Historic Pelham

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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Archaeological Survey Underway on Davids Island Reportedly Uncovers Evidence of Native American Occupation

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Davids Island lies just off the coast of Pelham Manor north of the New Rochelle boundary. It's history is closely entertwined with that of the Town of Pelham. Indeed, on June 3, 2005, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "Davids Island Off the Coast of Pelham Manor During the Civil War".

The recorded history of Davids Island, of course, goes back well before the Civil War. Its unrecorded history, it seems, is still being documented.

On September 26, 2005, The Journal News published an excellent article by Ken Valenti who has an abiding respect for, and interest in, the history of the area that includes Pelham and surrounding lands. In the article entitled "Artifacts found on Davids Island," Mr. Valenti reports that archaeologists from Tetra Tech have begun an archaeological survey of portions of the island in connection with work by the Army Corps of Engineers as it begins a project to clean up the 78-acre island so New Rochelle can sell the island to Westchester County for conversion to a county park.

The island is clearly a likely site for evidence of Native American habitation in our area. In fact, according to Mr. Valenti's report, during the 1980s archaeologists reportedly uncovered "[a] prehistoric American Indian hunting camp believed to be from 1000 to 1500 A.D."

The archaeologists from Tetra Tech recently began digging a few of the 700 to 900 holes planned as part of the survey. While digging on September 21, archaeologists reportedly discovered quartz flakes indicative of work by Native Americans to craft stone tools or weapons. The archaeologists have begun to revise the survey plans to take account of the locations of the newly-discovered artifacts.

The million dollar question for the archaelogists, at least for the moment, seems to be whether the quartz flakes indicate the presence of a newly-discovered Native American site on the island or whether they originate from soil previously moved to the area from the nearby archaeological site excavated during the 1980s. According to the report:

"The two largest pieces of quartz were about an inch squared. While most of them are pieces that are chipped away to create a tool or sharp point for a spear or knife, one looked as if it had been intended as part of a point itself".

Native American artifacts, of course, are not the only things that the archaeologists have discovered during their survey. The same report says:

"By yesterday, nine pieces of quartz and one chip of flint sat in a tray in a city-owned building on Pelham Road, where laboratory director Robert Jacoby and his assistant, Rosa Ortega, have been cleaning and sorting almost 5,000 artifacts so far. Other than the stones, they have sorted pieces of glass from a wine bottle, buttons from military uniforms, bullets and even a small green plastic toy soldier."

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Brief Biography of Henry Randall Waite, 19th Century Clergyman in Pelham

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Henry Randall Waite served as one of the first ministers of the Huguenot Memorial Church founded in Pelham Manor in 1876. In addition, he founded the tiny little Church of the Covenant at Pelhamville, and was its minister without salary from 1887 to 1889.

Reverend Waite was a fascinating man. While serving as minister of the Church of the Covenant at Pelhamville, he also served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Julien Electric Company, which operated the first street cars propelled by storage battery in the United States. He was a man of letters. He edited a host of important publications of his day. Today's Blog posting transcribes a brief biography of Henry Randall Waite published in 1898.

"WAITE, HENRY RANDALL, organized the American Institute of Civics, and has been its President since 1885. He also founded the Patria Club of New York, and has been an officer of the Quill Club of Manhattan Borough, and of the Union League Club of Brooklyn. From 1877 to 1880 he was President of the Political Science Association, and from 1885 to 1887 was Secretary of the Interstate Commission on Federal Aid to Education. He was born in Copenhagen, N. Y., December 16, 1846, the son of Rev. Hiram H. Waite and S. Maria, daughter of Benajah Randall, a volunteer in the War of 1812, and lineally descends from Richard Wayte, who was Marshal of the Colony of Massachusetts under Governor Winthrop, and commander of troops in King Philip's War. Mr. Waite was graduated from Hamilton College in 1868, studied at the Union Theological Seminary, and subsequently studied economics in Europe. He was Literary Editor of the Utica Morning Herald from 1868 to 1870, and from 1869 to 1871 was Editor of the University Quarterly Review. He was Pastor of the American Union Church, at Rome, Italy, from 1872 to 1875, and during this period established the Italian Sunday-school Union, founded an undenominational school for the instruction of Christian workers at Rome, established the 'Scuola Evangelica Militare" among the soldiers of the Italian Army, founded the Italian Young Men's Christian Association in Rome, the first of the kind in Italy, and established American chapels in Lucerne, Interlaken, and Geneva, Switzerland. Returning to America, he was Editor of the New Haven Evening Journal in 1876 and 1877, and, in the latter year, was Editor of the International Review at New York. From 1877 to 1881 he was minister of the Huguenot Memorial Church as Pelham-on-Sound [Editor's Note: Apparently a confused reference mixing Pelham with nearby Pelham hamlet, Bartow-on-Sound]. He was Statistician of the Tenth United States Census, in charge of the collection of social statistics, from 1880 to 1884. From 1884 to 1887 he was book editor of D. Lathrop & Company, of Boston, while he was also Editor of the New England Magazine in 1886, and of the Citizen of Boston in 1887. He was Editor of Civics, at New York, from 1887 to 1895. From 1887 to 1890 he was Secretary and Treasurer of the Julien Electric Company, which operated the first street cars propelled by storage battery in the United States. He organized the Church of the Covenant at Pelhamville, and was its minister without salary from 1887 to 1889. He organized Trinity Congregational Church (in 1893 changed to Bedford Presbyterian Church), and was its minister from 1890 to 1893. In 1894 he traveled abroad. He married, in 1876, Cara A. Huntoon, of Boston, and has a son, Winthrop, and a daughter."

Source: Van Pelt, Daniel, Leslie's History of the Greater New York, Vol. I, pp. 629-30 (NY, NY: Arkell Publishing Co. 1898).

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Taunting the Tantivy Coach on its Way to Pelham: 1886

On June 9, 2005, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "Coaching to Pelham: Colonel Delancey Astor Kane Did Not Operate the Only Coach to Pelham". In it I noted that although Col. Delancey Astor Kane operated the Pelham Coach (known as the "Tally-Ho") between Hotel Brunswick in New York City and Pelham for many years, his was not the only coach that ran between New York City and Pelham. Among others were the Greyhound and the Tantivy as noted in the posting.

By the mid-1880s, the hoi polloi of New York City seemed to have tired of the upper class spectacle of the four-in-hand coach wheeling along Fifth Avenue on its way to the wealthy enclave north of the City known as Pelham. In fact, some have said that Colonel Delancey Kane's famous Tally-Ho may ultimately have ended its runs due to the taunting machinations of an early advertising executive who created a "soap coach" in 1883 to advertise soap. It trailed along behind the Tally-Ho pulled by circus horses. This, it has been said, brought laughter to the masses and broke Col. Kane's heart.

It seems that Colonel Kane's Tally-Ho was not the only Pelham Coach to suffer the indignities of such insult. The Tantivy, described in my June 9 posting also experienced its own such embarrasment. The following article, published in 1886, details that embarrassment.


The coaching season was opened yesterday, when the red-bodied coach Tantivy was driven by Frederic Bronson from the Hotel Brunswick to the Country Club in Pelham. Prescott Lawrence and a party of friends were the only passengers. Besides Mr. Lawrence there were on the coach when it started up Fifth-avenue at 11 o'clock, Mrs. Frederic Bronson, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt, the Misses Bulkley, and Messrs. Louis Rutherford, Woodbury Kane, Philip Allen, Reginald Rivers, Hugo Fritsch, and Brockholst Cutting. Mr. Bronson, who bandied the lines over the four bays which started the drag on its way to Pelham, wore the customary white topcoat and white hat, but the rest of the party, including the ladies were in ordinary street costume. The guard with his long horn was resplendent in white hat, green coat, red waistcoat, corduory breeches, and tiger's boots. His lungs were powerful and his efforts to rival Levy in snatches from the 'Whirlwind' polka evoked shouts of admiration from the urchins and smiles from the pedestrians who had assembled to see the 'gentleman' coachman try to outdo the ordinary Fifth-avenue bus driver in handling the lines and collecting the fares. Leaving the Brunswick promptly at 11 o'clock the party bowled merrily along through the Park and thence through Harlem, Mott Haven, Fox's Corners, and Union Port, where a stop was made to change horses. Thence on they drove, enjoying a delightful breeze, its coolness modified by the warm rays of the sun, through West Chester and Middle-town and landed at the Country Club's house, in Pelham, just before 1 o'clock. There a 'jolly' lunch was enjoyed and many a toast was drank to the success of the coaching season, which will last for about two months.

