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, December 18, 2014

Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church Celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 1901

On October 13 and October 14, 1901, the congregants of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church celebrated the silver anniversary of the "Little Red Church" located at today's Four Corners.  The celebration was lavish and festive with many notable addresses by speakers who described the history of the little church.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of a brief article that appeared in The New Rochelle Pioneer and described the festivities.  It is followed by a citation to its source.  

A Glass Lantern Slide Created by Pelham Town Historian
William Montgomery Between December 10, 1916 and June 10, 1917.
It Depicts the "Little Red Church," the Predecessor Building to
Today's Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church Sanctuary.
The Little Red Church was a "Centenary Church" Opened in
July 1876 in Part to Commemorate the Centennial of the
Signing of the Declaration of Independence.


The congregation of the Huguenot Memorial Church, at Pelham Manor, celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the church on Sunday and Monday last [Oct. 13-14, 1901].  The church and parlors were handsomely bedecked with branches of trees, the autumn coloring of which made a novel and entrancing effect.  

The religious services on Sunday morning and evening were well attended.  The Sunday school services at 10 a.m., consisted of choir and congregational singing, prayers, a historical narrative by Mr. A. L. Hammett; reminiscent addresses by Rev. Henry R. Waite, Ph.D., Wm. P. Stephenson, Miss H. M. Mitchell, and Mr. E. B. Dumond, of Fishkill.

The memorial services at 11.15 o'clock included anthems, scriptural reading, an anniversary hymn and the memorial sermon delivered by the pastor, Rev. Harris Adriance.  'The Church History,' ably presented by Mr. John H. Dey, was followed by prayer and benediction.  A memorial communion service was held at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

The anniversary reception in the chapel on Monday evening was a scene which will not be forgotten by any one fortunate enough to face the severe storm to be present.  Festivity, gaiety and good nature went hand in hand,, every one feeling that they must be merry in honor of the joyous occasion.  The evening was one of general rejoicing, intermingled with able addresses, excellent music and bounteous refreshments.

The committees in charge of the affair consisted of the following:

Reception Committee -- Messrs. John H. Dey, Wm. K. Gillett and James Herbert Ferris.

Refreshment Committee -- The Woman's Association, of which Mrs. G. H. Ferris is the honored president."

Source:  ANNIVERSARY OF HUGUENOT MEMORIAL CHURCH, PELHAM MANOR, The New Rochelle Pioneer, Oct. 19, 1901, p. 8, col. 2.  

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Periodically I have posted items to the Historic Pelham Blog regarding the fascinating history of the church known today as Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham Manor.  For a few of many such examples, see

Fri., Nov. 07, 2014:  Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church Migrated to a "Free Pew" Seating System in 1919.

Fri., Aug. 22, 2014:  Brief History of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham Manor Published in 1963.

Thu., Mar. 06, 2014:  An Account of the Dedication of the Little Red Church at Four Corners on July 9, 1876.

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

Tue., Sep. 18, 2007:  Installation of the First Full-Time Pastor ofHuguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham Manor in 1877

Fri., Aug. 31, 2007:  Announcement of the First Services Held in the Little Red Church of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church on July 9, 1876

Thu., Aug. 16, 2007:  Biographical Data About Rev. Charles EliphaletLord Who Served as Acting Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church,1874-79

Tue., Jun. 19, 2007:  A Brazen Burglary at The Little Red Church in 1904

Mon., Jan. 1, 2007:  Dating an Undated Glass Lantern Slide Showing the Little Red Church (Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church)

Wed., Oct. 25, 2006:  A Biography of the Rev. Henry Randall Waite, Ph. D., a 19th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church

Thur., Jun. 29, 2006:  A Biography of Lewis Gaston Leary, Early 20th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham

Thu., Mar. 2, 2006:  A Lecture in 1877 to Raise Money for the New Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor

Fri., Jan. 27, 2006:  Lectures to Raise Money to Build the"Huguenot Memorial Forest Church" Building in Pelham Manor

Mon., Jul. 25, 2005: The Columbarium at Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Installation of the First Memorial Tablet on Glover's Rock on October 18, 1901

At various times since 1901, the giant boulder known as Glover's Rock that sits next to today's Orchard Beach Road has had a tablet affixed to it indicating that the Battle of Pell's Point (the Battle of Pelham) was fought nearby on October 18, 1776.  Oddly, the Battle was fought nowhere near Glover's Rock. 

William Abbatt mis-identified the giant boulder as the place where the battle began in his book published in 1901 entitled "The Battle of Pell's Point".  Shortly thereafter, the rock was "named" after John Glover, who led the American patriots in the battle, and an historic plaque providing erroneous information about the battle was affixed to the boulder. 

The error arose because in trying to place the progress of the battle, William Abbatt was unaware of the existence of a detailed and highly-accurate map showing the progress of the battle prepared by Charles Blaskowitz in 1776.  Instead, Abbatt relied on a less detailed and certainly less-accurate map prepared by Claude Sauthier.  Sauthier's map erroneously showed the bulk of the British and German troops landing at the tip of Pell's Point rather than along the side of the neck where Shore Road ended at the bay.  Because he measured distances referenced in a letter by Col. John Glover about the battle from the tip of Pell's Point, Abbatt misplaced the beginning of the Battle near the boulder that became known as Glover's Rock. 

