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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dedication of the New Fire Headquarters in the Village of Pelham on December 29, 1927

I have written repeatedly about the histories of the various fire units that have served portions of the Town of Pelham since the late 19th century. For an extensive list of such prior writings, see the listing with links at the end of this article. 

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article published in The Pelham Sun in 1927 that reported on the dedication of the new Fire Headquarters of the First Fire District.  That headquarters still stands on Fifth Avenue in today's Village of Pelham.  It replaced the first headquarters, a photograph of which is show immediately below.

Fire Department Headquarters Replaced by the Headquarters that Stands
Today and that Was Dedicated on December 29, 1927.

"New Headquarters of First Fire District Dedicated Last Night
Firemen Pledge That Department Shall Be Second To None In County Or State.  Civic Officials Compliment Firemen On Efficient Service To Community

Firmly established in their new fire headquarters, the members of the companies of the First Fire District have pledged themselves to make the local fire department second to none in the state.  This pledge was the keynote of the dedication ceremonies of the new Fire Headquarters which were held last night.  A large audience attended the ceremonies of dedication, which were held in the spacious auditorium of the new building. 

Commissioner John F. Larkin as Master of Ceremonies expressed the gratitude of the members of the fire department to the taxpayers who made possible the removal of the department from its inadequate headquarters.  He promised that the members of the fire department would in turn show their appreciation by better efficiency in their public duties.

The Rev. Herbert H. Brown pronounced the invocation.  Commissioner Larkin expressed the regret of Chairman Walter E. Brundage who was unable to be present.  Judge Elect Alfred P. Walker represented the officials of the town and congratulated the firemen on their service in the past.  He expressed confidence that they would be of even greater value to the community with their more modernized equipment.

Maj. Maxwell B. Nesbitt, Mayor of the Village of Pelham spoke for the citizens of that village and added his praise to that already offered for the volunteer firemen.

It was Mayor James Reilly, of North Pelham who recounted the early days of the fire department and jovially contended that no matter how much better they may believe themselves to be, the firemen of today could not come up to the firemen of thirty years ago.

Judge-elect Floyd Price expressed the sentiment of the Town Board in congratulating the firemen. 

Chief Dominic Amato told of what service the volunteer firemen render to citizens of the village and pledged his men to make the First Fire District the best in the county if not in the state.  Here the members of the fire department loudly applauded the chief's statement.

In conclusion the Rev. Herbert H. Brown as a citizen expressed his felicitations to the firemen.

'You are the heroes and saviours of the community.  My hat is off to you,' said Mr. Brown to the firemen.  'You are men of action and a credit to the community.'

After the ceremonies a dancing program was enjoyed."

Source:  New Headquarters of First Fire District Dedicated Last Night, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 30, 1927, p. 1, cols. 6-7.

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Below is a list of prior Historic Pelham Blog postings that touch on firefighting and the history of fire fighting units within the Town of Pelham.

Wed., Jul. 02, 2014:  Election Shenanigans Involving Fire Commissioner Election in 1898.

Thu., Apr. 24, 2014:  Information About the History of Fire Departments in the Town of Pelham Published in 1927.

Fri., Jan. 24, 2014:  Early Days of Organized Fire Fighting in Today's Village of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 15, 2010:  Photograph of Augustine C. McGuire, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the First District Fire Department in 1913.

Thu., Jan. 14, 2010:  1913 Report of the Firemen's Benevolent Association in Pelham.

Thu., Dec. 10, 2009:  More 19th Century Baseball and Firefighting References.

Tue., Dec. 08, 2009:  The Darling Triplets: Three Brothers Among Pelham's Earliest Firefighters.

Thu., Oct. 08, 2009:  Firefighting Units on City Island in Pelham During the Early 1890's.

Mon., Aug. 31, 2009:  Contest in 1891 To Determine Which Steam Fire Engine Company Could Throw a Stream the Greater Distance.

Fri., Aug. 28, 2009:  Reorganization of the Minneford Engine Company on City Island in February, 1891.

Thu., Aug. 06, 2009:  Brief History of the Fire Department in the Village of North Pelham Published in 1913.

Wed., Aug. 05, 2009:  Pelham Manor Fire Chief Pleads for Taxpayers to Authorize Purchase of Village's First Fire Engine.

Wed., July 15, 2009:  Liberty Hose Company Election in 1898.

Thu., Jan. 19, 2006:  Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment.

Mon., Aug. 01, 2005:  An 1896 Inspection and Drill of the Fire Department in Pelham.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Bridegroom: Pelhamville Rocked by Mystery in 1893

The newly-built Church of the Redeemer was full and was decorated gloriously for a lovely wedding.  The pews were packed with guests.  The organist was in the organ loft ready to play the wedding march.  The prospective bride was radiant in her wedding gown and stood in the vestibule with her beaming father who was ready to walk her down the aisle.  All that was missing from that perfect autumn day on October 5, 1893 was . . . the bridegroom!

An hour passed with no bridegroom.  Finally, the Rev. Dr. Cornelius W. Bolton was forced to address the assembled guests.  He announced that the wedding would be "postponed."  

The bride fainted.  According to one account, she "had to be carried home in a carriage, and now lies in critical condition from shock.  It is feared that she will lose her reason."

The case of the missing bridegroom caused a sensation.  Newspapers in cities as far away as Washington, D.C. published stories about the mystery.  Where was the bridegroom?  What had happened?  Why did he fail to appear at his own wedding?  The prospective bride simply refused to believe that she had been left at the altar.  She feared that her beloved had met with foul play.  

Two days later, the bridegroom showed up.  He had a wild story that strained credulity.  Yet, according to an account published at the time, "He spoke earnestly and apparently truthfully."

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of two articles published at the time that detailed these strange events.  To find out what happened, and whether the prospective bride married her beau or kicked him to the curb, read the remainder of today's posting. . . . 

1910 Post Card View of the Church of the Redeemer
Which Was Newly-Built When the Wedding Was Scheduled
To Be Held on October 5, 1893.

