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, April 24, 2014

Information About the History of Fire Departments in the Town of Pelham Published in 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 described the two fire districts that served the Town at that time as well as the fire fighting units within those fire districts.  The article provides excellent insight into the nature of fire fighting in our Town shortly before the onset of the Great Depression.  The text of the article is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.

Two Special Districts Are Protected by Four Large Companies
New Fire Headquarters Soon to Be Erected On Fifth Avenue

For reasons of safety and convenience, the Pelhams are divided to form two fire districts.  One district includes the village of North Pelham.  The village of Pelham Manor forms fire district 3.

There are three companies in the first fire-district, namely:  the Relief Hook and Ladder company 1, Liberty Engine and Hose Company 1 and Hose Company 2.  Each company has a piece of up-to-date fire apparatus.  Two of these pieces are shown in the doorways of the fire headquarters on Fifth avenue, North Pelham, in a picture reproduced elsewhere in this section.  There is also shown in this edition, a picture taken years ago, of the old fire headquarters which now forms only a rear wing of the present building.  The board of fire commissioners, with A.G.C. Fletcher, Pelham architect, are now studying the final sketches for the new $100,000 firehouse on Fifth avenue, North Pelham, on the plot adjoining the present headquarters, which will be demolished as soon as the new building is erected.

Construction is expected to start early this year on the new headquarters.  With the increase in number of apartment houses in the first fire district, there has been talk among the fire commissioners regarding the coming necessity of an aerial truck for the fire department.  While this is a possible development for the future, the commissioners are taking precautions at the present time, by cooperating with the building department in the matter of providing ample fire escape facilities in large apartments.  

The board of fire commissioners meets at the North Pelham headquarters at the North Pelham headquarters every month, following company meetings.  Dr. Walter H. Brundage is chairman of the board, assisted by the following other officers:  Louis F. Edinger, secretary; Frederick Head, clerk; William F. Dollny, treasurer, and John F. Larkin, Louis F. Edinger, Walter B. Caffrey, and Harold W. Davis, fire commissioners.

The popularity of Fire Chief Dominic Amato is shown by the fact that he was elected unanimously to that post without the formality of having acted previously as a deputy chief.  Chief Amato, who has been a member of the Pelham fire department for nine years, was formerly second lieutenant of the Hook and Ladder company for four years, and first lieutenant for two years.  He has figured in two rescues at fires, the latest being that of his aged father-in-law, the late Julius Winter, in the recent fire at the Bloom building on Fifth avenue, North Pelham.  There are now 150 volunteer firemen and two paid drivers in the department, which has made great progress in the past year.

Joseph Carraher is first deputy chief of the first district department, and Robert Young, second deputy.  The officers of the Relief Hook and Ladder company are:  Charles Foster, president; James W. Caffrey, vice-president, William Dollny, treasurer; Henry Velon, recording secretary; William Hamilton, financial secretary; John Roggaveen, captain; William Carson, first lieutenant; Edward Sims, second lieutenant.  

The following are the officers of the Liberty Engine and Hose company:  William Hartwell, president; William Reilly, vice-president; Anthony Adamo, recording secretary; James Black, financial secretary; Robert Powers, treasurer; John Amato, captain; Robert Powers, first lieutenant; Edward Lange, second lieutenant; William Daull, sergeant-at-arms.

The Pelham Hose company 2 officers are:  J.C. Peck, captain and president; B.D. Jennings, lieutenant; Roy Passmore, secretary and treasufer.

The Pelham Manor fire headquarters and apparatus are also shown in a picture in this special Pelham section.  The apparatus is the newest, and the headquarters is part of the Pelham Manor village hall, a modern and handsome structure.  This department was organized 53 years ago, and since that time has passed from the fire-bucket stage, to its present up-to-date state.  Henry E. Dey, now tax collector for the town of Pelham, had much to do with the early firemanic history of the Manor fire department.  General departmental affairs are now handled by Village Trustee Elliot C. House, fire commissioner.  Cornelius Hickey is department treasurer.

Although there are two pieces of apparatus, consisting of the ladder truck and the pumper, there is but one company, the Pelham Manor Engine company 1, whose members man both pieces.

Anthony Galati is now serving in his second year as chief of the fire department, having been a member of the department for the past 17 years.  Charles B. Clark is first deputy chief, and John Flanagan, second deputy.  The company officers are:  S.J. Fisher, captain; William Templeton, first lieutenant; Arthur Fawcett, second lieutenant; Clyde Howes, president; A.R. Fawcett, secretary; Burgess B. Fields, treasurer.

A firemen's benevolent organization, the Pelham Firemen's association, was organized in the Pelhams on January 21, 1911.  The present membership consists of 85 men, who receive compensation according to the rules laid down by the organization.  The officers are:  John B. Clegg, present; M. J. Murphy, vice-president; William Dollny, financial secretary; Louis Epple, treasurer; Irving J. Wallach, secretary.  The directors of the association are J.B. Clegg, M.J. Murphy, H. King, William Dollny, William Edinger, I.J. Wallach, Dominic Amato, Stephen Ryan, and Louis Epple.

