Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part I of II)

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On June 6, 1940, a tragic fire entirely destroyed the George M. Reynolds mansion located along Boston Post Road at the Esplanade behind Huguenot Memorial Church. Out of the tragedy came some good. The site subsequently was cleared and became today's Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park. Today's Blog posting will provide the first half of a newspaper article that appeared the day after the fire in The Pelham Sun giving an account of the fire. The remainder of the article will appear in tomorrow's Blog Posting.

“$75,000 Manor Apartment House Fire

Nine-Family Three-Story Apartment House Total Loss; Was Remodeled Mansion and One of Pelham Manor’s Oldest Buildings; Entirely of Frame Construction and Regarded as Pelham Manor’s No. 1 Fire Hazard.




Building Furnished With All Appointments of High-Class Residential Hotel – More Than One Hundred Firemen in Battle; Three Firemen Injured; Building Owned by Bowery Savings Bank, Leased by James Riley Macon.


A $75,000 fire which last night threatened to destroy the nine-family three-story apartment house building at the corner of Boston Post Road and the Esplanade, Pelham Manor was fought by firemen of Pelham Manor, New Rochelle and North Pelham for an hour before being brought under control. Fire damage was confined to the upper stories which were gutted.

The apartment house was of frame construction and was regarded for many years as Pelham Manor’s No. 1 fire hazard.

The alarm was turned in at 10:38 p.m., by Patrolman William Hamilton. Mont D. Rogers of Pelham Manor, was driving by when he noticed the glare of flames in an upper apartment tenanted by Mrs. L. Ogden Thompson. He notified the patrolman. Acting Chief Arthur Fawcett realized the hazard in the frame building, immediately called for assistance from New Rochelle. A police call brought the North Pelham department to the scene. At one time more than one hundred firemen were fighting the blaze.

‘The entire house seemed to be ablaze,’ Hamilton relates, ‘I ran across the street and went through all the rooms that I could get into, shouting a warning. I think there were three persons in the house, and they got out before I got through the building. One woman wanted me to get her jewels, but there wasn’t any time to stop for anything.’

Superintendent Smelled Smoke

William Tegeter, superintendent of the building, lives with his wife in a building originally a coachhouse in the rear of the mansion. This was not damaged.

‘I banked the fires for the night at 9:00 o’clock, Tegeter told The Pelham Sun. ‘A carpenter had been doing some work around the house and there were some shavings mixed in with the coal. A few minutes later I smelled smoke, but I thought that it must be the shavings. I went into the basement, and there was nothing wrong. A half hour later when Mrs. Macon and I were in the workshop near the stable, Mrs. Geddes came and said that the odor of smoke in the house was strong. When she went to investigate, my wife came running out of our house yelling ‘The house is on fire.’ The flames were shooting out from the second floor porch between Mrs. Geddes’ and Mrs. Thompson’s apartments. I telephoned to the fire house, but someone else had turned in the alarm.’

Mrs. Geddes was in her apartment when she smelled smoke. ‘I went through the building, and although the smoke smell persisted, I didn’t find anything wrong,’ she told The Pelham Sun. ‘I went down to get Mr. Tegeter, and when we came out of the workshop, the entire rear of the building was in flames.’

When the first alarm brought the Pelham Manor firemen to the scene at 10:38 o’clock, a column of flame was pouring out of the center section of the roof. The glare from the blaze could be scene from the farthest sections of Pelham Manor. Even before the firemen reached the scene, the Boston Post Road was choked with traffic and people. The first few lines of hose had no sooner been stretched than it became necessary to divert the traffic. Police sent east-bound cars around the Esplanade to Pelhamdale Avenue and then back to the Post Road, while west-bound vehicles were forced to turn right at Pelhamdale avenue."

Source: $75,000 Manor Apartment House Fire, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 10, Jun. 7, 1940, p. 1, col. 1.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Early History of the Winyah Lodge U.D. of Pelham, New York

The online auction service, eBay, remains a wonderful place to search for items related to the history of Pelham (was well as other communities)! Not long ago I purchased from an eBay seller a copy of "BY-LAWS Winyah Lodge No. 866 F. A. M. PELHAM, N. Y." published before March 8, 1921. The tiny little 17-page booklet includes not only a photograph of Seth T. Lyman who, during the 1890s, built the little drugstore that still stands at One Fifth Avenue, but also a brief history of the lodge. Today's Blog posting will quote that brief history. The "Temple" of the Lodge was opened in 1909. A photograph showing the club house acquired by the Lodge in 1909 appears immediately below.

Post Card View of the Village Club Building in North Pelham
Acquired by the Winyah Lodge and Opened as its Temple in 1909.

"On November 1, 1908, a group of Masons headed by Seth T. Lyman, met in Hiawatha Lodge room in Mount Vernon, New York, to organize a new masonic lodge to be known as Winyah Lodge. The first regular meeting of this group as a masonic lodge under dispensation was also held in the meeting room of Hiawatha Lodge No. 434, F. A. M. on November 17th, 1908. The dispensation granted by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New York, of which Most Worshipful S. Nelson Sawyer was Grand Master, was read and presented by Right Worshipful Frank V. Millard, District Deputy Grand Master of the 12th Masonic District, which has since been divided to form the first and second Westchester-Putnam Districts.

The officers of Winyah Lodge U. D. who received and worked under this dispensation were:

Seth T. Lyman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Master
H. Elliot Coe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. Warden
Louis C. Young . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. Warden
Isaac C. Hill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer
H.A. Anderson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Secretary
W .'. John T. Logan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. Deacon
Charles E. Boss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. Deacon
George C. Ruppert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. M. of C.
Emil Erickson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. M. of C.R.'. W.'. Frank V. Millard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chaplain
John H. Young. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. Steward
A. W. Crane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. Steward
William J. Collins. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tiler

At the second and third communications routine business was attended and petitions for initiation were accepted.

On January 19, 1909 Winyah Lodge U. D. conferred its first Third Degree on Brothers in waiting. They were assisted in the second section by the Degree Team of Hiawatha Lodge No. 434, F. & A. M.

The 11th Stated Communication was held in the meeting room of Huguenot Lodge No. 34 F. & A. M. Winyah Lodge officers conferred the first and second sections of the Third Degree.

Between the 11th and 12th communications, the women folk and friends of Winyah Lodge U. D. held a Military Whist to raise funds for the lodge.

The First Stated Communication of Winyah Lodge No. 866, F. & A. M. was held on June 1, 1909 for the purpose of receiving the charter. The lodge was opened on the Third Degree by Grand Lodge Officers. The Officers of Winyah Lodge No. 866, F. & A. M. who were then installed were:

Seth T. Lyman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Master
H. Elliot Coe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. Warden
Louis C. Young . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. Warden
Isaac C. Hill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer
Joseph W. Stone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SecretaryAlbert Logan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. Deacon
Edward C. Logan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. Deacon
Julius Nelson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. M. of C.
John Rohrs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. M. of C.
Samuel J. Adler. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sr. Steward
Horace Burnett. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr. Steward
Rev. Herbert Brown. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chaplain
Carl Bergwald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Organist
Fred Case. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tiler
Walter Harris. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marshal

The first act of the new lodge was to dispatch a telegram to the Grand Master to express the thanks of the brethren, to offer a pledge of loyalty and to request that he dedicate the Pelham Masonic Temple on Labor Day, September 6, 1909.

This Temple, formerly a club house, was purchased by Winyah Lodge No. 866, F. & A. M. from the Hutchinson Realty Company. It was dedicated as Pelham Masonic Temple on September 6, 1909. Among those participating in the dedicatory services were, Bethlehem Commandery No. 53 Knights Templar of Mount Vernon, N. Y. The Port Chester Band supplied music. A letter from Most Worshipful S. Nelson Sawyer, Grand Master expressed his regret, that he could not be present and wished Winyah well in their new Temple.

Seth T. Lyman and Mrs. Lyman financed Winyah Lodge U. D. at its inception. This loan was repaid at the Third Communication of Winyah Lodge No. 866, F. & A. M. The Lodge is ever grateful to R.'. W.'. Seth T. Lyman for his continued support and participation throughout the years.

Many friends and members of Winyah made gifts of paraphernalia and equipment to the lodge back in 1909 which is still in use to-day. Look for the inscription on the brass plate on many of them."

Source: BY-LAWS Winyah Lodge No. 866 F. & A. M. PELHAM, N. Y., pp. 2-4 (Pelham, NY: Privately Printed; undated, but with inscription suggesting it predates March 8, 1921).

