Drewryville VFD invites help in ‘treasure hunt’
Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Drewryville Volunteer Fire Department is seeking help from past members and anyone in the area that may be able to aid it in a historical treasure hunt it first embarked on about five or six years ago.
Fire Chief Wyatt Whitby is leading the effort to assemble a complete, chronological list of all the department’s past fire chiefs, including noting how long each person served in the role.
With a complete list that would stretch back as far as 1967, Whitby is hoping to give proper recognition to all of the chiefs for their service by putting the list up at the station.
“This has been our treasure hunt for the last five to six years of just trying to get names,” he said. “We’ve gone through records at the courthouse, trying to find old documents, old pictures. I’ve gone as far as searching obituaries for people that died back in the ’70s to see (if), ‘Hey, they were a member of the department. They said they were a charter member of the department, and we didn’t know.’”
Whitby explained what is known of the origins of the Drewryville Volunteer Fire Department, helping to establish details on the start of the line of fire chiefs.
“To our knowledge, (1967) was the year that all the paperwork was done, that’s when the deeds were done for the station, that’s when they had written the first constitution and all that,” he said.
However, there is evidence that efforts to make the department an established, formal entity were underway at least two years prior.
“Doing research over the past five or six years, looking for all this information, we found out that the county began giving the fire department money back in ’65,” Whitby said. “So ’65 is kind of when the community came together and was like, ‘Hey, we need a fire department. What are we going to do about it?’
“So they started doing things,” he added. “I feel like they ran a couple calls, but they weren’t an established organization until 1967.”
He noted that his grandfather, Raymond Whitby, was possibly either the department’s first or second fire chief.
“We’re not 100% sure, and he’s since passed away,” Wyatt Whitby said.
However, Raymond Whitby was still alive when the department began looking into its history as its 50th anniversary approached in 2017.
“We started looking into a lot of stuff like, what can we do to recognize our past members? And who has been a member over the past 50 years?” Wyatt Whitby said. “My grandfather sat down — he was one of the last few charter members left before he passed away — and he just wrote a list of names, and he was like, ‘This person might not have been a member, but they kind of helped get things rolling. They helped out.’
“Like he said, back then, when the fire siren went off, everybody just came. It didn’t matter if you were in the department or not, you just came to help.”
Wyatt Whitby is one of four members of his family who has served in the line of fire chiefs for the department.
“My grandfather was one of the first, my dad has been chief, my brother has been chief, and I am the current chief,” Wyatt said, referencing Raymond, Dennis and Jonathan Whitby, respectively.
Over the past five to six years, the department has gathered names of people that are believed to have been fire chiefs, “but we haven’t really narrowed down a lot of years,” Wyatt Whitby said.
With the disclaimer that the years listed are approximate, the department posted the list, as it stood at the time, on its Facebook page on Jan. 26. It was as follows:
Wyatt Whitby said that if people have any information to aid in the effort of completely assembling the list, they can call the department at 434-658-3320, or get in touch with it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drewryvillefire/ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re searching for pictures, old documents, records, even stories that people have,” Whitby said. “We’re just trying to piece together whatever we can.”