Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pelham Firemen Turned Their Hoses on Trolley Construction Crew in 1898


In the late 19th century, rival trolley companies raced to construct lines throughout the New York region.  Rivalries among competing trolley companies led to at least one instance of violence in the Village of North Pelham in 1898 when local firemen had to turn their hoses on a trolley construction gang to halt its work.  The dispute led to a lawsuit in which the Court ruled that two rival trolley companies both had valid franchises to build trolley tracks on Fourth Street (today's Lincoln Avenue) and that the first to lay tracks would perfect its franchise. That decision, of course, set off a race.  I have written before about a portion of this dispute.  See:  Mon., Dec. 07, 2009:  Report of Fight with Trolley Construction Crew in Pelhamville in 1898.

The origins of the incident may be traced to a few years before when North Pelham Trustees granted a trolley franchise to a start up company to build a line through North Pelham on Fourth Street (i.e., Lincoln Avenue) connecting lines in Mount Vernon and New Rochelle through North Pelham.  

The start up failed.  Among its only assets was the franchise granted by North Pelham which it sold to the New York and Connecticut Traction Company.  The New York and Connecticut Traction Company, however, did not construct the tracks.

The Board of Trustees of North Pelham became impatient.  On Saturday, March 5, 1898, the Board met to address the issue.  The Board concluded that the original franchise had been forfeited through interaction.  The Board granted a new franchise to the Union Electric Railway Company which had been active in the successful development of lines in southern Westchester.  This time, however, the Village Board included conditions "that the tracks shall be laid and cars running within six months and that cars shall meet all the trains on the New Haven Railroad at Pelham and all those on the Harlem River Branch at Pelham Manor station."

The "Union Company" as it was called, had not laid the tracks after the passage of six months.  The owner of the original franchise, the New York and Connecticut Traction Company, decided to try to steal a march on the Village and on the Union Company.  

On Saturday, October 1, 1898, a massive group of 150 laborers from Brooklyn descended on North Pelham and collected at the intersection of today's Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Avenue.  Carloads of construction materials appeared as well.  Within minutes, a foreman working on behalf of the New York and Connecticut Traction Company had the workers digging up Fourth Street to lay a foundation on which ties and rails would be laid for new trolley tracks.  

Within a short time, the laborers had laid nearly 150 feet of new trolley tracks when North Pelham Trustee Barker happened upon the scene in his wagon.  He ordered the laborers to stop their work.  The foreman and workers ignored him.  Trustee Barker tracked down a Town Constable and ordered him to arrest the leaders.  The Constable arrested the foreman and three laborers and marched them off to a local lockup.

The remaining laborers never ceased their work.  The dedicated Village Trustee next drove his wagon a section of trench to halt the work.  The workers in the trench scattered to avoid injury.  They hesitated only a moment, however, then swarmed around the Trustee, seized his wagon, and carried it out of the way so they could resume their work.  

Seeking help, Trustee Barker first contacted the Chief of Police in Mount Vernon who politely told him the matter was out of his jurisdiction and no help would be sent.  Next, Trustee Barker had a fire alarm sounded.  Local firemen arrived quickly, together with one truck, one engine, and a hose cart.  At Trustee Barker's request the Pelham firemen attached a hose to a nearby hydrant and turned a violent stream of water on the gang of laborers.  Within moments, the laborers couldn't take it anymore, scrambled out of the work area, and sought shelter in nearby woods.

While the Pelham firemen stood guard over the area with their fire hose ready, Trustee Barker had someone send word to a Union Company official who promptly sent a foreman and 150 Union Company laborers who promptly ripped up the 150 feet of tracks and ties while the firemen stood guard.  By the evening of the same day, the president of the Union Company arrived at the scene in Pelham with two carloads of laborers to reinforce the 150 Union Company men already there.  

As soon as material arrived, the Union Company quickly began building its own set of tracks on Fourth Street.  Its men worked quickly and work progressed nicely until nightfall when a temporary restraining order obtained on behalf of the New York and Connecticut Traction Company was served on them.  Work stopped immediately.  The matter was now the subject of a lawsuit.

On Tuesday, January 31, 1899, a State court judge decided the matter.  The judge ruled that both franchises had been properly granted and that "the company which first put its track down would be the one to make good its right to the street."  The race began.

The Union Company was incredibly fast.  Less than twelve hours after the decision was released, it had a gang of laborers and two carloads of material on the scene at Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in Pelham.  The laborers worked all night and, by the next morning (February 1, 1899), the trolley tracks were "practically completed."

The Union Company won the race.  Trolley tracks finally connected Mount Vernon and New Rochelle along the roadway known today as Lincoln Avenue.



Detail of Map Published in 1924 With Dashed Lines Showing 
Trolley Lines. Note the Trolley Line that Crosses North Pelham
from Mount Vernon to New Rochelle on Fourth Street (Lincoln Ave.)
Source: Fairchild, John F., "STREET MAP OF THE CITY OF MOUNT
N.Y." (1924) (From the Digital Collections of the Westchester County
Archive). NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the text of a number of news articles regarding the subject of today's Historic Pelham article.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"A FRANCHISE GRANTED IN PELHAM.

The Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham held a meeting last Saturday evening at the residence of Mr. Ralph K. Hubbard on Pelham Heights.  The most important business transacted was the granting of a franchise to the Union Electric Railway Company to operate an electric road from the corner of Wolf's Lane and Third street, (where its route at present turns to go to North Pelham) down Wolf's Lane to the Boston Post Road and up the Boston Post Road as far as Pelhamdale avenue.  For the balance of the Post Road the Union Company has a franchise from the Pelham Manor authorities.

