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.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Women of Pelham Were Agitated in 1885 and Did Something About It!


Citizens of the Town of Pelham have a longstanding tradition of civic-mindedness and vigorous activism whenever the need arises.  Pelhamites were no different in 1885, more than 130 years ago.

Pelham had a problem in 1885.  More specifically, City Island in the Town of Pelham had a problem.  Its unpaved roads quickly became a rutted, muddy mess when it rained.  Indeed, according to one local newspaper, "Usually in wet weather the would be pedestrian at City Island has to choose between wading and swimming."  Rain and mud were not the only problems, howeverEven when the roads were dry, dust ruined the hems of ladies' long skirts of the day.  

As has happened so frequently for one hundred and fifty years or more in Pelham, when such a problem arose, Pelhamites formed a group to deal with it.  The ladies of City Island were no exception that year.  They formed the "Ladies Sidewalk Association."

The purpose of the Ladies Sidewalk Association was to "agitate" for the construction of a sidewalk nearly the length of City Island.  The association organized in about January, 1885 to raise private funds to pay for construction of wooden plank sidewalks "wide enough for two to walk comfortably together."  According to one account, "dapper young men" liked to visit City Island ladies "to promenade" in the evenings which was difficult without wooden sidewalks "other than [on] moonlight nights" when the water and mud could be avoided.

 The Ladies Sidewalk Association meant business.  By February 4, 1885, a local newspaper reported that the organization already had held two meetings and raised about $500 (nearly $17,300 in today's dollars) to fund construction of the wooden sidewalk. 

 At about this same time, Town authorities were engaged in an initiative to macadamize two important town roads:  (1) City Island Road leading from Bartow Station to City Island; and (2) Pelhamdale Avenue that crossed the settlement of Pelham Manor and across a corner of what came to be known as Pelham Heights.

Wooden sidewalks were built.  While logic dictates the money raised by the Ladies Sidewalk Association likely played a role, a diligent search of the extant record has failed to reveal any direct association.  Yet, the incident reveals much about the long tradition of civic-mindedness and vigorous activism among Pelhamites seeking to improve our community!
  


 Map of Town of Pelham with Inset of City Island, 1868.
Source:  Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35
(NY, NY:  Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868).

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"PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND. . . .

The Ladies' Sidewalk Association held a meeting last Tuesday night at the residence of Mr. Joseph Powell.  They intend to keep agitating this subject until a sidewalk is built nearly the entire length of the Island. . . ."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 30, 1885, Vol. XVI, No. 802, p. 3, col. 3.

"PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND. . . . 

-- The subject of sidewalks in City Island is being agitated again.  The Ladies' Sidewalk Association met the other night at Mr. Joseph Powell's and they intend to keep up the agitation. . . ."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, Feb. ?, 1885, p. 3, col. 7 (page is undated and remainder of the newspaper is missing; content clearly indicates it was published roughly the first week of February before Saturday, February 7, 1885).

"WESTCHESTER NOTES. . . .

A sidewalk association has been formed by a number of ladies at City Island, and they propose to have plank walks built on every part of the island before summer sets in.  Usually in wet weather the would be pedestrian at City Island has to choose between wading and swimming.  The proposed sidewalks are to be wide enough for two to walk comfortably together, and the dapper young men who come weekly to visit them from Mount Vernon and adjoining towns will not find it disagreeable to promenade on other than moonlight nights.  The association has held two meetings and has $450 in the treasury already."

Source:  WESTCHESTER NOTES, The Evening Telegram [NY, NY], Feb. 2, 1885, p 3, col. 2.

"THE COUNTY. . . .

A SIDEWALK ASSOCIATION.  --  An association composed of ladies of City Island has been formed with the object of laying good plank walks through all the streets of the island.  They have had only two meetings, but have already about $500 in the treasury.  Heretofore after heavy rains the streets have been almost impassable on account of pools of water and mud. . . ."

Source:  THE COUNTY -- A SIDEWALK ASSOCIATION, The Yonkers Statesman, Feb. 4, 1885, Vol. II, No. 379, p. 1, col. 4.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

A Lodge of the International Organisation of Good Templars Opened in Pelhamville in 1885


Periodically, citizens of the Town of Pelham have caught the temperance or total abstinence bug.  I have written before of the pre-Prohibition dry movement in Pelham. For examples, see

Fri., May 23, 2014:  How Dry I Am -- Early Prohibition Efforts Succeed in Pelham in 1896.

