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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Another Detailed Account of the 1901 Fire that Detroyed the Clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island

The new summer clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island in Pelham Manor opened, unofficially, on June 1, 1889.  Nearly twelve years later, on January 5, 1901, the N.Y.A.C. clubhouse (known as the "big house")  burned to the ground in a horrific fire. 

The massive fire attracted spectators from throughout the region.  Many newspapers and periodicals covered the event.  I have written about this devastating fire on two prior occasions. I also have written many, many items about Travers Island and the New York Athletic Club facilities there.  After the account of the fire below, I have included links to many of my previous writings regarding Travers Island and the New York Athletic Club.

One week after the fire, the New Rochelle Pioneer published a lengthy and detailed account of the fire, efforts to save the clubhouse, efforts to save the nearby Potter House and, finally, the aftermath of the fire and efforts by local residents to salvage "souvenirs" from the ashes.  The account is particularly interesting in that it details the order of arrival of firefighting equipment from Pelham Manor and New Rochelle and the difficulties of fighting such a massive fire with the crude equipment available at the time.  

The text of the account appears below, followed by a citation and link to its source.

Source:  Hackett, Owen, THE ISLAND HOME OF 
ATHLETICS, Munsey's Magazine, Vol. VII,
No. 10, p. 391 (Jul. 1892).  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

Source:  Hackett, Owen, THE ISLAND HOME OF 
ATHLETICS, Munsey's Magazine, Vol. VII,
No. 10, p. 392 (Jul. 1892).  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

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Handsome Home of the N. Y. A. C. at Travers Island in Ruins.

Two chimneys, a tower and a mass of ruins mark the site of the large and handsome summer home of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island.  The building was burned to the ground last Saturday afternoon and is a total loss.  The fire was caused by defective insulation of an electric light wire and was discovered about half past twelve by William Hansen, a carpenter, who was at work in the house.  It started in the basement under the main entrance.  Hansen saw smoke pouring out of the basement windows and flames along the beams on a line with the wires.  He hastened to the Potter House, a small two-story frame building adjoining the main club house used by the members in winter, and gave the alarm to superintendent James Kerwin and the ten or twelve other employees who were at dinner.  The men carried several buckets of water into the basement but could not reach the flames owing to the suffocating smoke and intense heat.  The men then set to work to connect the club's fire hose with a hydrant.  Water had barely been turned on when the hose bursted.  In the meantime Kerin telephoned to the New Rochelle police headquarters and Chief Timmons sent in alarm No. 144.  The Pelham Manor fire department were also called out.  Relief and Huguenot Engine Companies responded promptly.  The Huguenot hose wagon arrived at the scene first.  Immediately following came the Relief engine and wagon and the Huguenot engine.  The Pelham Manor department brought two hose carts and its hook and ladder apparatus.  When the firemen arrived the flames had spread under the entire building and between the walls to the second story.  The nearest hydrant was at the stables about 1500 feet from the club house.  The chemical engine was put into use and two streams of water were poured on the flames but the firemen were unable to save anything.  There was a scarcity of water owing to the small service pipe and this hampered the firemen.  

When it became evident that the entire building, which was of inflammable material, would be destroyed the firement directed their efforts to saving the Potter House and after heroic work succeeded in keeping it intact.  At 2 o'clock the the entire club house was enveloped in flames and half an hour later what was left of it collapsed.  Nothing in the building was saved.  All the valuable furniture, paintings, and decorations were destroyed with the other material.  The entire collection of relics given to the club by Buffalo Bill and used by the 'Huckleberry Indians' was burned with the rest.

Owing to the dense smoke, terrific heat and the extent of the flames before the firemen arrived, the fire was one of the most difficult they have battled against in recent years, and several men were overcome and burned on the hands and arms.  At 4 o'clock the once handsome club house was a mass of smouldering ruins only the tall chimneys and stone tower were left standing.

Scores of club members who live in Pelham Manor, Larchmont and this city joined with the firemen in their work.  Chief Mayhew W. Bronson, of Larchmont, was in the New York clubhouse when superintendent Kerwin telephoned that the Travers Island club house was on fire.  Major George W. Rand, the manager, and Mr. Bronson immediately set out for Pelham Manor.  The fire attracted a large number of the people who live along the Sound.  They went in carriages and automobiles.  Several hundred of them, including many women, visited the club grounds in the afternoon.  

The grounds were put in charge of Chief Bronson, who is a member of the club, and were guarded after the fire by several mounted men from the Bronx.  

