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.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. William Bradley Randall And Their Pelham Home Known as The Hermitage

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William Bradley Randall and his wife lived for many years in a home they called The Hermitage located at 1385 Park Lane on a large plot of land that extended from Park Lane through to today's Beech Tree Lane in the estate section of Pelham Manor. After Ther Hermitage was razed in the mid-20th century, the Randalls' land was subdivided and a number of homes were built on the site that now stand between Park Lane and Beech Tree Lane near Pelham's border with Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx.

Photograph of The Hermitage, Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham

William Bradley Randall

William B. Randall was born in South Lee, Massachusetts in 1859. He was a son of Abel Bradley Randall (an executive of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company), and Ann Eliza Ormsby Randall.

He was educated at Prospect School in Bridgeport, Connecticut and, according to one biographer, "began his financial career as trust officer of the Knickerbocker Trust Company, 1894-1908". French, Alvah P., ed., History of Westchester County New York, Vol. III, p. 119a (NY, NY & Chicago, IL: Lewis Historical Publishing Co. 1925).

In 1888, William Randall married Evelyn Smith. Evelyn Smith Randall was the daughter of Addison P. Smith and Phoebe Smith. The couple had two children including Bradley Randall, born in 1890 and Phoebe Randall born in 1895. Phoebe later married Mr. Vernon Radcliffe. Id.

Randall eventually became President of the Security Transfer and Registrar Company and was a notable businessman with a wide variety of interests. According to his biography published in Alvah P. French's History of Westchester County New York published in 1925:

"Mr. Randall's career has brought him into intimate contact with a number of large business concerns of every kind, in which he holds leading positions. He is a director of the Coal and Iron National Bank; the Mount Vernon Trust Company; Winyah Park Realty Company; vice-president and director of the Southern States Lumber Company; the Fairfax Realty Company; the Suburban Land Improvement Company; director of the Puritan Mortgage Corporation, Metropolitan Realty Corporation; Pelham Leasing Corporation; Electro Coach Corporation; Electro Bus Corporation, and the Pioche & Pacific Railroad." Id.

William B. Randall was involved in public service. From 1882 until 1888 he served as a private in the 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard. He also served as President (i.e., Mayor) of the Village of Pelham Manor, 1902-1903. He also was a member and director of the Chamber of Commerce of Westchester County and held memberships in the following clubs: National Arts, St. Maurice, Pelham Country Club, Wykagyl Country Club, New York Athletic Club and the Railroad Club. Id.

Evelyn Smith Randall

Put simply, Evelyn Smith Randall (1860-1955) was a cultural force in Pelham Manor for many decades. She was instrumental in the early organization of the Manor Club and participated in the drama, art music and literature sections of the Club. She is credited as the author of the first constitution of the Manor Club and also served as its first secretary-treasurer and historian. She served on the Club's Board of Directors for 25 years.

Evelyn Smith Randall in 1955 at the Age of 94
Photograph Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ladies' Day on Travers Island in the 19th Century

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The New York Athletic Club opened Travers Island to club members for inspection of the new clubhouse on June 8, 1889. See Travers Island, N.Y. Times, Jun. 9, 1889, p. 3 ("The new Summer home of the New-York Athletic Club on Travers Island, near Pelham Manor, on the Sound, was opened yesterday for inspection by the members and their friends."). Soon the NYAC moved its annual "Ladies Day" festivities to the new summer home.

Post Card View of Original NYAC Clubhouse Opened in 1889, Later Destroyed by Fire

There is an excellent account of the 1890 Ladies Day held at Travers Island that was published in The New York Times. It provides an excellent overview of the wide variety of events held during such gatherings as well as an interesting record of the competition on that day nearly 115 years ago. Today's blog posting will reproduce that account in its entirety:



If the gods who control the elements had been bribed they could not have given the New-York Athletic Club more perfect weather for their forty-fourth annual ladies' day games than was enjoyed by fully 5,000 people at Travers Island, Pelham Manor, yesterday. A more ideal day's outing can scarcely be imagined. Every arrangement and detail left in the hands of the various committees on reception, entertainment, &c, was carried out to perfection.

The affair was the most successful and at the same time the most fashionable ever given by the New-York Athletic Cloub.

Among the small army of people entertained was a great number of women prominent in society and men conspicuous for their success in business and the professions. Special trains were run both ways and there was an abundance of stages to take the people to and from the island.

Many came early in the morning and staid [sic] late to enjoy dancing and a supper. While the social side of the affair was such a success, however, the games were rather weak. The starters did not exceed one-fifth of the entries. The prizes were medals, gold, silver and bronze, for first, second, and third men respectively.

The only record breaking was with the shot and hammer. George R. Gray of the New-York Athletic Club put the fourteen-pound shot 47 feet 7 7/8 inches. H. L. Lambrecht's record is 46 feet 3 3/4 inches. He put the sixteen-pound shot 46 feet, beating th record (his own) of 45 feet 2 inches. The eighteen-pound shot for which there is no record, he put 41 feet 9 1/2 inches. The twenty-one-pound shot he put 38 feet 8 5/8 inches, breaking the record made by Quackberner of 35 feet 10 inches. W. L. Condon of the New-York Athletic Club knocked the fifteen-pound hammer record of 107 feet 7 inches, held by himself into a cocked hat by throwing 123 feet 6 3/4 inches. Many doubted the accuracy of the measurement, but the record was undoubtedly broken by many feet.

The games were without accident, except to C. H. Sherrill, Yale's sprinter, who sprained the tendon that has long been troubling him, in the 100-yard dash. He fell and had to be carried from the field. Following is the summary of the games:

600-YARD RUN. -- Three starters. Won by J. S. Roddy, Manhattan Athletic Club and Princeton College, second. Second heat won by T. I. Lee, New-York Athletic Club; time, 0:10 3-5; L. H. Carey, Manhattan Athletic Club, second. Final won by L. H. Carey; time, 0:10 1-5; T. I. Lee, second.

120-YARD HURDLE RACE. -- Five starters. F. C. Puffer, New-Jersey Athletic Club, and George Schwegler, New-York Athletic Club, drew a bye. Heat won by H. L. Williams, New-York Athletic Club and Yale College, time, 0:17 3-5; E. Lentilhon, New-York Athletic Club, tied for second; Lentilhon took place on toss. Final won by Williams; time, 0:16 4-5; Schwegler second.

ONE-MILE RUN. -- Five starters. Won by A. B. George, Manhattan Athletic Club; time, 4:35 4-5; W. McCarthy, Manhattan Athletic Club, second.

880-YARD RUN. -- Four starters. Won by J. S. Roddy, Manhattan Athletic Club and Princeton; time, 2:10 2-5; W. H. Wright, New-York Athletic Club and Harvard College, second.

220-YARD RUN. -- Three starters. Won by L. H. Carey, Manhattan Athletic Club; time, 0:23 2-5; T. J. Lee, New-York Athletic Club, second.

220-YARD HURDLE. -- Six starters. First heat won by E. Lentilhon, New-York Athletic Club; time 0:33 4-5; A. Brown, Pastimes, second. Second heat won by H. L. Williams, New-York Athletic Club and Yale College; time, 0:27 2-5; George Schwegler, New-York Athletic Club and Yale College, second. Final won by Schwegler; time, 0:27 1/2; Williams second.

440-YARD RUN. -- Four starters. Won by L. H. Carey, Manhattan Athletic Club; time, 0:53; J. C. Devereaux, Manhattan Athletic Club, second.

