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, February 11, 2016

Was a City Island Hotel Keeper Among the First to Learn of the Great Oyster Bed Discovered in 1859?

The discovery was monumental.  It was compared to the discovery of gold that led to the famous goldmines of Pike's Peak in the west.  It led to a mad rush of people from Rhode Island to Connecticut hoping to get rich quick in the waters between City Island and Huntington, Long Island.  The mad rush has been described as one that rivaled "the Oklahoma Land Run thirty years later when an estimated 50,000 people lined up at high noon on April 22, 1889 competing for their piece of the available two million acres of Federal lands."  

The discovery involved a massive bed of ancient oysters in the waters of Huntington Bay.  It was described in the press as "AN INEXHAUSTIBLE PLACER OF BIVALVES."  The oystermen of City Island were among the first to "mine" the placer.  The oyster bed was so massive and valuable that, tradition says, its discovery and harvesting in 1859 played a role in a massive and violent "oyster war" between the region's oystermen ten years later in 1869.  

There is no doubt that the discovery of the massive oyster bed was a monumental discovery that, eventually, made many oystermen wealthy including City Island oystermen.  Only a few months after word of the discovery leaked out, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported:

"about three-quarters of a million dollars' worth of oysters [NOTE:  Roughly $29,164,000 in 2016 dollars] have been taken without any visible difference in the seemingly inexhaustible beds.  The oysters are nearly all above medium size, and many are very large -- fully up to those often exhibited in oyster saloon windows.  The flavor is equal to any oyster before planting, and they only want a few weeks with fresh water to be equal, if not superior, to any sold in the market."

There are, however, a number of different and competing accounts detailing how the giant oyster bed was discovered.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham blog details two newly-discovered accounts contained in the same article published in 1859 describing how the bed was discovered.

I have written before about the discovery of the "Great Oyster Bed" in Long Island Sound in 1859.  See, e.g.:  

Thu., Mar. 25, 2010:  Discovery of "The Great Oyster Bed" in Long Island Sound in 1859.

Thu., Mar. 18, 2010: 1859 Town of Huntington Record Reflecting Dispute with City Island Oystermen.

Fri., Jul. 27, 2007:  Possible Origins of the Oyster Feud Between City Islanders and Huntington, Long Island

Thu., Jul. 26, 2007:  Pelham's City Island Oystermen Feud with Long Islanders in 1869.

The account transcribed today claims that a well-known City Islander learned of the existence and location of the giant oyster bed in a most unusual way about a year earlier and kept the secret while he quietly harvested oysters to his heart's content.  In 1859, five fishermen from Darien, Connecticut accidentally stumbled onto the bed and agreed to keep it secret.  Unlike the City Islander, however, they could not keep the secret and the mad rush began.

According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in 1858, a steam engine propeller ship sank near Eaton's Neck near Huntington Bay.  In connection with salvage efforts, the owners of the ship hired a diver to inspect the wreck below and report on the results.  When the diver reached the floor of the Sound where the wreck had settled, he found himself and the wreck on an immense "foundation" of live oysters.  He returned to the surface and reported what he had discovered to Charles McClennon of City Island.

Charles McClennon was a well-known proprietor of an important hotel on City Island who later operated The Minnieford Shore House, an early hotel and service establishment located at the steam boat landing on City Island where it could conveniently serve excursionists and visitors from New York City and the surrounding region.  (McClennon was not an oysterman himself.  However, he was known to engage in efforts to collect oysters for his restaurant business so he would not have to pay what he considered to be high prices charged by local oystermen.  See Mon., Dec. 01, 2014:  Jury Finds City Island Oystermen Guilty of Stealing Oysters from Planted Bed in 1878.  

According to the account, McClennon "kept the information to himself for some time, while availing himself of the knowledge" for about a year.  Then, about a year later in September 1859, five fishermen from Darien, Connecticut were fishing near Eaton's Neck.  They found themselves drifting too far from shore and tossed an oyster dredge into the water as a temporary anchor.  When ready to weigh anchor, they began to pull up the dredge only to discover it was heavy -- laden with about two bushels of large oysters.  They repeated the process and filled the dredge again.  They had discovered McClennon's "Great Oyster Bed" and understood its value.  The five men agreed to keep the secret.