The club house was built in 1889.  It was one of the finest and largest in the neighborhood of New York and resembled a Norman chateau.  It was a three story frame structure, with towers and gables, surrounded by piazzas overlooking the Sound and the athletic field.  The loss on the building and its contents is estimated at about $70,000.  The insurance is said to have been $40,000.  This is the second fire the club has had at its home in Pelham Manor.

A few years ago, when the village of Pelham Manor declared for no license, the members of the club found it convenient to comply with the law by moving the bar, which was in the west part of the building, over to the eastern end, which was in New Rochelle.

On Sunday the Board of Governors and several hundred other members of the club went to Pelham Manor to see the ruins.  Nearly all the visitors carried away souvenirs of the fire from the piles of crockery, china and melted silverware which are scattered in the ashes.  The most value relic taken out was a pair of antique andirons."

Source:  FIRE DESTROYS CLUB HOUSE -- Handsome Home of the N. Y. A. C. at Travers Island in Ruins -- WATER SUPPLY INADEQUATE, New Rochelle Pioneer, Jan. 12, 1901, p. 1, col. 4.  

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I previously have written about the New York Athletic Club facilities on Travers Island. Below is a linked listing of such writings.

Tue., Dec. 23, 2014:  The Original Summer Clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club in 1889, Shortly After it Was Built.

Mon., Jun. 16, 2014:  1892 Images of Travers Island NYAC with an Important Description of the Clubhouse and Facilities.

Thu., Jan. 23, 2014:  Another Account of the Devastating Fire that Destroyed the Travers Island Clubhouse of New York Athletic Club in 1901

Fri., Sep. 4, 2009:  1901 Newspaper Article About Fire That Burned New York Athletic Club Clubhouse on Travers Island.

Thu., Apr. 28, 2005:  Ladies' Day on Travers Island in the 19th Century.

Thu., May 26, 2005:  The New York Athletic Club's Opening of the 'New Summer Home' on Travers Island in 1889.

Tue., Jun. 21, 2005:  Life at Travers Island in the 1890s.

Thu., Aug. 11, 2005:  How Dry I Am:  Pelham Goes Dry in the 1890s and Travers Island Is At the Center of a Storm.

Wed., Dec. 21, 2005:  An Early Sketch of the First Clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island in Pelham.

Thu., Jul. 19, 2007:  Members of the New York Athletic Club Were Duped Into Believing the Club Created a Small Nine-Hole Golf Course in Pelham Manor in 1897.

Fri., Jul. 20, 2007:  Account of Early Baseball in Pelham:  Pelham vs. the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island in 1897.

Wed., Nov. 21, 2007:  Baseball on Travers Island During the Summer of 1897.

Thu., Nov. 22, 2007:  August 1896 Description of Cycle Route to Travers Island in Pelham Manor.

Fri., Nov. 23, 2007:  The Festivities of the Huckleberry Indians of the New York Athletic Club Off the Shore of Pelham Manor on July 12, 1896.

Mon., Nov. 26, 2007:  Box Score of a Baseball Game Played on Travers Island in Pelham Manor in July 1896.

Thu., Feb. 7, 2008:  Village Elections in Pelham in 1900 - New York Athletic Club Members Campaign Against the Prohibition Ticket in Pelham Manor.

Mon., Jan. 19, 2009:  Photograph of Members of the New York Athletic Club Shooting Traps on Travers Island in 1911.

Tue., Feb. 17, 2009:  The New York Athletic Club Opens Its New Clubhouse on Travers Island in Pelham in 1888.

Wed., Feb. 18, 2009:  The New York Athletic Club Opens Its New Travers Island Boathouse in 1888.

Thu., Feb. 19, 2009:  The Old Hunter House Burns to the Ground in an Arson Incident on Travers Island on April 4, 1889.

Wed., Mar. 4, 2009:  "Ladies' Day" on Travers Island in Pelham Manor in 1894.

Tue., Mar. 24, 2009:  1897 Photograph of Visitors Streaming to Athletic Outing on Travers Island in Pelham Manor.

Wed., Oct. 28, 2009:  Article About the June 10, 1888 Opening of Travers Island Facility of the New York Athletic Club.

Tue., Aug. 18, 2009:  New York Athletic Club Board of Governors Decided to Mortgage Travers Island in 1895.

