Old Brad’s Life

"Old Brad"

Lived: 1880-1908
Service: 1890-1903

John Q. Bradfield’s death at the age of 28 in November of 1908 made the front page of the Baton Rouge Daily Advocate. He was given a hero’s burial by the fire department, decorated in the company’s colors and interred in front of the fire station where he lived and worked for thirteen years. the mound was kept green and well mowed, and flowers were laid there often by children who had known and loved him

He was, in fact, the lead horse for Baton Rouge’s first fire station, the Washington Fire Company, and the first horse ever put into service by the department. He was named for the merchant who, acting for the fire company, had purchased him at auction.

From 1890 to 1903, Old Brad served Baton Rouge from the original firehouse on church street, now fourth street. Upstairs was the parish library; children on their way in for a book always stopped to give brad a pat on the nose and a lump of sugar. Company firemen would vie for the chance to walk him to the sumpter house bar on third street for a draft, which old Brad would drink from a bucket.

Legend has it that old Brad and the other fire horses would trot to their proper places when the alarm sounded, ready to be harnessed to hose carriages. Upon his retirement, Old Brad was “put out to pasture”. in the yards of the local citizens . Beloved, it seemed, by the whole town, he wandered from lawn to lawn, “Boarding” with whatever family took his fancy then moving on. When the alarm sounded, Brad would still race to the fire.

Excerpt from Country Roads magazine article by Ruth Laney, January 24, 2018.