The Story of IFA Past President Fred A. Wood
Late Traer Fire Chief posthumously honored
In 1998 I began my search for more Iowa Firefighters Association (IFA) history. We were about to write the history of the Traer Fire Department for Traer’s 125th Year – celebrated in 1998 – when I came across a name I had seen in the IFA convention books over the years. The name was Fred A. Wood and at one time in the late 1800s, he lived and worked in Traer and was the Fire Chief and a very good competitor in key races at the Iowa State Firemen’s Tournaments. (Note: the name of the Association has changed over the years)
We discovered that Wood had come to Traer from Union, Iowa in 1892 and took over the Feed Mill east of Traer. Soon after, he became an active member of the Traer Fire Department. In 1893 he purchased the half-completed electric light enterprise in Traer and traded his mill for the electric light deal. The next month Wood was voted in as Fire Chief of the Traer F.D. when T. H. Greelis resigned from the department.
The R.H. Moore Hose Team took part in the 1893 Tournament in Sioux City. Wood was one of the best couplers in the state. They won the Silver Belt at this tournament and Wood was honored by being elected third vice president of the Iowa State Firemen’s Association. To step back a bit, the R.H. Moore Hose Team won the silver belt in 1891, but due to a mistake made at the Council Bluffs meeting the winter before, Traer was not able to run in the 1892 races. However, they were told they were eligible in 1893 and won for the second time. By December of 1893, Wood had the Feed Mill up and running again (which he acquired back) and also ran the electric light company.
On June 29, 1894, Wood won the Novelty Coupling and broke the world’s record. The State Belt was also won by the R.H. Moore Hose Team. They were awarded $300 and the State Belt, which would be theirs forever. Chief Wood was honored with the first vice-presidency of the Iowa State Firemen’s Association.
Wood was acting President of the tournament in June 1895 for Frank Cain of Atlantic. In October 1895 Wood purchased an interest in an electrical supply house in Cedar Rapids in company with Mayor Lincoln, of that city, and continued the business.
At the Association’s Annual Business meeting in Atlantic on November 29, 1895, Wood was elected President of the Iowa State Firemen’s Association. The next tournament would be held in Marshalltown. He served as President in 1896, 1897, and 1898 and served as the organization’s Secretary-Treasurer from 1900-1901.
Wood was born in Grundy County and his wife, Ida, was born in Hardin County. The couple had 5 children: Lena, Eldie, Katie, Walter, and Zetta. We learned from our research that Fred had gone to California.
From this point on we thought we’d never find the grave of this past president until August of 2021 when I mentioned the name to Russ Finley, a 40-year member of the Brandon Fire Dept. He said he would have his mother, Karen Finley of Independence, do research on the name. (Karen happens to be the daughter of another IFA Past President, Vernon Trumbauer of Jesup.)
Karen looked up Wood on the internet. She was very experienced at searching from her working days and discovered he was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, Iowa. He was born in 1865 and died in 1925. His wife, Ida, was born in 1865 and died in 1930.
Next, I contacted a friend from Marshalltown, Dan Brandt, who made contact with the manager of the Riverside Cemetery. Dorie Tammen, Cemetery Manager, did some research and found out more about the life of Wood.
Dorie learned that on August 27, 1901, Iowa State Firemen’s Association Secretary, Fred A. Wood, was in Marshalltown making arrangements for the tournament, when he received a telegram that brought him intense sorrow. His daughter, Katie, age 12, had drowned at Cedar Rapids that morning. Wood took a train to meet the family. Katie was buried in the Union, Iowa cemetery.
The Wood family had moved back to Marshalltown, Iowa, but not exactly sure what year. Wood was a traveling salesman for an electrical supply company in San Francisco, California. He spent two years in California.
The year was 1906, Wood survived the big earthquake! The 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck San Francisco in the early morning hours of April 18, 1906. More than 3000 people died, and 80 percent of the city was destroyed. It is still considered to be one of the most devastating earthquakes in U.S. history. Wood wrote his wife a letter, telling her he was well, but he lost nearly everything he possessed, even his shoes, having escaped with a little clothing he had on.
After the death of the Captain of the San Francisco Fire Department, who was fighting flames, Wood was appointed to take his place, because of his long experience as a fireman. It was Past President Bud Hollar’s goal before he passed away on July 19, 2016, to find the grave of Past President Fred A. Wood so he could place a brass grave marker at the site.
Fred A. Wood died February 8, 1925, in Seattle, Washington at the age of 59. His body was cremated and sent back to Iowa. He was then buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown. Ida’s parents were also buried there. Wood’s parents were buried in Hardin County.
We contacted our friend, Dan Brandt, again to see if he could help us and he sure came through! Dorie gave Dan a photo of Wood and Ida’s gravestone. Ida died on August 25, 1930, at age 65.
Dan got the okay to go ahead with making a cement stone with the brass Maltese cross embedded in it so as not to interfere with mowing, etc. IFA Past President, Jack Runge of Buckeye, offered to make the stone marker, and Mike and Trent, grounds-keepers agreed to lay the stone.
In mid-July, 2022 the brass marker, set in cement, was placed next to the grave of Fred A. Wood and his wife Ida. Dan Brandt, who happened to be the President of the Historical Society of Marshall County, assisted two cemetery employees in laying the marker. The cemetery manager, Dorie Tammen, had written an article about Wood in the “Past Times” of the Marshalltown Times-Republican newspaper.
From the article in “Past Times” we learned that Wood and Ida’s son, Walter, was playing a game on his school grounds in Marshalltown when he seriously injured his legs and was hospitalized. He was in the hospital for several weeks before dying of blood poisoning. Like his sister, he was just 12 years old.
Bud Hollar can now rest in peace knowing that we honored Fred A. Wood with a brass marker from the Iowa Firefighters Association on July 15, 2022, only 97 years after his death.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of Iowa Firefighter.