The conditions of the franchise are that the tracks shall be laid and cars running within six months and that cars shall meet all the trains on the New Haven Railroad at Pelham and all those on the Harlem River Branch at Pelham Manor station.

Messrs. I. C. Hill and Alexander Kennedy, the Citizens' Committee on trolley extensions appointed by the North Pelham trustees, attended the meeting.  Mr. John Maher, president of the Union Road, was also president of the Union Road, was also present and stated that he thought if it were found feasible to do so, the line of the company would be extended to the northern boundary of North Pelham in the near future."

Source:  A FRANCHISE GRANTED IN PELHAM, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 11, 1898, p. 3, col. 3.  

"TURNED HOSE ON ITALIANS.
------
FIREMEN CALLED ON TO SETTLE A TROLLEY LINE WAR.
-----
A Gang of Laborers Driven from Trenches by the Fire Department of New Pelham -- Outcome of Fight Between Rival Traction Companies for a Westchester Franchise.

NEW ROCHELLE, N. Y., Oct. 1. -- The rivalry between the Union Trolley Company and the New York and Connecticut Traction Company resulted in a fight this afternoon in the village of North Pelham, necessitating the calling out of the Fire Department.

The trouble between the two companies dates back seven years, when the traction company received a franchise from the trustees of North Pelham to construct a line connecting Mount Vernon with New Rochelle.  The trustees granted the franchise on the condition that the line should be in operation inside of a year.  Last month the trustees granted a franchise to the Union Company, known as the Huckleberry road, over the same route, on the ground that the Traction Company had violated its franchise.

The Union Company was to have begun work as soon as it had completed its system in New Rochelle.  To-day, however, the Traction Company decided to steal a march on its rival.

Early this afternoon 150 Italians from Brooklyn, under Foreman Mack, arrived at North Pelham and started to tear up the road at Fourth street and Fifth avenue.  They had succeeded in laying about 150 feet of track when Trustee Barker drove up and ordered them to stop.  The laborers refused to obey the order and Barker ordered Constable Marks to arrest some of the men.  Marks picked out Foreman Mack and three of his laborers and took them to the village lock-up.  The other laborers kept on digging the trenches.  Trustee Barker drove his wagon in the trench, scattering the Italians.

After a moment's hesitation, they swarmed around Barker, and, seizing the wagon, carried it over to the other side of the road.  At this juncture someone turned in the fire alarm, which brought to the scene one truck, a hose cart, and an engine.  The firemen turned the hose on the gang of laborers, who finally sought shelter in the woods.

The stream was so powerful that Fireman Stanman, who was holding the nozzle, was knocked down and badly bruised.  The Pelham authorities asked Mount Vernon police for help, but Chief Foley refused, as it was not in his jurisdiction.

Foreman Hannon of the Union Company heard of the disturbance and hurried with the 150 men he had at work there to Pelham.  His men ripped up the ties while the Fire Department stood guard with the hose.  President Maher of the Union Company arrived this evening, and brought up two carloads of Italians from West Farms to reinforce his men.  At nightfall the Union Company was in full possession of the road."

Source:  TURNED HOSE ON ITALIANS -- FIREMEN CALLED ON TO SETTLE A TROLLEY LINE WAR, The Sun [NY, NY], Oct. 2, 1898, Vol. LXVI, No. 32, p. 4, col. 5.  

"TROLLEY FIGHT IN PELHAM.
-----
A Gang of Men Driven Off by Turning Hose on Them.
-----

Saturday afternoon last a trolley battle was fought in the village of Pelham, between the gangs of the Connecticut Traction Company and the village authorities and the Union Railroad forces.

The Traction Company's gang, which started in during the early afternoon to lay rails on Fourth street, was finally driven off by the local fire department, which turned two streams of water from nearby hydrants on the invading army of Italians.

The trouble dates back to the last meeting of the Pelham Village Trustees.  At that time an old trolley franchise, which was granted seven years ago, and later bought up by the Connecticut Traction people, was revoked, and a new franchise granted over those streets through to New Rochelle to the Union Railway.

The Connecticut Traction Company, to block the latest move of their rivals, on Saturday afternoon sent a gang of two hundred and fifty Italians to Pelham, who appeared suddenly on Fourth street.  Soon after several loads of rails and ties were carted on the road and in an hour many rods of trolley line had been laid.  Everything went along smoothly, until Trustee Barker happened to drive along.  When he saw what was up, he jumped from his wagon and ordered the foreman and his gang to quit work, but they refused.

By this time President Lynch, of the village and several other village trustees had arrived on the scene, but the gang still kept on laying tracks.

Mr. Lynch telephoned Chief Foley, of Mount Vernon, and asked him to send a detachment of police to Pelham.

Chief Foley said the trouble was out of the jurisdiction of the Mount Vernon police, and he could do nothing.

Then some one made a suggestion that the Pelham fire department be called out to turn two streams of water on the invaders.  This suggestion was acted on, and a few minutes later the fire bells were ringing madly.  Soon after the hose cart and ladder truck appeared on the scene.  The firemen coupled their hose to the hydrants and, under the direction of President Lynch, turned two streams of cold water on the gang of trolley layers.

In the meantime word was sent Foreman Hannon, who had a gang of men numbering two hundred and fifty at work in Pelham Manor, on the Union Company's lines.