Unlike McClennon, however, the five fishermen could not resist telling their fishing tale.  Soon word of the discovery leaked.  Within mere days, oystermen flooded into the area and newspapers along the northeastern seaboard were reporting the discovery.  The "Great Oyster Rush" of 1859 had begun.  Soon, the supposedly "inexhaustible" supply of oysters was exhausted and City Islander hotelier Charles McClennon had to find a new source of oysters. . . . . 

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Transcribed below is the text of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle article asserting that Charles McClennon availed himself of oysters in the Great Oyster Bed in Huntington Bay beginning about a year before its existence became generally known.  The text is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"A GREAT OYSTER DISCOVERY. -- AN INEXHAUSTIBLE PLACER OF BIVALVES ON LONG ISLAND SHORE. -- A discovery almost equal in importance to the Pike's Peak gold mines, has been made in Huntington Bay, L.I., of an immense bed of oysters, at least, five miles long, and capable of furnishing an inexhaustible supply of the much relished bivalves, which have shared the distinguished consideration of Governor Wise.  The people of Northport, and of Fire Island, being severely addicted to oyster dredging, have in former times waged terrible war on each other, for encroaching on their respective territories.  The Fire Islanders, with a commendable desire to be independent of their neighbors for a better supply of oysters, planted seed-beds, and were duly rewarded by a plentiful crop.  But it seems that bivalves, like bipeds, are of an emigrating turn, and starting with a favorable tide, they floated off to 'Long Island's sea girt shore,' into Huntington Bay, and west of Eaton's Neck Reef they found an oyster paradise, a fine cobble stone bottom, and sheltered from the rude elements.  Here the pilgrim fathers of the tribe, the bearded ancestors of the new-formed colony, settled and prospered, increased, multiplied and replenished the waters. -- Like Rasselas, in his happy valley, shut out from the envious world, generation after generation were born to blush unseen, until the bed expanded to proportions quite gigantic, and the 'natives' grew in size and vigor, to rival the offspring of the Virginia femdum.  But in the course of human events, or oyster events, the bed was discovered.  America had its Columbus, the principle of gravitation couldn't escape Newton, and Meriam has unveiled the Aurora Borealis.  About a year ago, a propeller, unable to keep itself above water, selected Eaton's Neck as an eligible point to sink at.  The owners of the propeller sent a diver down after it to see how things stood.  The diver found himself on a foundation of oysters, and when he came to the surface again, reported the fact.  He told Charles McClennon, proprietor of the City Island Hotel, who kept the information to himself for some time, while availing himself of the knowledge, but at last the secret came out.  About two weeks since, five fishermen from Darien, Conn., while fishing off Eaton's Neck, finding themselves drifting out too far, dropped overboard their oyster dredge for an anchor.  When they undertook to weigh anchor, they found it weighed more than expected, and required an expenditure of muscular effort to get it on board.  To their astonishment, they found they had caught about two bushels of large oysters.  They tried again, and weighed anchor once more, with a similar result.  The five lucky men tried tried to keep the secret but couldn't.  It leaked out, and now everybody knows that oysters are in abundance, inlimitable oysters, are to be found in Huntington Bay.  People from Long Island, Connecticut, New York, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey, and other adjacent territories, who can command a scow, and an oyster dredge, are flocking to the bay, and come home laden with the spoils.  It is computed that already about three-quarters of a million dollars' worthy of oysters have been taken without any visible difference in the seemingly inexhaustible beds.  The oysters are nearly all above medium size, and many are very large -- fully up to those often exhibited in oyster saloon windows.  The flavor is equal to any oyster before planting, and they only want a few weeks with fresh water to be equal, if not superior, to any sold in the market."

Source:  A GREAT OYSTER DISCOVERY -- AN INEXHAUSTIBLE PLACER OF BIVALVES ON LONG ISLAND SHORE, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 1, 1859, p. 2, col. 2 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via link).  

Oystermen Dredging in Long Island Sound in 1883.
Source: Harpers Weekly, Aug. 18, 1883.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

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The oystering industry was, for decades, a critically-important economic activity in the Town of Pelham.  Many residents of City Island made their living from the industry or ran businesses that catered to the oystermen.  Accordingly, I have written about Pelham oystering on many, many occasions.  See, e.g.:

Wed., Jun. 24, 2015:  The 1895 Oyster War Involving City Island Oystermen - Part I.