Thu., Feb. 07, 2008:  Village Elections in Pelham in 1900 - New York Athletic Club Members Campaign Against the Prohibition Ticket in Pelham Manor

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

Pelham experienced another such temperance period in 1885.  That year, citizens of Pelhamville established a lodge of the "International Organisation of Good Templars."  



1868 Membership Certificate for a Member of the International
Organisation of Good Templars.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The International Organisation of Good Templars began in the 19th century as a fraternal organization in support of temperance or total abstinence.  It emerged after temperance groups seceded from a lose group of local temperance organizations near Utica, New York in the 1850s.  The organization was patterned on freemasonry and used "similar ritual and regalia."  See "International Organisation of Good Templars" in WIKIPEDIA - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Jan. 14, 2018).  Unlike many such organizations of that day, the Good Templars admitted both men and women.  

On March 20, 1885, a local newspaper announced that the citizens of the little settlement of Pelhamville had organized a Lodge of Good Templars.  The newspaper noted that the group had selected its officers and listed them as follows:

E. H. Gurney -- W. C. T.
J. Sherwood -- R. H. S.
Alice Lyon -- L. H. S.
Isaac C. Hill -- W. R. S.
E. T. Bryson -- A. R. S.
Geo W. Van Pelt, Jr. -- F. S.
J. Hill -- W. F. E.
Richard Bryson -- W. C.
O. Logan -- W. D. M.
Marion Pearson -- W. M.
M. E. Engle -- W. I. G.

On Tuesday, August 11, 1885, the new Lodge hosted a regular quarterly session of the Westchester County Lodge of Good Templars.  The meeting was held in the local chapel of the Church of the Covenant, Congregational in Pelhamville.



Undated Real Photo Post Card (RPP) Showing the Chapel of the
"CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH. NO. PELHAM, N.Y." Where the Good
Templars Hosted the County Lodge of Good Templars on August 11,
1885.  Source: eBay Auction Listing for the Post Card.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

During the evening, there was a public installation of officers of the new Pelhamville Lodge.  After that public installation there was "an entertainment of music, recitations, readings, etc."

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Pelhamville Lodge is the fact that the record is utterly devoid of any additional history of the group.  To date, no records, newspaper references, or any other material related to the group has been located.  It is as if the organization never took off.  Only time, and further research, will tell.

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"PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND. . . .

The Lodge of Good Templars has been organized in Pelhamville with the following officers.  --  W. C. T., E. H. Gurney; R. H. S., J. Sherwood; L. H. S., Alice Lyon; W. R. S., I. C. Hill; A. R. S., E. T. Bryson; F. S., Geo W. Van Pelt, Jr.; W. F. E., J. Hill; W. C., Richard Bryson; W. D. M., O. Logan; W. M., Marion Pearson; W. I. G., M. E. Engle. . . ."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 20, 1885, Vol. XVI, No. 809, p. 3, col. 4.

"PELHAMVILLE. . . .

A regular quarterly session of the County Lodge of Good Templars was held in the chapel at Pelhamville, on Tuesday of this week.  The attendance of delegates was quite flattering, about sixty representatives being present.  The afternoon was occupied with the usual business of such sessions; reports of committees, discussions, etc, after which refreshments were served to the visitors.  In the evening there was a public installation of officers of the Pelhamville Lodge, followed by an entertainment of music, recitations, readings, etc. . . ."

Source:  PELHAMVILLE, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 14, 1885, Vol. XVI, No. 830, p. 3, col. 3.



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Friday, January 12, 2018

More on Pelham's Shamrock Base Ball Club that Played on City Island in the 1880s


As devoted followers of Pelham history know, the Town of Pelham has a rich history of supporting the sport of "base ball" that goes back, at least as documents, to the first months after the end of the Civil War in 1865.  "Base Ball Clubs" once populated our town as social and recreational outlets for much of the population of the town.

An important example was the Shamrock Base Ball Club of City Island about which I have written before.  See, e.g.:

Mon., Dec. 14, 2009:  Baseball Games Played by the City Island Shamrocks in 1889.

Wed., Dec. 09, 2009:  City Island Shamrocks Base Ball Club Changed its Name to the Minnefords in 1888.

As is the case with virtually all such casual social organizations of the 19th century in Pelham, there are no known records of the Shamrock Base Ball Club.  Thus, we are left to piece together what can be learned of the histories of such organizations, often from newspaper clippings.  Such an incomplete record can be confusing and apparently contradictory as seems to be the case with the extant record regarding the Shamrocks. For example, though the record remains unclear, there may well have been two Base Ball Clubs at about the same time -- one based in Pelham and another in the adjacent municipality of New Rochelle.

