The Flour Bluff Volunteer Fire Department (now the Nueces County ESD #2) is connected to Benjamin Franklin in a way that many may not know. Franklin and other members of the Junto (a group of men from diverse occupations and backgrounds who shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves and their community and to help others) saw a need in their community, and like the citizens of Flour Bluff set out to solve the problem.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” wrote Benjamin Franklin. Most of us have heard it and quoted it. But, to what was ol’ Ben referring? It turns out that it had to do with firefighting. The full quote appeared February 4, 1735, in The Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin sent an anonymous letter to his own newspaper entitled “Protection of Towns from Fire.” Writing as an “old citizen” he admonished:
“In the first Place, as an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure, I would advise ’em to take care how they suffer living Coals in a full Shovel, to be carried out of one Room into another, or up or down Stairs, unless in a Warming pan shut; for Scraps of Fire may fall into Chinks and make no Appearance until Midnight; when your Stairs being in Flames, you may be forced, (as I once was) to leap out of your Windows, and hazard your Necks to avoid being oven-roasted.”
He had seen the city government’s response to the destructive waterfront fire of 1730, in which the old pumper had proven almost worthless, and he was inspired to make a change. In 1736, with Franklin as its chief, the Union Fire Company was born as a volunteer organization, independent of the city government. Its members were civic-minded men who took no pay. So many locals volunteered that Franklin urged them to set up their own fire companies in their neighborhoods. Though this wasn’t the first attempt to organize firefighters, it was an important part of firefighting history.
The Flour Bluff Fire Department started unofficially in 1952 as a group of volunteers who wanted to help Flour Bluff, then an unincorporated area outside of Corpus Christi. According to a Caller-Times article from “It was to help make our town a safer place,” said Josephine Essig, wife of Jay Essig, the first chief of the department, concerning the formation of the volunteer group. “You just felt better in getting out and helping people.”
According to a letter written to the citizens of Flour Bluff from Chief Chuck Taylor, the Flour Bluff Volunteer Fire Department was organized in May of 1958.
“It was chartered by the State of Texas for fifty years in that same year. Since that time, the department has responded to a myriad of circumstances. Under the charter, the Nueces County Rural Fire Prevention District #2 had the authority to levee a tax up to .03 cents per hundred dollar valuation on property to purchase/maintain equipment and for expenses of the department. When Flour Bluff was annexed by the City of Corpus Christi, the commissioners lost that taxing authority. The department has been contracted by the city as a “back-up force” for fire station #13 on Waldron Road since 1974.”
The little fire department continued to serve the communities of Flour Bluff and North Padre Island, but not without fear of disbandment. This is the first in a series of stories about the Flour Bluff Volunteer Fire Department.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer a glimpse into the past and present of the little community of Flour Bluff. She wrote for The Flour Bluff Messenger, wrote and edited for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper that existed from December 2017 to April 2020, served as copy editor on three books, and continues to tutor students of all ages in the lively art of writing.