A long ago fallen firefighter gets his due

My mother went to a ceremony Saturday in Evansville, Ind., where her great-grandfather was honored, more than 100 years after his death.

John Walsh came to America in the 1800s from Ireland where he was born in 1847. He was just 45 when he was killed in a firefighting accident Jan. 18, 1893 in Evansville.

Walsh became a firefighter in about 1891, joining Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1, not long after the Evansville Fire Department became a fully paid, career department in 1888.

He died while responding to a fire when the Hook and Ladder rig he was driving was in an accident. Accounts differ on what happened. Contemporary newspaper accounts indicate Walsh’s rig was trying to avoid colliding with a farmer and his team of horses at Pennsylvania Street and Third Avenue. The number of reports seem more reliable than a later book on the history of Evansville firefighters, which indicates the accident was at Indiana Street and Second Avenue with Walsh’s rig colliding with a Steamer rig from the same Hose House No. 3 where John was stationed.

The Hook and Ladder rig fell on Walsh. He was left unconscious and later died.

I received an email just over a year ago from Chris Wagener, a lieutenant in the Evansville Fire Department. He was compiling a list of fallen Evansville firefighters who hadn't been honored and had come across something I had posted about Walsh on Ancestry.com. Wagener said they were planning to have a ceremony, and I told him my mother would be thrilled to go. About six weeks ago, Wagener called me to follow up. They installed a plaque with the names of 34 fallen firefighters.

Walsh and his wife, Bridget (O’Rourke) Walsh, had at least eight children. The youngest, Josephine John Walsh, was born March 14, 1893, about two months after John Walsh died.