Human tragedy gave birth to the Rowan County Rescue Squad (RCRS). On May 31, 1951, Bill Barns 17, a Boyden High School student attempted to swim across American Quarry in Granite Quarry. He didn’t make it.
For 12 days, hundreds of people traveled to the quarry to watch volunteers try to locate the teen’s body. The deep, cold water of the quarry was slowly pumped out to help divers and rescue boaters in their search.
With the blessing of the late Arthur Shuping, then sheriff of Rowan County, Fannie Gobble, her sister, Mary Beaver, and their mother, Maud Crook, began a campaign at the quarry that would lead to the establishment of the Rowan County Rescue Squad. Their efforts raised $1,103.00, a large sum for 1951.
Though some of the early squad records have disappeared, it is known that the squad received its charter July 23, 1951. The Rev. G.F. Schott, then pastor of Calvary Lutheran church in Spencer, served, as it’s first president. W.W. Oakes was vice president. Officers included R.M. Andres, Secretary, and Mrs. Crook, Treasurer. The initial organization also included John Kesler, Legal Adviser, Mrs. Gobble, Publicity Chairman, Dr. M.M. Bonzo, Training director, and Dr. R.B. Wright Jr., Medical Advisor. Andrews, Shuping, Oakes and H.P. Newman made up the equipment committee.
Early interest in the squad was weak until June 1952, when two Salisbury men drowned in the Yadkin River near Long Ferry Road. Units from Lexington and Greensboro assisted volunteers from Rowan County in locating and recovering the bodies because the Rowan unit did not have the equipment needed.
At the Lions Bowl Parade in 1952, the squad’s first equipment – a truck, a boat and small rescue equipment – was displayed. An ambulance was purchased a short time later. During fund raising efforts, the ambulance and earlier equipment were displayed on South Main on Saturdays as volunteers accepted cash donations for the squad.