Baseball and basketball are among the activities engaged in by the Pelham first district firemen.  Last summer's baseball team was one of the leading teams in the county, and the basketball team this season bids fair to take county honors, having won 16 games and lost 5 to date.  In addition to the regular Friday night game on the North Pelham fire hall court, the Pelham firemen's quintet has played as many as four outside games in one week.  The firemen are leading contenders for the county championship, and the Pelham juniors have maintained a splendid record, in their preliminary contests on the local court.  Abe Zernoski and William Feilly are managers of the firemen's quintet."

Source:  PELHAMS FINE FIRE SERVICE, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 19, 1927, Special Pelham Section, p. 8, cols. 1-2.  

Fire Headquarters in Village of North Pelham, 1913.
Source: The Pelham Sun, 1913.

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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.

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.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Philip B. Schuyler and the Burning of the Schuyler Homestead in What Once was Part of Pelham in 1895

Philip B. Schuyler of the Town of Pelham was a grandson of General Philip John Schuyler of Revolutionary War fame.  He was the only child of John Bradstreet Schuyler and Elizabeth Van Rensaelaer Schuyler and inherited his grandfather's and father's famed estate in Old Saratoga, New York (i.e., Schuylerville).  

Philip B. Schuyler was born in Albany, New York on October 26, 1788 and died in Pelham on February 12, 1865.  Philip B. Schuyler married Grace Hunter, sister of John Hunter of Hunter's Island.  The couple lived for many years in the spectacular Schuyler home in Saratoga, New York until the Financial Panic of 1837 ruined Philip B. Schuyler.  He was forced to sell the family estate.  Thereafter he served for a time as the U.S. Consul in Liverpool, England until he was recalled in 1842.  He then settled with his wife in a beautiful brick mansion that he and his wife had built on what is known as "West Neck" not far from Bartow Station on the west side of the New Haven Branch Line tracks on which the Bartow Station sat.  While living in Pelham, Schuyler worked to rebuild his fortune through real estate investing.  Philip B. Schuyler and his wife, Grace, were friends of such notables as General Lafayette and U.S. President Martin Van Buren.  

Grace Hunter Schuyler died in the home on West Neck on December 24, 1855.  Philip B. Schuyler died in the home on February 12, 1865.  The home remained occupied by Schuyler family members until about the late 1880's or the early 1890's when it was abandoned.  The home burned to the ground in the early morning hours on Wednesday, November 6, 1895.

Detail of 1881 Map of the Town of Pelham Showing
The Schuyler Estate and Mansion at Lower Left of Detail.
Source:  Bromley, George Washington & Bromley, Walter Scott, 
"Town of Pelham, (With) Pelham-Manor. (From Actual
Surveys and Official Records by G.W. Bromley & Co., Civil Engineers,
Published by Geo. W. & Walter S. Bromley, 1881)" in Atlas of Westchester
County, New York, From Actual Surveys and Official Records, Pp. 56-57
(Washington, D.C.: G.W. Bromley & Co. 1881).

Philip B. Schuyler, 19th Century Resident of Pelham.
Source:  Brandow, John Henry, The Story of Old Saratoga and 
History of Schuylerville, pp. 305 
(Albany, NY:  Fort Orange Press - Brandow Printing Company, 1900). 

Grace Hunter Schuyler, Wife of Philip B. Schuyler 
and 19th Century Resident of Pelham.
Source:  Brandow, John Henry, The Story of Old Saratoga and 
History of Schuylerville, p. 303
(Albany, NY:  Fort Orange Press - Brandow Printing Company, 1900).

Below is a brief biography of Philip B. Schuyler published in 1900.  It is quoted in full, followed by a citation to its source.


Philip Schuyler, 2d, was seven years of age when his father, John Bradstreet [Schuyler], died.  His grandfather, the General, was appointed his guardian, who first placed him in a school on Staten Island, under the charge of Dr. Moore, afterwards Bishop of Virginia, and later he was sent to Columbia College.  During his collegiate course he lived in New York, and for part of the time in the family of his talented uncle, Alexander Hamilton; a rare privilege, that, for a young man in the formative period of his life.

Philip Schuyler, 2d, selected for his wife Miss Grace Hunter, sister of Hon. John Hunter, of Hunter's Island, N.Y.  They were married in New York, September 12th, 1811.  She was a beautiful and lovable woman, and she willingly left the charms of city life for the quiet scenes and more romantic life in the old historic home at Saratoga.[Footnote 135 - '135  Most of the above facts relating to J. Bradstreet, and Philip Schuyler, 2nd, were taken from the Schuyler MSS., in possession of Miss Fanny Schuyler, of Pelham-on-Sound.']

Being an only child, Philip inherited so much of the Saratoga estate as fell to his father, which ran for three miles along the Hudson River.  He also inherited from his father and grandfather a large measure of their public spirit, which manifested itself through an active interest in anything that tended to promote the public welfare, multiply common luxuries for the people, or increase the comforts of living.  He was an enthusiastic promoter of inland navigation, or the canal projects, which so stirred the public mind of this State from 1807 to 1825, at which latter date both the Champlain and Erie canals had been completed.  

It was through his influence that the great canal basin was built at Schuylerville and also the slip or back-set from the basin to the rear of the mills; and to guard against the evils of stagnant water he obtained a perpetual grant to tap the end of the slip and use the water for running a mill; the sawmill now operated by Mr. G. Edward Laing gets its power from this source.  This is the only place where the State allows water to be drawn from the canals to furnish power for a private enterprise.  This franchise was secured not only for sanitary reasons, but as part pay for the right to pass through Mr. Schuyler's estate.

