Historic Pelham

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Road Company "Builds" Shore Road in Pelham

There is a tiny reference in Lockwood Barr's history of Pelham published in 1946 that references efforts in the early 19th century to turn the roadway we know today as "Shore Road" into a "real" road rather than a country path. The reference reads as follows:

"The Shore Road was made into a real road by the Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Co., incorporated April 5, 1817."

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 & Manour of Pelham Also The Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, p. 51 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

I have had much difficulty researching the background and existence of The Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Company. At least one source suggests that the name of the company actually was "Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Road Company". A brief notice that referenced the company appeared in the July 3, 1817 issue of Commercial Advertiser. The announcement provided notice of a meeting to elect the directors of the Company and reveals some details regarding the company. The notice reads as follows:

"NOTICE is hereby given, that an election of Directors in the Westchester and Pelham Turnpike Road Company will be held at the office of Thomas C. Taylor, situate at No. 41 Robinson-street, in the third ward of the city of New-York, on the first Monday of August next, at the hour of 12 o'clock at noon; at which time and place the subscribers of shares in the said company, are notified to attend accordingly. Dated this 3d day of July, 1817.

B.W. ROGERS, } Commissioners.

july 3-law4w"

Source: NOTICE, Commercial Advertiser, Jul. 3, 1817, p. 3.

The same notice also appeared on July 16, July 17 and July 22. See NOTICE, Commercial Advertiser, Jul. 16, 1817, p. 4; NOTICE, Commercial Advertiser, Jul. 17, 1817, p. 4; NOTICE, Commercial Advertiser, Jul. 22, 1817, p. 4.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Another Description of the Farm of Rem Rapelje of Pelham Published in 1806

On August 24, 2005 I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "1807 Advertisement for Sale of Property of Rem Rapelje in Pelham". In it I quoted an advertisement offering the farm of recently-deceased Rem Rapelje for lease. The brief advertisement sheds light on what the farm was like.

While performing unrelated research, I recently ran across an earlier advertisement that provides some additional information about the farm. That advertisement is quoted below.

"TO LET, at Pelham, Westchester county, 19 miles from New-York by the Boston post road - a comfortable dwelling having 4 rooms with fire places, several attic rooms with garrett above all, a large spacious cellar under the whole house, a large kitchen joining the house by an enclosed passage with servants rooms above, a large dairy, a smoke house, a large coach house, with stables, a large garden with excellent fruit, two good meadows, one is covered with an orchard of the best grafted apples and pears, and a large pasture lot both fresh and salt, and privilege of wood, being altogether between 20 and 30 acres of land. This place is favorable for game and fish, having water near it on every side, and late the residence of R. Rapelje, deceased. . . . .

Apply to G. RAPELJE, no. 14 Vesey street
Feb 14"

Source: To Let, American Citizen, Feb. 19, 1806, p. 4.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Notice of Settlement of the Estate of Alexander Henderson of Pelham in 1805

Research has uncovered a brief notice of the settlement of the estate of Alexander Henderson of Pelham published in the June 5, 1805 issue of the New-York Spectator. The brief notice reads as follows:


HAVING any demands against the estate of Alexander Henderson, Esq. of the town of Pelham, in the conuty [sic] of West-Chester, deceased, are requested to present their accounts for settlement, and those indebted to make immediate payment to ROBERT ROSS, Acting Executor.

East Chester, May 1, 1805.

may 11 Sp1m*"

Source: All Persons, New-York Spectator, Jun. 5, 1805, p. 4.

Alexander Henderson once owned the island later known as Hunter's Island in the Town of Pelham. Fanciful legends have arisen regarding Henderson. Indeed, Lockwood Barr wrote much about him in his popular history of the Town of Pelham published in 1946. Excerpted below are portions of Barr's work relating to Alexander Henderson.

"The first conveyance of the Island [Hunter's Island] found in the office of the County Clerk of Westchester, is a deed dated January 17, 1797, transferring an Island ". . . commonly called Appleby's. . ." from John Blagge to Alexander Henderson. A map of the Town of Pelham, dated February 28, 1798, shows the Island as Henderson's.

The earliest reference to Alexander Henderson, being in New Rochelle, is in an original parchment deed now in the New York Historical Society files, dated February 1, 1794, from Nicholas H. Bogart, Farmer of New Rochelle to Alexander Henderson, Merchant of New York City, for a tract of 40 acres adjoining the Boston Road, the lands of Jacob Abramse, Newberry Davenport, and Tho. Huntington--which, of course, was not the Island, but a tract on the mainland.

Here is another early reference to Alexander Henderson. On April 28, 1795 the vestry of Trinity Church appointed Trustees to superintend the erection of an Academy upon the lands of the Church. Among them were Alexander Henderson, Philip Lee, Isaac Roosevelt, Herman LeRoy. The Rector was Rev. Theodosius Bartow, whose daughter, Theodosia, married Aaron Burr. A stock company to operate the school was incorporated April 13, 1826, and among the directors were John Hunter and Herman LeRoy, Jr.

