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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

William Hahn Will Forever Be Known as the Least Intelligent Criminal Ever To Attempt To Prey On Pelham

On a quiet Wednesday evening, April 12, 1893, wealthy Pelham lawyer James M. Townsend, Jr. wandered upstairs to bed at about 10:30. While nostalgic residents of those days might have reminisced about the "good old days" when no one ever locked their doors in Pelham, Mr. Townsend knew better. He typically followed a nightly ritual of examining the "locks and bolts of the doors and windows previous to retiring".

That night, however, lawyer Townsend did not follow his ritual. Unfortunately, the same night a burglar had chosen to advance his questionable career on the premises of Mr. Townsend's abode. Fortunately, it turned out, the burglar was particularly stupid.

Mr. Townsend slept soundly and heard nothing during the night except that between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. he was awakened briefly by a strange cat that wandered into his bedroom. He supposed that the cat had gotten into the cellar during the evening when the house was open and had made its way upstairs during the night. He rolled over and went back to sleep, never suspecting that the little creature likely had walked into the house through a door left open downstairs by burglars.

He later told police that two different "nurses" who cared for his young children awoke to care for crying youngsters in the middle of the night but heard nothing. It was not until one of his servants wandered downstairs at about 7:00 a.m. that the burglary was discovered. Mr. Townsend told police:

"Immeditately on her notifying me, I made a thorough investigation of the house and found one of the dining-room windows open, and also the dining-room door leading to the porch. On the back lawn we found Mrs. Townsend's long cloak trimmed with fur. There were muddy footprints on the piazza and also on the window sill of the dining room. . . . The work of entrance must have been skillfully effected, for there was no indication that any of the doors or windows had been forced. Through the dining room, hall, and library were numerous spots of candle grease indicating a systematic and careful examination of these apartments. One of the dining room sideboards was fairly cleaned out of its silverware, while the desks and bureaus in all the apartments visited by the burglars had evidently all been thoroughly searched and ransacked. The men showed great discrimination, too, not burdening themselves with anything but solid silver, leaving a candelabra and other plated goods behind and taking the solid pieces standing right beside them. In all, they got about $2,000 worth of booty."

Two watchmen, including one for the Village of Pelham Manor who regularly patrolled the street on which Mr. Townsend lived and a second private watchman detailed to patrol the area around Mr. Townsend's home as well as the adjacent homes of Robert C. Black (a principal of the jewelry firm of Black, Starr Frost) and Assistant District Attorney Stapler said that they saw and heard nothing during the night. Perhaps most oddly, Mr. Townsend's little black French poodle which "as a rule, is on his legs and barking at the slightest sound" seems to have slept through the entire affair even while the burglars were exploring in the same room with him. Mr. Townsend even noted that he was so perplexed by the yappy little poodle's behavior that he examined the dog the next day for signs that it had been "ill used or drugged." He found nothing amiss.

The burglars had left behind plenty of evidence including muddy footprints and candlewax drippings. Police needed none of that, however. It seems that in their haste to depart with their ill-gotten gains, one of the intellectually-challenged burglars left something rather important behind -- HIS DIARY in which he had kept "a record of his doings". Mr. Townsend found the diary by the piazza of his home "evidently dropped in his haste by one of the thieves."

An account published in The New York Times documents what happened next:

"Inspector McLaughlin put the case, with the clue of the diary, into the hands of Detective Sergeants Thomas Mulvey and George A. Doran. A name mentioned in the little book put them on the track of a well-known professional thief they had been watching for some time, and on Saturday afternoon they burst into the apartment, at 125 Chrystie Street, of William Hahn, aged twenty-eight. Hahn was out of the back window and down the fire escape into the street in a twinkling, with the officers hot foot at his heels.

Through Chrystie Street Hahn scudded, doubling and twisting, to Grand Street, and from Grand Street to the Bowery. He darted out of the Bowery up Hester Street to Elizabeth Street the detectives were fast overhauling him. To throw them off he ran through a hallway into the back yard, scaling the fence and dropping into Hester Street again. There the chase ended.

In Hahn's room was found much property, afterward identified by Mr. Townsend as his, and a full set of burglar's tools. Hahn was remanded for examination yesterday morning in the Jefferson Market Police Court. Other arrests, it is expected, will soon follow."

Source: This Burglar Kept A Diary, N.Y. Times, Apr. 17, 1893, Pg. 1.

On May 16, 1893, The New York Times reported that "William Hahn, the burglar who entered James M. Townsend's residence at [Pelham] Manor a few weeks ago, was sentenced yesterday to nine years' imprisonment in Sing Sing Prison." See City And Suburban News, N.Y. Times, May 16, 1893, p. 6.

There seem to be no further reports to tell us what happened to William Hahn who may go down in history as the least intelligent criminal ever to attempt to prey on Pelham. . . . .

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Prospect Hill Village -- Yet Another Early Hamlet Within the Town of Pelham

During the early to mid-19th century, several small hamlets sprang up within the Town of Pelham in addition to the main population center on City Island. Each of the hamlets was considered somewhat distant -- and isolated from -- most of the others. They included Pelham Bridge, Bartow-on-the-Sound, Pelham Priory (the area around Bolton Priory), Prospect Hill Village, Pelham Manor and Pelhamville.

Little has been written about Prospect Hill Village. Today's posting will provide some background information on that little hamlet.

Prospect Hill Village was one of the two principal real estate developments from which today's Village of Pelham Manor evolved. The other, of course, was the Pelham Manor & Huguenot Heights Association organized on June 3, 1873 by Silas H. Witherbee, Henry C. Stephens, Robert A. Mitchill, Charles J. Stephens, Charles F. Heywood and other local landowners.