OBSTACLE RACE. -- Won by J. H. Bell, New-York Athletic Club; B. G. Woodruff, New-Jersey Athletic Club, second.

PUTTING THE 16-POUND SHOT. -- Five contestants. George R. Gray, New-York Athletic Club, 44 feet 6 3/4 inches; F. L. Lambrecht, Manhattan Athletic Club, 40 feet 11 5/8 inches; E. J. Giannini, New-York Athletic Club, 37 feet 1 inch.

POLE VAULT. -- Five contestants. E. D. Rider, New-York Athletic Club and Yale College, 10 feet 4 inches; J. Crane, Jr., Boston Athletic Association, tied at 10 feet 1 inch. Crane won on toss.

RUNNING HIGH JUMP. -- Four contestants. R. K. Pritchard, Manhattan Athletic Club, 5 feet 10 inches; H. L. Hallock, Manhattan Athletic Club, and F. C. Hooper, Berkeley Athletic Club, tied at 5 feet 6 inches. Hallock won on toss.

THROWING 16-POUND HAMMER. -- Four contestants. W. L. Coudon, New-York Athletic Club, 123 feet 6 3/4 inches; F. L. Lambrecht, Manhattan Athletic Club, 112 feet 8 1/2 inches; M. O'Sullivan, Pastimes, 88 feet 2 inches.

RUNNING BROAD JUMP. -- Nine contestants. E. E. Barnes, New-Jersey Athletic Club, 21 feet 9 1/2 inches; Victor Mapes, Berkeley Athletic Club, 20 feet 11 1/2 inches; C. T. Wiegand, New-York Athletic Club, 20 feet 4 inches.

Source: Ladies' Day At Travers Island, N.Y. Times, Jun. 8, 1890, p. 5.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Edward Penfield of Pelham Manor: Famous Illustrator and . . . Mosquito Exterminator???

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Edward Penfield is one of the most notable artists ever to have lived in Pelham Manor. Known as an illustrator and a graphic design artist, Penfield served as President of the American Society of Illustrators and has been "credited with originating the poster in this country". See Edward Penfield Dies -- Former President of American Society of Illustrators, N.Y. Times, Feb. 10, 1925, p. 23. His work was featured on the cover of many nationally-distributed publications and stands today as a testament to his astonishing talent.

June 1899 Cover of Harper's by Edward Penfield

In addition to his art, Penfield was dedicated to the Village of Pelham Manor. He engaged in many important instances of community service. One of the most unusual community tasks to which he was dedicated was that of the extermination of mosquitos in the Village. Today's Blog posting will provide information about the life and work of Edward Penfield after which Penfield Place in Pelham Manor is named and will discuss his passion for the extermination of mosquitos in our community.


Edward Penfield was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 2, 1866. He lived in Pelham Manor for much of his adult life and died on February 8, 1925 at Dr. Slocum's sanitarium in Beacon, New York as a result of a fall that injured his spine more than a year earlier. He married Jennie Judd Walker, daughter of Maj. Charles A. Walker of Pelham Manor, on April 27, 1897. The couple had two sons, although one died in childhood.

According to a brief biography of the artist in the Dictionary of American Biography Base Set by the American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936 (Reproduced in History Resource Center, Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/):

"His father, Josiah, and his grandfather, Henry L. Penfield, came from Rye, N. Y., their forebears from Fairfield, Conn.; his mother, Ellen Locke (Moore) Penfield, was born in England. Edward Penfield received his elementary education in Brooklyn, but soon left school to become a pupil at the Art Students' League in New York. After several years of study he became, at the age of twenty-four, the art editor of Harper's Magazine, and shortly, art editor of Harper's Weekly and Harper's Bazar [(which later became Harper's Bazaar)] also. He served these magazines for more than a decade with great distinction and intelligence, both as editor and as artist, in the former capacity seeking out and encouraging the best talent in the country and directing it into new and interesting channels. He discovered and befriended many a young and struggling artist and did much to raise the standards of magazine illustration. In 1901 he resigned his editorships, however, to devote his entire time to art. He executed a series of mural decorations of outdoor sports in Randolph Hall, Cambridge, Mass., now the property of Harvard University, and in 1903 painted ten panels depicting a fox hunt for the Rochester Country Club. Commercial work, however, absorbed more and more of his interest and time. He made a large number of poster designs, by which he is best remembered, and may be cited as the inaugurator of the brief but golden age of poster art in America."

Cover by Edward Penfield for 1897 Poster Calendar

During his long career, Penfield created artwork for magazine covers, book illustrations, posters, advertisements, post cards, calendars and much more.

Edward Penfield, Mosquito Exterminator

Among his many types of public service for the benefit of his beloved Village of Pelham Manor, Edward Penfield served as Village Street Commissioner for many years. As such, he gained fame in Westchester County "for his successful efforts at mosquito extermination." Indeed, according to an article published in The New York Times:

"For several years he annually drained the marshes about the village, filled in small ponds and oiled swampy places until there is no natural spot for a mosquito to raise a family.

"This Summer [1923], he has trained his fellow villagers so that if a mosquito bites them they call him up at once and he investigates. There is not a tin can left where it can hold water and not a puddle in the village where a mosquito larvae can live. The other day a woman called up Mr. Penfield and told him she had seen a mosquito. Mr. Penfield discovered a roof gutter on the house which was stopped up and held a nice puddle of water in which were millions of larvae. The gutter was cleaned, and not a mosquito has been seen in the Manor since."

Source: Edward Penfield Rids Town of Mosquitos -- Illustrator Destroys Swamps and Other Breeding Places in Pelham Manor, N.Y. Times, Jul. 21, 1923, p. 22.

Penfield's service in this regard gained such attention that in August, 1923, the Village of Larchmont on the Sound "issued an invitation to any resident of that place that if he will emulate the example of Edward Penfield, the mosquito exterminator of Pelham Manor, he will have an office created for him." See Larchmont Offers a Job To a Mosquito Exterminator, N.Y. Times, Aug. 15, 1923, p. 19.


The world remembers Edward Penfield as a notable artist. Pelham Manor remembers him as a notable artist and as a man who gave freely of himself -- from the tireless creation of lovely signs that dotted the Village to his important efforts to protect Village residents from sickness and death due to the lowly mosquito.

March 1896 Cover of Harper's by Edward Penfield

1912 Advertising Post Card by Edward Penfield

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Samuel Pell House on City Island, Once Part of Pelham

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During the latter half of the 19th century, Samuel Pell (ca. 1821 - 1894) was one of the leading oystermen living on City Island in the Town of Pelham. He owned an oyster boat and was called "Captain Pell". In about 1876 he built a spectacular Second Empire style house that still stands at 586 City Island Avenue. Today it is known as the Samuel Pell House.

According to a report of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission dated October 29, 2002, Samuel Pell was:

"the son of Thomas and Maria Pell, was a descendant of the the Pell family of Pelham Manor. By 1850 he was living on City Island and earning his living as an oysterman. Sometimes referred to as Captain Pell, he was the owner of an oyster boat and seems to have been one of the leading oystermen on the island. He married Elizabeth Scofield (1831-68), daughter of William and Maria Scofield, whose family had settled on City Island in the 1830s. The Pells had twelve children, most of whom were still living at home when Samuel Pell erected his new house on Main Street (now 586 City Island Avenue), presumably in 1876, shortly after he bought the property."

The Samuel Pell house is considered to be a well-preserved example of "the free-standing Second Empire style frame houses that once proliferated in the rural areas of New York City but are now increasingly being altered or demolished." Of the thirteen Second Empire style homes that still exist on City Island, the Samuel Pell House is considered the "grandest and best preserved". The house is a three-story frame, five-bay-wide structure with its original clapboards. Much of its original ornamental woodwork remains.