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Friday, May 27, 2005

1776, A New Book By Pulitzer Prize Winner David McCullough, Touches on the Battle of Pelham

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Simon & Schuster has just published the latest book by Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian David McCullough. As its title affirms, the book, 1776, addresses the events of that year and the birth of a young nation. In a book review that appeared in The New York Times Sunday Book Review on May 22, 2005, Tony Horwitz wrote "THIS is a sly book, beginning with its title, '1776.' It's a story of war, not words -- the great declaration in Philadelphia occurs offstage. Yet no combat takes place for most of the narrative. . . . [It is] a taut 294 pages of text, describing the trying months that followed the heroics at Lexington, Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill. The result is a lucid and lively work that will engage both Revolutionary War bores and general readers who have avoided the subject since their school days."

Given its subject matter, it should come as no surprise that McCullough's book touches on the Battle of Pelham (also known as the Battle of Pell's Point) fought on October 18, 1776. In Chapter 6, entitled "Fortune Frowns", Mr. McCullough tells the tale of the attempt by British forces to outflank the American army by landing in its rear first at Throgg's Neck (old style spelling) and, later, on Pell's Point. He describes the sailing of 150 British ships through Hell Gate and into Long Island Sound in a thick fog on October 12, 1776 as "a stunning feat of seamanship". He further notes that when General Washington first learned of the landing at Throgg's Neck, he "knew" that the Harlem Heights location of the bulk of his army "had become a trap" and that the army must move to the comparatively safer ground of White Plains eighteen miles to the north.

Mr. McCullough tells the story of the retreat of the American Army, making much of the fact that General Washington and his generals refused to label it a retreat -- preferring instead to call it "an alteration of our position" as the commander's orders for October 17, 1776 put it. In describing the unopposed landing of the British at Pell's Point and their swift advance inland, he notes that "they might have kept going had it not been for the intrepid John Glover and his men." After describing the tenacious fight in the Battle of Pelham, he notes that "[s]uch ferocity as the Americans had shown appears to have stunned Howe, leading him to conclude that, with stone walls lining every road and adjacent field, more deadly fire could be waiting at any turn." Of course, Mr. McCullough also notes that if Howe had kept advancing his troops, "they might have caught Washington's retreating army head-on."

1776 details important events leading up to the Battle of Pelham and after the Battle of Pelham at pages 229-237. Mr. McCullough even includes John Trumbull's well-known pencil sketch of then Colonel John Glover who led American troops in the Battle of Pelham (page facing page 53). An image of the portrait appears immediately below.

For many, many years scholars considered the Battle of Pelham one of the "forgotten battles" of the Revolutionary War. That simply can no longer be said. David McCullough's wonderful book is the latest in a series of scholarly works since George Athan Billias published his book General John Glover and His Marblehead Mariners in 1960 (Henry Holt & Co.) to recognize the importance of the British landing at Pell's Point and the stubborn, day-long fight led by Col. John Glover in Pelham. Mr. McCullough's work makes for compelling reading and is well worth the time and attention of students of the history of Pelham, New York.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The New York Athletic Club's Opening of the "New Summer Home" on Travers Island in 1889

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On June 8, 1889, five hundred members of the New York Athletic Club inspected the Club's newly-completed summer home on Travers Island in Pelham Manor. The next day a brief news item appeared in The New York Times detailing the events of that day. Today's Blog posting will provide the content of that brief article. The image immediately is an old post card view showing the original summer home as it looked before it later was destroyed by fire.


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. The building, designed by Douglas Smythe, is a handsome structure of wood in the prevailing style of Summer resort taverns of the better class, with shingled roofs and many peaks and gables. There are broad piazzas on every side. The interior decorations are plain but handsome, and an air of comfort pervades the place from the very doorway. The house faces the water, which is only a few yards from the main piazza. The electric light is used in every part of the building. There are spacious dining rooms, though the piazzas will undoubtedly be appropriated by diners on hot nights. The view from the cupola embraces a great expanse of the Sound. The grounds are tastefully laid out, and the track, a fifth of a mile in length, is said to be one of the best in the country. For the athlete, who, though he may not predominate in the New-York Athletic Club, is held in high esteem, the clubhouse and adjacent buildings provide every possible convenience.

A large majority of the members, of course, do not go to Travers Island to train or to exhibit their skill on the track or in the boats. They like to sit on the piazzas and watch the crews at practice on the placid waters that are shielded from the wind by the cluster of islands in front of Travers Island, which is not an island at all now, but is joined to the mainland by an artificial handle, so that, seen from a balloon, it would resemble a doorknob on a door. The billiard room and bowling alleys are handsomely fitted up, and the many bedrooms are light, airy, comfortable, and furnished with perfect taste.

Besides a portrait of the late William R. Travers, whose memory will ever be cherished by this clud, the only art work in the new house at present is a decorative panel by H. S. Mowbray, given to the club by Mr. Thomas B. Clark, which is placed in the main hall over the spacious open fireplace, bearing the motto: 'When friends meet, hearts warm.' The fireplace was piled high with hickory logs yesterday, and there will come a night when the east wind blows fiercely from over Whitestone way, when it will be good to have them lighted. Mr. Mowbray's panel is called 'The Month of Roses.' The figures are four young women in soft draperies. The prevailing tones are delicate shades of green and red. The girls are very pretty. They do not, perhaps, exactly symbolize the purpose of an athletic club, but, the members feel that it is well to have them there.

At least 500 members of the club visited the island yesterday. Next Saturday, when a public reception will be held, with games, and the eight-oared crew will be out, 5,000 persons are likely to test the resources of the steward and the chef. The eight-oared crew was out for practice yesterday. They went up and down their course pulling as one man, and a good one, too. They sneaked over to David's island and beat the pretentious little Government steamboat in a race over to the mainland. The David's Island band kindly went over to the clubhouse in the evening, and the melody they contributed to the informal but pleasing proceedings of opening day was so well appreciated that the cares of the day are likely to be dispelled by music on many future nights at Travers Island."

Source: Travers Island, N.Y. Times, Jun. 9, 1889, p. 3.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Clifford and Martha Weihman of Pelham (Part II of II)

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Yesterday's Blog Posting dealt with Clifford and Martha Weihman of Pelham. The Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park in Pelham Manor is dedicated to the memory of Martha Weihman. Today's Blog Posting will continue that discussion.

Clifford T. Weihman was clearly a wine and food connoisseur. The New York Times published a story about him in 1950 noting that "More extensive than the wine cellars of all but a few restaurants in this city is that owned privately by Clifford T. Weihman of Pelham Manor, who began his collection with some old Benedictine more than a quarter of a century ago. Asked the other day how many bottles he now had in his possession, the connoissuer [sic] declined, with a pleasant shrug, to estimate. But a wine importer, also there on the visit of inspection, guessed the number at 5,000." Nickerson, Jane, News of Food -- Who's Who of Superlative Wines, Spirits Crowds the Cellar of Westchester Man, N.Y. Times, Sep. 18, 1950, p. 35. The same article details some of the rare and valuable bottles of wine included in Weihman's collection including a brandy bottled in 1788. Id.

Similarly, a large photograph of Mr. Weihman appears in The New York Times published on January 21, 1969 showing Clifford T. Weihman as he "knighted" Justice David W. Peck in ceremonies of La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Mr. Weihman, an official of the society, is dressed in a robe and floppy hat of cardinal red. According to the article "Mr. Weihman, a vegetable oil importer by day, is the Grand Pilier General of the Confrerie in the United States. Wielding his wineroot, he tapped each knight thrice." See Whitman, Alden, From Winebibber to Knight with Three Taps of a Wineroot, N.Y. Times, Jan. 21, 1969, p. 51.

Mr. Weihman was also a "conniesseur" of a different sort. He was a noted collector of rare gold coins. According to one account, Mr. Weihman was one of three collectors in the world who acquired a set of quarter eagles, half eagles, eagles and double eagles. According to one account:

"Col. E. H. R. Green was one of the richest men in America, being the son of the infamous Hetty Green, better known as 'The Witch of Wall Street.' He was a hoarder, and there were enough coins in his estate for two sets of quarter eagles, half eagles, and eagles. There were also numerous double eagles. Stack's [a company] reportedly acquired the coins from the estate slowly, over a period of years, circa 1943-1945.

The coins were sorted by Stack's into a 'number 1 set' and a 'number 2 set," with the number 1 set having the better pieces. Mr. Stack said the number 1 quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle sets were photographed circa 1945-1946 by Stack's staff photographer, Sam Andre, who also worked for PIC magazine (a large format competitor to Life), and were made up into individual photo albums. Mr. Stack believes that three sets of the albums were made. One went to his father, Morton, and one to his uncle, Joseph. The third went to an American collector named Clifford T. Weihman. Mr. Stack said they had misplaced his father's set, his uncle's set was in the Stack's library, and the location of the third set was unknown. . . . Stack's had occasion to handl the Weihman coins again in 1953 or 1954, selling them to pharmaceutical magnate Josiah K. Lilly. It is assumed that most or all of these coins would now be on display in the Lilly Collection in the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washingon, D.C." See Lester, Carl N., Numismatic "Gumshoe:" On the Trail of King Farouk (visited May 24, 2005).

