CHARLES GOTTLIEB ZIMMERMAN was one of the original members of the Camden Fire Department, entering service on September 2, 1869 as as extra man of the Hook and Ladder Company, the original designation of what is now Ladder Company 1. His brother Theodore A. Zimmerman was also an original member of the department, serving with Engine Company 2. 

Charles G. Zimmerman was the son of Gottlieb and Mary Zimmerman. He was born in Philadelphia on January 6, 1841. The family lived in Philadelphia through at least 1845 before moving to New Jersey. The Census of 1850 shows the family living in Camden's North Ward. Besides Charles and his parents the family included older siblings Andrew, Rose, Caroline, Theodore and Hannah, and a younger children Louisa and Henry. Gottlieb Zimmerman's occupation was given as landlord, in 1860 his occupation was "gentleman". He was well known in Camden, operating a resort known as The Tub on the site of the old Columbia Gardens where Maret Street met Arch Street, east of North 5th Street. He later owned and occupied Diamond Cottage, on the present-day site of the Ben Franklin Bridge toll plaza.

The 1860 Census shows Charles, his parents and younger siblings living in Camden's North Ward.

On the 16th of April, 1861, three days after the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter, at the entrance of Charleston Harbor, a large number of loyal and patriotic citizens of Camden City and County, including Charles G. Zimmerman, signed the following vigorous and spirited response to the President’s proclamation : 

“ To the President of the United States : 

“The unparalleled events of the last week have revealed to the citizens of the United States, beyond question or the possibility of a doubt, that peaceful reconciliation upon the form of our Constitution is repelled and scorned, and secession means, in the hearts of its supporters, both Treason and war against our Country and Nation. 

“ We, therefore, the undersigned Loyal Citizens of the United States, and inhabitants of the city of Camden, in the State of New Jersey, responding to the proclamation of the President of the United States, hereby declare our unalterable determination to sustain the government in its efforts to maintain the honor, the integrity and the existence of our National Union and the perpetuity of the popular Government, and to redress the wrongs already long enough endured ; no differences of political opinion; no badge of diversity upon points of party distinction, shall restrain or withhold us in the devotion of all we have or can command to the vindication of the Constitution, the maintenance of the laws and the defence of the Flag of our Country." 

Charles G. Zimmerman served in Civil War as a Sergeant with the Company F, 4th Regiment, New Jersey Infantry, from April 27 to July 31, 1861. His older brother Theodore also served, as did others who would play a role in Camden in future years. This regiment was mustered into the U. S. service at Trenton, April 27, 1861, to serve for three months, and left the state for Washington, 
D. C., on May 3, with 37 commissioned officers and 743 non-commissioned officers and privates, a total of 777. On the evening of May 5 it reached the capital, and on the 9th it was ordered to go into camp at Meridian hill, where, within a few days the entire brigade was encamped, and where, on the 12th, it was honored by a visit from the president, who warmly complimented the appearance of the troops. On the evening of May 23 it joined the 2nd and 3d regiments and about midnight took up the line of march in silence for the bridge that spanned the Potomac. This bridge was crossed at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 24th, the 2nd was posted at Roach's spring, and the 3d and 4th about half a mile beyond on the Alexandria road. On July 16, a guard was detailed from the 4th for a section of the Orange & Alexandria railroad, which it was important to hold; one company from the regiment guarded the Long bridge; still another was on duty at Arlington mills; and the remainder of the regiment, together with the 2nd, was ordered to proceed to Alexandria. On July 24, the term of service having expired, the 4th returned to New Jersey and was mustered out at Trenton, July 31, 1861.

Charles G. Zimmerman subsequently re-enlisted. He served as First Lieutenant and Adjutant, Company F, 2nd Regiment, Pennsylvania, Heavy Artillery (112th Volunteers), from November 22, 1861 to December 27, 1862. This unit undertook garrison duty in and around Washington during Zimmerman's time in service.

Returning to Camden, Charles G. Zimmeman married Keturah Abels on September 30, 1863, in Philadelphia. The young couple had been neighbors in Camden since the 1850s. Her older brother, William Abels, would become the first Chief Marshal (Chief of Department) of the Camden Fire Department in 1869.