On August 11, 1852, a man named William Bryson filed a development map entitled "Map of Prospect Hill Village, Town of Pelham, Westchester County, New York." The map encompassed a prime area described by Lockwood Barr as "on the crown of the ridge near the Boston Post Road, bounded by what are now Highland, Prospect, Esplanade, New Haven Branch, Washington and Old Split Rock Road." 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. 123 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

Although many questions remain, more information about the Prospect Hill Village development recently has come to light. There is a brief but information-filled advertisement and notice relating to the development that appeared in the September 15, 1854 issue of the New York Daily Times (the predecessor to today's New York Times). The text and an image of the notice appear immediately below:

"LOTS FOR SALE. - A very few desirable acre and half-acre lots, beautifully situated on Prospect Hill, in the town of Pelham, Westchester Co., N. Y. They are situated on the turnpike-road, between New-York and New-Rochelle, and conveniently to three stations on the New-Haven Railroad - Mount Vernon, Pelhamville and New-Rochelle. Apply to AMOS JUDSON, Real Estate Agent, Mount Vernon; WM DALLY, on the premises, of THOMAS SPOTTEN, No. 118 Bowery New-York.
The members of the above association are requested to attend a meeting to be held at the Westchester House, corner of Bowery and Broome at, MONDAY EVENING, Sept. 18, at 7 1/2 o'clock P M Punctual attendance is requested as business of importance will be brought before the meeting. By order of the Board of Directors.

JOHN HARBUTTS, Secretary."

This one small notice that seems to be one of the few published by the "Prospect Hill Village Association." Its content suggests that a group of New York City based real estate speculators were the principals behind efforts to develop Prospect Hill Village in Pelham. Each little tidbit of information -- like the name John Harbutts (Secretary) will allow more followup research and, perhaps, will shed even more light on this small piece of Pelham history.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Earliest Telephone in Pelham Manor?

United States Patent No. 174,465 for "Telegraphy" was issued to A. G. Bell on March 7, 1876. For many years, however, the American population seemed unaware of the possibilities of the new-fangled telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell who was forced to lecture about his invention for pay as he fought -- and eventually won -- an expensive legal battle against inventor Elisha Gray. Gray claimed that he had invented the telephone and, indeed, lost the race to the patent office for his own invention by a matter of hours.

Residents of Pelham Manor seemed to recognize the importance and value of the new invention very early. Indeed, recent research has revealed the story behind the installation of what may have been the first telephone in Pelham Manor. A review of the minutes book of the Pelham Manor Protective Club (click here for the February 23, 2005 blog posting entitled "The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club From Dealer in Tarrytown, NY") has shed light on the topic.

The Pelham Manor Protective Club was established in late 1881 -- ten years before incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. Members of the Club took all kinds of steps to protect the area of Pelham within one mile of the Pelham Manor Depot located on the New Haven Branch Line from crime.

By June 2, 1884, members of the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club were considering the installation of a telephone at the Pelham Manor Depot to permit members of the Club to make calls and to report to New York and New Rochelle authorities instances of criminal activity. On that date, two members of the Executive Committee, Messrs. William E. Barnett and Thomas D. De Witt, reported to the full Committee on their efforts to prepare a pamphlet of "suggestions" to be distributed to all members of the Pelham Manor Protective Club. Among the many "suggestions" contained in the proposed pamphlet was one that read as follows:

"4. Telephone. - A telephone connecting with New Rochelle and New York will soon be placed in Pelham Manor Depot in the name of the Protective Club, which may be used by any member for the purpose, in case of necessity, of obtaining assistance as against vagrants and other criminals, and for other purposes." Records Pelham Manor Protective Club, Vol. 1, p. 75 (entry for Jun. 2, 1884; original in the collection of the Westchester County Historical Society).

During the same Executive Committee meeting, the "Chairman and Secretary were authorized to arrange with the Westchester Telephone Company for a Telephone at Pelham Manor Depot for the use of the members of the Club." Id., p. 76.

By July 9, 1884, arrangements had been made for seems to have been installation of the telephone and the Executive Committee authorized payment of a bill from the telephone company. The minutes for an Executive Committee meeting on that date state that the "Treasurer presented a bill of the Westchester Telephone Company for $20.20, which was ordered paid." Id., p. 77 (entry for Jul. 9, 1884). The nature of the bill is unclear. It may have been payment for installation of the phone or it may have been payment for phone service after the phone had been installed.

It seems fairly certain, however, that the phone had been installed by October 1, 1884. This can be surmised from the minutes of a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Club on November 29, 1884. Those minutes contain the following entry: "The bill of the Westchester Telephone Co. for service from October 1st 1884 to January 1st 1885, $26.95 was audited and ordered paid." Id., p. 82 (entry for Nov. 29, 1884).

Barely eight years after invention of the telephone, Pelham Manor had what may have been its first telephone. While there have been suggestions that Robert C. Black (one of the principals of famed jewelry firm Black, Starr & Frost) may have installed the first telephone in Pelham, the telephone installed in the Pelham Manor Depot in the autumn of 1884 is the earliest telephone installation that can be documented with some degree of certainty.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Split Rock: A Pelham Landmark for Centuries

Split Rock has been a Pelham landmark, some say, for as long as there has been a Pelham. Today, this giant glacial boulder is located near the New England Thruway where it meets the Hutchinson River Parkway. As its name implies, the gigantic boulder seems to have been split in half. It has a colorful history and has been associated with a variety of local legends and traditions. A recent photograph of the boulder appears immediately below.


During colonial times, what we now know as Split Rock Road in Pelham Manor extended across much of today’s Split Rock Golf Course in Pelham Bay Park. A former Pelham Town Historian described the road as follows:

“‘The Split Rock Road,’ as it is familiarly called by the residents of Pelham, originally the private driveway from the Post Road to the Manor house of John Pell [near today’s Bartow-Pell Mansion], can boast an age equal with that of the Boston Road. It was once the sole highway of communication between this neighborhood and City Island, where numerous fishermen and pilots obtained a livelihood.”