Mr. Weihman lost his second wife, Marjorie Burns, on December 23, 1967. Before her death the couple had two children in addition to Mr. Weihman's son from his first marriage: Jane Ann Weihman and Edward Alan Weihman. See Deaths . . . WEIHMAN - Marjorie Burns, N.Y. Times, Dec. 24, 1967, p. 49. Another brief obituary appeared in the same issue of the paper. It read:

Special to The New York Times

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y., Dec. 23 -- Mrs. Marjorie Burns Weihman of 201 [sic] Monterey Avenue, wife of Clifford T. Weihman, secretary-treasurer of the Smith-Weihman Company of New York, importers of vegetable oil, died today in Mount Vernon Hospital. Her age was 59. Surviving, besides her husban, are two sons, New W. and Clifford E.; a daughter, Jane Ann; her mother, Mrs. Edith Burns, and a half-brother, Charles McCartney." Mrs. Clifford Weihman, N.Y. Times, Dec. 24, 1967, p. 49.

Clifford and Marjorie's daughter, Jane Ann, married Harold Martin Block, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand H. Block of Thibodaux, Louisiana. She attended the Convent of the Sacred Hear in Noroton, Connecticut and graduated in 1964 from the American School in Switzerland and from Sweet Briar College. Her husband, Harold Martin Block, graduated from the University of Virginia and Tulane University Law School. His father was the president and founder of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Thibodaux and President of Block Furniture stores as well as Delta Broadcasters, all in Thibodaux. See Jane Weihman Is Future Bride of Harold Block, N.Y. Times, Jul. 30, 1968, p. 42.

Clifford T. Weihman seems to have remarried a third time to a woman named Shirley. His brief obituary appeared in the June 17, 1983 issue of The New York Times. It read:


Clifford Tobias Weihman, a founder of the Smith-Weihman Company, vegetable-oil importers in New York City, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88 years old.

Mr. Weihman is survived by his wife, Shirley; two sons, Clifford E. and Edward A., both of Greenwich, Conn.; a daughter, Jane Block of Thibodoux, La., and nine grandchildren." Clifford T. Weihman, N.Y. Times, Jun. 17, 1983, p. D17. A separate obituary appeared the next day. It read:

"WEIHMAN -- Clifford T. On June 16, 1983. Husband of Shirley. Father of Clifford E., Jane Block and Edward A. Grandfather of nine. Reposing at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Ave. at 81 St., Friday, 7-9 P.M. Funeral service at Christ Church, Pelhamdale Ave., Pelham Manor, N.Y., Saturday, 11 A.M. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Mt. Vernon Hospital would be appreciated." Deaths . . . WEIHMAN -- Clifford T., N.Y. Times, Jun. 18, 1983, p. 11.

Memorials appeared in the same issue of the paper. One such memorial read as follows:

"WEIHMAN -- Clifford T. Grand Piller General Emeritus Honoraire. The very heart and soul of our Noble Confrerie. His was the leading force from its early years and out cohesive guide as we became the great brotherhood we are today from coast to coast. Rest well, dear friend. We will go on always with your precepts. Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin John F. Stever Grand Pilier General d'Amerique Edward H. Benenson Grand Camerlinque d' Amerique". Deaths . . . WEIHMAN -- Clifford T., N.Y. Times, Jun. 18, 1983, p. 11.

When the old George M. Reynolds mansion located behind Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor burned in the mid-20th century, Clifford T. Weihman stepped forward and funded the creation of a lovely park in memory of his first wife. The park is named the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park. Beginning this Memorial Day weekend, The Junior League of Pelham, Inc. will kick off a restoration campaign to restore the park. They are looking for old photographs that might show the park shortly after it opened.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Clifford and Martha Weihman of Pelham (Part I of II)

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There is a quiet little park that sits along the Esplanade immediately behind Huguenot Memorial Church located at 901 Pelhamdale Avenue. The park is named the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park. It is named after the wife of Clifford T. Weihman, a long-time resident of Pelham. Today's Blog posting will provide information about Clifford and Martha Weihman of Pelham.

Clifford Tobias Weihman was a founder of the Smith-Weihman Company, Inc., a vegetable oil importer located in New York City. See Clifford T. Weihman, N.Y. Times, Jun. 17, 1983, p. D17. For many years Smith-Weihman Company had offices at 15 Moore Street in New York City. Clifford T. Weihman was a son of Herman Weihman of Philadelphia. See Wed in All Angels' Church -- Clifford T. Weihman Marries Miss Martha Emmons, N.Y. Times, Nov. 9, 1919, p. 12.

Mr. Weihman's first wife was the former Martha Emmons, a daughter of Francis Robbins Emmons and the former Eliza Ridabock. She was a graduate of Barnard College, had a Columbia University degree and was a member of the D.A.R. She and her husband lived in Pelham for twenty years before her death on August 14, 1940 and had a son named Clifford Emmons Weihman. See Mrs. Clifford T. Weihman, N.Y. Times, Aug. 15, 1940, p. 25.

Mr. Weihman's son, Clifford Emmons Weihman, was an alumnus of St. Paul's School, Concord, N. H. and received an A. B. degree from Harvard College and an M. S. degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Engineering. He served four years in the Army Air Forces as an aircraft maintenance engineering officer and, early in his career, was an aeronautical engineer with the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore. He married Miss Elaine Virginia Julian of Pelham Manor. She graduated magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and served for two terms as president of The Junior League of Pelham. She also was a member of the Manor Club and the Bryn Mawr Club of Westchester. Her father, Michael J. Julian, served as President of the Better Vision Institute of New York. See Elaine V. Julian Becomes Fiancee, N.Y. Times, Jan. 20, 1957, p. 80.

Clifford T. Weihman and Martha Emmons were married on November 8, 1919. The couple was married at All Angel's Church by the Rev. Dr. S. De Lancey Townsend. According to the wedding announcement, the "wedding was a small one and the bride dispensed with her wedding attendants she had selected owing to the death of an aunt." See Wed in All Angels' Church -- Clifford T. Weihman Marries Miss Martha Emmons, N.Y. Times, Nov. 9, 1919, p. 12. The couple lived for a short time at the Apthorp, 390 West End Avenue, New York City where Martha's mother lived at the time. Id.

Upon her death, Martha Emmons Weihman left a life interest in her estate worth more than $20,000 to her husband with the remainder interest bequeathed to the couple's son, Clifford Emmons Weihman. See Wills For Probate, N.Y. Times, Aug. 28, 1940, p. 36. It appears that Martha was buried in The Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, although that is not quite clear. See id. It appears that much of the estate left by Martha Emmons was earlier bequeathed to her by her mother, Eliza R. Emmons, who died on October 31, 1931. According to a notice published in The New York Times, Eliza R. Emmons left "gross assets, $31,221; net. $22,681 to Martha Emmons Weihman, daughter." See Estates Appraised, N.Y. Times, May 2, 1933, p. 36.

During many years together, Clifford and Martha Weihman lived in a wonderful home located at 401 Monterey Avenue in Pelham Heights. The home was designed by noted architect Charles Lewis Bowman. It appears that papers relating to the design of the home for Clifford T. Weihman exist in Collection No. 3807 of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections of the Cornell University Library (the "Charles Lewis Bowman Photographs and Drawings, 1917-1962).

Clifford T. Weihman was a wealthy and successful businessman who remarried twice after his marriage to Martha Emmons. In addition to administering his vegetable import business, he served as a director of the First National Bank of Mount Vernon. See Mount Vernon, N.Y., N.Y. Times, Jan. 11, 1951, p. 48. He also served as an officer of the New York Produce Exchange. See N.Y. Produce Exchange Chooses New President, N.Y. Times, Jun. 3, 1953, p. 51 ("Clifford T. Weihman of Smith-Weihman Company, Inc., was elected vice president"). He also served, for a period of time, as a member of the board of managers of the New York Produce Exchange. See Re-Elected as President Of Produce Exchange, N.Y. Times, Jun. 4, 1946, p. 45 ("Thomas J. Stevenson and Clifford T. Weihman were elected to the board of managers for two-year terms."). Mr. Weihman at one time served as president of the Oil Trades Association of New York. See Miss Marjorie Burns Wed to C. T. Weihman -- Church of the Transfiguration Scene of Their Marriage, N.Y. Times, Jun. 23, 1942, p. 24.

Clifford Weihman was a member of the Union League Club, the Boulder Brook Club, the New York Athletic Club and the Pelham Country Club. Id. Mr. Weihman served as president of the Mount Vernon Hospital and became a noted wine expert during his life, serving as "the Grand Senechal du Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, international gourmet society." See Elaine V. Julian Becomes Fiancee, N.Y. Times, Jan. 20, 1957, p. 80.