Mystery Connected With the Disappearance of a Bridegroom.

A special to the New York World from Mount Vernon, N.Y., says:  Pelhamville, a hamlet one mile east of this city, has a sensation.  Miss Kate, the pretty nineteen-year-old daughter of George McGalliard, a well-to-do mason and builder of New York city, was to have been married to MacDonald Cross, a middle-aged widower, employed by the Wilson Adams Lumber Company of this city, but he failed to meet her at the altar.

Cross came here six months ago from Glen's Falls.  He owns considerable property in that city.  
He had not been in Pelhamville long when he met Miss McGalliard.  He paid frequent visits to her home and was well liked by everybody there.  Shortly after meeting her he proposed and was accepted.  The wedding day was set for a week ago, but on account of the bride being taken ill it was postponed until last Monday.  Invitations had been sent out for the wedding, which was to have been celebrated at the Church of the Redeemer, in this village, by the Rev. Dr. Bolton.

At the appointed time the church was crowded.  The pastor was in his study awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom to sign the marriage license, the organist was in the organ loft ready to play the wedding march and the bride, dressed in her wedding gown, was in the vestibule with her father waiting for the bridegroom.

An hour passed and he did not put in an appearance.  The Rev. Mr. Bolton had to announce to the guests that the wedding must be postponed.  The bride fainted, and had to be carried home in a carriage, and now lies in critical condition from shock.  It is feared that she will lose her reason.

Miss McGalliard will not believe that she has been deserted.  She fears that Mr. Cross has met with foul play or has been taken suddenly ill in New York.

On Saturday Mr. Cross spent the evening with his intended.  He had already given her the wedding ring to take care of, but on that evening asked her for it, so that he could have a proper inscription engraved on the inside of it.  Miss McGalliard gave it to him, and he parted with her and said that he would call on Sunday.  He did not do so, but the young lady thought nothing of it.  

Cross' absence and strange conduct is a mystery."

Source:  HE COMETH NOT, SHE SAID, The Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], Oct. 5, 1893, p. 8, col. 2.  

Croff's Strange Story of Why He Was Not at the Marriage Altar.

Kitty Byrd McGilliard, the pretty nineteen-year-old daughter of George McGilliard, a wealthy contractor of Pelhamville, N. Y., who was to have been married on Monday last to Isaac McD. Croff, a widower who lives at Mt. Vernon, N. Y., but who failed to appear, as narrated in yesterday's Star, has been married at last.

Croff returned to Pelhamville Wednesday night about 5:30 and at 7:30 the Rev. C. Bolton was called to the McGilliard residence, where he tied the nuptial knot.  

To a reporter who called at the McGilliard residence yesterday afternoon Mr. Croff told a remarkable story and apparently truthfully.  

'On Monday morning last,' he said, 'the day I was to be married, I left Mount Vernon for New York, where I desired to make some purchases.  I had very nearly $600 in my pockets when I started.  I made my purchases in the city and took them to Mendel's package office at the 42d street depot, as I desired to go and see a lady who had been a most excellent friend of mine and tell her I was to be married.  Her name I do not care to give, as I do not consider it necessary.  

'After I had called on the lady in question.  I started to walk to the Grand Central depot.  When I reached 57th street and 8th avenue, I glanced at my watch and discovered I had but ten minutes in which to reach the depot in time to take the 1:02 train for Pelhamville.  Seeing a cab standing by the curb, apparently disengaged, with the driver on the box, I stepped in and told him to drive me to the Grand Central depot as quickly as he could.  While I spoke, two strangers, well dressed, followed me into the cab, one of them saying, as he got in:  'This is the best chance we have had in a year.'  I paid no attention to them or the remark, and the driver started off at a rapid pace.  

'Suddenly, before I could make a move, one of them (I noticed he was tall and had a gray mustache and wore a silk hat) sprang toward me and grasped me by the throat with one hand, while the other man, a short, thick-set fellow, pushed a handkerchief under my nose.  This is the last thing of which I have any recollection until I found myself on Wednesday morning, two days after, standing two blocks away from the depot in Troy, N. Y. [Editor's Note:  North of Albany, about 155 miles away.]  I was too bewildered to know where I was, and I felt weak and sick.  

'I examined my pockets and found that all my money was gone except what I had stowed away in one of my inside pockets.  I believe the two men took the $567.  At any rate it was gone; also my watch and two rings, which I wore on my finger.  One of them I valued very highly.  The wedding ring which I was to use was also gone.  I then telegraphed to Pelhamville that I was in Troy, and did not know how I got there.  This is all I can say except that I called on Dr. Carlisle of Mount Vernon, and he, after a thorough examination of me, said that I was suffering from a strong dose of chloroform, but would be all right in a few days.  

'I intend to go to New York and see Supt. Byrnes and lay the facts before him.  I am a poor man, and the loss of that money, at present, is the loss of a fortune to me.  You might also say that Mrs. Croff and I will start on our wedding trip tomorrow night.'

Croff's truthfulness has never been questioned before, and all his neighbors in Pelhamville believe his story."

Source:  THE MISSING BRIDEGROOM, The Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], Oct. 6, 1893, p. 7, col. 3.  See also KITTY MARRIED AT LAST, The Anaconda Standard, Oct. 26, 1893, p. 7, col. 1; Why He Was Not Married. -- Mr. Croff of Pelhamville Says He Was Chloroformed and Robbed in a Cab, N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 1893, p. 3; THE BRIDEGROOM RETURNED -- Mr. Croff Tells a Remarkable Story of Adventure, The Indianapolis News, Oct. 7, 1893, p. 1, col. 4; A BRIDEGROOM MISSING, The Sun [NY, NY], Oct. 4, 1893, p. 1, col. 6.  

I have written about this strange turn of events that included a happy ending before.  See Thu., Apr. 21, 2005:  Can You Imagine What The Bride's Father Was Ready To Do?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stories of City Island Bridge Published in 1892

Efforts have been underway for a number of years to design a replacement for the City Island Bridge opened in 1901 that currently connects City Island with the mainland.  The current City Island Bridge was erected in 1898 at a cost of $200,000 and opened to the public July 4, 1901.