In contrast, the so-called "Blaskowitz Map" created shortly after the battle by Englishman Charles Blaskowitz accurately shows where the battle began, marked with an "X".  The location on the Blaskowitz map matches exactly (within 1/100th of a mile using the map's scale) the 1-1/2 mile estimate given by Glover in his letter for the distance he and his men had traveled on Boston Post Road and then Split Rock Road before meeting the enemy. That spot where the Battle began today is a rise near the second tee on today's Split Rock Golf Course -- nowhere near Glover's Rock.  The Battle then progressed across the remainder of today's Split Rock Golf Course toward the New England Thruway, crossed today's Thruway, proceeded onto and around today's Split Rock Road in Pelham and continued down to today's Wolf's Lane to Colonial Avenue where it ended at the grounds of today's Pelham Memorial High School where the British and German troops camped along today's Colonial Avenue toward New Rochelle.

On October 18, 1901, the Bronx Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of Mount Vernon, N. Y., unveiled a bronze memorial tablet affixed to the newly-named Glover's Rock.  Articles about the event, including one with an interesting photograph, appeared in a variety of local newspapers.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes one such article that included a photograph taken at the time of the event that appeared with that article.  Following that transcription, there are transcriptions of a host of articles describing preparations for the unveiling of the tablet place in 1901 and the actual unveiling -- each followed by a citation to its source.

Which was marked with a tablet by the D. A. R. last week.
Professor Alfred Hallam and chorus of public school children of
Mount Vernon, who sang at the exercises."
Daily Tribune, Oct. 21, 1901, p. 7, cols. 1-2 (photo and caption).
NOTE:  Click on image to enlarge.


Bronx Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of Mount Vernon, N. Y., unveiled on Friday a handsome bronze tablet on Glover's Rock, a huge bowlder [sic] located in Pelham Bay Park, on the drive to City Island.

The day was the 125th anniversary of the battle of Pell's Point, an engagement in which Colonel Glover, with 550 Americans, held back a few thousand men of the royal army under General Howe, who were endeavoring to cut off General Washington's retreat to White Plains.

So well did this small body of men do their work that Washington was able to reach White Plains and remove his stores to the north before the battle at that place later in the month occurred.  

The inscription, reads as follows:


In memory of the 550 patriots who, led by Colonel John Glover, held General Howe's army in check at the BATTLE OF PELL'S POINT.  October 18, 1776.  Thus aiding General Washington in his retreat to White Plains.  'Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds.'  Erected by Bronx Chapter of Mount Vernon, N. Y.  Daughters of the American Revolution.  October 18, 1901.

Source:  GLOVER'S ROCK, PELHAM BAY PARK, New-York Daily Tribune, Oct. 21, 1901, p. 7, cols. 1-2.

Battle of Pell's Point to Receive Deserved Attention from Bronx Chapter D. A. R.

The Bronx Chapter, Daughter [sic] of the American Revolution, of Mount Vernon, intends to place a bronze tablet to commemorate the encounter, properly known as the Battle of Pell's Point, between the American forces under General John Glover and the British under General Howe, on October 18, 1776.

The scenes of this little known but most important conflict is within the limits of the present Pelham Bay Park, and the tablet will be affixed to the huge boulder historically known as Glover's Rock, which marks the scene of the first skirmish of the day, between the American and British advance guards.

With the single exception of the historian Dawson, writers have neglected this all-day-long encounter, between two small regiments of Glover's brigade and an enemy ten times their number.  But the historic importance of the fight was great, for it gave an additional day's respite to Washington's troops then retreating northward after the disastrous battle of Long Island, and caused the enemy to halt for several days more at and near New Rochelle; thus enabling the patriot army to take up a new position at White Plains and later give battle there.

Washington and Gen. Charles Lee recognized its signal importance in congratulatory addresses to General Glover and his command, soon after.  It was the first resistance offered to the invaders after landing on the mainland of Westchester County; and the tablet will be the first Revolutionary memento erected in the eastern shore of the County.

It is hoped to erect and dedicate the tablet on the anniversary of the battle, October 18th.  

The cost of the erection will be probably $200 -- a sum beyond the power of a small chapter like this to provide in full.

An appeal to the citizens of the County and friends of the D. A. R. generally, therefore becomes necessary and you are asked to send a check for a [sic] much as you may be disposed to subscribe to this object.  Due notice will be sent to all donors, and they are requested to attend the ceremonies.

The members of the Chapter authorized to receive these contributions are:  Mrs. Roger M. Sherman, 17 Summit avenue; Mrs. H. P. Willcox, 127 Archer avenue; Mrs. Harry Hudler, 9 Willow Place, and Miss Susan Maude Stone, 161 Park avenue."

Source:  COMMEMORATIVE TABLET -- Battle of Pell's Point to Receive Deserved Attention From Bronx Chapter D. A. R., The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 26, 1901, p. 4, col. 3.  

"Battle of Pell's Point.

The Bronx Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, of Mount Vernon, intends to place a bronze tablet to commemorate the encounter, properly known as the Battle of Pell's Point, between the American forces under General John Glover and the British under General Howe, on Oct. 18, 1776.

The scenes of this little known but most important conflict are within the limits of the Present Pelham Bay Park, and the tablet will be affixed to the huge bowlder [sic] historically known as Glover's Rock, which marks the scene of the first skirmish of the day, between the American and British advance guards."

Source:  Battle of Pell's Point, The Yonkers Statesman, Oct. 2, 1901, p. 4, col. 1.  

Tablet to be Erected.
The Public Invited -- Interesting and Instructive Exercises to Be Held at Glover's Rock.

