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, September 22, 2017

The Establishment of Memorial Park by the Town of Pelham During the 1920s


Introduction

In 1920, Pelham's memories of World War I were still raw.  A "Roll of Honor" listing those who served and who died stood at the Pelham train station.  Plans for the construction of Pelham Memorial High School to honor those who served were well underway.  Additionally, Pelham servicemen who had returned from the war were clamoring for the construction of a memorial building that could serve as a social center for veterans.

At about this time, multiple properties on the southern side of Town Hall (the side on which the Richard J. Daronco Townhouse stands), came onto the market.  Officials of the Church of the Redeemer in North Pelham moved first and bought the tract at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Harmon Avenue to build a new church building to serve as a more central location for North Pelham and Pelham Heights and to draw worshipers from the fast-growing neighborhood known as Pelhamwood.  (The church building built on the site now serves as the Richard J. Daronco Town House, a community center administered by the Town of Pelham.)  The Church of the Redeemer reportedly took title to the tract on July 1, 1920.

The Lot to the South of Town Hall

There was a small tract of land between that purchased by The Church of the Redeemer and Town Hall (located at 34 Fifth Avenue) that was not part of the land purchased by the church.  The tract was immediately adjacent to Town Hall to its south.  Though this tract is on the opposite side of Town Hall from today's Memorial Park, the story of today's Memorial Park cannot be understood without understanding how the Town of Pelham acquired this lot on the opposite side of Town Hall.  Today this southern lot accommodates parking for the Village of Pelham police and for Town Hall.

In 1920, the Town Board appointed a committee to arrange for purchase of the lot next to Town Hall, immediately adjoining it to the south.  Judge Crawford served on the Committee.  The Committee approached the Hewitt Estate, reportedly the landowner.  The owner offered the land at the price of $5,000 (about $63,500 in today's dollars).  

Pelham's former servicemen were thrilled.  They hoped the town would purchase the land, designate it as "Victory Park" in honor of the American victory in World War I, and build a "Victory Memorial Building" on the site to serve as a social center for Pelham veterans.

The proposal to buy the land and designate it as Victory Park was the preferred proposal.  The proposal to construct a "Victory Memorial Building" on the land was far more controversial.  Some believed that the construction of any such building immediately adjacent to the lovely new Town Hall, of which Pelhamites were justifiably proud, would detract from the lovely building and its setting.

Judge Crawford shocked everyone, however, when he announced that the price of $5,000 for the land was "excessive" and, thus, the town would not purchase the plot.  Henry L. Rupert, one of the vestry of the Church of the Redeemer, immediately announced that if the Town of Pelham did not buy the land, the church would "make an effort to get it."  It looked like there would be no Victory Park adjacent to Town Hall.  

Judge Crawford, it seems, was the main obstacle.  He reportedly was adamantly opposed to the construction of any building of any sort next door to Town Hall.  Indeed, he told a reporter at the time that "if a memorial building for the ex-service men is to be erected on the site, he [would] not recommend its purchase."  Clearly the Judge had no problem with a memorial park on the site.  He told the same reporter that if the land were purchased, a cenotaph or "shaft" would be erected -- i.e., a memorial tablet or a memorial monument would be erected. 

The threat that the Church of the Redeemer might buy the lot seems to have spurred the Town into action -- that or everything was merely a negotiating ploy.  By early January, 1921, a tentative deal for the town to purchase the lot for $4,000 rather than the asking price of $5,000 had been reached.  On January 12, a local newspaper reported that the "town board has passed a resolution empowering the supervisor to enter into a contract with the Hewitt estate for the purchase of the lot, approximately one hundred feet square, immediately adjoining the town hall on the south, for the purpose of establishing a memorial park.  The price was fixed at $4,000."  According to one newspaper account, the Town took title to the lot on February 4, 1921.   

Almost immediately, all in Pelham began referring to the newly-acquired south lot as "Memorial Park" rather than "Victory Park."  Indeed, pressure mounted for the Town to open the property as a memorial park as promised.  For example, at about this time various groups within Pelham were arranging for the Federal government to provide them with captured enemy field pieces from World War I for memorial displays.  Indeed, the year before, the War Department had awarded Pelham a German cannon captured at Soissons on July 19, 1918.  See Mon., May 30, 2016:  The Cannon That Roared: Pelham Sacrifices a Memorial for the Nation’s Sake.  The cannon was placed next to a flagpole overlooking Roosevelt Field at Pelham Memorial High School when that field was dedicated in 1920.  Soon afterward the high school moved the cannon to a less conspicuous location, angering veterans who wanted the cannon moved to a place of prominence in a new Memorial Park.  Moreover, in November, 1921, the Pelham Comfort Society announced that "by a special act of congress, a captured German cannon has been awarded to their custody."  They further announced that "in all probability" the cannon would be mounted in a new memorial park next to Town Hall or, perhaps, in front of Town Hall.

Grading to level the property began in the early spring of 1922.  The local newspaper reported as follows:

"Will Grade Memorial Park.  

George T. Cottrell of Third avenue, will begin the grading of the new Memorial Park which adjoins the town hall on the south.  This plot was purchased from the Hewitt estate last year by the town and will be put in attractive shape.  There were three bidders for the contract; Cottrell, $238; John Roggaveen, $335, and Antony Smith, $398."

This lot was relatively level compared to other nearby properties.  Thus, grading did not take long.  As one local newspaper reported, by May 26, 1922, "The work of grading the new memorial park adjoining the town hall on the south is almost finished and will be completed by Tuesday [May 30, 1922] provided the weather is favorable."