Until annexation by New York City in the mid-1890's, City Island and today's Pelham Bay Park on the mainland were part of the Town of Pelham.  The New York State Legislature in 1804 authorized construction of a bridge to connect City Island to the mainland.  Although a subscription drive to fund construction began, the initiative failed.  The planned bridge was not constructed.  It was not until December 1, 1873 that a toll bridge erected by a stock company opened to the public.  It was one thousand feet long with a draw of one hundred and twenty feet.  The turntable draw was salvaged from the Harlem Bridge at Third Avenue (also known at the time as Coles Bridge) and was used on the new City Island Bridge. It had to be cranked by hand to open and close.  In addition, a large part of the materials used in construction of the bridge came from the old United States frigate North Carolina, which had been decommissioned and subsequently sold at auction in 1860.  According to one account:

"When the old United States line of battle ship North Carolina was sold at public auction in 1860, Mr. Carll purchased her, and from the live oak timbers in the old bulk he laid the foundation of the large fortune which he afterward amassed.  From these timbers he built the schooner yacht Resolute for Mr. A. S. Hatch and the Atlanta for Mr. William Astor.  In addition to these vessels he also found timber enough to build the bridge from City Island to Pelham on the main land."

Source:  Recent Deaths, The New Town Register [New Town, NY], Jan. 3, 1889, p.?, col. 4 (page number not printed on newspaper page).

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an interesting series of stories published in 1892 about the old City Island Bridge that the current bridge replaced.  More importantly, reproduced below is a series of sketches of various views of the old City Island Bridge that appeared with the published account in 1892. 

The World [The Evening World, NY, NY],
Aug. 23, 1892, Last Edition, p. 2, cols. 7-8.

Now the Bridge Between City Island and the Mainland.
How One of Uncle Sam's Old Cruisers Met an Inglorious End.
Story of a Tar Who Lives at City Island to Be Near His Old Love.

Walking along Pelham Park, from Bartow towards the Long Island Sound, you suddenly come upon a long, homely, old-fashioned bridge, built somewhat after the pattern of Julius Caesar's bridge across the Rhine.  It is the connecting link between the mainland and City Island where so many of America's fastest yachts are constructed.

There is nothing on the bridge to excite either the wonder or admiration of a beholder until he is made acquainted with its history.

Often things of no intrinsic value gain great importance from their connection with 'auld lang syne,' and rocking chairs and kettles which, from a modern practical point of view would at once be relegated to the department of useless junk, are cherished and admired for that something which is above and beyond them -- their history.  

And so also fares this bridge.

Who would heed or bestow a second glance upon its stout and seemingly commonplace planks, or its twenty-four invasive but rude stanchions -- twelve on each side -- unless he knew that these planks at one time constituted the deck and these stanchions the ribs of the erstwhile majestic but long since dismantled battle-ship of the line North Carolina?

And though the wood -- hard, seasoned oak -- has been battered by many a year of rain and hail and tempest, it is to this day as hard and firm as if it had grown in some Titanic forest where each tree was destined for eternity.

The North Carolina in her day was one of the greatest and most formidable ships of Uncle Sam's spunky little navy, but she has become such a vague tradition even with old-time tars that they remember only that she was a sister-ship of the New Hampshire, the Vermont and the Delaware, carrying seventy-four guts and having a speed that put the best of England's cruisers to the blush.  This, of course, was way back in the twenties.

An enterprising Yankee contractor of City Island was the lucky bidder to whom this great hulk of wood and iron was 'knocked down' at auction for the merest song in 1865.

At that time a clamor was raised for a bridge across the narrow channel between the Westchester coast and City Island, and the purchaser of the North Carolina bid much lower for the contract than any of his competitors.

By 1868 the bridge was completed and had a draw made from the metal of the old Harlem Bridge -- another piece of historic junk that this contractor bought [sic] in for almost nothing.

The draw is turned by hand, and the men who attend to this duty are indifferent to or ignorant of the traditions which cling to each plank of the turning-table.  

Mitchel Miller, once a 'tar' on the old ship, but now a waiter in a clambake establishment on the City Island side of the bridge, has determined to spend his life beside his old love, and he is one of the few persons in that locality to whom the bridge is something more than a bridge.  

'I shipped before the mast on the old North Carolina,' said he to an EVENING WORLD reporter, 'and served on her for a long time.  And whenever I look out over the bridge it seems to me as if I stood by the grave of a dear old friend.'

The 'tar' then spun many a yarn of mingled pathos and humor, but how much of these tales was reliable could not be measured after he said that he had one day while fishing from the bridge caught several sea-dogs and a shark.

'Sharks,' said he, 'abound in these parts, and I was not very much surprised when I landed one.  But I never dreamed of meeting sea-dogs here, although I often heard them bark at night.  They never show themselves by day.'

'How is it you caught one then?' he was asked.  

Jack Tar was puzzled but for a moment, and then replied:  'You see I fishing at night.'

There was another war vessel taken apart in City Island many years ago.  It was the Morning Star which served for a long time as a school-ship.  A cabin of this ship is still shown in one of the houses near the bridge, and serves as a dining-room."  

Source:  RIBS OF A BATTLE-SHIP, The World [The Evening World, NY, NY], Aug. 23, 1892, Last Edition, p. 2, cols. 7-8.


The World [The Evening World, NY, NY],
Aug. 23, 1892, Last Edition, p. 2, cols. 7-8.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Image of the Second Pelham Bridge Built in 1834 From a Sketch Created in 1865

For much of the last two hundred years, there has been a bridge over the Hutchinson River where it empties into Eastchester Bay.  The various bridges that have been built there have played a critical role in the development, and thus the history, of the Town of Pelham.