Alexander Henderson, a bachelor, was born 1757 in Charleston, S. C., educated as a physician and surgeon in Scotland, and served as a surgeon with the British Army in India, according to Scharf's History of Westchester. While in India--so the romantic story goes-- Henderson was called upon by a great Rajah to administer to one of his favorite wives who was seriously ill. Henderson worked such an amazing cure, that the Rajah paid him some fabulous sum. As further evidence of his gratitude, the Rajah presented Henderson with his favorite daughter, then but a child, as a future bride-to-be. Proof that Henderson was in India is to be found in his will. Capt. James Hague, an old sea dog, who commanded his own ship in the East Indies trade, then resided in Pelham. Henderson is said to have commissioned Capt. Hague to bring the young lady to Pelham on one of his trips. The young lady, however, refused to make the voyage. Henderson adopted her brother named him William, and reared him as his own son. That is the romantic story as related by Scharf.

Alexander Henderson died December 26, 1804 and is buried in the old French Cemetery, Division and Union Streets, now part of Trinity Church Cemetery, New Rochelle. By his side lies the son, William, who died in 1812, aged 25 years, according to his tombstone inscription. [Tombstone inscription--old French Cemetery, Division and Union Streets, New Rochelle, N. Y.: "In Memory of Alexander Bampfield Henderson a native of Charleston, S. C. but late of the Town of Pel ham and County of Westchester, departed this life 26 Dec. 1804 aged forty-seven years. In Memory of William Henderson who departed this life Jan. (or June) 19, 1812, in the 25th year of his life."]

William Henderson, the son, bequeathed money to build a Town Hall in New Rochelle, but due to litigation in settling his estate the Town did not get the gift until 1828 when a settlement was made for $3,550. The Town Hall stood where the present City Hall is, but the building is now at No. 10 Lawton Street, New Rochelle. At a Town Meeting on March 27, 1855, money was voted to put up an iron fence enclosing graves of William and Alexander Henderson."

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 & Manour of Pelham Also The Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, pp. 91-93 (The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Using the Collection Database of the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture

In November 2000, The New-York Historical Society opened The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on the fourth floor of the Society's facility at 170 Central Park West in New York City. The collection includes nearly 40,000 objects relating to the history of New York and the United States. The Center encompasses 21,000 square feet and is available to the public.

Significantly, the Center makes its collection database available online for study. Today's Historic Pelham blog posting will provide tips on using the collection database to perform research relating to the history of Pelham, New York. This posting is another in a series of postings intended to provide guidance on using the Web to perform such research. Previous postings include:

November 4, 2005: Google Print Adds Many Public Domain Books of Use to Local Historians to its Virtual Library

September 7, 2005: Using Google Print To Further Your Local History Research

July 15, 2005: Using Cornell University Library's "New York State Historical Literature" Digital Collection

June 20, 2005: Using Cornell University Library's "Making of America" Digital Library of Primary Sources to Perform Research Regarding Pelham

March 17, 2005: Using the Westchester County Archives Web Site To Assist With Research Regarding the History of Pelham

March 16, 2005: Using the New York State and National Register of Historic Places Document Imaging Web Site To Research Pelham History

March 8, 2005: New York Public Library Unveils "NYPL Digital" -- Online Collection Contains Many Images Relating To Pelham's History

March 3, 2005: Using the Web To Find Books and Materials Relating to the History of Pelham

February 18, 2005: Finding Photographs of Pelham in the Online "American Memory Collection" of the Library of Congress

February 14, 15 and 16, 2005: Studying Antique Maps of Pelham Using Online Services That Provide High Resolution Scans - Part I, Part II and Part III

February 9, 2005: Searching The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1841 - 1902) for Information About Pelham

February 8, 2005: Searching Historic Newspapers Online for Information About Pelham

Online access to the Collection Database of The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture is yet another online resource that can assist with research regarding Pelham's History. The home page is located at http://luceweb.nyhistory.org/luceweb/start.htm.

As with all such systems, it is a best practice to review the advanced search features before beginning your research. The advanced search feature of this site is designated "Expanded Search" and is located at http://luceweb.nyhistory.org/luceweb/search_expanded1.htm. Careful review of that page, however, reveals that the most sophisticated form of search available from the site is the search using "multiple criteria". That search page is available at http://luceweb.nyhistory.org/luceweb/search_expanded_multiple.htm

For this exercise, start on the multiple criteria search page. In the field labeled "Object Title", type Pelham and click on the "Execute Search" button at the foot of the page (or hit your "Enter" key). You should see descriptions of seven items responsive to your search, five of which relate to Pelham, New York including descriptions of sketches of Pelham scenes made in the 1930s by Vernon Howe Bailey and an engraving of Bolton Priory created by William Rickarby Miller in 1854.