In early times, Split Rock Road was a Native American path. On October 18, 1938, The Park Department of the City of New York erected a Historic Marker dedicated to the “Old Indian Path” that came to be known as Split Rock Road.

Much of the Battle of Pelham occurred along Split Rock Road. Split Rock was a popular destination for generations of Pelham families. With the creation of the Split Rock Golf Course, much of Split Rock Road disappeared, though parts of it still exist along various of the fairways of the course.

Legends and Anecdotes

Several of the stories and legends associated with early settler Anne Hutchinson (who was massacred along with many of her family by Native Americans in 1643) are tied to Split Rock. For many years it was believed that she settled near Split Rock. Scholars such as Otto Hufeland and Lemuel Welles disproved that tradition, concluding that the location of the Hutchinson settlement and massacre was within the Town of Eastchester. In 1911, a bronze tablet was placed on Split Rock by the Colonial Dames of the State of New York in honor of Anne Hutchinson. It read:

Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638
Because of her Devotion to Religious Liberty This Courageous Woman
Sought Freedom from Persecution in New Netherland
Near this Rock in 1643 She and her Household
were Massacred by Indians
This Tablet is placed here by theColonial Dames of the State of New York
ANNO DOMINI MCMXL Virtutes Majorurn Filiae Conservant"

Reports say vandals later destroyed this tablet although the Colonial Dames of the State of New York reportedly replaced it with another. There appears to be no such plaque on the boulder today.

In 1958, while engineers were overseeing the construction of The New England Thruway, plans were made to dynamite the Split Rock boulder. Bronx County Historian Theodore Kazimiroff reportedly led a group who convinced the engineers “to move the Thruway a few feet north and the rock was spared.”

Split Rock Today

Split Rock is difficult, but not impossible, to visit today. There are several ways to get to it. One way is fairly easy and quite a fascinating and pleasant hike.  However, because of the danger of crossing roadways to get to the boulder itself, it is recommended that it be viewed from afar -- not actually visited. 

Go to the very end of Beech Tree Lane, located near the back of Manor Circle off of Pelhamdale Avenue just east of the I-95 overpass on Pelhamdale Avenue. At the end of the street you actually will be within the Bronx.

At the end of the street is a pathway that enters onto the Bridle Path in Pelham Bay Park. You will see the Pelham Bay Golf Course. Facing the Golf Course, take a right on the Bridle Path. Wear sturdy waterproof shoes since the path can be quite wet and muddy at times.

After a short distance, you will perceive that the "path" seems sunken and looks like an ancient road. That is, in fact, what it is. This portion of the pathway once was a part of a long country road -- some say a "driveway" -- from John Hunter's estate on Hunter's Island in the mid-19th century to the roadway that we know today as Boston Post Road (U.S. 1).
You shortly will see that the roadway seems to incline up a little hill to a large iron bridge over the tracks of the Branch Line that opened in the early 1870s. In his book on the history of Pelham published in 1946, Lockwood Barr wrote about this roadway and bridge as follows:

"John Hunter had a private lane from the Island over to the Prospect Hill section of Pelham Manor. This private lane paralleled the present southern boundary line of Pelham Manor, up to the point where the line crosses the tracks of the New Haven Branch Line Railroad. At that point, now stands a steel bridge over the tracks, and on either side of the railroad still remain the earthen approaches to the span. When the Branch Line was built in 1873, this bridge was erected because of the legal difficulties involved in closing an old road. A map of Pelham of 1850 clearly shows this lane, used by John Hunter to get from his Mansion over to his Provost Farm, then bounded by the Hutchinson River, the Boston Post Road, and old Split Rock Road. In his will, John Hunter made disposition of his farm lands on the mainland in the Town of Pelham, and recognized the necessity of providing ". . . right of way with Cattle and teams over the lane now used by me across my farm, commonly called and known as the Sackett Farm, situate in the said Town of Pelham opposite Hunter's Island and between the farms of Geo. Thacker and Elbert Roosevelt; and also the right of way from said lane thorugh the woods of said Sackett Farm, to and from the Provost Farm." This right of way was conveyed in the deeds subsequently transferring the Island. This old lane was closed when the golf course of Pelham Bay Park was made, but the lane and the bridge form part of the Bridle Path in the Park."

Source: Barr, Lockwood, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as The Lordshipp & Mannour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called the Pelhams, p. 101 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

Proceed over the bridge and continue walking. You will reach I-95 and, indeed, will wonder if the Bridle Path has ended. It has not. For a short distance of a couple of hundred yards, the Bridle Path is difficult to perceive and, in fact, is located only a few yards away from the roadside of I-95. Occasionally you will see hoof prints and even wood used to mark the boundaries of the path. Keep walking parallel to I-95 on your right with the fence that encloses Split Rock Golf course on your left.

After a short distance the Bridle Path will angle to the left and become a wide, graveled horse path again. Watch carefully to your right. You will see an entrance roadway from the Hutchinson River Parkway onto I-95. Between I-95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway entrance roadway onto I-95 you will see Split Rock -- a giant boulder that appears to be split in half. You will even be able to scramble down the small incline from the Bridle Path to a grassy area next to the roadway where you can see Split Rock even more clearly. It may be hard to imagine, but this is the very spot where -- for many generations -- Pelham residents brought picnic lunches and sat in the quiet countryside admiring the lovely view of the countryside around Pelham.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Tennis in Early Pelham

Today the tennis courts of the Pelham Country Club, the New York Athletic Club and the Glover Field complex bristle with activity every day the weather permits. In addition, other courts and solo courts next to residences are scattered throughout the Town.