Thu., Jun. 25, 2015:  The 1895 Oyster War Involving City Island Oystermen - Part II.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Slaves Likely Were Held, and Forced to Work, at the Shrubbery, Once Located Near Split Rock Road in Pelham

On February 26, 1790, Aaron Burr purchased a 146-acre farm in Pelham commanded by a mansion that stood near today's "Split Rock Road" and Boston Post Road known as "The Shrubbery".  The home, built in the mid-18th century, was a Pell family homestead owned for many years by Joshua Pell Sr..  The 146-acre tract was part of a larger farm owned by Joshua Pell Sr. the Revolutionary War.  Joshua Pell Sr. had a son, also named Joshua, who served as a British officer in upstate New York during the Revolutionary War. 

During the 1780s New York State's Commissioners of Forfeiture sold the 146-acre tract to Isaac Guion for 988 pounds.  The land had been confiscated from Joshua Pell "Jr." after it was bequeathed to him by his father.

The will of Joshua Pell "Sr." entitled his children to receive monetary legacies when his entire farm (including the 146-acre tract) was divided in half and devised to two of his older sons: Joshua Pell "Jr." (who was entitled to receive the northern half) and Edward Pell (who was entitled to receive the southern half).  

The children of Joshua Pell "Sr." filed a lawsuit in which they were represented by Aaron Burr.  As a consequence of the lawsuit, in 1789 the New York State Treasurer paid Joshua Pell "Jr." 988 pounds in compensation for "wrongful taking" and paid Isaac Guion 125 pounds for his expenses. 

Significantly, in 1790 Aaron Burr bought the very 146-acre tract at issue in the lawsuit. He bought the northern half of Joshua Pell Sr.'s original farm -- the Joshua Pell "Jr." tract -- from Nicholas and William Wright.  He acquired the land subject to the right of dower of Phoebe Pell , the widow of Joshua Pell "Sr."  (For the complete text of this deed, see Wed., Jun. 14, 2006: Text of Deed by Which Aaron Burr Acquired Pelham Lands in 1790.)  Burr soon sold the tract to his step-son, Augustine J. F. Prevost. 

Prevost and his family lived in the home for many years until some time after November 17, 1813.  During that time Prevost was a slaveholder. For example, the U.S. census of 1800 shows that Prevost owned four slaves.  Additionally, manumission records of the Town of Pelham show that in 1807, Prevost manumitted a male slave named Job who was between 21 and 22 years old. The 1810 U.S. census shows that he owned one slave.  

It seems likely that others who owned the home known as the "Shrubbery" before Prevost also owned slaves who worked on the estate.  Joshua Pell, Sr. built The Shrubbery during the 1750s.  Both he and his wife were slaveholders.  

The New York Slave Census of 1755 indicates that Joshua Pell, Sr. owned two slaves.  A record of transfer of ownership shows that Phebe Ward Pell received three slaves from her father.  Moreover, the March 1, 1758 will executed by Joshua Pell, Sr. bequeathed slaves named Michael, Arabella and Hagar to various family members.  It seems likely that some or all of these slaves worked on the estate known as the "Shrubbery." 

It is also possible that Isaac Guion, who owned the estate during much of the 1780s, may have had slaves on the estate.  He was a known slaveholder. It is possible that the reference to “Isaiah Guion” as owner of one slave in the 1790 census is a reference to Isaac Guion, but that has not been established.  

Immediately below is an image of the Shrubbery before it burned in the 1890s.  It seems likely that slaves held by Augustine Frederick Prevost and Joshua Pell, Sr. – perhaps Michael, Arabella and Hagar – trod the floorboards of this 18th century home and worked in the fields and outbuildings that surrounded it.

The Shrubbery, Home of Joshua Pell, Sr., Isaac
Guion, and Augustine J. Frederick Prevost Before
It Burned in the 1890s.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1868 Beers Atlas Map Showing Location of
"THE SHRUBBERY" (Lower Left) Just Off Today's
Boston Post Road in Area Between Today's Split Rock
Road and Today's Boston Post Road.  Source:  Beers,
Atlas of New York and Vicinity from Actual Surveys by and
Under the Direction of F. W. Beers, p. 35 (NY, NY:  Beers
Ellis & Soule, 1868) (NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge).