He early became interested in cotton manufacture, and erected here at Schuylerville the second cotton mill in the State of New York -- the old Horicon, which still stands, though somewhat enlarged, as a monument to his enterprise.  

In 1822 his fellow citizens sent him to represent them as Assemblyman in the New York Legislature.  

Philip Schuyler, 2d, and his charming wife maintained the ancient family reputation for hospitality.  So long as a Schuyler lived here open house was kept for every one who could formulate a decent excuse for crossing their threshold.  During the summer season the old house was usually thronged with guests from everywhere, among which were sure to be a goodly sprinkling of notables of every type.


Perhaps during the whole stretch of the nineteenth century the Schuyler mansion was never more highly honored than by the visit of the marquis de Lafayette, the friend of Washington, the one Frenchman who made the greatest sacrifices for American liberty.  On his last visit here, in 1824, he was voted the nation's guest, and was everywhere lionized and feted as no foreigner since has been.  Though it was quite out of his way, he could not resist turning aside to visit the old Saratoga home of General Schuyler, whom he had greatly loved, and the scene of the humiliation of one proud army of France's ancient foe.

Such details of this interesting visit have been preserved we here give verbatim from a manuscript in possession of Miss Fanny Schuyler of Pelham-on-Sound, N.Y., a daughter of Philip Schuyler, 2d. 136 [Footnote 136:  'The facts which the MSS. preserve were given to her by her eldest sister, Ruth, now, 1900, 88 years of age.']  

'The general came in the coach-and-four which my father had sent to convey him from the town beyond.  His son, who was with him, had a round face and wore gold spectacles.  His secretary and another gentleman filled a second carriage.  Lafayette received the villagers, who had assembled on the lawn in front of the house, with very courteous bows, and spoke some appreciative words. 

'Being greatly fatigued from his journey, Lafayette was shown into the guest chamber (on the southeast corner, first floor) where, having stretched himself on the bed, he slept for several hours.  After a collation was served, and before his departure, he stepped to the sideboard, and while resting one arm on its polished surface, with the other poured a glass of Madeira, which he drank to the health of 'the four generations of Schuylers he had known' -- the fourth generation was represented by his hosts three little daughters (Ruth, Elizabeth and Grace).  Just as he was about to depart, Lafayette lifted little Grace Schuyler up in his arms and kissed her.  Afterwards, being asked how she liked General Lafayette, she said:  'I don't like that man, 'his face pricked me.' ' 137  [Footnote 137:  '137  The above-mentioned mahogany brass-mounted sideboard, together with the high-post bedstead on which Lafayette slept, are now in possession of the family, at Pelham-on-Sound, in the house occupied by Miss Fanny Schuyler there, as are also many other interesting pieces of furniture once used by Gen. Philip Schuyler, including a mirror, which is known to have reflected the faces of most of the Revolutionary notables, among which may be mentioned General Burgoyne and his suite; also General Schuyler's silver spurs, pocket sun-dial, gold pen and pencil case, double-cased gold-embossed watch, silver-mounted pistol -- all used in his military campaigns.  A high, mahogany hall clock, French white marble and gilt parlor clock, white silk vest, embroidered in gilt thread, etc., are also in possession of the family there.']


Quite early in the century Saratoga Springs became the most popular, indeed the one fashionable watering place in America.  Thither the blooded aristocracy, the merchant princes, the leaders in fashion and politics, flocked from all parts of the States.  One of the most popular drives in those days for those who had the entree of the mansion was from the Springs to Old Saratoga (Schuylerville).

Dinner parties were frequently given here by the Schuylers at the then fashionable hour of three or four o'clock;  the guests returning to the Springs in the early evening.  Among such, one might mention Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, who had become a warm personal friend of Philip Schuyler, 2d, accompanied by his popular son, 'Prince John,' as he was then called.


But changes came to the old homestead [in Saratoga] at last.  Perhaps the worst financial panic in our nation's history was that of 1837.  Commerce and manufactures were prostrate; hundreds of wealthy mercantile houses in every quarter of the country suddenly found themselves bankrupt, and the crash was consummated when the banks universally suspended specie payments.  Philip Schuyler, like thousands of others, was caught in this financial whirlwind and swamped.  To meet his obligations, the ancestral estate was sold.

President Van Buren ere long, having need of a man of Schuyler's calibre in an important position, unsolicited, sent him as consul to the port of Liverpool, England.  No better selection could have been made, if we can accept the judgment of the English press.  For example, the Liverpool Courier of June 1, 1842, has this to say, when it became known that Mr. Schuyler had been recalled:

'Among other removals we regret to announce that of Philip Schuyler, Esq., the late consul of this port.  The United States never had, nor never can have, a more efficient officer than that gentleman to represent their great nation; for besides the official capacities which are indispensable to the fulfillment of the multifarious duties of a consulate, he possessed in an eminent degree the no less necessary and agreeable faculty of ingratiating himself into the respect and esteem of our people.  Circumstances led us on several occasions to know these facts, and we feel it our duty, as it is our pleasure, to record them.'