Nevertheless, it is possible to tease from such newspaper clippings much about the history of the Shamrock Base Ball Club of City Island in the Town of Pelham.  Today's Historic Pelham article attempts to tease from such clippings precisely such information.

The Shamrock Base Ball Club seems to have been formed in about 1887.  The earliest reference located so far is one indicating that "The Shamrock Base Ball Club will hold their first annual ball at the TOWN HALL Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 23, 1887."  The Club seems to have been one for affluent local residents as its members were described as "yacht men."

An early manager of the Club (if not the first manager) was John F. Ahmuty.  Before moving to City Island where he eventually became a writer for, and local representative of, the New York Herald, Ahmuty was the manager of the Jersey City Monitors where, according to one local news report, "he . . . guided the old monitors of Jersey City to what they are to-day."

Clearly the Club included talented players as it was very successful.  For example, Jacob Smith was a pitcher with the Club and became locally famous for his successes on the field.  By June of 1889, the Club had "crossed bats with several out of town clubs, and without losing a game."  According to one report "Mr. Ahmuty is so confident of his boy's that he will be compelled to cancel a good many dates made early in the season, in order to accommodate several league games for which he is offered large guarantee, as the famous 'Shamrock's' are the only club representing water now in existence."  

The above-reference to "guarantee" is important in several respects.  It confirms that, at least at times, the Shamrocks played in front of an audience of paying fans.  It also confirms that the local team was talented enough to be challenged to competitions with local league teams that, most likely, routinely played before audiences of paying fans.  (A "guarantee" involved arrangements for a team to receive a portion of the gate receipts from paying fans.)

Few if any records of actual baseball games involving the Shamrocks exist.  From brief newspaper references, a few games can be listed:

June 8, 1889 - Game at Willet's Point against unidentified team; won 15 to 0.
June 19, 1889 - Return game in Brooklyn vs. Y.M.A. of Bushwick Avenue (results unknown)
July 4, 1889 - Doubleheader against the "Confidence" of New Rochelle (results unknown).

By December 18, 1889, the won-loss record of the Shamrocks was quite impressive:  29 wins and 4 losses.

Clearly the "yacht men" who were members of the Shamrock Base Ball Club knew how to celebrate.  Indeed, the club clearly was an important social club in addition to being a baseball club.  There are nearly as many descriptions of the club's grand "balls" as there are descriptions of their on-field exploits.  Members of the club seem to have hosted an annual "ball" in December of each year.  Newspaper references make clear that the club sold tickets to the ball to non-members and that such tickets were available at various retailers on City Island, in Mount Vernon, and in New Rochelle.  For example, tickets to the ball held on December 11, 1889 were sold in at least three retail establishments including "Bonn's segar store" (i.e., cigar store).

The ball held on the evening of Wednesday, December 11, 1889 was a truly grandiose affair.  It was held at the Bay View Hotel, a magnificent resort hotel on City Island.  (See Mon., Jan. 23, 2017:  Pelham's Bay View Hotel In 1885.)  A local newspaper described the grand ball as "one of the most successful and enjoyable affairs of the season."  



Bay View Hotel on City Island.  Detail from Postcard View.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The description of the grand ball that evening suggests that it was quite magnificent.  An article that is more like a society column than a news article appeared in a local newspaper (see below).  It described each gown worn by each woman, all silk with lace and in a rainbow of colors.  It described diamond jewelry and "ornaments" as well as hairstyles in the newest "Parisian" fashion.  The list of attendees included a Who's Who of City Island and the surrounding region.  Clearly, the grand ball was a serious social affair.  "Professor Bonn" and his orchestra, from Mount Vernon, provided music for the affair.

Significantly, attendees voted to select the most "prominent" young lady of the evening to be awarded a "beautiful silk plush patent rocker."  All ladies in attendance were eligible for the honor.  "At the given hour the silk plush rocker which was voted to the most prominent young lady was presented to Miss Josie Price, she receiving 79 votes."  After the presentation of the rocker, the music and dance continued until the "early morn" before the grand ball ended.

No further records of the Shamrocks have yet been found and its history after the grand ball of December 11, 1889 is unknown.



19th Century Baseball Game Like Those Played in Pelham.

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"LOCAL NEWS. . . .

-- The Shamrock Base Ball Club will hold their first annual ball at the TOWN HALL, Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 23, 1887.  They anticipate making a 'home run.' . . . ."

Source:  LOCAL NEWS, New Rochelle Pioneer, Oct. 29, 1887, Vol. XXVIII, No. 31, p. 3, col. 1.

"Bartow and City Island. . . . 