As soon as he heard that the rival company were at work, he loaded his men into wagons, and ordering several loads of rails and ties to follow him started with his gang for Fourth street, Pelham.  When the Union gang arrived they found the Traction crowd had been driven to the woods by the streams of water, which had been turned on them.

Foreman Hannon immediately directed his men to tear up the tracks just laid by the Traction people, and they went at it with such a will, that in a few hours every rail and tie which had been laid was torn up.  They then started to replace them with the Union Company's stock, which had been brought up on their trucks.  

The Union gang worked until nearly nightfall, when an injunction, granted by Supreme Court Justice Dickey, was served on them and work stopped.

There the matter will rest until the motion to make the injunction permanent is argued."

Source:  TROLLEY FIGHT IN PELHAM -- A Gang of Men Driven Off by Turning Hose on Them, The New Rochelle Pioneer, Oct. 8, 1898, Vol. XXIV, No. 19, p. 1, col. 4.  

"UNION COMPANY'S QUICK WORK.
-----
Acted Promptly on Court Decision and Laid Tracks Ahead of Its Rival.

MOUNT VERNON, N. Y., Feb. 1. -- Supreme Court Justice Gaynor on Tuesday afternoon decided a disputed trolley franchise question in such a way that neither of the contestants won.  Within twelve hours one of them had taken advantage of the decision and shut out its rival.  The Union Company which operates roads in the Bronx and in Westchester County, claimed a franchise through Fourth Street in North Pelham by virtue of a franchise granted to it by the Trustees.  The New York, Westchester and Connecticut Traction Company claimed the right to run through the same street by virtue of a franchise previously granted to another company which has gone out of existence, and which sold its only asset, the franchise, to the traction company.

The latter company in October last attempted to lay rails through Fourth Street.  This was after the Union Company had applied to the North Pelham Trustees for a franchise.  The Trustees held that the old franchise had lapsed because the original company had not made any attempt to take advantage of it, nor had its successor within a reasonable time.  The Union Company obtained an injunction restraining the Traction Company from constructing its road through Fourth Street, but before the injunction could have been served the road would have been built but for prompt action on the part of the Trustees.  They called out the Fire Department, and when the gang of Italians at work on the street refused to stop work the firemen drove them off with streams of water from the hose.

Since then the disputed franchises had been in the courts.  Justice Gaynor on Tuesday held that both franchises had been properly granted and that the company which first put its tracks down would be the one to make good its right to the street.  The Union Company acted promptly in following up this decision.  Immediately after it was given a construction gang was organized and sent to the disputed street, and two carloads of material followed within a short time.  By morning the road was practically completed, and to-night it is almost ready for use  So far as is known, the Westchester and Connecticut people did not act upon the decision."

Source:  UNION COMPANY'S QUICK WORK -- Acted Promptly on Court Decision and Laid Tracks Ahead of Its Rival, N.Y. Times, Feb. 2, 1899, p. 5, col. 5.  

"RIVAL LAID TROLLEY ROAD IN ONE NIGHT
-----

MOUNT VERNON, N. Y., Wednesday. -- Supreme Court Justice Gaynor on Tuesday afternoon decided a disputed trolley franchise question in such a way that it lay with the enterprise of either of the contestants to win.  By this morning one of them had taken advantage of the decision and shut out its rival by building a road.

The Union Company claimed a franchise through Fourth street in North Pelham, by virtue of a franchise granted to it by the trustees.  The New York, Westchester and Connecticut Traction Company claimed the right to run through the same street by virtue of a franchise purchased from another company, which has gone out of existence.  The Westchester and Connecticut, on October last, attempted to lay rails through Fourth street.  The trustees held that the old franchise had lapsed.  The Union Company obtained an injunction, but before it could have been served the road would have been built, but for prompt action on the part of the trustees.  They called out the Fire Department, and when the laborers refused to stop work the firemen drove them off with streams of water.

Justice Gaynor held that both franchises had been properly granted and that the company which first put its track down would be the one to make good its right to the street.  The Union Company immediately sent a construction gang and two carloads of material to the disputed street, and by morning the road was practically completed."

Source:  RIVAL LAID TROLLEY ROAD IN ONE NIGHT, New York Herald, Feb. 2, 1899, p. 14, col. 2.  

"PELHAM'S NEWS AND NOTES
-----
Happenings of Special Interest to Her People. . . . 

The amount which the Westchester Electric Railway Company will have to pay the Village of North Pelham as its share of the cost of macadamizing Fifth avenue and Fourth street, is $3,021.17. . . ."

Source:  PELHAM'S NEWS AND NOTES -- Happenings of Special Interest to Her People, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 17, 1899, Vol. XXX, No. 2,266, p. 1, col. 3.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Three More Pelham Train Wrecks


Pelham has been the scene of many train wrecks in the last 170 years since the first railroad tracks were laid through the town.  The most infamous such wreck, of course, was the Pelhamville Train Wreck on December 27, 1885.  (I have written extensively about that train wreck.  See the following article with links to additional articles about the incident, a full bibliography, and images of the aftermath:  Fri., Dec. 30, 2016:  Pelham Recalled the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 Upon Death of Riley Ellsworth Phillips in 1927.)  There have been a host of other train wrecks as well, many of which I have written about before as well.  See, e.g.:

Bell, Blake A., Train Wrecks Near Depot Square in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 44, Nov. 5, 2004, p. 13, col. 1.

Wed., Sep. 21, 2016:  Truck Smashed by Express Train Landed on Pelham Station Platform in 1925.  

