Fayette Gould: Photographer, Inventor, Firefighter, Postmaster… Jephtha Past Master
By W:. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA
Over a thousand visiting firemen descended on Huntington’s Main Street, joined by over 7,000 residents, on a seasonably pleasant day in September 1898. Many of the firemen would participate in the annual tournament of the Suffolk County Firemen’s Association with some traveling from as far as Montauk.
Visiting companies from Cold Spring Harbor and Northport arrived in wagons, with their engines, hook and ladder trucks and hose carriages being pulled by horses. Firemen from Hicksville arrived by train and their engines came on an entirely different mode of transportation, horse-drawn wagons. The steamer “Park City” carried the Port Jefferson Fire Department, while the Oyster Bay Fire Department arrived on the steamer “Portchester.” Dozens of other Suffolk and Nassau Fire Department’s travelled on the main line of the Long Island Railroad. When all had arrived, an impressive line of firemen formed on Nassau Avenue between the train station and Huntington village.
A bearded, bespectacled older gentleman looked across the long procession of brave men, gazing admirably at how local towns were able to organize fire departments across the rural, pre-suburbia Long Island terrain. The distinguished
gentleman was very familiar with the challenges of organizing a fire department. He was Fayette Gould, organizer of the Huntington Fire Department and their First Foreman.
He was also a local Freemason for 34 years and three-time Past Master of Jephtha Lodge No. 494. But Fire Department Foreman and Freemason are a fraction of the complete biography of Fayette Gould. Born in Huntington in March 1824, the son of Edward E. Gould, he was an especially gifted person. By his early 20’s, Gould was a local jeweler, watchmaker, and western Suffolk’s first photographer. The photo studio, Gould & Fancher, was located atop a staircase adjoining the Suffolk Hotel parlor on the southwest corner of Main Street and New York Avenue. A talented musician, Gould was the choir master of the Central Presbyterian Church in Huntington, and constructed pipe organs for many of the local churches.
In 1848, Gould started plans to create a new, unincorporated Fire Protection Company with limited resources of equipment, including ladders and leather buckets. Later known as the Father of the Fire Department, Gould expanded the organization in 1858 by securing the approval from the Town Board. His inspiration to form the Fire
Department was to avoid jury duty. After serving on a jury in Riverhead for a week, preventing him to operate his store and costing him income, Gould realized that volunteer firefighters were exempt from jury duty. Their public service was invaluable to residents, and their time would be limited to a fraction of the time serving on a jury.
His engineering skills contributed to his years as a local machinist. The holder of five U.S. Patents filed between 1858 and 1883, his creations included an improved door lock, new calipers, a steering apparatus upgrade for vessels,
improvement in rowlocks and a final patent for a speaking-tube attachment.
Proclaimed “A Huntington Genius” by the local press in 1900, Gould repurposed an item from Masonic Brother and Jephtha Past Master, Captain Hewlett J. Long. Discovered on a South Carolina battlefield near Charleston during the Civil War, Captain Long brought back pieces of a land mine and had them fitted into a clock, which kept good time for many years. After Brother Long’s death in 1899, Gould purchased the clock at the estate sale and reconstructed the clock to include the day’s date, day of the week, month, and year, each on separate dials.
Raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason of Jephtha Lodge in 1864, W:. Gould was elected to three consecutive terms in the East, between 1881 and 1883. Gould passed away at the Flushing home of his son, Edward E. Gould, in 1906 and is interred in Huntington Rural Cemetery.
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