About two years after his first wife's death, Clifford T. Weihman married Miss Marjorie Burns, daughter of Mrs. William Francis Burns of Brooklyn and the late Mr. Burns. Id. According to the wedding announcement, the couple lived thereafter at 401 Monterey Avenue in Pelham. Marjorie Burns Weihman attended Ladycliff-on-the-Hudson and Hunter College. Id. Her father was killed during World War I in the Meuse-Argonne battle. Id.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Thomas M. Kennett, Long Time Editor of The Pelham Sun

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Perhaps one man, more than any other, is responsible for documenting the history of Pelham -- at least during the 20th Century. That man was Thomas Milward Kennett who lived at 42 Linden Avenue for many years until his death on September 1, 1958. Mr. Kennett acquired The Pelham Sun in 1921 and made it a force in the community for many years. Today's blog posting will provide a little information about Thomas M. Kennett.

A man named Peter Ceder started The Pelham Sun on April 9, 1910. Mr. Ceder was a "former New York City newspaperman who was conducting a real estate and insurance business in North Pelham." 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. 164 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press 1946). Mr. Ceder began the paper in addition to his work as a real Estate agent and insurance salesman in North Pelham. According to Lockwood Barr:

"In 1919 a group of residents of the Pelhams, having large business interests in the City of New York, and believing that there was a real need in the community for a local weekly publication that would record, exclusively, the news of the three villages, bought The Pelham Sun. . . . In that group were Robert A. Holmes, Vice President of Dobbs Hats; L. O. Thompson, silk merchant; William T. Grant, Chairman W. T. Grant Chain Stores; Merton C. Robbins, Publisher of Advertising & Selling; John Clyde Oswald, Editor of The American Printer, Harry A. Anderson, attorney; Walter R. Quick, Comptroller of the Metropolitan Insurance Co.; Charles C. Davis, Vice-President The Eaton Crane & Pike Paper Co.; Thomas L. McReady, advertising agent; and Roy W. Howard, Chairman of the Scripps-Howard Newspapers.

The Pelham Sun purchased The Record, and The Register, in 1920 and on February 28, 1921 Thomas M. Kennett was appointed editor. Mr. Kennett purchased The Pelham Sun from its stockholders in 1925 and with his son, Frederick T. Kennett . . . operate[d] the paper". Id., pp. 164-65.

Before coming to Pelham, Thomas Milward Kennett worked on the old New York World and other newspapers on the east coast. See Thomas M. Kennett, Headed Pelham Sun, N.Y. Times, Sep. 2, 1958, p. 25. The newspaper's stockholders installed Kennett as editor of the paper in 1921. After purchasing the paper from its stockholders four year later, Kennett named himself President of the newspaper. Id.

Thomas Kennett's reputation as a talented local editor grew quickly. On October 2, 1925, representatives of thirty weekly newspapers published in Westchester County, New York gathered at the White Swan Inn in White Plains to organize a local industry group devoted to local newspapers. That night Thomas M. Kennett was elected President of the new organization. See Weekly Papers Organize -- Representatives of Thirty Westchester Journals Elect Officers, N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 1925, p. 15.

Mr. Kennett quickly became a fixture in the community involved with many organizations. He was a charter member, and served as President, of the Pelham Lions Club. Thomas M. Kennett, Headed Pelham Sun, N.Y. Times, Sep. 2, 1958, p. 25. He was a founder and president of the Pelham Board of Trade. Id. He served as a director of the Relief Hook and Ladder Company. Id. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Pelham Men's Club and, for many years was a member of the New York State Firemen's Association. Id. He also was a member of the Masons and served as chairman of many charity campaigns. Id. Mr. Kennett retired from the newspaper in 1953.

Mr. Kennett's community service extended beyond the little town of Pelham. For example, during World War Two he served on a committee responsible for ensuring that "every newspaper plant in the metropolitan district contributes every bit of scrap metal that it can spare to the salvage drive" as part of the war effort. See Newspapers Form Salvage Committee -- Its Duty Will Be To See That Plants Give Full Aid, N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 1942, p. 8.

According to his obituary published in The New York Times, in February1958 Mr. Kennett suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Thomas M. Kennett, Headed Pelham Sun, N.Y. Times, Sep. 2, 1958, p. 25. He lingered for some months and died at the age of 76 on September 1, 1958. Id. His obituary noted that:

"Surviving are his widow, Isabel; two sons, Fred T. and James E.; two daughters, Mrs. Maurice Graillat and Mrs. Richard Berger; six sisters in England, ten grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren." Id.

The Pelham Sun still exists although its content is not devoted solely to Pelham. The newspaper, based in Yonkers, New York in lower Westchester County, reportedly has a circulation of about 2400. It is owned by Martinelli Publications, 40 Larkin Plaza, Yonkers, NY, 10701 (914-965-4000).

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Friday, May 20, 2005

1888: Pelham Fears Bankruptcy Due to the Creation of Pelham Bay Park

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During the late 1880s, as New York City assembled lands to create Pelham Bay Park, Pelham panicked. Land within Pelham that was acquired by New York City for inclusion in Pelham Bay Park was, by law, exempt from taxation. As more and more Pelham land was incorporated into the limits of Pelham Bay Park, less and less tax revenue made its way into the Town's coffers. Pelham began increasing its tax rate. Finally, W. R. Lamberton of Pelham had had enough. He issued a letter to the Mayor of New York City that attracted the attention of The New York Times. The article about his letter appears immediately below:



Mayor Hewitt yesterday received a piquant and vigorous letter from W. R. Lamberton of Pelham, asking for is official aid toward the passage of Assembly bill No. 24, known as the Park Taxation bill. Mr. Lamberton says that the total area of the town of Pelham is about 3,000 acres, assessed for about $1,200,000, and of this 1,700 acres, now assessed for about $500,000, are within the limits of Pelham Bay Park, and will therefore be exempted from taxation. Says Mr. Lamberton:

'The taxable property of the town will thus be reduced to 1,300 acres, valued at $700,000, and the tax rate will be increased to nearly 6 per cent. This means bankruptcy for the town. The people simply cannot pay their taxes. The town will be obliged to maintain miles of expensive highway through the park, without the right to tax a foot of the land on either side of the highway. The town will be obliged to maintain the same schools as now, without the right to tax many hundred acres now helpting to support and properly tributary to such schools.'

Mr. Lamberton says that the police expenses of Pelham will be greatly increased on account of the park by reason of the visits of New-Yorkers, and he continues in a burst of indignation:

'But perhaps the crowning injustice of all under the existing law is that the entire burden of the bonded indebtedness of the town will be thrown upon less than one-half of its territory. And this is an injustice not only to the town and its taxpayers, but to the bondholders as well. If it is right for the Legislature to take away one-half of their security why not three-quarters or nine-tenths or all? The principle is the same in either case.'

Mr. Lamberton calls the Mayor's attention to the fact that the citizens of Pelham have always opposed the park on account of its exemption from taxation, and he proposes that New-York shall pay taxes upon its park property like an ordinary taxpayer until Pelham be annexed to the city. The bill now before the Legislature, he says, will increase the taxes of the city by only one eight-hundredth of 1 per cent, on its assessed valuation, which small amount will save Pelham from bankruptcy."

Source: Pelham In Despair. Foreseeing Bankruptcy Through the Park Scheme, N.Y. Times, Feb. 5, 1888, p. 10.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Scholarly Book About the Father of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham, Is Published

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A lengthy and scholarly book that addresses the life of John Pell (1611-1685), the father of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham, and the brother of Thomas Pell, 1st Lord of the Manor of Pelham, has been published. The bibliographic reference for the book appears below:

Malcolm, Noel & Stedall, Jacqueline, John Pell (1611-1685) and His Correspondence with Sir Charles Cavendish The Mental World of an Early Modern Mathematician (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005) (ISBN 0 19 856484 8 (Hbk)).

Dust Jacket of the Book.

The book is intended for the academic community and is extremely expensive. Although it is available via online booksellers such as Amazon.com for as much as $249 a copy, copies can be found from discount booksellers for as little as $183 plus shipping and tax. Click here to see a description of the book for sale from eCampus.com.