At 3:45 the party left the clubhouse for the return trip, which was made without particular incident until the drag had passed through Central Park and started down Fifth-avenue. Then the Tantivy's glory departed. The guard blew one merry blast and fell back on his perch horrified. J. R. Roosevelt, who was proudly handling the lines, blushed a little as he heard the shouts of laughter which took the place of the plaudits which should have greeted the party. The ladies laughed irreverently. So did some of their escorts. Every one on the avenue joined in the laughter which made the finish of the Tantivy's first trip rather farcical. Edward G. Gilmore, the manager of Niblo's Garden, and a notorious practical joker, was at the bottom of the scheme which made Fifth-avenue roar, and led all the dudes had had gathered at the Brunswick to look upon him as little short of sacreligious.

Trotting behind the swell Tantivy on its course down the avenue were four mules -- mules with extraordinary ears; mules closely clipped and with shining coats; mules meek and lowly, but arrayed in heavily plated harness, and hitched in the most improved four-in-hand fashion to a most thoroughly English break. 'Ned' Gilmore held the lines, and flourished a most gorgeously decorated coachman's whip. Two colored grooms had seats of honor behind him, and Gilmore had as his only passenger, W. H. Ripley, of Chicago, who had picked up the team of mules out in Pennsylvania for aqueduct contractor W. R. Howard, who is to use them as a fancy team at his country residence this Summer. Gilmore looked proud as he drove and Ripley looked as if he would rather be on the sidewalk. Being a party to such a practical joke didn't appear to be wholly to his taste. But he had to grin and bear it, and Gilmore had to explain to him that it wasn't his fault that the Tantivy should get ahead of him and keep directly in his way until the Brunswick was reached. Ripley is still a trifle skeptical regarding that explanation.

'Why don't you get horses, Ned?' shouted an irreverent broker standing in front of the Windsor.

'Ten to five you can't pass the swell bus,' cried another who had not that respect for coaching that every well regulated Fifth-avenue frequenter is expected to have.

Gilmore paid no attention to these rude people, but drove on, modestly accepting the applause bestowed. He seemed at home in his triumphal procession and perfectly happy.

The Tantivy drove up to the Brunswick at precisely 5:30. Two grooms sprang out and led the horses in front of the main entrance. An instant later four mules halted in the rear, with their colored grooms at their heads. The Anglo-maniacs wondered. The American contingent enjoyed the burlesque immensely. The coaching party sought the seclusion of the Brunswick parlors as quickly as they could gracefully do so. So did Gilmore and his friends, but the parlor they found had a long bar and a free lunch in it.

'The only thing I regret about my first coaching trip this season,' explained Gilmore as he wiped his lips, 'is that it didn't take place last week. If the season had only opened then I could have had a party of 'The Black Crook' chorus girls as passengers, and then I could have knocked out anything on the avenue for style.'

The Tantivy will continue its trips to Pelham daily for two months to come. Gilmore's coaching season has ended, for Mr. Ripley won't let him drive the mules again."

Source: Eclipsed by Four Mules, N.Y. Times, Apr. 27, 1886, p. 8.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I. C. Hill's Reminiscences of Early Public Schools in Pelham

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

On December 20, 1913, The Pelham Sun published a series of articles about the history of schools in the Town of Pelham. Among the articles was one that conveyed the reminiscences of I. C. Hill, then principal of the Hutchinson School in the Village of North Pelham. Principal Hill's reminiscences shed interesting light on the development of today's remarkably excellent school system in the Union Free School District No. 1 in the Town of Pelham.

Below is an image of Principal Hill. The text of his "reminiscences" appear immediately below his picture.

"Principal Hill's Reminiscences


I think that I am correct in stating that no one in our little town has observed with keener interest the progress and growth of our public school system than I.

In 1877 I was engaged to teach in the old Prospect Hill School, now the home of Mr. Henry O'Neil, of Pelham Manor. In January, 1878, I was transferred to North Pelham School.

North Pelham, or Pelhamville, as it was then called, was a little hamlet of forty-eight houses. The school was a small frame building containing two class rooms, situated about fifty feet east of the present school site, and accommodated fifty pupils. The rooms were heated by two large stoves of the bar-room type, the poor victims seated near the stove being uncomfortably warm, while those occupying more remote parts of the room were uncomfortably cold. [Historic Pelham Editor's Note: Below is an image of the Pelhamville School painted by noted artist and illustrator Edward Penfield of Pelham Manor.]

On reporting for work the first day, I was accompanied to the school by one of the trustees, Mr. John Case, who prophesied that my term of service would not exceed two weeks. He said he knew, for he was acquainted with the boys. That was just thirty-five years, eleven months and twelve days ago.

I remember distinctly the class of boys, not quite as old, but just as big as I. Among the members of the class let me mention a few: John Costello, Michael J. Lynch, Robert Patterson, Thomas Patterson, Edward Patterson, Patrick J. Marvel, Philip Godfrey and Edward Barry. For obvious reasons I refrain from mentioning the names of any of the girls of that year's class.

There were no truancy laws in those days -- still the teacher was held responsible for the attendance. My immediate predecessor, in order to secure a perfect attendance of the pupils under his charge, established the rule that all who were tardy or absent should on their arrival at school present a written excuse from their parents. But alas! the principal himself was late one morning, and one of the largest pupils, Francis McDermott being a lover of law and order, to it upon himself to enforce the rule in this case. Locking the school house door, he directed the principal to apply at once to Trustee John Case for a written excuse for his tardiness. Let us draw the curtain on the climax!

From the first to the tenth of each month the teacher received a draft on the treasurer for his monthly salary. This the teacher was compelled to take to the President of the Board, obtain his signature, and then present this draft to the treasurer and demand payment. But, alas! to be informed that there were no funds in the treasury! Yet a few weeks subsequent at the annual meeting, a balance on hand from $1,200 to $1,500 was reported. Well, savings banks were paying 5% interest.

The school well was situated at the foot of the hill near the present entrance, and at recess the children raced pell-mell to the fountain for refreshment, all taking turns from a long handled, rusty tin dipper. Fortunately, there were no naughty germs in those good old days.

The trustees in charge during my first year of service were: President, Mr. Thomas Hewitt, of Fourth avenue; Mr. William Barry, of Second avenue, and Messrs. David Lyons, Sr., John Case and W. H. Sparks, deceased.

In 1889 the growth of the village demanded greater school facilities, and we entered our new building in January of that year. At the dedication excercises of this new building, President William Allen Smith took occasion to congratulate me on the fact that it was the tenth anniversary of my advent to Pelham.

On the completion of the new school much concern was manifested as to its stability. Indeed, so great was the fear of a sudden collapse of the structure, that some pupils left the school in order to avoid a sudden and horrible death. Not only was the roof thought unsafe, but the foundation also was said to be of insufficient strength to support the superstructure. I will here state that a part of that same foundation now supports our present beautiful new school.

My first graduates were Rachel Heisser (Mrs. Walter Barker) and Ida E. Hill (Mrs. David Lyon). Prior to this time, there was no course of study laid out by the Board of Education or the State Department of Education. Since 1905 all the schools of the State followed the same course of study, but now all pupils must pass Regent's examinations before graduating. The first candidate for those examinations in our school was H. A. Anderson. This was in 1893.

In 1898, Hon. Joseph S. Wood, President of the Mount Vernon Board of Education, in his [in]augural address stated as follows:

'Recently four pupils applied for admission to the High School from the public school at North Pelham. Every one of them passed the required examinations and was admitted. they came from a school which has only four teachers and one hundred twenty-five pupils on register. They have been taught not only the studies taught in our grammar schools, but also algebra through quadratic equations, bookkeeping and United States history; their average age is thirteen years.'

The pupils referred to were James B. Algie, Elmer Greer, Harry A. Stone and Ella Kavanaugh.

In 1899 a course of three lectures was given in North Pelham school: 'The Empire State,' C. E. Nichols, Superintendent of Mount Vernon Schools; 'Electricity,' Prof. A. B. Davis, Principal of Mount Vernon High School, and 'Yellowstone Park,' I. C. Hill, Principal of North Pelham School.