He was recalled by President Tyler for purely party reasons, and that after he had been orally assured by him that he would be retained at the post.  

After his return from England, Mr. Schuyler was at one time on the point of repurchasing his old home and returning to Schuylerville [i.e., Old Saratoga]; but as their son John was in New York preparing for college, Mrs. Schuyler preferred to remain near him and so the project was abandoned.  They finally built a new house on a fine site, including seventy acres of land, at Pelham-on-Sound, a favorite residence of New Yorkers, and within easy distance of the city.  

As an indication that he retained an undying affection for the home of his fathers and the scenes of his boyhood, and that he was held in highest esteem by his neighbors, we here insert a paragraph from a letter of one of his daughters to the writer:

'One of my childish remembrances is a visit with my father to Schuylerville, on his return from England, when an ovation was tendered him in the evening, a serenade given and speeches made by the leading men of the place.  And there, surrounded by his early friends, and many of his former stalwart workmen, as he stood among them once more the tears coursed down his face, as well as down many other faces about him.  On another occasion, when present there, as one of the committee, with the Hon. Hamilton Fish, to select the position for the Saratoga monument, his son-in-law, Charles de Luze, Esq., of New York, who was also present, again saw him brushing away tears as he gazed over the old familiar scenes of his childhood.'

The departure of the Schuylers was an irreparable loss to the commercial, social and religious interests of Schuylerville.  In short, we have ever since had 'Hamlet' with Hamlet left out. 138  [Footnote 138:  '138  Grace Hunter, wife of Philip Schuyler, 2nd, died at Pelham-on-Sound, December 24, 1855.  Philip Schuyler died at the same place, February 12, 1865.']"

Source:  Brandow, John Henry, The Story of Old Saratoga and History of Schuylerville, pp. 302-310 (Albany, NY:  Fort Orange Press - Brandow Printing Company, 1900).  

The home that Philip B. Schuyler and his wife Grace Hunter Schuyler built 
A Fine Structure It Was, Built in the Style of the Olden Time.

The old brick mansion in Pelham Bay Park, which was owned and occupied by the late Philip Schuyler, grandson of Philip Schuyler of Revolutionary times, was burned Wednesday morning before daylight.  The place was commonly known as the old Schuyler homestead.  It was on property that belongs to the City of New York.

The house was large and mansively built of brick.  It was very handsomely finished inside.  It had been unoccupied of late years and the gutters had become leaky and the piazzas dilapidated.

The house stood a little way from Bartow station on the Suburban branch of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.  It was built on the site of the old house occupied by John Pell [NOTE:  No evidence this is accurate], grandson of John Lord Pell.  The locality is known as West Neck, a narrow strip of land rising from Pelham Bay on one side and salt meadows in the other side.  

The house burned like tinder and made a fine show for a few moments.  Showers of sparks rose high above the oak groves and burning embers were sucked up by the draught and fell, still blazing, among the trees.  The entire scene was pictured in the waters of the bay.  The park policeman who discovered the fire was powerless to do anything, and watched the old house burn.

The portions of the brick walls left standing show their peculiar structure.  Every other course of bricks was laid with the ends of the bricks outward.  This mode of building was common many years ago.  The Pell house, which stood originality on the site of the Schuyler house, was moved back a long time ago and turned into a stable.  There are fifty-six buildings in Pelham Bay Park.  There is but one policeman to look after the entire property at night.  The origin of this fire is not known."

Source:  SCHUYLER HOMESTEAD BURNED, New Rochelle Pioneer [New Rochelle, NY], Nov. 9, 1895, Vol. XXXV, No. 33, p. 5, col. 1.  See also OLD SCHUYLER HOMESTEAD BURNED, N.Y. Times, Nov. 7, 1895 (nearly identical text).  

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Story of the "Great White Hurricane" that Struck Pelham and Surrounding Regions in 1888

The Great Blizzard of 1888, also known as the Great White Hurricane, was a monumentally-devastating nor'easter by which Americans who lived in the northeast measured their lives ever after:  time before the Great Blizzard or time after the Great Blizzard.  

I have written about the Great White Hurricane before.  For examples, see:  

Thu., Mar. 13, 2014:  The Great Blizzard of 1888 in Pelham: 126 Years Ago Yesterday and Today.

Thu., Feb. 20, 2014:  Pelham Manor in 1883 and in its Early Years - Recollections of An Early Pelham Manor Resident.

Tue., Feb. 14, 2006:  An Account of the Blizzard of 1888 by Pelham Manor Resident Henry W. Taft.

Bell, Blake A., The Blizzard of 1888: Pelham in the Midst Of the 'Great White Hurricane', The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 34, Aug. 27, 2004, p. 9, col. 1.

Only Known Photograph of The Little Peanut Train
on the Branch Line. Photograph Taken Several Days
After the March 12, 1888 Storm. Photo Courtesy of 
The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Perhaps nothing can demonstrate the ferocity of the massive storm more than an account published in 1895 of the plight of poor soldiers stationed on Davids Island only hundreds of yards off the shores of Pelham and New Rochelle on the brutal night that the blizzard began.  The Officer of the Day refused to take pity and forced sentinels to walk their posts that horrible night.  Men nearly died.  Others lost their way trying to walk only hundreds of feet in efforts to relieve their comrades because the blinding snow made it impossible to see.  One man hoping to make it to the Officer of the Day to beg him to allow the sentinels to shelter nearly walked straight into the sea and had to return because he could not find his way a few hundred feet.