The heavily footnoted tome is 657 pages long and relies heavily on difficult to access primary resources. I have completed the first 80 pages of the book and will report further on its completion. The book deals with the following topics:

Part I The Life of John Pell by Noel Malcolm

1. Sussex, Cambridge, 1611-1629

2. Sussex, London, Sussex, 1629-1638

3. London, 1638-1643

4. Amsterdam, Breda, 1643-1652

5. London, Zurich, 1652-1658

6. London, Essex, London, 1658-1665

7. Cheshire, 1665-1669

8. London, 1669-1685

Part II The Mathematics of John Pell by Jacqueline Stedall

Part III The Pell-Cavendish Correspondence

The beginning of the book is excellent, but clearly is intended for an audience other than those interested in the popular history of Pelham, New York and surrounding areas. It seems appropriate only for the most serious students of Pelham history.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Masked Burglar Robbery of the Emmett Home in Pelham on December 22, 1873 (Part II)

Two days ago I published a blog posting entitled "The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889". It discussed the discovery in 1889 of a collection of valuable silver and gold in a rusty old safe that had lain in the backyard of a Pelham home for at least fifteen years. Oldtimers thought the treasure might have been plunder from the robbery of the historic home that still stands today at 145 Shore Road in late 1873 when the home was owned by the Emmett family. Yesterday's posting, entitled "The Masked Burglar Robbery of the Emmett Home in Pelham on December 22, 1873 (Part I)" dealt with the robbery. Today's posting continues that story with a description of the subsequent capture of the masked robbers.
Police were now hot on the trail of the bandits. Within a matter of days, The New York Times announced the capture of the entire ring that reportedly was responsible for a large number of robberies in Catskill, New-Rochelle, Pelham and Staten Island. The report appears in its entirety below:
One of th best captures of notorious thieves that has ever been accomplished by the Police of this City was successfully made yesterday by several detectives from the Central Office, and six very important members of a skillful and desperate gang of burglars have been arrested, and are now locked up at Police Head-quarters. The men under arrest are all distinguished cracksmen, and from evidence in the possession of the Police authorities of this City to the gang is credited all the robberies of suburban residences that have occurred recently within twenty miles of this City. The leaders have been captured, and all the tools and implements used by them in their nefarious enterprises are in the possession of the Police.
The readers of THE TIMES will doubtless remember that for several months past a gang of burglars have been perpetrating a series of robberies at the residences of wealthy citizens in the vicinity of New-York, and their operations were so bold and met with such success that the inhabitants of the suburban towns became alarmed and appealed to the Police of this City for protection, as it was supposed, and rightly, too, that the burglars haled from New-York, and sought refuge here after the commission of their desperate deeds. The first case brought to the notice of the Police was the robbery at the residence of Mr. Abram Post, a wealthy farmer residing at Eimbracht, near Catskill, on the Hudson. At 6:30 P. M. on the evening of Oct 17, while the family of Mr. Post were sitting quietly enjoying their supper six masked and armed men rushed into the place, and drawing revolvers threatened with instant death any person who offered the slightest resistance or attempted to give an alarm. The members of the family were then handcuffed, bound and gagged, and were taken to an upper bedroom, where one of the ruffians stood guard over them while his companions proceeded to ransack the house. They forced all the bureau drawers, &c., and secured $235 in currency, $20 in gold coin, two Greene County bonds of $500 each, a check on the Farmers' National Bank for $1,000, and a quantity of jewelry. After securing this property, the thieves fled and made their escape, leaving the family gagged and bound. A neighbor happening to call at the residence of Mr. Post, at about 10 o'clock, discovered their plight, released them, and gave an alarm. A pursuit was organized and the fugitives were tracked to the railroad, where all further trace was lost. Information was sent to Capt. Irving, of the Detective Office, who detailed Detective W. G. Elder to work up the case. On Dec. 12 Elder arrested Charles Hobbs, alias the 'Captain,' on suspicion of having been the leader of the gang who robbed Mr. Post's residence. He was sent to Catskill for examination, and is understood to be still locked up there, awaiting trial. The next case occurred at East New-York, were, on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 20, the office of the Jamaica, Woodhaven, and Brooklyn Railroad Company was entered by six armed and masked men. The watchman was bound hand and foot, gagged and secured under a desk in the office while the burglars forced open the safe and rifled it of its contents, consisting of $3,000 in bonds, gold coin, and currency. They then stole a silver watch from the person of the prostrate watchman, and decamped. It was some hours after their departure that the watchman succeeded in releasing himself from his bonds, and when he gave an alarm no trace of the fugitives could be obtained.
On the 23d of December, at 2:30 o'clock in the morning, the residence of Mr. J. P. Emmett, known as 'The Cottage,' at Pelham, within two miles of New-Rochelle, was visited by this same gang, the number at this time increased to eleven, and robbed in the most outrageous manner. The thieves, who were all armed and had their faces concealed by masks improvised out of strips of black muslim, forced open a window in the rear of the residence, and going direct to Mr. Emmett's bedroom, aroused him by pressing a revolver to his head. Threatened with instant death if he made an outcry, Mr. Emmett submitted to being handcuffed. The robbers, leaving one of their number to guard him, went to the bedrooms of his sister, his nephew, Edward Emmett, and the servants, who were all handcuffed and then taken to Mr. Emmett's bedroom, where two burglars were placed on guard with drawn revolvers. The key of the safe was demanded, but on being assured by Mr. Emmett that it was not in his possession, the burglars proceeded to force it open. They drilled holes in the door, which they filled with powder, and although the explosion shook the house, the safe was not blown open, but an aperture was made sufficiently large for a man's hand to be passed through. In this way they gained access to the contents of the safe, and after ransacking the house, which occupied several hours, they left, taking with them property valued at $800. After their departure, young Emmett succeeded, after considerable exertion, in releasing himself, and then freed the rest of the family from their bonds. The facts were reported to Superintendent Matsell, and placed in possession of Capt. Irving, who determined to ferret out the perpetrators of these desperate burglaries if possible, and while working on this matter still another robbery, of the nature described above, was perpetrated.
The victim of the latest exploit was Mr. Wm. K. Soutter, a banker doing business at No. 53 William street, and residing at West Brighton, Staten Island. His residence was entered on the night of the 30th ult., and robbed of silver-ware, jewelry, and money to the amount of $9,000. Mr. Soutter, with his wife and daughter, were spending the holiday week with some friends in this City, and the house on Staten Island was left in charge of the servants, who, on the night in question, were having a jolly time of it in the kitchen, when eleven armed and masked men burst in upon them and put an end to their festivities. Robert Armstrong, employed in the house as waiter, the only male servant, was seized, bound and gagged and the female servants were similarly secured. The robbers then searched the house, and took all the loose valuables they could find. They then bored holes in the safe, which the subsequently blew open with powder, and obtained silver-ware, jewelry, and money to the amout of $9,000, with which they decamped.
These repreated robberies showed by their mode of execution, even to the smallest details, that they were the work of the same gang, and it was apparent to the detectives that the gang was composed of a number of fearless and reckless men, well skilled in the burglar's art, and whom it would be very difficult to capture. Capt. Irving, who had himself taken an active part in investigating these robberies, selected Detectives Elder, Field, and King, of the Central Office, and to them intrusted the difficult task of discovering who these burglars were, and of effecting their capture. Detective Holley Lyon, of the Tenth Precinct, was associated with the officers named above, and rendered valuable assistance. The only clue to the thieves, except the vague descriptions given by their victims, was a portion of a peculiarly-constructed and very powerful 'jimmy,' which had been broken by the thieves in their endeavors to force open the safe at the residence of Mr. Emmett, at Pelham. The 'jimmy' was of finely-tempered steel, and the piece which had broken, consisting of two sharp-pointed prongs, was left behind by the thieves in their flight. This piece of steel furnished the clue, and will also furnish the evidence on which the burglars will be eventually convicted. From information received by Detective Elder a close watch had been kept for a week past on the drinking saloon kept by Geo. A. Millard at the north-east corner of Canal and Washington streets. This rum shop is said by the Police to be a resort for thieves and burglars, and was believed to be the head-quarters of the gang who had been engaged in the suburban robberies. Yesterday afternoon a number of well-known burglars were seen by Detectives Elder, King, Lyon, and Field, who were on the watch, to enter the place, and it was determined to make a descent on the house. Field was sent to the Fifth Precinct Police Station in Leonard street near West Broadway, and Capt. Petty, at the request of the detectives, sent a platoon of men in uniform to their assistance. On the arrival of the reinforcement the liquor saloon was surrounded, and the detectives dashed in with drawn revolvers, and threatened to shoot any person who made the slightest resistance. Eight persons were in the place at the time, and six of these were at once recognized as professional thieves and burglars. These men are Dan Kelly, Patsey Conroy, Larry Griffin, Billy Woods, Billy Hoey, and Big John Garvey. Kelly is an escaped convict, having broken out of Auburn State Prison, where he owes the State two years' service. He was accused by John T. Ivring of having been concerned in the Nathan murder, but no corroborative evidence could be obtained. He is a notorious burglar and horse thief, and has been engaged in several 'big jogs.' Patsey Conroy and Larry Griffin are both notorious burglars, and were formerly river thieves. About seven years ago, while engaged in robbing a schooner in the East River, they were disturbed by the mate whom they murdered to make their escape. For this crime they have never suffered punishment, owing, it is said, to political influence wielded by them and their friends at the time. Billy Hoey is a native of Baltimore, and is said to have been engaged in the Concord Bank robbery and the robbery of the Ocean Bank in this City. Billy Woods and Big John Garvey are well-known burglars and bank robbers. Besides the above-named there were found in the place Millard, the proprietor, and Matthew McGeary, a young man who claims to be a boatman from Yonkers. The Police know nothing about the last-named. All the parties in the place were arrested, and after they had been secured a search of the bar-room was made. Behind the bar were discovered several valises and carpet bags and when these were opened they were found to contain a full assortment of burglars' tools consisting of powerful combination 'jimmies,' a large number of steel wedges, five or six dark-lanterns, several cans of powder, a number of fuses, pieces of black muslin, from which the masks used by the thieves were manufactured. But the most damaging evidence of the thieves' guilt was the remains of the 'jimmy' which had been broken at the residence of Mr. Emmett, and which fits exactly to the piece found in the house, and now in the possession of Superintendent Matsell. The prisoners, guarded by the detectives and several officers in uniform, were conveyed to Police Head-quarters in carriages, and arraigned before the Superintendent. As may be readily imagined, they protested their entire innocence, and denied all knowledge of the valises and their contents. The prisoners gave their names as follows: John Burns, John Thompson, Daniel Kelly, Matthew McGeary, Francis P. Kayton, Lawrence Griffin, Patrick Conway, and George A. Millard. They were locked up in the cells at Police Headquarters, and several officers of the Fourteenth Precinct were detailed to guard them. The victims of the robberies alleged to have been perpetrated by these prisoners will be notified to appear and identify them."