Figuratively and literally two generations have passed under the rod wielded by me. Let me mention a few: Supervisor Beecroft, ex-Town Clerks P. J. Marvel, James Caffrey, H. A. Anderson, John Kallenberg and Town Clerk-elect David Lyon; Mrs. F. J. Mulligan and Miss Mary Conlon, teachers in New York City schools; Prof. Frederick Ernst, teacher of English in Morris Heights High School; Frederick Anderson, D. D., pastor of the Baptist Church, at Jordan, N. Y.

If Mrs. John McGuire, daughter of the late Patrick Marvel, or her sister, Mrs. Daniel G. Donohue, of New Rochelle would send their children to our school for but one day, then I could boast of having taught three generations.

By the end of the present school year I shall have completed the thirty-seventh year of my term of service as principal of our local school, and I take great pleasure in saying that of the many boys and girls who have been under my instruction. I have not a single record of any one of them 'going wrong.' I take no credit for this upon myself, still I hope that my life and teaching through this period of time may have had some influence in shaping their future.

I. C. HILL, Principal,
Hutchinson Grammar School."

Source: Principal Hill's Reminiscences, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 20, 1913.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Brief History of The Pelham Country Club Published in 1954

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

In 1954, the Town of Pelham celebrated the 300th anniversary of the signing of the agreement by which Thomas Pell acquired the lands that became Pelham (and surrounding lands) on June 27, 1654. Just like the 350th anniversary celebration held in 2004, the local weekly newspaper (then The Pelham Sun) published periodic articles on the history of Pelham. One such article appeared in the August 4, 1954 issue of The Pelham Sun. It dealt with the history of The Pelham Country Club. The text of the article included a discussion of the history of the game of golf in the Pelham area.

Although today we know much more about the development of the game of golf in 19th century Pelham than was known when this article was published in 1954, the article still offers a wonderful glimpse of the recollections and understandings of two long-time Pelham residents regarding the development of a popular sport in the Town of Pelham. The article is reproduced below.

"The Pelham Country Club
Interest in golf here began in 1900 when the Gilletts tried the game in Mrs. Reily's cow pasture. The growth of Pelham's golf club is followed through the years.

Going back to the very beginning of the story of golf in Pelham, Dr. Charles R. Gillett used to say that in the year 1900, he and his brother Will bought clubs and balls, planted cans in the ground of Mrs. Reily's cow pasture on Prospect Hill and proceeded to teach themselves the game, which had recently had been introduced into this country from Scotland, where the shepherds tramped the broad acres and their flocks kept them close-cropped.

A little later the first Pelham Country Club was formed. This club laid out a nine-hole course on Fowler Avenue. It was a sporty little course on the rolling meadows known as the 'Carson Place'. The Carson house was on the hill where the Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help now stands. It was more than one hundred years old, and there was also a red hay barn, such as we now find in the back country.

Dr. Edward P. Fowler of New York City bought the Carson place as a summer home. He lived in the farmhouse, and rented the grounds to the Pelham Country Club for a golf course. There was a tiny clubhouse, for the keeper and the clubs. It had originally been a carriage house on the farm.

After some time Dr. Fowler decided to divide his property into building lots, and the Pelham Country Club had to look for a new home.

In 'Recollections of Pelham Manor,' published in 1934, Dr. Gillett stated that he and the noted actor Francis Wilson, who was a member of the club, tramped over the countryside looking for a place to re-establish their golf club, but were not successful. The situation was serious until one member residing in New Rochelle suggested renting the old Disbrow farm on North Avenue.

In the first tentative club, lasting friendships had been formed, friendships based on devotion to golf, and rather than give this up, the members explored the possibilities of this Disbrow Farm, far out on North Avenue in New Rochelle. It comprised 180 acres of comparatively level land, which had been under cultivation for several years. After much discussion the Pelham Country Club made the move. Dr. Gillett was responsible for having the place called after an old Dutch name for the territory, but it was not easy for the Pelhamites to become accustomed to the new name 'Wykagyl Golf Club'.

A few years later Mr. George Phelps was responsible for starting another Pelham Country Club on the Iden property on Wolf's Lane now bisected by Iden Avenue. The residence was the clubhouse, and the members played tennis and squash.

In the year 1908 the members decided to expand their club quarters. They chose the present site of the clubhouse which at the time was a baseball field. The road leading to the club was known as Oneida Avenue. It extended from where the bicycle rack now stands out to Boston Post Road. The section of the roadway in front of the golf shop and first tee, still remains on the town maps as Oneida Avenue.

The present clubhouse was designed by the late George S. Chappel, prominent architect with a remarkable humerous literary flair, who gained literary fame in the early '20's as 'Dr. Walter E. Traprock, Fellow of the Royal South Sea Explorer's Union', and intrepid explorer whose imaginative exploits of daring were described in his best-selling books 'The Cruise of the Kawa' and 'My Northern Exposure.'

Plan for Golf Course Started

In the year 1919, the late Mont D. Rogers conceived the idea of converting the Country Club into a Golf Club. Mr. Rogers had courage and enthusiasm that bubbled like a spring. He was ably assisted by the late Edmund E. Sinclair, who acted as 'angel' for some prospective members who could not afford the entrance fee, which meant becoming a stockholder in Pelham Leasing Corporation.

Since the golf course could not be easily built without funds, a plan was devised by the late Theodore M. Hill which turned out to be practicable. This called for 200 persons to pay $2,000 each, entitling them to twenty shares of stock in the new organized Pelham Leasing Corporation, the holding company for the Pelham Country Club.

Options were taken on the property which was owned by members of the Black family, the Witherbee, the Edgar and the Reynold estates. The latter include Bonnie Brae, a roadhouse situated on the Boston Post Road, near the site of the present first green. It so happened that the options were for fairly long periods of time, except the option on Bonnie Brae.

Bonnie Brae Proved an Obstacle

This option was fast expiring, and on a certain day (I am afraid it was a Sunday), twenty Pelhamites met at the clubhouse, and were advised that the Bonnie Brae option expired within 24 hours. Another would-be purchaser had loomed on the horizon and was ready to take over the property at a price in excess of our option figure. Without this tract of land, the golf course could not have been constructed.

When the situation was explained, we all sat and looked at each other bewildered -- until Elmore F. Higgins, took out his check book and wrote a check for $250, and 19 others followed suit. Our options were exercised and we were safe in starting the Pelham Country Club golf course.

Course Laid Out by Devereux Emmet

Mr. Devereux Emmet a noted golf architect was commissioned to lay out our 18-hole course. He was a lover of nature and planned the course with fairways lined as far as possible by large trees, giving the effect of an English park.

Construction was started in April 1920, and the course was ready by July 1921. Much of the stone removed from the land was used in the construction of many fine stone residences in Pelham Manor.

The construction of the golf course was one of the finest things that could have happened to Pelham Manor. The land on which the course was laid out, was of low order in the real estate market. Its inevitable future would have been a cluster of small houses, spoiling for all time one of the most attractive residential sections of Westchester County. Therefore the present aspect of the section reflects great credit on the original investigators who had the vision and devotion of purpose to overcome all obstacles, and who achieved their goal.

Robert J. Leonard was the first president of the new Pelham Country Club. The original Board of Governors included David A. L'Esperance, Mont D. Rogers, George Lahey, J. L. R. Van Meter, Newton M. Argabrite, William B. Randall, Roscoe C. Ingalls, Scott Donahue, L. Ogden Thompson, Benjamin F. Briggs and W. Howard Burney.

James M. 'Long Jim' Barnes was engaged as golf professional on a three-year contract at $10,000 per year. He promptly obliged by winning the United States Open Golf Championship at Columbia Country Club, Washington, D. C. and Pelham Country Club enjoyed wide publicity with a U. S. Open Champion as its golf professional. The trophy which was presented by President Warren G. Harding was displayed at the Pelham Club for the first year of Barnes' association with the club.

As assistant to Jim Barnes, came Walter 'Wally' Whiting, who continued to be golf professional here after the conclusion of Barnes' contract, and who later became manager of the club.

The official opening of the golf course was on July 11, and 12, 1921, when the British Open Golf Champion Jack Hutchinson, and the English golf stars Abe Mitchell and George Duncan played the course with an immense gallery following them. Jim Barnes was to have played in this match, but his return from England was delayed, so Tom Kerrigan of Siwanoy filled in for him.

PGA Played Here In 1923

In Sept. 1923, the Professional Golfer's Association Tournament was played at Pelham Country Cloub with golf's most prominent players participating. Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagan stole the show, when they finished even-up in the 3-hold final, and went on to extra holes.