The Lot to the North of Town Hall, Today's "Memorial Park"

According to news reports, in 1923 the empty lot to the north of and adjacent to Town Hall was owned by Mrs. May Gage of Sixth Avenue in the Village of North Pelham.  Town officials began negotiating with Mrs. Gage to purchase that lot as well, thinking that park properties on both sides of Town Hall would offer a beautiful setting for the architectural gem.  News reports of the time indicate that the Town envisioned that the lot to the north would simply be a part of (an "extension of") "Memorial Park" -- in effect, merely a continuation of the lot intended as a memorial park on the south side of Town Hall.

The Roaring Twenties were well underway and, by 1923, the real estate market in Pelham already had heated up.  Though the property on the north side of Town Hall was the same size as the lot on the south side that had cost the town $4,000 two years before (100 x 100 feet), it took the Town quite some time successfully to negotiate the purchase of the lot to the north for $12,000.  In June, 1923, Town Supervisor David Lyon announced publicly that arrangements for purchase of the lot to the north had been completed.  

The Town of Pelham was prescient in purchasing the property.  Immediately after the arrangements for acquisition had been made public, private developers approached the town and offered $14,000 for the property so they could construct a "high-class" apartment building on the lot.  The town refused.  

 Almost immediately all the Town's focus on the creation of a memorial park shifted from the lot on the south side of Town Hall to the newly-purchased lot of the same size on the north side of Town Hall.  At the regular monthly meeting of the Town Board held on Wednesday, July 11, 1923, the Board announced that the lot to the north "will be known as Memorial Park."  They further announced that a "tentative scheme . . . calls for a rock garden which will be developed on the sloping bank and the installation of a memorial to the soldiers of the great war bids fair to improve the property in a manner which will be a decided acquisition to the beauty spots of the town."  At the same meeting, the board appointed Judge I. Balch Louis as "a committee of one to carry out the work of beautifying the plot."

All talk of of a memorial park on the property south of Town Hall ended precipitously.  The extant record does not establish the reason.  It may be inferred, however, that the property to the north of Town Hall needed more beautification efforts than the comparatively flat and park-like setting to the south.  A large portion of the rear of the property on the north side sloped upward with a major outcropping of uplifted bedrock formed of gneiss and schist that would be extremely difficult to remove.  In contrast, the property to the south was relatively flat and park-like and would lend itself to larger gatherings and more flexible uses.  Thus, focus seems to have shifted to beautifying the property to the north and converting it into the long-sought "Memorial Park" while developing the property to the south as a lovely lawn adjacent to Town Hall.

Judge Louis promptly announced he would consult a landscape architect and begin work to plant shrubbery and laying sod in the new park.  Moreover, on July 27, 1923, the local newspaper announced that Judge Louis was soliciting suggestions for the landscape design of the property.  Once again, the paper reported the tentative plan was to develop a rock garden on the sloping portion of the property -- no surprise with the giant bedrock outcropping on the site.  

Two weeks later, during the regular monthly meeting of the Town Board held on Wednesday, September 5, 1923, Judge Louis presented a report on beautification of the new Memorial Park together with a landscape plan prepared by "Architect Kirman."  For reasons not yet known, the "matter was laid on the table for future consideration."  There the matter languished for many, many months.

Indeed, the matter lay dormant for nearly five months.  It was resurrected, however, by chance during a Town Board meeting held on Friday, February 1, 1924.  That evening the board was scheduled to hold a special meeting on a budget issue that required the presence of the local fire commissioners.  Because the fire commissioners were late, the Supervisor asked if anyone had any old business to raise.  Judge Louis raised the need to get the Memorial Park project restarted.

Judge Louis told the board that he had approached three "landscape gardeners" for bids to perform the landscape work on the property north of Town Hall.  He further noted that he had received only one acceptable response with three blueprints for the landscaping and a bid of $1,200 to do the work.  He urged the board to authorize the expenditure and get the project started.

The Supervisor, however, reminded the Board that a property tax levy increase would be necessary to deal with sewer taxes and suggested that it might not be time to tack on an additional expenditure of $1,200.  Other members of the Board noted that spread across all taxpayers, the tax levy increase necessary to raise the $1,200 would be minimal.  At that moment, the fire commissioners arrived and the Board tabled the matter yet again.  

At about this time, it seems, Pelham residents began to complain that the creation of Memorial Park was taking too long.  The Board relented and work finally began in earnest.  Indeed, in early January, 1924, a local newspaper announced that it was hoped that the work to create the new Memorial Park would be complete in time for a Memorial Day dedication.  The story further stated, rather sardonically "This is welcome news as there has been much criticism of the delay in completing or even starting these improvements which were authorized by the town board a year ago."

As one might expect, most of the work on the new park seems to have been done shortly before Memorial Day in May, 1924.  On May 15, a local newspaper reported that the previous day workers "were busy all day yesterday grading and clearing off the plot of ground north of the village hall preparatory to the dedicatory services on Memorial Day."  Among the work to be performed were plantings of nine maple trees in honor of those who died.  Long-time Pelham resident and Chief of the Pelham Manor police, Philip Gargan, donated maple trees growing on a local property he owned.  The trees were removed from his property and replanted in the new Memorial Park by Pelham Post No. 50, American Legion, of which Chief Gargan was a member.

Dedication of "Pelham Memorial Park" on Monday, May 26, 1924

Although The Daily Argus of Mount Vernon published a story indicating that "Pelham Memorial Park" was dedicated on Friday, May 30, 1924, the ceremony actually was held, as planned, on Memorial Day (Monday, May 26, 1924).  About one thousand people attended the dedication ceremony.