Fri., Feb. 26, 2016:  108 Years Ago Today: Freight Train Wreck on the Branch Line Between Pelham Manor and Bartow Station.

Fri., Apr. 25, 2014:  Freight Train Wreck at Pelham Manor Station in 1896.



Detail from Front Cover of the January 16, 1886 Issue of
Scientific American that Featured a Cover Story About the
Pelhamville Train Wreck Entitled "A Remarkable Railroad
Accident." NOTE: Click on Images to Enlarge.

Today's Historic Pelham article details three additional Pelham train wrecks.  The first was a major freight train wreck on the Branch Line near Pelham Manor Depot on June 25, 1899.  The second was a derailment of cars on a New Haven Main Line passenger train on March 10, 1905.  The third was a freight train wreck on the Branch Line near Pelham Manor Depot four days later on March 14, 1905.

June 25, 1899 Freight Train Wreck

At about 1:00 p.m. on June 25, 1899, a westbound freight train with sixty cars carrying merchandise, beef, and vehicles was traveling about thirty-five miles an hour between the Pelham Manor and Bartow stations on the Branch Line when a drawbar (a heavy bar helping to connect the railroad cars) either broke or was removed by a vagabond seen climbing aboard the train earlier.  As the front half of the train slowed near the base of a steep grade, the runaway rear half of the train smashed into it.  About twenty cars derailed and scattered their contents along the tracks.  

The conductor was about to leave the caboose when the wreck occurred.  He was thrown about, knocked down, and "severely bruised."  The brakeman, William Cooney, was badly hurt.  He was in one of the cars that derailed.  He was caught in the wreckage.  His leg was crushed and he was cut badly about the face.

After the accident, the vagabond was seen crawling from the wreck unhurt, though his coat and hat were missing.  Although a wrecking train was dispatched to the site immediately, it was several hours before the tracks could be cleared and traffic along the Branch Line could be resumed.

March 10, 1905 Passenger Train Derailment

At 7:35 a.m. on March 10, 1905, a passenger train traveling through Pelham reached an area where the Main New Haven Line rails had spread.  As the wheels of the train passed over the defective section of the track, five cars were derailed.  

No one was hurt in the accident but, according to a brief newspaper account "six women on the train fainted."  Luckily, someone had the presence of mind to get down the tracks and flag down the express train that was bearing down on the scene from behind and flagged it to a stop in time to prevent a major collision with the derailed cars.

June 14, 1905 Freight Train Pile Up

On the afternoon of March 14, 1905, a westbound freight train passing the Pelham Manor Depot snapped an axle.  Four cars of the train derailed and piled up along the tracks in a terrible wreck.  

Though there is no record of injuries, a brief reference to the accident indicates that the Branch Line tracks were blocked for two hours as a result of the wreck.

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"FREIGHT STREWN ALONG TRACKS.
-----
SMASH ON THE NEW-YORK, NEW-HAVEN AND HARTFORD ROAD NEAR BARTOW CAUSES MUCH DAMAGE.

A westbound freight train, consisting of sixty cars of merchandise, beef and vehicles, was badly wrecked about 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon on the Harlem River branch of the New-York, New-Haven and Hartford Railroad.

The accident was caused by the pulling out of a drawbar while the train was descending a steep grade between Bartow and Pelham Manor at a speed of about thirty-five miles an hour.  Before the locomotive and forward section could get out of the way the rear section could get out of the way the rear section overtook it and struck it with a crash, throwing about twenty cars off the rails and scattering their contents along the track.  Conductor Llewellyn was about to leave the caboose when the crash came, and was knocked down and severely bruised.  William Cooney, a brakeman, was standing on one of the cars that left the track.  He was caught in the wreckage and had his leg crushed, in addition to being cut about the face.

Just before the accident one of the brakemen saw a tramp board the train and take refuge in an empty box car near the place where the train was broken in two.  After the wreck he was seen crawling out from under the car hatless and coatless, but unhurt.  The accident blocked all trains and delayed traffic on the road about six hours."

Source:  FREIGHT STREWN ALONG TRACKS -- SMASH ON THE NEW-YORK, NEW-HAVEN AND HARTFORD ROAD NEAR BARTOW CAUSES MUCH DAMAGE, New-York Tribune, Jun. 26, 1899, Vol. LIX, No. 19,216, p. 1, col. 5.  

"A Wreck on the Branch Line.
-----

Pelham Manor, June 26. -- The west-bound freight train on the Harlem River branch of the New Haven road at one o'clock Sunday noon, was badly wrecked at Pelham Manor.

The accident was caused by the pulling out of a drawbar.  Several of the freight cars left the track and some of them were badly wreck.   

A brakeman by the name of Cooney, had his leg crushed, and was otherwise badly bruised.

The grade between Bartow and Pelham Manor is very steep, and when the drawbar pulled out, the forward cars, with the engine, moved away from the rear section, and [as] the engine slowed up, the broken section crashed into the cars ahead of it and a general smashup took place.

The wrecking train was soon on the scene, and after a few hours delay the tracks were cleared for traffic."

Source:  A Wreck on the Branch Line, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 26, 1899, Vol. XXIX, No. 2,222, p. 1, col. 4.  

"FREIGHT STREWN ALONG TRACKS.
-----
Smash on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Road Near Bartow Causes Much Damage.

A west bound freight train, consisting of sixty cars of merchandise, beef and vehicles, was badly wrecked about one o'clock Sunday afternoon on the Harlem River branch of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.  

