Wilmington’s first volunteer fire company, Friendship Fire Company, formed in 1775. As the city grew, other companies were founded to serve the expanding community. In 1833, a group of men left the Delaware Fire Company (1819) to form the Water Witch Fire Company.
Water Witch’s founding record book, containing constitution and bylaws, membership list, and minutes from 1833 to 1841, was donated to the Society in 1936 by John B. Taylor. This book, along with similar volumes from other fire companies in the Society’s collection, documents the history of an organization that provided an essential city service as well as serving as part of Wilmington’s civic fabric and a social outlet for its members.
In 1868, the city’s volunteer fire companies organized into the Wilmington Fire Department. Water Witch was active until 1884, then revived in 1891. In 1921, Wilmington instituted a paid fire department. However, volunteer fire companies still fulfill their traditional and highly valued roles throughout the rest of Delaware.