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Memorial set for town’s first modern fire chief

Guy E. Sabin was a leader for the Jonesborough Fire Department.


Staff Writer

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Next Wednesday, Sept. 5, will be an important day for the Jonesborough Fire Department. That day will mark the 130th anniversary of the death of JFD’s first fire chief, Guy Sabin. Responsible for heralding the JFD into the “modern age,” he died Wednesday, Sept. 5, 1888, as a result of falling from the roof of a building he was trying to save.

Chason Freeman, JFD’s Operations Lieutenant, has spent time researching Sabin and wanted to hold a ceremony to celebrate the man.

Nannie and Guy Sabin

“I’ve done research into the history of the fire department and (Sabin) actually formed the Fire Department in 1887. They called him a ‘captain’; what we would now refer to as a ‘chief’ position now.

“So I’d like to do a small memorial service and I’ve got some of the family members of the Sabin family that will be attending.”

The memorial will be held at the Rocky Hill Cemetery (Old Jonesborough Cemetery) behind First Baptist Church on Sept. 5 at 10:00 a.m.

Freeman’s research led to the obituary of Sabin, which described the incident which took his life.

“On Wednesday morning, September 5th, 1888, Jonesboro was aroused by the alarm of fire. Soon the amateur fire company, organized last winter, was in motion, but their captain, Guy Ellis Sabin, reached the scene of the fire before them. The burning building was found to be the residence of William Shaw, and the fire had gotten such headway that it was impossible to check it. Mr. Sabin, thinking that the residence of Mrs. Caleb Babb, near the burning house, was in danger, quickly mounted it and was with others engaged in pouring water on the roof when he fell headlong to the ground, dislocating his neck and dying instantly. The announcement to the already excited citizens that Mr. Sabin was dead, struck them dumb. But oh! How terrible the news to his family from whom he had just gone out with the cherry word, ‘Don’t be anxious about me, I’ll be back directly.’”

According to Freeman, Sabin had a rule that nobody climbed up on the roof of any burning building.

The museum of the Jonesborough Visitors Center contains some equipment that Mr. Sabin would have procured in his modernization of the Fire Department, as well as other exhibits about him.