Any Pelhamite who has attended any Memorial Day commemoration in Pelham at any time during the last several generations would recognize the ceremonies that were held the day Pelham Memorial Park was dedicated.  Many lined the principal streets of the town as a parade of veterans, officials, organizations, and bands made its way to a grandstand constructed across from the new park.  Trolley cars and other traffic were stopped during the course of the parade and ceremony.

A monument with a bronze plaque dedicated to the nine Pelham men who lost their lives during World War I was dedicated.  Civil War veteran Major Charles A. Walker removed an American flag draped over the monument to unveil it.

Local groups sang "The Star Spangled Banner," "America," and "Columbia."  There were an invocation and a benediction.  Lieut. Col. David L'Esperance delivered the main address.  His remarks are quoted in full below and, as one would expect, reflect a stirring, passionate, patriotic, and beautiful view of America, its citizens, and their duties.  It is well worth reading.

Once the ceremony was over that day, the Town of Pelham had a new park:  Pelham Memorial Park.



Pelham Memorial Park on the North Side of Town Hall at 34 Fifth Avenue
in July, 2016.  Source:  Google Maps.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.


World War Memorial Monument With Tablet Unveiled in
Pelham Memorial Park on May 24, 1924.  Undated Postcard
Though Image Likely Shows Monument Immediately After
Unveiling.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.


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Below are a host of news stories that form the basis of today's Historic Pelham article.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"In the Pelhams
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North Pelham . . . .

The church of the Redeemer has secured the tract of land on the corner of Fifth avenue and Harmon avenue and will take title the first of July.  Immediately plans will be prepared for a beautiful church on this corner with a parsonage.

The committee appointed to arrange for the purchase of the lot next to the town hall and immediately adjoining it on the south, will, according to Judge Crawford last night, not recommend its purchase.  The owner has placed the price at $5,000.  The town had sought to secure it as a memorial park to be known as Victory Park.  Realty appraisers regard the price as a fair one and think Mr. Crawford is wrong in calling the price excessive.  The property lies next to the lots being purchased by the Church of the Redeemer and Henry L. Rupert, one of the vestry of that church, who is engineering the church deal is authority for the statement that if the town does not purchase it, the church will make an effort to get it.  This will mean that the proposed Victory Memorial building which the ex-service men had hoped to have erected will be only a dream. . . ."
"Source:  In the Pelhams -North Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 29, 1920, p. 10, col. 5.  

"North Pelham. . . . 

The regular meeting of the town board will take place at the town clerk's office in the town hall tonight.  The committee appointed to report on the advisability of purchasing the property adjoining the court house for a memorial park will make its report.  Judge Crawford, one of this committee, is responsible for the declaration that if a memorial building for the ex-service men is to be erected on the site, he will not recommend its purchase.  He states that, a cenotaph or shaft is to be erected, well and good, but he is opposed to having a building of any kind built near the court house. . . ."

Source:  North Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 2, 1920, p. 5, col. 6.  

"Pelham. . . . 

The town board has passed a resolution empowering the supervisor to enter into a contract with the Hewitt estate for the purchase of the lot, approximately one hundred feet square, immediately adjoining the town hall on the south, for the purpose of establishing a memorial park.  The price was fixed at $4,000.  It was reported that the Church of the Redeemer, who own the property south of the lot and are preparing plans for a new church and rectory, were after this lot also."

Source:  Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 12, 1921, p. 10, col. 1.  

"Pelham
-----

The principal business of the town board, at its meeting Wednesday night, was to arrange the annual budget. . . . 

The supervisor announces there are sufficient funds in the treasury to pay for the six voting machines, as well as the lot adjoining the town hall, which was bought by the town for a memorial park, and to which title will be taken today by the supervisor in the name of the town. . . ."

Source:  Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 4, 1921, p. 3, col. 3.  

"Pelham
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Get Captured Cannon

The Comfort society has been notified that by a special act of congress, a captured German cannon has been awarded to their custody.  The gun will, in all probability, be mounted in the new memorial park next to the town hall or possibly in front of the building, on a concrete base.  The committee from the society yesterday decorated the honor roll with evergreen boughs and planted two evergreen trees, one in memory of George Walsh and the other in honor of the memory of Philip Marvel, the two boys for whom the new post of veterans of foreign wars is named.  The ladies expect to plant a tree in the memorial park for each of Pelham's gold star veterans.

Tells of Captured Gun

At a weekly meeting of the veterans of the foreign wars, held in the courtroom of the town hall last night, William P. Marvel, of North Pelham, and Corporal George Portland, of 25 Cortlandt street, Mount Vernon, put in their application for membership.  The awarding of another captured field piece to Pelham was brought up and this raised the question of the whereabouts of the German cannon which was presented by the war department last year at the dedication of Roosevelt Field at the new high school.  One of the members replied, 'I wish to say something about that field piece.  The war department stamped it 'captured July 19, 1918 at Soissons.'  Now I participated in that battle and I want to tell you that men died defending that gun and men died taking it, so I have a great interest in it, so I have a great interest in it.  Had you seen it on the morning of the capture, you would have seen a pile of German and American dead about it.  For the past several months it has been hidden, neglected in the rear of the high school building behind a big pile of stones.  I do not know in whose custody it is but something ought to be done to insure better treatment of it.'  The post will have a regular monthly meeting at the town hall next Monday night. . . ."

Source:  Pelham -- Get Captured Cannon, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 11, 1921, p. 8, cols. 5-6.  

"DAILY NEWS OF The Pelhams. . . 
North Pelham. . . .

Will Grade Memorial Park.  

George T. Cottrell of Third avenue, will begin the grading of the new Memorial Park which adjoins the town hall on the south.  This plot was purchased from the Hewitt estate last year by the town and will be put in attractive shape.  There were three bidders for the contract; Cottrell, $238; John Roggaveen, $335, and Antony Smith, $398."