Next try a simplified search on the same "search results" page by using the dialogue box at the very top of the page that contains the phrase "Enter search term. . . " In that box type Pelham and hit your "Enter" key. This time you will see more than 150 search results, many of which relate to Pelham, New York. Some of the search results include images of the objects in the Center's collection. For example, there are images of such objects as: (1) an oil portrait of Reverend Robert Bolton of Bolton Priory and Christ Church painted in 1818 by William Etty; (2) an oil portrait by the same artist depicting Mrs. Robert Bolton and Children, William and Anne, in 1818; and (3) an ancient lock and key believed to have once been used at Bolton Priory.

Remember, as always, that you should be creative when searching such collections. Think of search terms that may reveal items relating to the history of the area even though the item descriptions do not contain the word "Pelham".

It is also possible to browse the collections by categories. The entire collection of approximately 40,000 items is organized into 53 categories. Objects within each category can be browsed at this location: http://luceweb.nyhistory.org/luceweb/category_browse_list.htm.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Doll Depicting Nanette Bolton in the Collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham

The collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham include a fascinating doll dressed in what appears to be a mourning outfit with documentation indicating that it depicts Nanette Bolton of Pelham Manor. Nanette Bolton was a daughter of Reverend Robert Bolton, who founded Christ Church in Pelham Manor in 1838.

She 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. After her death in July 1884, former pupils of the Priory School and members of the Parish of Christ Church decided to express their love with a memorial building to expand the facilities of the parish. Thus, in 1885 and 1886 the Parish raised funds and built the Nanette Bolton Memorial Building immediately adjacent to Christ Church. To read more about the building and the memorial stone set into its exterior wall, see:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005: The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Building at Christ Church in Pelham Manor.

A photograph of the doll appears immediately below. It is stored in a box that contains a typewritten label. An image of the typewritten label appears below the photograph of the doll. Beneath that image, the text of the label is transcribed to facilitate full text searching.


(Gamma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma)

Made by Miss Dorothy Bacheller, Director of Home Economics Mamaroneck Public Schools -- 1880 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont, N. Y."

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Silas H. Witherbee and His Influence on the Village of Pelham Manor

Silas H. Witherbee was born in 1815. He lived for many years in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan at 228 Madison Avenue. He was the father of Mary Witherbee who married Robert C. Black of the internationally-renowned jewelry firm Black, Starr & Frost. Although he never lived in Pelham, he had an important influence on the area that became the Village of Pelham Manor in the 1870s and 1880s.

He owned much of the land in area and gave much of that land to his daughter on the condition that she live there and develop the lands. He was an influential member of the Pelham Manor Protective Club (apparently to remain informed regarding his "investment" in the lands that eventually became part of the Village of Pelham Manor).

Witherbee was a member of Witherbee, Sherman & Co., a firm involved in a host of ventures including Lake Champlain Iron Mines. See Funeral of Mr. Witherbee, N.Y. Times, Jun. 13, 1889, p. 4. Witherbee also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of The National Trust Company and a member of the Board of Directors of The Security Bank of the City of New-York. See The National Trust Company, N.Y. Times, Sep. 30, 1871, p. 6; Election, N.Y. Times, May 17, 1872, p. 6. He was among the incorporators of the New York, Connecticut and Boston Railway. See The New Boston Line, N.Y. Times, Feb. 8, 1882, p. 5. He also summered in a cottage on Honeyman Hill in Newport, Rhode Island. See The Newport Cottagers, N.Y. Times, Jun. 26, 1887, p. 11.

Silas Witherbee was an important supporter of The Pelham Manor & Huguenot Heights Association formed in 1873 to develop a railroad suburb in Pelham, New York founded by two of his nephews, among others. However, with the onset of the financial Depression of the 1870s, the Association reportedly could not meet its obligations and, eventually, entered receivership. See Randall, Evelyn, A “Highly Superior” Village, The Pelham Sun, May 19, 1949.

Some sources contend that the Association “failed” in 1876. See, e.g., A Glance At The Past – Pelham’s Growth From 1775 – 1975, p. 16 (Pelham, NY: The Junior League of Pelham, Inc. 1975). However, minutes of a special meeting of the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club held on May 16, 1885 make clear that the Association was involved in receivership proceedings in White Plains, New York nine years later in 1885.

Silas Witherbee, his daugher Mary and her husband Robert Black worked tirelessly to develop the area that became known as Pelham Manor. Indeed, at the time of his death in 1889, Silas Witherbee was helping his daughter arrange the opening of "Pelham Hall", also known as Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in a home owned by the Black family. The intent was to develop a notable school to attract home purchasers to the area.

