was a director. He maintained his active membership until 1913 when the Metropolitans were disbanded in favor of NYC’s paid fire department. John passed away in 1936 and was memorialized along with other deceased members of the Firemen’s Association of the Town of Newtown with a grave plaque (right) honoring his service.
John’s grandson, George Linnemann, grew up in Middle Village and continued the family firefighting tradition following his service in World War II. He was stationed in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn and lost his life at a house fire while on duty in 1968.