Source:  DAILY NEWS OF The Pelhams -- North Pelham -- Will Grade Memorial Park, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 13, 1922, p. 8, col. 3.  

"DAILY NEWS OF The Pelhams . . .
-----
Pelham. . . 
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To Finish Before Tuesday.

The work of grading the new memorial park adjoining the town hall on the south is almost finished and will be completed by Tuesday [May 30, 1922] provided the weather is favorable."

Source:  DAILY NEWS OF The Pelhams -- Pelham -- To Finish Before Tuesday, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 26, 1922, p. 16, cols. 5-6.  

"Town Purchases Addition To Memorial Park
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Lot 100 ft. By 100 Ft. Adjoining Town Hall On North Purchased At $12,000.00
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Offers Of $14,000 Received Since Deal Was Consummated -- To Improve Property
-----

The east side of Fifth Avenue will be enhanced by the addition of another 100 feet devoted to park purposes in the immediate neighborhood of Town Hall.  Following an executive session of the Town Board on Tuesday evening, Supervisor David Lyon announced that arrangements had been completed for the purchase of the 100x100-foot plot to the immediate north of the Town Hall on the east side of the avenue.  The price is $12,000.

The Town Board for some time has been negotiating with the owner of the property, Mrs. May Gage, of Sixth Avenue, with the intention of purchasing the property and extending Memorial Park.  It was only this week that a figure could be agreed upon.  It is the plan of the Town Board to have the property graded and improved, to beautify it as was done with the park on the south of the Town Hall.

The town cannot purchase any land excepting for the purpose of a memorial park.  The Pelham Comfort Society will entertain a number of disabled war veterans in Memorial Park, late in July.  It was expressed at the last regular meeting of the Town Board that a fitting use for Memorial Park should be for functions such as the Comfort Society plans.

Private individuals who wished to acquire the property for the erection of a high-class apartment house have offered a sum considerably higher than that at which the town has acquired it."

Source:  Town Purchases Addition To Memorial Park -- Lot 100 ft. By 100 Ft. Adjoining Town Hall On North Purchased At $12,000.00 -- Offers Of $14,000 Received Since Deal Was Consummated -- To Improve Property, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 22, 1923, p. 1, col. 1.  

"Town Property On Fifth Avenue To Be Improved
-----
Land Recently Acquired North Of Town Hall to Be Beautified In Conformity With Site
-----
Judge L. B. Louis Appointed By Town Board to Carry Out Work In Memorial Park
-----

The Town Board of Pelham has lost no time in taking action looking toward the improvement of its recently acquired property immediately north of the Town Hall on Fifth Avenue.

At the regular monthly meeting of the Board held on Wednesday night Judge I. Balch Louis was appointed a committee of one to carry out the work of beautifying the plot which will be known as Memorial Park.  A tentative scheme which calls for a rock garden which will be developed on the sloping bank and the installation of a memorial to the soldiers of the great war bids fair to improve the property in a manner which will be a decided acquisition to the beauty spots of the town.

By the purchase of the plot to the north of the Town Hall the town civic center now will have a degree of artistic balance, having a green lawn on either side.  Work will begin on this improvement within a short time."

Source:  Town Property On Fifth Avenue To Be Improved -- Land Recently Acquired North Of Town Hall to Be Beautified In Conformity With Site -Judge L. B. Louis Appointed By Town Board to Carry Out Work In Memorial Park, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 13, 1923, p. 1, col. 3.  

"Wants Suggestions For Beautifying Town Park
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Judge Louis Will Soon Start Work On Improvement Of Memorial Park
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Who has some suggestions for the landscape design of the new town property on the north side of the Town Hall?  

Judge I. B. Louis, who has been appointed a committee of one to supervise the beautifying of the four lots, says that he will appreciate suggestions.  Next week he will consult a landscape architect and will begin work in planting shrubbery and laying sod.  The tentative plan calls for a rock garden which will be developed on the sloping property.  A monument will be erected as a memorial to the Pelham men who lost their lives in the World War.

The Town Board bought the property from Mrs. May Gage of Sixth Avenue in June at a price of $12,000 to establish a Memorial Park.  As a result of this purchase the town now owns one hundred feet on each side of the town hall."

Source:  Wants Suggestions For Beautifying Town Park -- Judge Louis Will Soon Start Work On Improvement Of Memorial Park, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 27, 1923, p. 7, cols. 4-5.  

"TOWN BOARD MEETS
-----

The Town Board met Wednesday night at the Town Hall for the regular monthly meeting Supervisor David Lyon, Town Clerk Theodore S. Babcock, Justices David A. L'Esperance, A. M. Menkel, Charles E. Rice and I. Balch Louis, were present.

Judge Louis presented his report as committee on the improvement of the recently purchased Memorial Park adjacent to the Town Hall.  A plan of landscape, Architect Kirman, was presented with the report.  The matter was laid on the table for future consideration.

Motion was made and carried ratifying Judge Louis' action in ordering the Town Hall draped at the death of President Harding.

A communication was received from Trustee R. H. Shaw of the Board of Education, relative to the abandonment of the plans to use the Town Hall for school purposes this term."

Source:  TOWN BOARD MEETS, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 7, 1923, p. 1, col. 6.  

"Pelham Town Board Has Busy Session
-----

North Pelham, Feb. 4. -- The town board met Friday night for the specific purpose of receiving and approving the budget for the first fire district, but after all the members had arrived and were in session, the fire commissioners had not yet put in an appearance, so Supervisor Lyon suggested that if there was any other business it might be disposed of. . . .