Mon., Apr. 12, 2010:  New York Athletic Club Stage Coach Accident Leads to Death of Pelham Manor Man.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Detailed and Fascinating Description of the Village of Pelham Manor in 1892

As suburban development gained momentum in the Pelhams during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, real estate puff pieces about the desirability of living in the "exclusive" community appeared in a wide variety of newspapers in New York City and the surrounding region.  I have documented such puff pieces on a number of occasions.  See, e.g., Tue., Apr. 28, 2015:  A 1910 Real Estate Puff Piece About "The Pelhams" -- Description of the Attractions of the Three Villages of the Pelhams Published in 1910.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a fascinating real estate "puff piece" about the Village of Pelham Manor on November 20, 1892, only a year after the village was first incorporated.  The article portrays Pelham Manor as an "exclusive" enclave inhabited by "Members of the '400' and Those Just Out of It."  (The reference to "the 400" is a reference to the four hundred most fashionable socialites of the day.)  

The article contains a great deal of interesting early information about the Manor Club and the original Manor Club clubhouse, the Priory, the home once owned by Henry B. B. Stapler on the Esplanade, and much, murch more.  It describes the status of property developments throughout the incorporated village and in an unincorporated section adjacent to the village at the time.  

In addition to its text, the article included a number of sketches of various buildings and persons referred to in the article.  Both the text and the sketches appear below, followed by a citation and link to their source.  (I have inserted the sketches roughly where they appear within the text of the article.)

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Where Members of the '400' and Those Just Out of It Reside.
The Priory, the Duchess de Dino's Country Place ,and H. B. B. Stapler's $35,000 Mansion -- From a Business Point of View It Is a Good Place for Investment -- One Mile from New Rochelle and Three from Mount Vernon.

Delightfully situated on the northern border of Pelham Bay Park, the biggest of Gotham's greenwood possessions, on a high bluff quietly sloping to Long Island Sound, is Pelham Manor -- picturesque, fashionable, exclusive.  It is on the Harlem River branch of the New Haven Railroad, three miles north of the village of Westchester, and one mile south of bustling New Rochelle.  It is just above the line of the proposed annexation of Westchester County to the metropolis.

It would be difficult to find a more ideal spot for a luxurious home.  The scenery is unsurpassed.  The Manor lies on a romantic piece of ground several miles in diameter, at a high elevation gradually rolling down to the Sound, which at this point is dotted with green islets.  Below is the park with its 1,750 acres of natural woodland beauty.

Pelham Manor is one of the few exclusive suburbs of New York.  Here those able to do so erect mansion homes on wide expanses of land and then beautify their possessions to their hearts' content.  It is the one place within easy reach of the city that has baffled the real estate speculator with his 25x100 foot lots and $2,500 cottages.

It is true that two energetic Harlem real estate women have secured a slice of land there and are cutting it up and laying it out in defiance of the exclusive atmosphere of the place.

Pelham Manor, in addition to its scenic beauty, offers about every other inducement that people of refined taste and long purse could well ask.  It has fashionable boarding-schools; it has a feudal-looking manor-house, the coutnry seat of a real duchess; the blue-blooded New York Athletic Club has here its grounds, and most of the residents are rich and of good stock.  

Pelham Manor people are more sociable than is usual among folk so exclusive.  They have a village club-house, where everybody makes merry with everybody else.  Here they have amateur theatricals once a month.  

The village manor house, as this club-house is called, is a long, narrow, one-story building, of unique design, half of stone and half of wood, with unstained shingle exterior.  It was built thirteen years ago, at a cost of $10,000.  The main floor is an ampitheatre, with a stage and gallery.  In the basement is a brilliant hall for the men folk, who must, however, submit to having their tables shoved into the corners when sociables are held and dancing-room is needed.  A bowling-alley and a kitchen are also on the premises.  The building is on the Esplanade, the most fashionable thoroughfare in the village, and stands on an acre and a half of land.  Among those active in the management of the theatricals are Mrs. J. F. Secor, Jr., H. E. Dey, C. F. Roper and Mrs. H. B. B. Stapler.

Fully nine-tenths of Pelham Manor is tolerably safe from people of modest means, the land being held by rich owners, who will sell only in tracts of not less than an acre and then only to 'desirable' parties.

It was in 1872 that Pelham Manor sprang into existence.  The Huguenot Heights Association, composed of the Stevens Bros. and S. H. Witherby [sic; should be Witherbee], the latter an iron miner, of Port Henry, sunk [sic] all their money in the enterprise.  They bought at the start some two hundred acres.  Four years later came the panic of of 1876 and then land could be bought at $200 per acre -- a little over $14 per lot.  Witherby bought out his two partners, and his daughter, Mrs. Mary George W. Black ,is one of the largest owners of Pelham Manor property to-day.