The Shamrock Baseball Club held a meeting last Friday night and voted unanimously to change the name of the organization to Minneford Baseball Club, the name by which City Island was originally known. They decided to have a ball as soon as DeVaugh's new building is ready for occupancy. . . ."

Source:  Bartow and City Island, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 7, 1888, Vol. XX, No. 1,148, p. 3, col. 2.

"Baseball Notes. . . .

It is with great pride we can justly say that there is another strong baseball team in the field this year, and who are playing great ball. The club we refer to, is the 'Shamrock's' of City Island, composed of yacht men, under the management of John F. Ahmuty, whose experience in that capacity is allready [sic] too well known to need comment, (he having guided the old monitors of Jersey City to what they are to-day), these young men have crossed bats with several out of town clubs, and without losing a game as yet. Mr. Ahmuty is so confident of his boy's that he will be compelled to cancel a good many dates made early in the season, in order to accommodate several league games for which he is offered large guarantee, as the famous 'Shamrock's' are the only club representing water now in existence. 

On July 4th the 'Shamrock's' will play the Confidence of New Rochelle, 2 games, morning and afternoon. Due notice will be given. . . . . 

Source:  Baseball Notes, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], June 18, 1889, Vol. XX, No. 1,203, p. 3, col. 2.

"City Island

(The following items were received too late for Friday's issue). . .  

Last Saturday [June 8, 1889] the 'Shamrocks' went to Willet's Point to score another victory -- 'a complete whitewash,' as one of the boys expressed it. Score 15 to 0. To-morrow (Saturday) they go to Brooklyn to play the return-game of the Y.M.A. of Bushwick avenue."

Source:  City IslandThe Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], June 18, 1889, Vol. XX, No. 1,203, p. 3, col. 2.

"CITY ISLAND TATTLER. . . . 

Look out for the greatest event of the season, the ball of the Shamrock Base Ball club on December 11th on which occasion we will not kill our umpire, but we will present to the young lady who receives the largest number of votes on that evening, a beautiful silk plush patent rocker.  This is open to all comers.  Full particulars in our next. . . ."

Source:  CITY ISLAND TATTLER, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 26, 1889, Vol. XXI, No. 1,249, p. 3, col. 3.  

"City Island Tattler. . . .

The manager of the Shamrock Base Ball Club is happy to announce that all the arrangements for their ball is [sic] completed, and a first-class time is guaranteed to all who choose to attend.  Tickets for sale at Bonn's segar store, Joseph Weber, Jr., Peter Magee, Mount Vernon.

Zoo Zoo."

Source:  City Island Tattler, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 3, 1889, Vol. XXI., No. 1,251, p. 3, col. 3.

"LOCAL NEWS. . . . 

-- The first [sic] annual ball of the Shamrock B. B. C., of City Island, will be held at the Bay View Hotel, on Wednesday evening December 11, 1889.  The music will be furnished by Prof. Bonn, of Mt. Vernon. . . ."

Source:  LOCAL NEWSNew Rochelle Pioneer, Dec. 7, 1889, p. 3, cols. 1-3.  

"CITY ISLAND TATTLER.