The accident was caused by a broken flange while descending the grade between Bartow and Pelham Manor at a speed of about thirty-five miles an hour, throwing fifteen cars off the rails and scattering their contents along the track.  Conductor Llewellyn was about to leave the caboose when the crash came, and was knocked down and severely bruised.  William Cooney, a brakeman, was standing on one of the cars that left the track.  He was caught in the wreckage and had his leg crushed in addition to being cut about the face.  

Just before the accident one of the brakemen saw a tramp board the train and take refuge in an empty box car near the place where the train was broken in two.  After the wreck he was seen crawling out from under the car hatless and coatless, but unhurt.  The accident blocked all trains and delayed traffic on the road about six hours.  The cars are still piled along the track, some of them standing on an end, and others with the wheels in the air.  The trucks of some of the cars are thirty feet away from the body."

Source:  FREIGHT STREWN ALONG TRACKS, The New Rochelle Press, Jul. 1, 1899, p. 1, col. 2.  

"NEW HAVEN TRAIN DERAILED.

Mount Vernon, N. Y., March 10. -- The 7:35 a.m. westbound local was derailed at Pelham, on the New Haven Railroad by the spreading of the rails.  Five loaded cars were thrown from the track.  Six women on the train fainted but none was injured.  The express train was flagged in time to prevent a collision with the derailed cars."

Source:  NEW HAVEN TRAIN DERAILED, The Daily Saratogian, Mar. 10, 1905, p. 2, col. 3.

"WRECK ON CONSOLIDATED.
-----
Four Cars of Westbound Freight Piled Up.

New York, March 14. -- Four cars of a westbound freight train on the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad, were wrecked by the breaking of an axle at the Pelham Manor Station this afternoon.  The suburban branch was blocked for two hours."

Source:  WRECK ON CONSOLIDATED -- Four Cars of Westbound Freight Piled Up, The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, Mar. 15, 1905, p. 1, col. 3.  

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Runaway Horse on Boston Post Road in 1906 Hurt a Niece of a Barnum & Bailey Circus Official


The quiet beauty of our Town of Pelham is, paradoxically, nearly enveloped within some of the heaviest-traveled Interstate highways, roadways, and parkways in the United States.  These days driving can be frustrating as a fender-bender or, heaven forbid, a full-blown crash brings the daily throb of traffic in or around Pelham to a complete standstill.  Worse yet is when commercial trucker ventures, illegally, onto the Hutchinson River Parkway (where such trucks are banned) and shears off the top half of the (soon to be former) employer's truck while trying to make it beneath low bridges built in the 1920s and 1930s.   

There was a time, however, when roadway accidents did not really slow the flow of traffic in Pelham.  Such accidents might attract rubber-necking from the two or three who passed by on carriages or horseback, but did little to hamper our major transportation arteries. . . .  

One such accident occurred on Boston Post Road in Pelham Manor on the evening of Wednesday, June 20, 1906.  The accident occurred on the roadway roughly where today's Our Lady of Perpetual Help - St. Catharine Parish Church stands.  Mrs. George O. Starr of 322 South Columbus Avenue in Mount Vernon, a niece (by marriage) of the manager of Barnum & Bailey Circus, was driving a carriage.  Her passenger was Mrs. M. N. Litson of New York City.

Clearly the accident was a serious one.  Various news reports clearly agree on that.  Beyond the seriousness of the accident, however, the news accounts agree on little else.  Some indicate Mrs. Starr was driving.  Others indicate Mrs. Litson was driving.  Some claim the horse was frightened by a passing automobile.  Another says the driver turned the carriage too sharply causing one of the fore wheels to catch in the guard on the body of the vehicle, tipping it.  

It seems, according to some reports, that Mrs. Starr's horse was "high spirited."  (Another report, however, suggested the horse was not "spirited.")  As the animal trotted along drawing the carriage with the two women behind it, a new-fangled horseless carriage passed them.  The loud chitty-chitty bang bang of the passing automobile frightened the horse which began dashing along the Post Road.  Mrs. Starr held onto the reins for dear life, doing her "utmost to keep the animal going straight."  Soon, however, the horse-drawn carriage drifted to the curb until a front wheel struck the curb, upsetting the carriage.  

Another account described an entirely different cause of the accident, stating:

"Mrs. Litson was driving and turned too sharply, one of the fore wheels catching in the guard on the body of the vehicle.  The buggy began to tip and the women became frightened, both falling to the ground.  The horse did not run, as a more spirited one would have done."  

In any event, both women were hurled out of the carriage onto the ground.  Reports differ wildly over the injuries the two women suffered.  According to some, Mrs. Litson suffered a compound fracture of the skull.  Others say it was a compound fracture of her right leg.  Some reports stated that Mrs. Starr was knocked unconscious, that both of her legs were broken, and that she suffered internal injuries.  In contrast, one report said she was "severely bruised, but no bones were broken."

According to at least one account, Mrs. Litson was taken to the Mount Vernon Hospital.  Mrs. Starr was removed by ambulance to her home in Mount Vernon.  The automobile that frightened the horse, thus causing the accident, never stopped.  

Of course, during the last years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century Pelham saw many such accidents caused by runaway horses that were frightened by automobiles, cyclists, and other such contraptions that increasingly were sharing the roadways with horses and horse-drawn conveyances.  I have written on a number of occasions regarding such incidents.  See, e.g.:

Tue., Apr. 18, 2017:  Runaway! Runaway Horse Accidents on Shore Road During the 1890s.  