Judge Louis then requested the board to take up a matter that had been dormant for several months and that was his report as a committee on the laying out of the proposed memorial park on the property of the town immediately north of and adjoining the town hall.  This was taken up and the supervisor read the report that was presented at the September meeting.  In it Judge Louis stated that he had requested three landscape gardeners to submit plans and estimates for laying out the plot 100x100 and had received but one satisfactory answer and suggested that it be accepted.  This was shown by blue prints and the cost was $1,200.  Judge Louis added that he would include a bronze tablet to be placed in the center suitably inscribed.  Supervisor Lyon reminded the board that this year they might do the same with the exception of the sewer taxes, but found that town taxes must be levied and this $1,200 will increase the budget.  Judge Menkel stated that it was a small amount to be spread over the entire town and Judge L'Esperance agreed with him.  At this juncture the board of fire commissioners entered and the chair suggested that the matter be laid over to the next meeting of the board which takes place Wednesday evening next.  This was so ordered. . . ."

Source:  Pelham Town Board Has Busy Session, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 5, 1924, p. 8, col. 2.  

"North Pelham . . . 

To Be Dedicated On Memorial Day

Judge I. B. Louis, who is one of the committee in charge of the improvements to be installed in the new Memorial Park which adjoins the town hall, has announced that the improvements will be ready for the dedication of the park on Memorial Day.  This is welcome news as there has been much criticism of the delay in completing or even starting these improvements which were authorized by the town board a year ago."

Source:  North Pelham -- To Be Dedicated On Memorial Day, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 8, 1924, p. 10, col. 1.

"North Pelham. . . 

Prepare for Memorial Day

Workmen were busy all day yesterday grading and clearing off the plot of ground north of the village hall preparatory to the dedicatory services on Memorial Day.  The plot will be made into a memorial park in memory of Pelham men who died during the Great War.  Memorial trees will also be planted by the American Legion Post, in their memory."

Source:  North Pelham -- Prepare for Memorial Day, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY] May 15, 1924, p. 12, col. 4.  

"PELHAM PAYS TRIBUTE TO WAR DEAD
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Military Parade and Dedication of Bronze Tablet
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ON MEMORIAL DAY
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Large Crowd Witnesses Impressive Ceremony -- Judge L'Esperance Speaks.
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Pelham, May 31.  --  Pelham paid a glowing tribute to her soldier dead with impressive ceremonies and the unveiling of a monument dedicated to their memory at the Town Park yesterday morning.  Major Charles A. Walker, a veteran of the Civil War, pulled aside the American flag which was draped over the monument which had been erected to the memory of nine boys from Pelham who made the supreme sacrifice.

The formal affair was the dedication of the Pelham Memorial Park, which is a plot of ground reserved and dedicated to the soldiers of Pelham who never returned.  The monument is a stone one, with a bronze plate, on which is inscribed:  'Hallowed is the Place Where Memories Live -- Dedicated
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(Continued On Page Six)

PELHAM PAYS TRIBUTE TO WAR DEAD
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(Continued from Page One.)
-----

by the Town of Pelham in Proud Recognition of Those Who Served.'

 There is a gravel walk leading to the monument and around it, planted in a semi-circle are nine trees each with a stone and bronze marker, dedicated to Charles Amato, James S. Brown, Franklin C. Fairchild, Frederick C. Gerloff, Philip F. Hassinger, Ilmani Heine, Robert W. McClain, George Walsh and John . Young.  These are the nine boys whose memories Pelham commemorated yesterday.

The ceremonies started with a parade in the morning of the members of the American Legion, the fire and police departments, the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts, the Pelham Manor club, members of the Red Cross, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the school children.  Two bands supplied the music for the parade, which passed through the main streets of the town and then stopped at the Town hall, on Fifth avenue, where a grand stand had been erected, across from the Memorial park.

Here the formal dedication of the park and the unveiling of the monument took place.  The invocation was by Rev. J. McVickar Haight.  Next came the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.  Judge I. Balch Louis, master of ceremonies, then made a short introductory address.  'America the Beautiful' was then rendered by the pupils of the Pelham schools and the Scouts.  Lieut. Col. David L'Esperance delivered his address.  The dedication and unveiling of the monument by Major Walker then took place.  Following this 'Columbia' was sung by the school children and benediction was pronounced by Monsignor Francis J. McNichol.

Fifth avenue in Pelham was decorated with American flags and bunting and with the appearance of the sun after many days of rainy weather, the observance of Memorial Day in Pelham was a great success.  About 1000 persons watched the dedication of the monument and many others observed the parade along its line of march.  Street cars in Pelham were discontinued during the time of the parade and everything was at a standstill while honor was being done to the dead soldiers of the town.

The parade had its line of march through the principal streets of the Pelhams and ended at the reviewing stand on Fifth avenue.  In it were veterans of the world war, but Samuel E. Lyon, the only Civil War veteran still residing in North Pelham, was unable to be present.  He paid his annual visit to the St. Paul's church, Eastchester, where the Mount Vernon Memorial Day exercises took place.

The majority of marchers in the parade were veterans of recent wars and the old vets with their blue coats and service medals were conspicuously absent.  Those in the line of march were I. Balch Louis, Rev. J. McV. Haight, Lieut Col. David L'Esperance, members of the town board, members of the board of trustees, J. Gardiner Minard, commander of the Pelham Post 50, American Legion; Stacy Wood, Boy Scouts of America; Mrs. James MacGregor, Girls Scouts; Mrs. Geofrey Oden, who had four sons in the service during the war led the women of the Pelham Comfort Society, their head was Mrs. E. K. K. Adair; Mrs. J. C. Wilberding, Red Cross contingent; Byron McCloskey, school children; Domenick, of the Italian Society; and members of the fire and police departments, Manor club, Men's club, Pelhamwood association; unattached citizens and organizations of the three villages. 