One of the most sociable and successful balls ever held on City Island was the first [sic] annual of the Shamrock Base Ball Club on Wednesday evening last, at Bay View Hotel.  The ball room was decorated handsomely with ensign of this well-known club showing their winnings and their record, playing 29 games and losing only 4.  The floor was under the charge of Mr. Edward Leviness, assisted by an able Floor Committee.  Among those present was the Hon. Judge Henry D. Carey, President of the club, accompanied by his wife and lady friends; Mr. Thomas Coulter accompanied by Miss VeronicaHallett, dressed in blue silk trimmed with point lace, diamond ornaments; Mr. Jacob Smith, the well-known pitcher of the famous Shamrock's accompanied by Lucy Kirchoff, attired in pale blue silk trimmed with cream colored lace, diamond earrings; Mr. Henry Weaver accompanied by Miss Florence Baxter, dressed in brown silk and diamonds; Mr. G. Gander accompanied by Miss Phoebe Smith, dressed in pearl colored satin with handsome pearls as ornaents; Mr. F. Wolz accompanied by Miss Ella Billar dressed in fawn colored silk, ornaments, diamonds; Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Turner, Mrs. Turner looking charming in pink satin; Mr. Daniel Piepgrass accompanied by Miss Clara Richards, dressed in white satin, diamonds as ornaments; Mr. and Mrs. Ellmer Pickney, the latter being dressed in lavender silk; Mr. William Pell accompanied by Miss Irene Forkel, dressed in black silk with diamonds in ears; Mr. and Mrs. Percy Pell, Mrs. Pell was tastefully dressed in steel colored silk with a handsome diamond crescent holding a rare old lace collar; Mr. William Price accompanied by his charming sister Lydia, dressed in black lace and satin and diamonds; Mr. Edward Cochran accopanied by Miss Florence Pell, dressed in black silk and lace, with diamonds as ornaments; Mr. William Byles accompanied by his daughter Ida, dressed in brown silk and ruby and pearls as ornaments, also accompanied by a lady friend; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Glazier, the latter was neatly dressed in black silk and diamonds; Mr. Charles Johnson accompanied by his sisters Julia and Etta, both dressed in white satin and lace, ornaments, diamonds and pearls; Mr. Eugene Hallett accompanied by Miss Gormerly, dressed in brown silk, ornaments, diamonds; Mr. Joseph Ketcham accompanied by Miss Josie Price, dressed in navy blue silk with white lace front and diamond necklace; Mr. James Fitzgerald and sister of New Rochelle, dressed in brown silk and diamonds; Mr. William Hallett accompanied by Miss Schube dressed in white silk with diamonds in hair, set in the latest Parisian fashion -- a beautiful dancer; Mr. Fred Schube accompanied by Miss Lorms, dressed in pale blue silk cut a la princess Eugenie with diamonds in ears, and several others too numerous to mention.  It was one of the richest and best dressed affairs of this county.  Among the gentlemen present were Mr. Thomas Coulter, Harry Booth, Isaac Van Allen, Terry Ferguson, Wesley Leviness, Hugh Ryan, Thomas Mulligan, John P. Hawkins, Jr., James Prout, Wesley Beattie, Samuel Graham, Jr., Stanley Bergan, John Brady, Messrs. Donlin Brothers, Charles Stringham, Ale. Ferguson, James Anderson, Cyrus Pell, Wal. Carson, Thad. Rolfe, William Stringham, Jacob Smith, Sr., Frank Collins and several others.  At the given hour the silk plush rocker which was voted to the most prominent young lady was presented to Miss Josie Price, she receiving 79 votes.  After the presentation the dance was kept up until early morn, which brought to a close one of the most successful and enjoyable affairs of the season. . . ."

Source:  CITY ISLAND TATTLER, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 17, 1889, Vol. XXI, No. 1,255, p. 3, col. 3.  

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Formal Opening of the New Water Filtration System at Pelham Reservoir on August 1, 1894


Until the late 19th century, citizens of the Town of Pelham and the Village (later City) of Mount Vernon obtained their water from wells and, in earlier days, streams.  As the population of the region grew, however, the quality of local well water degraded and concerns arose over the ability of subterranean water to satisfy the ever-expanding need for water in the ever-growing suburban region.

The Village of Mount Vernon was first supplied with water by the Mount Vernon Water Company, which was originally incorporated January 28, 1882, by "33 then leading and representative citizens of Mount Vernon."  Initially, the company sank an artesian well and pumped the water into a standpipe to supplement local water supplies.  Soon, it became apparent that such a system would not suffice.  Moreover, other nearby communities including the settlements known as Pelham Manor and Pelhamville were also beginning to look for a larger, more-reliable water source.  To make matters worse, in 1886 the area was in the midst of an extended, severe drought.

The Mount Vernon Water Company was succeeded by the New York and Mount Vernon Water Company, incorporated January 23, 1886.  The controlling interest of this company was in New York City.  The New York and Mount Vernon Water Company arranged for local property rights along the Hutchinson River and dammed the river to create what came to be known as Pelham Reservoir (sometimes referenced as the "Pelhamville Reservoir").  On Friday, August 6, 1886, water began flowing into the newly-constructed Pelham Reservoir.  From there, the water began flowing throughout Mount Vernon through two miles of new water mains sealed with tar.

Local residents were unhappy.  The water was yellowish.  It tasted "tarry."  Many believed that it did not match the quality or purity of the clear artesian well water to which they had become accustomed.  Complaints were loud and many.  Soon the Pelham Reservoir water system changed hands and became the property of the New York City Suburban Water Company.

Among the many ways the New York City Suburban Water Company addressed complaints over the quality of the water was the design and construction of a massive, state-of-the-art water filtration system by which water was cascaded over filter beds to be aerated and to have particulate matter removed.  