To-morrow, Friday afternoon, the exercises conducted by Bronx Chapter, D. A. R., at the unveiling of the tablet in commemoration of the Battle of Pell's Point, will take place at Glover's Rock, Pelham Bay Park.  

This rock lies on the road to City Island, beside the Bartow horse car track near the gate of the Little Mothers summer house.  It is a charming drive from Mount Vernon, or a train on the New Haven road leaves Mount Vernon, at 1:30; New York, at 1:04 p.m., arriving at Bartow in ample time for the ceremonies.

The Chapter urges the public to attend.  This is the first historical tablet place on this side of West Chester County, and it is felt that some interest should be shown, and the exercises themselves will be very interesting.

The members of Bronx Chapter, D. A. R., have been untiring in their efforts to accomplish the erection of this tablet and to furnish an interesting and instructing [sic] a program:

Chorus, School Children of Mount Vernon; conductor, Prof. Alfred Hallam.

Prayer, Rev. Owen Lovejoy.


Chorus, Public School Children.

Address, Mrs. Roger M. Sherman, Regent, Bronx Chapter.

Unveiling of Tablet, Majorie [sic?] Sherman and Donald Baker.

Chorus, Public School Children.

Benediction, Rev. F. M. Taylor."

Source:  THE BATTLE OF PELL'S POINT -- Tablet to be Erected, Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], p. 1, col. 3.


Hon. Edward Hageman Hall, secretary of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society will deliver the address at the unveiling of the tablet in commemoration of the battle of Pell's Point, at Glover's Rock, this afternoon.

Mr. Hall has been interested in just such work as that undertaken by Bronx Chapter, D. A. R. and his selection as the orator of the day is most appropriate."

Source:  ORATOR AT GLOVER'S ROCK, Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 18, 1901, p. 1, col. 3.  

"Bronx Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution will unveil the tablet on Glover's Rock, Pelham Bay Park, to commemorate the Battle of Pell's Point, at 2.30 Friday next, October 18.  This rock hill is on the road to City Island, beside the Bartow horse car track, near the gate of the Little Mothers' Summer Home.

The Chapter urges the public to attend.  This is the second historical tablet placed on this side of Westchester County and it is felt some interest should be shown and the exercises themselves will be interesting."

Source:  [Untitled], The New Rochelle Press, Oct. 19, 1901, p. 8, col. 2 (note that the article appeared on October 19, 1901 announcing that there "will" be an unveiling on October 18, 1901).  

Bronze Table [sic] Unveiled.

Bronx Chapter, D. A. R., Selected the 125th Anniversary as an Appropriate Time for the Unveiling.

Yesterday afternoon, under the glowing October skies and amid a large number of interested people, Bronx Chapter, D. A. R., unveiled a fine bronze tablet, as a fitting celebration and memorial of the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the battle of Pell's Point.

The occasion was the climax and crown of a year and a half of preparation and effort on the part of the chapter.  Through their efforts and the generosity of friends, the desire of the chapter has at last been happily fulfilled, to mark the spot of this little known, but important battle.  The beautiful site of the encounter, in Pelham Bay Park, was brought to the notice of the chapter by Mr. William Abbatt, the well-known historian of Eastchester, whose research and unfailing interest in the project of the chapter have been of the greatest assistance in their work.  

Opposite to the huge boulder known as Glover's Rock, a grand stand was erected for the chapter and the guests of honor.  The stand was beautifully draped with the National colors, and surrounded as it was with numerous carriages filled with an interested au-
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dience, faced by a chorus of fifty public school children, standing close beside the historic boulder, made a picture long to be remembered.  The exercises opened with a chorus entitled 'America for Freedom,' by the public school children, led by Mr. Alfred Hallam, in his usual inspiring style.

The following are the names of the scholars selected from the respective schools to form the chorus.

High School.--Misses Brittingham, Clayton, Brodsky, Cust, Howland, Wolff, Ross, Van Denburg, Morris Kirby and Percy Young.

School No. 1.--Arthur Dusenberry, Harvey Traband, John Law, Augustus Brady, Clark Gould, Clarence Marsh, Ben Banning, Edith Downs, Mabel Sutter, Eva Gustafson, Fayette Henshaw, Maud Weber, Nellie Morris, Elizabeth Morris, Mary Merritt, Grace Whitney, Gertrude Hitchcock.

School No. 6.--Arvilla Relyea, Ethel Stoney, Marjorie Knight, Helen Chapin, Emily Anderson.

School No. 7.--Ruth Olson, Addie Low, Annie Bants, Frank Cart, Lewis Reif, Harry Sterus, Peter O'Connor, Fletcher Wood, Blatchford Sherman.

School No. 4.--Fred Michel, Herbert Bradley, Maitland Ponton, Vernon Blair,, May Gallagher, May Wren, Bessie Gibson, Catherine McCaffery.

Next followed a prayer of dedication by the Rev. Owen R. Lovejoy.  The Regent of the chapter, Mrs. Roger M. Sherman, then introduced the speaker of the day, Mr. Edward Hageman Hall, of New York City, Secretary of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, which it will be remembered, has recently done such fine service to New York and the country at large by saving the Palisades on the Hudson from threatened destruction.

Mr. Hall's address was an eloquent plea for memorials of the kind just erected by Bronx Chapter.  He urged silent but impressive effect upon observers, both old and young, of such witnesses to glorious deeds of the past, and pleaded for a reverent and discriminating memory of the annals of our country, as one of the best guides to future conduct.  Mr. Hall was listened to with the closest attention, and received hearty applause.  The chorus sang 'America,' after which the Regent, Mrs. Sherman, dedicated the tablet in a short address, glowing with patriotism, and paying a graceful and appreciative tribute to Mr. William Abbatt, to whom the chapter owes so much.