One year ago Pelham Manor was incorporated, with James M. Townsend, jr., the well-known Broadway lawyer, as its President.

The Esplanade is the central street in Pelham Manor.  It is 90 feet wide and through the centre for its entire length runs a pretty pathway 25 feet wide,.  One side is macadamized, but the other isn't.  This is because Mrs. Black owns nearly the whole side of the street and she had it macadamized at her own expense.  The Esplanade runs from the railroad station to the Boston Post Road, and along it are built some of the finest residences.  Twenty villas, each standing on a plot of from 16 to 40 lots, take up the whole thoroughfare, and there is no land here for sale.  There is not even a fence on the street or between the plots.  Land here is considered to be worth whatever the owner may want.  The last sale occurred two years ago when R. R. Hardock bought an acre for $6,000 and on it built a $12,000 house.  

Assistant District Attorney Stapler owns a two-acre plot.  He paid $15,000 for it four years ago, including the house which stood upon it.  This was calculated to be at the rate of about $4,000 per acre for the land.  He has since purchased an acre and a half more and has spent $20,000 in improvements.  The house was designed by Richardson and is perhaps the finest in Westchester County.  Its lower story is built of field boulders.

Not a mark of a chisel is to be seen on any of these stones which project boldly with plaster slapped in between in a way that looks careless but isn't.  The house is two and a half stories high and has a variety of porches, verandas and piazzas.  It occupies a ligh eminence and is admirably suited to its surroundings.  It has some twenty rooms.  In it reside Mr. and Mrs. Stapler and their five bright children.

At the rear of the house is Mr. Stapler's private club-house, a story and a half in height, and built of the same material as the house, it has a large billiard hall.

Immediately Below is a Recent Photograph of the
Stapler Mansion, Known as "Stone Croft" that Still Stands.
To Learn More, See:  Tue., Jan. 13, 2015:  "Stone Croft"
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Stone Croft with Stables (Later, Carriage House)
Partially Visible to the Right of the Home.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

In Pelham Manor there is no place pointed to with more with more pride than the Priory, a gray stone mansion a century old and having a history.  It is situated on top of a high bluff overlooking the Sound in a delighfully laid out park of fifteen or twenty acres.  The wood is one of the most picturesque in the vicinity and is laid out in circular drives and walks with gardens, lawns and groves.  The Priory is two and ahalf stories in height and looks like a feudal castle with its two quaint turrets.  Mrs. Bolton was one of its earlier occupants.  She kept a young ladies' seminary, and here some of the women of the Knickerbocker stock of the metropolis received their education.  After her came John C. Furman, a brother-in-law of John C. Waterbury, President of the Country Club and member of the Four Hundred.  Mrs. Stevens who married the Duke de Dino and who was formerly a pupil in the seminary, purchased the old Manor ten years ago.  F. M. Jenks, of the Fourt Hundred, leased it from the Duchess and lived there awhile.  The next occupants were the Van Cortlandts, from whom Van Cortlandt Park was named.  They moved two years ago, and now the house is being made ready for the Duchess de Dino's daughter, who latedly married Fred H. Allen.  There are several cottages on the grounds for the servants, and here also stands the old Priory Church, which has been presented to the Presbyterian parish.


On the northwest boundary of the village on the old Boston Road is a three-story, gray cut-stone house with a flat roof and a piazza, in which Frederic R. Coudert was brought up.

The largest house in Pelham Manor is that of Robert C. Black, the Fifth avenue jeweller.  It stands on a four-acre plot.  It was bought at the rate of $200 an acre, and has increased in value to over $6,000 per acre.  The house is three stories in height, and is of the colonial style, with a broad piazza running all the way around it.  The house cost some $30,000, and is the most handsomely furnished in the Manor.

Benjamin F. Corlies, of Corlies, Macy & Co., of Nassau street, lives in a quaint house of colonial type on the Esplanade.  It is a 'shingle and field-stone' house, a species Pelha Manor is partial to.  Near Mr. Corlies's house are two boarding schools, erected by him at a cost of $40,000.  Mrs. Hazen conducts the schools, and has forty-five young ladies in her charge.

Joseph Arthur, author of 'Blue Jeans' and 'The Still Alarm,' lives in a $10,000 cottage that stands on an acre and a half of land fronting on Wolf's lane.  He can often be seen driving behind the two well-trained horses used in 'The Still Alarm.'

