by Bill Batson
Daniel Goswick, Sr., Ex-Chief of the Piermont Fire Department is on a mission to properly commemorate a 19th-century firefighter named Thomas Pomplin. “Pomp,” as he was called by friends and family, died in August 1854 at the age of 28, a few days after collapsing at the site of a fire in Nyack. He and his brothers at the Piermont Firehouse had responded to a call from Nyack for mutual aid. Goswick believes this death should have been recorded as the first in-service loss of life in Rockland County. But Pomplin, who was Black, was denied the distinction.
A group that includes members of Piermont’s Empire Company No. 1, civic leaders, local historians, elected officials and myself, have been meeting this summer to correct the indignity and honor Pomplin.
The tragic events of August 1854, and Pomplin’s heroism, have come to light thanks to the research of Brian Duddy and Nyack firefighter and historian Jim Liner. Here is the story of river village heroism they have reconstructed.
Smoke and flames were sighted at the Storm’s Cedar Tub and Pail factory located in what is now Nyack’s Memorial Park on a hot summer day in 1854. Arthur and Henry Storms operated the wooden factory using water power from the Hudson River to produce products that sold throughout the world. Their facility was a converted sulfur match factory.
Initially, members of the Orangetown and Mazeppa fire companies responded to the blaze. Details of the fateful night emerge from a letter to raise support from a Pomplin memorial circulated by Goswick Sr. “While the Nyack firefighters directed their efforts toward saving the brick buildings opposite the main Storm’s structure, a man on a horse was dispatched to Empire Hose Company #1 in Piermont to request mutual aid,” Goswick recounted.
Generations of Goswicks Volunteer to Fight Fires in Piermont
Since 1945, there have been over three dozen members of the Goswick extended family in the Piermont Fire Department.
Here are their names and ranks:
- Chief Lawrence “Tex” Goswick (deceased)
- Chief William Goswick (deceased)
- Chief Francis (Goswick) Taulman. (deceased))
- Chief Daniel Goswick Sr
- Chief Daniel Goswick Jr
- Candy Goswick EMT
- Hope Goswick EMT LT
- Samantha Scully EMT ( step daughter)
- Rich Scully (son in law)
- Andre Baez (step son)
- Billy Goswick Firefighter
- Ed Goswick Firefighter
- Jesse Goswick Firefighter
- Jimmy Goswick Firefighter
- Lawrence (Goswick) Cabrea Asst Chief
- Pauline Goswick EMS (deceased))
- Chief James Alise (cousin)
- Donna Alise (cousin) EMT LT
- Mia Alise (cousin) EMS
- Santina Stevenson (niece) EMT
- Matt Stevenson (nephew) firefighter
- Lisa Lynch (cousin) EMT
- Wendy Lynch (sister in law) ladies aux
- Faith Lynch (sister in law) ladies aux
- Chief Leroy Lynch (father in law) (deceased)
- Ester Lynch (mother in law) ladies aux (deceased)
- Robin Lynch ladies aux
- James Alise Sr firefighter (deceased)
- Rene Alise ladies aux
- Dawn Dillon (sister in law) ladies aux,
- Angel Lynch (niece) Ladies aux
- Dr. Vincent Lynch (nephew) firefighter
- Kuree Tadeo (niece) ladies aux
- Hugh Artrip (nephew) firefighter
- Emily Schnapp (niece)
- Patrick Krummuck (godson) firefighter Lt.
- Chief Allen Lynch ( wife’s uncle)
- Shirley Lynch EMT
- Savannan Sturgil (niece) ladies aux
In the 1800s, firefighters manually pulled and pushed their engines from the fire stations to fire emergencies. For Pomp and crew, the three-mile distance from Piermont to Nyack was covered in 50 minutes. The Piermont reinforcements were applauded upon their arrival when the inferno was at its height. The additional equipment and manpower helped prevent further spread of the fire to other buildings. “By 9pm that evening, the main factory collapsed in a pile of smoking rubble, but the fire was fully extinguished” described Goswick’s letter.
Pomplin died a few days after the fire. The Rockland County Journal from August 12, 1854 noted that “Tom (Pomp) Pomplin, the colored man who came with the Piermont Engines the night the Storms’ factory was burned, died last Friday at Piermont from the effects of getting overheated and exhausted.”
Current plans feature memorials for Pomplin at Rockland Cemetery in Sparkill where he is interred in the once Blacks-only section of the burial ground, a monument in the heart of Piermont and a marker in Nyack’s Memorial Park.
There is also talk of a commemorative 3k run that traces that route from Piermont to Nyack, the route Pomp and his compatriots took to deliver the half-ton hand operated water pump that helped tame the fire.
I serve on a commemoration committee assembled by Goswick that includes State Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, Assemblyman Michael Lawler, County Legislator James Foley, Piermont Mayor Bruce Tucker and representatives of the Piermont Historical Society, the Piermont Library, the Nyack NAACP and St. Charles AME Church in Sparkill.
On a trip to collect material for this column at the Piermont firehouse, Daniel Goswick, Jr. pointed to the framed portraits of some of the Goswicks that have served the people of Piermont in the fire department. He then took out a leather hat that was used by the company in the 1850s.
Adjacent to the double row of photos of past chiefs is a portrait of Jared Llyod, who was killed in a fire at a nursing home in Spring Valley earlier this year, an incident that has raised significant safety issues for the Rockland community, and has resulted in criminal charges.
When volunteer firefighters race into danger, they do so without hesitation. As a society, the least we can do is swiftly provide them with every benefit, dignity and distinction when, in the course of their selfless, uncompensated duty, they meet an untimely end.
More than a century and a half after racial discrimination robbed a brave man the public and permanent recognition he was due, the time to honor Thomas Pomplin is now.
If you would like to contribute to the effort to build a memorial for this forgotten fallen firefighter you can click here to visit a donation page for that purpose set up by the Piermont Fire Department.
Pomplin Descendants Invited to Accept Recognition of his behalf
Help us find Pomplin’s descendants: A genealogy by Jim Liner indicates that ancestors of Pomplin include members of the Royster, Hammond, Garrick and Miller families. If you know people from Rockland County who are related to Clifford Miller, Dwight Royster, Michael Garrick or Courtney Ginette Hammond, please email me at email@example.com.
An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Piermont’s Forgotten Fallen Firefighter Thomas Pomplin“ © 2021 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.