L'Esperance's eloquent address was as follows:

'It is fitting that one day in the year should be set aside for the people of this great country to pause in thoughtful commemoration of the supreme sacrifice paid by its citizens in the maintenance of the republic.  A wise and provident legislature has made it possible for the people of the town of Pelham to appropriate from its resources the funds to purchase and dedicate this spot as a soldier's memorial, upon which has been placed a monument whereon appear the names of those men who in the service of their country have given up their lives.  I conceive no duty more urgent, no task more grateful, than to be here today and aid in this commemoration.

'For almost one hundred and fifty years the government which the Colonial statesmen founded and for which their soldiers fought has stood the wear and strain.  It has repelled foreign foes, it has proved sufficiently compact and elastic to resist the shock of and successfully subdue the mightiest civil convulsion of modern times.  It has eliminated slavery and assimilated the freedmen by its laws.  It has extended its boundaries far and wide.  It has received with open arms the emigrant from every land and conferred upon him the equal rights of citizenship.  Its people have enjoyed unparalleled prosperity and grown rich, and it has withstood the corruption which follows in the train of great riches.  It has twice in my lifetime sent its soldiers and lent its credit and given of all its moral influence to set free for the conservation of democracy the peoples of other countries.

'This republic has lived and will continue to live because it is built upon a substantial foundation, a constitution and law which guarantee a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, protected by a police arm, its soldiers selected as in this last war by conscription from every village and hamlet in this broad land, whose duty it has always been to protect it against destruction and enforce the mandates of the people; and may I say that because its men are clothed with authority to enforce the laws, and protect their country's integrity and honor, they are not preferred in the performance of this duty.  Nor are they entitled to any reward or special merit.  This duty is demanded in return for the guarantee of liberty which is extended to them by this constitution.

'I do not agree with those who have said we voted to send the boys to war, and therefore we must vote to prefer them to those who stayed at home, by some special form of emolument for this service.  For it was my knowledge that nearly every man, woman and child in this great country made some sacrifice of some kind in the service of the country.  In fact, there sits on the platform with me many men and women who either under the banner of the Red Cross, Knights of Columbus, Y. M. C. A., or Comfort societies, gave freely of their time, money and health to add to the comfort or alleviate the sufferings of those who were more fortunate and were able to get into the uniform of either the army, navy or marine corps, and do the actual fighting, and many of them today are suffering from the sacrifices they made, and will continue to suffer under the burden of the oppressive taxation which all must bear, that was occasioned by this frightful conflict.

'It is the knowledge of this duty, my friends, which has made for the continued life of this republic of ours, whose enemies have predicted would not last, and whose friends have sometimes doubted.

'Throughout this great land of ours today, in places like Pelham and in the larger cities and communities, the people are either gathered together as we are or pause individually to commemorate the deeds of their citizens who have paid the supreme sacrifice, and it is well they should, for the examples of fortitude, courage and patriotism that are remembered of them, particularly this day, is what makes for sober thought and reflection upon what the future will provide for the world.

'The Town of Pelham has contributed its share most generously to the history and upbuilding of this republic; its fields were traversed and fought over by the Colonial soldiers during the Revolution.  It gave of the lives of its men and women in that conflict and every other war that this country had been involved in.  And it is indeed proper today that we should gather together to commemorate the deeds of its citizenry by the dedication on this spot where we and our descendants can forever see and know that its men and women were not ungrateful or unmindful of the great privilege of being citizens of this great republic, and the duty each one owes to conserve it.

'Men and women may differ in their political beliefs and each of the great parties may feel that the affairs of this country would be better administered by their representatives, but no one nor any party would prefer to change its flag upon whose field of blue there rests a star representing each of the great sovereign states of our great republic, not one star of which has been lost or dimmed, emblematic more than ever before, and as we are here gathered under its protecting folds, shoulder to shoulder, and see before us our duties and responsibilities, and as we unveil this tablet upon which appear the names of those brave men whose lives and deeds are among the choicest gifts of God to this great republic, let us take them as a precious legacy for the example and inspiration of coming generations."

Source:  PELHAM PAYS TRIBUTE TO WAR DEAD -- Military Parade and Dedication of Bronze Tablet -- ON MEMORIAL DAY -- Large Crowd Witnesses Impressive Ceremony -- Judge L'Esperance Speaks, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 31, 1924, p. 1, col. 4 & p. 6, cols. 3-4


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pelham Founder Thomas Pell Served in the Pequot War in the early 17th Century



It is well established that Pelham founder Thomas Pell was among those who settled Fort Saybrook in the Colony of Saybrook (now part of Connecticut) in the 1630s.  It is also well established that Pell served as the "Chirugeon" (surgeon -- i.e., physician of the day) who traveled with Captain John Underhill and his militia when they sailed away from Fort Saybrook and attacked a fortified Native American settlement near Mystic on May 26, 1637 during the so-called Pequot War. 

It seems clear that Pell refused to leave the ship when it arrived ferrying militia members on the way to the massacre. Indeed, at least one leader of the attack complained bitterly that Pell refused to accompany the soldiers, led by Captain John Underhill, after they disembarked from the vessel and began their overland march to the fortified settlement where they massacred an unknown number of men, women and children. There is evidence to suggest that Pell acted not from some principled disagreement with the nature of the venture that led to a terrible massacre of the Native Americans but, rather, out of fear that the venture was ill-fated and would lead to the deaths of those who planned to attack the Native American village.