The filtration system was a modern marvel for its day.  Shortly before its formal unveiling, a local newspaper described it as follows:

"The lower section of the old reservoir has been dammed off with the exception of a narrow way along the bed of the creek on the eastern side.  The remainder of the lower section has been thoroughly cleaned and divided into three 'filter beds.'  Two of those are to the south, the other lying directly above.  They now present the appearance of three well-kept tennis courts, nicely evened off.  Each is divided from the other by a handsome dam of cobblestones, a walk having been constructed along the top.

These filters are about four feet deep.  They consist of eighteen inches of sand and under this four layers of gravel.  Below this gravel is a system of piping which carries the filtered water into a central 'well,' from which it is pumped into the city mains.  These filters are so arranged that they may be used separately or together.  Their combined capacity is estimated at 5,000,000 gallons daily.  The present city consumption is a little under 1,500,000 gallons in the same time.  The filtration desired is secured by the water, which is let in to a depth of two feet, flowing over and through the several stratas of sand and gravel.  The system is one similar to the one employed at Lawrence, Mass., which was established there by the State Board of Health.

The method by which these filters are to be fed is both novel and picturesque.  The southern one lies below a cascade over rocks and masonry, which form a basin at the bottom to break the fall of the water.  Over this a stream of water will be kept running continually, dashing over the rocks below with a beautiful effect and at the same time the water receiving the benefit of the resulting aeration.  The other filters are to be fed from pipes ending in a fountain."  [See full text of article with citation and link below.]

Once construction of the filter beds was complete, both the New York City Suburban Water Company and the communities surrounding the reservoir including Pelhamville and Pelham Manor were justifiably proud.  On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 1, 1894, the New York City Suburban Water Company hosted a formal opening of the new water filtration system.  

A crowd of a "large number" of local residents gathered at the Pelham Reservoir shortly before 4 p.m. that day.  Festivities began at 4:00.  A major stockholder of the company, a "Mr. Mahoney," delivered opening remarks and introduced Mayor Edward F. Brush of Mount Vernon.  The Mayor remarks were brief but pointed.  He pulled no punches and recognized the failings of earlier efforts to deliver pure potable water from Pelham Reservoir.  Yet, he focused optimistically of the future and made clear his hope that the future "would be free from all disputes between the citizens and the company."

At 4:20 p.m., the young daughter of notable New Rochelle resident Joseph Stephenson, named Agnes, stepped to a key and turned it to release water into the filtration system.  Once again, a local newspaper described the moment Agnes Stephenson turned the key:

"[She] turned the key, which released the water into the pool at the head of the beautiful cataract, which has been constructed.  Six minutes later the pool was filled and the first water trickled over the brim and started on its journey over the rocks.  Soon these were covered with the foaming sheet of water and the system was in full operation.  The effect is a very pretty one and this new pleasure spot should be visited by all.  The system and its workings were fully described in the last issue of The Chronicle."  [See full text and citation of the article below.]

Once the filtration system was in operation, the crowd retired to the pump-house where "refreshments were served" and the "entire affair ended as it commenced, a complete success."

The Town of Pelham, it seemed, would have drinkable water at least for the next two decades or so. . . . 


Undated Photograph of Pelham Reservoir, Ca. 1902, Showing Filter
Beds in the Distance on the Left as Well as the Pump House in Which
the Reception Was Held on August 1, 1894.  NOTE:  Click on Image
to Enlarge.



Detail of 1910 Map Showing Pelham Reservoir and Filter
Beds. Source: Bromley, George W. & Bromley, Walter S., Untitled
Map Bounded by Town of East Chester, City of New Rochelle, Pelham
Station, Clarefmont Avenue and Central Boulevard in Atlas Of Westchester
County, Vol. One, p. 17 (Philadelphia, PA: G. W. Bromley & Co., 1910).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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I have written on a number of occasions regarding the history of the Pelham Reservoir and its use as a water supply for the surrounding region.  See, e.g.:  

Fri., Nov. 24, 2017:  Hutchinson River Parkway Detritus Was Used to Fill Much of the Pelham Reservoir in 1925.

Wed., Mar. 11, 2015:  Research Regarding the History of the Pelham Reservoir in Today's Willsons Woods Park.

Wed. May 27, 2015:  A Portion of the Pelham Reservoir Dam Was Destroyed in 1896 to Save the Filter Beds.

Tue., May 26, 2015:  1921 Report of Inspection of the Pelham Reservoir Water Supply System.

Mon., May 04, 2015;  Pelham Manor's Efforts to End Use of the Pelham Reservoir for Drinking Purposes.

Wed., Mar. 11, 2015:  Research Regarding the History of the Pelham Reservoir in Today's Willsons Woods Park.