On March 6, 1812, the New York State Legislature enacted a statute incorporating the "Eastchester Bridge Company" to build a bridge over the Hutchinson River where it empties into Eastchester Bay.  The bridge was built shortly afterward and is believed to have been completed by about 1815.  In 1817, the Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Company was incorporated to construct a turnpike from the causeway at Westchester to the bridge.  That bridge came to be known as "Pelham Bridge"  -- the name it bears today.

Even in its first iteration, Pelham Bridge included a draw to permit ships to pass.  Within its first few years, the first Pelham Bridge was destroyed by a storm.  On April 12, 1816, the company was authorized by the Legislature to sell its property and toll franchise for a period of forty-five years. The second bridge was built in 1834 by George Rapelje, with the right to charge tolls for a period of thirty years, but the supervisors of Westchester County purchased the bridge in 1860 and made it free.

The bridge was replaced with an iron bridge constructed in 1869-1870.  That bridge, in turn, was replaced by the present larger bridge, opened by the New York City Department of Bridges on October 15, 1908.

This author is unaware of any image of the original Pelham Bridge built in about 1815 and destroyed by a storm shortly after it opened.  There is, however, a wonderful sketch of the second Pelham Bridge built in 1834.  The sketch was created by W. J. Wilson in 1865, only four years before construction began on the third generation Pelham Bridge that was built in 1869-1870.  An image of the sketch appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source as well as transcription of brief text that accompanied the sketch in the same source.

In the image, the multiple stone footings of the causeway are visible as are horse-drawn carriages traveling in both directions on the bridge.  The turntable draw on a stone masonry foundation is visible in the center of the bridge.  

"Pelham Bridge in 1865
From a sketch by W. J. Wilson"
Source:  Jenkins, Stephen, The Story of the Bronx
From the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians
in 1639 to the Present Day, Opposite p. 318
(NY and London:  G.P. Putnam's Sons
The Knickerbocker Press, 1912).

"In March, 1812, the Legislature incorporated the Eastchester Bridge Company, and the bridge over the Hutchinson River near its mouth was built soon after.  In 1817, the Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Company was incorporated for the purpose of building a turnpike from the causeway at Westchester to the above mentioned bridge, following probably the lane of Sauthier's map.  The first bridge was destroyed by a storm, and the company was authorized by the Legislature of 1816 to sell its property and franchises for a period of forty-five years.  The second bridge was built in 1834 by George Rapelje, with the right to charge tolls for a period of thirty years; but the supervisors of Westchester County purchased the bridge in 1860 and made it free.  The former iron bridge was constructed in 1869-70; but it proved insufficient for the traffic after the automobile arrived, and it was replaced by the present larger bridge, opened by the Department of Bridges on October 15, 1908, at a cost of $517,000.

The bridge has always been famous for the good fishing to be obtained from it and the author remembers having made several trips to it when a very small boy, walking from Mt. Vernon and back with his companions by way of Eastchester and the Split Rock Road.  Bolton gives records of a striped bass weighing sixty-three pounds, being caught on June 3, 1844, of another of fifty pounds, caught by E. Des Brosses Hunter, and of others of twenty and forty-three pounds at various times.  'There were giants in those days!'  Flounders, tom-cod, eels, and fish of all kinds, including an occasional sheepshead, are also mentioned by the same author.  The best time for fishing is in the months of September and October.  The stream was formerly clear, but for many years it has been polluted by the sewage of Mt. Vernon and the outpourings of the gas-works at Eastchester, and the fish are not so plentiful as formerly."

Source:  Jenkins, Stephen, The Story of the Bronx From the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day, pp. 317-18 (NY and London:  G.P. Putnam's SonsThe Knickerbocker Press, 1912).

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Below are examples of previous postings that address the histories of the various Pelham Bridges that have spanned Eastchester Bay for the last two centuries.

Thu., Jul. 17, 2014:  Sabotage Brought Down the 70-Ton Draw Span of Pelham Bridge in 1908 and Delayed its Opening

Tue., Jun. 10, 2014: Construction of the Concrete Arch Pelham Bridge.

Mon., May 12, 2014: The March 6, 1812 New York Statute Authorizing Construction of the Pelham Bridge.

Tue., Sep. 22, 2009: Names of Early "Keepers of Pelham Bridge" Appointed by Westchester County.

Thu., Jan. 08, 2009: Another Brief History of The Pelham Bridge.

Thu., Jan. 1, 2009: A Brief History of Pelham Bridge.

Wed., Jan. 2, 2008: New York State Senate Report on Petition by Inhabitants of Westchester to Allow Construction of Toll Bridge Across Eastchester Creek in 1834.

Tue., Aug. 28, 2007: The Laying Out of Pelham Avenue From Fordham to Pelham Bridge in 1869.

Wed., Jul. 4, 2007: 1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of the Pelham Bridge.

Fri., Jul. 22, 2007: 1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of "Country Seat" at Pelham Bridge.

Fri., May 18, 2007: Celebration at Pelham Bridge in 1872.

Wed., May 16, 2007: Board of Supervisors of Westchester County Vote to Build New Iron Bridge to Replace Pelham Bridge in 1869.

Tue., May 15, 2007: The Owner of the Pelham Bridge Hotel Sold it for the Princely Sum of $22,000 in 1869.

Mon., May 14, 2007: Plans to Widen Shore Road in the Town of Pelham in 1869.

Fri., May 11, 2007: A Sad Attempted Suicide at Pelham Bridge in 1869.

Thu., Dec. 08, 2005: The First Stone Bridge Built Across Eastchester Creek in Pelham, 1814-1815.

Thu., Aug. 18, 2005: The Opening of the New Iron "Pelham Bridge" in 1871.

Tue., Aug. 9, 2005: Cock Fighting at Pelham Bridge in the 19th Century.

Thu., Jul. 21, 2005: Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island.

Tue., Jun. 28, 2005: The Hotel and Bar Room at Pelham Bridge.

Thu., Mar. 24, 2005: The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

Wed., Mar. 23, 2005: Prize Fighting at Pelham Bridge in 1884.

For more about the Pelham Bridge and its history, see Pelham Bridge, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelham_Bridge (visited May 6, 2014).