Alongside Mr. Arthur's house is the home of E. T. Gillilande, of the Edison Company.  The house and the acre of land on which it stands cost $21,000.  Mr. Gilillande has since built an office and work-rooms on the premises.  He is an electrical expert and spends his time experimenting on inventions.

The land in the market in and about the village is for sale mostly in big tracts only.  On the northwest part of the Manor, beyond the Boston turnpike.  Isaac Rodman owns between fifteen and twenty acres, on which stands the Coudert mansion.  House and land are in the market at $75,000.  Next, on the south,, is a tract of about thirty acres, owned by Lord & Taylor, which is for sale at $30,000.  Then comes a tract owned by Secor, of about seventy acres, which is not very high land, and is in the market at from $3,000 to $5,000 per acre.  Along the western boundary is the Ropes property, consisting of ten acres, owned by Isaac Rodman.  This land has no improvements and is offered at $1,500 per acre in a lump.

Prospect Hill is next in order and it breaks the icy reserve of exclusiveness.  Here stand a dozen neat cottages, which cost from $1,500 to $3,500 each.  Land on the hill can be bought in half-acre plots.  The Parkside Land Company, just outside the boundaries of the Manor, is in the hands of M. J. Denton, Pelham Manor's real estate man.  Here lots can be had of almost any size, 25x100, 50x100, 100x100, half acre and acre plots.  Twenty-five-foot lots can be had at $250, and larger tracts are offered for sale at the rate of from $2,500 to $5,500 per acre.

To the south is the Black property, some fifty acres.  It is in the market for sale in acre tracts.  A dozen handsome cottages, costing from $4,000 to $10,000 each, have been erected here, most of them standing on one-acre plots.  The Priory property adjoins this, and then comes a tract of twenty-five acres owned by Mr. Roosevelt.  This is being cut up and is for sale in not less than acre plots at $4,000 and upward.  Mr. Roosevelt has another ten-acre tract between the Black property and the Sound, which will be cut up in the spring, and to give it a good send-off and show what he thinkis of it the owner will erect a $15,000 house and spend $10,000 on the grounds.

The section owned by the Pelhamdale Land Company, represented by Mrs. Theresa Crocauer and Mrs. Adela Payn, is an eyesore to the owners of mansions, because it is in the heart of the Manor and so can't be overlooked.  It consists of a dozen acres and has been sliced up into several hundred lots, 25x100, 25x115, 50x50, &c.

It was three years ago that this land was cut up.  Most of the lots were sold at $300 each.  At this figure these enterprising women have been doing a rushing business.  Since September lots here are quoted at $400 each.

NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Westchester County up to the northern limit of Pelham Bay Park will doubtless soon be annexed to New York City, which will give the people of Pelham Manor the advantage of city improvements without expensive city assessments.

The Westchester Water Company began laying a main line of water pipes here a year ago and is now laying out branches.  With the $40,000 recently voted great improvements will be made in the streets.  There are hourly trains over the Harlem River branch road, and trains every half hour are promised next season.  It is but thirty minutes to Harlem by train, and the lure is 22 cents a day by communtation.  The New Haven road will, it is said, make this branch its main line."

Source:  EXCLUSIVE PELHAM MANOR, The World [NY, NY], Nov. 20, 1892, Vol. XXXIII, No. 11,415, p. 25, cols. 1-3 (access via this link requires paid subscription).

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in Pelham 75 Years Ago

Today's article posted to the Historic Pelham Blog is the 1,600th daily article posted to record the rich history of our Town.

Seventy five years ago, some Pelhamites celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 21, 1940.  Others celebrated it on Thursday, November 28, 1940.  Pelham and the rest of the nation were embroiled in the Thanksgiving confusion known as "Franksgiving" about which I have written before.  See Thu., Nov. 27, 2014:  By 1941, Most Pelhamites Celebrated "Franksgiving" Rather than "Republican Thanksgiving".  In short, from 1939 through 1941, much of the United States celebrated what many called "Franksgiving" rather than "Republican Thanksgiving." The term "Franksgiving" reportedly was coined by Atlantic City mayor Thomas D. Taggart, Jr. as a combination of "Franklin" (as in then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Thanksgiving.  For three successive years President Roosevelt, by proclamation, encouraged communities to celebrate Thanksgiving a week earlier in the hope, among other things, that an extended shopping season before the Christmas holiday might goose the nation's economy.  