Tue., Aug. 09, 2016:  Multi-Vehicle Pileup of Horse-Drawn Carriages on City Island Road in 1896.  



Image Shows an Earlier, but Similar, Accident on Shore Road in 1896.
"TWO WOMEN SERIOUSLY HURT IN A RUNAWAY. MRS. R. EMMET,
JR., OF NEW ROCHELLE, TOKE HER COUSIN, MISS EMMET, OF SAN
FRANCISCO DRIVING, AND THE HORSE SUPPOSEDLY GENTLE,
PITCHED THEM OUT HEAD FOREMOST."  Source:  TWO HURT IN
A RUNAWAY -- Lawyer R. S. Emmet's Wife and Her Cousin Thrown
Out Headlong Near Pelham Bridge -- HORSE SUPPOSED TO BE GENTLE,
The World [NY, NY], Jun. 23, 1896, p. 5, col. 6. NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.


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"HURT IN RUNAWAY.
-----
Auto Frightens Horse -- Carriage Upset -- Occupants Hurled Out.

Frightened by a passing automobile, a high spirited horse, drawing Mrs. George O. Starr, of South Columbus avenue, Mount Vernon, and Mrs. M. N. Litson, of New York, dashed along the Post Road at Pelham Manor last night.  The carriage struck the curb and the women were hurled to the ground.  Both of Mrs. Starr's legs were broken and she was internally injured.  Mrs. Litson's skull was fractured.  

The accident happened midway between Bonnie Brae, the home of J. L. Reynolds, and the Little Red Church.  Mrs. Starr was driving, and when the horse took fright she clung to the reins and did her utmost to keep the animal going straight, but the front wheels of the vehicle struck the curb and it upset.  Mrs. Starr was removed to her home in an ambulance and Mrs. Litson was taken to the Mount Vernon Hospital.  Both are in critical condition.

Mrs. Starr is the niece of George O. Starr, manager of the Barnum & Bailey circus."

Source:  HURT IN RUNAWAY -Auto Frightens Horse -- Carriage Upset -- Occupants Hurled Out, New-York Tribune, Jun. 21, 1906, p. 1, col. 4.  

"THROWN FROM THE CARRIAGE WHILE DRIVING
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ACCIDENT WAS ON THE BOSTON POST ROAD

While driving along the Post road, in Pelham Manor, last evening, Mrs. George O. Starr, of No. 322 South Columbus avenue, and guest, Mrs. M. N. Litson, of New York, were thrown from their carriage, Mrs. Litson sustaining a compound fracture of the right leg.  Mrs. Starr was severely bruised, but no bones were broken.

Mrs. Litson was driving and turned too sharply, one of the fore wheels catching in the guard on the body of the vehicle.  The buggy began to tip and the women became frightened, both falling to the ground.  The horse did not run, as a more spirited one would have done.

The New Rochelle ambulance was sent for and the women were brought to Mrs. Starr's home on Columbus avenue, Mrs. Litson being later taken to the hospital.  She is resting comfortably today.  Mr. Starr is the nephew and namesake of George O. Starr, managing director of the Barnum and Bailey circus."

Source:  THROWN FROM THE CARRIAGE WHILE DRIVING -- ACCIDENT WAS ON THE BOSTON POST ROAD, Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 21, 1906, No. 4342, p. 1, col. 2.  

"GEO. O. STARR'S NIECE HURT.
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Thrown in a Runaway and May Die -- Auto Caused It.

Frightened by a passing automobile which was running at a high rate of speed, a high-spirited horse drawing Mrs. George O. Starr of South Columbus Avenue, Mount Vernon, and Mrs. M. N. Litson of Manhattan, ran along the Post Road at Pelham Manor last night, struck the curb, and threw the women to the ground.  Mrs. Starr, who was driving, had both legs broken, suffered internal injuries, and is still unconscious.  Mrs. Litson suffered a compound fracture of the skull.

The accident happened midway between the home of J. L. Reynolds and the Little Red Church.  Mrs. Starr was removed to her home in an ambulance and Mrs. Liston to the Mount Vernon Hospital.  The automobile did not stop after the accident.  Mrs. Starr is the niece of George O. Starr, manager of the Barnum & Bailey circus."

Source:  GEO. O. STARR'S NIECE HURT -- Thrown in a Runaway and May Die -- Auto Caused It, N. Y. Times, Jun. 21, 1906, p. 4, col. 5.  

"AUTO SCARES HORSE; TWO WOMEN HURT
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By Associated Press.

Pelham Manor, June 21.  Frightened by a passing automobile, which was running at a high rate of speed, a spirited horse, drawing a carriage in which were Mrs. George O. Starr of Mt. Vernon and Mrs. M. N. Litson of New York, dashed along the post road at Pelham Manor last night, struck the curb and hurled the women to the ground.

Mrs. Starr had both legs broken, received internal injuries and was rendered unconscious.  Mrs. Litson received a compound fracture of the skull.  Both women are in a precarious condition.  The automobile did not stop after the accident.  Mrs. Starr is the niece of George O. Starr, manager of the Barnum & Bailey circus."

Source:  AUTO SCARES HORSE; TWO WOMEN HURT, Binghamton Press and Leader [Binghamton, NY], Jun. 21, 1906, Vol. 29, No. 61, p. 5, col. 1.  