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Brief Account of the 1890 Fire that Destroyed Loftus Brotherton's Grocery Store

During the 1880s, Loftus Brotherton ran a tiny grocery store located on 5th Avenue near what was then known as 4th Street (today's Lincoln Avenue).  Brotherton leased the structure that housed the store from another Pelhamville resident, Jacob Heisser.  Because the small store had a reputation for high quality goods, it was a busy and successful business that attracted shoppers from Mount Vernon, Pelham, and New Rochelle.  The little store also served as an important gathering place for members of the community.   

I have written before about Brotherton's Grocery Store. See:

Tue., Jul. 15, 2014:  Three Important 19th Century Structures That Stood in Pelham.  

Fri., Sep. 08, 2006:  An Image of The Brotherton Store in Pelhamville Before It Burned in 1890. The store burned to the ground in May 1890.

The Brotherton Store.
Source:  Montgomery, William R., Do You Remember When - ?, 
The Pelham Sun, Dec. 16, 1927, p. 3, cols. 1-2.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an article containing a very brief account of the devastating fire on the afternoon of Sunday, April 6, 1890 that burned both the grocery and a small cottage in the rear of the grocery to the ground.  At the end of today's posting I also have included a variety of research materials regarding Loftus Brotherton.


Is it true that Prospect avenue is to be extended from Chester Hill to Pelhamville.
Mr. Chas. Barker will shortly occupy his new Queen Anne house and the residence now occupied by him will be taken by his son, Dr. Chas. Barker, Jr.
About two o'clock last Sunday, a fire broke out at the store of Mr. Loftus Brotherton.  It was promptly discovered by Mrs. Brotherton who gave the alarm, and the family barely escaped from the burning building.  Nothing was saved except the clothing in which they were robed.  A small one-and-a-half story cottage situated about 50 feet in the rear of the store was also consumed.  

Both buildings were the property of Mr. Jacob Heisser, and not fully insured.  Mr. Heisser's loss is about two thousand dollars.  We understand that Mr. Brotherton's loss is fully covered by insurance."

Source:  Pelhamville, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 8, 1890, Vol. XXI, No. 1,287, p. 3, col. 4.

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Below are research notes regarding Loftus Brotherton.

"Death of Loftus Brotherton.

Loftus Brotherton, for the past fourteen years a resident of what is now North Pelham, died on Wednesday afternoon at his late residence on Fifth avenue corner of Third street.  The deceased was 56 years old.  He was the proprietor of a hotel for a number of years.  The deceased leaves a widow and two daughters, Mr. [sic] Charles A. Parker and Miss Florence Brotherton.  He is also survived by two brothers, one of whom, Henry Brotherton, resides in this place.  He had been ill for several years and death was due to dropsy."

Source:  Death of Loftus Brotherton, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 4, 1898, p. 3, col. 4.

"Loftus Brotherton, proprietor of the Roadside Hotel on Fifth avenue, was arrested last Friday by a government officer for not paying his government and internal revenue licenses.  He was taken to Ludlow Street Jail, where at the latest reports he was still locked up.  Mr. Brotherton has been a saloon keeper for a number of years.  When two of the other dealers were arrested on the evidence of a Raines law agent, his place was not visited, but he is now in trouble for different reasons."

Source:  PELHAM AND WOODLAWN -- Pelham, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 11, 1896, p. 3, col. 3.  

"Among the early members of Liberty Engine and Hose Company were Alexander Anderson, William B. Pearson, Charles T. Johnston,, former Mayor James Reilly, former Supervisor David Lyon, former Mayor Eugene Lyon, Edward A. Schwartz, William A. Broege, John B. Clegg, W. J. Everett, Vincent Parker, William E. Algie, Herbert Barker, Loftus Brotherton, Henry F. Sountain, W.S. Harrison, John Hengel, Village Trustee Daniel J. Kennedy, John W. Dillon and Patrick J. Marvel."

Source:  Allyn Van Winkle, G., Volunteer Fire Companies In First Fire District Were Organized In 1893, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 12, 1935, pg. 11, col. 1.

"The people of Pelhamville are working earnestly to have the railroad station moved, and its name change [sic] to Winyah Park.  The petition to the railroad company has also been forwarded to the Post master-General [sic].  The petition and signers are as follows: 

To the President and Board of Directors of the N.Y., N.H. & H.R.R. Co.

GENTLEMEN: We, the undersigned, residents of Pelhamville, N.Y. do humbly petition your honorable Board, to locate the new depot to be erected at this place east of and near Fifth avenue as the grade will permit, on grounds given by Mr. Richard Lathers, as a park, and to change the name of the station from Pelhamville to Winyah Park. Depot not to be more than 100 feet from Fifth avenue: 

E.H. Gurney, Geo. McGalliard, Vincent Barker, Loftus Brotherton, Augustus Godfrey, C.W. Bolton, I.C. Hill, John T. Logan, James Shoebottom, John Bos, E.A. Patterson, J.P. Jacob Heisser, Stephen J. Stilwell, Wm. H. Penfield, Geo. Wright, William Barry, Wm. H. Sparks, Chas Baker, Henry Montgomery, F.W. Case, John Case, S.E. Case, David Lyon, E. Lyon, H. Gurney, Chas. B. Oakley, C. H. Merritt, G.W. Jager, E. C. Merritt, P.H. Acras, Alfd. P. Delcambre, F.C. Buxton, Geo. Pearson, Alex. Anderson, E. Anderson, John Britten, Bridget Flanagan, Delia Flanagan, H.T. Stone, L.A. Stone, L. McGalliard, C.V.R. Bolton, D.J. Meade, Mrs. C. Barker, Miss Caroline Barker, Mrs. Geo. Wright, Mrs. Fred. Chase, Mrs. J. Bos, Mrs. S. Johnson, Mrs. M. Clark, Mrs. I.C. Hill, J.P. Marquand, T. Jackson Lambert, Wm. T. Standen, N.A. McGalliard." 

Source: PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 28, 1887, Vol. XVIII, No. 997, p. 1, col. 7.