They halved the 37th with par 5's and then came the 38th with what has become the most-talked-of-tournament finish in Pelham Country Club history.

The old second hole was a par three -- dog leg to the left, in those days. Hagan's drive was brilliantly placed. His ball landed within a short chip-shot of the green. It appeared easy for 'the Haig' to come hole-high on his second. When Sarazen hooked his tee shot, his ball appearing to go out of bounds, they made ready to hand the trophy over to Hagan. Sarazen played a provisional ball, but searchers found his first ball within bounds but in a difficult lie in the rough. Hopefully the intrepid Gene neatly pitched the ball to the green for his second shot. Hagan, on the other hand, may have been too confident. His 'easy' second, landed in the trap. He went down in four, but Sarazen won with a short putt for a three.

The above article was compiled from the writings of Mr. and Mrs. Randall in Pelham Country Club News, and The Pelham Sun.

New Construction

Construction of the New England Thruway necessitated the relocation of some of the club's playing area but the Pelham course is still considered first rate.

A new addition to the club's facilities, estimated to cost in excess of $100,000, is expected to be completed by the time this edition goes to press.

Included in the addition are locker accomodations for 300 and showers, a grill and tap room, card rooms, a barber shop and storage area. There will also be a new women golfer's lounge and locker room. The addition adjoins the present building on the East or New Rochelle side."

Source: The Pelham Country Club, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 14, 1960, p. 7, col. 1 (reprinting article from The Pelham Sun published on Aug. 4, 1954).

We now know that there were even earlier efforts to organize golf clubs in Pelham. For example, during the summer and fall of 1895, a group of Pelham Manor residents organized what was known as The Pelham Manor Golf Club. See Bell, Blake A., The Early Days of Golf in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 36, Sept. 10, 2004, p. 12, col. 2. Still, The Pelham Country Club remains the area's premier golf club formally organized 100 years ago.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pelham Tries To Kill the Plan to Create Pelham Bay Park: 1887

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

The year was 1887. The City of New York was in the midst of efforts to create a massive park to be known as Pelham Bay Park. Only three years earlier the state legislature had enacted a statute authorizing the taking of lands in Westchester County -- including much of the Town of Pelham -- for the creation of the new park.

The people of Pelham were outraged. Among the many things they did to fight the plan (unsuccessfully, as we now know) included a petition and a meeting with the Mayor of New York City in March 1887 to oppose the park plan. The New York Times wrote of their efforts as follows:


A large delegation from the town of Pelham, Westchester County, waited on Mayor Hewitt yesterday afternoon. Dr. John A. Hardenbrook, of Barton-on-Sound [sic], introduced Supervisor Sherman T. Pell, Postmaster Hogan, Roadmaster Hall, Frederick Vickery, Henry D. Carey, Charles Mahoney, and a dozen or more other gentlemen.

Supervisor Pell, in addressing the Mayor, said that the delegation appeared for the purpose of presenting a petition signed by the taxpayers of the town, asking his co-operation and that of the Common Council in requesting the Legislature to repeal so much of the act of 1884 as related to the assumptions of lands in Westchester County for a park to be known as Pelham Bay Park. The petition sets forth that the taking of these lands in Westchester County was mainly in the interest of a few landed proprietors who expected to get upward of $2,000 an acre for swamp lands.

Mayor Hewitt emphatically said: 'Gentlemen, I am very glad to meet you. I appreciate the situation exactly. I think it is an outrageous thing that the Legislature should have passed a bill to acquire lands for park purposes eight miles from the Harlem Bridge, and saddling the expense upon the taxpayers of this city. I suppose you were a happy and contented community until some speculative rascals set their eyes upon your locality and sought to use it for their own selfish ends. I am glad you have called, and I assure you I shall send your petition with my recommendation to the Board of Aldermen at its next meeting.'"

Source: The Pelham Park. Westchester People Ask Mayor Hewitt's Aid To Kill The Scheme, N.Y. Times, Mar. 25, 1887, p. 2.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

1905 Poem About the Devil's Stepping Stones Off Shores of City Island

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

On June 22, 2005 I published a Blog posting about a cabinet card photograph showing an early view of the brick Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse that stands in Long Island Sound off the southern coast of City Island which, when the lighthouse was built in 1877, was part of the Town of Pelham. See June 22, 2005: Cabinet Card Photograph Showing Early View of Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse Is Uncovered.

Tradition has it that the story of the Devil's Stepping Stones comes from an ancient Native American legend. While researching Pelham history, I recently ran across a poem written about the Devil's Stepping Stones legend. The article that included the poem, published in 1905, appears in its entirety below.


The irregular reefs that stretch out from the base of Great Neck on the north shore of Long Island toward the mainland across the Sound are known as the Devil's Stepping Stones from an almost forgotten Indian legend.

A sky of gold, a sea of blue,
A drowsy day of naught to do:
In pleasant waves our lines we threw
At anchor as we lay

Where, reaching through the gentle
Manhasset rears a wooded mound,
And Schuyler, grimly cannon-crowned,
Disputes the narrow way.

Eight merrily our angling throve!
Ere noon we sought a sheltered cove
Where, plunging joyously we clove
The waters clear and cool.

Our feast we spread, our songs we sung,
Then, pipes a-light, at ease we flung
To hearken while our skipper's tongue
Rehearsed a tale of old.


In rugged lines that vainly strive to reach
the northern side.
The shell-grown ledges rear their heads
above the ebbing tide.
There blackfish haunt, and sea bass love
the lavish flow that drones
Among the clefts -- but sailors shun the
Devil's Stepping Stones.
Long, long before the White Man came,
Pequot traditions tell.
Habbamocko, the Evil One, that spirit
wild and fell.
Strode forth through fair Connecticut,
and, casting flame around.
Waged war to gain the fertile vales that
skirt the Northern Sound.
Twelve days the Demon strove with men,
and all the sky grew red
With blazing shaft and hurtling brand,
At length the Tyrant fled.
Still battling, east along the strand in
hissing flame and spray
To younder jutting spit of land that pierces
Pelham Bay.
Here, harassed by a hundred foes, the
baffled Fiend forbore;
Across the wave-worn Stepping Stones he
reached Long Island's shore.
In that far time no boulders rude be-
spread the fertile main.
But through Long Island shattered crags
were thick on hill and plain.
At Cold Spring Bay the vengeful Fiend
heaped high a lofty pile
Of all the gathered bones of Earth that
strewed the sandy Isle.

Loud laughed the fierce Habbamocko as
laughs the angry gale!
Across the Sound with mighty arm he
hurled the craggy hail.
On shore and hill the shadowed stone
were flung with crashing din
To load with sterile bonds the land his
prowess failed to win.


And since that day of flaming shocks,
And fierce, infernal revel,
Connecticut has all the rocks --
Long Island has the Devil.

Source: The Devil's Stepping Stones, N.Y. Times, Feb. 17, 1905, p. 8.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Building at Christ Church in Pelham Manor

The oldest church building in the Town of Pelham is the picturesque structure built of hand-hewn granite that serves The Parish of Christ The Redeemer. Known as Christ Church, the gothic-inspired building with lancet windows and lovely doorways coined in red brick looks like a country parish that might be found in the ancient English countryside.

In July 1884, one of the most beloved members of the Parish died: Nanette Bolton. She was a daughter of the founder of the church and had worked actively for the parish for forty years. She also founded and served as head mistress of the famed Priory School for Girls located in the Bolton Priory, her family’s home next to Christ Church.

Former pupils of the Priory School and members of the parish decided to express their love with a memorial building to expand the facilities of the little parish. Thus, in 1885 and 1886, the parish raised funds and built the Nanette Bolton Memorial Building immediately adjacent to Christ Church. See Haight, J. McVickar, Historical Sketch of Christ Church Pelham 1843-1919, p. 14 (Privately Printed Pamphlet 1919; hereinafter “Haight”) (unnumbered pages).

