On May 4, 1962 a local man drowned in Lake Santeetlah and when help was called a large group of Graham County men responded, but without any equipment for dragging. A call was placed to Murphy for the Cherokee County Rescue Squad. The body was recovered early May 5th. A group of Graham County men decided to organize a rescue squad. Before this time, the Townson-Smith Funeral Home hearse served as the only ambulance in the county.  No time was wasted and a meeting was held that night in the City Hall. Twelve men were present: Modeal Walsh, Leonard Williams, Monroe Sawyer, Lynn Buchanan, Huel Smith, Jesse R. Jenkins, Marshall Campbell, Doug Campbell, Lowell Garland, Larry Perkins, Edward Ingram, and Heyward Crawford. Modeal Walsh was elected commander.

Next came the problem of raising money for equipment. Raffles for almost everything, door-to-door drives, and  food and drink sales were held each weekend. A food stand was erected to serve the first wagon train here. As money began to trickle in, it was put into equipment:  life jackets, boats, dragging gear, lights, power plants, trucks, trailers, and two-way radio equipment. Fully equipped ambulances were secured, (one of which is equipped with a hospital type Coronary Care Unit, the second such unit for mobile use in the nation).

Two buildings were built, one at Tapoco 28' x 30' and a 30' x 60' at Robbinsville. All types of convalescent aids such as hospital beds, wheel chairs, walkers, etc. were obtained for loan to people in need. During this growing period, the public learned to call the Rescue Squad for any emergency. The types of work performed by the members, fully trained in all types of first aid and rescue training, are too numerous to be listed (everything from a burned finger to an airplane crash, a lost child to a drowning person, a small dog trapped in a drain pipe, to a fatal auto crash).  All these things and hundreds more were and are done by volunteer members not for money or recognition, but because they see their fellow men in need of help and give freely.

Graham County Rescue Squad Charter Members


1972 Graham County Rescue Squad Members - Front: Ralph Jenkins, Marvin Edwards, Eugene McMonigle, Larry Crisp, George Teesateskie, Bryce Holder, Heyward Crawford and Ray Green; 2nd row: Mack Huffman, Farley Stratton, Booth Crisp Jr., George Sheffey, Melvin Howell, Modeal Walsh, Hugh Gibbs, Ed Corpening, and Alvin Crawford;  3rd Row: Harry Hancock, O. W. Hooper, Jr., Gwyn Carver, Warner Deyton, James Lewis, Randall Atwell, Ray Williams, Jack Millsaps, and Joe Collins


Graham County Rescue Squad Building, 1972

Farley Stratton and Heyward Crawford recalled the history of the Robbinsville Fire Department. For many years the Robbinsville Volunteer Fire Department consisted of a hand made two-wheel cart carrying only Fire Hose. This was pulled to a fire by hand, was kept in a small metal building located across the street from Ed Ingramís home and was under the command of the late John Shay Orr. Then late in 1947, a group of businessmen decided to try to raise funds to buy a fire truck. $6,000.00 was raised and an order placed with a firm in Chicago. In June 1948 the truck was ready for delivery. J. B. Collins and the late Will Cooper went to Chicago and drove the truck back. So great was the excitement of a real firetruck for our town that a large group of local people drove to Tapoco to meet it. A caravan was formed for the drive to town. Anna Sue Deyton (Mrs. Douglas Millsaps) perched atop the cab for the ride in. Much horn blowing, shouting, and the loudest siren blowing ever heard in this area heralded the arrival of the first self-propelled pumper ever in Robbinsville.

A new department was formed with the late Will Cooper elected Fire Chief and J. B. Collins first driver. Meetings were held in the American Legion Building, and training members how to operate the new vehicle were held in what is now City Hall. For the next 20 years most able-bodied men in Robbinsville served in some capacity on the fire department until March 1967 the existing fire department seemed adequate. Then Bemis Lumber Company burned and the need for additional equipment was realized. Again, money was the problem, but soon alleviated by Bemis Lumber Company, James Lees Company and the Graham County Commissioners. A $20,000.00 truck was purchased. While awaiting delivery, city and county officials asked the Graham County Rescue Squad to assume responsibility for the operation of the Fire Department. An agreement to operate county-wide was soon reached and the new department launched into a lengthy training period. Instructed by Veteran Fire Chiefs, Bart Cope of Sylva and P. R. Bennett of Bryson City, a 90-hour course including operation of the new truck was given all the members. A new and different method was adopted for firefighting during this time. Instead of solid streams of water, sometimes consuming thousands of gallons, new nozzles under high pressure were used creating a fog, removing the oxygen from the air and only a few gallons of water was needed for the average home fire. Robbinsville has come a long way since the disappearance of men going down Main Street pulling the two-wheeled cart.

Robbinsville Fire Dept and Captain Farley Stratton - 1972

Today the Graham County Rescue Squads and Fire Departments are among the most efficient in the state, thanks to the men who have given their time and the people of our county who have donated so generously.