The account is a stark reminder of the brutality of the massive nor'easter.  The entire account is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.  

Bravery of Army Recruits During the Big Blizzard.

There is a hitherto untold story of the great blizzard which struck the Eastern states in the spring of 1888.  That storm was severe enough to overcome and kill a man in the sheltered streets of New York within fifty feet of his own doorstep.  This story has to do with the suffering and heroism of the members of the recruit guard at the government depot on Davids Island, New York harbor.

It was this wildest night on record in those parts, and the little unprotected island, given over to the government use as a recruiting depot, felt the force of the storm as did no other place on the seaboard.  

It had been the mildest kind of day.  The sentinel on the porch of the old frame guard house had dropped his overcoat and had buckled his belt and cartridge-box about his blouse.

Larks were singing in the strip of grass beyond the library, and robins piped in the pines by the Commandant's quarters.  At retreat parade it was growing cold, but the sun was clear in setting and touched with its beams the flag as it fell from the pole's head at gun fire.  At tattoo, 9 o'clock, it was snowing, and a gale was coming in in straight from the Sound from the east and the waves were beginning to pound the beach.  The first relief was posted, the chain of sentinels extending around the edge of the island from the guard house to the big coal sheds on the dock that pointed out toward Starin's Glen Island.  It takes ten minutes to post the Sentinel on Davids Island under ordinary circumstances.  The posting corporal returned and told Sergeant 'Billy' Pulshon, who had served from a time to which no soldiers memory ran, that it was going to be a wild night.  When the time came two hours later to post the second relief the gale had increased and was sweeping the island with fury, while the Sound was seething and  was hurling great waves on the rocks back of the barracks on the sandy beach above.

The corporal of the second relief managed to get his men posted in half an hour.  Then Sergeant Pulshon floundered through the already deep snow to the quarters of the Officer of the Day and asked permission to give orders that the sentinels might seek such shelter on their posts as they could find.  The officer looked out of the window.  A heavy porch and some big trees gave shelter to the place.  'Let them walk their posts,' he said, 'they can stand it.'  The Sergeant managed to get back to the guard.  At midnight it was a question whether or not the buildings would stand the storm's strength.  Every exposed light on the island had been blown out.  The guard house was full of snow, which came in through the window cracks.  The men were sleeping in wet blankets.  At 1 o'clock the corporal of the third relief called his men.  Outside one could see nothing, and the mingled roar of waters and howling of gale drowned all other sounds.  The relief formed in the hallway.  The Sergeant said:

'Corporal, I'll make another appeal to the Officer of the Day.  These men should be sheltered.'

He left the guard house, but in five minutes was back.

'I nearly walked into the sea,' he said.  'If it had not been for the light I never could have gotten back.'  

The Corporal turned to his relief and said:

'We must relieve the men on post.  You take what shelter you can find.  Exposure in this storm means death.'

There were eight men all told in relief.  They fell in in 'column of files' and left the guard house.  Once out from under the shelter of the porch the wind struck the members of the detail and bore its burden of snow full in their faces.  The Corporal could not see his command, so black was the night.  The soldiers were in momentary danger of piercing one another with their bayonets, their pieces being at 'secure arms.'  The Corporal ordered a halt and made his men unfix bayonets, come to a 'trail arms,' and then clasp hands.  He took the hand of the front file himself and led the way.  He headed as nearly as he could judge for the post of No. 7, back of D. Company barracks.  The distance was not more than 200 feet, but in the bewilderment of the blizzard the leader took his command to a bathhouse on the beach 150 yards from the place where the devoted sentinel stood awaiting relief.  New bearings were taken and an old soldier, who had recently re-enlisted and who was one of the relief, was brought to the front and, putting his head with that of the Corporal, a new direction was taken.  This time they found No. 7.  He was on the verge of being overcome, but was pluckily sticking to his post.  It is customary for each relieved sentinel to fall in and march with the relief until all his companions have been relieved, but the condition of No. 7 was such that it was necessary to return at once to the guard house with him, and the journey back, after posting the new man was undertaken.  The man had to be half carried and by the time warmth was reached he sank down utterly exhausted.  Hot coffee and a rubbing brought him around.  

The third relief started out again and headed for the hospital.  This building backs on the exposed east beach of the island, along which was the beat of Sentinel No. 6.The storm was from the east and this post caught its unbroken fury.  The sentinel was supposed to patrol the beach at the water's edge for its entire length of 400 feet.  When the relief finally managed to reach the hospital the men felt for the first time the full power of the storm.  As they came from the building's shelter the blast from the Sound threw them to the ground and broke the chain of hand clasps.  They struggled up and were ordered back under the lee of the building.  Then the Corporal took the man who was to relieve No. 6 and started for the beach again.  The two gripped hands and keeping close into the building managed to edge into the face of the wind.  