On April 28, 1887, Episcopal Bishop Henry Potter consecrated the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel. An article appeared in the next day’s issue of The New York Times. It provided a wealth of information about the background and history of the little structure. It stated:


The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel at Pelham, erected in memory of Miss Bolton, for many years Principal of Pelham Priory and well known as an earnest Christian worker and educator, was consecrated yesterday by Bishop Potter. The memorial was built largely from funds contributed by members of Christ Church, to which it will be an adjunct, being used for the Sunday school and for Lenten services. The chapel is a gem of architecture, built in the early English style entirely of stone. It is 48 1/2 feet long by 32 feet broad. Its total cost was $4,125, the land being furnished by Mrs. A. L. Stevens, present owner of the Priory, and the plans being the gift of the architect, F. [Charles] Merry, of New-York. There is a memorial window in the north side, the gift of Mr. Thomas Denton. An inscription on the south side of the chapel, 'Lo, I am with you alway,' was given by the children of the Sunday school.

The consecration service was the Episcopal ritual for the occasion of opening a new place of worship and was conducted by Bishop Potter, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Coffey, of East Chester, a friend of Miss Bolton; the Rev. Mr. Canedy of New-Rochelle, the Rev. Mr. Winsor, of City Island, the Rev. Dr. Mallory, and the Rev. Charles Higbee, Rector of Christ Church. Before the service of consecration Bishop Potter confirmed 20 persons in the church.

Bishop Potter in his address referred to what he regarded as one of the most promising signs of the age, the apparently wide-spread tendency to memorialize the dead, not as of old with laudatory and possibly affected sculptures, but with beautiful buildings, or portions of them. He spoke also of Nanette Bolton as one who had done much in her education of women to advance the sex to its rightful position. 'I do not know,' he said, 'that anything in the signs of the times has more encouraged me that the fact that the other day before that vast concourse of people who had assembled to witness the centennial celebration of Columbia College, a woman was called to accept the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.' Bishop Potter referred to Miss Catharine L. Wolfe as one of the few who remembered their stewardship over riches, and as one whose character had been largely formed by Nanette Bolton, whose pupil she had been. Many well known people from New-York attended the services. Among them were Mrs. Lanier, Mrs. Jackson D. Steward, Miss Worts, Mrs. Bogert, Miss Auchincloss, Mr. Robert Edgar, Mrs. John Emmet, Miss Schmidt, Mr. and Mrs. De Luze, Miss De Luze, the Misses Schuyler, Mrs. Henry Clark, Mr. Meredith Howland, and Mr. John Munro."

Source: An Architectural Gem – The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Consecrated, N.Y. Times, Apr. 29, 1887, p. 8.

The completion of the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel was a significant enough event to warrant one of the earliest extant photographs taken in Pelham (click here to see the photograph). It shows more than sixty people standing in front of the new building in two groups on each side of a memorial stone embedded beneath the windows. The stone is inscribed “Nanette Bolton Memorial”.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pelham's "Toonerville Trolley" Goes To War

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

Periodically I have published Blog postings regarding the famous "Toonerville Trolley" of the comic strip known as "Toonerville Folks". Comic strip artist Fontaine Talbot Fox was inspired to create the Toonerville Trolley after a ride on the little trolley that ran through Pelham Manor during the early 20th century. For two such postings, see:

Friday, June 17, 2005: "Skipper Louie" of Pelham Manor's Toonerville Trolley

Tuesday, April 19, 2005: Pelham Manor Residents Fight Construction of the Toonerville Trolley Line

Few may know that Pelham Manor's "Toonerville Trolley" line went to War during World War II, so to speak. Actually, recent research suggests that although the trolley was discontinued in 1937, the tracks remained beneath the streets. In 1942, the local paper reported a proposal to tear up Pelhamdale Avenue between Boston Post Road and Shore Road to allow the trolley rails to be donated to the Government for scrap "to fill wartime melting pots". Research has not yet revealed whether the tracks were actually removed. We know that a portion of the tracks still remain beneath the streets where Colonial Avenue intersects with Pelhamdale Avenue. The pertinent article is transcribed below.

"'Toonerville Trolley' Rails Will Be Torn Up And Donated To Government For Scrap to Fill Wartime Melting Pots


Powerful Katrinka Being Otherwise Engaged. Metals Reserve Company Will Rip Up The Tracks From The Ties. Manor Board of Trustees Cheerfully Donate Rails After Railway Co. Gives Title.


The tracks of the old Toonerville Trolley, which have lain buried on Pelhamdale avenue from Boston Post road to the Shore road since the busses replaced the old sea-going antiquity which was honored by being called a street-car, will be torn up and sent on their way to the re-melting furnaces for conversion into war materiel. The Powerful Katrinka, so closely associated with the operations of the Toonerville in critical moments where power was the most desirable element to bring it forth from its troubles, will not assist in the work of tearing up the tracks. The work will be done by the Metals Reserve Co., a subsidiary of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
At Monday night's meeting of the Pelham Manor Board of Trustees, Acting Mayor Furnald Smith reported that he had received a request from the War Production Board in New York to donate the buried rails and make a gift of them to the Metals Reserve Company, which in turn will tear them and replace the pavement in good condition.

Acting Mayor Smith reminded the Board that the rails were not the property of the village, but advised them that the Third Avenue Railway would be willing to transfer title to the Board could in turn make a donation of them to the national salvage.

Trustee Bieber commented: 'That seems to be our national duty doesn't it?' and the Board agreed, requesting Village Attorney Kerfoot to conduct necessary legal steps.

Trolley car rails which existed when the street cars were discontinued in North Pelham and Pelham Heights were torn up when the street was repaved. Village Engineer Rich of Pelham Heights said that only a short section of rails existed, a few feet on Boulevard West from Wolf's lane to the Mount Vernon city line."

Source: "Toonerville Trolley" Rails Will Be Torn Up And Donated To Government For Scrap to Fill Wartime Melting Pots, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 26 (Second Section), p. 1, col. 1.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Long-Hidden Pastoral Mural Uncovered in Pelhamdale, a Pre-Revolutionary War Home

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

In April 1993, workers were laboring in the lovely home known as Pelhamdale, then owned by Robert and Janis McMullen. Portions of the home are believed to have been built before the Revolutionary War. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The workers had begun to refinish the walls of the entrance foyer. When they began, they reportedly thought the walls of the space were merely painted blue. As they began to remove paint, they realized that there were layers of wallpaper beneath. As they began stripping away wallpaper, according to one report, "the faint etchings of a treetop emerged from nowhere". The work crew, it turned out, had stumbled onto a long-lost and lovingly created pastoral mural. Below is a detail from the mural.

The mural depicts what appears to be a pastoral scene from colonial America. It is in the so-called primitive style andis quite lovely. In the foreground are balusters. There also are what seem to be wild roses growing and entertwining themselves among those balusters giving the feeling that the viewer is standing on a balcony or along a lovely promenade looking over an idyllic scene. There are fishermen spreading their neights, a child and a woman playing near goats and women washing clothes in a beautiful pond.

Removing decades worth of paint and wallpaper caused slight damage to portions of the mural, but the homeowners commissioned a local Pelham artist named Rebecca Conviser to restore the mural. She and her assistant, Alex Rutschbrock (then a New Rochelle High School art teacher), spent weeks restoring the mural at the home. For those lucky enough to visit the home today, the mural is among the first things they see when entering the home. It make for a dramatic entrance and is strikingly lovely. Another detail from the mural appears below.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Legend of the Spy Oak on Pelham Road

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

For many years a gnarled old oak tree said to have stood during the Revolutionary War could be found along Pelham Road in the Bronx not far from Pelham Bridge. According to tradition, a Tory spy was hanged from a large limb of the tree that extended over the roadway. Thus, the tree was known as the Spy Oak. A photograph of the Spy Oak published in 1912 appears immediately below.

The ghost of that Tory spy, people say, still wanders the area in a cape on moonlit nights. The story is one of the many ghost stories told about Pelham and surrounding areas.

The legend of the Spy Oak was recounted in The New York Times in an article published in 1913. That article read in pertinent part as follows:

"The Pelham oak figures prominently in early Westchester County annals, but now, since it has been brought within the limits of New York, it is one of the most interesting trees in the metropolis. Tradition refers to it as the Spy Oak. A huge limb, projecting far over the road, was for years its most characteristic feature, because not even the oldest inhabitant could remember the time when it had a green leaf. The story as told in the tap room of the inn near the tre is that a Tory spy was hanged from the limb, and his curse withered the branch.

In stormy and windy nights near-by residents told of hearing fearful lamentations and groanings coming from the tree. Two deserters from the American or Continental ranks were also said to have swung from the stricken limb. About two years ago the neighborhood was very much wrought up over the edict that went forth from the Bronx Park Department that, owing to decay, it was feared the tree might fall across the road, and it was doomed to destruction. The protest that went up caused the authorities to make a more careful examination, when it was discovered that the tree was not in such bad shape as at first thought, and a little skillful tree doctoring has restored it for at least another generation."