"TWO WOMEN WILL LOSE LIVES BECAUSE AUTO SCARED HORSE
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Pelham Manor, June 21. -- Frightened by a passing auto which was running at a high rate of speed, a spirited horse drawing a carriage in which were Mrs. G. O. Starr of Mt. Vernon, and Mrs. M. N. Liston of New York dashed along the post road at Pelham Manor last night, struck the curb and hurled the women to the ground.  Mrs. Starr had both legs broken, received internal injuries and was rendered unconscious.  Mrs. Litson received a compound fracture of the skull.  Both women are in a critical condition.

The auto did not stop after the accident.  Mrs. Starr is the niece of George O. Starr, manager of the Barnum & Bailey Circus."

Source:  TWO WOMEN WILL LOSE LIVES BECAUSE AUTO SCARED HORSE, Elmira Gazette [Elmira, NY], Jun. 21, 1906, Vol. 62, No. 146, p. 1, cols. 5-6.  

"TWO WOMEN BADLY INJURED.
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Auto That Frightened Their Spirited Horse Did Not Stop.

Pelham Manor, N. Y., June 21. -- Frightened by a passing automobile which was running at a high rate of speed, a spirited horse drawing a carriage in which were Mrs. George O. Starr of Mount Vernon -- and Mrs. M. N. Litson of New York, dashed along the post road at Pelham Manor last night, struck the curb and hurled the women to the ground.  

Mrs. Starr had both legs broken, received internal injuries and was rendered unconscious.  Mrs. Litson received a compound fracture of the skull.  Both women are in precarious condition.  Mrs. Starr was driving.

The automobile did not stop after the accident.  Mrs. Starr is the niece of George O. Starr, manager of the Barnum & Bailey circus."

Source:  TWO WOMEN BADLY INJURED -- Auto That Frightened Their Spirited Horse Did Not Stop, Auburn Democrat-Argus [Auburn, NY], Jun. 22, 1906, Vol. XXXVI, No. 46, p. 1, col. 6.  

"'ROUND ABOUT THE STATE. . . .

Frightened by a passing automobile which was running at a high rate of speed, a spirited horse drawing a carriage in which were Mrs. George O. Starr of Mount Vernon, and Mrs. M. N. Litson of New York, dashed along the post road at Pelham Manor, last week, struck the curb and hurled the women to the ground.  Mrs. Starr had both legs broken, received internal injuries and was rendered unconscious.  Mrs. Litson received a compound fracture of the skull.  Both women are in a precarious condition.  Mrs. Starr was driving.  The automobile did not stop after the accident."

Source:  'ROUND ABOUT THE STATE, The Post, [Ellicottville, NY], Jun. 27, 1906, Vol. 22, No. 35, p. 1, col. 4.  

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mysterious Rock Construction on Two Trees Island Off the Shores of Pelham


Two Trees Island was made famous, in effect, by local historian Theodore L. ("Ted") Kazimiroff in a pair of books he published entitled:  The Last Algonquin (1982) and If These Trees Could Only Talk (2014).  In these books Kazimiroff told the story of Joe Two Trees and his ancestors, Native Americans who once lived in the region of Hunter's Island and roamed the area from the Harlem River to today's Pelham Bay Park and beyond.  

In The Last Algonquin, Ted Kazimiroff tells the story of how his father (Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, former Bronx Historian) was befriended as a young Boy Scout in the early 1920s by an elderly Algonquin who continued to live a simple Native American life while essentially hiding in a vine-covered campsite in the Hunter's Island region of today's Pelham Bay Park.  Joe Two Trees, according to the tale, was born in the area more than eighty years before and, in his final months, befriended the young boy and taught him much about Native American ways.  Then, as Joe Two Trees neared death in his Native American shelter in the early 1920s, he asked the young boy to listen to his life story and to keep his deeds alive by retelling that story as a way to keep his spirit alive.  

When the young boy grew into a man and had his own son (whom he named Theodore L. "Ted" Kazimiroff), he told his young son the story of Joe Two Trees and stories of the ancestors of Joe Two Trees.  Ted Kazimiroff later decided to help keep the spirit of Joe Two Trees alive by writing his two books (which I recommend highly as both informative and entertaining reading of interest to those wanting to learn more about the histories of the Town of Pelham, Pelham Bay Park, Hunter's Island, and the Northeast Bronx).  

Joe Two Trees was so-named by his mother, Small Doe.  She named him after a tiny island off the shores of Pelham with two trees on it at the time.  Two Trees Island stood only a few feet north of East Twin Island, once one of a pair of islands known as "the Twins" (West Twin Island and East Twin Island).  The Twins, in turn, were a pair of islands immediately east of Hunter's Island.  Eventually a small stone causeway was built to connect Hunter's Island to West Twin Island.  

During the 1930s, Robert Moses led a project that used landfill to create Orchard Beach and the Orchard Beach Parking Lot which attached Hunter's Island to the mainland.  Then, in 1947, an expansion of Orchard Beach joined the Twins to the mainland as well.  

Even today it is possible to get to Two Trees Island at low tide simply by walking across to it from East Twin Island via a mudflat that connects the two.  One author recently wrote:

"[Y]ou can continue to the northern end of Twin Island and cross over at low tide to Two Trees Island.  This charming small island is great for exploring with children.  (It is, however, common to find a man or two sunning themselves on rocks in extremely skimpy bathing suits.)  Litter can sometimes be a problem, but don't let that stop you from combing the area for arrowheads left by Native Americans and artifacts from early European settlers, which are still occasionally found.  The mudflat between Twin and Two Trees Island is also a great spot for finding fiddler crabs and tasty glasswort (a sea-side herb) and beautiful sea lavender in spring and summer."