Silas H. Witherbee died of pneumonia at his home located at 228 Madison Avenue in New York City at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, 1889. A brief obituary appeared in the June 10 and June 11, 1889 issues of The New York Times. It read:

“WITHERBEE.—At his residence, 228 Madison av., at 10 o’clock Saturday evening, of pneumonia, Silas H. Witherbee, in the 75th year of his age.

Services will be held at his late residence Tuesday afternoon, at 3 o’clock. Funeral services will be held Wednesday afternoon in Port Henry, N. Y., where the interment will take place.”

DIED . . . WITHERBEE, N.Y. Times, Jun. 10, 1889, p. 5. See also DIED . . . WITHERBEE, N.Y. Times, Jun. 11, 1889, p. 5.

The New York Times also carried a brief report on Mr. Witherbee’s funeral several days later. The item read:


Port Henry, N. Y., June 12.—The funeral of Silas H. Witherbee of Witherbee, Sherman & Co., Port Henry, who resided at 228 Madison-avenue, New-York, took place from the Presbyterian Church here this afternoon. The remains arrived from New-York by special train at noon. There was a large attendance.

Three hundred miners headed the procession, and two hundred more joined them at Moriah Union Cemetery, where the remains were placed in the family vault.

Mr. Witherbee was President of the Port Henry Furnace Company, Vice President of the Port Henry Iron Ore Company, and Director in the Lake Champlain and Moriah Railroad, Port Henry National Bank, and many other corporations. He was born in 1815. He died Saturday last.”

FUNERAL OF MR. WITHERBEE, N.Y. Times, Jun. 13, 1889, p. 4.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Origins of The Pelham Village Club, An Early 20th Century Social Club

For many years a tiny clubhouse stood in the Village of North Pelham. It was the home of The Pelham Village Club, a social organization that rose to affluence in the early 20th century. Today's Historic Blog posting transcribes an article from the April 10, 1910 issue of The Pelham Sun detailing the origins of the Club. The transcription appears immediately below.


North Pelham in the Village Club of Pelham [sic] possesses an eminently successful social organization.

The history of the club dates back to 1903, when under the name of the Lyceum Club a number of gentlemen obtained permission from the Rev. Francis McNichol to use the Lyceum as a meeting place. Under the presidency of Mr. Ed Larkin the club was quite successful and very enjoyable to its nearly thirty members. Its purposes were literary as well as social.

From the Lyceum Club the name was changed to the Pelham Club and the little Clark house on First avenue, near Second street was hired for the use of the club. During this period David Algie was presiding officer. Social gatherings and card parties, etc., were greatly enjoyed in the little club house, but as the membership kept increasing the quarters became too small and the club had to look around for a larger and more up-to-date place.

Then several gentlemen, among whom John H. Young and Seth T. Lyman were foremost, evolved the idea of putting up a brand new, modern club house. For this purpose a stock company was organized under the name of the Hutchinson Realty Company, and the beautiful building pictured above is the result.

During the erection of this building the Pelham Club met in homes of members alternately. It was about this time that the disastrous Vaughn fire occurred, by which so many suffered heavy losses. The Pelham Club set to work with a will to relieve the wants of the sufferers, and by diat of hard work collected in the neighborhood of $1,300, which amount was judiciously distributed.

The club earned new laurels from the whole town when in 1907 it took the initiative to celebrate Independence Day on a magnificent scale.

That particular Fourth of July still remains a happy memory with the young and old of the town. In several other ways the club had occasion to show its civic usefulness.

When the Hutchinson Realty Company had finished its building in the fall of 1909, the Pelham Club became the tenant, at the same time changing its name to the Village Club of Pelham, under which it is now know [sic].

It now has approximately seventy-five members, and in reality is the local social centre.

Dances are held, card parties given, bowling enjoyed on the splendid alleys, and the rooms are often used by members for private entertainments.

The officers of the Village Club of Pelham for the present year are: President, Lewis C. Young; recording secretary, H. Wilson; financial secretary, Emil Ericson; treasurer John T. Logan.

The Board of Directors consists of the following: Lewis C. Young, H. E. Coe, Peter Ceder, William Wehcke and Seth T. Lyman.

The present House Committee is composed as follows: Messrs George Rpert, Francis Scanlon, Robert [illegible], Albert Logan, Andrew Heiser and Chistopher Smults."

Source: The Pelham Village Club, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Apr. 10, 1910, p. 1, col. 4.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Runaway Slave Notice Published by John Pell in 1748 Comes To Light

Slowly, but inexorably, the dust bin of history is giving up more and more information about the sad history of slavery in New York. The sadly overwhelming landmark exhibition by the New-York Historical Society entitled "Slavery In New York" (extended through March 26, 2006) is one example of recent efforts to shed light in this area.