Source: Some Famous New York Trees and Their Fate, N.Y. Times, Jan. 5, 1913, p. SM8.

Alas, the Spy Oak is no more. It subsequently was removed as a potential hazard alongside Pelham Road.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Newspaper Item Published in 1942 Sheds Light on Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

Those who know me know that I have an abiding love for the sport of baseball and its history. Those who have followed my research regarding the history of Pelham also know that I have written about baseball in 19th century Pelham. For two such examples, see:

February 10, 2005 Historic Pelham Blog Posting: New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Baseball in Late 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 17, Apr. 23, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

I recently ran across an article by J. Gardner Minard published in The Pelham Sun in 1942. The article, entitled "Do You Remember?" is interesting for the many tidbits of life in Pelham in the late 19th century described in the many references in the article. One particular item, however, caught my attention. It referenced with some specificity the location of the old baseball field on which Pelham's local baseball team played in 1897. The article, set forth below in its entirety, contains the following reference:

"DO YOU REMEMBER? . . . Pelham's first uniformed baseball team in 1897 that played a double header in the field opposite where St. Catherine's church now stands and how Mr. and Mrs. John H. Young entertained the visitors with a dinner?"

Below is a detail from Plate 20 of John Fairchild's Atlas of Mount Vernon and Pelham published in 1899. The detail shows a three-lot field across from where today's St. Catharine's Church now stands. (See the red arrow pointing at the area.) Even more interesting, careful viewers will notice that the home adjacent to the fields to the north (i.e., the right of the image) is marked as owned by John H. Young who, according to the reference quoted above, "entertained the visitors with a dinner".

The entire text of Mr. Minard's article containing the reference quoted above appears immediately below.


Pelham Veteran Newspaper Man

When Wolf's lane ran over instead of under the New Haven tracks?

When the New Haven depot was called 'Pelhamville' and located where the post office now stands?

When the Pelhamville post office was located in the ticket office at the station?

Charlie Merritt's old red stage that rented with driver and team for $5 a day or night?

When Chester Park was the William T. Standen farm?

When the district from the bend of Fifth avenue north to Mayflower avenue and from Fifth avenue to the New Rochelle boundary line was the Andrew Heisser farm?

When you could go into what is now Pelhamwood any frosty October morning and gather a bushel of chestnuts?

When the students of Mrs. Hazen's Seminary of Pelham Manor skated at Iden's Pong; that was on the east side of Wolf's lane 100 yards south of Colonial avenue?

When they shot live pigeons weekly at the White Hotel grounds, north of Third street and west of Wolf's lane?

When the gale blew the Pelhamville station platform across the tracks and wrecked the express?

The black bull in Winyah Park (Pelhamwood) that killed Patrick Walsh?

When Jim Reilly's son, Jimmy ate green apples, his death was ascribed to 'cholera moebus'?

When the block for 500 feet north of Third street from Fifth to Fourth avenues was an apple orchard?

Dr. Charles A. Barker's big bob sled?

When there was not even a blade of grass growing along the New Haven Railroad embankment from Fifth avenue to the Mount Vernon line?

Pelham's first uniformed baseball team in 1897 that played a double header in the field opposite where St. Catherine's church now stands and how Mr. and Mrs. John H. Young entertained the visitors with a dinner?

When trolley tracks were laid along the Post road from Split Rock road to the New York City boundary line; also along Split Rock road from Boston Post road to the New York City line, and no car ever ran over them?

When the fire department was called out to quell the fight between construction gangs of the Union Railway and Connecticut Traction companies over the laying of tracks along Fourth street?

When North Pelham Horse Car Railway Company was formed and applied for the franchise along Fifth avenue and it was rejected?

When Mike Lynch and Eddie Barry were the 'Mutt and Jeff' of the Democratic Party in North Pelham?

When the state enacted a law taking away from local powers the right to appoint local excise commissioners and made them state appointments and Pelham had two boards and the saloonkeepers would pay neither?

When officials and political leaders wore high silk hats at elections?

When the big map lithographing plants showed Wolf's lane all the way to the Wolf homestead at Third street, North Pelham?"

Minard, Gardner, Do You Remember?, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 3, Apr. 24, 1942, p. 3, col. 6.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Early Plans to Construct the New England Section of The New York Thruway Through Pelham

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

The New York State Thruway Authority is responsible for the maintenace of 641 miles of super highways in New York. In 1950, the Governor of New York signed into law The Thruway Authority Act of 1950 which, among many other things, assigned geographical names to each section of the New York State Thruway system. The statute named one of those sections "New England". The New England Section (I-95) was planned to run from the Bronx to the Connecticut line cutting directly through Pelham.

According to a "Fact Book" provided by The New York State Thruway Authority:

"In 1964, the New York State Legislature mandated that the Thruway System be named 'The Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway,' recognizing the former Governor’s vision and leadership in sponsoring the creation of the cross-state superhighway.

The Thruway has been designated a part of the national network of Blue Star Memorial Highways honoring members of the U.S. Armed Forces who served in both World Wars. It is also part of the 43,000-mile network designated by Congress in 1990 as the “Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.”

During the 1950s, the Thruway Authority built the New England Section through Pelham and across the grounds of the Pelham Country Club. This section of the Thruway opened to traffic in 1958. Pelham had known for more than a decade of the plans to carve the super highway across its lands. When the time finally came, though, the construction was wrenching. Homes were moved and the lovely grounds of the Country Club were forever changed.

As early as 1942, The Pelham Sun reported on plans to build a super highway through Pelham along the route ultimately followed by the New England Section of the New York State Thruway. One such article appeared in the paper on August 21, 1942. The text of that article appears immediately below.

State Highway to Replace Pelham - Port Chester Truck Road; Could Remodel Golf Course.

The Pelham-Portchester highway, missing link in the belt parkway system proposed by Robert Moses, Chairman of the State Council of Parks, took tangible form this week as the State of New York Temporary Commission for Postwar Public Works Planning offered to consider the building and maintenance of the highway as a post-war project if the County Board of Supervisors would agree formally to cooperate in the program.

The proposed route of the toll-free mixed-traffic expressway runs through Pelham Manor on a portion of the Pelham Country Club, about 250 feet wide, and then crosses Pelhamdale avenue at the site of the Pelham Manor Garage, which the County already owns.

According to George S. Haight, Superintendent of The Westchester County Park Commission, the highway would not necessarily mean the end of the Country Club, as a plan was devised when the road was first taken under advisement to 'rearrange some of the holes,' with no great loss to the club.

Tentative arrangements call for the Board of Supervisors to turn over to the state the $5,800,000 right of way which has been held by the County Park Commission for more than a decade. The strip running through the Country Club has not yet been purchased by the County, but according to the letter received by County Executive Herbert C. Gerlach from the Commission 'state and federal money would be used immediately to determine what additional rights of way would have to be acquired' - which, of course, would include the purchase of a portion of the club.

The project has been deemed by the Commission as one of the most urgent mixed traffic arteries required for regional as well as state purposes. The road would parallel the Boston Post Road from the Connecticut line to appropriate connections in New York City, and eliminate a serious bottleneck in commercial trucking to and from New England.

Westchester has already agreed informally to cooperate in this action, but some formal word is awaited by the State before the expenditure of any additional monies is made in this connection.
The cost of the additional parcels, of which the Country Club is one, is estimated at $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. The highway would required a wide road bed, as the road will consist of two 36 foot traffic lanes separated by a boulevard strip.

Sept. 14 has been set as the date on which the Board of Supervisors will meet to discuss the State's proposal. If they approve the project and the transfer of county owned land, engineers will then proceed with definite plans. Also under consideration is the establishment of connecting routes in New York City and Connecticut, if funds are obtained from the Federal Government. Such action would institute a network of highways that would not only give the state one of the most extensive highway systems, but would provide post war employment for thousands of persons dismissed from defense industries.

The advice of the Budget Committee and the board must be obtained before transferring title to the property. Eventually it is proposed that the road be extended to Boston."

Source: 6-Track Road To Cross Country Club Grounds, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 20, Aug. 21, 1942, p. 1, col. 2.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Lightning Bolt Out of the Blue - Electrical Storm in 1895

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

J. Gardner Minard was a local historian who took great pride in the Town of Pelham and its history. He began a little newspaper in the 1890s that he operated out of the building that housed Lyman's Pharmacy. The building still stands at One Fifth Avenue.