Whether they celebrated "Franksgiving" or "Republican Thanksgiving" in 1940, Pelhamites gathered in their homes to celebrate and give thanks that year.  Though terrible trouble was brewing in Europe, Pelhamites and Americans had much to be thankful for.  The Great Depression was finally beginning to ease.  However, the rearming of United States forces in anticipation of world war was a principal reason.  

Pelhamites were gripped by the news from Europe during Thanksgiving seventy five years ago.  Germany began its invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg on May 10, 1940.  Two days later it began an invasion of northern France.  On May 27, the nine-day evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force as well as French and Belgian troops from Dunkirk began.  On June 10, Italy declared war on France and the United Kingdom.  Four days later, Paris fell to the Germans on June 14.  The Battle of Britain began on July 10 as the German Luftwaffe tried to gain air superiority over the UK's Royal Air Force.  On September 7, Germany began the Blitz on London, using three hundred German bombers to deliver bombs that decimated much of the city during 57 consecutive nights of bombings.  At the end of October, the draft lottery began in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. prepared for war with the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States.  In November, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Republican candidate Wendell L. Willkie and, thus, won an unprecedented third term in office.

Though gripped by the news, the little Town of Pelham seemed distant from the war.  The holiday season was in the air.  A headline that stretched the entire width of the front page of the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun, in its last issue before the Thanksgiving holiday blared "$61,000 To Be Distributed In Christmas Club Checks In Pelham."  A gallon of gas cost eleven cents.  The average price for a new car was $850.  The average cost of a new house that year was about $3,920.  

Residents of Pelham also were in a giving mood during Thanksgiving seventy-five years ago.  Indeed, in the first five days of a major donation campaign, Pelham's Community Chest program to support local charitable organizations received pledges totaling $28,717 from 1,429 contributors.  The pledges put the campaign well on its way toward meeting its goal to raise $43,445 in support of nine local charities.  Pledge cards were "coming in at the fastest rate in the history of the Community Chest."  See $28,717 PLEDGED IN FIVE DAYS IN COMMUNITY CHEST CAMPAIGN -- 1,429 SUBSCRIBE IN CAMPAIGN TO RAISE $43,445, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 22, 1940, Vol. 30, No. 34, p. 1, cols. 5-8.  

Other Pelhamites showed thanks in other ways.  A large group of British children transferred to America to escape the war and residing at the Gould Foundation Institute in the Bronx were Thanksgiving guests of Pelham residents.  Pelham embraced the children, and hoped to bestow upon them knowledge -- and memories -- of Pelham's own Thanksgiving customs.

On November 21, 1940, sixty of those British children were invited into the homes of Pelham residents throughout the town and were treated to lavish Thanksgiving-style dinners in a display of the "American Thanksgiving custom."  See BRITISH CHILDREN ENJOY THANKSGIVING DINNERS IN PELHAMThe Pelham Sun, Nov. 22, 1940, Vol. 30, No. 34, p. 1, col. 8.  The local newspaper glowed in the spirit of the gesture to spread an American Thanksgiving spirit among the "English refugee children."  The Pelham Sun said:


It was all novel to them but they enjoyed it immensely.  Those English refugee children who have been attending Christ Church were taken after church yesterday morning to the homes of their comrades in the Sunday School and joined in the rejoicings of Thanksgiving, with its turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, etc.

It was a splendid gesture.  In England the completion of harvesting is signalized by Harvest Thanksgiving services in the Churches to render praise that:

'All is safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin.'

The churches are decorated with the fruits of the year and the products of the harvest embellish the altars.  Thanksgiving in America and Thanksgiving in England are both inspired by the desire to give thanks to God for His bounties.

There is much that is common to the two countries in custom and in spirit.  The extending of Thanksgiving to the little British youngsters was born of kindly thought and friendly spirit.  The knowledge it will hearten those of their countrymen who are defending the cause of freedom and democracy overseas."

Source:  HAPPY THANKSGIVINGThe Pelham Sun, Nov. 22, 1940, Vol. 30, No. 34, p. 2, col. 1.  

The November 22, 1940 issue of The Pelham Sun also was filled with Thanksgiving well-wishes.  It even contained a cartoon reminding Pelhamites to give thanks for the bountiful benefits of living in the United States.  (See immediately below.)

Sun, Nov. 22, 1940, Vol. 30, No. 34, p. 2, cols. 3-4.