Today's Historic Pelham article quotes a brief reference in Mason's History of the Pequot War and, more particularly, an excerpt of a description of the May 26, 1637 expedition against a fortified Pequot settlement at Mystic:

"They were taken in their own snare, and we through mercy escaped.  And thus in little more than one hour's space, was their impregnable fort with themselves destroyed, to the number of six or seven hundred, as some of themselves confessed.  There were only seven taken captive, and about seven escaped.  Of the English there were two slain outright, and about twenty wounded; some fainted by reason of the sharpness of the weather, it being a cool morning, and the want of such comforts and necessaries as [Page xiii / Page xiv] are needed in such a case; especially our Chirurgeon * [see text of footnote "*" below] was much wanting, whom we left with our barks in Narragansett Bay, who had orders to remain until the night before our intended assault. . . . 

[Text of footnote "*" follows.]  * Dr. Thomas Pell, a gentleman of good family from London, was sent from the fort at Saybrook, as surgeon of the expedition.  He afterward settled at New Haven, from whence he removed to Fairfield, and afterwards to Westchester, N. Y. [sic], where he purchased of the natives a large tract of land, which was given the name of Pelham. -- Styles' History of Windsor, p. 38.  [New paragraph] Mrs. Martha J. Lamb's Hist. of New York I. 171, 257, 381.  Bolton's Hist. of Westchester.  Dr. Pell's will was probated at Fairfield, and some reliable documents in regard to his nephew John Pell of London, are on file there."

Source:  Schenck, Elizabeth Hubbell, The History of Fairfield - Fairfield County, Connecticut From the Settlement of the Town in 1639 to 1818 By Mrs. Elizabeth Hubbell Schenck, Vol. I, pp. xiii-xiv (NY, NY:  Published by the Author, 1889)(citing "Mason's Hist. Pequot War," a short-form reference to citation appearing elsewhere in the volume as "Mason's Hist., Pequot War., Mass. Hist. Coll., Vol. 8, S. 2, 146-151").

Though at least one other account complains bitterly that Pell refused to accompany the expedition to the fortified village, this brief reference contains a vague and ambiguous reference.  It states that the expedition especially needed "our Chirugeon . . . whom we left with our barks in Narragansett Bay, who had orders to remain until the night before our intended assault. . . . ."

At first blush, it would seem that the reference to "orders to remain until the night before our intended assault" would apply to the barks that transported the troops to the shores near the fortification at Mystic.  Is it possible, however, that the reference "orders to remain" was intended to relate to "our Chirugeon," Thomas Pell?  While that is at least a remote possibility, historians long have suggested the contrary, choosing to support the story that Pelham founder Thomas Pell did not believe the expedition would succeed and, thus, remained aboard a bark to avoid the risk of death.


Portion of Engraving Depicting the Attack on the Pequot Fort
at Mystic in May 1637. Source: Underhill, John, "The Figure
of the Indian's Fort or Palizado," Illustration in Newes from America;
or, A New and Experimental Discoverie of New England (London:
1638). NOTE: Click to Enlarge Image.


"Thomas Pell" by Thom Lafferty from an Original by
an Unknown Artist Who Imagined Pell as He Would
Look. There Are No Known Images of Thomas Pell.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written about Pelham founder Thomas Pell and various aspects of his life on countless occasions.  For links to more than sixty articles and one book dealing with the topics, see the following.

Fri., Jan. 16, 2015:  Possible Service of Pelham Founder, Thomas Pell, with English Forces in the Siege and Capture of Bois-le-Duc in the Netherlands in 1629.  

Thu., Jan. 15, 2015:  The Man For Whom The Town of Pelham Is Named.


Thu., Oct. 30, 2014:  Did Thomas Pell Act on Pangs of Remorse After Witchcraft Persecution Involving His Family?

Mon., Mar. 31, 2014:  Inventory of the Estate of Pelham Founder Thomas Pell Taken Shortly After He Died in Late September, 1669.

Wed., Oct. 7, 2009:  1656 Native American Deed for Fairfield, Connecticut Lands Signed by Thomas Pell as a Witness.

Fri., Apr. 24, 2009:  Dutch Authorities Remove the Settlers At West Chester in March, 1656.

Tue., Apr. 07, 2009:  1666 Record Containing "Observations" on the Patent Granted to Thomas Pell.

Thu., Dec. 20, 2007:  Two 17th Century Fairfield Probate Records Referring to Thomas Pell.  
Tue., Dec. 18, 2007:  1648 Commercial Record Involving Claim Against Thomas Pell for Three Hundred Pounds.

Mon., Dec. 17, 2007:  1649 Record Whereby Thomas Pell Appointed Agent to Recover Bond Due From Pewterer Ambrose Adlam of the City of Bristoll.

Fri., Dec. 14, 2007:  Additional 17th Century Shipping and Commercial Records Mentioning Thomas Pell.  

Tue., Nov. 27, 2007:  Thomas Pell Was Elected a Freeman of Connecticut on October 9, 1662, the Day the Crown's Connecticut Charter Was Read to the Public.

Wed., Oct. 24, 2007:  July 3, 1666 Letter on Behalf of the Governor of the Province of New York To Thomas Pell.

Tue., Oct. 23, 2007:  1664 Petition of Inhabitants of Westchester to Commissioners for the Affairs of New England Mentioning 1654 Purchase by Thomas Pell.

Mon., Oct. 22, 2007:  Dutch Authorities Demand That Thomas Pell Halt His 'Intrusion' at Westchester in 1656.

Fri., Oct. 19, 2007:  Thomas Pell Was Feared Drowned or Lost at Sea in 1656.  

Thu., Oct. 18, 2007:  April 19, 1655 Dutch Protest Against Thomas Pell's Efforts To Settle Englishmen on Lands the Dutch Called VreedLandt.

Wed., Oct. 17, 2007:  1669 Map of Lands in Dispute Between Thomas Pell and John Richbell.

