J. H. Carlisle: A Man of Firsts

CVA - Port P193 - [Fire Chief John Howe Carlisle awarded the 'Good Citizen' medal by the Native Sons of B.C.] 1922 Stuart Thomson

CVA – Port P193 – [Fire Chief John Howe Carlisle awarded the ‘Good Citizen’ medal by the Native Sons of B.C.] 1922 Stuart Thomson. (Note: The lady holding the bouquet and standing next to JHC is almost certainly his wife, Laura Carlisle).

J. H. Carlisle (1857-1941) accomplished several “firsts”. He was the first Sunday School Superintendent of First Baptist Church (FBC), before it was formally organized; his name was the first listed among the charter members of FBC when the church was organized; he was the first clerk of FBC; he was the first person honoured with the Good Citizen medal (in 1922), see photo above; and he was the first BC resident to be honoured with the King’s Police Medal (in 1923), see photo below.

Ironically, the “first” attributed to JHC most often – ‘first Vancouver Fire Chief’ – actually wasn’t. That honour went to Samuel Pedgrift (1886); he was followed by J. Blair (briefly); JHC became chief after Blair in the autumn of 1886 until 1888 (Carlisle’s term as chief began after the Great Fire of June 1886). Wilson McKinnon followed JHC’s initial 2-year term. But then Carlisle became chief again — this time for a period unmatched by any chief since: 39 years (1899-1928).

Chuck Davis’ website notes that in 1911 the VFD was ranked by a committee of international experts as among “the world’s best in efficiency and equipment”; and in 1917, it became Canada’s first completely motorized department.

Appropriately, the city’s first fireboat was named in honour of the man: the J. H. Carlisle.

For a photograph of JHC as a relatively young man, see the image and post here.

CVA - Port P140 - [Former Fire Chief J.H. Carlisle after receiving the King's Police Medal from His Honour W.C. Nichol, Lieutenant governor of B.C.] April 1923 Stuart Thomson photo

CVA – Port P140 – [Former Fire Chief J.H. Carlisle after receiving the King’s Police Medal from His Honour W.C. Nichol, Lieutenant governor of B.C.] April 1923 Stuart Thomson photo. (Again, Laura Carlisle, JHC’s wife, is the lady standing next to the chief).

CVA 99-1709 - %22J.H. Carlisle%22 fireboat test run 1928 Stuart Thomson photo. (Note- Carlisle the man is standing amidships upon Carlisle the fireboat)

CVA 99-1709 – “J.H. Carlisle” fireboat test run 1928 Stuart Thomson photo. (Note- Carlisle the man is standing amidships upon Carlisle the fireboat).

J H Carlisle

Chief J. H. Carlisle in younger days. From: Souvenir of the Vancouver Fire Department, 1901. 0024_Page 18_L. University of British Columbia Library. Rare Books and Special Collections. Published by Evans & Hastings for Firemen’s Benefit Association (Vancouver, BC). Photographer unknown.

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