Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins

Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins

White Plains, Westchester County, New York, USA
Death 15 Mar 1904 (aged 62)
Stonington, New London County, Connecticut, USA
Burial Mystic, New London County, Connecticut, USA
Memorial ID 103983604 · View Source
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Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins has gone down in FDNY history as the first member to be awarded a medal of valor.

On November 14, 1868 around 11:45 p.m., fire was discovered in the first floor kitchen of the Stewart House, a hotel and restaurant located at 480 Broadway. Upon arrival, firemen were advised that numerous people were trapped in the building. Assistant Foreman Tompkins of Hook & Ladder Company 1 climbed an aerial ladder to an upper floor where he was met in heavy smoke. Hearing a woman's screams above him, he stood on the top rung of the ladder with no support other than pressing his body against the building. It was reported that he instructed her to ease her way out of the window and down to him, legs first. Grabbing her legs, he supported her weight above him, gradually taking her onto his shoulders and making their way slowly down the ladder. After making this dramatic rescue, he led his men back into the building to search for more victims, who were all brought to safety.

On April 13, 1869, newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett endowed a medal to be awarded to members of the Department who, in the view of the Commissioners, exhibit acts of valor. The Board of Merit, having been established around the same time, determined that Minthorne Tompkins would be the first to receive the award for his actions at the fire at the Steward House. Since then, the James Gordon Bennett Medal has been presented annually and is the highest award of merit in the FDNY.

In 1862, as a clerk in New York City, Minthorne Tompkins became a member of "Old Liberty" Hook and Ladder Company 16 in the volunteer FDNY and was hired on September 11, 1865 as one of the paid members in the new Department. On April 20, 1883, while Foreman of Hook and Ladder Company 11, he was stricken by chronic gastritis at a factory fire and was retired on disability. [This was the cause listed by the FDNY but family lore says it was a head injury, which seems more likely.] He and his wife Ellen moved to her hometown of Mystic, Connecticut, where he helped establish Mystic Hook & Ladder Company 1.

His granduncle, Daniel D. Tompkins, served as Governor of New York 1807 – 1817 and as Vice President of the United States 1817 – 1825 under President James Monroe. Another granduncle, Caleb Tompkins, was a member of the House of Representatives from New York while his brother Daniel was Vice President. His second-cousin Mangle Minthorne Tompkins ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York State in 1852.

Tompkinsville in Staten Island is named for this famous family.

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  • Created by: Gary Urbanowicz
  • Added: 22 Jan 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 103983604
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Minthorne Dyckman Tompkins (20 Jul 1841–15 Mar 1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 103983604, citing Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic, New London County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Gary Urbanowicz (contributor 47731674) .