Franklin Countys First News

Book focuses on history of Farmington fire department

FARMINGTON - Fifteen years after his death, the former fire chief of Farmington Fire Rescue is telling his story, thanks to the work of his daughter.

Robert L. McCleery was Farmington's Fire Chief for 23 years and a member of the department for 40-plus years. Prior to his passing in 2002 he had been working on a detailed history of the Farmington Fire Department. That work is finally complete, thanks to his daughter, Ruth McCleery Watson.

"This book is a research document, an historical book, a memoir, and a biography of a life lived in dedication to the fire service," Watson said, calling it "the most complete history that exists on this beloved fire department."

Watson worked with Chief Terry Bell and Deputy Chief Clyde Ross to update the book up through 2017. It includes the names of 500 firemen listed by date of service & rank, 700+ fire incidents with 18 fatalities, 68 incidents of property loss in excess of $50,000 listed by owner, location & cause, fire department apparatus purchases, by-laws & finances, and town managers.

McCleery was the first volunteer chief to be named Maine Fire Chief of the Year in 1998, the first volunteer chief to become president of the Maine Fire Chief's Association in 1984, and a Board Member for 13 years. He was recognized throughout the State for bringing training and efficiency to the fire service. He developed the mutual aid agreement in use with neighboring towns and was a past president of the Franklin County Firemen's Association.

At 330 pages, the book includes more than 250 color and black and white pictures and articles. The hardbound book jacket has pictures of all five chiefs from 1923 until 2000. Chief Robert McCleery is shown on the cover at a training fire in 1992 on Lincoln Street, and on the back cover is the 1950 Fire Department under Chief Victor Huart, Farmington's longest serving chief of 28 years, with J. Ambrose Compton who had the shortest tenure of any chief, 15 minutes before resigning, followed by J. Bauer Small, 18 years, and Forest L. Allen, 8 years, then Robert McCleery, 23 years.

McCleery's book will be on sale at a book launch open house on Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Homestead Restaurant, from 2- 4 p.m. Marden will also be selling books at the Farmington Fair Exhibition Hall on Tuesday Sept. 18 and Thursday Sept. 20 from 10-2 p.m. During Farmington Fair week books will also be available for sale at the Fire Department Fair Booth and Farmington Grange Food Booth. Devaney, Doak, and Garrett Booksellers on Broadway in Farmington will be also be carrying the book.

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10 Responses »

  1. I am very interested in buying the book but have no way to Farmington wondered if it could be mailed. and what the cost would be.Reply to Thank you in advance

  2. Proud of you, Ruth!! I now how hard you worked on this and how much love you put into it. Can't wait to read it.

  3. Thank you Ruth! I am so happy to see this. My Dad volunteered for the Farmington Fire Department for many years

  4. Great job getting it finished. Looking forward to seeing it

  5. Joline,

    Your father,Tom, according to Dad's records first became a Rookie in 1953, and left the department in 1963.

    Thank you all for your kind words.

    Anyone wanting a copy may contact me at:



  6. I can not wait to get this book. Leon Tardy, my grandfather; Jack Bell, my dad were both firefighters and Terry, my brother is fire chief. Can't wait to buy and read it.

  7. So excited to read this book. My dad was a volunteer firefighter for several years for farmington fire. When will the nook be available at the book stores in town?

  8. Bonnie and Melissa,
    Thank you for your comments. Your relatives have a place in this book!
    The books are at Booksellers today. Terry Bell will have at the Firemen's booth at the Fair and I will be at the Fair Tues. and Thursday 10-2. Can also write me at P.O. Box 180, Kingfield, ME 04947 or send an email to

    Thank You to Terry Bell and Clyde Ross for helping with this book. I love those guys!


  9. Preserving history in any form is such a wonderful thing. Thank you, Ruth, for adding another resource to our area. Missed the signing Thurs, but will be picking up a book during Fair.

  10. Nancy,

    Thank you for all your contributions. They are in the book.

    Hope to see you either Tuesday or Thursday. Please stop by the Exhibition Hall.