At the close of Mrs. Sherman's speech, the tablet was unveiled by Marjorie Sherman and Donald Baker.  Prolonged applause and murmurs of admiration greeted the handsome bronze memorial which is the work of Paul Cabaret, of New York.  The tablet is 3.6 feet long by 3 feet high, and bears the following inscription in large clear cut letters:

Glover's Rock.  In Memory of those 550 Patriots led by Colonel John Glover, held in check.  The British troops under General Howe at the Battle of Pell's Point, October 7. [sic] 1776,  Thus aiding Washington in his retreat to White Plains.  Erected by Bronx Chapter, Mount Vernon, New York.  Daughters of the American Revolution October 18th, 1901.

Following the unveiling, the entire audience joined with Mr. Hallam's choir in singing 'The Star Spangled Banner,' and the benediction was pronounced by the Rev. F. M. Taylor.  

Thus Bronx Chapter commemorates the first resistance offered to British invaders after landing on the mainland of Westchester County, the first tablet erected as a Revolutionary memento in the eastern shore of the county.  After the impressive ceremonies, the chapter and their friends were entertained in a delightful informal reception, given by Mrs. Roger Sherman at her home, 17 Summit avenue."

Source:  ANOTHER HISTORIC SPOT MARKED -- Bronze Table [sic] Unveiled TO COMMEMORATE BATTLE OF PELL'S POINT, Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 19, 1901, p. 1, col.3 & p. 5, col. 1.  

Marks the Spot Where Americans Held Gen. Howe in Check.

MOUNT VERNON, N. Y., Oct. 18.--Bronx Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, of Mount Vernon unveiled a bronze tablet on Glover's Rock, a big boulder in Pelham Bay Park, this afternoon, to mark the spot where 550 American patriots, led by Col. John Glover, held a detachment of the British Army under Gen. Howe in check, thus aiding the Continental Army under George Washington in its retreat to White Plains.  

Addresses were delivered by Edward Hagemen Hall, Secretary of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, and Mrs. Roger M. Sherman.  The tablet was unveiled by Marjorie Sherman and Donald Baker the descendant of one of the men who took part in the engagement.  It bears the following inscription:


In Memory of the 550 Patriots who, led by Col. John Glover, held Gen. Howe's army in check at the battle of Pell's Point, Oct. 18, 1776, thus aiding Washington in his retreat to White Plains.  'Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds.'  Erected by Bronx Chapter of Mount Vernon, Daughters of the American Revolution, Oct. 18, 1901.

Source:  TABLET TO GLOVER'S MEN -- Marks the Spot Where Americans Held Gen. Howe in Check, The Sun [NY, NY], Oct. 19, 1901, p. 6, col. 7.  

"Patriotic Address.

Mrs. Roger M. Sherman, formerly Miss Mary Drake of Buffalo, made a most inspiring address recently at the unveiling of the tablet on Glover's rock, in Westchester County.  The tablet commemorates 550 patriots who led by Col. John Glover held Gen. Howe's army in check at the battle of Pell's Point, during the Revolutionary War.  It was erected by the Bronx Chapter, D. A. R., of which Mrs. Sherman is a prominent member.  The tablet was unveiled by her daughter, Miss Marjorie Sherman."

Source:  Patriotic Address, The Buffalo Courier [Buffalo, NY], Nov. 1, 1901, p. 5, col. 1.  

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I have written previously about Glover's Rock on a number of occasions.  For one such article, see:

Mon., Feb. 28, 2005:  Glover's Rock on Orchard Beach Road Does Not Mark the Site of the Battle of Pelham.  

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Fifty Years Behind the Times" - City Island After its Annexation by New York City

In the mid-1890s, New York City annexed a large part of the Town of Pelham including City Island.  At the time, the City Island oyster industry was waning.  The remainder of the maritime traditions of City Island were holding on, barely.  The tourism industry, however, still looked like a growing market.

At the time, City Island remained a quaint New England-style fishing village.  New Yorkers and those who visited New York traveled to City Island via ferry and the Branch Line for fishing, boating, and to enjoy the quaint village.  Articles were beginning to appear in newspapers and publications throughout the United States portraying City Island as a quaint backwater fishing village that time had forgotten.

One such article appeared in The St. Louis Republic.  It described City Island as the place "where New York City is fifty years behind the times."  The article described City Island as it existed for much of the latter half of the 19th century with its horse railroad, its clam diggers, its "Pelham Cemetery," its old hotels, and its yacht-building tradition.  The article further included a couple of engravings of the City Island horse railroad and the tiny City Island fire house which still had a "hand fire engine."  The article includes a brief history of the island and provides a fascinating glimpse of its past at about the time the island left the possession of the Town of Pelham to join the behemoth Gotham nearby.

Citizens Use a Hand Fire Engine, Ride on Horse Cars and Dig Clams for a Living at City Island, the Historic Shellfishing District of Manhattan.

"Antiquated Railroad Car, Connecting City Island City With the Outside World"
The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), Mar. 30, 1902, Part II, p. 12, cols. 3-4.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.  

Antiquated Railroad Car, Connecting City Island City With the Outside World.

The Republic Bureau.
146 Times Building.

