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.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Beginning of Organized Fire Fighting in Pelham Manor?

On January 19, 2006 I posted an item to the Historic Pelham Blog entitled "Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment". In it I described self-imposed "assessments" made on Village of Pelham Manor residents in 1890 to fund the purchase of fourteen dozen hand grenade extinguishers, fifty six racks for the extinguishers and a chemical engine (Chemical Engine No. 1) to fight fires in the area.

I have continued my research and have located even earlier organized firefighting efforts by residents of the area that became the Village of Pelham Manor in 1891. Today's Blog posting will detail a little of that research.

In the early 1880s, a group of local residents formed a “Citizen’s vigilante committee”. That committee, in turn, created an organization known as “The Pelham Manor Protective Club.” The Pelham Manor Protective Club was formally organized on December 15, 1881 – ten years before incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. Indeed, the Club might be viewed as a precursor to the organization of the Village because it was an important cooperative body created for the protection of the local citizenry.

Nearly the entire adult male population of the area – 52 local residents – subscribed as members of the Pelham Manor Protective Club. The list of subscribers reads like a “Who’s Who” of early Pelham, including such names as Robert C. Black, Robert Bolton, Benjamin Corlies, Henry W. Taft, Silas H. Witherbee and many others. The sole purpose of the Club was “to assist the public authorities in maintaining law and order within a radius of one mile from Pelham Manor Depot . . . and to prosecute all persons committing any crimes or misdemeanors within said district.” Given the importance of its work, the Protective Club was able to raise a substantial amount of money.

Upon “subscribing” to the Club, each new member was required to pay an entrance fee of three dollars and, thereafter, to pay “such dues, not exceeding fifty cents a month, as the Executive Committee shall determine.” In addition, the “Articles of Association of The Pelham Manor Protective Club” authorized the five-member Executive Committee “to levy assessments for any legitimate object of this club, provided that assessments levied by the executive committee on any one member in any one year shall not exceed in the aggregate the sum of NINE DOLLARS over and above the regular dues.”

Recently, Elizabeth G. Fuller, Librarian of The Westchester County Historical Society, discovered a very large leather-bound volume containing more than ten years' worth of handwritten meeting minutes and other records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club. I have been transcribing the ten years' worth of records contained in that volume. See Wed. February 23, 2005: The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club from Dealer in Tarrytown, NY.

This past weekend I reviewed my transcription of those records and located even earlier efforts by Pelham Manor residents to organize collective firefighting efforts. The idea seems first to have been explored by the Executive Committee of the organization on May 2, 1885. An entry that appears on page 101 of the volume states:

"It was moved and seconded, that a Committee of two be appointed to consider and report on the best means of providing security against fire in Pelham Manor. This motion was carried. The Chair appointed as members of this Committee Messrs. Black and Barnett."

About one month later, the Messrs. Black and Barnett made their report to the Executive Committee. They reported:

"The Committee on providing means for Protection against Fire reported that 50 feet of ¾” hose with a Pump-on-Wheels could be purchased for $25.00 @ $30.00 But the Committee recommended the purchase of the Harden Hand Grenades at price quoted to Mr. Barnett, viz $8.00 per dozen net, including wire racks; and stated that the agent of these grenades would be glad to give a public exhibition in Pelham Manor of the working of the grenades."

Records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club, p. 107.

The Executive Committee accepted the report and decided to purchase the grenades. The relevant entries that appear on the same page of the Journal, state:

"It was moved and seconded : That the Report of the Fire Committee be accepted with thanks. Carried.

It was moved and seconded : That the Executive Committee purchase 6 dozen of the Harden Hand Grenades at $8.00 per dozen, including racks and, an exhibition, and that the Treasurer and Mr. Barnett be appointed a Committee for making the said purchase. This was carried.

It was moved and seconded : That the Executive Committee purchase 6 dozen of the Harden Hand Grenades at $8.00 per dozen, including racks and, an exhibition, and that the Treasurer and Mr. Barnett be appointed a Committee for making the said purchase. This was carried."

This, for now, seems to be the earliest collective effort by Pelham Manor to organize firefighting capabilities for the benefit of local residents.

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


Post a Comment

<< Home