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I have written on numerous occasions regarding slavery in Pelham.  For examples, though there are many more, see:

Bell, Blake A., Slavery in the Manor of Pelham and the Town of Pelham During the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (paper prepared for and presented to the 28th Annual Conference on New York State History on June 8, 2007).  

Bell, Blake A., Records of Slavery and Slave Manumissions in 18th and 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 27, Jul. 9, 2004.

Thu., Jan. 07, 2016:  The 1790 U.S. Census and What It Reveals About Slavery in Pelham.

Wed., Dec. 16, 2015:  The Will of Joshua Pell Sr. of the Manor of Pelham Dated March 1, 1758.

Tue., Feb. 09, 2010:  1755 Census of Slaves Older than Fourteen in the "Mannour of Pelham."

Mon., Jun. 18, 2007:  Information About Slaves Owned by Joshua Pell, Jr. of the Manor of Pelham.

Tue., Mar. 27, 2007:  1791 Will of Benjamin Guion of the Town of Pelham.

Mon., Mar. 26, 2007:  Will of Elizabeth Guion of the Town of Pelham Made in 1789 and Proved on October 5, 1791.

Thu., Mar. 22, 2007:  Abstract of Will of John Hunt, Owner of Land on "Mineford's Island" in the Manor of Peham Prepared in 1776 and Proved June 17, 1777.

Tue., Mar. 20, 2007:  Abstract of 1768 Will of John Pugsley of the Manor of Pelham, Proved December 31, 1768.

Mon., Mar. 19, 2007:  Abstract of 1768 Will of Caleb Pell of the Manor of Pelham, Proved April 9, 1768.

Fri., Mar. 16, 2007:  Abstract of Will of Thomas Pell of Eastchester, Owner of Lands in Pelham Manor, Prepared in 1753 and Proved in 1754.

Wed., Apr. 12, 2006:  1712 Census of Westchester County Documents Slave Ownership in Pelham

Mon., Apr. 3, 2006:  1805 Will of William Bayley of Pelham Included Disposition of Slaves

Fri., Feb. 17, 2006:  Runaway Slave Notice Published by John Pell in 1748 Comes to Light

Wed., Jul. 19, 2006:  Pelham Manor Runaway Slave Notice in June 30, 1777 Issue of The New-York Gazette; And The Weekly Mercury.

Mon., Jul. 18, 2005: Pelham Manor Runaway Slave Notice in August 29, 1789 Issue of The New-York Packet

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Polo Played in Pelham in 1887

In late 1883, a group of Pelham Manor residents and New York City "club men" organized a new "Country Club" in Pelham Manor dedicated to the enjoyment of all "legitimate sports."  By 1884, the Club had commenced operations in a 34-acre area between Shore Road and the Long Island Sound with a club headquarters in the Italian Villa-style mansion known as "Oakshade" built some forty years earlier by well-known Hudson River School artist David Lydig Suydam.  

I have written extensively of the history of the mansion used by the Country Club as its clubhouse during the 1980s.  See Mon., Mar. 03, 2014:  The Suydam Estate known as “Oakshade” on Shore Road in the Town of Pelham, built by James Augustus Suydam.  

"Oakshade," the Mansion Built by David Lydig Suydam on
Shore Road and Used as the Clubhouse of the Country Club at
Pelham During the 1880s.  Photograph Taken on May 17, 1924.
Source:  William R. Montgomery Glass Negative and Lantern
Slide Collection, Courtesy of the Office of the Historian of the
Town of Pelham.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

At about the time the Country Club of Pelham was founded, the concept of a "country club" was beginning to revolutionize social circles in New York City.  Until the 1880s, most clubs frequented by the elite of New York City were men's clubs located in Manhattan.  During the 1880s, so-called "country clubs" began to spring up throughout the metropolitan region.  These country clubs typically allowed only male members but, unlike the men's clubs in New York City, typically allowed female family members of the club members to use the facilities.  Many of the most notable members of New York Society flocked to such country clubs in the New York City area.