Last Monday evening the case of James Riley [sic] vs. Hutchinson which had been adjourned May 28th, was tried at the Court House, in Pelhamville before Judge G. I. Karbach.  Mr. Plumer acted as counsel for the defendant and W. H. Sparks for the plaintiff.  The trouble consisted in the alleged stealing of a dog by Hutchinson, who is employed by Lukert a butcher of Tuckahoe, from James Riley [sic] the local blacksmith.  Among the witnesses were John Sweeney and Loftus Brotherton.  The defendant was found guilty of petty larceny and fined twenty dollars.

The question has been asked 'why is it that goods sent by the Adams Express Company are delivered free of charge to residents of Pelham Manor, while the people of Pelhamville are obliged to pay extra charges.'

A mass meeting will be held this evening to consider the feasibility of celebrating the 'Fourth' in an appropriate manner.

Liberty Hose Company held their regular monthly meeting on Monday evening.  During the absence of their foreman, W. S. Harrison; assistant foreman, Eugene L. Lyon occupied the chair.  This company is the possessor of a very neat sign the gift of Chief B. F. Crewell.  It is displayed on the fire house at the front of their apartments.

The annual athletic contest of the New York Athletic Club will occur on Saturday June 9th at Travers Island.  A conveyance to the grounds will be found at the depot."

Source:  Pelhamville, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 7, 1894, Vol. XXV, No. 1,640, p. 4, col. 1.


Mrs. Jarley's celebrated wa-works and the distinguished Peek sisters from Alaska, will appear at the Court House, Tuesday evening, May 8th, in aid of the Church of the Redeemer.

The Right Rev. Bishop H. C. Potter will visit the Church of the Redeemer on Sunday afternoon, May 27th, at four o'clock, for the purpose of confirmation.

An address will be made to the confirmation class every Friday evening until the 27th proximo.  All are invited to attend.

A. P. Groom, druggist, of Troy will occupy one of Mr. John Young's new stores as soon as completed.

Mr. H. Nutting has broken ground for his new house, near Mr. Fairchild's.

Mr. Caldwell of New York city will move into his new house on Nyack avenue, this week.

The children of the public school had a 'vaccination bee' on Monday last.  

Mr. J. Borden has moved into Mrs. K. Wood's new house on Third avenue.

The Town Board and the Board of Health will meet at the Court House, Pelhamville, on Wednesday, May 2nd.

Chief B. F. Crewell has ordered an inspection of the Fire Department, on Decoration Day.

The Board of Education has no intention of closing Pelham Manor School as announced by the Pelham Manor Tribune of last week.

The contract for the additional plumbing work in Mr. W. S. Harrison's summer home has been awarded to Messrs. J. B. Clegg & Co.

Two new cells have recently been built in the Town Hall by Mr. S. E. Lyon.

A new feature of interest is a good sized aquarium, containing a number of fish, which is stationed in the pump-house.  The work of Mr. Englebert Nordman the chief engineer.

Mr. Loftus Brotherton has beautified his grounds by whitening the surrounding wall.

Col. Richard Lathers expects to erect a summer residence soon, on Lathers Hill.

Mr. and Mrs. J. Wilmott of Darien were the guests of Mrs. W. A. McGalliard last Sunday."

Source:  OUR NEARBY NEIGHBORS -- Pelhamville, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 26, 1894, Vol. XXV, No. 1,634, p. 4, col. 1.  

"A Social Event At Pelhamville.

The Court House in this pleasant hamlet was the scene last evening of a very enjoyable tea and dance.  The patronesses were the Misses Hattie Boyle, Kittie McGalliard, Florence Brotherton, Henrietta Logan and Mrs. G. I. Karbach.

The hall was very handsomely decorated with flowers, bunting and flags.  The scene was a pretty one.  The figures of the grand march were enacted by fifty couples.  Many of the dances were novel and intricate, but were executed gracefully.  Professor Mager's orchestra furnished the music.

Supper was served at intermission to which ample justice was done.  A novel feature of this part of the affair was the presentation to each lady of a beautiful china cup and saucer.  The tables were bountifully laden with choicest credentials of Pelhamville's cullinery [sic] art and no one had just cause to criticise [sic] or complain of the delectables.  Among those present were Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Logan and daughter, Mrs. P. Vanderoest; Mr. and Mrs. I. C. Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Judge Karbach; Mr. and Mrs. Loftus Brotherton; Mrs. Daggett; Mrs. Charles A. Barker, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Montgomery, Miss Lulu Montgomery, Miss Minnie Everett, Miss Daisy Barker, Miss Matilda Whitney and Miss Belle Rankin of Mount Vernon, the Misses Archer of Union Corners; and Merrs. Frank M. Lyon, Thos. Donlon, and Winfield Baxter of Mount Vernon."

Source:  A Social Event At Pelhamville, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 29, 1892, Vol. 1, No. 26, p. 1, col. 6.

Not Enough Hostility Developed Yet to Make a Case for the Court.

Eliza Brotherton is seeking a limited divorce and separate maintenance from Loftus Brotherton, to whom she was married in 1863.  She alleges cruel and inhuman treatment.  He makes no defense to the action.  They have two daughters, aged eleeven and fifteen years.  Mrs. Brotherton testified before the referee that her husband had struck her in the face several times.  Their quarrels arose because he didn't like to have the children go to a Catholic church or to a Catholic school, wishing them to go to the public school.  'I can't say who begins the quarrel,' Mrs. Brotherton testified.  'I think that we are both to blame, but that he is a little more in fault than I am.  We separated on the 30th of August, and he has come to see me since.  I saw him last evening.  I told him before the papers were served that I was going to begin this suit.  He gave me permission.'

