Today was lovely, featuring a romp through several boxes of nineteenth-century Connecticut legislative records and lunch with colleagues (only one of whom was the one I’m married to).
The answer to the question posed in the title has several parts. First, you needed permission from the General Assembly to establish a fire company. I suppose a simple voluntary association could also have been workable, but members of fire companies got tax breaks, and to get tax breaks you had to be a member of a properly registered and incorporated fire company.
So actually, first you had to convince the General Assembly that there was a need for the fire company, because in those days corporations were formed by special acts of the General Assembly and they wanted to know that there was an actual need, serving the public good, for a corporation to be formed.
(My, how times have changed, eh?)
So in 1837 a number of residents of the unincorporated village of Mystic, which straddled both the Mystic River and the boundaries between the towns of Stonington and Groton, informed the General Assembly that they had
two large buildings for manufacturing purposes one Bank six Merchants stores about sixty dwelling houses and several mechanicks shops
and that was enough to convince the General Assembly that yes, Mystic should have an official fire company that could buy a fire engine and be organized to try to put out fires, should they occur.
This was not the only place that sought to set up a fire company in the papers I looked at today, but I think it was the smallest. Possibly an interesting topic to look into someday.
Mystic, incidentally, is still there – except it’s now called “Old Mystic.” The area that’s now called “Mystic” is considerably south of where the old firehouse once stood (the location is now a park) (see Kathleen Greenhalgh’s A History of Old Mystic, 1600-1999 (self-published in 1999)). Neither place, as it turned out, ever grew large enough to break away from their surrounding towns and achieve separate town or city status, though the present Mystic does have a nice little cluster of late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings. Old Mystic, in contrast, is very rural in appearance – possibly more so than it was back in 1837.
And of course, neither place should be confused with Mystic Seaport (http://www.mysticseaport.org/), which is an excellent museum located between the two historic villages, on the Stonington (east) side. Great place, all of it.