The Samuel Pell House is well worth a Sunday afternoon bicycle ride combined with a visit to the lovely City Island Nautical Museum. The Museum, located at 190 Fordham Street on City Island, is open on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 and contains the collections and library of the City Island Historical Society.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

A Brief History of Pelhamdale Avenue in Pelham

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Pelhamdale Avenue extends from Shore Road across the Village of Pelham Manor through Pelham Heights to the New Haven Line railroad tracks. Today’s Blog posting provides a little history regarding the street.

Pelhamdale Avenue did not exist essentially as we know it today until about the 1870s. Before that, there was a well worn “cow path” that extended from Shore Road inland for a few hundred yards. Eventually that path became the eastern end of today’s Pelhamdale Avenue. It is believed that the street is named after the home located at 45 Iden Avenue known as Pelhamdale.

Early maps of the Town of Pelham indicate that in its earliest years, Pelhamdale Avenue followed a somewhat different route than it does today. Such maps show that Wolfs Lane proceeded essentially as we know it today until it reached the area near today’s Second Street. There Wolfs Lane forked with one branch running parallel to the Hutchinson River and the other turning back to the east and cutting diagonally across a portion of the grounds of today’s Pelham Memorial High School to intersect with Colonial Avenue essentially where Pelhamdale Avenue crosses Colonial Avenue today. See Barr, Lockwood, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as The Lordshipp & Manour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 141 (The Dietz Press 1946). But, when “the Heights was plotted into streets the diagonal was eliminated and Pelhamdale carried through to the railroad, along its present route.” Id. This rerouting of Pelhamdale Avenue created the roadway essentially as we know it today.

Pelhamdale Avenue, of course, was a simple dirt road at the time. It was not until the annual election held on March 17, 1914 that a bond issue of $20,000 was voted “for the purpose of laying a permanent pavement on Pelhamdale Avenue.” See Village of Pelham Manor, Pelham Manor, N.Y. February 15th, 1915 – A Voluntary Statement of the Affairs of the Village of Pelham Manor for the Year 1914, Issued by the Board of Trustees for Consideration of Taxpayers and Residents of the Village, p. 1 (Village of Pelham Manor 1915; copy in the collection of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham). The timing of the vote, however, was not good. By the time paving plans were completed and the bonds were offered for sale “there was no market for securities of any kind.” Id.

It took some time to complete the project. A report published in 1916 notes:

“A new concrete roadway was laid the full length of Pelhamdale Avenue, which has every indication of proving most satisfactory. . . .

“The bonds in the amount of $20,000, the issue of which was ordered by vote at the annual election, March 17, 1914, were sold March 13, 1915. Plans for the construction of the road were prepared by Edward F. Campbell, civil engineer, and a contract was entered into with M.J. Leahy Construction Company for laying a 6-inch concrete pavement with a top dressing of Tarvia and 3/8 in. stone surface. Work was begun in April and completed September 15, 1915. The Westchester Electric R.R. is required by law to maintain between their tracks and two feet on either side a pavement equivalent to that laid by the Village. The company decided to lay a pavement identical with that laid by the Village and to employ the same contractor. Some delay in completion of the work arose from efforts to do this work without interfering with trolley traffic and also from the continuous rains and unfavorable weather.

“This pavement makes a fine roadway, and the contractor has sufficient confidence in its durability to give the Village a maintenance bode for five years.
The entire cost of the road was $19,820.17, of which $1,275.24 was for engineer’s plans and inspection; $17920.88 for contract payments; $169.05 for legal expenses and advertising connected with sale of bonds; $455 for interest on bonds paid from proceeds of sale, which included accumulated interest.

“The total proceeds from the sale of the bonds, with accumulated interest, was $20,421.61.”

Source: Village of Pelham Manor, Pelham Manor, N.Y. February 14th, 1916 – Statement of the Affairs of the Village of Pelham Manor for the Year 1915, Issued by the Board of Trustees, pp. 1-2 (Village of Pelham Manor 1916; copy in the collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham). It should be noted that although the report expressly states that the road was paved “the full length of Pelhamdale Avenue” it is unclear whether this report by the Village of Pelham Manor means that the road was paved its entire length within the Village of Pelham Manor (which would mean from Shore Road to Colonial Avenue) or its entire length including that small portion of the Avenue that extends across Pelham Heights to the New Haven Line Tracks.

Much of Pelhamdale Avenue, from Colonial Avenue to Shore Road, carried trolley tracks on which the H-Line Trolley that inspired the Toonerville Trolley cartoon traveled from the early 20th Century until July 31, 1937. Today, Pelhamdale Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares through the Village of Pelham Manor and across Pelham Heights.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Benjamin L. Fairchild of Pelham Heights -- A Notable Pelham Personage

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Benjamin Lewis Fairchild, was a notable figure in the life of the Town of Pelham. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and developed much of the land that became today’s Pelham Heights. His brother, John Fairchild, participated in the development of the area and created an Atlas of Mount Vernon and Pelham that was published in 1899 and was revised and reprinted in 1908.

Benjamin Fairchild was born in Sweden (Monroe County), New York on January 5, 1863. Because the father of Benjamin and John Fairchild “lived retired in Washington” until his death in 1897, Benjamin – like John – was raised in Washington, D.C. where he attended public school, business college and law school at George Washington University. See French, Alvah P., History of Westchester County, NY, Vol. III, pp. 173-74 (1925). Eventually, Benjamin L. Fairchild became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Pelham and surrounding areas for several terms.

Following grade school, Benjamin Fairchild took a course at the Spencerian Business College in Washington, D.C. According to one account, at about this time “the way was opened for him to gratify his desire to enter the employ of the Government” and, at the tender age of fourteen “he was given a position in the drafting department of the Patent Office.” Id., p. 173.

A biographer notes that within a short time, he was:

"Promoted to a clerkship in the Treasury Department. Having selected law for his profession, he further pursued his studies by entering George Washington University, whence he was graduted with the degree of LL. B. in 1883, and with the degree of LL. M. in 1885. He was admitted to practice before the bar of the District of Columbia in 1885, and in that year he came to New York City, where he became connected with the law office of Henry C. Andrews. In 1886 he was admitted to the bar of the State of New York, and soon afterward he attached himself to the law firm of Ewing & Southard. In 1887 he was received into the firm as a partner, the style then becoming Ewing, Southard & Fairchild. Mr. Southard died about 1905, and [for several decades thereafter] Mr. Fairchild . . . carried on his law practice alone [with] offices . . . at No. 280 Madison Avenue, New York City. His general practice of law, together with his specialty, real estate law, and his holdings in valuable New York real estate, combined with his long tenure of office in Congress [established] for him a wide and enviable reputation.” Id., p. 174.

Benjamin Fairchild used his law degree and his specialty in real estate law to singular advantage. He purchased land in what we know today as the Pelham Heights area and became a successful real estate developer. His wealth and success gained him an impressive reputation and, in 1894, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican representing the Sixteenth New York Congressional District. He served a single term in the Fifty-Fourth session of the U.S. House of Representatives. Id.

Benjamin Fairchild did not return to Congress until voters of the Twenty-Fourth New York Congressional District elected him in 1916 for the Sixty-Fifth Congress (1917-19). He also served in the Sixty Seventh (1921-23), Sixty-Eighth (1923-25), and Sixty-Ninth Congresses (1925-26). Id., p. 173.