New York, March 29. -- New York city's absorption of its suburbs has been fatal to the race of hardshell, brine-incrusted clam diggers that has for three hundred years or more peopled the little dot of sand in Long Island Sound known as City Island, which has recently been swallowed up by the great metropolis.  One by one the hunters for the bivalve are being laid away in the little cemetery overlooking the quiet waters of the Sound.  Those who have not yet succumbed to the hand of time are gradually drifting away, seeking other field, or are accepting the gold of associated capitalists who have within a month past seleccted the island as a fruitful field for speculation, or see in it golden returns for investment.

These 'clammers' have been really a race in themselves.  For more than a century the intrusion of the urban resident of the man of commerce was resented.  The native City Islander was content with his little world, measuring a half mile in width by a mile in length, and he hoped, as his ancestors had hoped before him, that the invasion, now at flood tide, would never come.  Within sight, and almost within sound of the nightly glare and daily tumult of a great city, the 'clammer' had lived from generation to generation, happy and undisturbed.

Market for His Wares.

His only use for the city was the fact that it was a market for his wares and a supply depot for his rum and his apparel.  He lived in dories or smacks most of the time, and his family dwelt in the little cottage in the queer, solemn streets of the island.  Until New York moved up beyond the Harlem River he believed that there would be eternal solitude in the little village where his forbears had settled and where he hoped to die.

The history of City Island has been the history of the shellfishing district of the East.  It has been as interesting as it has been lacking in excitement.  When New York was still little more than a village, City Island was settled by a coterie of hardy followers of the sea who bestowed upon it the name of Great Minnefords, the name by which the tribes which had peopled the place before the advent of the white race had been known, and the official records of the State of New York and of Westchester County contain many references to transactions at Minneford, or 'Minnifer,' a corruption of the Indian title.

In 1866 [sic, 1666], Thomas Pell, it is recorded, 'applied for letters patent from the Crown creating the Manor of Pelham, embracing all that territory between the Bronx and the Connecticut River, and the islands lying upon the tract before the mainland.'

City Island's Genesis.

That marked the beginning of City Island, and it remained very much the same as it was from the beginning of the Eighteenth Century till a very short time ago.  The master of Pelham, to be sure, sold it for 'five shillings and one pepper corn, if the same shall be lawfully demanded.'  Whether the payment was made has not been recorded.  Official statistics show that Samuel Rodman, early in the Eighteenth Century, paid £2,300 for the island.

Half a dozen changes in ownership were made within the next three or four generations, until one Benjamin Palmer, in May 1763, as then proprietor, divided the little sandheap in the Sound into thirty equal parts, twenty-six of which he sold to a stock company, reserving for himself the other four.  Four thousand five hundred building lots were laid out, and the new owners announced their intention of creating a great trading center, to be equal to New York, and to be known as City Island.

City Island the name has since remained, but the city has never had any existence.  The squatters who had made a living in fishing, seining and raking for oysters and clams acquired title to such 'city' lots as they desired at £10 each, and they and their successors have since remained in possession.  The dream of creating a new metropolis died away, more than a century ago, with those who had been responsible for it, and the colony lapsed into the staid old fishing village that it remained until the beginning of the present year.

British Ruled During Daytime.

No more patriotic Americans swore allegiance to the flag of freedom than the fishermen of City Island, and it is tradition there to-day that while the British held the island by daylight, the Yankees were in possession by night.  Raids were frequently made by the fishermen to all the adjoining points where the soldiers of the King were in possession.  In one of these John Dibble, one of the stoutest of the City Islanders, with a party of neighbors swooped down upon the British warship Schuldan, then anchored in Long Island Sound, and made her a captive, as well as six supply vessels containing stores and ammunition intended for the forces of the King.

With the Revolutionary War fought and won, City Islanders returned to their nets, their trawlers and their clams.  The same families who figured in its history then are in possession to-day, or, at least, were in possession until the tales of syndicates and fortunes in real estate resulted in a great boom which dazzled most of the natives and sent those who were not dazzled to other districts in quest of new clam beds and more solitude.

Practically all of the southerly end of the island at that time was owned by George W. Horton.  Much of it is still in possession of his descendants, Stephen Decatur Horton and George Washington Horton and their heirs, though within the memory of many at present living in the southerly end, jutting out toward the Stepping Stone Lighthouse, and Forts Schuyler and Willets Point, that guard the New York harbor entrance, was sold to a New York banker and came to be known as Belden point.  The Horton property was officially described in a contemporary record as 'overlooking Hutchinson's Bay, Throgmorton's Neck, the Stepping Stones Lighthouse and the Great Necks upon Long Island.'  This meant the jutland know [sic] to-day as Throg's Neck and Great and Little Neck.

Old Tavern Still Thrives.

The clam digger of City Island still remains, the old volunteer fireman's hook and ladder company in the main street of the quaint old village is still there, the old village tavern continues to thrive, albeit usurped by Tammany, and the Macedonian Hotel, built from the timbers of the British [sic] frigate and prison ship Macedonia, captured in the War of 1812, still stands, despite the ravages of storm and wind on the lonely shore of 'Dead Quiet,' in close proximity to the graveyard in which repose the bodies of the City Islanders who have passed away during many decades.

Every morning as soon as the tide begins to fall the clam digger goes to the sandy beach on the shore of the island, and with his clam hook scratches away the sand and exposes and captures the elusive bivalve which forms the nucleus of many a good dinner, both on the island and in New York.

The clam diggers are a peaceful race.  No one encroaches upon the territory claimed by another.  The first comer has the selection of the ground upon which he will work, and the second does not presume to interfere with him or to step upon the section over which he is fishing for the clam.