Source: Modern Bandits, N.Y. Times, Jan. 6, 1874, p. 5.
As the above report makes clear, following the capture of the suspects, a parade of victims and witnesses was summoned to Manhattan to identify the robbers. One news account of this process sheds additional light on these events and, once again, is set forth in its entirety below.
The public interest caused by the arrest of the gang of notorious burglars, of which Dan Kelly is said to have been the leader, already fully reported in THE TIMES, appears unabated, and the Police Central Office was thronged yesterday by a number of gentlemen who were anxious to see the prisoners and identify them if possible, as having been engaged in the robberies perpetrated at their residences. Among those who called for that purpose were: Mr. J. P. Emmett, and his nephew, Edward, of New-Rochelle; Mr. Delafield, an intimate friend of Mr. Soutter, of West Brighton, Staten Island, and Officer Deveau of the New-Rochelle Police force. The prisoners, Daniel Kelly, Big John Garvey, Billy Woods, Billy Hoey, Larry Griffin, Pat Conroy, Geo. A. Millard, Matthew McGeary, and John O'Donnell were brought from their cells by the detective officers and placed in line in the sitting room in the rear of the detective office, and the victims of the robberies alleged to have been committed by the prisoners, were then admitted.
The first man identified was Daniel Kelly, who was pointed out by Robert Armstrong as one of the men who had been concerned in the robbery at the residence of Mr. Soutter, on Staten Island. Without the slightest hesitation, Armstrong identified Kelly as the man who had handcuffed him and had remained on guard for two hours at the kitchen door while the rest of the desperate gang of robbers ransacked the house. A question was put to Kelly, and, as soon as his voice was heard in reply, Armstrong recognized the voice, and became still more positive in his identification.
Kelly, Griffin, and Conroy were also identified, by Mr. Emmett and his nephew, as three of the eleven masked men who broke into their residence at Pelham, near New-Rochelle, and ransacked the house. Young Emmett stated positively that Conroy is the man who removed the rings from his aunt's fingers, and threatened to put a gag into her mouth if she made any outcry. Larry Griffin was also positively identified by the boatman who, on the morning of the robbery, ferried him across to the Long Island shore. Griffin stated to the boatman at the time that he was going to witness a prize-fight. Besides the identification by the boatman, the detectives state that they have conclusive evidence to connect Griffin with the robbery of Mr. Emmett's house, but which cannot be made public at present. Big John Garvey was also identified as having been seen in the vicinity of New-Rochelle on the morning of the robbery. He was seen by an ex-policeman, formerly a member of the New-York Police Force, as he was making his way toward the river. The ex-policeman knew him, and spoke to him, but having no knowledge of the robbery which had been committed, allowed him to pass unmolested.
After the identification of Kelly, Conroy, and Griffin, Officer Deveau, of the New-Rochelle Police force presented to Superintendent Matsell a warrant for the arrest of the ruffians named, and requested that the prisoners named in the warrant be delivered into his custody. The warrant was issued by Judge Porter, at New-Rochelle, on affidavits made by Mr. Emmett and his nephew. The Superintendent recognized the validity of the warrant, and transferred the prisoners to the custody of Officer Deveau, and directed Detectives Elder, King, Lyon and Fields to accompany the officer to White Plains and see that they were safely lodged in the County Jail at that place. The three prisoners were accordingly brought out of their cells, handcuffed, and placed in carriages. In company with the detectives having them in charge they were driven to the Grand Central Depot, and took the noon train on the Harlem Railroad for White Plains, to await examination. Should the District Attorney of Westchester County fail in obtaining the conviction of Kelly, he will be transferred to the Richmond County Jail to stand trial for breaking into and robbing Mr. Soutter's house, his connection with that outrage being clearly established.
During the afternoon Abram Post, Jr. and his sister arrived from Catskill, having been telegraphed for to come to this City to see if they could identify any of the prisoners as the men who, on the evening of the 17th of October last, entered their father's residence near Catskill, bound and gagged all the inmates, and robbed the house. Post and his sister arrived at the Central Office after Kelly, Griffin, and Conroy had been taken to White Plains, and on being shown the rest of the prisoners, failed to identify any of them. On being shown the coats found on Monday last stowed away behind the bar in Millard's rum-shop, where the men were arrested, Post and his sister both positively identified an overcoat which belonged to their father, and which had been stolen from the house on the night it was robbed. This evidence connects the gang with the robbery at Mr. Post's house. At the suggestion of Inspector Walling, young Post and his sister went to White Plains yesterday, to see Kelly, Griffin, and Conroy, for the purpose of identification.
To still further connect the gang arrested with the robbery at Mr. Soutter's residence, a policeman from Staten Island brought to Superintendent Matsell yesterday afternoon, a piece of wood which he had cut out of the jamb of one of the doors in the house, and which had been forced open with a 'jimmy' by the robbers. This piece of wood bore plainly the marks of the 'jimmy' which had been used, and on comparing one of the 'jimmies' found in Millard's place it fitted the indentations in the wood exactly, and to the sharp edge still adhered atoms of the paint scraped from the door. Among other articles found behind the bar at Millard's was a handsome red marocco writing-case, filled with fine note-paper and envelopes. This writing-case was yesterday identified by Mr. Delafield, a friend of Mr. Soutter, as belonging to that gentleman.
Chief of Police Rogers, of Newark, N.J., and a number of his detectives, Marshal Hills, of Englewood, N. J., and a number of residents of that neighborhood, called at Police Head-quarters yesteday, and were shown the prisoners, but failed to identify them as having been concerned in the numerous robberies that have been recently committed in New-Jersey.
New and startling developments may be looked for soon. Mrs. Millard, the wife of the proprietor of the drinking place in which the prisoners were captured, has been at Police Head-quarters every day since the arrest of the gang of burglars, and has been for several hours each day in close consultation with Superintendent Matsell. From this it is surmised that Mrs. Millard is negotiating for protection for her husband on condition of his placing the information in regard to the operations of the burglars he is in possession of at the service of the Police. This would, doubtless, lead to the conviction of the robbers, and the recovery of the property stolen by them."
Source: The Masked Burglars, N.Y. Times, Jan. 8, 1874, p. 8.
The first court proceeding dealing with the robbery suspects focused on the robbery of the Emmett home in Pelham. The report of that proceeding reads as follows:
The announcement in the City journals yesterday morning, to the effect that the burglars who, on the 23d day of December, committed a most daring outrage and robbery at the Emmett cottage, New-Rochelle, would be examined at White Plains in the course of the forenoon, attracted persons from almost every section of the county to obtain a glimpse of the accused perpetrators of the crime. Shortly after 11 o'clock, John Kelly, alias Dan. Kelly, Patrick Conroy, Larry Griffin, and Billy Woods, alias John Barns, being taken up in one of the morning trains, were brought into court, before Judge Porter, of New-Rochelle. Detectives Elder, Fields, King, and Lyons, of the New-York Central Office, were present, with a large assortment of burglars' implements, consisting of four dark lanterns, numerous powder casks, eleven soft felt hats, a lot of masks, and other articles found at the head-quarters of the robbers in New-York City, together with some fragments of tools left behind them in the dwelling of the Emmett family. All that could obtain an opportunity of inspecting the tools availed themselves of it. Mr. Charles H. Roosevelt, of New-Rochelle, appeared as counsel on the part of the people, and Col. Fellows, of New-York, for the prisoners.
Col. Fellows inquired of the court what course would be pursued in regard to Billy Woods, alias Burns, who was not charged in the proceedings had at New-Rochelle with being implicated with him. He desired that the names of Kelly, Conroy, and Griffin were charged in the complaint against Burns with being implicated with him. He desired that the names of Kelly, Conroy, and Griffin be stricken from the warrant against Burns. He would then waive an examination of Kelly, Conroy, and Griffin, remarking that public feeling had been so worked up against the perpetrators of the robbery that it would be impossible to expect anything like justice being done them. The suggestion of Col. Fellows was conceded, and Col. Fellows then objected to Judge Porter, as Police Justice of New-Rochelle, having jurisdiction, but as Judge Porter announced that he presided there as one of the Justices of Peace of Westchester County, the objection as to his jurisdiction was withdrawn. Col. Fellows then remarked that he should also waive an examination in the case of Burns, as he had in the others, and await the action of the Grand Jury and trial by another tribunual, where his clients would stand a much better chance of securing justice. The four prisoners were then fully committed to the County Jail to await the action of the Grand Jury next month.
In order to prevent the possibility of Burns, alias Woods, slipping out of the custody of Sheriff Carpenter by a writ of habeas corpus, inasmuch as no evidence had been recorded against him, Mary Lyon, colored cook on board of the steamer Seawauhaka, was examined. She testified that she prepared breakfast for seven men on board of the steamer on the 23d day of December. They ate their breakfast in the kitchen, where she waited upon them; that she identified the four prisoners present as four of the seven persons that she provided breakfast for. They had with them a large black valise, a yellow or light-colored valise, and a long black bundle, which was covered with black muslin or rubber, and that the light-colored valise produced in court is like the one she saw in possession of the prisoners."
Source: Some of the Ruffians In Court, N.Y. Times, Jan. 11, 1874, p. 8.
No record has yet been found of the disposition of the charges against the robbery suspects.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Masked Burglar Robbery of the Emmett Home in Pelham on December 22, 1873 (Part I)