Benjamin Fairchild was an ardent Republican and a powerful member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pelham National Bank before it entered receivership and was involved in litigation over the bank’s failure for a number of years. He died on October 25, 1946.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Can You Imagine What The Bride's Father Was Ready To Do?

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"Just get me to the church on time!" Those words from the 1956 Broadway Musical "My Fair Lady" may best describe the panic-stricken thoughts of poor Isaac McD. Croff of Mount Vernon in 1893. Words probably cannot adequately describe the thoughts of Mr. Croff's fiance and her family, however, when they appeared for Mr. Croff's planned wedding with Kitty Byrd McGalliard, of Pelhamville, on October 2, 1893. Miss McGalliard waited and waited but Mr. Croff never appeared. In fact, he went missing for more than two days after failing to make the scheduled wedding.

Was it a case of cold feet? (He admitted visiting "a woman who had been a most excellent friend of mine" the day of the scheduled wedding.) Had something happened to Mr. Croff? Today's blog posting will address this odd little vignette relating to the history of the little hamlet of Pelhamville.

Isaac Croff was a widower who lived in Mount Vernon, NY. He met and fell in love with nineteen-year-old Kitty Byrd McGalliard. She was the daughter of George McGalliard, a "rich contractor" who lived in Pelhamville. The two were engaged to be married by the Rev. C. W. Bolton of the Episcopal Church of Christ the Redeemer in Pelhamville on October 2, 1893.

Croff failed to show up for the wedding, however. He claimed to have no recollection of events between Monday, October 2 and Wednesday, October 4, 1893. He only knew that he was in New York City on October 2 and -- two days later -- found himself "bewildered" and wandering the streets of Troy, New York. He had a remarkable story to tell. The story of the jilted bride caught the attention of the New York press. Mr. Croff's subsequent story about what had happened was so odd that the New York Times reporter who wrote about it felt compelled to say that "Croff's truthfulness has never been questioned, and all his neighbors in Pelhamville believe his story." Here is his account, as reported in the October 6, 1893 issue of the New York Times:

"'Monday morning last,' he said, 'the day I was to be married, I left Mount Vernon for New-York, where I desired to make some purchases. I had very nearly $600 in my pockets when I started. I made my purchases in the city and took them up and left them at the package office in the Forty-second Street Station, as I desired to go and see a woman who had been a most excellent friend of mine, and tell her I was to be married. Her name I do not care to give, as I do not consider it necessary. After I had called on the woman I started to walk to the Grand Central Station. When I reached Fifty-seventh Street and Eighth Avenue, I glanced at my watch and discovered I had but ten minutes in which to catch the 1:02 train for Pelhamville.

'Seeing a cab standing by the curb, with the driver on the box, I stepped in and told him to drive me to the Grand Central Station as quickly as he could. While I spoke two well-dressed strangers followed me into the cab, one of them saying as he got in, 'This is the best chance we have had in a year.' I paid no attention to them or the remark, and the driver started off at a rapid pace.

'Suddenly, before I could make a move, one of the men (I noticed he was tall, had a grey mustache, and wore a silk hat,) sprang toward me and grasped me by the throat with one hand, while the other man, a short, thick-set fellow, pushed a handkerchief under my nose. This is the last thing of which I have any recollection until I found myself, on Wednesday morning, standing two blocks from the station in Troy. I was too bewildered to know where I was, and I felt weak and sick.

'I examined my pockets and found all my money was gone, except what I had stowed away in one of my inside pockets. I believe the two men took the $567, at any rate it was gone; also my watch and two rings, which I wore on my finger. One of them I valued highly. The wedding ring which I was to use was also gone. I telegraphed to Pelhamville that I was in Troy and did not know how I had got there.

'This is all I can say, except that I called on Dr. Carlisle of Mount Vernon, and he, after a thorough examination, said I was suffering from a strong dose of chloroform, but would be all right in a few days. I intend to go to New-York and see Superintendent Byrnes and lay the facts before him. I am a poor man, and the loss of that money, at present, is the loss of a fortune to me. . . . "

Source: Why He Was Not Married. -- Mr. Croff of Pelhamville Says He Was Chloroformed and Robbed in a Cab, N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 1893, p. 3.

According to the same account, Mr. Croff returned to the McGalliard residence in Pelhamville on Wednesday, October 4. The family summoned the Rev. C. W. Bolton to the house and, at 7:30 p.m., he and Kitty Byrd McGalliard were married.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pelham's First Town Historian?

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Historian Heal Thyself! It may seem ironic, but although representatives of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham have documented a tremendous portion of the history of Pelham during the 92 years of its existence, they have documented little about themselves. I recently have been working to assemble a "history" of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham. Today's blog posting will document a little of the life of John M. Shinn whom I presently believe to have been the first Town Historian of Pelham.


New York State's "Arts and Cultural Affairs Law" provides that a "local historian shall be appointed, as provided in this section, for each city, town or village". The law further provides that:"It shall be the duty of each local historian, appointed as provided in the last section, in cooperation with the state historian, to collect and preserve material relating to the history of the political subdivision for which he or she is appointed, and to file such material in fireproof safes or vaults in the county, city, town or village offices." See N.Y. Laws 1983, Ch. 876 §§ 1, et al.

The law has been in effect in one form or another since 1913. For its derivation, see Education Law § 150, added N.Y. Laws 1947, ch. 820; and repealed by N.Y. Laws 1983, ch. 876 § 4. Said § 150 was from Education Law of 1910 § 1199-a, formerly § 1198, added N.Y. Laws 1913, ch. 424, § 1 (renumbered § 1199-a, N.Y. Laws 1919, ch. 181, § 2).

Pelham has complied with what is called the "Historian's Law" since the law was first enacted. During the last 92 years, eight local residents have served as Town Historian and have collected and maintained material in accordance with that law on behalf of the residents of The Town of Pelham.

John Marion Shinn

It appears that Pelham's first official "Town Historian" was a prominent local resident named John Marion Shinn. Interestingly, John M. Shinn was also an accomplished painter known for trompe still life paintings. He combined his talents and painted many scenes of historical significance in and around Pelham.

John Shinn was born in Dubuque, Iowa on October 25, 1849. He received his early education in the public schools of Waterloo, Iowa and Hannibal, Missouri. He later studied art at the Polytechnic Institute at St. Louis. In 1872, he moved to New York and enrolled at the Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. According to one source, "[i]t is likely that he was at the Academy at the same time as William Harnett, father of trompe l'oeil painting in America."

Black and White Photo of Painting of the Pell Treaty Oak
by John M. Shinn Now Hanging in the Second Floor Courtroom
in Town Hall.

Mr. Shinn also attended, and graduated with a law degree from, New York Law School. He practiced law in Pelham for many years.

In 1876, Mr. Shinn married Isabel King of New York who died in 1924. The couple had three children: a son named J. M. Clayton Shinn and two daughters named Grace A. Shinn and Natalie Shinn Smith.

According to his obituary published in the October 16, 1936 issue of The New York Times:

"Mr. Shinn was chairman of the County Board of Supervisors from 1894 to 1906. He was a former Town Historian of Pelham, a charter member of the Manor Club at Pelham Manor and the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church there, treasurer emeritus of Winyah Masonic Lodge, Pelham, and a former chairman of the Republican Committee of Pelham."

Source: John M. Shinn Dead; Authority on Taxes - Lawyer, 86, Served as Chairman of Westchester Supervisors From 1894 to 1906, N.Y. Times, Oct. 16, 1936, p. 25.