For many years Mr. Minard wrote about his reminiscences of Pelham during the late 19th century. The articles were published in The Pelham Sun. One such article published on April 17, 1942 recounted, among other things, an electrical storm during which lightning twice struck the Brickner home located behind Lyman's Pharmacy. The text of the article appears below.

I have yet to do the careful research necessary to confirm my theory, but I suspect that the Brickner home is the structure pictured in the lower left of the post card picturing Lyman's Pharmacy (referencing it as the "Post Office, Pelham, N. Y." because Seth Lyman also ran the Post Office located in the same building). The post card, printed in about 1910, appears below, with a magnified view of the structure that appears on the lower left of the post card placed to the left of the post card image. If I am correct that this is the Brickner home about which Mr. Minard writes in the reminiscences set forth below the image, then the home still stands. Today it is behind the main structure of the Marbury Corners condominiums located along First Street.

"Old-Time Soldier And Reporter Garner Minard Tells A Couple Of Incidents In Old Pelham Life

Forty-seven years ago I opened a real estate office in the old post office building on the northwest corner of Fifth avenue and First street, Pelhamville. A year later I abandoned the real estate field for journalism. Frequently the question has been asked me what, in all those years, gave me the greatest thrill. There is no occupation that produces more thrills than journalism. Police may question this, but the police reporter has all the thrills of the police and then some. You are not only constantly seeking them, but they are seeking you. How many times have I uncovered a scandal that would have thrilled my readers but reserved the thrill for myself by smothering it rather than disrupt innocent and happy families? Imagine the thrill at uncovering, quite accidently [sic], that two prominent residents who had been elected and re-elected to high office, had criminal records. In amazement I checked and re-checked. The proof was there. They had since married and their families did not know anything about it. Since they were administering their offices conscientiously and were apparently trying to live down the past, why should I extinguish the spark of honest, sincere remorse burning within them by exposing them? Both have since died believing they were carrying their secret to the grave.

Tricks of Lightning

But here is something different. One Summer morning in 1895 I was standing on the rear porch of the old post office building looking across lots at the Medhorn house standing across the street from where the Catholic Church now stands. It was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Brickner and their infant son. Brickner had just sold his interests in the White Hotel, Wolf's lane and Third street and was then managing Merritt's livery stable, Fourth avenue and First street. Mrs. Brickner was a frail, sickly, nervous woman who thought little else but her house work. A severe thunder storm was in progress and as I watched, two bolts of lightning descended in rapid succession with ear splitting claps of thunder and struck the chimney. With each stroke it seemed the sides of the house expanded and contracted sending out clouds of smoke and dust from the open windows and doors. Hurrying inside I pulled on my rubber boots and rain coat and hurried to the Brickner house. The steps leading up to the front porch were blown all the way out to the front gate. There was no sign of fire or smoke, but through the open front door I could see a cloud of dust from the fallen plaster hovering about.

As I started to climb over the steps I heard Mrs. John H. Young who lived in the next house to the north, about 50 yards away, calling me. She was standing on her front porch beckoning. I ran there and found her holding the Brickner baby and Mrs. Brickner was lying on the porch floor. Mrs. Young explained that when she heard the thunderclap, she knew the lightning had struck close. She hurried to a window and saw Mrs. Brickner running through the rain with her baby. She went out the front door and Mrs. Brickner ran upon the porch, placed the baby in her arms, and fell in a faint. We examined the baby and found it all right [sic]. We next brought Mrs. Brickner around and assured her the baby was not hurt. Mrs. Brickner said that when the lightning struck she first thought of her baby on the front porch and ran out and picked him up. She could remember nothing further. I asked her how she got off the porch with no steps there and she could not answer. It was the first she knew the steps were missing.

Another Mystery

A few weeks later I was in Lyman's Drug Store on Fifth avenue at First street, talking with Dr. Lyman, when the door opened and Mrs. Brickner rushed in, placed her baby in Lyman's arms and fell unconscious to the floor. The child's left hand was covered with blood. Lyman washed off the blood and found a slight cut. He revived Mrs. Brickner and after telling her the child was not badly hurt, asked her what had happened. She said she had been doing her house work and on looking up saw the child had gotten the carving knife and cut his hand. She grabbed him up and from that moment her mind was a blank. She did not remember reaching the drug store.
What has puzzled me to this day is how that frail little woman, in a semi conscious condition, made that long trip and saw her child safe before entirely losing consciousness. There is today a steep hill along First street from Third to Fifth avenue that would tax the strength of any husky woman carrying a child; but the hill Mrs. Brickner climbed was much steeper as three years later, in 1898, the Village of North Pelham cut down the crest of it five feet just west of fifth avenue."

Source: Old-Time soldier And Reporter Gardner Minard Tells A Couple Of Incidents In Old Pelham Life, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 1, Apr. 17, 1942, p. 5, col. 1.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pelhamwood Association Celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 1942

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

For nearly as long as the beautiful neighborhood known as Pelhamwood (located just north of the Pelham Train Station) has been in existence, there has been a neighborhood association known as the Pelhamwood Association. Founded in May, 1912, the Pelhamwood Association has been an important force in preserving the beauty and vibrancy of the lovely neighborhood.

On Friday, May 15, 1942, the Pelhamwood Association celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding. The event was marked by a presentation on the history of the Association as well as the performance of an orginal play written by a Pelhamwood resident to commemorate the anniversary. In the midst of the performance Pelham experienced one of numerous planned practice air raid "Blackouts" as World War II raged overseas. A week later The Pelham Sun published detailed articles regarding the celebration. Below is one of those articles.

"New Members Join Pelhamwood Association As It Celebrates The Thirtieth Year Of Its Existence
Entertainment and Dancing at Parish House of Church of Redeemer on Fifth Avenue Featured the Community Organization's Observance. Robert Shaw Recounts History of Pelhamwood.

The auditorium of the Parish House of the Church of the Redeemer was crowded with Pelhamwood residents on Friday evening when the Pelhamwood Association celebrated the 30th year of its existence.

Two charter members, Thomas J. James of Clifford avenue, and Melville Wheeler of New Rochelle were present. Both of them attended the organization meeting held in May, 1912. Mrs. Dwight Wheeler of Storer, widow of a charter member and the first secretary of the association, was also present.

In opening the meeting Pike P. Waldrop, president of the association, said that the committee which arranged the gathering felt that the most joyous celebration could be obtained by featuring 'our most precious possession,' the children of Pelhamwood.

The delightful fantasy, about which a full report appears on another column was then presented. It was written and directed by Agnes Van Cott. Thirty children took part.

Pelhamwood's History

Robert H. Shaw, a member of the association for more than twenty years, gave some interesting observations and memories regarding the accomplishments of the organization, speaking on the topic 'What the Pelhamwood Association Means to Our Community.'

He emphasized the traditions of Pelhamwood as a dignified residential suburb of New York, populated by home-owners appreciative of beautiful surroundings, yet withal easy of access from the big city.

Mr. Shaw went back to 1849 when Richard Lathers of Georgetown, S. C., married Miss Abbie Pitman Thurston of Bond street, New York City. Her father was president of the Exchange Bank of Newport, R. I. Lathers, after his marriage, moved his business to New York. He was a commission merchant dealing in cotton and rice. He acquired 250 acres in West New Rochelle and Pelhamville as North Pelham was then called. He lived in a large house of Tuscany type situated north of the now B. & W. R. R. tracks and east of Storer avenue. The residence burned while occupied by Richard Lathers but some of the fine old trees which surrounded the house still remain. The couple had two sons and four daughters one of whom was educated at Bolton Priory. Mr. and Mrs. Lathers and some of their family are buried in the cemetery surrounding the church at Huguenot and Division street, New Rochelle.

Webster Avenue Opened

Mr. Lathers opened up Webster avenue through his property. He was a great admirer of Daniel Webster having met him in Washington. Afterward he opened up Washington avenue as a means of access from West New Rochelle to Pelhamville. At that time the only way to reach New York City was to drive by stage or carriage to Williamsbridge, where was the terminus of the Harlem River Railroad, which ended at 42nd street.

The Winyah Development Co. then acquired the property for development. The name Winyah came from Winyah Bay, Charleston, S. C., and not from an Indian tribe as often stated.