Pelham, New York was no exception to the participation by New Yorkers in the tragedy of human slavery. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting relates a recently-uncovered notice published by John Pell of Pelham in 1748 offering a reward for return of a number of so-called "runaway slaves".

There are a number of important resources that cast light on slavery in Pelham, New York. Among them are:

Bell, Blake A., Records of Slavery and Slave Manumissions in 18th and 19th Century Pelham, Vol. XIII, No. 27, The Pelham Weekly, Jul. 9, 2004.

Harris, William A., Records Related to Slave Manumissions: Pelham, New York, Vol. 123(3), The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, pp. 145-47 (Jul. 1992).

O'Callaghan, E.B., The Documentary History of the State of New-York, Vol. III, (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co., Public Printers 1850) (Report prepared by "John Pell, Captain of the Mannor of Pelham" on April 12, 1755 entitled "A True List of all the Slaves Both Male & Female in the Mannour of Pelham Above the Age of Fourteen Years according to me made in Submission to the present Malitia [sic] Act of General Assembly of this province").

Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, New York [Copy of the Printed Census for New York 1790], NARA Microfilm #T498, Reel #2, Printed by the Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1908).

Westchester County Archives, Affidavit of John Purvis and Alexander Purvis dated May 17, 1806 swearing they have imported into the State three slaves owned for more than one year: Charlotte, Patience and the son of Patience named Joe.

Town Minutes of the Town of Pelham 1801-1850, pp. 196, 199, 200-02, 205-06, 207.

Mon. July 18, 2005: Pelham Manor Runaway Slave Notice in August 29, 1789 Issue of The New-York Packet.

Recently while performing unrelated research, I uncovered four advertisements published in November and December, 1748 by John Pell of Pelham offering a reward for the return of six slaves who had "RUN away". The text of the advertisement and its citation appear immediately below:

"RUN away from John Pell, of the Mannor of Pelham, a Negro Wench named Bell, a Boy named Janneau, a Girl named Tamer, another named Dinah, and another named Issabel; also a Negro Man named Lewis. Whoever will take up said Negroes, and bring them to John Pell aforesaid, shall have Five Pounds Reward, and all reasonable Charges, paid by JOHN PELL."

Source: Run Away From John Pell, The New-York Gazette, Revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Nov. 14, 1748, p. 3.

Also published as:

Run Away From John Pell, The New-York Gazette, Revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Nov. 21, 1748, p. 4.

Run Away From John Pell, The New-York Gazette, Revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Nov. 28, 1748, p. 4.

Run Away From John Pell, The New-York Gazette, Revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Dec. 5, 1748, p. 4.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Evidence of the Use of Thomas Pell's Insignia To Seal a Letter from Lion Gardiner in 1636

Students of Pelham history know that long before he acquired the lands that became the Manor of Pelham from local Native Americans, Thomas Pell served as a surgeon at the tiny settlement of Fort Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River under the leadership of Lion Gardiner. There is interesting evidence that in 1636, during the time Pell was at the small settlement, a letter sent by Lion Gardiner to John Winthrop, Jr. was sealed with the Pell family insignia. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting provides information about this evidence.

Lion Gardiner was born in 1599. He served in the army of the Prince of Orange in the Low Countries as a military engineer responsible for designing fortifications.

He and his wife, Mary Wilemson Gardiner, emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in late 1635. The following spring, he, his wife and a small group of settlers left the Boston area for the mouth of the Connecticut River where they built a fort and lived for four years. Among the settlers at Fort Saybrook was Thomas Pell.

During the settlers' time at the Fort, the Pequot War began. The settlers successfully defended the Fort from attack in the spring of 1637. In May of that year, Gardiner, John Mason and John Underhill were authorized to undertake an expedition against Pequot Native Americans and, on May 26, slaughtered an entire village of Pequots nearly exterminating the tribe.

In the book "Lion Gardiner and His Descendants" editd by Curtiss C. Gardiner and published by A. Whipple of St. Louis, MO in 1890, there is an interesting discussion of a letter that Lion Gardiner sent to John Winthrop, Jr., Connecticut's first governor, on November 6, 1636. Facsimiles of the seal and Lion Gardiner's signature from the letter appear immediately below.

The author points out that he was unaware of any family insignia borne by Lion Gardiner, his son, his grandson nor his great grandson. (Pg. xviii). Yet, the above-referenced letter contains a seal. Additionally, according to the author, the same seal was affixed to a letter by John Higginson, the Chaplain of the Fort, during his Chaplaincy. (Id.) The author notes that there is evidence that "early colonists were accustomed to stamp their letters with any seal conveniently at hand; therefore, the mere fact that a letter of that period should be found stamped with a certain seal does not of itself furnish sufficient ground for presuming that particular seal was the family insignia of the person who stamped the letter." (Pg. xix).