Judge Lawrence in Supreme Court Chambers refused to confirm the referee's report in favor of a divorce, saying:  'Before confirming this report I shall require much stronger evidence than the referee has taken as to the alleged cruel and inhuman treatment.  I deem it also proper to say that the testimony reported by the referee goes far towards establishing an impression upon my mind that the action is collusive.  Of course I shall afford an opportunity to the plaintiff of showing that such an impression is erroneous, but it seems to me to be incredible that parties who are seeking a separation should continue to visit each other on apparently amicable terms and should interchange friendly observations as to the progress which is being made in the litigation pending between them.  Case sent back to the referee to take further proof.'"

Source:  AMICABLE DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS, The World [NY, NY], Oct. 28, 1880, Vol. XXI, No. 2095, p. 1, col. 4.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sabotage Brought Down the 70-Ton Draw Span of Pelham Bridge in 1908 and Delayed its Opening

February 2, 1908 was a sleepy Sunday at the new Pelham Bridge.  The old bridge that long had stood on the site still stood, but its replacement was nearly complete.  In fact, by contract the two companies responsible for constructing the new Pelham Bridge were obligated to complete the work by May 30, 1908.  The grand opening of the new Pelham Bridge already was scheduled for June 1, 1908.

Officials responsible for completion of the new Pelham Bridge were under increasing pressure to complete the work on time.  There recently had been labor problems at the site.  Some felt the labor problems had slowed construction and feared that it could continue to cause difficulty at the site.

The new bridge was a grand engineering feat with a massive "jackknife draw" in its center to allow marine traffic to pass the bridge.  Late the evening before, on Saturday, February 1, laborers constructing the bridge broke for the week and left the site to enjoy a Sunday of leisure.  Before leaving, one of the two spans was raised and intentionally left open -- presumably to allow marine traffic to pass with no one there except a single watchman to ensure the security of the construction site.

Early on Sunday, the watchman was in his shanty at the bridge.  He heard a tremendous crash that shook the bridge and his shanty.  When he ran outside, the seventy-ton jackknife draw span that had been standing upright was gone.  It had pitched over and fallen into fifty feet of mud and water in Eastchester Bay below, almost obscured from view.

At first, it was believed that a strong gust of wind brought the span down.  Close inspection, however, soon revealed that the bridge had been sabotaged.  Giant bolts and clips to which anchoring cables were attached had been removed, allowing the span to fall downward without anchorage, snapping the base of the span away from the rest of the bridge when it came down in a "rush."  Although little else was known about the incident at the time, one thing was clear.  "No one but a man skilled in bridge construction would have known how to go about loosening these bolts."

The sabotage delayed the opening of the the new Pelham Bridge.  Indeed, the June 1 bridge opening ceremonies were delayed by more than four months.  The new Pelham Bridge opened on Thursday, October 15, 1908.  (See text of October 16, 1908 article at the end of today's posting.)

I have written about histories of the various Pelham Bridges that have spanned Eastchester Bay for the last two centuries.  For examples, see the list with links at the end of this posting.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of two articles about the sabotage of the new Pelham Bridge as well as the text of a third article describing the opening of the bridge four months late on October 15, 1908.

Expert Hand Loosened Bolts That Dropped Draw at Pelham Bay.

Detectives employed by the American Bridge Company are trying to discover who loosened certain material bolts and clips which allowed a seventy-ton draw span of the new Pelham Bay Bridge in the Bronx to drop into the mud of East Chester Bay yesterday.  The officials of the Bridge Company admit they have had some trouble with workmen on the bridge, but refuse to make any definite charges, although they are satisfied that the mischief was accomplished by some one having knowledge of the way to go about it.

The bridge was almost completed.  It is designed to take the place of the old Pelham Bay Bridge, which connects Eastern Boulevard with Pelham road.

The draw is of the 'jackknife' pattern.  Instead of a draw span swinging around in a circle on a pier in the middle of the bridge, the draw is drawn upward from the centre on each side by cables.

The south draw is fifty feet long and 30 feet high.  It had been placed and tested, and when the workmen left Saturday night was folded up against the southerly pier to allow free passage on the water.  The cables holding it were fastened by strong bolts and clips to an anchorage at the bottom of the pier.

Early yesterday morning the watchman on the bridge was in his shanty when he heard a crash that shook the structure.  He ran out and found the south draw span half hidden in the mud of the bay.  

Investigation showed that the steel cables has [sic] been loosened at the anchorage by the removal of the bolts and clips.  This allowed the draw to drop with a rush, and the force of the fall snapped it from its fastenings at the hinged end.  

John G. Theban, the supervising engineer for the Department of Bridges made an examination.  He was disposed at first glance to believe that the draw had been blown down by the force of the wind, but further investigation proved that the bolts sustaining the cables had been loosened by persons having proper tools.  No one but a man skilled in bridge construction would have known how to go about loosening these bolts.

Powerful derricks on wrecking tugs were sent to the scene of the accident to-day.  It will be necessary to raise the span and send it back to the American Bridge Company at Trenton, N. J., for repairs.  The bridge, which was to have been opened for traffic on June 1, will be delayed two months or more."

Source:  70-TON BRIDGE SPAN WRECKED BY SKILLED WORKER, The Evening World [NY NY], Feb. 3, 1908, p. 14, col. 3.  

Bolts Were Tampered With, Contractors Think -- Labor Troubles.

A seventy ton 'jackknife draw' span on the new bridge being constructed across East Chester Bay to connect Eastern Boulevard, The Bronx, with Pelham road, fell yesterday afternoon into fifty feet of mud and water.  Representatives of the construction companies who investigated the break after the accident said yesterday afternoon that the draw could not have fallen if the bolts at its base had not been tampered with.

The bridge is being constructed by the American Bridge Company and the Goodwin Construction Company, under the supervision of John G. Theban, the engineer representing the city.  It is designed to replace the old Pelham Bay bridge which stands just above the new structure.  May 30 was the contract date for its completion, but because of constant labor troubles the contractors recently announced their inability to complete the job by that time.

The draw spans in the centre of the bridge, two in number, swing upward instead of around as in the old style draw bridges.  One of these 'jackknife draw' spans on the south side of the middle water way had already been completed and the other was nearing completion.  The completed span was 50 feet long and about 30 feet in height.  

