June 9, 2015

The book is out and on-line

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 3:07 pm

The Firehorses of Centre North is now on-line at Amazon and is in the Kindle format. it is a story of a family of fire house horses in a historical tales set in the late 1880’s in a small village which became a part of the current Chicago metro area.

It is a story for all ages from grade 4 to retirement age and beyond. here is a small taste  of the book.

Thank you all for your support it was a long 4 year trip to publish my first feature book.

The Fire Horses of Centre North

By Mike Adams, Historian


© 2015 Mike Adams, all rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the author, except for a reviewer who may quote brief passages with appropriate credits.

Photographs: 2011 Fire station © 2015 Mike Adams, all rights reserved.


As unaccustomed as I am to writing, I wish to thank those of my extended family for their love, support and encouragement as I traveled the road of ‘What once was US.’

To my youngest grandson Dominic Michael.  Thank you for the spark of youth which sent me down the path to being an author.

To my wife Shirley for allowing me many days of peace and quiet in my office.

To my daughter, Michaela, for enduring the editing process with a rookie writer.

To my twin daughters, Mary and Margaret, for listening to the old man’s stories.

To all of my friends at old Chicago Fire Department Engine #33 for making my internship enjoyable.

To Dick Witry and Ron Smith of the Skokie Historical Society for many years of support.


I have known Mike Adams since 1985 when he walked into a meeting of the Skokie Historical Society and announced that he wanted to be an officer.  That doesn’t happen a lot in small, volunteer organizations.  We were pleased to welcome him into our councils.

Most firemen I know are possessed of many trade skills – carpentry, electrical or plumbing for example.  I, of course, have none.  But, Mike Adams, then Captain of the Skokie Fire Department, was possessed of many trade skills which he brought to bear on behalf of the Skokie Historical Society.  Today, our museum collection is housed in a beautifully restored building – Skokie’s first fire house – which was built in 1887.  This building, and many artifacts contained herein, are due in no small measure to Mike Adams’ vision and industry.

Skokie’s Engine House was constructed when horses were the only means of transportation.  Today, we measure transportation in terms of ‘horse power’ and not the animals from which that term was coined.  In the Society’s collection are horse bones found in an excavation behind our museum.  Our first floor is devoted to the display of fire apparatus that only horses could transport.  We in Skokie are fully aware of the importance that horses played in the development of firefighting.

In “The Fire Horses of Centre North,” Mike Adams demonstrates, in a delightfully told tale, how important horses were to 19th century firefighters.  Babe, Chief, Jim and Baby Don come to life in this historically accurate story.  Mike Adams knows firefighting; he knows history and he is able to weave his knowledge in these areas into a story which will give you, the reader, a historically accurate portrait of 19th century firefighting and the role played by our four-legged friends in the metropolis of growing Chicago.

Richard J. Witry


Several years ago, I was invited to go to my grandson first grade class to speak on my career choice of being a firefighter. Nothing new for me as I had done this a few times in the past with my daughters and a couple of my grandkids.

The theme was National Pajama Day which just happened to be Dominic’s sixth birthday. The story I chose to read to his class was the adventures of a stuffed bear visiting our town. I played a very small part as Teddy Bear was shown around our fire station. The book title was Places I Visit, a Teddy Bears Adventures by Donna Kelly.

I read the entire story from an autographed copy of the picture book, holding up each page so the small group gathered at my feet could see Teddy Bear’s adventures.

At the end of the book I ask for questions about the story. One by one, I answered questions related to my adventures as a firefighter. I was told I had only enough time left for one more question.  I called upon the birthday boy and what he ask is the reason you are able to read this book.

“Grandpa, did you every take care of the horses at your fire station?”

I had to answer, “No, as I was not that old.”

Later that evening, I got to thinking about fire horses and I remembered reading old fire house log books while assigned to the fire station’s watch desk during the overnight hours. These books contained the writings of the daily events of Engine Company #33 of the Chicago Fire Department. These entries were written as far back as the time the station first opened, before 1900.

Over the next few months, I read many articles and books on the subject of these noble animals.  A few of the senior firefighters also told me stories from family members that had worked in the fire stations staffed with fire horses.

There are many written examples of the oral history of events repeated many times by those retired from the ranks of active firefighting.

During my internship in Chicago, I had the good fortune to visit lots of fire stations and talk to hundreds of firefighters. I took notes of the most interesting conversations during these visits covering major fires and important events of the fire company members.

So, with an eye to the era of the largest increase of fire stations in the history of the Chicago Fire Department, I began to write an outline for a book. Once this outline was complete, it was clear that horses played a major role in this expansion.

I turned my focus to the last wood frame fire house still in existence in Chicago. The original quarters of Engine Company #86, located at 2414 W. Cuyler Ave in the North Center neighborhood.

This location, and the settlers of this area, had a long history of providing the services needed for the fire protection of the area residents.

The story line starts with an article about a fire horse that had one bad habit which followed her during her entire career as the Star of the Centre North Fire Company.

It is at this time period, the turn of the 20th century, that Babe, Chief, Jim and Baby Don, answered the bells and ran the streets of a small area of Chicago.

The main human characters, African-American Blacksmith Donte Culpepper and the funeral director, Sir William James Healy, an English Gentleman of royal birthright, formed the Centre North Fire Protection District until the City of Chicago annexes the area and the fire horses were retired.

So, Dominic here is the story of Babe and her fire horse family.

Papa Mike February 2015

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