It turns out that tennis has been a popular pastime in Pelham for nearly 120 years. The earliest reference to tennis in Pelham that I have been able to locate appeared in the June 7, 1885 issue of The New York Times. The reference notes that at least by 1885 the Country Club at Pelham, established in the little hamlet of Bartow-on-the-Sound in 1884, had established "tennis grounds" for the Club's members. The brief reference reads as follows:

"The wives and sisters of members can enjoy the same privileges of the club as members, and on fine mornings the tennis grounds are besieged by lady players. Miss Leavitt and Mrs. Fellowes Morgan have arranged a tennis tournament for Monday and Tuesday of this week, and a team from the ladies' club of Staten Island will contest for a series of games with the ladies of the Country Club."

Source: The World Of Society, N.Y. Times, Jun. 7, 1885, p. 14.

The men of the Country Club at Pelham also played in local tennis tournaments during the 1880s. An account of one such tournament played on September 30, 1885 reads as follows:

The gentlemen's doubles in the open tournament at Bartow-on-the-Sound were commenced and finished yesterday before a goodly company, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. J. Lorillard, Miss Lee, Mrs. and Miss Zerega, Miss Newcombe, the Misses Dickey, Miss Roberts, Miss Hunter, Miss Evans, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver, Mr. and Mrs. De Lancey Kane, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Sands, Mr. and Mrs. F. Jackson, the Misses Iselin, the Misses Kent, Mrs. Ellis, Mrs. Morris, the Misses Thoms, and T.K. Fraser, of Hastings-on-the-Hudson. Slocum, of the Brookly Club, and Beekman, of the Staten Island Club, won the handsome prizes with the following score:
First Round. - Major and Gregory beat E. M. Adee and Titus, 6-1, 6-2.
Paton and Van Rensselaer beat A. M. Wood and partner by default.
E. R. Adee and Morris beat Watson and Appleton, 8-6, 1-6, 7-5.
Slocum and Beekman beat Thomas and Peters by default.
Second Round. - Paton and Van Rensselaer beat Major and Gregory, 6-4, 6-1.
Slocum and Beekman beat E. R. Adee and Morris, 6-1, 6-2.
Final Round. - Slocum and Beekman beat Paton and Van Rensselaer, 7-5, 7-5, 7-5."

Source: Tennis On Long Island [sic]. An Interesting Tournament At Bartow-On-The-Sound., N.Y. Times, Oct. 1, 1885, p. 5.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

During the mid to late 19th century, there was an area in the Town of Pelham known as Bartow (also known as Bartow-on-the-Sound). Where, precisely, was Bartow?

Bartow was a quaint and small village located on the mainland near City Island. The entire area -- as well as City Island -- was annexed by New York City, effective in 1896. Before then, however, the little area known variously as Bartow, Bartow-on-the-Sound, and Bartow Station became an important part of Pelham and its history.

Below is a detail from a map of the area created in 1895. It is a detail from a plate published in the "Atlas of the State of New York, 1895" by Joseph Rudolf Bien. It shows "Bartow" as the area covering Pelham Neck on the mainland opposite City Island (see below).

Bartow actually encompassed an area slightly larger than the map detail shown above suggests. Bartow encompassed an area from Pelham Bridge to the Bartow-Pell estate and even northeastward to include some of the lands on the mainland across from the Bartow-Pell Mansion (an area that encompasses portions of today's Pelham Bay and Split Rock golf courses).

There is an interesting description of the Bartow area contained in a suggested walking tour published in The New York Times in 1878. The account reads, in part, as follows:

"About a dozen miles from the City, on the Shore Line branch of the Harlem and New-Haven Railway, is a small station called Bartow. It is where one gets off the train to go to City Island. The ride to that little station is a very pleasant one; past long gleaming arms from the Sound, that at high tide reach far up in the land among the meadows of tall, rank, dark green grass; past brooks and mills and hamlets, while the cool salt air comes breezily from the shimmering bosom of the watery expanse gleaming in the distance. It is just after the train's hollow rumble over a long, low bridge that a forest is entered, and there, beneath the shadows of the trees, nestles Bartow. Opposite the station is a pretty little house, where, through a widely-opened door, one may see a table set out with bright service on a cloth of snowy whiteness for a dinner, for which the dinner never seems to come, though alluring signs on the dwelling's front invite the public. A little back in the woods, beside the New-Rochelle road, stands the 'Bartow Hotel,' which appears to do a composite business in beer and horse-shoeing. And those houses, with the depot, of course, are all there is of Bartow.

"From the station a road extends, nearly all the way through a shady lane, over to City Island, one of the most delightful short drives -- little over a mile and a half -- that can be found anywhere along the shore. Overhead arch oaks, hickories, maples, and elms. On either side are rough stone walls. Cresting those walls with foliage and snowy bloom lie tangled masses of the flowering vine that people hereabouts call 'Aaron's beard.' Modest yellow and blue flowers nestle at the bases of the rocky piles. Here and there the golden rod uprears its yellow sprays, and on the little knolls beside the road the sumac's crimson tufts flare brilliantly. The sweet breath of the new-mown hay floats up from low meadows, and at the next turning of the road gives place to the saline scent of the still lower lands, where tall grasses leave their roots in the salt tides. . . . "

Source: The Pearl Of The Sound. Attractions Of Little-Known City Island., N.Y. Times, Aug. 25, 1878, p. 12.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Prize Fighting At Pelham Bridge in 1884

In 1812 a bridge across the mouth of the Hutchinson River opened. Before then, today's Shore Road ended where Pelham Neck met the waters of the bay at that location. The bridge was destroyed by a storm four years later and reportedly was not rebuilt until 1834. At that time, abundant fish and water fowl in the area attracted outdoor sportsmen from New York.