In 1901 the Winyah Realty Co. took over the development and Smith Brothers Contracting Co. laid out the streets and sewers under the direction of the late Edw. F. Campbell. Its development lagged during the depression of 1907 and in 1908 Clifford B. Harmon, son-in-law of Commodore E. C. Benedict of Greenwich, together with Edward C. Storer, a Boston banker, formed the Pelhamwood Company for high-class development.

Benedict place was named for Commodore Benedict; Harmon and Clifford avenue for Clifford B. Harmon, and Young avenue after George C. Young, president of the U. S. Mortgage & Trust Co., who was the husband of the famous opera singer Mme. Nordica. Storer avenue was named for the Boston banker.

Pelhamwood Co. Takes Charge

In 1912 the Pelhamwood Company turned matters over to the Joseph B. Lambden Agency who sold lots and commenced building.

With many new home owners coming to Pelhamwood each of whom was eager to protect and guide the development of the new home community along definite lines, the Pelhamwood Association came into being in May, 1912. It was organized in the office of the Lambden Agency and later met in the homes of various residents. Its influence has always been for good of the community, for the maintenance of its development along high-class lines, and to see that good schools were provided and clean, tidy, beautiful surroundings maintained. For that purpose a man was engaged to act as special policeman and keep the place in order.

Many famous men have made Pelhamwood their home during the thirty years. Notable newspaper men, publishers, writers, oil men, shipping magnate, artists and musicians found Pelhamwood easy of access and delightful for homes.

Mr. Clifford Johnston, chairman of the membership committee, reported a general interest in the activities of the association on the part of newcomers to the community, shown by the 35 new proposals for membership.

Singing During Blackout

During the blackout the audience was led in singing familiar songs by Wilbur L. Moody of Young avenue and piano music furnished by Miss Doris Willis of Young avenue.

The celebration closed with a social period and dancing at which the past presidents and the Board of Governors of the association acted as a committee to help newcomers get acquainted. Bob Davis of Clifford avenue headed the orchestra, which furnished the music for dancing."

Source: New Members Join Pelhamwood Association As It Celebrates The Thirtieth Year Of Its Existence, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 32, No. 7, May 22, 1942, p. 3, col. 1.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reminiscences of Lockwood Barr of Pelham Manor Published in 1940

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

Lockwood Barr lived in Pelham Manor for nearly 40 years. He wrote and published a popular book on the "History of the Ancient Town of Pelham" in 1946. He served as Village Historian for the Village of Pelham Manor for a number of years. The home that he had built for himself and his family still stands at 20 Beech Tree Lane. The Pelham Preservation Society recently awarded the "Lockwood Barr Home" a "Historic Home" plaque.

In 1940, Lockwood Barr wrote his "reminiscenses" as an article that appeared as part of a series of such articles by prominent Pelham citizens published in The Pelham Sun. The text of the article appears below.

"Starting From 'Scratch' - Reminiscences of Prominent Pelhamites, Recalling the Days When They Began Their Business Careers.

By Lockwood Barr

Public Relations Consultant

When I was a youngster there were lots of ways open to us to earn money that are closed to the present generation. . . and it is too bad.

I was born and reared in Warren County, Bowling Green, Kentucky, a typical southern agricultural community. When I was a boy there was no such thing as 'hard money'. . . and the community operated on a long time credit and barter basis. The farmer raised one crop - tobacco or wheat. He swapped vegetables, milk, butter, eggs, furs, hides, ginsing roots and other produce for immediate needs. The storekeeper in the town swapped their [sic] merchandise with each other. . . . . and the professional men were paid for their services in produce and merchandise. The banks had no money. They dealt in credits and extended until goods were sold or crops were made.

In my father's barn I had nests for a big flock of pigeons and I sold the squabs. I raised fighting game cocks, also Bantams which were in demand. None of us kids ever saw a nickel unless we swapped and bartered as did our elders. We exchanged chickens, pigeons, and eggs with each other, with the storekeepers, with the housewives. In the fall we went to the woods and gathered black walnuts and scaly bark hickory nuts which were just as good as gold to buy what we wanted at the store. We trapped skunks, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and sold the skins.

There were no telephones those days. You wrote 'notes' asking people to Sunday dinner, making a date with your best girl for the strawberry festival or the dance, and generally transacting the business of the community by notes instead of now by telephones. These notes were 'run' by us kids on foot or horseback.

There were no milkwagons. Everyone had their cows which must go out to pasture lots in the early morning and be driven home by the late evening to be milked. Boys would have the job of gathering together the cows of half a dozen families, driving the cows out to pasture and bringing them home at night and often milking the cows for those families that had no hired help.
Most families had a stable, a horse and carriage. The horse had to be curry combed, the carriage washed, and the harness and saddle cleaned and oiled. Every home had its vegetable gardens and there were always weeds to be hoed in the rows of corn and beans.

In those days there were no de luxe summer camps for boys and for girls in the mountains. But there were vacations in the country where we earned our board and keep for two or three weeks and a silver dollar at the end. . . doing our share in harvesting the wheat, killing tobacco worms, milking the cows, churning butter, watering and feeding the stock.

My chum in high school drove the laundry wagon early in the morning before school and in the afternoon and evenings. I was his principal helper. His family owned the laundry. My first real job, where I got paid real hard money regularly once a week, was working in that laundry during summer vacation. I collected the dirty clothes, marked them, checked them in, and wrote the tickets. During the day I ran ironing machines, collar and cuff shaping machines (yes, in those days men wore separate cuffs and collars). I finally got so good I was promoted to folding shirts and became the champion in the laundry. At the end of the day I sorted the finished laundry and wrapped bundles. My day was done when I had mad deliveries and collected the cash. It was the rule, 'No cash, no clean laundry' and it being a hot country, clean laundry was essential - so I usually came back with the cash. Several summers I sweat it out in the laundry.

I organized during the winter months a bill collecting agency, specializing in attempting to collect money owed doctors, dentists, oculists and other professional men. I did the work after school and earned my first real money. I got 25%. I might present a doctor's bill for $125 to the grocer to find that the doctor owed $110 to the grocer. I would accept $15 cash from the grocer or accept the grocer's credit on his books for $15 on future purchases by the doctor's family. But I got my $25% [sic] from the doctor and mine was in cash.

After I graduated from College I came home and worked for the local daily newspaper, collecting bills, keeping their books, answering the phone, as a pinch hitter setting ads, running the linotype, collecting personal news and items for the social columns. Later I became a full fledged reporter, covering the Court House, police court, sheriff's office, jail and undertaking establishment, drug stores, railroad station, the livery stables and other loafing spots where the town characters gathered and gossiped. It was a real education in itself to meet the people and learn the town in which you had been born and reared.

For a while I worked as an engineer with the Illinois Central building 20 miles of railroad through the swamps of Mississippi below Memphis. I ran a Transit and Level. Then in 1907 I came to New York as an engineer to run a Transit and Level for the Turner Construction Company on a big concrete building in Jersey City. My boss, the superintendent, was none other that [sic] the late Harry H. Fox, one time mayor of Pelham Manor.

That year I got a job as a draftsman on the Wall Street Journal drawing railroad maps to illustrate a series of stories about the railroad empire then being created by E. E. Harriman. For ten years I was with The Wall Street Journal - holding jobs in the mechanical department such as proofreading, setting ads, make-up man, headline writer and generally pinch hitting for others who were on sick leave or vacation. The last three years I was Managing Editor. In 1916 I resigned to go with Jas. H. Oliphant and Co., members of the New York Stock Exchange. There I met W. C. Durant, president of General Motors, and the next year I went to work on his staff doing financial publicity work. That was how I started from scratch.

(Editor's note - Mr. Barr was with General Motors for 13 years, on the staff of presidents Durant, Pierre Du Pont and Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. He organized and was in charge of public relations work, financial advertising and stockholder relations. Since 1930 he has been a consultant in this type of work for such organizations as Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Sinclair Refining, W. T. Grant Co., The E. Ingraham Co., Pathe Exchange, Radio Corporation of America, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, Borden, Associated Dry Goods, Fiduciary Truck Co, Socony-Vacuum, the New Jersey Council and others. Mr. Barr lives at No. 20 Beech Tree Lane and is a past president of the Men's Club)."

Source: Starting From "Scratch" - Reminiscences of Prominent Pelhamites, Recalling the Days When They Began Their Business Careers, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 20, Aug. 16, 1940, p. 3, col. 1.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.