The author next notes evidence of particular interest to those who are students of Thomas Pell. He wrote:

"Thomas Pell, the surgeon of the fort at Saybrooke, was of the family of Pell of Walter Willoughby, Lincolnshire, England; and his family insignia were: ARMS -- Ermine on a canton azure a pelican vulning herself. CREST--On a chaplet vert flowered or a pelican of the first, vulned gules. Granted Oct. 19, 1594. . . . It will be observed that the Pell family crest, above described, is an exact description of the seal stamped on Lion Gardiner's Saybrooke letter." (Pg. xix).

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The First Lawsuit Ever Filed Against Pelham Manor?

Review of the records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club has revealed another interesting tidbit -- evidence of what seems to be the first lawsuit ever filed against "Pelham Manor". The suit was filed in early 1889 which was, of course, two years before the actual incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor. The suit was filed against the Pelham Manor Protective Club in connection with the role it played as a virtual village government servicing the needs of Pelham Manor residents who were dissatisfied with the attention they were getting from the Town of Pelham. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little information about the suit.

For those who wish to learn more about the Pelham Manor Protective Club, see the following:

Thu. February 2, 2006: The Day Residents of Pelham Manor Decided to Incorporate a Village

Wed. Jan. 25, 2006: The Pelham Manor Protective Club Flexed its Muscles in the 1886 Town Elections

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

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

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

Bell, Blake A., The Pelham Manor Protective Club Founded in 1881, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 24, Jun. 11, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

During the 1880s, the area that had come to be known as Pelham Manor was plagued by "tramps". The Pelham Manor Protective Club prepared posters to be displayed throughout the region offering a ten dollar reward for the arrest and conviction of any tramp. The minutes of the Executive Committee of the Club contain a list of the many locations where such posters were placed. Among the many locations of such posters were places near the Bartow Station on the Branch Line and along today's Shore Road near the structure known as the Bartow-Pell Mansion.

The posters were placed, of course, for reasons including their deterrent value. Tramps were known to ride the Branch Line and were discovered on several occasions living in small encampments within what later became today's Pelham Bay Park when that area was part of the Town of Pelham. Pelham Manor residents hoped "tramps" would see the posters and move on to other communities.

The By-Laws of the Pelham Manor Protective Club, however, provided that the Club's protections extended to all areas within one mile of the Pelham Manor Depot once located at the southeastern end of the Esplanade near the barrier that separates I-95 from the surrounding homes. This limited area of the Club's self-imposed "jurisdiction" was responsible for the dispute that led to the lawsuit that is the subject of today's posting.

Minutes of the Club's Executive Committee meeting held on February 1, 1889 indicate that the Secretary of the Club, James F. Secor, Jr., had received two "bills" from two men who claimed to have arrested four tramps near "Bartow barn", one of the structures near Bartow Station on the Branch Line. This area was beyond the one mile radius that the Club considered to be within its jurisdiction. Yet, the Club had posted signs throughout that area offering a reward of $10 for the arrest and conviction of tramps. The minutes of that Executive Committee meeting indicate that "[o]n Motion the Secretary was ordered to return the two bills presented for arrest of four Tramps, to the senders and notify them that the Club must be notified at the time of the arrest and that Bartow barn is not in Pelham Manor." The two men who "arrested" the tramps were named Edward Kelly and Peter Goodwin.

According to the Club's minutes book, at the following Executive Committee meeting held on March 1, 1889, the "Committee on Tramps reported that Edward Kelly and Peter Goodwin, had served the Secretary, with summons of suit for the recovery of Award for the arrest and conviction of four Tramps, arrested in Bartow barn, and Mr. [Carles F.] Merry was requested to attend to the matter".

The Executive Committee seems to have realized at that meeting that its position in defending such a lawsuit might be week. The Executive Committee approved a new form of "tramp notice" for posting in the region and authorized the "Committee on Tramps" to print the new form of poster and replace the old ones throughout the region. According to the minutes of the meeting, the new "Tramp Notice" read:

"Reward. Ten dollars will be paid by the Pelham Manor Protective Club, for the Conviction of any Tramp or Vagrant, arrested in Pelham Manor, Provided that after such arrest his prosecution shall be requested by a member of this Club or a resident of Pelham Manor. A reward of one dollar will be paid for the arrest of any one defacing or destroying this notice. By order of the Executive Committee.

A little more than a month later, the matter seems to have been resolved. According to the minutes of the Executive Committee's April 8, 1889 meeting: "Mr. [Carles F.] Merry reported that he attended the Court at New Rochelle in the suits of Kelly and Gordon and had arranged for compromising their suits and claims, by the Club paying them fifteen dollars each, in full for their claim and expenses of suits. And the action of Mr. Merry was approved and the Treasurer was instructed to pay the amount as agreed upon".