While serving as Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Supervisors, John Shinn used his position craftily to resolve a very longstanding border dispute between the Town of Pelham and New Rochelle in favor of Pelham. The move resulted in litigation that ultimately affirmed the Board's decision to include a large amount of land previously located in New Rochelle within the borders of Pelham.

Although I have not yet located any dispositive records, it appears that John M. Shinn was the Town's first Historian and served through the teens and perhaps the early 1920s. Certainly by 1924 the position was held by Joan Elizabeth Secor.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pelham Manor Residents Fight Construction of the Toonerville Trolley Line

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On July 31, 1937, the Village of Pelham Manor hosted a celebration attended by about 8,000 people for the last run of the "Toonerville Trolley" in Pelham Manor. Everyone in Pelham and tens of thousands of others across the nation and around the world loved the little trolley line that inspired Fontaine Talbot Fox to create a rickety and unpredictable trolley car known as the "Toonerville Trolley" in his comic strip entitled "Toonerville Folks". Everyone loved Pelham's Toonerville Trolley line.

It was not, however, always like that. Indeed, a number of Pelham residents fought bitterly to keep trolley tracks out of Pelham Manor. There were at least two lawsuits that resulted in reported decisions in which Pelham Manor residents sought to block construction of the Toonerville Trolley tracks through Pelham Manor along Pelhamdale Avenue. Today's blog posting will discuss these two decisions.

Anna M. Secor v. Board of Trustees of Village of Pelham Manor, et al., 6 A.D. 236, 39 N.Y.S. 993 (App. Div. 2d Dep't 1896). In 1895, the Westchester Electric Railway Company submitted an application to the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor to permit it to lay trolley tracks through the village along Pelhamdale Avenue. On December 2, 1895, the Board took the matter under advisement but adopted a resolution setting January 4, 1896 as the date the application would be considered.

To comply with statutory notice requirements, the Board arranged for publication of notice of the hearing on the railroad company's application for four successive weeks in the weekly local newspaper Pelham Manor Tribune. Thereafter, the Board of Trustees approved the application of the Westchester Electric Railroad Company.

Anna M. Secor -- whose family owned a large tract of land in Pelham Manor -- commenced an action and obtained an injunction prohibiting the railroad company from "acting upon the consent granted by" the Board of Trustees and restraining the Board from further acting on the application of the railroad company "until they have published the notice as required by statute."

The suit seems to have been a delaying tactic. The statute at issue required that in the case of a village like Pelham Manor without a daily newspaper, public notice most be provided "for fourteen days" in "a newspaper published therein, if any there shall be, and if none, then daily in two daily newspapers if there be two, if not, one published in the city nearest such village or town."

The plaintiff's principal argument was laughable. Anna Secor, through her lawyers, argued that although the Pelham Manor Tribune was distributed in Pelham Manor, it was not published in Pelham Manor since it was printed in New Rochelle. The Court rejected the argument, holding that "We think that there has not been established any substantial departure from the requirements of the statute, and a case was not made warranting the interference of the court by injunction. The order should be reversed, and the injunction dissolved, with $10 costs and disbursements."

McLean v. Westchester Electric Ry. Co., et al., 25 Misc. 383, 55 N.Y.S. 556 (Sup. Ct. Kings Co. 1898). A more serious challenge to construction of the trolley line along Pelhamdale Avenue seems to have been mounted two years later by a Pelham Manor resident named Joseph F. McClean. He owned a piece of property along Pelhamdale Avenue. He sought an injunction from the court to stop Westchester Electric Railway Company from building the trolley line with its tracks and electrical lines above the street.

In this reported decision, the Court had to address two issues -- a technical one and a substantive one. The technical issue was whether McClean had "standing" to sue the Railway Company (i.e., did he have a legally recognized right to make a claim to enjoin construction of the trolley line). The Court concluded that although numerous court decisions supported the proposition that a nearby property owner's "right to protect public highways from invasion is very limited", an abutting property owner has standing before a court of equity "to compel the public officer to the performance of his duty" to protect against "invasions" of public highways.

The second issue was substantive -- whether McClean was entitled to the injunctive relief he sought. The Court concluded that he was. It wrote:

"The conclusion brings me to the consideration of the franchise and rights of the defendant corporation. Without discussing other points, it seems to me that there is one fatal defect in the defendant's franchise. The consent of the local authorities, the trustees of the village of Pelham Manor, it is conceded, is necessary. Conceding that the trustees elected for one year, without any new advertisement could amend the resolutions or proceedings passed or had in relation to defendant by the board of the previous year; conceding that not forfeiture, loss, or taint came by reason of any forfeiture, loss, or taint came by reason or any inaction or default on the part of the company, - the question stands as though it had asked and obtained the consent of the trustees in January, 1898. But the difficulty is that at that date the defendant, as I regard it, had no capacity to ask for or receive this franchise, - a franchise to construct and maintain a railroad on Pelhamdale avenue. That avenue was not described in the defendant's articles of association, and the defendant bases its right to ask for and to receive the consdent for this avenue upon proceedings under which such an extension is claimed were, I think, clearly invalid. They did not constitute an extension of either of the railroad or of the route or routes of the defendant. They only projected a railroad, not only independent of, but separate from, all the routes or roads to which the defendant then had any right or claim whatever. It may be that this point is technical, but does it not follow that, if that extension proceeding was good, the defendant, if it had received the other necessary consents, could have constructed and operated a railroad upon the so-called 'extension,' making no connection with its railroad built on the routes described in its articles of association, and so have secured the right to build and operate two independent railroads in two different political divisions, and that under articles of association and provisions of law which contemplated but a single connected road, carrying from end to end for a single fare? But it is said that the defendant has taken a second extension proceeding, by which it has closed the gap between its routes as described in its articles of association and in its first extension. But that came in February, 1898, and after the final action of the village trustees has been had. Holding that the action of the village trustees was invalid, because of the defect I have indicated in the first extension proceeding, I consider that, while the second extension proceeding might cure defects in the first, it could not relate back, operating as it were, nunc pro tunc, so as to make valid the resolutions of the village authorities which were before inoperative and ineffectual. Unless this defendant, proceeding under the railroad law, had located a route upon Pelhamdale avenue, either by its articles of association, or by formal and valid extension proceedings, it seems to me very clear that it no more had capacity to take and exercise the franchise here in question than would a manufacturing corporation or a private individual. So holding, I decide that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief by injunction, as prayed for in his complaint. Injunction granted."

Ultimately, of course, the trolley line was built ensuring that a few years later Fontaine Fox would experience his inspiration for the "Toonerville Trolley" and change Pelham's history forever.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Restored Battle of Pelham Memorial Plaque Is Unveiled at Glover Field

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On April 9, a crowd of hundreds including many youngsters of the Town of Pelham was in attendance as Dan McLaughlin, President of the Pelham Civic Association, unveiled a newly restored plaque dedicated to the memory of those who fought in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776. A photograph of the restored marker appears immediately below.

For many years the marker was affixed to the cinder block wall of the athletic field house at Glover Field. In recent years, the sign had begun to deteriorate. A photograph of the marker before its restoration appears immediately below. If you look closely, you will observe that a large area in the center of the marker had begun to rust badly.

Recently, Town Supervisor Joseph Solimine obtained a $400,000 grant from former State Senator Guy Velella and an additional $50,000 grant from Assemblywoman Amy Paulin to fund a major renovation of the field house. Supervisor Solimine also arranged for local contractors to donate work and some materials for the field house restoration project.

During the renovation of the field house, the sign was removed from the cinder block wall to which it was affixed. Workers "discovered" that the sign was two-sided, although the two sides were identical. The Town decided to display both sides of the marker by installing it affixed to posts on each side of the sign.