Groups of these clam diggers can be seen at all times when the tide is out, bent almost double on the sand and digging with their hooks or shovels, stopping every now and then to lift the clams from their resting place and put them in the basket which they set upon the ground just beside them.  Many of those who visit the island during the summer -- and there are many, for City Island is a favorite haunt of the angler as well as a resort for those who enjoy a truly rural place for passing a day of quiet enjoyment -- walk to the sandy shore and watch the clam digger at his work.

"Fire Headquarters Building, Ten Feet Wide."
The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), Mar. 30, 1902, Part II, p. 12, col. 4.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Many Old-Time Hotels.

Then they visit one of the oldtime hotels and partake of a clambake or shore dinner, with the clams just fresh from their sandy bed and cooked as only the native City Islander can cook them.  

Only a few steps from the sandy shore where the clam digger pursues his vocation, and in the loneliest part of the island, stands the Macedonian Hotel.  When the wreck of the famous British frigate [sic] and prison ship Macedonia was bleaching her hulk on the shores of Hart's Island, directly across the water from City Island, a native conceived the idea of putting the solid and age-protected timbers to good use.  With boats and assistants he made many trips to the old hulk, gathering the timbers and towing them to the beach in front of a piece of property which he owned close beside the shore.

From the wreckage he erected what has ever since been known as the Macedonian Hotel, and on its side are inscribed these words, which tell of the history of the famous old house:

This House is the remains of the English frigate Macedonian, captured on Sunday, October 5, 1812, by the United States frigate United States, commanded by Captain Stephen Decatur, U. S. N.

This action was fought in latitude 24 deg. north, longitude 29 det. 30 min. west.  That is about 600 miles northwest of the Cape de Verde Islands, off the west coast of Africa, and towed to Cow Bay in 1874.

Used as a Bar.

The main room used as a bar, on the first floor, is framed of the heaviest timbers from the old ship.  To many of them are still fastened the old hooks to which the sailors of the British fighting ship hung their hammocks.  An old cupboard from the galley of the ship serves as a bar, and the cabin used by the petty officers is used as the place wherein mine host of the Macedonian keeps his stock of ripe old liquor for dispensation among his customers and the clam diggers who work along the beach in his neighborhood.

On the second floor is the 'music room' that is none other than the main cabin of the Macedonian.  In removing the lumber from the ship those who did the work took pains to preserve each piece and place it in its proper place in the Macedonian Hotel.  The old 18 and 24 inch iron barred windows on the man-of-war were carefully preserved, and these now let in the light to the music room in this unique hotel.  

Timbers of Britain's vanquished war ship also form part of the northerly fence line of the quaint village burying ground.  This resting place for the dead is small, but interesting in its solitude.  Its eastern limit is the beach on which fretful Long Island Sound beats incessantly, claiming more and more of the bluff in which generations of the natives are buried.

Waves Have Washed Away Land.

The dashing of the waves has already eaten away much of the headland, and the old picket fence has partly disappeared, carried off on the bosom of the tide.  No pretentious monuments have been erected there.  Most of the graves are marked only by little mounds or slabs of marble, many of which have crumbled and are held in place only by iron clamps placed in position by the descendants of those who sleep beneath.  A wooden segment over the little picket swinging gate bears the legend: -- 


Lanes, avenues or walks there are none.  This hamlet of the dead, though in the City of New York, seems like a bit of quaintest Europe transplanted.  The plots, nevertheless, are not neglected, for here and there are flower beds or artificial funeral offerings, while newly-made graves, alas, are plentiful.  It is still the burial place of the native, who gives never a thought of the grand cemeteries of the metropolis, with their mausoleums, monuments and vaults.

Graveyard of Famous Racers.

Just beyond and in plain sight of this last resting place for this fraction of the human race is the graveyard of the proudest craft that ever floated.  Famous yachts, winners of great contests, defenders of the America's Cup and playthings of the wealthiest men in the mightiest of nations have ended their careers there.  To-day the famous sloop yacht Columbia is hauled out upon the shore, shedded, wind swept, weather beaten and lonely, on the very spot where but a few years ago her predecessor in the affections of the American yachting world, the game old Defender, last rested her bones and was torn into junk after as a great a struggle for the blue ribbon of the sea as had ever been fought.

Whether the Columbia is to end her days as have those that preceded her in the marine graveyard is still a moot question.  At any rate, there she is to-day, upon the very beach that saw the last of earlier champions of the sea.  Keeping her company at present, is Mr. August Belmont's famous 70-footer Mineola.  Captain 'Charlie' Barr, skipper of the Columbia, lives in a cottage within a stone's throw of the shipyard, and frequently strolls down to the beach to admire the lines of the fleet racer that twice carried the hopes of the American people and vanquished the most formidable craft that ever crossed the seas to test the supremacy of American yachts and yachtsmen.

As if mindful of the supremacy in the yachting world and still aware of the last resting palce of native pleasure craft, Thomas Ratsey, Britain's foremost designer of racing sails, is erecting an establishment that is to equal any in Europe or America."

Source:  WHERE NEW YORK CITY IS FIFTY YEARS BEHIND THE TIMES, The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), Mar. 30, 1902, Part II, p. 12, cols. 3-4.

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I have written about various aspects of the history of City Island, once part of the Town of Pelham.  For merely a few such examples, see:

Fri., Jan. 23, 2009:  Biography of Jacob Smith of City Island, Proprietor of the Macedonia Hotel.  

Tue., Nov. 07, 2006:  Tour of City Island and Portions of Pelham Published in 1909.