The Country Club at Pelham was one of the earliest such country clubs established near New York City.  It was not a predecessor to today's Pelham Country Club.  To make matters more confusing, the Club was known by many different names including the Pelham Country Club, the Country Club at Pelham, the Country Club, the Westchester Country Club, the Country Club at Westchester, and other names. 

Members of the Country Club at Pelham rode to the hounds, sponsored and competed in steeplechase races, played polo, baseball, tennis, billiards and more.  The Club's great steeplechase races became nationally-renowned and attracted gamblers and spectators from all over the northeast.  I have written extensively about the Pelham Country Club and, particularly, the baseball games and steeplechase races that it sponsored.  (See the lengthy list of links at the end of this posting.)

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an interesting article published in the New York Times on July 10, 1887.  The article describes a polo match played on the Country Club grounds on July 9, 1887 between the Junior team of the Country Club and the Junior team of Essex Country Club of New Jersey.  The match was hard fought with the polo ponies worn out.  It ended with the visiting team beating the Country Club team 2-1.  The match was followed by a lovely dinner in the clubhouse.  The article provides an interesting snapshot of the club and its activities shortly before the facility in Pelham was closed and the Club moved to its new home on Throggs Neck in 1889.

The polo grounds on which the match was played was located on today's fairway adjacent to Shore Road within the Pelham Bay and Split Rock Golf Course complex.  The arrow on the satellite image below shows the approximate location of the club polo grounds on which the match was played in 1887.

Google Maps Satellite Image with Arrow Showing the
Approximate Location of the Polo Grounds on Which
Country Club Matches Were Played in the 1880s.


A match game of polo for a silver cup was played yesterday afternoon on the grounds of the Westchester Country Club, near Bartow, on the Sound. by the the junior teams of the Country Club and the Essex County [sic; should be "Country"] Club, of Orange, N.J.  Mr. E. C. Potter captained the Country Club team, which included Messrs. Major Cooley, Percy Chubb, and Howard Potter.  R. F. Potter was substitute.  All these gentlemen wore bright red shirts, white duck trousers, and shiny riding boots adorned with massive spurs.  The men from Orange wore orange-colored shirts, but their their trousers and boots were like those worn by their opponents.  The Essex County team consisted of Capt. Powers Farr, W. W. Tucker, C. Pfizer, Jr., and Douglas Robinson, Jr., with Robert Sedgewick, substitute.  Mr. H. L. Herbert was referee.

The game was ended in an hour's time, and was played in two innings of 20 minutes each with an intermission for rest between them.  The red shirted champions of the Country Club won the first goal in 13 minutes mainly through the intrepid playing of Percy Chubb, who managed his black pony very cleverly.  Major Cooley and Edward C. Potter, who guarded the goals for the Country Club, also did some very clever work in the way of back hits and short stops.  

The the Orange team went to work and won the second goal in 20 minutes by the headlong velocity of Douglas Robinson, one of the half backs.

The third goal was hotly contested, both teams doing some splendid riding and sharp hitting.  For upward of five minutes it was anybody's game, and the dripping ponies looked as if they wished it would very soon be somebody's.  Then Capt. Powers Farr captured the ball, about midway between the goals, and with a sharp thwack sent it bounding toward Orange and victory, and finally between the stakes, thus securing the day for Orange by a score of 2 to 1.

After the match all hands adjourned to the comfortable clubhouse of the Country Club and had dinner.  Among those who witnessed the sport were Mr. and Mrs. James M. Waterbury, Mrs. Howard N. Potter, Mrs. John Zerega and Miss Zerega, Mr. and Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, Mrs. and the Misses Havemeyer, Miss Belloni, the Misses Thorn, Mrs. Lorillard, Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Dyer, Miss Helen Iselin, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon McDonald, Mr. Jackson, and many others."

Source:  WON BY THE VISITORS -ORANGE (N.J.) POLO PLAYERS BEAT THE COUNTRY CLUB TEAM, N.Y. Times, Jul. 10, 1887, p. 3, col. 3 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

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I have written extensively about The Country Club at Pelham and its famous steeplechase races, rides with the hounds, baseball games, polo matches, and other such events of the 1880's.  For a few of many more examples, see:  

Bell, Blake A., The Pelham Steeplechase Races of the 1880s, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 12, March 25, 2005, p. 10, col. 2.