The Pelham Civic Association agreed to fund the restoration of the marker. Work was completed in time for the rededication of the newly renovated athletic field house.

On April 9, the Pelham Little League held its annual parade. This year the parade proceeded to the Glover Field House where Town Supervisor Joseph Solimine and School Board President Terry Martell conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony before hundreds of onlookers. An important part of the festivities was the official unveiling of the newly restored marker. Pelham Civic Association President Dan McLaughlin pulled away a white sheet that covered the marker as the crowd cheered and applauded. The marker reads as follows:

In this area, Oct. 18, 1776, Col.
John Glover with 750 Patriots, held
in check a vastly superior British
force led by Gen. Howe. This gallant
stand blocked the British attempt
to end the Revolution by trapping
Gen. Washington's army enroute
from New York to White Plains, after
the Battle of Harlem Heights.
Honor Here The Ideals For Which They Fought.

At the top of the sign is a circular medallion that reads "TOWN OF PELHAM NEW YORK 1654" with the silhouette of a man's head wearing a 17th century hat and collar that likely depicts Thomas Pell. Pell is considered the founder of Pelham.

The Battle of Pelham, known by many names including the "Battle of Pell's Point", was fought nearby along Split Rock Road and near Prospect Hill. The newly restored marker stands as a silent memorial to the ideals for which Col. Glover's tiny force fought on that Autumn day nearly 230 years ago.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

How Pelhamville "Lost" Its Name!

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The screaming headline in the June 29, 1896 issue of the New York Times said it all: ANGRY PELHAMVILLEITES. Those who lived in Pelhamville, indeed, were very angry. They believed that the twenty voting residents of the newly incorporated Village of Pelham -- known as Pelham Heights -- had "duped" them and "made a laughing stock" of them. Residents of Pelhamville believed that the newly-incorporated Village of Pelham had used the influence of U.S. Congressman Benjamin L. Fairchild, a large landowner and resident of the Village, to arrange a change in the name of the local post office and the train station from Pelhamville to Pelham. Residents were outraged. Pelhamville, in effect, had lost its name.

One account related the story from the perspective of the 200 voting residents of the little hamlet of Pelhamville. It said:

"Pelham Heights, the home of Congressman Ben L. Fairchild, was incorporated last Spring through special legislation. It was a surprise to every one, for no one thought that wooded fields, in which there were only a few houses, were about to become a village bearing the historic name of Pelham. The thing was done, however, and the village had its election in due time. There are nearly enough offices for each voter in the village to have one. S. Cushman Caldwell was elected President. John F. Fairchild, Congressman Ben L. Fairchild's brother, was elected treasurer. Ralph K. Hubbard, Howard Scribner, and G. C. Fletcher were elected Trustees.

The Fairchilds are large property owners in the new village.

The residents of Pelhamville were more astonished than any one else when Pelham Heights was incorporated under the name of Pelham. They were almost speechless when they saw the village across the railroad tracks organize its government. It then burst upon them with full force that the United States Government had changed the name of the Post Office that stands near the railway station from Pelhamville to Pelham.

But their cup of sorrow was not yet full, for the New-York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company the other day took down the old signs bearing the word Pelhamville, and put in their places signs with the word 'Pelham.' Now persons wishing to visit Pelhamville must get off at Pelham, and those writing to friends in Pelhamville must address Pelham.

There really is no Pelhamville. It has been wiped out of existence."

Source: Angry Pelhamvilleites - Their Post Office and Railroad Station Stolen, N.Y. Times, Jun. 29, 1896, p. 9.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Pelham Home for Children that Once Stood on Split Rock Road

In 1872, representatives of the New York Times began the summer "Fresh-Air Fund" program "to relieve the children in the crowded tenement districts [of New York City] in the heated term by day excursions to the country". See Fresh Air for the Sick, N.Y. Times, Sep. 1, 1890, p. 8. During the next few decades, the fresh-air fund was embraced and extended by churches, societies and public-spirited citizens throughout the region.

In 1888, a group of Pelham residents organized "The Pelham Home for Children" as a summer home for New York City's underprivileged children. The home began as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. Pelham citizens reportedly raised money and purchased a portion of the Prevost Farm where "The Shrubbery" once stood near Split Rock Road where it intersects with the Boston Post Road.

On June 16, 1898 the Pelham Summer Home for Children was formally incorporated and the program opened in a new building nearby in 1900. According to Lockwood Barr's history of Pelham published in 1946:

"On May 10, 1921 the name was changed to The Pelham Home for Children, Inc.

[Beginning in] 1915, the Home . . . specialized in the care of convalescent children suffering from heart trouble. It was the first cardiac [convalescent] home in the country and for many years the only such place for the care of cardiac children. It [ranked] as one of the outstanding institutions of its kind. The capacity of the Home [was] thirty children. The patients [were] girls between the ages of six and sixteen years, sent for observation by the clinics of the large hospitals in New York City, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Yonkers. The Board of Education of the City of New York maintain[ed] a day school in the Home.

For many years the Home [was] associated with the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre, during which time much investigation work on cause and cure of acute rheumatic fever [was] done. The consulting staff of doctors [included] many of the outstanding cardiac specialists of New York. The visiting staff consist[ed] of a group of Westchester County physicians who donate[d] their services."

Source: Barr, Lockwood, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as The Lordshipp & Mannour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called the Pelhams, pp. 163-64 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

The Home was maintained by voluntary contributions, raised by the women, until 1931, when the Pelham Community Chest was organized, which . . . assumed the responsibility of raising the funds for its maintenance."

A post card view of the Pelham Summer Home showing the structure in about 1908 appears immediately below.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"The Dogwoods" - The Estate of Robert Clifford Black of Pelham Manor

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Much has been written of the lovely estate of Robert Clifford Black that once stood on the Esplanade where the homes between 958 and 1000 Esplanade now stand. Most recent accounts refer to the estate as "Dogwood". It appears, however, that the proper name of the estate was "The Dogwoods, Pelham Manor". I have inferred this principally from reviewing formal references to the estate contained in such published items as wedding announcements. See, e.g., Ruth Montgomery To Wed E. W. Black, N.Y. Times, Apr. 18, 1928, p. 29 ("Mr. Black is a grandson of Mrs. Robert C. Black of the Dogwoods, Pelham Manor, N. Y."); Beatrice Black Is Engaged To Marry, N.Y. Times, Apr. 27, 1927, p. 18 ("She is a grand-daughter of Mrs. Robert C. Black of The Dogwoods, Pelham Manor").

Robert C. Black and his wife, Mary, were likely the most influential couple in the development of Pelham Manor. Mr. Black was a principal in the internationally-renowned jewelry firm of Black, Starr & Frost. He and his wife owned and developed many parcels of land in Pelham Manor between Boston Post Road and Shore Road.

The couple moved to Pelham in the 1870s and first lived at 1057 Esplanade, an example of the "Esplanade Villa" style of home offered in the early days of the development efforts of the Huguenot Heights and Pelham Manor Association. The couple occupied several homes in Pelham Manor until they built their home on The Dogwoods estate in the early 1890s.

1907 Post Card View of The Dogwoods, Pelham Manor

One of the most notable features of The Dogwoods was a carriage drive that extended from Pelhamdale Avenue beneath a covered carriage-way attached to the home to the Esplanade. The family and its visitors could embark and disembark from their carriages protected from inclement weather.