In addition to his service with the fire department Charles G. Zimmerman ran a hotel on the northwest corner of South 2nd Street and Bridge Avenue. Fellow Camden firefighter Richard Houghtaling had worked for him there as a bartender. Charles G. Zimmerman was living at South 2nd Street and Bridge Avenue when he joined the department in the fall of 1869.

On September 2, 1869 City Council enacted a municipal ordinance creating a paid fire department. It provided for the annual appointment of five Fire Commissioners, one Chief Marshal (Chief of Department) and two Assistant Marshals. The City was also divided into two fire districts. The boundary line ran east and west, starting at Bridge Avenue and following the tracks of the Camden and Amboy Railroad to the city limits. District 1 was south of this line and District 2 was north. The commissioners also appointed the firemen who were scheduled to work six 24 hour tours per week. William Abels, from the Weccacoe Hose Company No. 2 was appointed Chief Marshal with William J. Mines, from the Independence Fire Company No. 3 as Assistant Marshal for the 1st District, and William H. Shearman as the Assistant Marshal for the 2nd District. Abels had served with the volunteer fire departments of Philadelphia, Mobile, Alabama and Camden for sixteen years prior to his appointment as Chief of the paid force.

On November 10, 1869 City Council purchased the Independence Firehouse, the three-story brick building at 409 Pine Street, for $4500. The building was designated to serve as quarters for Engine Company 1 and the 1st District. On October 29, 1869 City Council authorized construction of a two-story brick building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Arch Streets as quarters for the 2nd District. On November 25th the Fire Commissioners signed a contract with M.N. Dubois in the amount of $3100 to erect this structure. The 2nd District would share these quarters with Engine Company 2 and the Hook & Ladder Company and the facility would also serve as department headquarters for the new paid force. The original contract remains part of the Camden County Historical Society collection. 

Engine Company 2 with 1869 Silsby Hose Cart. Photo Circa 1890. Note badges upon derby hats worn by Fire Fighters.  

Two Amoskeag second class, double pump, straight frame steam engines were purchased at a cost of $4250 each. Two Silsby two wheel hose carts, each of which carried 1000 feet of hose, were another $550 each and the hook & ladder, built by Schanz and Brother of Philadelphia was $900. Each engine company received a steam engine and hose cart. Amoskeag serial #318 went to Engine Company 1, and serial #319 to Engine Company 2. The Fire Commission also secured the services of the Weccacoe and Independence steamers in case of fire prior to delivery of the new apparatus. Alfred McCully of Camden made the harnesses for the horses. Camden's Twoes & Jones made the overcoats for the new firemen and a Mr. Morley, also of Camden, supplied the caps and belts which were manufactured by the Migeod Company of Philadelphia. The new members were also issued badges.

This is the earliest known photo of fire headquarters on the northwest corner of Fifth and Arch Streets. Originally built in 1869, the building shows signs of wear some twenty years later. Note the weathervane shaped like a fireman's speaking trumpet atop the tower. Also, the fire alarm bell is pictured to the left of the telegraph pole above the rooftop. The bell was removed from the building once the fire alarm telegraph system was expanded and in good working order.  


This maker's plate once was attached to a harness made by A. McCully & Sons, 22 Market Street, Camden, New Jersey. This firm provided the first harnesses for the paid fire department in 1869.  

Badges worn by the marshals, engineers, stokers and engine drivers bore the initial letter of their respective positions and their district number. The tillerman and his driver used the number "3" to accompany their initial letter. The extra men of the 1st District were assigned badges 1-10; 2nd District badges were numbered 11-20 and the extra men of the hook & ladder wore numbers 21-30.

Although the Fire Commission intended to begin operation of the paid department on November 20, 1869, the companies did not actually enter service until December 7th at 6 P.M. because the new apparatus and buildings were not ready. The new apparatus was not tried (tested) until December 9th.