By 1884, the area had begun to attract a different type of sportsmen -- those interested in the "sweet science" of boxing. A tiny community that included a hotel had sprung up around Pelham Bridge. In a shed behind the hotel men would gather to watch prize fights. These prize fights, however, were illegal in Westchester County and soon caught the attention of local authorities.

What follows is a news account of one such instance that is so interesting I am including it in its entirety.


Sheriff Stephen D. Horton, of Westchester County, was informed by telephone at White Plains from Police Head-quarters in this city, at about 2 o'clock yesterday morning, that a prize-fight was to take place early in the morning at Pelham. With two Deputies, John Duffy and John Brogan, at about 3 o'clock he set out in a close hack in the driving rain, though he did not know definitely where it was to take place as there are a number of Pelhams -- Pelham Manor, Pelhamville, Pelham Priory, and Pelham Bridge. They drove direct to New-Rochelle, and there they got word that the fight was probably at Pelham Bridge, and for that place they started. When nearing that spot they were passed by a wagon-load of drunken men, who seemed to be in a hurry to get away from them. As they were a suspicious-looking gang, they were followed until their wagon broke down and they were dumped in the mud in the middle of the road. When that happened the Sheriff and his party were very near Pelham Bridge, so it was decided to go there first.

The Sheriff and his companions crossed the bridge and drew up in front of Ryan's Hotel. From the groups of men about it it was evident that they were at the right place. The party got out of the carriage and entered the hotel. The Sheriff was recognized by some of the crowd, and most of the by standers slunk away as quickly as possible. It was learned that the fight had just been finished, and that the principals had retired to their rooms on the second floor. The fight had taken place in a shed at the rear of the hotel. The Sheriff demanded to be taken to the men's rooms and after some hesitation he was shown to them. He was first taken into the room of James Murray, whom he found sitting on the edge of his bed, still in his ring costume, not having had time to dress. The Sheriff informed him that he was his prisoner. Murray was disposed to take the matter as a joke and laughingly dared the Sheriff to arrest him. When the latter produced a pair of handcuffs, however, he submitted, claiming that the contest had been only an exhibition and that they had used soft gloves. The other principal, Thomas Henry, was in a room on the opposite side of the hall. He refused to unlock his door, and the Sheriff told Deputy Duffy to break it down, which he did in short order, being a man of muscular build. Henry was also found in his ring costume and promptly handcuffed.

While this was going on the dozen or more men who had remained about the place had been talking about attempting to rescue the prisoners. Sheriff Horton, when he heard of this, went down to them and told them that he was the Sheriff of Westchester County, that he had arrested the men for violating the law by engaging in a prize-fight, and that he intended to take them with him to the White Plains Jail. His determined air had the desired effect, and no more threats of a rescue were indulged in. Two hacks were then procured, and the Sheriff, with the prisoners and the Deputies, drove off. At New-Rochelle the party boarded a train and came to this city. Here they took the 11:20 A.M. train on the New-York and Harlem Railroad for White Plains, where they arrived an hour later.

The men were arraigned before Justice Long later in the afternoon. James Murray said he lived in Providence, R. I., and that there had not been a prize-fight, but only a soft glove exhibition. Thomas Henry said he was an Englishman, and corroborated Murray's version of the affair. They were remanded for further examination this morning. The Sheriff said that he had found a regular rope ring, and some hard gloves, but they had not been used. There had been three rounds fought, in which the Englishman came out victorious, winning the stakes which were $300 a side. Henry had a black eye and Murray had his ear and lip badly cut. There were about 500 persons present at the fight. This is the first arrest for prize-fighting that has been made in Westchester County in a good many years."

Source: Caught In Their Ring Dress. Sheriff Horton Arrests Two Prize-Fighters At Pelham Bridge., N.Y. Times, Feb. 21, 1884, p. 8.

There is no known record of what happened to the loser of the fight, James Murray. We know, however, that the winner of the fight, Englishman Thomas Henry, went to jail for his participation in the prize fight. We know this because of a small item published a year later that stated: "Thomas Henry, the pugilist, who a year ago was arrested for engaging in a prize fight at Pelham Bridge, was yesterday discharged from the White Plains Jail. After several trials and appeals, he had been sentenced to 30 days' imprisonment in the county jail and to pay a fine of $150. He served his 30 days and was working out his fine at a dollar a day and had paid $50 in this manner when, it being represented to Judge Mills that he had no money, he discharged him from custody." Source: Prize-Fighter Henry Liberated, N.Y. Times, Mar. 20, 1885, p. 8.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The 1790 U.S. Census Information for the Township of Pelham

Only seven years after the end of the Revolutionary War and two years after the formal creation of the Town of Pelham, the federal government performed its first U.S. census. Below I have created a "cut-and-paste" image that combines data spread across two pages of the 1790 U.S. Census, New York State, Westchester County, Township of Pelham (pages 141 and 142). That image appears below.

The handwritten titles of the five columns are somewhat difficult to read. They are, from left to right, the following:

"Free White Males of 16 Years Upward Including Heads of Families"
"Free White Males Under 16 Years."
"Free White Females Including Heads of Families"
"All Other Free Persons"

The census shows 45 free white males sixteen years or older, 31 free white males under sixteen years old, 84 free white females, 1 "other free person" (likely an emancipated slave) and 38 slaves for a total population of 199 persons.

The names of those listed in the census are well known to students of Pelham History including, among many others:

Philip Pell, Esq. (Revolutionary War Hero)
Benjamin Guion (Well Known Tavern Owner)
David J. Pell (Descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor; Became Owner of Pelhamdale)
James Pell (Descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor)
James A. F. Prevost, Esq.
Thomas Pell (Descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor)
Samuel Rodman (Rodman's Neck)
William Bailey (Bayley - Uncle of St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton; Owner of the Kemble House)

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Pelham Was A Station Stop for the Stage Coach That Carried Mail from New York To Boston in the Early 19th Century

There was a time during the 1830s when Pelham was one of the "principal" station stops of the stage coach that carried U. S. Mail from New York City to Boston. Actually, there were two regular stage coaches, both run by Dorance, Recide & Co. There was a "fast" stage coach and a "slow" stage coach.