This episode certainly seems to be the first -- and perhaps only -- lawsuit filed in connection with the Club's activities during its decade-long existence. In a way, it can be viewed as well as the first lawsuit against "Pelham Manor".

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An Account of the Blizzard of 1888 by Pelham Manor Resident Henry W. Taft

As the New York City region digs out of the largest snowfall on record, I decided to provide today an account of the Blizzard of 1888 related by an illustrious 19th century Pelham Manor resident named Henry W. Taft. The Blizzard of 1888 did not involve as large a snowfall as the snowstorm of 1947 or the Nor'easter of 2006, but it paralyzed the region. (To read more about the Blizzard of 1888 and its effect on Pelham, see Bell, Blake A., The Blizzard of 1888: Pelham in the Midst of the 'Great White Hurricane', The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 34, Aug. 27, 2004, p. 9, col. 1. To read more about the Nor'easter of 2006, see yesterday's Historic Pelham Blog posting entitled "Historic Snowfall in Pelham, NY: The Great Nor'easter of '06").

Henry Waters Taft was a brother of William Howard Taft who served as President of the United States. Henry W. Taft was an attorney who began his career as a "salaried" attorney with the New York City law firm named "Simpson, Thacher & Barnum" -- now known as Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. In 1889 he joined the law firm known today as Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. Although he had a residence in New York City, he lived for many years in Pelham Manor and served on the Executive Committee of the Pelham Manor Protective Club during the 1880s before the Village of Pelham Manor was incorporated.

Taft provided a number of accounts of his experience trying to commute from Pelham Manor to New York City on the so-called "Peanut Train" that traveled the Branch Line during the Blizzard of 1888. One such account appeared in a book authored by Samuel Meredith Strong published in 1939 entitled "The Great Blizzard of 1888". It included reminiscences of members of a group formed in 1929 named "The Blizzard Men of 1888". Among the accounts contained in that book was the following, attributed to Henry W. Taft:

"He lived at Pelham Manor, Westchester County, in 1888. A warm misty rain fell on Sunday, March 11th, he recalls, turning to snow during the night. Monday morning the storm seemed a heavy one but not unusually so. The train, however, on which he expected to travel to New York 'scheduled for six o'clock,' was 'already an hour late. The storm increased in violence, and the snow rapidly gathered in gigantic drifts, while the wind howled from the north and blew a gale. Slower and slower the train pushed its way. At Westchester, five miles from Pelham, it ran into a huge snow bank and with a despairing lunge came to a stop. Repeated but futile efforts were made by the engine to go ahead. Uncoupled, it tried to clear the track ahead but in vain. . . '

Mr. Taft's fellow passengers at first made merry over the adventure. 'But as the day wore on, anxiety and physical discomfort crept rapidly upon us. It was a day of car stoves. Coal in the tneder and in the cars was soon exhausted. Little wood was available.' The wind 'penetrated the loose joints of the old-fashioned wooden car. The storm continued to grow worse, more tempestuous. Telegraph and telephone systems were completely disabled, and our anxiety as to whether our families could secure food or survive the hardships caused by the storm, became intolerable, and we knew that their anxiety as to our fate was no less distressing.'

'After eight hours in our frigid prison, a neighbor and I decided to risk the perils of the storm. We started at about four o'clock for Baychester, a mile and a half away, in the hope that at a country tavern there we could secure a conveyance.' The two staggered through the gale, the sleet, and the drifts along the tracks and across a lengthy railroad trestle, creeping some of the way on their hands and knees over ties that were covered with snow and sleet.

At Baychester the tavern keeper refused them a conveyance, and they went on to Bartow avoiding the next railroad trestle and the bridge across Pelham Bay. On they trudged over the main highway, then so buried in huge snow-drifts that its boundaries were frequently not discernible. The scene was weird and forbidding.

They rested by trees and fences which afforded but meager shelter. 'Often we were forced to help each other out of drifts which were from five to ten feet high, sometimes being obliged to turn our backs and roll out of giant drifts.'

The men saw neither houses nor human beings 'until we sought refuge for a few moments in the house of an acquaintance about two miles from our homes.'

'Darkness now added to the difficulties of our journey, but we continued. We again struggled along the railroad. It was buried under a continuous drift. . . . After covering a long trek of five miles in five strenuous and sometimes agonizing hours, we reached our village railroad station. The agent was aghast as we entered. Our faces were largely hidden under a coating of ice, and our eye-lids were frozen open, leaving no protection to the eye from the biting sleet.'

'Before my own front door I had to surmount a snow-drift seven feet high.'

'Late Wednesday afternoon I reached the city on a work train, passing on the way the train we had started in, still buried in the snow. Most of our friends were not able to reach the city until Friday. . . .'