'If that man is on post he's dead,' said the Corporal to the recruit sentinel .  Blown here and there, soaked with the icy salt spray, and blinded by the drifting and falling snow they succeeded in covering the entire length of the post, but no sentinel could they find.  Back of the hospital and at the edge of the sentinel's post by the water stood a little wood shanty of one room and raised on brick foundations from the sand.  It was the island's dead house [i.e., a morgue].  As the Corporal and the sentinel passed in on their return the sentinel for whom they were looking came out of the door.  He was a colored lad waiting as a recruit to be sent to the negro infantry in the far West.

'I stood it out here,' he said to the Corporal, 'as long as I could.  I began to get numb and sleepy, and the wind was so strong I could not breathe, and then the spray froze on my arms and legs.  I found this door open, and saw that  could look out of the windows and so I came in.'

The Corporal led the way into the morgue again.  

'There's a dead man here,' he half gasped to the negro.

'I know it,' said the boy quietly.  'I was mighty scared at first, but I'd been dead too if I had not come here.'  -- New York correspondence of the Chicago Tribune."  

Source:  Story of Davids Island - Bravery of Army Recruits During the Big Blizzard, The New Rochelle Pioneer [New Rochelle, NY], Oct. 26, 1895, Vol. XXXV, No. 31, p. 2, cols. 1-2.  

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Early History of the First Years of the Pelham Manor Police Department

I have written before about the early days of the Pelham Manor Police Department as well as a few of the police officers who served the Village and its citizens.  See, e.g.:  

Thu., Jan. 07, 2010:  Pelham Manor Police Establish Speed Traps on Shore Road in 1910 to Catch Those Traveling Faster than Fifteen Miles Per Hour.

Wed., May 04, 2005:  Philip Gargan, Chief of Police of Pelham Manor, New York.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an article published in 1910 and provides the image that appeared with the article.  The article recounts the early years of the Pelham Manor Police Department and provides statistics for the first few years of the formal operation of the Department.

Pelham Manor Police Department in 1910.  Caption Reads:
"R.H. Marks, Chief of Police (sitting)
Left to Right -- John J. Flanagan, George Booth, Joseph Colgan,
John McGuire, A.D. Savage, Phil. Gargan, James Butler."
Source:  Pelham Manor Police Dept., The Pelham Sun 
[Pelham, NY], May 21, 1910, Vol. I, No. 7, cols. 4-6.

"Pelham Manor Police Dept.
Pelham Manor is one of the most progressive villages to be found anywhere.  Its citizens are justly proud of the Police Department, which for a small place is out of the ordinary in all details.  It is, in face, modeled after the most modern system in vogue in the largest cities, and in some respects contains improvements upon these in several important details.

The department was organized in August, 1905, when then President Frederick H. Allen appointed R.H. Marks chief of the force, consisting of three men.  At this time the so-called clock system was in use, but this was abolished and a police telephone system installed the following year during President Pond's term of office.  There are now all told fifteen telephone stations from which the officers report at stated intervals.

A regular headquarters was established in the old Fire Headquarters on a private street opposite Wetherbee Black's residence, and two more patrolmen were appointed in 1906.  

In 1907 Chief Marks and his men took possession of the comfortable headquarters in the new village hall.  Up-to-date fixings and accommodations for prisoners, as well as for members of the police force are features of this new home.  The main reason for organizing a compact police force was to be found in the fact that many burglaries had been committed among the well-to-do residents, and while of course cracksmen and thieves occasionally do appear at Pelham Manor, their number has been greatly decreased, and in most cases all offenders are caught by the ever-vigilant policemen.

The force is composed of the following men:  R.H. Marks, Chief of Police (appointed August, 1905); Patrolmen Joseph Colgan (appointed December, 1892), A.D. Savage (appointed October, 1906), Philip Gargan (appointed October, 1907), James A. Butler (appointed Octomber, 1907), and John J. Flanagan (appointed December, 1908).

The town policemen attached to the Pelham Manor headquarters are George Booth, who was made a policemen in December, 1909, and John McGuire, appointed April, 1910.

The number of arrests made since the organization of the department totals 982.  The offenses were varied, such as violations of the village ordinances, misdemeanors, and felonies.

As a result of these arrests, 143 prisoners were sent to the Kings County Penitentiary, their combined time of service being 372 months; 39 persons were sent to the County Jail at White Plains to serve a total of 880 days; one woman was sent to the Bedford Reformatory for a term of 3 years; two excise law violators were fined $200 each in the County Court; 6 prisoners were sent to Sing Sing State Prison for terms totaling 64 years.  Besides, several prisoners were turned over to other police departments.

The amount of fines imposed by the several Justices of the Peace and turned over to the Village Treasurer run into comparatively large figures:

1906. . . . . $251.60
1907. . . . .2,145.60
1908. . . . .1,638.27
1909. . . . . . 532.10

Total. . . . $4,567.57

The fees of the trial justices were deducted from these amounts, showing that the village of Pelham Manor took in pretty nearly $5,000 in fines during four years time.  The large amounts for 1907 and 1908 were derived mostly from heavy automobile speed fines, which were inflicted with a view of stopping the nuisance, and it has now been reduced to a minimum.

Chief Marks has charge of the Bureau of Licenses.  During the term stated above the sum of $227 was collected in fees for hackmen's licenses.