During the 1880s, The New York Times published an article based on the reminiscences of "old-timers" who recalled the days of the mail stages that traveled through Pelham. A portion of that account read:

"A few New-Yorkers still remember the old stages of Dorance, Recide & Co., which used to carry the United States mails between this City and Boston. Fifty years ago two stages started from [The North American Hotel] at the corner of Bayard-street and the Bowery every morning. One of them was an especially fast stage. It carried the mails and never booked more than six passengers, and when the mails were unusually heavy no passengers were allowed at all. 'Six passengers only allowed inside,' was the announcement contained in the words painted on the panels of this nimble vehicle, which legend many a time carried dismay to the hearts of impetuous business men who arrived at the stage office only to find the last seat taken. The slow stage carried nine passengers inside and two upon the box. These two stages always left the hotel in company and proceeded up Third-avenue. They crossed Harlem bridge and stopped for dinner 28 miles out. The mail stage usually arrived at Boston half a day in advance of its companion coach. The principal stations on the route were East Chester, West Chester, Pelham, New-Rochelle, Port Chester, Horse Neck, Stamford, Norwalk, Hartford, Springfield, and Worcester. The distance was somewhat over 200 miles, which is the only feature of the route that time has not changed. Mr. Gideon T. Reynolds is said to have been the first man who drove a four-horse stage across the Harlem Bridge. That was in 1828 or thereabout, according to the best stage chronologers. . . . Soon after the stages crossed Harlem bridge they came into a wild and woody country, and not infrequently were they robbed in this locality. There were 'road agents' in those days as well as now, and the mail coaches were protected by a guard, who occupied a perch on the roof over the boot, and was armed with a blunderbuss. This weapon was considered somewhat deadly in those days. It had a funnel-shaped barrel, a flint-lock, and took about half a pint of buckshot for a charge. It was capable of destroying a whole band of robbers at one discharge. But, because it took an expert gunner about 15 minutes to load it, or for other reasons, it seems not to have been very successful in exterminating the stage robbers, for they have continued to increase in numbers and boldness from that day to this, and the gun has gone out of fashion." Before The Locomotive - The Ways Over Which The Stage-Coach Rumbled, N.Y. Times, May 9, 1880, p. 10.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Little History Concerning The Historic Pelham Web Site

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of the Historic Pelham Web site located at https://web.archive.org/web/20111005005055/http://historicpelham.com/. Today's posting will provide a little of the "history" of the site.

In about 1998 or perhaps a little before, I purchased my first copy of Microsoft's FrontPage software. At the time I was intensely involved in advising clients on what was then called "CyberLaw" and I began collecting research on the topic of Internet securities regulation and organizing it using the FrontPage software.

In 1999 I published to the Web my first Web site at https://web.archive.org/web/19991224223649/http://www.cybersecuritieslaw.com/. The site was an extraordinarily large one (several thousand pages of content) devoted to the topic of Internet securities regulation. I updated it almost daily given the quick pace of change in that area of the law during the so-called Internet Bubble. The site attracted a very substantial amount of traffic and a lot of attention in the legal press -- so much so that in 2000 I was approached by a legal publishing company known as Glasser LegalWorks. The firm bought the site and asked me to remain as "Editor-In-Chief" of the site. I continued to play that role until early 2003 when Glasser LegalWorks folded the site and its contents into a Web site that the firm administered for R.R. Donnelley, Inc. located at http://www.realcorporatelawyer.com/. I was asked to continue my service as editor-in-chief -- but as editor-in-chief of the RealCorporateLawyer Web site. I have continued my service in that capacity since that time, updating that site every business day and continuing the practice of preparing and distributing monthly "E-Zines" on the topic of corporate governance and securities regulation issues.

In addition to all this, since early 1999 one of the many administrative responsibilities that I have held in addition to my ordinary responsibilities at work has been the responsibility to oversee the staff responsible for my law firm's Web site located at http://www.simpsonthacher.com/. In this regard I have overseen -- and been responsible for -- three "redesigns" of that Web site performed by outside consultants.

My work with the CyberSecuritiesLaw, Simpson Thacher and RealCorporateLawyer Web sites taught me a great deal about the Web and delivery of information via Web sites. Among other things, my experience with these sites drove home the importance of the old adage that "content is king". I continue to believe to this day that quality and quantity of content is far more important than site promotion for the vast majority of small, personal Web sites out there.

In 1999, at about the same time that I published my first site to the Web (CyberSecuritiesLaw.com), my wife and I decided to move our family to Pelham. Well before the move I threw myself into the task of researching and documenting the history of that lovely little town. By the time we moved to Pelham during the first week of January 2000, I already had a good grasp of the general history of the area and already owned a handful of books and pamphlets relating to that history that I had purchased via the Web.

I was struck by the fact that although Pelham's history was so rich and extensive, it was very hard to find information about it on the Web. As I had done with the CyberSecuritiesLaw Web site, I began to organize all of my research on the topic of Pelham's history (e.g., prepared outlines, jotted notes, organized my thoughts) using Microsoft's FrontPage software hoping to develop it into a Web site on the topic. I continued my research in this way for almost three years, amassing a tremendous amount of data broken down -- essentially -- into the categories that you see on the site today including, among other things, the following: bibliography, biographies, links, maps, memorials, Pelham in Court, photog catalog, place names, post cards, societies, timeline, virtual tour, etc.

