Historic Pelham

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Pelham Manor Protective Club Flexed its Muscles in the 1886 Town Elections

As I noted yesterday, occasionally I have published to the Historic Pelham Blog information about the work of the Pelham Manor Protective Club first established in 1881 as a "Vigilance Committee" to oversee the health and welfare of Pelham Manor residents a decade before the incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. See:

Tue. January 24, 2006: 1890 Circular of The Pelham Manor Protective Club on Lamp Lighting

Wed. February 23, 2005: The Westchester County Historical Society Acquires Records of The Pelham Manor Protective Club from Dealer in Tarrytown, NY

Mon. January 23, 2006: The Beginnings of Organized Fire Fighting in Pelham Manor?

Today's posting discusses what may, in fact, be the catalyst that prompted residents of Pelham Manor to incorporate as a Village in 1891. That catalyst may have been the success of the Pelham Manor Protective Club in its successful efforts to influence the outcome of the 1886 town-wide elections held on March 30, 1886.

For years residents of Pelham Manor had been dissatisfied with town officials, many of whom lived on City Island which then was part of Pelham. They did not feel that their hamlet was getting the service or the attention it deserved from distant officials who lived on City Island.

During the 1880s, Pelham Manor residents grew increasingly unhappy with the fact that through their "Protective Club" they were providing night watchman services while the Town's constabulary force resided on City Island. In late 1885 and early 1886 the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club decided that it would enter town politics by attempting to get a slate of candidates sympathetic to the needs of Pelham Manor elected to town-wide positions. When the smoke cleared, the Club's efforts had been so successful that its members began to realize for the first time that they had developed an organization with potent political pull.

Immediately below is the text of the April 3, 1886 report of the Executive Committee's subcommittee on Town Politics regarding the March 30, 1886 election as entered in the minutes of the Pelham Manor Protective Club on May 7, 1886:

"To the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club:

Your committee on town politics have the honor to report as follows:

We have been actively engaged in the matters intrusted to us, and the results as shown in the Town Election held March 30th 1886, were such as demonstrate conclusively that our Protective Club exerts and can continue to exert great influence in determining the election of our town officers. We know to a certainty that 29 votes were cast for the candidates recommended by your committee. Of these 23 would naturally have been cast for Republican and 6 for Democratic candidates. We have reason to suppose that the recommendations of your committee were adopted in the ballots of others of whose votes we have no certain knowledge.

For Supervisor your committee recommended the election of the Republican candidate, Robert H. Scott. Mr. Scott rec’d 206 votes against 207 votes cast for the Democratic candidate, Mr. Pell.

For Justice of the Peace, Jerome Bell, Republican, your committee’s candidate was elected by a majority of two votes.

For Town Clerk, our candidate, Ethan W. Waterhouse, Republican, was elected by a majority of 57 votes. The nomination of Mr. Waterhouse by the Republicans was largely due to the work of your Committee.

For Collector of Taxes, our candidate, John S. Adema, Democrat, received a majority of 78 votes; and for Assessor, our candidate, James F. Horton, Democrat, was elected by a majority of ^ 66.

Your committee secured the placing of the names of Joseph English for Poundmaster, and James Burnet and James Donlon for Constables on both of the regular tickets, so that all these three officers were duly elected.

To sum up the results of the active participation of the Protective Club as a body in the town elections:

Our candidate for Supervisor was defeated by only one vote. Our candidates for Town Clerk, Justice of the Peace, Collector and Assessor were elected: and we have secured for Pelham Manor a Poundmaster and two Constables residing in our midst. Further than this, the influence of our Protective Club as a potent factor in town politics is now fully established.

The exertions of your committee to accomplish these results would have been fruitless but for the cordial and almost unanimous support given by the members of the Club to the recommendations of the committee We believe that every member of the club who went to the polls, voted for the committee’s candidates. Only four members of the club, so far as we are aware, who could have voted, remained away from the polls. Two members are ineligible.
Your committee have been aided and supported at every step by members of the club. Our thanks and the thanks of the club are especially due to Messrs Barnett, Taft & Black & Townsend, without whose wise counsels and personal exertions, your committee would have been unable to present this satisfactory report.


Wm Allen Smith

Pelham Manor. Apl 3, 1886."

Perhaps the most interesting part of the 1886 election was Democrat Sherman Pell's victory over Republican Robert H. Scott for the position of Town Supervisor. (Pell later absconded with Town funds and was never caught.) There were allegations of voter fraud in the election and that such fraud was responsible for Pell's victory.

Sherman Pell reportedly was popular in Pelham. People remarked that he carried the town “in his pocket”. See No Tidings Yet of Mr. Pell, N.Y. Times, May 28, 1893, p. 9. In 1885, Pell ran as a Democrat against Republican Robert H. Scott for Town Supervisor of Pelham. The election was a close one. Scott beat Pell by ten votes. See City and Suburban News – Westchester County, N.Y. Times, Apr. 2, 1885, p. 8.

The following year, Sherman Pell ran once again against Republican Robert H. Scott for Town Supervisor. The election was even closer than the previous one. On March 30, 1886, Sherman Pell won the election by a single vote, but not without the shadow of scandal.

Pell’s Republican opponent announced that he intended to contest the election “on the ground that 25 persons who voted for Mr. Pell were brought over from Hart’s Island, and that two-thirds of them were New-York paupers having no right to vote.” Westchester County, N.Y. Times, Apr. 3, 1886, p. 8.

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