Of more important crimes, with which the police have had to deal, may be mentioned the case of Henry Thomas, who committed a daring burglary and was finally arrested ten days later in New York by Chief Marks and Officer Colgan.  Upon conviction in the County Court he was sentenced to serve four years in Sing Sing prison.

The case of Pual Miller, the 'mid-night burglar,' who was arrested for burglary in 1907, by Officers Savage, Lyons, Callahan and Chief Marks, ended in his being sent to serve 4 years and 9 months in State's prison.

Four Italians arrested in 1907 for grand larceny were also sentenced to terms in Sing Sing.

Upon a charge of grand larceny a woman named Tilly Fisher was sent to Bedford Reformatory for a three-year term.  

The burglary case, in which officer Savage was shot, was one of the most important the Manor police had to deal with.

One of the prisoners, William Snow, alias William Bender, was sent to Sing Sing for a term of 21 years and 6 months again, a charge of burglary and assault.  His pal, Wilson, got 14 years and 6 months on similar charges, and the third of the trio, Joseph White, alias Frank Costello, who was caught in New York by Chief Marks and Officer Butler, was also sentenced to State's prison for a term of 14 years and 6 months.

It will thus be seen that the usefulness of the department has been demonstrated and the residents of the Manor feel that their lives and property is [sic] well guarded by an efficient, ambitious, and wide-awake force."

Source:  Pelham Manor Police Dept., The Pelham Sun [Pelham, NY], May 21, 1910, Vol. I, No. 7, cols. 4-6.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville

In 1888, the Congregational Church of North Pelham, a church that no longer exists in Pelham, was organized by a group known as the Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville (the church, formed with the assistance of representatives of the American Congregational Union, was known early in its history as the "Church of the Covenant").  The church was disbanded "after a short life."  The Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville, however, had a much longer history.  Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes two articles that she light on the early histories of the Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville and the Church of the Covenant.  The first is a brief article published in 1878 that detailed the first two years of the Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville.  The second is a brief article describing the establishment of the "Church of the Covenant," intended "to succeed the Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville."  

I have written about the Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville several times before.  See:  

Fri., Feb. 28, 2014:  Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926.  

Mon., Sep. 21, 2009:  January 1882 Account of the 1881 Christmas Festival Held at the Union Sabbath School in Pelhamville.

Mon., Aug. 24, 2009:  1878 Advertisement for Services of The Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville.  

Map of Pelhamville Published in 1868.
Source: Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity from
Actual Surveys By and Under the Direction of F.W.
Beers, Assisted By A.B. Prindle & Others, pg. 36 (NY, NY:
Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868) (Detail from Page 36 Map
Entitled "Town of New Rochelle, Westchester Co., N.Y. (With) Pelhamville).

Since the records of the Congregational Church of North Pelham and the Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville have not been located and may no longer exist, an article published in the April 26, 1878 issue of The Chronicle published in Mount Vernon, New York sheds important light on the earliest years of the Union Sabbath School Society.  

Records in the Westchester County Archives make clear that, although the origins of the Society date back to 1876, the organization formally known as "Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville" was incorporated as a religious organization on July 20, 1878.  The incorporation records are available at the Westchester County Archives (Archive No. A-0086(2)S(CB3), Page 392).  It seems that the organization existed until at least 1895 when it conveyed property that it owned in Pelhamville to The Church of the Covenant.  See:  

"Westchester County Conveyances

PELHAM. . . . 

Union Sabbath School Soc. to The Church of the Covenant, lot 154 w s 2d av, Pelhamville.  1,000"

Source:  Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, Aug. 10, 1895, Vol. LVI, No. 1,430, p. 199, cols. 1-2.

Transcribed below is the brief article published in 1878 addressing the origins of what became the Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville, established by the Union Sabbath School Society.   

"LOCAL NEWS. . . . 

About two years ago the Christian people of Pelhamville, earnestly desiring that their children should receive instruction in Christian education, requested Messrs. Eli Trott and Jared Macy, both connected with the Children's Aid Society in New York, to organize a Sunday school that would be Christian and at the same time non-sectarian, so as to assimulate [sic] the various views of the people as near as possible.  After deep thought on the subject, the Union Sabbath School, of Pelhamville, was organized, with Mr. Eli Trott, Superintendent; Mr. S. B. Carlisle, Assistant Superintendent; Mr. Alex. B. Macy, Secretary; Mr. Jared Macy, Treasurer.

Their means being exceedingly limited, they were compelled to meet in the parlor of the house of Mr. Richard Sherwood.  The school consisted, at its commencement, of about sixteen scholars and teachers.  Under the blessing of Providence they now number eighty; and the room that was large enough at first is now altogether too small for their accommodation, and it is rendered absolutely necessary that they procure larger quarters.  In fact, during the past year they have been compelled to hold the session of the Sunday school in the open fields at frequent intervals.  In the event of sickness in Mr. Sherwood's family it would be necessary to hold their Sabbath exercises in the open air.  Feeling deeply that God has called them to a duty that must be performed, they have commenced to look around for assistance from the Christian community surrounding them, to aid them in procuring a larger place to meet in; and in thankfulness to their many friends who have assisted them, they are almost ready to build a chapel.  But more means are still necessary; and one of their friends in New York, the Rev. Albert C. Arnold, of the Church of the Disciples, has kindly volunteered to lecture for their benefit on 'Travel in Europe,' he having returned from an extended European tour.  The lecture will be illustrated by stereopticon views of prominent places visited by him.  The lecture will be delivered in the Chapel of the Reformed Church, Mount Vernon, on Tuesday evening, April 30, 1878.  This lecture has been delivered in the Church of the Disciples, New York, repeatedly, to large audiences.  Tickets may be procured at the following places:  Mrs. D. Ferguson's, Mr. John Berry's, Mr. King's book store, Dr. Gill's drug store, and at the door on the evening of the lecture.  If this effort meets with the success it deserves, the proceeds will materially aid the Union Sabbath School, of Pelhamville, in their endeavor to procure suitable quarters, that are absolutely necessary for their success in this duty that God has called them to perform."

