MILES STEMPLE & CARTER DAYWALT
We Should Never Forget Our Heroes
Sadly—–Some Of Us Already Have
By Jack Coll
In the borough’s nearly 170 year history, three of our public servants have been killed in the line of duty. Eugene “Chick” Lucas, a Conshohocken Police Officer was shot and killed in the line of duty on a hot August summer night in 1917. I’ve written about Officer Lucas on a number of occasions in articles and several of the books written by myself and Brian Coll.
The deaths of Miles Stemple and Carter Daywalt are a little more complicated. Stemple, a lifelong firefighter for the Washington Fire Company and Daywalt a lifelong firefighter for Conshohocken Fire Company No. 2, were both injured while fighting a fire, both injuries were life threating and although they both lived with their injuries, I believe both firefighters died years later from injuries they suffered while fighting fires.
Miles Stemple was born in Plymouth Township and attended the Eight Square Schoolhouse once located on North Lane. Stemple was a founding member of the Washington Fire Company back in 1873 when the fire company spread their wings in a building on Forrest Street known as Stemple’s Hall. Stemple fought fires in the borough for nearly five decades from 1873 until the day he died in 1921.
Stemple was the fire company’s guiding light that propelled the company from a hand-drawn water wagon to the company’s first horse-drawn American La France steamer to the motorized ladder trucks that helped save hundreds of structures and countless lives. Stemple also served on Borough Council from 1905-1919.
While fighting a fire at the old Moose Home once located at the corner of First Avenue and Harry Street on May 30, 1920, Chief Stemple was on the third floor of the building when the floor gave-way, Stemple fell to the floor below. Stemple gave immediate attention to a banged up arm but failed to act on a number of internal injuries. These internal injuries were believed to have caused Stemple a slow death, and on August 20, 1921, Miles Stemple passed away because of injuries caused by the fall. Ironically, Stemple never missed a fire call from the time he fell until the time he died.
Years ago these types of deaths were simply accepted that Miles Stemple had passed away, today we acknowledge that death due to injuries caused from the job are in fact job related. Although it took Miles a little more than a year to die due to injuries caused when he fell through the floor at the Moose Lodge, we can now say that his death was caused due to the injuries he received on May 30, 1920.
It was stated by a physician that Stemple died due to fire related injuries, it is my opinion that Miles Stemple died in the line of duty and should be recognized as such.
Flash forward seventy years to the summer of 1993, an arson fire at the corner of West Elm Street and Colwell Lane at the Elm Automotive property with 13 apartments over top of the automobile repair shop left 21 people homeless and firefighter Carter Daywalt seriously injured.
On the evening of July 29, 1993, at approximately 9:00 p.m., a fire started in the front office of the auto shop. Two hours later at 11:30 p.m. the fire was declared under control by Conshohocken Fire Chief Jesse Stemple. Stemple noted at the time that seven fire companies and more than 150 firefighters worked for 23 hours to fight the fire and supervise a clean-up and investigation at the site.
During the heat of the blaze Carter Daywalt, a long-time Conshohocken Fire Company No. 2 firefighter was hurt when a water hose broke loose from its connection at a fire hydrant and whipped into Daywalt with tremendous force, knocking him under his pumper truck and a nearby truck from the George Clay Fire Company of West Conshohocken.
Daywalt was transported from the scene in an emergency medical helicopter to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Daywalt was released two days later but was subsequently admitted to Montgomery Hospital the following day for more treatment. He underwent emergency surgery and had his ruptured spleen removed. His injuries never really healed.
The dedicated fireman, who for years was seen coaching little league baseball at Sutcliffe Park, was later confined to a wheelchair due to his injuries. Nearly 18 years later to the day, Carter passed away, in part due to the permanent injuries suffered on that July night in 1993.
Carter’s dedication to the community led him to that fire that night, and 18 years later, in August of 2011 when Carter passed away, he became the only fireman from Conshohocken Fire Company No. 2 to ever give his life in the line of duty.
Our hometown heroes should never be forgotten:
Eugene Chick Lucas
Conshohocken Police Officer
September 1868-August 1917
Washington Fire Company Firefighter
February 1849-August 1921
Howard Carter Daywalt Sr.
Conshohocken Fire Company NO. 2 Firefighter
December 1942-August 2011
Perhaps someday, we’ll honor our fallen hero’s with a memorial in Conshohocken, a memorial outside Borough Hall, or perhaps at West Second Avenue where our other town heroes have been honored since 1928.
Residents today need to be reminded of our heroes, and residents yet to arrive in Conshohocken should know about the community they live in, and Conshohocken is the greatest community in the world to live in!