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Last D.C. Fire Horse

Last D.C. Fire Horse

June 25, 1937. Washington, D.C. A ceremony to place a headstone at Blue Plains for Tom, the last D.C. fire horse. I wonder if anyone knows where at Blue Plains this was. View full size.

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Boy on far left

Might be my dad, Harold Sinclair Kuster. He was born July 19, 1928, thus I am thinking he was around 9 years old. He died two years ago. If anyone remembers Dad I would love to chat with you or if anyone knows anything about the horses as my cousin is looking into this aspect of it as her daddy, my father's brother Noble, spoke of the horses. My dad spoke of the horses too so would love to chat.

Blue Plains Home for the Aged and Infirm

The Blue Plains Home for the Aged and Infirm (the "old folks' home" mentioned in the article) became the Village Family Shelter at 2 DC Village S.W. 20032.

Antonio mentions the horse monument/grave being on an overlook. Judging by terrain maps (google maps), the "overlook" could be at the southernmost tip of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW (where it makes an L shape) near DC Village.

Maybe someone can scout out that area and give it a look.

Poster Boys

I e-mailed my 81-year-old sister telling her of the search for Tom's grave. Our father was a D.C. fireman who was active during the time Tom died.

Sister asked me if there were two other horses named Barney & Gene. (I'd not mentioned them.) Yes, I answered, how did you know? She told me she remembered a poster of the fire horses hanging in the kitchen of our grandmother's house. Must have made a huge impression on her. I was too young to remember.

I was there

My dad, Noble O. Teates, was stationed at E-23 & T-8 for many years. He retired from Truck Company 4 as captain. I worked at fire alarm headquarters in later years. As a young lad I spent many hours at E-25; my grandmother lived across the alley in back.

The boy to the right in the sailor hat is me, and the girl to my right is my childhood friend Doris Davidson. I do not know where she is now. As to where the headstone is, I have no idea, except it was at Blue Plains. Sorry about that. I was only 8 years old (born 9-10-28).

One of my sons is the Fire Chief here in Bradenton, Florida -- the East Manatee Fire District, with six or seven stations. If I can be of any further help please let me know. He has my scrapbook with some pictures, one 8x10 of an airplane fire in a hangar at Bolling Field.

Bob Teates

Fire horses

Ole Tom

This account of Tom was shared with me sometime ago by an old D.C. firefighter.

Between 1911 and 1914 the DCFD started phasing out the horses. Tom was the last to go. Most the horses initially were purchased by Washington Ice, however they found rather quickly that when their newly purchased retired fire horses heard the bell of the fire trucks they took off running after them, so actually there is no such thing as an retired fire horse.

It's been said that a lot of firefighters were allowed to purchased the horses, however D.C. kept Tom and sent him to pasture in 1937 at Blue Plains. The story that has been passed down within the DCFD is that sometime in 1937 E-25 was traveling down Overlook Parkway responding to a fire. The part of the road that they were responding on paralleled the fence and pasture that old Tom was residing. Tom, not knowing the concept of retirement, went into action and kept stride for stride with the motorized E-25 as they responded to the alarm.

Later that day workers found Tom dead, he answered his last alarm. Can't swear to this account however that is the story that was passed on to this writer.

Personal Ties

One of the remarkable and endearing aspects of Shorpy is how many photographs elicit a comment of "I was there" (Tom's Funeral, We could see the smoke) or "that was my grandpa" (Blechman's, A Getting Grandchild Thanks You!) or "I worked here" (Willow Wood, My Dad's Railroad) or "I own something from there" (Moses Material, Furniture, Grandma's DeMoll) or "I went to this school" (OLL Memories , It Was A Much Prettier Campus , Holy Cow!, San Rafael).

All these very personal references make the world seem somehow not quite so big and disconnected.

I am curious if Antonio Morese is one of the pictured children?


Antonio, you are the person I am looking for. I knew there was someone out there that was at the Ceremony.

Could you email me at I would love to talk to you in person. I would like to get as close to where the site is as possible. Your comments have helped to narrow it down.


Tom's funeral

The newspapermen put us children into the bus that wanted to go to the ceremony and we were off- i lived in Anacostia then and were picked up from our school. The firemen had told us a few days before that any kids that wanted to go to come to the firehouse but then they just picked us up at the school. My Mother said to not leave the group as there were many poor people buried back there and her concern was disease and illness. It was a very dreadful place and I can vividly remember the smell of death was all over down there. It sort of lingered in the valley especially down by the rope swing in the cove. I remember as a teenager we often went driving through the area on weekend nights with a girlfriend so as to get a scare! Many graves all over the place. Blue Plains was farm country then and a few buildings for the poor. We had the rope swing where the road ended. All changed now. The horse grave was up near the overlook. We had to walk a ways to get to it. Not sure if it is there anymore.

Blue Plains

Thanks everyone for your comments. I do have the article written about the service and I was with Hayden when we roamed around DC Village. He wrote about that trip in the East of The River article linked above. I do not think Tom was buried where Blue Plains Treatment plant is now. I'm hoping someone that views Shorpy will know someone in the picture or someone will have a picture taken from an airplane showing the Blu Plains area between 1935 and 1940.


Old Tom: Intrepid Steed

Washington Post, Jun 24, 1937

Fireman to Unveil Marker for Tom,
Last of Fire Horses

Old Tom, last surviving fire horse of the District, whose death occurred some weeks ago at the age of 27 in the pastures of Blue Plains, will be honored tomorrow in ceremonies at which a monument to him will be unveiled.

Fireman off duty will attend in full uniform to pay homage to their comrade of yesteryear. The monument is to stand over Tom's grave at Blue Plains. It is of Indiana limestone, much in the form of an ordinary marker, and tribute to the intrepid steed will be inscribed on it.

Funds for the monument were raised by the men of the department. The public, and especially school children, have been urged to attend the rites. Similar ceremonies and markers are being planned later for Tom's two cronies, Gene and Barney, who preceded him in death.

Washington Post, Jun 26, 1937

District Animal Lovers Bow In Tribute to Old Fire Horse

Tom Honored in Death by Protective Association,
Children and City Smoke-eaters;
Marker is Unveiled.

Old Tom never was much of one for making speeches. A vehement snort and shake of the head was bout the only form of self-expression he induldged in. But had he been able to hear the speeches at a memorial service in his honor yesterday even he might have been prompted to say a few words.

Tom, last of the District's fire horses, died peacefully May 3 in his pasture adjoining the Blue Plains Home for the Aged and Infirmed. He had been honorably discharged from the District of Columbia Fire Department 12 years before.

Yesterday the Fire Department joined with the Animal Protective Association in unveiling a headstone to his memory. About 85 firemen, children, and others interested in honoring the faithful animal were present at the ceremony.

The simple stone is marked "In Memory of Tom, Lat Horse in D.C.F.D" and gives his age, date of retirement and date of death. A large wreath, appropriately shaped like a horseshoe, stood behind it, and other floral tributes were strewn on the grave itself.

Miss Virginia W. Sargent, president of the Animal Protective Association, was the principal speaker. She lauded Tom's qualities of gentleness, courage and loyalty.

Capt. Raymond E. Oden, of No. 25 Firehouse, also praised Tom for his faithfulness and long service.

The stone was unveiled by Private T.A. Padgett, of the Fire Department. At the close of the exercises, Private E.M. King sounded 27 notes on a fine engine gong as "taps" for a grand old fighter.

A mystery

Blue Plains

My guess is this horse's grave site was the beginning of the Sludge Piles Blue Plains is Famous for.

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