Wed., Jul. 12, 2006:  A Brief History of City Island Published in a Book by Stephen Jenkins in 1912.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Brief History of City Island Including the Legend of the Macedonia Hotel with Photographs Published in 1906

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a lovely, brief history of City Island published as a chapter in a book released in 1906.  The fascinating history conveys, among other things, the legend of the Macedonia Hotel and demonstrates the perils of oral traditions and local history.  

City Island legend once claimed that parts of the Macedonia Hotel that stood at the east end of Ditmars Street was constructed from part of the famed English frigate Macedonian.  United States Commodore Stephen Decatur (at the time, a Captain) captured that frigate during the War of 1812 to wide acclaim.  

A 19th century City Island boatyard owner named Charles McClennan salvaged old timbers and the captain's cabin from a decommissioned frigate named the U.S.S. Macedonian at Cow Bay across Long Island Sound from City Island.  City Islander Jacob Smith bought the timbers and cabin and used them to build a small hotel on City Island.  Smith told all who would listen that the hotel was built from the remains of the famous English Frigate captured by Stephen Decatur during the War of 1812.  

This legend attracted curious visitors from far and near to the little hotel on City Island. However, the information turned out to be entirely wrong. It turns out that the structure included material that is not from the original remains of the Macedonian captured during the War of 1812.  It was constructed in part from the remains of a second ship (a United States frigate) also named "Macedonian" that launched at Gosport, Virginia, in 1836, was rebuilt in Brooklyn in 1852 and was broken up in 1874 at Cow Bay, Long Island.

By 1922, the Macedonia Hotel had been re-purposed as the City Island Casino.  It was destroyed in a fire that year.  

The article below includes a number of wonderful photographs of City Island including a lovely photograph of the Macedonia Hotel before the legend painted on its side was over-painted in the early 20th century.  

Ancient Horse Cars - Marshall Mansion - City Island Bridge - General History of the Island - Macedonia Hotel

'A gem of the Ocean.'  Thus is City Island described by the same person who goes on to state his experiences on a trip to the island from Bartow Station.  

'All aboard!'  The cry struck my car, and looking at what there was to board, I spied what I took to be a pet plaything left by Noah on Mt. Ararat after the Flood -- sort of box on wheels with tin geegees to pull it.  This then was the car, and I swung aboard.  We made magnificent progress, at the rate of at least sixteen miles in seventeen hours.  About half way to the bridge, I was astonished to see the driver leave his horses to jog along by themselves and walk into the car.  I thought he was sick and needed a rest, but no.  He sang out:  'Fares, please,' and proceeded to collect them.'

If the same man had seen the older cars, with their single horse, that jogged painfully at a snail's pace, he would have been more than ever surprised.  

"Old City Island Bridge"
Source:  "Chapter XX:  City Island" in History of Bronx Borough City Of New York
Compiled for The North Side News By Randall Comfort, p. 59 (NY, NY:  North Side
News Press:  1906).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

But City Island ought indeed to be thankful.  It has now a bridge to connect it with the main land.  In early days there was only a ferry, nay, even so recently as 1868.  Close to the bridge stands the immense 'Colonial Inn,' the fine old Marshall Mansion, surrounded by beautifully graded lawns and shade trees.  The old bridge, which was so narrow that even one of the tiny bob-tailed horsecars could scarcely pass a team, has been removed to make way for the much more roomy structure that now spans the waters.  A lingering remnant of the old creation still remains, as if loath to leave the spot to which it was brought after serving as the original Harlem Bridge.

Go down City Island's 'Main Street,' and you will find yourself transported as if to an isle in the midst of the ocean.  Yachting and fishing are the main, indeed we might say the only, pursuits.  Boats of every kind are drawn up on all sides.  Almost every one you meet wears the same nautical air.  You imagine you are miles away from the great City of New York instead of being practically in its northernmost corner.

It is said that City Island was so named because a colony was settled there intended to rival the present City of New York, then a tiny group of houses.  Now what a wonderful difference there is!

If we try to seek the first inhabitants of this 'Peal of the Sound' we have to turn to the Sewanoe tribe of Indians, who occupied the shore from Hell Gate on the south as far as Norwalk on the north.  They are also quoted as dwelling in the whole country, now the eastern part of old Westchester County, from the source of the Croton down to the Bronx.

Even to-day the seafaring inhabitants support themselves partly on what they find in the countless shells that line the coast.  In the very same manner the Indians of old made their living, thus giving to the spot the name of the 'Islands of Shells.'  Before the name city Island was given to this place, it was styled Minneford's or Minnefor's Island, a title supposed to have been derived from an old Indian Sachem who once held sway there.

When witchcraft was ranked among the list of crimes, two unfortunate persons  had sought City Island's shores as a supposedly safe refuge.  But, as we are told, the wave of fanaticism which had swept through New England, reached this spot and on October 2, 1665, Ralph Hall and Mary, his wife, were arraigned for trial at the Court of Assizes in New York, upon suspicion of witchcraft.'  We learn that they were brought to trial for 'murder by means of witchcraft.'  As a result both pleaded not guilty, but the jury found that there was something 'suspicious by the evidence of what the woman is charged with, but nothing considerable of value to take away her life.  But in reference to the man we find nothing considerable to charge him with.'

For three dreary years the two lived in a little hut on the lonely shores of 'Minneford's Island.'  Then, finally they were acquitted, 'there having been no direct proof of witchcraft.'  According to the records, this was the first case of witchcraft to come before the authorities in the Province of New York.