A well-regarded columnist for The Pelham Sun devoted a sentimental but well-written "OBSERVATIONS" column to Pelham's 1940 Thanksgiving celebration.  She wrote:  


THANKSGIVING IS IN the air.  And who shall be indifferent to the moral force of a multitude of people, pausing in their way rich and poor, high and low alike, to give thanks to the Creator for unnumbered blessings.

The great, titanic blessing of peace overshadows all else but for a moment we should like to turn our thoughts to those other 'common blessings without end,' the daily beautitudes [sic] of life which fortify and shield us, lending beauty to our days, consolation for past griefs, memories and hope for the future.  

If an Angel should overtake you walking along Wolf's Lane some fine morning, and stop you with an unmistakable sign and begin to talk to you in a tongue you could miraculously understand; and if he asked you to name the blessings that surround your life -- what would you say?  Would you be at a loss for words?

Surely the Angel would not rebuke you if the thought that popped first into your mind, leaped first into words -- the Thanksgiving Turkey.  That is a blessing, that and the table at which you seat yourself day after day, eating your daily bread.  

Would you care to name as common blessings, the sun that lights your days, the moon that holds a court of stars, night after night; would you forget to add, the security of home, a door closed against the outer darkness, and unfailing refuge; friends and the kindly greetings of acquaintances almost without number; the fat books on your library shelves; the music you make or hear at the turn of a dial; the four-legged creatures that add a mute blessing to your life, the unquestioning love and loyalty of your dog, the effortless grace and beauty of your cat.

Would you forget flowers that month in and month out, beautify your garden and your home, bringing color and sweetness and some intangible grace to your eye and heart; would you forget the smell of the earth after rain; the foretaste of snow, under a leaden sky; the quiet loveliness of trees, clothed in summer's green or standing stark and courageous before the north wind.

Would you forget the friendly smiles of children, the unwinking stare of a baby, the joke that goes from person to person, trailing laughter; would you forget moments of solitude, rich in revelation; birds that lead your eye skyward.

All these are ours; food and warmth and sleep.  I think the Angel might tell you to hold them fast, to glory in them to exult in the four winds that blow, meeting each day with fortitude and hope, savoring the taste of each hour to the full. . . . walking the open road that should bring you at least Home."

Source:  Leary, Margaret, OBSERVATIONSThe Pelham Sun, Nov. 22, 1940, Vol. 30, No. 34, p. 2, col. 5.  

Though the Town of Pelham feared the future on Thanksgiving day in 1940 with the winds of war blowing in its future, Pelhamites recognized the many blessings bestowed upon them and gave thanks in celebration.  Seventy-five years later, Pelham is even more blessed and, today, celebrates Thanksgiving with gratitude and homage.  Happy Thanksgiving dear Pelham!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Brutal Winter of 1822 Where Sloops Froze in Place in Waters Off Pelham

Clearly the winter of 1822 was a particularly brutal and cold one in the New York City region.  It was such a memorable winter that more than fifty years later, in 1874, a resident of the region recalled:

"There was no coal used in the City then except the soft coal which blacksmiths used.  Wood was the only fuel, and it was piled as high as the housetops in yards in many parts of the City.  His father, was in the wood business and his supply, which was large, was exhausted in February on account of the cold weather.  A lot of logs lying in the river were bought, hauled out, and cut into wood.  Mr. Sweet remembers that the North River was frozen over for a number of days so that teams crossed on the ice where the ferry-boats now run, and that he rode on a load of wood from the foot of Cortlandt street to Jersey City.  He also recalls the fact that two young men named Harrison and Houghton built a shanty on the ice in the middle of the Hudson River and at the 'Half-way House,' as it was called, sold rum to the passengers for 14 days."

Source:  THE COLD WINTER OF 1822, N. Y. Times, Jan. 5, 1879.  

There are very few records that reflect the impact of the brutal cold of the winter of 1822 in the Town of Pelham.  This is not so surprising when one considers that, according to the United States Census of 1820, there were only about 283 residents in the entire town at about that time with no local newspapers and scant remaining town records.  Yet, there is a fascinating newspaper report that was republished in a newspaper distributed in London, England on February 25, 1822 noting that the unusually-cold weather had frozen at least one sloop in place between City Island and Hart Island in the Town of Pelham in January, 1822.  

It appears from the account that for several days during the week of January 17, 1822, Long Island Sound off the Town of Pelham froze over.  During the time, at least one sloop and perhaps several vessels, were trapped in the ice between City Island and Hart Island in the Town of Pelham.  On about January 23rd, the ice above Hell Gate gave way and a passage opened to allow one of the vessels, the sloop that was trapped between City Island and Hart Island, to make its way to New York City.