In December, 2002, I contacted a colleague who had been involved in one of the successful redesigns of the Simpson Thacher Web site. He was moonlighting through the establishment of a small Web design, hosting and consulting firm known as InternetComeAlive, Inc. It's site is located at http://www.internetcomealive.com/. I hired him to create a "template" page design for me from which I could then construct a Web site. I emailed several things to him. I sent him a digital photograph of the green and gold Village of Pelham welcome sign facing One Fifth Avenue at the Pelham Train Station telling him that I liked the colors and lettering on the sign and would like to see him create a design inspired by those colors and that lettering. I also took a series of digital images that I had created including images of the Church of the Redeemer Bell in front of the Daronco Town House, a scan of a photo showing the Toonerville Trolley "skippers" Dan and Louie in front of the trolley, an old engraving of Pelhamdale, an image of the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 and a photograph I took of the Pelhamwood Clock Tower. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to string the photos into a strip and asked my colleague to work them into some form of banner to appear across the top of each page.

The same month he sent me his first design. I looked at it, told him it was absolutely perfect and that absolutely no changes needed to be made whatsoever and paid him promptly for his very handsome work. The design remains the same today and, hopefully, will remain so for many years.

I spent the next three months engaged in very intense work to apply the design template to all of the content I had prepared. The work was intense and I recall spending many late nights working away at it. I wanted to "unveil" the site as the first commemorative event in honor of the 350th Anniversary of the signing of the Pell-Siwanoy Treaty in 2004.

I contacted a company known as DellHost to arrange registration of the domain name and hosting of the site. All of that was done on March 19, 2003. (It still took me about two days to get all of my work formalized, formatted, and published to the DellHost servers.) DellHost subsequently sold its assets to PureHost and I continue to use PureHost today.

By March 21, 2003, the site was up and running, but I was the only person in the world who knew that. I sent e-mail messages to about a dozen of my friends and registered the site with Google and Yahoo! After that, I simply let things proceed on their own.

Since that time, the site has been mentioned in the print edition of The New York Times twice and has won several awards. Traffic has grown significantly, as well. In its first year, the site delivered 116,913 "page views". A page view occurs when someone "visits" a page on the site and their browser makes a call to the hosting server asking for the files required to assemble a "Web page" for the visitor to look at.

Traffic increased in the second year. During the twelve months from March 21, 2004 until March 19, 2005, the site delivered an additional 140,100 page views. Thus, in its first two years of existence, visitors have looked at pages on the site more than a quarter million times!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Using the Westchester County Archives Web Site To Assist With Research Regarding the History of Pelham

The Westchester County Archives and Records Center is located at 2199 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford, NY, 10523. It is the central repository for the county's historic public records dating from 1680 to the present. It is open to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (except holidays). Also located in the same facility is the Westchester County Historical Society with its wonderful archives and research library.

Today's posting will address ways that local historians can use the Web site of the Westchester County Archives to assist them with local history research. The Web site is located at http://www.westchestergov.com/wcarchives/. The site makes quite clear that online resources are somewhat limited. It says "[a]lthough it is neither practical nor possible to digitize and make available online all of the records held by the Westchester County Archives, we do strive to make certain of our records, and/or information about them, available to our patrons via the 'information highway'."

On the home page of the site you will notice along the left side of the page a series of links including "General Information", "Guide To Collections", "Online Resources", "Exhibits", "Teachers' Resources", "Visit the Virtual Archives", "Frequently Asked Questions", "Site Map", "Search Our Site" and "Contact Us". For present purposes, two of the links are particularly important: "Online Resources" and "Visit the Virtual Archives".

Click on the Online Resources link first. There you will see links to the Archives' "Online Indexes", "Online Documents", "Guide to the Collections", "Resources for Genealogists", "County Government Desk Reference" and "Virtual Archives". You should explore each of these links carefully.

To illustrate the utility of the Web site, I will use the "Online Indexes" area as an example of how to do research on Pelham. If you click on that link, you will see a page that -- if you scroll down quite a bit -- you will see all sorts of online indices to material that might include references to Pelham and/or present or former residents of Pelham. Near the bottom of the page is a link entitled "School Reports, 1828-1968 (gaps)". If you click on that link you will see on the left side of the resulting screen a series of alphabetized choices including choices from "North Castle" to "Rye". By clicking on that link, you will see a page containing an index of school reports available from the Archives. Scroll down to that portion of the index relating to Pelham. It includes references to Pelham School Report records from 1828 through 1961. You will also note at the top of the same page that you can order a copy of any such records by following the instructions available via a link. I have ordered school records from the late 1820s and early 1830s and received them quite promptly by mail.

There are a host of helpful indices available in this area of the Web site. Quite a number of them include important references to records relating to Pelham's early history.

Before leaving the site, please be sure to click on the link to the "Virtual Archives". You will be taken to a Web site located at: http://westchesterarchives.com/home.html. The site is an eye-catching and wonderfully informative collection of data and images relating to the topics treated on the site. So far, only two topics are addressed: "The Civil War Era in Westchester" and the "Bronx River Parkway Reservation HAER". More material is in the works and it won't be long before the material is added to the site.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Using the New York State and National Register of Historic Places Document Imaging Web Site To Research Pelham History

There is a Web site published by the New York State Historic Preservation Office dedicated to "New York's State and National Registers of Historic Places Document Imaging Project". The site allows visitors to search for properties in New York State that are listed in the Registers. Even more importantly, once a particular property in your area has been located, the Web site allows you to view and print the completed nomination form and photographs submitted at the time the property was added to the Registers. The nomination form, of course, typically includes a great deal of information regarding the history of the property and is an excellent secondary source for the local historian interested in learning more about local history.

