Thomas W. Howe, the efficient chief of the fire department of Pittsburg, Kansas, has held this position for the past two years, and has in that time made Pittsburg noted for the excellence of its fire-fighting force and for its unexcelled equipment and system in a city of the same size. He went about the organization of his department in his practical and energetic way, and in this, as in his previous efforts, met with results that are pointed to with pride by his fellow citizens. He has had a varied career, and is entirely a man of self-achievement, having relied on his own efforts ever since he was eleven years of age. For which reason he is highly deserving of the esteem and personal regard in which he is held by his friends and associates, and for the past ten years he has been numbered among Pittsburg's public-spirited and enterprising citizens.
Mr. Howe was born at Fairbury, Livingston county, Illinois, in 1868. His parents were Charles and Jennie (Gibb) Howe, the former a native of Somerset, England, and the latter of Scotland. His father served eleven years in the British army, and for his bravery in the Crimean war received a medal from Queen Victoria, and also other medals for military service. After his emigration to the United States he became a coal miner and a coal operator in Illinois. He first lived at Fairbury, Livingston county, and later moved to La Salle county and located at Streater. He was killed in a gas explosion October 29, 1879. His widow was afterward married to Thomas Robinson, a prominent business man, and they both reside in Streator.
Mr. Thomas W. Howe can be said to have almost been reared in the mines, for he began working in them when he was eleven years old and continued at that occupation until he was between nineteen and twenty. November 20, 1887, he began work for he Santa Fe Railroad with their steel gang on their new line between Galesburg and Chillicothe. He later became a brakeman on the same road, and worked in that capacity until June 3, 1890, when he was made a conductor on a local run between Pekin and Streator. On December 8, 1891, he became conductor of the local between Joliet and Chicago, which position he held for about three years. On July 5, 1894, he resigned this place because of the great strike of that year, and on August 11, following, arrived in Pittsburg. His first work was as a miner for the Wear Coal Company, but after three months he took a position as conductor on the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad, being in charge of the local run from Pittsburg to Siloam Springs. He retained this position only from November 19 to December 25, 1894, and then became mule boss for the Wear Coal Company. He was thus employed until April 11, 1895, when he was appointed deputy city marshal of Pittsburg, and was connected with the police force until 1900, in which year the Republicans of the city elected him to the office of city marshal, in which he remained for sixteen months, resigning to join his brother, C. H. Howe, in conducting the Pittsburg Steam Laundry. As a policeman he made a fine record. When he became a member of the force the city was infested with a criminal class and there was much outlawry, but he was of material assistance in making Pittsburg a most law-abiding place and in clearing out many of the undesirables from the city.
In 1902 the municipal authorities asked Mr. Howe to take charge of the city fire department as chief, and he accepted the appointment at the hands of Mayor Hunter. In 1903 he was reappointed by Mayor Price. As soon as he entered on his duties he began to put the department on a business basis. He collected copies of fire ordinances and rules and regulations from a number of large cities, especially from San Francisco, and after selecting the best of these and the ones suitable for a city like Pittsburg he made his recommendations to the mayor and council, who soon adopted an excellent system of fire regulations and laid the foundation for an efficient fire department. He next had the appropriations for fire-fighting increased, procured the purchase of modern apparatus and the employment of a larger force of trained and uniformed firemen at better salaries. Pittsburg now takes great pride in the fact that it has the largest, best equipped and most efficient fire department of any city of its size in the country, and the greater share of the credit for this excellent municipal improvement is due to Mr. Howe.
Mr. Howe affiliates with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, with the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He was married in Chicago, February 25, 1893, to Miss Margaret Davis, of that city. They have five children: Frank, Vera, Jessie, and twins, Ray K. and Robert G.Pages 509-511 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, in November, 2003.
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