Source:  Seitz, Sharon & Miller, Stuart, The Other Islands of New York City:  A History and Guide, p. 135 (3rd Edition - Woodstock, VT:  The Countryman Press, 2011)

Immediately below is a satellite image showing the area today and indicating the location of Two Trees Island.  



2017 Google Maps Satellite Image of Orchard Beach Area.  Two Trees
Island is in the Upper Right Corner with a Portion of Hunter's Island Visible
on the Left, a Portion of the Orchard Beach Parking Lot Visible on the
Lower Left, and a Portion of Orchard Beach at the Bottom.  NOTE:  Click
on Image to Enlarge.

The detail below from a map published in 1905 shows the area that includes Hunter's Island, the Twins, Two Trees Island, and other rock outcroppings and islands in the area before Hunter's Island, the Twins, and Two Trees Island were attached to the mainland.



Detail from 1905 Map of Pelham Bay Park Showing the Twins, at Bottom,
and Two Trees Island Slightly to the Right of East Twin Island.  Source:
Office of the President of the Borough of the Bronx Topographical
Bureau, Topographical Survey Sheets of the Borough of the Bronx
Easterly of the Bronx River, Sheet 29 "Map of OPelham Bay Park City of
of the Bronx River" (1905) (Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division,
The New York Public Library).  NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

Immediately below is a photograph of Two Trees Island taken several years ago, followed by attribution.



Photograph of Two Trees Island by Matthew Houskeeper Taken on
November 30, 2010.  Used With Magnanimous Permission.  Please
Visit His Important and Informative Blog Soundbounder Located at
http://soundbounder.blogspot.com.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Immediately below is an image of a 19th century painting by Frederick Rondel believed to depict a portion of Two Trees Island with David's Island in the distance behind the sailboat.



"Pine Island, New York" by Frederick Rondel (1826-1892).
Oil on Board (8.1" x 10.2"), Thought to Depict Two Trees
Island.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Two Trees Island is located adjacent to (and some sources state within) the "Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary" located north of Orchard Beach.  See Day, Leslie, Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, p. 31 (Baltimore, MD:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) (In Association with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation).   

A most intriguing and unusual feature may be found on Two Trees Island.  There is a rocky campsite where a rock outcropping likely has been used as a shelter.  Ted Kazimiroff has identified this site as the very campsite used by Joe Two Trees before his death in the early 1920s.  See Kazimiroff, Theodore L., If These Trees Could Only Talk -- An Anecdotal History of New York City's Pelham Bay Park, p. ii (Outskirts Press, Inc., Copyright 2014 by Theodore L. Kazimiroff).  Ted Kazimiroff includes a photograph on page ii of his book showing himself standing in front of the shelter with the following caption:  "Ted Kazimiroff, author, in the old campsite.  This is where many generations of immigrants to America both Indian and Europeans sought shelter from the elements over thousands of years."



Photograph of  Shelter on Two Trees Island by Matthew Houskeeper Taken
on November 30, 2010.  Used With Magnanimous Permission.  Please
Visit His Important and Informative Blog Soundbounder Located at
http://soundbounder.blogspot.com.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Who built the shelter marked by the flat rocks laid along a sheltering rock outcropping on Two Trees Island?  The short answer seems to be:  no one knows.  Even if Joe Two Trees used the location as a campsite, it does not, of course, mean that the flat rocks laid along the outcropping were his or that they even were laid before (or after) he used the site.  Indeed, it is possible to wander the entire areas of Two Trees Island, West Twin Island, and East Twin Island and see rock stairs and even the remnants of sheltered locations such as this one that were built by campers, members of local summer colonies, members of the so-called "Twin Island Cabana Club," and many others who frequented this area throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

It is, for example, well known that members of what once was known as the "Twin Island Cabana Club" built a dozen or more "rock shelters"  fashioned by stacking heavy stones to create a shelter from wind and inclement weather on the Twin Islands and, in this case perhaps, on Two Trees Island as well.  Similar rock shelters, stone fireplaces, and the like were built on Hunter's Island as well and were used regularly at least from the 1920s through the 1970s.  In fact, in a written survey regarding Hunter's Island and its resources prepared in 1974, the author noted the existence of such rock shelters, saying:

"Hunter's Island doesn't have sand covered bathing beaches and access is by foot.  However, there is a group of visitors, that because of their unique style and use of the Island, who must enter into this discussion of the area.  They are a close knit group of friends and acquaintances, predominantly of Russian and German origin, who visit the place practically every day throughout the entire year. These visits have taken place for the past fifty years.  Individually they make their way to the park and meet at certain established places, where they will spend the day enjoying each other's company and cooking their communal meals.  They have built stone fire places, picnic tables and shelters for protection against inclement weather.  The interior of Hunter's Island is almost completely free of litter since these people, voluntarily, take the responsibility for the cleaning and maintenance of the area.  The boardwalk that extends to one of the knolls described before, was built entirely by these groups.  They have a tie with Hunter's Island, one built on time and respect."  

Source:  Geraci, Robert, Hunter's Island Existing Resources and Potential Uses Preliminary Survey, p. 6 (mss; June 1974) (thanks to Jorge Santiago of the East Bronx History Forum for bringing this reference to my attention).  

In short, we may never know who constructed the sheltered area on Two Trees Island depicted above.  Yet, the name of the island, the existence of the sheltered area, and the two wonderful books by Ted Kazimiroff have kept the spirit of Joe Two Trees alive -- and that seems far more important.  


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