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Yesterday's blog posting entitled "The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889" discussed the discovery in 1889 of a collection of a valuable silver and gold tea service in a rusty old safe that had lain in the backyard of a Pelham home for at least fifteen years. According to an article about the discovery that appeared in The New York Times, in discussing the discovery "Some old residents called to mind the robbery by masked burglars of the Emmett mansion on the Pelham road in 1874, and suggested that the safe might have been made the receptacle of some of the plunder." See Treasure in an Old Safe, N.Y. Times, Apr. 21, 1889, p. 20.

A little sleuthing easily reveals a number of published articles about the robbery by masked burglars of Mr. Emmett's home. The robbery occurred on December 22, 1873. It seems clear that the safe in which the tea service was discovered in 1889 was not the safe that was plundered in the Emmett home. This, of course, says nothing about whether the contents of the safe discovered in 1889 were stolen from the Emmett home about fifteen years earlier. The evidence seems compelling, but not dispositive.

The home in which the robbery occurred still stands and is one of the most historic structures in Pelham. (Actually, the home sits partially in Pelham and partially in New Rochelle. Its address in Pelham is 145 Shore Road.) The home is known as the Kemble House and is one of only two pre-Revolutionary War homes that still stand in Pelham. A recent photograph appears below.

The first article to report the robbery stated:


Late yesterday, Mr. Charles Emmett, a young man residing with his uncle at New-Rochelle, Westchester County, called at the Police Central Office, in this City, and reported to Superintendent Matsell that an outrageous robbery had been committed by a band of bold robbers at the house of his uncle. The house is situated in the outskirts of the village, and the inmates are Mr. Richard J. Emmett, his wife, his nephew Charle, and two servants. During Monday night the house was entered by six men, all armed with revolvers, while the inmates were all in bed and fast asleep. The robbers first proceeded to the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Emmett, who, when aroused, found themselves surrounded by the robbers, who threatened them with instant death if they made any outcry or resistance. The couple were taken from their bed, their hands hand-cuffed behind their backs, and gags were thrust into their mouths. Being rendered helpless, they were left in their bedroom, while the robbers went to the rooms occupied by Charles Emmett and by the two servants. They handcuffed and gagged young Emmett and the servants in the same manner in which they had secured Mr. and Mrs. Emmett, and having thus prevented any interference from the inmates of the house, they proceeded to ransack the building from cellar to garret, and secured a large quantity of valuables. In the back parlor the robbers found a safe, and they succeeded in cutting a hold in the door of the safe large enough to admit a man's hand, and in this manner gained possession of a portion of its contents. The robbers remained in the house for upward of an hour, and after their departure young Emmett set about endeavoring to regain his liberty, and after severe exertion, succeeded in cramping his body up in such a position that he was enabled to slip the handcuffs under his feet, and brought his manacled hands in front of his chest. As he was the last one of the inmates handcuffed, the robbers had left the key of the handcuffs in the lock, and young Emmett, after several ineffectual attempts, succeeded in turning the key with his teeth and unlocking one of the handcuffs. To entirely free himself was then an easy task, and he at once set about releasing the rest of the inmates. He unlocked the handcuffs on the wrists of his aunt and the servants, and restored them to liverty. He next proceeded to unfasten the handcuffs with which his uncle's hands were secured. He succeeded without difficulty in unlocking one of the iron bracelets, but when he endeavored to unlock the other one the key broke in the lock, and all efforts to unfasten the handcuff proved unavailing. Mr. Emmett was therefore compelled to remain in doors during yesterday, with the handcuffs dangling from his right hand -- a most unpleasant predicament. As soon as young Emmett had released the family he gave an alarm, and informed the local Police of what had occurred. The village was thoroughly searched, but the robbers had disappeared. During the afternoon he came to this City and reported the facts to Superintendent Matsell, and also borrowed from the Detective Office several handcuff keys with which to unlock the handcuff which, much against his will, remained in possession of his uncle. By direction of the Superintendent, Capt. Irving sent two of his officers to New-Rochelle to investigate the affair. It is believed that the thieves who effected this robbery are the same gang who committed an outrage of a similar nature in Catskill several weeks aga, and who have, during the past two months, been operating extensively among the suburban towns, entering and rifling private dwellings and stores. They are believed to hail from this City, and to take refuge here after committing their depredations. The amount of property obtained by the thieves is not known and cannot be ascertained until the safe is opened, which cannot be done in its present condition, as the thieves smashed the lock in their efforts to force the safe open. It is believed, however, that the money, jewelry, silverware, and other articles of value secured by the thieves will amount to several thousand dollars. No arrests have been made by the Police in this City and none have been reported as having been made in New-Rochelle. Young Emmett says that he can identify the robbers if arrested, as they were not disguised in any manner, nor did they appear at all anxious to conceal their faces."

Source: Outrage and Robbery in New-Rochelle, N.Y. Times, Dec. 24, 1873, p. 2.

The robbers were busy that fateful night. As police investigated the matter, they discovered more about how the robbers operated. According to a subsequent report:

"It was ascertained yesterday that six of the robbers, after stealing a pair of oars belonging to Mr. Edgars, a neighbor of Mr. Emmett's, proceeded to City Island, and there attempted to steal a boat belonging to Capt. Stringer, about 6:30 o'clock on Tuesday morning, about an hour and a half after leaving the house they had robbed, but were detected by Capt. Stringer, when they halted and engaged the owner of the boat to row them across the Sound to the Long Island shore, and gave him $6 for his services. They told Capt. Stringer that they had been attending a prize fight, and that the Sheriff was in pursuit of them; they were therefore willing to give him $1 each to be placed beyond his reach. The other five men of the gang, with a large dog they had with them, are supposed to have proceeded toward Westchester or Throgg's Neck, and rowed thence across the Sound to Long Island, and then made their way to New-York by railroad or steamboat. It is believed that had the robbers succeeded in getting the key of the safe, and thus avoided a delay of over two hours, they would have committed other robberies in the neighborhood before they left. The supposition that there was a rich booty in the safe, induced the robbers to obtain possession of its contents. They carried off three gold watches, some silver-ware, $150 in money, a gun, some articles of clothing, $c, valued in all at about $800, and did considerable damage by attempting to blow open the safe."

Source: The New-Rochelle Outrage, N.Y. Times, Dec. 26, 1873, p. 8.

Police were now hot on the trail of the bandits. Within a matter of days, The New York Times announced the capture of the entire ring that reportedly was responsible for a large number of robberies in Catskill, New-Rochelle, Pelham and Staten Island.

Tomorrow: The capture of the gang and more!

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Monday, May 16, 2005

The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889

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Every youngster dreams about it: the discovery of a hidden treasure of gold and silver in the backyard. Many Pelham youngsters have searched their backyards with dreams of riches buried beneath the soil, hidden under a rock or squirreled away in the hollow of a crooked old tree. This is a story about a real treasure of gold and silver discovered in the back yard of a Pelham resident in 1889.