Source:  LOCAL NEWS, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 26, 1878, Vol. IX, No. 449, p. 2, cols. 4-5.  

Immediately below is the text of the second article describing establishment of the Church of the Covenant.


On Thursday of last week, our Pelhamville friends carried to a successful conclusion the organization of a new church society, to be known as the 'Church of the Covenant.'  

At the meeting for organization, Rev. L.H. Cobb, Secretary of American Congregational Union, was chosen Moderator, and Rev. D. Washington Choate, D. D., Second Congregational Church, Greenwich, Conn., Scribe.  The Right Hand of Fellowship was extended by Rev. Dr. J.M. Wheton, of Tremont.

The society numbers 22 members, 19 of whom were present on the above occasion.

This organization is intended to succeed the Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville.  The chosen officers are:  

Deacons - David Lyon, Thomas Scott

Trustees - Thos. Scott, W.S. Algie, Thos. Borthwick, E.A. Patterson, David Lyon.

Stated services will be held every Sunday at 3 p.m., and Sunday School at 4 o'clock p.m."

Source:  Pelhamville, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 27, 1888, Vol. XX, No. 1145, p. 3, col. 3.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

More on the Lutheran Congregation that Met in the Pelham Picture House During the 1920s

I recently have written about Pelham churches including the one that is the subject of today's Historic Blog Posting:  Our Savior Lutheran Church, which held its services for a time during the 1920s at the Pelham Picture House.  The church was organized in 1925 by the Rev. Carl O. Romoser of Concordia Collegiate.  See:  

Fri., Feb. 28, 2014:  Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926.

Pelham Picture House in an Undated Photograph Where
Our Savior Lutheran Church Held Services During the 1920s.
Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham.

Transcribed below is the text of a fascinating article that details the early history of Our Savior Lutheran Church, followed by a citation to its source.  

This Is of the Lutheran Denomination -- Began in 1925

The most recently established church in the Pelhams is Our Saviour Lutheran church.  In the spring of 1925, a number of families expressed their desire to have Lutheran services in the Pelhams.  The Rev. Carl A. Romoser of Concordia Institute, Bronxville, took this appeal as an indication of the desirability of bringing the Lutheran church to this vicinity.

He realized that the enormous increase in population and resources of the Pelhams warranted another church in the Pelhams.  Many Lutheran are moving to this part of Westchester from New York city, as well as many people of other Christian denominations, and all of these people it was felt must be served.  Then the large section of Mount Vernon, adjacent to the Pelhams, also indicated the need of church ministrations.  These factors it was decided, justified the establishment of a Lutheran church in the Pelhams that would lend its aid to the other religious and civic agencies of the communities, in keeping pace with the marvelous growth of the Pelhams.  

Rev. Mr. Romoser held the first services in the old town hall auditorium.  After the organization of societies in the young church, it was necessary to provide private quarters for those units.  A small store-room was rented on Fifth avenue, North Pelham.  Here the work was continued for some time.  From all indications it became apparent that the field demanded the attention of a resident pastor who could give his undivided attention to the work.  Rev. Mr. Romoser urged the church board of his synod to give the needed subsidy to the Pelham people, so that this might be realized.

In October, 1925, the Rev. H. Wittachen was called as the first resident pastor.  He was installed into his office by Rev. Mr. Romoser in October, 1925, in the presence of a large assemblage in the Picture House of the Pelhams.

Rev. Mr. Wittschen resigned his position in October 1926, and the Rev. A. Koerber, of New York city, was called to become pastor of the Pelhams and of Scarsdale.  Rev. Mr. Koerber was pastor in New York city for twenty-five years.  He built up a church of more than 500 communicants members.  This church's history was similar to that of the Lutheran church of the Pelhams, in that he opened his services in a store hall with only a few people present.  

The congregation of Scarsdale opened its church some four years ago in the picture [house] of Scarsdale.  It now owns five lots for a future church and has a small house of worship on these lots.  The work of the Lutheran church in Pelham is to be accomplished in this manner.  Property will soon be acquired and the work will proceed gradually [under] the guidance of the church boards of the synod that aids it in a financial way.  

Our Savior church appeals to all people interested in the work of the churches in the Pelhams and the civic life of their communities, and who have no church connections.

Services are held at the present time in the Pelhams Picture House every Sunday [at] 10:30 o'clock.  The pastor can be reached by phone in Scarsdale."

Source:  NEW CHURCH IN THE TOWN, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 19, 1927, Special Pelham Section, p. 5, cols. 1-5.  

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