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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club From Dealer in Tarrytown, NY

Elizabeth G. Fuller, Librarian of The Westchester County Historical Society, recently discovered a very large leather-bound volume containing more than ten years' worth of handwritten meeting minutes and other records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club -- the precursor to the village government formed when the Village of Pelham Manor was incorporated in 1891. She found the volume among the collections of a dealer located in Tarrytown, NY. There is no record regarding how the materials ended up at that location. Ms. Fuller successfully acquired the treasure for the collections of The Westchester County Historical Society. (Below is an image of the cover of a DRAFT minutes book stored among similar records maintained in the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.)

The WCHS has made the volume available to a representative of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham who was able to photograph the hundreds of pages of records contained in the volume to permit transcription, study and analysis. The records span the period from 1881 when the Pelham Manor Protective Club was first formed until shortly after the Village of Pelham Manor was incorporated and, consequently, took over many of the functions that had been served by the Club during the previous ten-year period.

The discovery of these records is one of the most significant developments in the study of the history of Pelham Manor in many years. They show the evolution of a so-called "Vigilance Committee" formed to handle policing issues in the area into a political force that grew so unhappy with Town Government that it became an important force in the decision to incorporate the area to form the Village of Pelham Manor in 1891.

In the early 1880s, a group of local residents formed a “Citizen’s vigilante committee”. That committee, in turn, created an organization known as “The Pelham Manor Protective Club.”

The Pelham Manor Protective Club was formally organized on December 15, 1881 – ten years before incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. Indeed, the Club might be viewed as a precursor to the organization of the Village because it was an important cooperative body created for the protection of the local citizenry.

Nearly the entire adult male population of the area – 52 local residents – subscribed as members of the Pelham Manor Protective Club. The list of subscribers reads like a “Who’s Who” of early Pelham, including such names as Robert C. Black, Robert Bolton, Benjamin Corlies, Henry W. Taft, Silas H. Witherbee and many others.

The sole purpose of the Club was “to assist the public authorities in maintaining law and order within a radius of one mile from Pelham Manor Depot . . . and to prosecute all persons committing any crimes or misdemeanors within said district.”

Given the importance of its work, the Protective Club was able to raise a substantial amount of money. Upon “subscribing” to the Club, each new member was required to pay an entrance fee of three dollars and, thereafter, to pay “such dues, not exceeding fifty cents a month, as the Executive Committee shall determine.” In addition, the “Articles of Association of The Pelham Manor Protective Club” authorized the five-member Executive Committee “to levy assessments for any legitimate object of this club, provided that assessments levied by the executive committee on any one member in any one year shall not exceed in the aggregate the sum of NINE DOLLARS over and above the regular dues.”

Over the coming months I will be transcribing, annotating and analyzing the records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club as a consequence of the kind and gracious courtesy of Katie Hite, Executive Director of the Westchester County Historical Society and her talented colleague, Elizabeth G. Fuller. I will report here on the status of the project and significant discoveries as I review the records.

To learn more about the Pelham Manor Protective Club, see Bell, Blake A., The Pelham Manor Protective Club Founded in 1881, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 24, June 11, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.


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