In the course of processing the biographical file of prominent Detroit figure Shubael Conant (1783-1867), I discovered two of Conant’s fire buckets. So what’s the big deal about buckets? Well, in 1836 the city adopted a resolution that required each building to have one 2.5 gallon fire bucket for every stove or fireplace. These buckets had to be marked according to standards outlined by the city, display the homeowner’s name and address, and be hung in a noticeable location at the entrance of houses. Conant himself was Chief Fire Warden of Fire Engine Company (Eagle) Number 2.
Former mayor Alexander Lewis recalled a story about a fire that broke out on the Detroit waterfront in 1837, when he was just a young boy. The fire had set ablaze Shubael Conant’s fur shipments and was threatening to spread throughout the town. It was Conant’s decision to forgo saving his shipment, in order to make sure the town was first secured from any threat of destruction. The result was that Conant’s entire shipment was lost but the town was spared. This incident left a lasting impression on Conant who later became a trustee and then president of the Detroit Water Works board. During his tenure, he enhanced both the quantity and quality of water in the city.
Artifacts such as these buckets serve as tools to help understand the people and events of Detroit’s rich past.
– Robin Darling, guest blogger and graduate student at Wayne State University.