The home page for the site is located at:

(You will have to click through a couple of disclaimer pages to get to the important home page.) There is an excellent set of instructions for use of the database on the home page of the site. To get started, you will observe a series of green tabs across the top of the screen. To begin your search, you must select one of the first three tabs. I prefer using the first tab, labeled the "Basic Criteria" tab.

By clicking on the tab you will see a search form that allows you to search on the following criteria: Property Name, County, Location, Level of Significance, NY National Register Number, Material, Architect, Historic Function / Use, Criteria, Criteria Consideration, Theme, and Multiple Property Component. In our quest to learn how to use this database, go to the "County" box and select "Westchester" from the County pick list. In the "Location" box, type the word Pelham. Go to the last of the green tabs at the top of the screen -- the one marked "View Your Result Set" and click on it.

You will see a result set containing six items. If you look very closely, you will notice that there actually are only three properties listed with a "Text" file and a "Photos" file for each of the three properties. The three properties are "Bolton Priory"; "Edgewood House"; and "Pelhamdale". We are going to look at the Edgewood House materials as we learn to use the system.

In the far right "View" column on the search results page, click on the little icon to the right of the "Text" reference in the fourth row down (Edgewood House Pelham Manor Westchester 90NR02549 Text). You should see a Security Certificate prompting you to decide whether you wish to trust the content you are about to download from Daeja Image Systems Ltd. You should click Yes and may also want to select the check box marked "Always trust content from Daeja Image Systems Ltd".

You next will see a "floating window" containing the nomination form for one of the buildings that formed part of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls (also known as Pelham Hall). The structure no longer exists. Although it is on the National and State Registers, it was torn down a few years ago. You can read about the history of the School and the structure and will see a brief bibliography at the end of the document that will help you do additional research.

If you return to your search results page, you may click on the little icon to the right of the "Photos" reference in the fourth row down. You will be able to review the photographs of Edgewood House included as part of the National and State Registers nomination process. An example of one such photograph appears below.

As with all online searches, you must be overbroad and quite creative. Think of important local structures in which you might be interested. Are they likely to be included in the database? Think of surrounding areas -- i.e., Bronx County where the Bartow-Pell Mansion is located. Are there nearby structures in Mount Vernon (e.g., St. Paul's Church National Historic Site) or in New Rochelle (e.g., Thomas Paine's Cottage) in which you might also be interested? You must structure your search queries broadly enough to encompass such structures.

The database is a wonderful source of information about our local history. Indeed, you might be surprised and find it quite enjoyable to mine its contents carefully!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Oldest Tombstone in Westchester County

Please visit the Historic Pelham Web site

The current issue of The Westchester Historian, a quarterly journal published by the Westchester County Historical Society, is particularly informative. The entire issue contains a wonderful article by Norman T. MacDonald entitled "Benjamin Brandreth: The Pill Man of Sing Sing, New York." In addition, the journal contains a series of "Westchester Vignettes" including one devoted to the oldest tombstone in Westchester County. See Kelly, Kate, Oldest Tombstone In Westchester Turns 300, The Westchester Historian, Vol. 81, No. 1, p. 25 (Winter 2005).

A photograph of the tombstone taken by local historian Gray Williams appears on the Web site of St. Paul's Church National Historic Site. It is framed below and will continue to display for as long as it is maintained in its current location on the Web site of St. Paul's Church National Historic Site.

St. Paul's Church

Construction of the walls and steeple of the magnificent structure began in about 1763, almost a century after the church was first founded. In 1942 the structure was restored to its 18th century appearance based on the original pew plan created in 1787. In front of the church is what remains of the famous village green – a strip of land between the churchyard fence and South Columbus Avenue.

The Church stands on land purchased by Thomas Pell from local Native Americans. Early Pelham settlers worshiped in the church and are buried in its cemetery. German troops used the church as a field hospital after the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776. The Reverend Robert Bolton, founder of Christ Church in Pelham, served as Rector of the Church from 1837 to 1843. In short, the history of Saint Paul’s is woven into the rich tapestry of Pelham’s history.

To learn more about St. Paul's Church, see Bell, Blake A., Early History of Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 29, Jul. 23, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

The Tombstone

As the photograph above indicates, the tombstone is inscribed as follows:

"RS D.
14 . 1704"

The tombstone is the oldest among the many in the cemetery at St. Paul's Church. It is carved from a schist fieldstone and once marked the grave of Richard Shute. According to research prepared by St. Paul's Church National Historic Site, "Shute was one of the founders of Eastchester in 1665. The early town meeting records are in his handwriting because he was town clerk for 38 years. When he died the town was still small enough so that he could be identified with only his initials." See St. Paul's Church National Historic Site, The Historic Cemetery: 18th Century Stone: R S (visited Mar. 15, 2005) <http://www.nps.gov/sapa/cemetery/RS.html>.

The records left by Town Clerk Richard Shute have been transcribed by the Eastchester Historical Society. The records tell us much about the early history of neighboring Pelham.

In the recent "Vignette" devoted to the stone that appeared in The Westchester Historian, Kate Kelly wrote as follows:

"According to Gray Williams, an expert on colonial graveyards and carvers, Shute's death came at the end of an era in which most graves were marked simply by placing field stones at the head and feet of a buried body to prevent new graves from being dug in the same spot. The fact that Richard Shute was given a marked headstone showed his significance to the community." Kelly, Kate, Oldest Tombstone In Westchester Turns 300, The Westchester Historian, Vol. 81, No. 1, p. 25 (Winter 2005).

Last December, a small ceremony was held at St. Paul's to mark the 300th anniversary of the death of Richard Shute and the placement of his headstone. That headstone marked his grave until recently when it fell over. Curators reportedly have removed the stone and placed it inside the church for safekeeping. Id.

Richard Shute's headstone is believed to be the oldest extant tombstone in Westchester County.

Please visit the Historic Pelham Web site
Located at