Thu., Mar. 23, 2006:  Baseball Fields Opened on the Grounds of the Westchester Country Club in Pelham on April 4, 1884.

Tue., Apr. 14, 2009:  1889 Account of the Sport of Riding to Hounds by Members of the Country Club Located in Pelham.

Wed., Apr. 15, 2009:  More About the Country Club Sport of "Riding to Hounds" During the 1880s in Pelham.

Thu., Apr. 16, 2009:  A Serious Carriage Accident and Many Tumbles During the Country Club of Pelham's Riding to Hounds Event in November 1889.

Fri., Apr. 17, 2009:  A Brief History of the Early Years of "Riding to Hounds" by Members of the Country Club at Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 09, 2009:  1884 Engraving of Winner of the Great Pelham Steeplechase, Barometer, and His Owner and Rider, J. D. Cheever

Wed., Sep. 16, 2009:  September 1884 Advertisement for The Country Club Steeplechase.

Thu., Sep. 17, 2009:  Controversy in 1887 When The Country Club Tries to Dedicate a Large Area of Pelham as a Game Preserve.

Wed., Sep. 30, 2009:  Score of June 1, 1887 Baseball Game Between The Country Club and The Knickerbocker Club.

Mon., Oct. 19, 2009:  Polo at the Country Club in Pelham in 1887.

Fri., Oct. 30, 2009:  Preparations for Annual Country Club Race Ball Held in Pelham in 1887.

Thu., Apr. 15, 2010:  Account of Baseball Game Played in Pelham on June 9, 1884: The Country Club Beat the Knickerbockers, 42 to 22.  

Tue., Feb. 25, 2014:  An Interesting Description of the Country Club at Pelham Published in 1884.

Mon., Mar. 03, 2014:  The Suydam Estate known as “Oakshade” on Shore Road in the Town of Pelham, built by James Augustus Suydam.  

Fri., Sep. 12, 2014:  Reference to an 1884 Baseball Game Between the Country Club of Pelham and Calumet.

Fri., Feb. 27, 2015:  Brief History of the 19th Century "Country Club at Pelham" Published in 1889.

Thu., Jul. 16, 2015:  More on the History of the Country Club at Pelham in the 19th Century.

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Laying of the Cornerstone of the First Manor Club Clubhouse on Thanksgiving Day in 1887

The Manor Club, located at 1023 Esplanade in Pelham Manor, is a cultural, civic and social club for women. Although it had its beginnings in the 1870s, it was not organized formally until January 10, 1882. 

The precise origins of the club, unfortunately, are shrouded in the mist of time. Some believe that in 1878, only five years after the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association formed to develop the area, a few local residents began gathering socially in local homes. This group, with no organizational structure, is believed to have evolved into the Manor Club. See The Manor Club, THE HISTORY OF THE MANOR CLUB, p. 6 (Pelham Manor, NY: 1973).  See also Barr, Lockwood Anderson, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as the Lordshipp & Manour of Pelham Also The Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, pp. 160-61 (The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

Despite such humble beginnings, what these early residents of Pelham Manor crafted has since become a social and cultural force in Pelham. 

The “Reorganization” of the Club in 1882 

On January 10, 1882, “the greater part of the residents” of Pelham Manor gathered at the home of Mr. E.E. Hitchcock.  See id.  Their purpose was to “reorganize” the Manor Club which, for some unknown reason, “had formally been disbanded at a meeting held December 9, 1881” according to the minutes of the January 10 meeting.  Id.  A history of the club published in 1973 says that during the “reorganizational” meeting: 

“a constitution and by-laws were drawn up and unanimously adopted. Mr. John H. Dey, temporary chairman of the meeting, appointed a committee to nominate the officers of the new club and said officers were elected by acclamation. This new constitution provided that the offices of vice president and treasurer must be filled by ladies.”  Id.  

Early meeting minutes suggest that the club held monthly meetings in various members’ homes. Entertainment included recitations, singing and – even as early as 1882 – simple plays such as “a serio-comic representation of Oscar Wilde’s Dream”.  Id.   