When the workmen quit on Saturday this span was left standing with its nose in the air.  It had been fully completed and tested.  Nobody was seen on the new structure yesterday, when without any evident cause this span pitched off its buttresses and dropped almost out of sight in the water and mud.

Mr. Theban and officers of the construction company made a close examination of the place where the span had stood, after which the construction people announced definitely that they believed that the span had been caused to fall by some one drawing bolts in the supporting mechanism.  Mr. Theban said that the circumstances were suspicious, but that he could not make any charge of wilful mischief until he had made further investigation."

Source:  SPAN OF NEW BRIDGE FALLS, The Sun [NY, NY], Feb. 3, 1908, Vol. LXXV, No. 156, p. 1, col. 4.

Formally opened yesterday.
Source:  NEW BRIDGE OPENED, New-York Daily Tribune
Oct. 16, 1908, p. 12, cols. 2-3.

Big Automobile Parade in Celebration of Four Cities.

More than two hundred automobiles and as many carriages were in the parade yesterday which celebrated the formal opening of the new bridge over East Chester Bay, known as the Pelham Park Bridge, because it connects the halves of that park.  The bridge is on the famous old Pelham Road through Bronx Park and Pelham Park, which is a favorite for automobilists going to New Rochelle and Connecticut towns.

At 9 o'clock yesterday morning the formal reception to the three Mayors of New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and Yonkers and other officials and citizens of the three municipalities bordering on The Bronx began.  Fifty-four automobiles were drawn up in the square at the intersection of Third, Lincoln and Morris avenues and 138th street.

Starting from the headquarters of the Board of Trade, the procession wound its way to St. Jerome's Church, 138th street and Alexander avenue, where the children of the church sang songs of welcome.  Taking a course that included every point of interest in The Bronx, the constantly increasing line of automobiles finally arrived at Pelham Bay Park, where the new bridge was to be declared open by Mayor McClellan.

This structure is said to be one of the finest examples of engineering art within the city limits.  It was erected by the Godwin Construction Company after designs drawn by the regular engineering force of the Bridge Department.  It has been the object of the architects to make the bridge harmonize with the system of beautiful parkways of which it will form an important link.  The bridge consists of two series of three arches built of reinforced concrete, connected in the centre by a double leaf bascule, or lift bridge, to permit of the passage of vessels.  It allows a road space for four lines of vehicles, and in addition there are two broad walks for foot passengers.  

The hour set for the opening was 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and at that hour Mayor McClellan, accompanied by Bridge Commissioner James W. Stevenson, H. A. La Chicotte, principal assistant engineer, and other men prominent in the city administration, arrived in automobiles.  After formally declaring the bridge open for traffic, Mayor McClellan stood in the centre of the draw, where he was joined by Mayors George Gillespie Raymond of New Rochelle, Benjamin Howe of Mount Vernon and Nathan A. Warren of Yonkers.  Here the Mayor of New York clasped hands with his three brother officials.  

After the exercises Mayor McClellan hurried back to the city, while the North Side Board of Trade and its guests continued on their tour of inspection.  At the old Van Cortlandt mansion, in Van Cortlandt Park, the visitors were welcomed by a body of citizens who composed a guard of honor from the 1st Battalion of Minute Men.  The next stopping place was New York University, where the visitors were escorted into the Hall of Fame and addressed there by Chancellor MacCracken.

A quick run down Jerome avenue brought the cavalcade to Huber's Casino, at 162d street and Jerome avenue, where tables were laid for over two hundred guests.  This closed the celebration."

Source:  NEW BRIDGE OPENED, New-York Daily Tribune, Oct. 16, 1908, p. 12, col. 3.

*           *          *           *          *

Below are examples of previous postings that address the histories of the various Pelham Bridges that have spanned Eastchester Bay for the last two centuries. 

Tue., Jun. 10, 2014:  Construction of the Concrete Arch Pelham Bridge.

Mon., May 12, 2014:  The March 6, 1812 New York Statute Authorizing Construction of the Pelham Bridge.

Tue., Sep. 22, 2009:  Names of Early "Keepers of Pelham Bridge" Appointed by Westchester County.   

Thu., Jan. 08, 2009:  Another Brief History of The Pelham Bridge

Thu., Jan. 1, 2009:  A Brief History of Pelham Bridge

Wed., Jan. 2, 2008:  New York State Senate Report on Petition by Inhabitants of Westchester to Allow Construction of Toll Bridge Across Eastchester Creek in 1834

Tue., Aug. 28, 2007:  The Laying Out of Pelham Avenue From Fordham to Pelham Bridge in 1869

Wed., Jul. 4, 2007:  1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of the Pelham Bridge

Fri., Jul. 22, 2007:  1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of "Country Seat" at Pelham Bridge

Fri., May 18, 2007:   Celebration at Pelham Bridge in 1872

Wed., May 16, 2007:  Board of Supervisors of Westchester County Vote to Build New Iron Bridge to Replace Pelham Bridge in 1869

Tue., May 15, 2007:  The Owner of the Pelham Bridge Hotel Sold it for the Princely Sum of $22,000 in 1869

Mon., May 14, 2007:  Plans to Widen Shore Road in the Town of Pelham in 1869

Fri., May 11, 2007:  A Sad Attempted Suicide at Pelham Bridge in 1869

Thu., Dec. 08, 2005:  The First Stone Bridge Built Across Eastchester Creek in Pelham, 1814-1815

Thu., Aug. 18, 2005:  The Opening of the New Iron "Pelham Bridge" in 1871

Tue., Aug. 9, 2005:  Cock Fighting at Pelham Bridge in the 19th Century

Thu., Jul. 21, 2005:  Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island

Tue., Jun. 28, 2005:  The Hotel and Bar Room at Pelham Bridge

Thu., Mar. 24, 2005:  The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It? 

Wed., Mar. 23, 2005:  Prize Fighting at Pelham Bridge in 1884

For more about the Pelham Bridge and its history, see Pelham Bridge, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelham_Bridge (visited May 6, 2014). 

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