*          *          *          *          *

"Citizens Now Have Filtered Water.
-----
The New Filtration and Aeration System of Our Local Water Company Went Into Operation Yesterday Afternoon.
-----

Yesterday afternoon, the formal opening of the new filtration system of the New York City Suburban Water Company at the Pelhamville reservoir occurred.  A large number of the residents of Mount Vernon had accepted the invitation of the company to be present on this occasion and see the water flow over the new course.

It was a few minutes after four when Mr. Mahoney, a stockholder in the company, welcomed the guests in the name of his colleagues and that of the company.  In a few words he introduced Mayor Edward F. Brush, who responded in a happy vein.  His remarks were short but appropriate.  He did not cover over the faults of the company in the past, but spoke of the future, which he hoped would be free from all disputes between the citizens and the company.

It was twenty minutes after four when Miss Agnes Stephenson, daughter of Mr. Joseph Stephenson of New Rochelle turned the key, which released the water into the pool at the head of the beautiful cataract, which has been constructed.  Six minutes later the pool was filled and the first water trickled over the brim and started on its journey over the rocks.  Soon these were covered with the foaming sheet of water and the system was in full operation.  The effect is a very pretty one and this new pleasure spot should be visited by all.  The system and its workings were fully described in the last issue of The Chronicle.

Later, refreshments were served in the pump-house and the entire affair ended as it commenced, a complete success."

Source:  Citizens Now Have Filtered Water -- The New Filtration and Aeration System of Our Local Water Company Went Into Operation Yesterday Afternoon, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 2, 1894, Vol. XXV, No.. 1648, p. 2, col. 5.

"Improvements to Our Water Supply.
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Three Filters That Will Purify the Water Before it will be Distributed.
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The Chronicle, Through Its Representative, Pays the Water Works a Visit of Inspection.
-----

A visit to the Pelhamville reservoir of the water company reveals many changes and improvements during the last few months.  What formerly looked to a large extent like a mud hole now bears a very attractive appearance and when the improvements are entirely completed, the place will partake largely of the aspect of a park.

The lower section of the old reservoir has been dammed off with the exception of a narrow way along the bed of the creek on the eastern side.  The remainder of the lower section has been thoroughly cleaned and divided into three 'filter beds.'  Two of those are to the south, the other lying directly above.  They now present the appearance of three well-kept tennis courts, nicely evened off.  Each is divided from the other by a handsome dam of cobblestones, a walk having been constructed along the top.

These filters are about four feet deep.  They consist of eighteen inches of sand and under this four layers of gravel.  Below this gravel is a system of piping which carries the filtered water into a central 'well,' from which it is pumped into the city mains.  These filters are so arranged that they may be used separately or together.  Their combined capacity is estimated at 5,000,000 gallons daily.  The present city consumption is a little under 1,500,000 gallons in the same time.  The filtration desired is secured by the water, which is let in to a depth of two feet, flowing over and through the several stratas of sand and gravel.  The system is one similar to the one employed at Lawrence, Mass., which was established there by the State Board of Health.

The method by which these filters are to be fed is both novel and picturesque.  The southern one lies below a cascade over rocks and masonry, which form a basin at the bottom to break the fall of the water.  Over this a stream of water will be kept running continually, dashing over the rocks below with a beautiful effect and at the same time the water receiving the benefit of the resulting aeration.  The other filters are to be fed from pipes ending in a fountain.  

The grounds around the dam and pump-house are all graded and seeded.  Walks are being laid out and the vicinity will soon be a pleasant park and an ornament to the city.

Within a short time formal opening ceremonies are to be held, when the water will be turned on for the first time."

Source:  Improvements to Our Water Supply -- Three Filters That Will Purify the Water Before it will be Distributed -- The Chronicle, Through Its Representative, Pays the Water Works a Visit of Inspection, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 26, 1894, Vol. XXV, No. 1647, p. 1, col. 5.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Evidence of Friction Between Pelham and New York City in 1885 Over Riotous Hart Island "Paupers"


From the time New York City first leased Hart Island from John Hunter, Jr. during the Civil War, and thereafter purchased it outright in 1868, and through the next several decades, the Island and its inhabitants were a constant source of friction between the Town of Pelham and New York City.  Though the island was within the Town of Pelham, it was owned by New York City.  

The examples of such friction are legion.  Confederate prisoners of war held on the island during the Civil War escaped and made their way through Pelham.  There were allegations that temporary residents of Hart Island voted fraudulently in Town of Pelham elections.  Long after the war, non-military prisoners held on the island escaped on foot and fled onto City Island and the mainland when the local waters froze over during brutal winter months.  Pelham residents were horrified when New York City quarantined yellow fever patients on the island in 1870, among many other such frictions.  Many other such incidents strained the relations between Pelham and New York City when it came to Hart Island.