The pertinent account stated in full:


We are glad to state, that the passage through the Long Island Sound, which has been obstructed for several days, is again open.  The ice above Hell-gate gave way on Thursday morning, and a passage was open, so that a sloop came through yesterday morning.  The master informs, that this vessel was frozen in between Hart and City Island.  None of the vessels have suffered any damage."

Source:  [Untitled], London Statesman, Feb. 25, 1822, p. 2, col. 2 (access via available link requires paid subscription).  

Detail of 1867 Beers Map Showing Hart Island Shortly
Before John Hunter, Jr. Sold it to New York City.
Source:  Beers, Ellis & Soule, Atlas of New York and
Vicinity From Actual Surveys By and Under the Direction
of F. W. Beers, Assisted by Geo. E. Warner & Others,
p. 7 (Philadelphia, PA: Beers, ellis & Soule, 1867) ("Plans
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Another True Tale of Buried Gold Found in Pelham

Regarding Pelham I have written before:  "Likely due to the storied history of our town, there are a surprising number of legends and stories about buried treasure, forgotten treasure, and found treasure in our region."  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog relates yet another true account of the discovery of buried treasure in our Town.  

I have written about legends and actual discoveries of hidden treasure in and about Pelham on numerous occasions.  For a few examples, see:  

Wed., Sep. 23, 2015:  Yet Another Tale of Buried Treasure in the Town of Pelham.

Thu., Aug. 20, 2015:  Pre-Revolutionary War Pewter Plates Were Discovered in Pelham in 1938.

Mon., Jan. 26, 2015:  Hidden Treasure that Once Belonged to the Father of John Hunter of Hunter's Island in Pelham Found in a Discarded Chest in the 19th Century.

Thu., Feb. 19, 2015:  Another Account of Gold and Silver Treasure Found in a Pelham Manor Backyard in 1889.

Wed., Jun. 11, 2014:  Buried Treasure Off the Shores of Pelham: The Legend of Pirate's Treasure.

Wed., Oct. 14, 2009:  1879 News Account Provides Additional Basis for Some Facts Underlying Ghost Story of Old Stone House in Pelhamville (tells legend that Mrs. James Parish hid gold on the grounds of the home).

Mon., Apr. 06, 2009:  Paper Recounts Burial of the Bell of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester To Save it from the British During the Revolutionary War.

Mon., May 01, 2006:  The Legend of the Recovery of Pirate's Treasure on an Island Off Pelham.

Mon., May 16, 2005:  The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889.

In August, 1884, newspapers in New York City, White Plains, and Mount Vernon were abuzz with a story of found treasure.  That summer, a laborer named James Pine was working at the home of Elisha Guion near Pelham Bridge.  While working in the cellar of Guion's home, Pine was excavating the floor and struck something that seemed metallic.  He brushed away the dirt and unearthed "an old iron pot."  

Pine dug into the pot and discovered treasure!  Inside were "some six hundred dollars in old Spanish gold coin" (nearly $20,000.00 in 2015 dollars).  

Local newspaper accounts about the discovery of the Spanish coins were brief.  Several newspapers, however, reported on the discovery.  Below are such accounts.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

Detail from Engraving Published in 1884 Showing Old Iron
Pelham Bridge.  Source: "PELHAM PARK, NEW YORK. --
Vol. XXVIII, No. 1442, 1884, pp. 514 & 521. NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.  

*          *          *          *          *


While James Pine was working in the cellar of Elisha Guion, at Pelham Bridge, recently he unearthed an old iron pot, containing some six hundred dollars in old Spanish gold coin."

Source:  VICINITY NOTES, Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Aug. 29, 1884, Vol. XL, No. 21, p. 2, col. 3.  

NEW YORK. . . . 

Pelham Bridge.--As James Pine was working in the cellar of Elisha Guion he unearthed an old iron pot, which was found to contain between five and six hundred dollars in old Spanish coin."

Source:  SUBURBAN NEWS -- NEW YORK, The Evening Post [NY, NY], Aug. 19, 1884, Second Edition, p. 1, col. 8.


"Some workmen digging in the cellar of Mr. Guion, at Pelham Bridge, recently, dug up an old iron pot, containing between $500 and $600 in old Spanish coin."

Source:  CITY ISLAND AND PELHAM, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Vol. XV, No. 779, Aug. 22, 1884, p. 3, cols. 3-4.

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