BY JAMES PECK
BRANDON – Brandon’s fire department, the Dunmore Hose Company (DHC), was formed in 1894 as a strictly voluntary force, and it quickly established a reputation as a prompt and reliable outfit. One recipient of their services on Champlain Street in 1896 was even moved to sing their praises in a poem, “To the Dunmores,” written to the Brandon Union.
This poem was recently found by Kyle Hutchins, a firefighter at the Brandon Fire Department and currently President of the Dunmore Hose Company. Hutchins liked it so much that he framed it and displayed it in the display case at the fire house for inspiration to his fellow firefighters.
One line in the poem intrigued him: “With Denning, Howland. And Fighting Fales, We Beat All Former Gangs with Pails.” Who were these three original “Dunmores” anyway?
From old pictures of the Company, he suspected “Howland” was “B. W. Howland,” whose picture appears on the Dunmore Hose portraits of 1902. He held the position of Steward in the DHC. But who were “Denning” and “Fighting Fales?”
Neither appeared in any pictures. Could “Fighting Fales” be related to current firefighter Rob Fales?
In February, Hutchins posed this question to this writer, a trained genealogist who grew up in Brandon and now lives in California. After some detailed research, it was found that, in fact, “Fighting Fales” was the great-grandfather of current firefighter Rob Fales!
His name was David Miranda Fales, and he was born in Brandon on September 15, 1864, the son of Albert Fales and Emmeline Page. He grew up at what is now 46 Carver Street with his widowed mother and two siblings.
Dave “Fighting” Fales married Eva Morris in Brandon in 1889. He worked as a clerk in town, volunteered at the fire house, and was one of the original Dunmores. He must have been spirited to earn the “Fighting Fales” moniker. In 1900, they sold their house on Carver Street and moved to Rochester.
But it turns out Dave wasn’t really the original “Fighting Fales.” That honor belongs to his father, Albert Elias Fales, who died on September 20, 1864, from severe wounds (right arm amputated) suffered while fighting for the 3rd Vermont Infantry in the Wilderness Campaign in Virginia, far from his Carver Street home. He died only five days after his son David was born.
Private Albert “Fighting” Fales is buried in Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg, Maryland. His name is inscribed on the Civil War Monument in Brandon along with fifty-three other Brandon men who lost their lives in that war.
What’s more, Albert’s two oldest sons also were “Fighting Fales” in the Civil War. Son Jasper also died of his wound in the Wilderness and his name appears above his that of his father on the Brandon monument. Son Prosper survived the war in the artillery and was described in one news clipping as “a mere stripling of a boy, but possessed of true Green Mountain pluck” for his bravery.
Furthering the “Fighting Fales” tradition was Dave and Eva’s son Edward Clarke Fales who fought in World War I and died in France of a wound received only six days before the Armistice on 11/11/1918. Edward’s praises were sung by his commanding officer as an “ideal American soldier with real American pep and spirit”.
As for Denning and Howland in the poem, the former was Will Denning who was a very popular actor in town and an original Dunmore who left Brandon to study medicine at UVM, graduating in 1899. The latter was, as Hutchins had suspected, Bert W. Howland who served in many capacities in the DHC including Steward in 1902.
According to Kyle Hutchins, current firefighter Rob Fales, who joined the BFD and DHC in 2006, continues the tradition: “I would certainly say that Rob lives up to the moniker of his ancestors. He is the kind of guy you want in your corner if things start going south on a fire scene.” A 22-year Navy veteran, Rob retired as a Master Chief in 1999.
Ironically, the home of the first two Fighting Fales, Albert and Dave, at 46 Carver Street, is within a few hundred feet through the woods of the current Brandon Firehouse at 61 Franklin Street. After the leaves have fallen, current firefighters might just catch a glimpse of the former Fales home, now owned by the Atwood family.