In about 1879, a man named W. W. Bissell who was President of the New-Rochelle Bank, bought a home in Pelham Manor from Robert C. Black of Black, Starr & Frost. When Mr. Bissell purchased the house, there was "an old-fashioned and very rusty iron safe" lying in the backyard which Mr. Black agreed to remove.

Years passed, but Mr. Black failed to cart the heavy safe away. According to one account, Mrs. Bissell "particularly objected to it as an eyesore". Mr. and Mrs. Bissell repeatedly asked Mr. Black to remove the safe for a number of years, "but the matter was delayed from year to year".

Early in 1889 Mr. Black finally relented and arranged the removal of the heavy safe. He arranged for a contractor named Peter Berger to remove the safe and do with it what he wished.

On Tuesday, April 16, 1889, Peter Berger appeared at Mr. Bissell's home with a pair of oxen and a stoneboat. He wrestled the safe onto the stoneboat and used the oxen to drag it away. As he dragged it down the road, he met a junk dealer who "offered to buy the safe for old iron" for two dollars. The two men could not fit the safe onto the junk man's vehicle, so the transaction failed and Berger dragged the safe to his home. At his home he sold the safe to his son for one dollar.

On Saturday, April 20, 1889, Mr. Berger's son decided to demolish the safe with a sledge hammer to ease its cartage for scrap iron. What happened next is the stuff of legend in Pelham. According to an account that appeared the next day in The New York Times:

"The old iron gave way easily, and through an aperture there was soon seen metal inside which looked valuable. Young Berger then worked more carefully, and when he removed the safe's contents he found he had on hand several pieces of old silver, lined with gold and handsomely chased. He took them to a jeweler at New-Rochelle, who found they were of solid silver, several of the pieces being part of a tea set and marked 'C. Stevens.'

Mr. Black said that he had no claim on the silver, as it was left on the premises when he sold the place to Mr. Bissell. To his memory the safe had been where it lay for fifteen years.

Mr. Stevens lived in Pelham Manor in 1870 and 1871, and is said to have done business at that time as a real estate dealer in lower Broadway. No one in Pelham Manor now can give any definite information regarding him or his family. Stories were retailed to the effect that some of the silver found bore the name 'Napoleon III' and the initial 'E.' which suggestes Eugenie, but gentlemen who examed the pieces were not able to say that they made any such discovery. Some old residents called to mind the robbery by masked burglars of the Emmett mansion on the Pelham road in 1874 [sic], and suggested that the safe might have been made the receptacle of some of the plunder."

Source: Treasure in an Old Safe, N.Y. Times, Apr. 21, 1889, p. 20.

Tomorrow, this blog will discuss the infamous masked burglar robberies of 1873 that included the robbery of J. P. Emmett of Pelham.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Nathan F. Barrett, Famous Landscape Designer of Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries, Lived in Pelham

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Nathan F. Barrett was a famous “landscape engineer” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. See, e.g., National Sculpture Society, N.Y. Times, Apr. 11, 1894, p. 4. He lived in New Rochelle early in his career and in Pelham late in his career. He gained prominence when he played an important role in laying out the grounds of the 1893 World’s Fair at Chicago (with others) and crafted the landscape design for the City of Pullman, Illinois. See Big Deal in Real Estate, N.Y. Times, Aug. 25, 1897, p. 8. See also Dunlap, David, In Chicago, Layers of History but Uncertain Future, N. Y. Times, May 2, 1999, p. RE7. Theodore Roosevelt, while Governor of New York, appointed Barrett to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to put his landscape artistry to use on a grand scale. See Play Telegraphy Fatal, N.Y. Times, Aug. 11, 1906, p. 1.

Barrett was closely involved with the National Sculpture Society. He raised his profile in New York City during the 1890s by participating in several widely acclaimed exhibitions of “landscape gardening” sponsored by the National Sculpture Society. The exhibitions were intended to “show the possibilities of combining sculpture with flowers and plants in both natural and formal gardening and in interior decoration.” Art Notes, N.Y. Times, Feb. 27, 1895, p. 4. See also The National Sculpture Society, N.Y. Times, Feb. 27, 1895, p. 9; In the World of Art, N.Y. Times, Mar. 3, 1895, p. 21; Like Di Medici’s Garden, N.Y. Times, May 1, 1895, p. 4; The Sculpture Society – Formal Informality the Art of Landscape Gardening, N.Y. Times, May 7, 1895, p. 5. Barrett also spoke frequently as an expert on the use of sculpture in formal gardens. See, e.g., Current News of the Fine Arts, N.Y. Times, Apr. 1, 1894, p. 19.

His portfolio of work began to attract the attention of real estate developers throughout the New York City region who hired him to assist with the layouts of large real estate developments. For example, the August 25, 1897 issued of The New York Times reported the consummation of one of the largest real estate deals on the New Jersey coast at the time. It involved the transfer to a “syndicate of capitalists and railroad men of the entire ocean frontage between Elberon and Deal Lake, and practically all the unimproved building sites between those points, extending back a considerable distance from the coast line”. The work of laying out the estate consisting of the nearly forty-mile-long tract of land was awarded to Nathan F. Barrett who developed plans to “include an esplanade 200 feet in width from Deal Beach Station to the ocean, with a marine circle surrounding the property, with carriage driveways and bicycle and equestrian pathways, golf links, and tennis courts.” Big Deal In Real Estate – Slice of New Jersey Coast Acquired by Syndicate for $3,000,000, N.Y. Times, Aug. 25, 1897, p. 8.

Nathan F. Barrett lived in Rochelle Park in New Rochelle. He developed amazing gardens and a bungalow on the grounds of his estate that attracted widespread attention and that further affirmed his reputation as a master “landscape engineer”. One account of a fundraising event held on the grounds of his estate on June 9, 1906 read as follows:

“A Lawn Party in Fairyland.


Fair for New Rochelle Club Held in N. F. Barrett’s Unique Park.

The home of Nathan F. Barrett, the landscape artist, who lives in Rochelle Park, New Rochelle, was the scene of a unique garden party last night, held under the auspices of the Rochelle Park Athletic Association, composed of the sons of many well-known New Yorkers who live in the neighborhood.

Mr. Barrett’s gardens and bungalow are unusual, for in them he has duplicated on a small scale bits of scenery from all parts of the United States and Europe. The grounds abound with Alpine peaks spanned by rustic bridges, Italian lakes, deep canyons, (miniature reproductions of those in Colorado,) while brooks fall in cascades into lakes, in which water fowl swim about. This scene was illuminated last night with myriads of colored incandescent lights which produced an indescribably beautiful effect.

In the afternoon and evening numerous visitors strolled through the gardens and patronized the booths where dainties were sold by the mothers and sisters of the members of the Athletic Association. On the Committee of Arrangements were the sons of E. W. Kemble, the cartoonist; Ernest Albert, a scenic artist, and Prof. H. C. Bumpus of the Museum of Natural History. The entertainment brought in a considerable sum, which will be used to build a clubhouse for the Athletic Association.” A Lawn Party In Fairyland, N.Y. Times, Jun. 10, 1906, p. 9.

Not long after the fund raising event, Barrett suffered a terrible tragedy, losing his 16-year-old son in a horrible accident. The boy, Dettmar Barrett, was playing with two other boys who – like Dettmar -- were interested in telegraphy. The boys had rigged up telegraph lines between their homes. According to an account of the incident published on the front page of The New York Times:

“They were reconstructing one of the lines yesterday afternoon, and Barrett, carrying one end of a wire, ascended an electric light pole. It was his intention to fasten the wire to the top of the pole.

When he was within a few feet of the top the wire in his hand came in contact with a high-power wire carrying some 2,000 volts. With a cry he fell from the pole and struck on the back of his head. His skull was crushed and his back broken.” Play Telegraphy Fatal, N.Y. Times, Aug. 11, 1906, p. 1.

Late in his life, Nathan F. Barrett moved from New Rochelle to Pelham and lived at 795 Pelhamdale Avenue. He died on October 16, 1919. His obituary appeared two days later in The New York Times. It read:


Ex-President of American Society of Landscape Architects Was 74.

Nathan Franklin Barrett, landscape architect, for nearly twenty years associated with the work of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, died Thursday night in the Mount Vernon Hospital before the surgeons arrived to operate on a growth in his throat from which he had suffered for a long time. He was 74 years old. His home was at 795 Pelhamdale Avenue, Pelham.
Mr. Barrett was President of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1903. He laid out the town of Pullman, Ill., and the country estates of P. A. B. Widener, Joseph H. Choate and H. O. Havemeyer among others. He had recently been working on plans for beautifying signs along public roads. He was wounded at the battle of Cedar Creek in the civil war.” Nathan F. Barrett Dead, N.Y. Times, Oct. 18, 1919, p. 11.
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