Photograph of The Dogwoods, Pelham Manor
Taken by Town Historian William R. Montgomery on May 19, 1923
Photograph Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.
The home on The Dogwoods estate no longer stands. In fact, all that remains of The Dogwoods today is the original stable. It was converted into a beautiful home and is located at 1 Country Club Lane. A recent photograph of the structure appears below.

Photograph of 1 Country Club Lane, Pelham Manor, NY
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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pelham and the Civil War Ironclad USS Monitor

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On March 9, 1862, an oddly-shaped craft floated into Hampton Roads Bay where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay near Newport News and Hampton, Virginia. It looked, some said, like a "tin can on a shingle". It was the Union Navy's newest secret weapon, hastily constructed in New York to meet the threat of the dangerous Confederate ironclad known as the CSS Virginia -- an ironclad constructed from the Union steam frigate Merrimack after that ship was scuttled when Union troops abandoned the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia at the outset of the Civil War. The tin can on a shingle was named USS Monitor. History credits Captain John Ericsson with designing and "superintending" the construction of the Union ironclad.


The day before, Captain Franklin Buchanan of the Virginia had sailed his ironclad into Hampton Roads Bay to attack the wooden Union ships blockading the harbor. The little ironclad ran the USS Congress aground and destroyed it. It rammed the USS Cumberland and sank it. The remaining Union ships watched helplessly as their shot bounced harmlessly off the seemingly invunerable ship until they had to withdraw from engagement.

The following day, March 9, Confederate Lieutenant Catesby Jones captained the Virginia as it prowled the waters of the Bay. Unbeknownst to Lt. Jones, the tin can on a shingle had hustled down the coast from New York during a stormy and precarious voyage. The Captain of the Union ironclad was Lieutenant John L. Worden. According to a report on the voyage and subsequent battle from the Chief Engineer of the Monitor dated March 9, 1862, the Monitor showed its mettle on the "stormy passage" and "proved . . . to be the finest seaboat I was ever in". See Letter from Chief Engineer Stimers, USS Monitor, to Captain John Ericsson, Giving an Account of the Engagement, Mar. 9, 1862, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 7, p. 25 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office 1898).

The First Battle Between Ironclads

The Monitor met the Virginia in the Bay where the ships fought history's first battle between ironclads. The engagement was significant. The Virginia had been built to break the Union's blockade of southern port cities. The Union Navy developed the Monitor specifically to destroy the Virginia.

For more than three hours the two ironclads battled each other at close range, but neither was able to best the other. Official reports of the engagement show how the new ironclad technology withstood the old technology of shot and shell. The report of the Chief Engineer of the Union ironclad Monitor stated in part:

"[W]e fought the Merrimack for more more than three hours this forenoon and sent her back to Norfolk in a sinking condition. Ironclad against ironclad. We maneuvered about the bay here and went at each other with mutual fierceness. I consider that both ships were well fought. We were struck 22 times -- pilot house twice, turret 9 times, side armor 8 times, deck 3 times. The only vulnerable point was the pilot house. One of [the] great logs (9 by 12 inches thick) is broken in two. The shot struck just outside of where the captain had his eye, and it has disabled him by destroying his left eye and temporarily blinding the other. The log is not quite in two, but is broken and pressed inward . . . . She tried to run us down and sink us, as she did the Cumberland yesterday, but she got the worst of it. Her bow passed over our deck and our sharp upper edged side cut through the light iron shoe upon her stern and well into her oak. She will not try that again. She gave us a tremendous thump, but did not injure us in the least. . . .

"You are very correct in your estimate of the effect of shot upon the man on the inside of the turret when it struck near him. Three men were knocked down, of whom I was one; the other two had to be carried below, but I was not disabled at all and the others recovered before the battle was over. . . ." Id.

The Connection to Pelham, NY

Nearly every schoolchild knows the story of the battle between the irconclads on March 9, 1862. But, what does this seminal event in military history have to do with Pelham, New York?

Pelham Manor resident George Huntington Reynolds, it turns out, played a critically important role in the design and construction of the steam engine that powered the Monitor. According to one account:

"While [John] Ericsson was rushing work on the Monitor he was also trying to complete an engine of his own device. The Government was pushing him to the extent of the speed limit in getting the Monitor under steam. He finished the boat in time, but not the engine. His friend Reynolds had one of his own engines at the Delemater [Iron] Works and finally induced Ericsson to permit the Monitor to be equipped with it. This was done, and the Monitor proceeded on her way to victory. If Ericsson had held out, as he stubbornly did for a long time, the Monitor would not have reached Hampton Roads in time to interrupt the leisurely destructiveness of the Merrimac; nor, perhaps, to have prevented her from bombarding Northern coast cities. Ericsson deserves the greater credit -- he built the Monitor; but George Reynolds should be remembered at the same time, for it was an engine of his invention that he himself put into the little insides of the Monitor which gave her the life impulse that enabled her to be on the job at a critical time in the history of the United States."

Source: Credit For The Monitor - Part is Claimed for George Reynolds, Engine Builder, N.Y. Times, Aug. 6, 1924, p. 12. See also Credit For Monitor - Others Besides Ericsson Who Should Be Remembered, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 1924, p. 12; To The Editor of The New York Times, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 1924, p. 12; [Obituary of] G. O. Reynolds Jr., Insurance Man, 71, N.Y. Times, Jun. 4, 1956, p. 29 ("He was the son of the late George Osmar and Mable Winchester Reynolds of Pelham Manor, N. Y. His grandfather, George Huntington Reynolds, was one of the heads of the engineering staff of John Ericsson, building of the Monitor.").

George H. Reynolds lived with his family in Pelham Manor for many years. He served as President of the local school board for eight years and built a palatial home in the Manor that no longer stands. He was one of the nation's preeminent mechanical engineers and was involved in many projects that are stories in and of themselves. He moved to Connecticut during the 1880s, but various of his children and grandchildren remained in Pelham and surrounding areas for many years.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

More From the William R. Montgomery Glass Negative Collection

On February 17, I posted to the Historic Pelham blog an extensive item entitled "The Glass Negatives of Former Town Historian William R. Montgomery". If you have not read that posting, I strongly urge you to review it for extensive background on the large collection of glass negatives containing images of homes, structures and locations in Pelham taken during the 1920s. (Click here or click on the link above to read that posting and learn more about the collection.)

William R. Montgomery served as Historian of the Town of Pelham during the 1920s and 1930s. He had an intense interest in, and abiding respect for, the history of Pelham and surrounding areas. During his tenure he created a very large collection of glass photographic negatives that today form an important part of the photographic portions of the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

Last night a group of prominent Pelham residents asked if I would make more information about the negatives and some more images from the collection available. Late last night and early this morning I selected a few more images and am providing some bibliographic information for each. Today's blog posting -- the latest in an ongoing series of daily postings to the Historic Pelham Blog made each business day without fail since February 8 -- provides a few additional images from the collection. Please remember that the scans of the negatives were performed at very high resolution but the images available via this blog have been substantially reduced in size and resolution for delivery via the Web. The original scans are capable of being printed in "poster size" with no degradation in the quality of the image.

The first image should be one that is near and dear to members of the Board of Trustees of the Pelham Preservation and Garden Society. The archival envelope in which the negative is stored indicates that it shows the home located at 1362 Pelhamdale Avenue (now the home of PPGS Board Member Ann Frost and her husband Lou) under construction. The photograph was taken on June 3, 1928. The image appears immediately below and is followed by the bibliographic reference I have created for it in the Excel spreadsheet being used to log all of these negatives.