The new members of the paid force were:            

Hook & Ladder Company

Edward J. Dodamead, Tillerman; Frank S. Jones, Driver

Extra Men

Charles Baldwin 

Badge #21

Charles G. Zimmerman 

Badge #22

John Durkin 

Badge #23

William C. Lee 

Badge #24

James M. Lane 

Badge #25

James Cassidy 

Badge #26

Robert S. Bender   

Badge #27

Thomas McCowan   

Badge #28

Howard Lee                             

Badge #29

Abraham Lower             

Badge #30

The first style of breast badge worn by members of the career department in the City of Camden. 1869. (Courtesy of the C.C.H.S. Collection).


The Board of Fire Commissioners consisted of Rudolphus Bingham, Chairman and Samuel C. Harbert, Richard Perks, Jonathon Kirkbride and Jacob Daubman.

Leather helmet of natural grain believed to have been worn by Fireman Charles Baldwin, Hook & Ladder Company 1 when paid force was organized in 1869. Number 21 at bottom of frontpiece indicates member's badge number. (Courtesy of the Camden County Historical Society Collection.)

Annual salaries for the members of the paid force were: Chief Marshal, $800; Assistant Marshal, $200; Engineer, $600; Driver, $450; Stoker, $450; Tillerman, $450; Extra Men, $50. All but Extra Men were paid monthly.

Charles G. Zimmerman was a member of the Thomas M.K. Lee Post No. 5, Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.).

Charles G. Zimmerman was also a member of the Wyoming Tribe No. 55 of the Improved Order of Red Men, as were fellow Camden Fire Department members James M. Lane and Joseph H. Minnett. George Reeser Prowell, in his History of Camden County, New Jersey, published in 1886, wrote the following about this organization:

WYOMING TRIBE, No. 55, was instituted July 8, 1880. The Great Chiefs present were Great Prophet, Wm. P. Hall; Great Sachem, James M. Smith; G.C. of R., John T. Davis. The first Chiefs of the tribe were Prophet, Joseph H. Minnett; Sachem, Alonzo Bicking; Senior Sagamore, Chas. G. Zimmerman; Junior Sagamore, Wm. F. Propert; C. of R., D.C. Vannote; K. of W., Jos. B. Fox. The present Chiefs - P., J.A. Dold; S., Henry C. Boddy; S.S., Wm. B. Bignell; J.S., Wm. J. Boddy; C. of R., D.C. Vannote; K. of W., J.B. Fox. The number of members is one hundred and fifty-eight. The lodge meets Wednesday evenings at Third and Market Streets.

Charles G. Zimmerman left the Fire Department on January 8, 1872. He stopped appearing in Camden's City Directories in 1885. He moved to Atlantic City and opened a hotel known as the Girard House at 2001 Atlantic Avenue. He passed away in Trenton, New Jersey while attending the state convention of the Improved order of Red Men on February 28, 1889. His widow, Mrs. Keturah Zimmerman, stayed in Atlantic City and ran the hotel for a short time. She was still living in Atlantic City as late as 1901. Mrs. Zimmerman passed away in 1917.

Charles G. Zimmerman's nephew, Arthur A. Zimmerman, the son of his brother Theodore, was the premier bicycle racing champion of the 1890s and early 1900s.

Philadelphia Inquirer
May 8, 1878

William H. Shearman - John S. Read
Charles G. Zimmerman - William H. Cole
John R. Johnston - William H. Powell
Stephen Titus - Matthew Miller- James Tatem
B. Frank Sutton - Christopher J. Mines Jr. Charles Sharp - William Sharp
Elwood Kemble - Charles Robinson
Joseph B. Tatem - Samuel T. Murphy
John Gill Jr. - Amos Ebert - Lemuel Horner
William M. Godfrey - Thomas C. Knight

Judge John T. Woodhull - Benjamin Hunter - John M. Armstrong - Emma Bethel
Click on Images for PDF File of Complete Article

Philadelphia Inquirer - February 23, 1884

Daniel M. Stevens - Charles G. Zimmerman

Philadelphia Inquirer - March 4, 1889

Cooper Street