By 1885 Pelham essentially had had enough of New York City's stewardship of Hart Island.  By then, a major portion of the island was used as New York City's "potter's field" cemetery for paupers.  Paupers, prisoners, and others resided on the island and were used as workers to bury the dead on the island.  

Because Hart Island was still part of the Town of Pelham, when such residents of the island misbehaved -- which was fairly frequently -- Pelham authorities, including the Town Constable based on City Island, were called to handle the situations, arrest those who broke the law, and haul them into Town Court in the Town of Pelham, all at the expense of the Town of Pelham with no reimbursement of expenses by New York City.


1884 Nautical Chart Depicting Hart Island and City Island at
About the Time Friction Between the Town of Pelham and New
York City Came to a Head in 1885.  Source:  "CITY ISLAND
1884," NOAA's Office of Coast Survey Historical Map & Chart
Collection (Available via Wikipedia).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

In January, 1885, an "indignation meeting" was scheduled on City Island in the Town of Pelham.  The meeting was scheduled "to protest against the conveying of riotous paupers from Hart Island to City Island to be tried simply because the first-named is legally part of the town of Pelham."

Pelham calculated that each time its Town Court had to try any such prisoner it cost $15 per prisoner.  As of January 28, 1885, there already had been sixteen such recent trials for a total expense of $240 (about $8,300 in today's dollars).  Pelhamites feared the financial impact of recidivism since nearly all the trials resulted in mere 30-day jail terms in the County Jail at White Plains.  Thus, the entire Town became concerned that it would become necessary for the Town to issue bonds and incur debt to fund the costs of handling unruly Hart Island residents placed there by New York City, the owner of the island.

According to one published report in late January, 1885, "A committee will be appointed to confer with the Commissioners of Emigration of New York city to provide some other method of dealing with the unfortunate denizens of Hart's Island, all of whom legally belong to the metropolis and should not be allowed to inflct special expenses upon the law-abiding citizens of City Island."

Pelham became so incensed that the clamor to force New York City to annex Hart Island grew.  In the following few weeks, a local newspaper reported that a bill was pending "before the Legislature" to force New York City to annex Hart Island, further noting that the criminal reformatory on the island was a significant part of the problem.  The report further noted that "The island is small and but of little use . . .  The citizens of the town of Pelham are anxious to have the Island annexed to New York City from the fact, as they say, that they have to foot the bills of the criminal expenses of the Island and the latter returns them no revenue at all."


HART'S ISLAND" Published Mar. 5, 1877.  Source:  Wikipedia (citing "Mid-
Manhattan Picture Collection / New York City -- Hospitals -- 1899 & Earlier").
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Eventually, New York City annexed Hart Island -- as well as City Island, other surrounding islands, and the lands that form today's Pelham Bay Park -- thus, ending a portion of the frictions that long had plagued its relationship with its little neighbor on its northeast boundary known as the Town of Pelham.  

*          *          *          *          *

"Too Close to New York.

An indignation meeting is to be held at City Island to protest against the conveying of riotous paupers from Hart Island to City Island to be tried simply because the first-named is legally part of the town of Pelham.  The City Island people object to trying such criminals, for it involves a cost of $15 per prisoner, and as sixteen have already been tried and sent to White Plains Jail for thirty days only, the natives are afraid that if the paupers keep on being unruly and the City Island constable is daily called in to make arrests, it will be necessary to bond the town to pay the cost of the arrests and trials.  A committee will be appointed to confer with the Commissioners of Emigration of New York city to provide some other method of dealing with the unfortunate denizens of Hart's Island, all of whom legally belong to the metropolis and should not be allowed to inflict special expenses upon the law-abiding citizens of City Island."

Source:  Too Close to New York, The Evening Telegram [NY, NY], Jan. 28, 1885, Vol. XVIII, No. 6,032, p. 3, col. 4.  

"PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND. . . .

A bill is before the Legislature, to annex Hart's Island to the City of New York.  At the present time, while the island belongs to this county, still New York controls it, having got possession for the purpose of erecting a reformatory thereon for its criminal classes.  The island is small and but of little use to this county; but if New York city wants full control of it, let her compensate this county for it.  The citizens of the town of Pelham are anxious to have the Island annexed to New York City from the fact, as they say, that they have to foot the bills of the criminal expenses of the Island and the latter returns them no revenue at all. . . ."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 20, 1885, Vol. XVI, No. 809, p. 3, col. 4.

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