Tue., Oct. 16, 2007:  Information About Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak Published in 1912.

Wed., Oct. 10, 2007:  Thomas Pell Accompanies Delegation of Dutch from New Haven to Hartford in October, 1663.

Tue., Aug. 14, 2007:  Biographical Data About Thomas Pell, His brother, John, and His Nephew, John Pell of the Manor of Pelham.  

Tue., Jul. 24, 2007:  Article About the Pell Treaty Oak Published in 1909

Mon., Jul. 23, 2007:  1906 Article in The Sun Regarding Fire that Destroyed the Pell Treaty Oak.

Wed., May 2, 2007:  Information About Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak Published in 1922

Mon., Apr. 2, 2007:  More Evidence That Thomas Pell Paid 500 Pounds Sterling for the Lands that Became the Manor of Pelham.

Wed., Mar. 07, 2007:  Published Abstract of 1669 Will of Thomas Pell, Followed by Entire Text of Will of Thomas Pell.

Wed., Feb. 07, 2007:  Information About Thomas Pell in the Catalogue of the Names of the First Puritan Settlers of the Colony of Connecticut Published in 1846.

Fri., Feb. 02, 2007:  1670 Letter from John Winthrop, Jr. to William Lord Brereton, Describing the Arrival of John Pell in America to Receive Thomas Pell's Estate.

Thu., Jan. 11, 2007:  More 17th Century Commercial Records Involving Thomas Pell and Edmund Leach.

Wed., Jan. 10, 2007:  17th Century Commercial Records Involving Thomas Pell and Edmund Leach.

Tue., Jan. 9, 2007:  1648 Notarial Record by Boston Merchant Providing Power of Attorney to Collect Debt From Thomas Pell of New Haven.

Mon., Jan. 8, 2007:  Dutch Authorities Decide To Station a Ship With Men Off Today's City Island on February 9, 1654 To Keep Watch on the Activities of the English.

Fri., Dec. 22, 2006:  Brief Biographies of Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor of Pelham, and His Nephew, John, Published in 1912.

Tue., Dec. 12, 2006:  Did Thomas Pell Avoid Taxes by Maintaining a Medical Practice?

Fri., Dec. 08, 2006:  An Interesting Power of Attorney Executed in Favor of Thomas Pell on October 29, 1651 Plus Other Records.

Thu., Dec. 07, 2006:  Additional Authorities Supporting Assertions that Thomas Pell Conducted Trade by Ship Along the East Coast.

Wed., Dec. 06, 2006:  When Did Thomas Pell Arrive in America?

Wed., Nov. 22, 2006:  Young Thomas Pell Unjustly Accused of "Extortion or Sinfull Unrightousness".

Mon., Nov. 06, 2006:  The Source of Confusion Over the Date Thomas Pell Acquired the Lands That Became the Manor of Pelham.

Tue., Oct. 24, 2006:  Thomas Pell's and John Pell's Land Dispute with John Richbell in the Late 1660s and Early 1670s.

Mon., Oct. 23, 2006:  More Early Evidence That Thomas Pell Had a House Later Used by His Nephew, John Pell, on Rodman's Neck

Fri., Oct. 06, 2006:  Additional Evidence That Thomas Pell Acquired His Lands At the Behest of English Authorities.

Thu. Oct. 5, 2006: Additional Evidence That Thomas Pell Paid 500 Pounds Sterling for the Lands That Became the Manor of Pelham.

Wed., Oct. 04, 2006:  Did Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor of Pelham, Act as an Attorney?

Fri., Aug. 25, 2006:  Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor of Pelham, Traded Tobacco Along the East Coast by Barque.

Mon., July 24, 2006:  A Statute Enacted in 1666 Seems to Have Prompted Thomas Pell To Seek a Royal Grant Confirming His June 27, 1654 Land Acquisition.

Fri., July 7, 2006:  The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp.

Mon., July 3, 2006:  Where Is Thomas Pell's Handwritten Copy of the Treaty Signed With Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654?

Wed., Jun. 28, 2006:  A Biography of Mathematician John Pell, Brother of Thomas Pell (First Lord of the Manor of Pelham).

Tue., Jun. 27, 2006:  Land Owned by Thomas Pell and His Wife in New Haven, Connecticut in the Mid-17th Century.  

Thu., Apr. 13, 2006:  Rumors in 1657 That Thomas Pell Manipulated Local Native Americans To Protect His Land Acquisition From Incursions by the Dutch.

Fri., Mar. 03, 2006:  1666 Letter from Thomas Pell to John Winthrop, Jr. Regarding Pell's 1654 Purchase of the Lands That Became Pelham.

Thu., Feb. 16, 2006:  Evidence of the Use of Thomas Pell's Insignia To Seal a Letter from Lion Gardiner in 1636.  

Fri., Jul. 29, 2005:  Has Another Piece of the Treaty Oak Surfaced?

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2004). 

Bell, Blake A., How Much Did Thomas Pell Pay for the Manor of Pelham?, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 43, Nov. 3, 2006, p. 10, col. 1.

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell's Feud With the New Haven Courts, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 14, Apr. 2, 2004, p. 10, col. 2.

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell: The Historical Context, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 12, Mar. 19, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.

Bell, Blake A., Pelham History: The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Jan. 23, 2004, p. 11, col. 1 through p. 12, col. 2.

Bell, Blake A., Pelham History: Why Did Thomas Pell Buy the Lands That Became Pelham?, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Jan. 9, 2004, p. 11, col. 1 through p. 12, col. 3.

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak, The Westchester Historian, Vol. 28, Issue 3, pp. 73-81 (The Westchester County Historical Society, Summer 2002). 



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