Efforts to Influence School Elections Prompted Creation of a Clubhouse 

There is a fascinating story about the origins of the Manor Club’s first clubhouse. According to William Barnett, a member of the original Club and an early Club historian, it seems that Pelham Manor residents were unhappy with their lack of influence in local school affairs.  They decided to acquire lands, erect a clubhouse and give all members a "freehold interest" in order to qualify all members (including women) to vote as property owners during school elections.  

It appears that residents of Pelhamville (the area north of the New Haven line) dominated school affairs. In the fall of 1882, residents of Pelham Manor supported one of their own, Mr. George H. Reynolds, as a candidate for the school board. At about this time, it was “suggested that lands be purchased under the auspices of the Club and freehold interest conveyed therein to each member, in this way qualifying all members (including the ladies) to vote at school elections.”  Id., p. 7.  

In effect, Pelham Manor residents had formed a plan to stuff the ballot box in school elections. To implement that plan, however, they needed a large number of landowners. Common ownership of land set aside for a new clubhouse seemed to be the perfect solution. According to a history of the Club prepared by Mrs. Earle E. Bradway: 

"In May 1883 the Club voted to purchase, for three hundred dollars, two lots of land on the Esplanade, numbers 161 and 162. In order to effectuate the object of the purchase, it was desirable that an incorporate institution should first take title to the land from Mrs. [Robert C.] Black and then convey undivided interests therein to the voters. Accordingly, Mr. Robert C. Black, Mr. John H. Dey, Mr. W.R. Lamberton, Mr. George H. Reynolds and Mr. G. Osmar Reynolds signed and filed articles of association under the provisions of an Act of the Legislature passed in 1875, and on the 28th day of May 1883 became incorporated under the name of the Manor Club. This incorporated club in June 1883 took title to the land referred to and carried out the intention of the purchase by conveying life interests to the several members of the old Manor Club.”  Id.

Example of One of Many Deeds Issued as Part of
the Manor Club's Scheme to Stuff the School Elections
Ballot Box.  (Page 01 of 02)  By This Deed the Manor
Club Conveyed to One of Its Members, Henry Dey,
"During the Term of his Natural Life, One Undivided
One-Hundredth Part" of Two Lots Owned by the Manor
Club.  Source:  Manor Club "Memory Book."
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Second Page of Deed Granted to Henry Dey as Part of
the Manor Club's Scheme to Stuff the School Elections
Ballot Box.  (Page 02 of 02)  Source:  Manor Club 
"Memory Book."  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge. 

At a meeting of the club held on June 7, 1883, members voted to build a permanent clubhouse.  Mrs. Robert C. Black, whose family founded the settlement and owned large swaths of land in the area, donated a lot on the Esplanade as the site for the new clubhouse.  

During the summer of 1887, the Club raised $10,000 by subscription to fund construction of the new clubhouse.  Club members selected Pelham resident F. Charles Merry as the architect. He designed a lovely shingle-style building with a large auditorium in the center and a deep “piazza” (porch) that surrounded nearly the entire building. 

The Laying of the Cornerstone of the First Clubhouse in 1887

On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1887, a crowd gathered for the laying of the cornerstone of the Manor House, the new clubhouse. The Order of Exercises for the ceremony suggests that those who participated believed that they were shaping the history of their village – three of the speakers addressed the following topics: “History of Pelham Manor”, “The Early History of The Manor Club”, and “The Later History of The Manor Club”.  See Order of Exercises at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Manor House at Pelham Manor, N.Y., on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1887 At 10 o’clock, A.M. (Handbill in Memory Book of the Manor Club). Construction proceeded smoothly and the new clubhouse opened in June 1888.

A brief announcement of the cornerstone laying appeared in one New York City newspaper.  The reference read as follows:


New York.


The Manor Club of Pelham Manor, in Westchester County, is erecting a very picturesque and substantial club-house to be called the Manor House, from plans furnished by Mr. F. Carles Merry.  The material is the rough stone found upon the place, and it has been treated in a simple but very effective manner.  The Club subscribed $10,000 for building purposes during the summer, and broke ground this fall.  Yesterday the corner-stone was laid by Mrs. Robert C. Black with appropriate ceremonies."

