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, April 06, 2005

A Behemoth Looks to the Suburbs: Talk of New York City Annexing Pelham As Early As 1870

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

By Act of the New York State Legislature, on June 6, 1895 the present boundary line between Westchester and Bronx County was established. As a consequence of this development, City Island, other islands including Hunters Island, the Twins, Hart Island and much of the Town of Pelham that today comprises a large portion of Pelham Bay Park afterward passed to New York City.

For much of the time prior to June 6, 1895, City Island was Pelham's main population center and an important political force able to stymie development in much of the remainder of the Town including the hamlets known as Pelhamville, Pelham Manor and Prospect Hill Village. As Lockwood Barr put it in his book on the history of Pelham published in 1946 "the Pelhams breathed a sigh of relief when City Island was made part of New York City." 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 & Mannour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 80 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

Annexation was long in coming. In fact, published accounts suggest that it had been in the works for more than a quarter century before June 6, 1895. There were a series of articles published in the New York Herald published in 1870 that discussed annexation plans. The articles even suggested that New York City coveted the entirety of Pelham -- not just City Island and portions on the mainland near City Island.

For example, in the August 12, 1870 issue of the New York Herald a report stated:

Project to Enlarge the City of New York - Portions of Westchester County to be Annexed - A Grand Canal Contemplated - Additional Suburban Improvements.

For some time past it has been well understood among certain influential political leaders in New York and Westchester county that a great annexation project, with other gigantic suburban improvements, are to be brought forward and pushed through at the next session of the Legislature. The most important scheme affecting the interests of the taxpayers of Westchester county is the projected incorporation of the towns of Morrisania, West Farms, Westchester and the lower section of Yonkers with the city of New York. It is understood that numerous residents of the towns named, not only favor the annexation of the sections indicated, but also the towns of East Chester, Pelham, New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, White Plains and Greenburg, also the southern portions of Harrison and Rye, running [sic]


from the Hudson river at Tarrytown, along the northern line of Greenburg and White Plains, thence in a direct line through the towns of Harrison and Rye to the Connecticut line at Porchester [sic]. Inducements are held out to the citizens of the towns named, by the projectors of the scheme, which will doubtless have the desired effect. The convenience of a plentiful supply of Croton water (by the construction of an additional reservoir if necessary), and the protection of the Metropolitan Police and Fire departments, are promised, and a large proportion of the population would doubtless hail such an event with satisfaction. . . . "

Source: Another Big Job, N.Y. Herald, Aug. 12, 1870, p. 4, col. 6.

Only a few months later, it seems, the mood of residents in the areas to be annexed had changed. The New York Herald published an article in its December 13, 1870 issue entitled "Agitation in Westchester". It said:

The Annexation Project as Viewed by the Inhabitants - Proposed Boundary Lines of the Metropolis-Conflicting Opinions-What Tammany Intends to Do.

In view of a contemplated project to annex a portion of Westchester county to New York considerable agitation at present exists among property holders in the lower towns, whose opinions are as diversified as their interests are varied. Thus the residents in the extreme southern portion of the county regard with unlimited approbation the proposed measure whereby they are to be made part and parcel of the metropolis, while their neighbors living a few miles distant from the city limits are loud in


A bill has already been drawn up for preservation to the Legislature at its approaching session which seeks to incorporate the towns of Morrisania, West Farms, Westchester, Yonkers, Eastchester, Pelham and New Rochelle as part of New York, the proposed boundary line commencing at the northwest corner of the town of Yonkers, on the Hudson river, and running thence along the northern line of the last-named town to the Bronx river, thence continuing in a northerly direction to Long Island Sound and taking in the towns of Eastchester and New Rochelle. The project meets with


in the towns of New Rochelle, Yonkers and Eastchester, where its opponents contend that if annexation must be resorted to the projectors thereof ought to content themselves with the absorption of the three lower towns first, and, in such event, running the line along Spuyten Duyvil creek, from the Hudson river to the present north western boundary of the town of West Farms, at Kingsbridge, thence along the northern line of the town of Westchester, thence along the easterly line of that town to Eastchester Bay and Long Island Sound. In the three towns named there are about 52,000 inhabitants. A large number of


to the proposed measure, preferring to be incorporated as a separate city, retaining control over the entire township rather than risk the fate of annexation. The local press has been agitating the momentous subject for some weeks, and it is expected that public meetings for full and free discussion of the project will shortly become epidemic in the territory around which the Tammany leaders have resolved to throw the aegis of their benign protection."

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at


At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, how sad. They got the towns of Westchester, Eastchester, West farms and most (all?) of Pelham as it existed at that time? What I find so audacious is that NYC Power Brokers/Tammany Hall gobbled up the town of Westchester which was the County seat - as well as stealing the lower part of another County. The least the politicians could have done would have been to give the new borough a name which related to it's history - like Eastchester Borough/County or Pell Borough/County; then the residents wouldn't have lost touch with their history. All things considered, "The Bronx" seems purposely chosen to distort the history and hide the "crime". What was the "crime"? Well, a comparison of the development north and south of the Bronx/Westchester border proves how non 'benevolently' NYC treated it's beautiful new land acquisition. Thank God the Island that wanted to become a City didn't succeed in expanding up Conn and above Croton.


Post a Comment

<< Home