RICHMOND — As the host town of Saturday’s New England States Veteran Fireman’s League Muster, the Richmond Fire Department had been ready to compete.

Its historic pumper Tempest, originally built in 1851, was shined and polished for the competition, which pitted teams from four New England states against one another for bragging rights about which team could shoot the longest stream of water from antique pumpers powered solely by people.


“We were missing a fitting for the discharge,” Richmond Fire Chief Stephen Caswell said at the conclusion of the competition.

The hand tub had been stored in a barn for more than three decades and had been pulled out and refurbished this year.

It’s not the kind of thing that’s available at the local hardware store, and on Saturday, it also wasn’t the type of thing that any other area fire department was able to provide.


The muster, along with historic reenactments, were among the events to kick off a special, longer Richmond Days celebration.

Normally held on the last weekend of the month, organizers this year decided to add more days and events in honor of Richmond’s bicentennial celebration that kicked off earlier this year.

On Saturday, town officials closed off Front Street south of Main Street for the competition.

In turn, each pumper or hand tub dating back to some point in the 1800s, predating steam-powered pumps, would be rolled and secured in place, with a line laid to draw water from a trough on one end and a hose with a nozzle on the other end to shoot a stream of water down Front Street. When it came time to pump, teams on each side of the pumper would push in turn as hard as they could to build up enough pressure to shoot the water.

Part of the art of the competition is choosing when to pump. For each team, the foreman, perched on the top of the hand tub, watched for action in the flags on the street, watching for a break in the breeze that was coming up from the south.

At the close of the competition, the Governor Bradstreet team from North Andover, Massachusetts, took first place honors, with a stream that went 198 feet and 3 3/4 inches.


“It’s teamwork; it’s all of us,” said Chip Bailey, foreman of the Governor Bradstreet team. “I’m on top, I’m the foreman. I get to decide when we pump, but if I don’t have the guys underneath, it don’t matter.”

Between competitions, teams maintain the equipment and go over things and read journals.

“Our hand tub was built in 1861, and Quansigimog’s tub (from Bath) was built in the early 1800s,” Bailey said. “Most of the wood is not the same, but the metal’s all original. So you got to always upkeep it, because if it’s not safe, we don’t want no one pumping it. Bottom line, we don’t want anyone getting hurt.”

And while they compete against each other, they also help each other out when needed.

Following this weekend’s events, music takes center stage at 6 p.m. at the gazebo on the waterfront for the first half of the week. Castlebay is scheduled to perform Monday, followed by Junction 218 on Tuesday and 12/OC on Wednesday.

A classic car show is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at Kennebec Cutters at 70 Main St.


At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Richmond fire and police departments face off for their annual softball game at Lane Field along with a cookout hosted by the fire department.

On Friday, the traditional Richmond Days activities kick off in the town’s village area at 6 p.m. with a children’s parade, petting zoo and bounce houses, and the Cribstone Band performs at the gazebo. At 6:30 p.m., the Whatever Derby races start. At 8 p.m., live music is scheduled at The Goat.

On Saturday, festivities start at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at Enterprise Grange. The parade starts at 1o a.m., and events throughout the day include a makers market and live music; a cornhole tournament; a chicken barbecue at 11 a.m. at the Dresden Richmond United Methodist Church; games and live music at the waterfront; and lobster crate races.

The day will be capped off with fireworks over the Kennebec River.

At the close of the muster competition, a drawing was held to choose the competition order for the next muster, which will be held in Newbury, Massachusetts.

The muster will return to Maine on Sept. 30, when Woolwich will host the competition.

It’s not clear that the Richmond hand tub will be able to compete this summer, but Caswell said he hopes the department can special order the fitting needed to hook the hose to the hand tub.

“We used to do this many, many, many years ago,” Caswell said. “With a newer generation, we’re trying to bring it back and hopefully it’ll become a thing.”


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