Then gradually developed the idea of founding a city on these shores to equal the far distant City of New York.  This latter place seemed all very well in its way, but its location was far down on the lower end of Manhattan Island.  Such were the dreams of Philip and Benjamin Palmer, who had spent their life from childhood's days on Throgg's Neck, opposite the island.  Here was a spot that would completely solve the perplexing problem.  No more risks to run in passing through the whirling maelstrom and dangerous rocks of Hell Gate.  There was plenty of safe anchorage and refuge from storms.  Even a plan, or map, was gooten out and an advertisement prepared, showing forth in glowing terms the advantages of the place.  Real estate began to boom.  A broad avenue -- now Main Street -- was laid out and about four thousand lots were planned.  Mr. Palmer himself was offered as high as 300 and even 1,000 pounds for the most desirable portions.

"Macedonian Hotel"
Source:  "Chapter XX:  City Island" in History of Bronx Borough City Of New York
Compiled for The North Side News By Randall Comfort, p. 61 (NY, NY:  North Side
News Press:  1906).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Then the sky darkened.  In 1776 the British fleet had arrived in New York harbor, and the island residents realized their extreme danger, so far away from the rest of the world.  As for Palmer and his wife, they waited there a few days too long, and were all taken prisoners by the enemy, where he was 'badly treated and continually refused permission to leave.'  Finally he obtained this permission, going to New York, where he remained until the close of the war.  

During the Revolution, although the place was closely guarded by British warships, we learn with pride that the American whaleboats did not hesitate for a moment to dart out and attack the enemy, no matter what size their ships were.  

After the war, Palmer's troubles were by no means over.  Because he had obeyed orders from some one in the King's service, he discovered that his land had been seized and his petitions for the return of his possessions proved unsuccessful.  

The money for building a bridge to the mainland could not be raised and at last the project for building a city to rival New York was abandoned.  As for Palmer, his circumstances became so reduced that Aaron Burr started a subscription which resulted in keeping him from abject poverty until his death.

After the completion of the iron Harlem Bridge, the original structure was removed to City Island, about 1873, and the old-fashioned ferry was at last abandoned.

Minneford Avenue is one of the most prominent thoroughfares of this little island kingdom.  On a side street, fronting the waters of the Sound, is a quaint relic of one of the prizes of the gallant Stephen Decatur.  When I visited the spot last, the house had been newly painted, thus obliterating a sign which proclaimed in large letters the unique history of the spot.

In the first place are the large characters 'MACEDONIA HOTEL.'  On the north side is, or perhaps we had better say, was, this inscription:

'This house is the remains of the English Frigate Macedonia, captured on Sunday, October 25, by the United States Frigate United States Commanded by Cap't Stephen Decatur, U.S.N.  The action was fought in Lat. 24' N., Long. 29' 30" W.  That is About 600 Miles N. W. of the Cape de Verde Islands, Off the West Coast of Africa, and Towed to Cow Bay in 1874.'

Thus we have a striking example of a ship on dry land.  Nay, it is not only a ship, but half ship and half house.  Ninety odd years ago, when the old 'Macedonia' was in the full glory of its youth as a frigate-of-war in the English Navy, sailing near the Canary Islands, it became a prize of war of the daring and intrepid Decatur.  In this way one of the finest warships of the British Navy became the property of the United States, in more senses than one.

Without even a change of name, this almost new frigate began a most remarkable career under the stars and stripes.  She did splendid work in battling with the Algerian pirates in the far distant Mediterranean.  In the Mexican War she helped capture the stronghold of Vera Cruz, and in 1847 she aided to carry a most welcome cargo of food to the starving people of Ireland.  When the Civil War broke out, the Macedonia performed noble service as a transport of troops.  

Finally in 1874 she was condemned by the government and towed to Cow Bay, Long Island, where an enterprising City Islander bought her, took her across the Sound on her last cruise, and erected the best part of her where she now stands.  The inscription on her sides is said to have been obtained from the War Department, so it may be taken as authentic.

A visit to the old ship is full of interest.  On all sides can be seen the immense stanchions, bristling with the massive iron rings to which the ancient cannon were once fastened.  The roof, being the old cabin, is curved, and opening from the sides, like tiny cubby-holes, are the officers' staterooms.  These are neatly furnished with beds, giving the place a most homelike and occupied air.  The hooks from which the British tars and their American successors hung their hammocks are plainly in evidence, while in the roof can be seen the great round opening through which the giant mast once passed.

Around the corner from the 'Macdeonia Hotel' is City Island's burying ground.  This is said to have given the hotel the name of the 'Dead Quiet.'"

"City Island Car"
Source:  "Chapter XX:  City Island" in History of Bronx Borough City Of New York
Compiled for The North Side News By Randall Comfort, p. 62 (NY, NY:  North Side
News Press:  1906).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Source:  "Chapter XX:  City Island" in History of Bronx Borough City of New York Compiled for The North Side News by Randall Comfort, pp. 59-62 (NY, NY:  North Side News Press:  1906).  

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I have written about various aspects of the history of City Island, once part of the Town of Pelham.  For merely a few such examples, see:

Fri., Jan. 23, 2009:  Biography of Jacob Smith of City Island, Proprietor of the Macedonia Hotel.  

Tue., Nov. 07, 2006:  Tour of City Island and Portions of Pelham Published in 1909.

Wed., Jul. 12, 2006:  A Brief History of City Island Published in a Book by Stephen Jenkins in 1912.

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