Image Courtesy of The Office of The
Historian of The Town of Pelham, NY

The bibliographic reference for the image that appears immediately above is as follows:

Subject: Home at 1362 Pelhamdale Avenue under construction
Title (If Any): "Pelhamdale, 1362 Res. of Mr. & Mrs. Hulbert (under construction)"
Date (Creation/Publication): 6/3/1928
Photographer/Creator): William R. Montgomery
Medium: Glass photographic negative
Repository: The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham
Collection: Glass Negatives Collection of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham
Access/File Info: Standing Metal Cabinet: Glass Negatives Box #2
URL (If Any): N/A
Notes: Negative stored inside archival envelope on which the following is written in blue ink: "BUILDINGS : HOUSES : Pelhamdale, 1362 (?) Res. of Mr. & Mrs. Hulbert (under construction)"; immediately beneath is written in pencil "(FROST)"; near bottom is written in blue ink "Photo: Wm Montgomery 6/3/1928" and near bottom lightly written in pencil is "1-33"; 00000109-B is not from the Historian Office files but, rather, is an "inverted" view of the negative created with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.
Reverse: N/A
Source(s): From William R. Montgomery's attic after his death
Categories: Buildings, Houses, Pelhamdale Avenue, contstruction, Hulbert, Frost
Dimensions: L - 10.5 cm x W - 12.5 cm
Obverse ID No.: 00000109-A
Reverse ID No.: N/A
Additional ID No.: 00000109-B

The next image shows a fire that damaged Pelhamdale, a home on the National Register of Historic Places located at 45 Iden Avenue in Pelham Manor. The fire occurred on February 28, 1925. Smoke is billowing from the roof area. Fire department ladders are visible against the building and onlookers stand on the front lawn of the home.

Image Courtesy of The Office of The
Historian of The Town of Pelham, NY

The bibliographic reference for the image that appears immediately above is as follows:

Subject: Fire at Pelhamdale, 45 Iden Avenue, on February 28, 1925
Title (If Any): "Fire at 'Pelhamdale' Feb. 28, 1925"
Date (Creation/Publication): 2/28/1925
Photographer/Creator): William R. Montgomery
Medium: Glass photographic negative
Repository: The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham
Collection: Glass Negatives Collection of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham
Access/File Info: Standing Metal Cabinet: Glass Negatives Box #2
URL (If Any): N/A
Notes: Negative stored inside archival envelope on which the following is written in blue ink: "BUILDINGS : HOUSES 45 IDEN AVE Fire at 'Pelhamdale' Feb. 28, 1925"; near bottom is written in blue ink "Photo: Wm Montgomery" and near bottom lightly written in pencil is "1-10"; 00000087-B is not from the Historian Office files but, rather, is an "inverted" view of the negative created with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.
Reverse: N/A
Source(s): From William R. Montgomery's attic after his death
Categories: Buildings, Houses, Fires, Pelhamdale, Iden Avenue
Dimensions: L - 10.5 cm x W - 12.5 cm
Obverse ID No.: 00000087-A
Reverse ID No.: N/A
Additional ID No.: 00000087-B

The final image I have included today shows a home at 666 Esplanade in Pelham Manor on May 13, 1923. Once again, bibliographic data for the image is listed below the photograph.

Image Courtesy of The Office of The
Historian of The Town of Pelham, NY

The bibliographic reference for the image that appears immediately above is as follows:

Subject: Home at 666 Esplanade, May 13, 1923
Title (If Any): "ESPLANADE 666 Mrs. E.C. King's House"
Date (Creation/Publication): 5/13/19235
Photographer/Creator): William R. Montgomery
Medium: Glass photographic negative
Repository: The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham
Collection: Glass Negatives Collection of The Office of The Historian of the Town of Pelham
Access/File Info: Standing Metal Cabinet: Glass Negatives Box #2
URL (If Any): N/A
Notes: Negative stored inside archival envelope on which the following is written in blue ink: "BUILDINGS : HOUSES : ESPLANADE 666 Mrs. E.C. King's House"; near bottom is written in blue ink "Photo: Wm Montgomery 5/13/1923" and near bottom lightly written in pencil is "1-31"; 00000107-B is not from the Historian Office files but, rather, is an "inverted" view of the negative created with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.
Reverse: N/A
Source(s): From William R. Montgomery's attic after his death
Categories: Buildings, Houses, Fires, Pelhamdale, Iden Avenue
Dimensions: L - 10.5 cm x W - 12.5 cm
Obverse ID No.: 00000107-A
Reverse ID No.: N/A
Additional ID No.: 00000107-B

The William R. Montgomery Glass Negative Collection is a treasure that should be shared with Pelham residents many of whose homes are shown in these early photographs by a man who cherished the history and beauty of Pelham and surrounding areas.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Hindenburg Thrilled Pelham Before Its Fiery Crash in 1937

It is May 6, 1937. The hydrogen-filled rigid airship "Hindenburg" -- known as the pride of the Third Reich -- is late. A crowd of hundreds has gathered at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, NJ for the docking of the airship arriving from Europe. At about 7:20 p.m., the ship drifts into view. Within minutes there is a flash and the ship bursts into flames and crashes to the ground as it is consumed by fire. Thirty-six passengers and crew die in a tragedy that some say ended the era of luxury zeppelin travel.

German Passenger Airship LZ 129 Hindenburg Begins
to Fall Seconds After Catching Fire While Docking at 
Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey on May 6, 1937.
Source:  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Hindenburg Disaster.

Virtually everyone knows the story of the Hindenburg. Images of its demise are burned into our collective brain. But few today know that the Hindenburg had visited the U.S. before its tragic voyage. Indeed, some who live in Pelham may still recall that on October 9, 1936 -- only months before its fiery demise -- the Hindenburg thrilled residents of Pelham, Westchester County and much of the northeast United States by cruising overhead for nearly ten hours as a "gesture of farewell" before traveling back to Germany at the end of the cruising season. See Dirigible To Visit Six States Today, N.Y. Times, Oct. 9, 1936, p. 13. See also Hindenburg Soars Over Six States, N.Y. Times, Oct. 10, 1936, p. 4.

The October 9, 1936 issue of The Pelham Sun contained a brief story entitled "Principals on Special Zep Flight" with photographs of "Four of the principals who are on board the airship Hindenburg in its flight over Pelham and vicinity today." Immediately below are the photographs that appeared with the feature.

In the lower left of the image above is Captain Ernst A. Lehrman of the Hindenburg. Beside him is R.T. Haslam of the Colonial Beacon Oil Co., a guest on the special flight. In the upper left is Commander Charles E. Rosendahl of the Lakehurst Naval Air Station (another guest) and, in the upper right, is Dr. Hugo Eckener, the developer of the Hindenburg and "Commodore of Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei", which operated the Hindenburg.

The airship, filled with leaders of the U.S. financial, industrial and aviation industries, left Lakehurst, NJ at 6:57 a.m. on October 9, 1936. By 8:53 a.m., the zeppelin floated over Yonkers at an altitude of 800 feet. Below, school children ran about "in the school yards and streets, and their shouts of acclaim came clearly through the open windows of the promenade deck."  See Hindenburg Soars Over Six States, supra.

The Hindenburg floated gently over Westchester County to Ossining where, according to one report, "the ship had a different and silent greeting from convicts in the yard of Sing Sing prison." Id. From Ossining, the airship swung northeastward and headed for Connecticut and on up the east coast to Boston.

The captain of the Hindenberg that day was Ernst A. Lehman. He died in the tragedy that consumed the zeppelin a few months later with some reports saying his last words were "I can't understand."