J. H. Carlisle: A Man of Firsts

Update

First Posted July 2015

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. To my surprise, I’ve recently discovered that Carlisle also was FBC’s first formal “President” of the choir — whatever duties that post involved (VDW February 10, 1890). Mrs. Carlisle was the fist FBC organist of record.

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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