Source:  SUBURBAN NEWS. . . . New York.  A NEW CLUB-HOUSE AT PELHAM, The Evening Post [NY, NY], Nov. 25, 1887, p. 3, col. 5.  

Immediately below is the program entitled "ORDER OF EXERCISES" provided at the laying of the cornerstone of the Manor Club clubhouse on November 24, 1887.  Below the image I have transcribed the text of the program.

Corner-Stone of the Manor House, At PELHAM MANOR,
10 O'Clock, A.M."  Source:  Manor Club "Memory Book."
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

"ORDER OF EXERCISES AT THE LAYING OF THE Corner-Stone of the Manor House, At PELHAM MANOR, N.Y. ON THANKSGIVING DAY, NOV. 24, 1887, At 10 O'Clock, A.M.

1.  INVOCATION, by the Rev. Charles Higbee, Rector of Christ Church.
2.  CONGRATULATORY REMARKS,.....Mr. Henry W. Taft, President.
4.  HISTORY OF PELHAM MANOR,.......Mr. David M. Johnson.
5.  THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE MANOR CLUB,.......Rev. Henry Randall Waite.
7.  THE LATER HISTORY OF THE MANOR CLUB,.......Mr. Wm. E. Barnett.

[NOTE. -- Should the weather prove stormy or chilly, the proceedings up to this point will take place at the residence of Mr. Dey -- the procession thence proceeding to the site of the Manor House for the purpose of laying the corner-stone.  The architect, Mr. F. Carles Merry, will supervise any arrangements necessary at the building.)


9.  LAYING OF THE CORNER-STONE,.......Mrs. Robert C. Black.
10.  POEM,............Mr. Wm. Allen Smith.
12.  VOLUNTEER REMARKS, as may be invited by the President.
13.  THE LORD'S PRAYER, AND BENEDICTION, Rev. D. N. Freeland, Pastor of the Huguenot Memorial Church.

Mr. Charles F. Roper and Mr. Wm. Allen Smith have kindly consented to take charge of the singing.  

All former and present members of the Club, any residents of the Manor, and all to whom this Order of Exercises is addressed, are cordially invited to be present on this occasion.

By order of the Board of Directors,

                                     }  Committee.
JOHN H. DEY              )

NEW YORK, Nov. 21st, 1887."

The new Manor House that opened in June 1888 was two stories in height plus a basement.  The building was eighty feet by sixty-five feet.  On the first floor was the "Main Room," 30 x 32 feet with a stage that was sixteen feet deep and with an inglenook (a fireplace corner) on the south side of the room, 7 x 16 feet.   The first floor also included a billiard room, 16 x 28 feet, a card room, 16 x 20 feet, and:  a gentleman's dressing room, a "green room," kitchen, and pantries.  The second floor included a ladies' dressing room, a stage dressing room and gallery.  In the basement there was a bowling alley.  See COUNTY NEWS, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Jun. 23, 1888, Vol. XLIV, No. 12, p. 3, cols. 3-4.  


Though the original Manor House of the Manor Club was razed to make room for today's clubhouse opened in 1922, the original Manor House cornerstone laid by Mrs. Robert C. Black on November 24, 1887 with its time capsule contents remains part of the building today.

Image of the Manor Club's "Manor House" Taken as a Detail
from an Engraved Membership Certificate (No. 11) Issued to
Mr. Robert C. Black on February 24, 1888.  Source:  Manor
Club "Memory Book."  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Photograph of the Manor Club's "Manor House" Published
in 1892.  Source:  Manor Club "Memory Book."  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written about the Manor Club and its history on a number of occasions.  See, e.g.:  

Bell, Blake A., Early History of the Manor Club, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 20, May 14, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

Tue., Dec. 13, 2005:  The Manor Club's First Clubhouse Built in 1887-1888

Wed., Dec. 28, 2005:  The Mystery of the "Manor Club Girl" That Set Pelham Tongues Wagging in 1913

Fri., Aug. 4, 2006:  Early Images of the Original and Current Clubhouse Structures of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor, New York.

Mon., Feb. 15, 2010:  Early History of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor.

Thu., Sep. 25, 2014:  The Manor Club's Celebration of its Golden Anniversary in 1932.

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