'Everyone was naturally concerned about the dislocation of their business plans. As a matter of fact, however, the disturbance of professional, business and social plans was so generally and so universally recognized that there was a virtual moratorium for a week. The courts met the situation by postponing the trial of all business for that period. When the extent and severity of the storm was realized, the universality of the inconvenience and hardship was so great that manifestations of human sympathy and acts of kindness and even displays of humor in the general distress were common.'

'Perhaps storms like the Blizzard of '88 are experienced on the vast plateaus and in the mountain regions of the West. Bout our habits of life in the regions of the East, and particularly our transportation facilities, are not so adjusted as to withstand the rigors of such stomrs; and the impression left upon those who experienced them."

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Historic Snowfall in Pelham, NY: The Great Nor'easter of '06

Occasionally we experience "history in the making."  Every so often the Town of Pelham experiences major snowstorms that local residents remember for many years. The Blizzard of 1888 and the great snowstorm of 1947 are two such examples. The most recent such example, of course, is the Great Nor'easter of '06 that began late last Saturday, February 11 and ended yesterday, Sunday, February 12.

Christ Church, Pelhamdale Avenue.

The storm overwhelmed New York City with more than two feet of powdery snow. At 4:00 p.m. yesterday, as the storm ended in the area, the U.S. National Weather Service reported 26.9 inches of snow on the ground in Central Park. This was the heaviest snowstorm ever experienced in New York City since weather officials began keeping reliable records. The previous record was 26.4 inches set during the great snowstorm of 1947.

Pelham Train Station, Pelhamwood Avenue.

Westchester County, including Pelham, saw slightly lower levels of snow. The Journal News reported that various areas throughout Westchester County experienced between 15 and 20 inches of snow. Informal measurements at various locations in Pelham suggested a snowfall amount of about 18.5 inches.

Though traffic was nearly non-existent throughout Pelham yesterday, the streets were remarkably clear of snow by the afternoon. I was able to take more than forty photographs of the area for the historic record. Three of those photographs are published in today's Historic Pelham Blog.

Four Corners, Pelhamdale Avenue at Boston Post Road.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Caleb Pell's Lost Silver Watch - An Advertisement Published in 1757

In late 1757, Caleb Pell lost a small silver watch while traveling between the Manor of Pelham and the adjacent Village of "East-Chester". He later placed a brief classified advertisement in The New-York Gazette offering a reward for return of the watch.

The tiny little advertisement provides a surprising amount of useful information including the fact that Caleb Pell owned at least two houses, one in Pelham and another in Eastchester. The advertisement is transcribed below:

"L O S T,

ON the 14th Day of this Instant December, in the Afternoon, in going from my House in the Manor of Pellham, to my House in East-Chester, a small Silver Watch, with a green silk string and a Piece of a Key tied to it; the Ring of the Watch was fasten'd to the swivel with a Brass Wire; on the Plate of the Watch is engrav'd Lancaster, Backhouse. Whoever has found or may find said Watch, and brings her to the subscriber at the Manor of Pleham, shall have Thirty Shillings Reward, paid by me CALEB PELL."

Source: Lost, The New-York Gazette, Dec. 19, 1757, p. 2.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cortlandt W. Starr of Black Starr & Frost

During the 1880s two of the three principal partners of the internationally renowned jewelry firm Black, Starr & Frost lived in Pelham Manor: Robert C. Black and Cortlandt W. Starr. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little information about Cortlandt W. Starr, known affectionately during his life as "Colonel".

Cortlandt Starr was born in Sag Harbor, Long Island in 1832. At about the age of 18 he moved to New York City and got a job as a clerk with the jewelry firm then known as Ball, Black & Co. By then, the firm already had a long and illustrious history in New York City. It traced its origins to a jewelry firm started by Isaac Marquand in 1810 known as Marquand & Company.

Over the years, the firm evolved as new partnerships developed. According to a brief history of the firm, "[b]y 1860, Ball, Black & Company was the most famous jewelry store in New York City, designing for royal families and dignitaries in both Europe and the United States".

Mr. Starr's work as a clerk was interrupted briefly in 1863 during the Civil War. He joined the Thirty-Seventh Regiment as an officer for a few months' service. He reportedly was present in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1863. That day Confederate Troops were converging on the little village of Gettysburg for what became a seminal battle of the War. In Carlisle that day, Confederate Troops led by Major General J. E. B. Stuart's Cavalry shelled downtown Carlisle. After his brief military service, the "Colonel" returned to his position as a clerk with Ball, Black & Co.

According to one source, Ball, Black & Co. "went out of business" in 1876. See Obituary Notes, N.Y. Times, Oct. 2, 1888, p. 2. That same year, Robert C. Black, Cortlandt W. Starr and Aaron Frost formed a partnership named "Black Starr & Frost". See id.

During the 1870s, Robert C. Black moved to Pelham Manor and, although it is not clear exactly when, his partner, Cortlandt Starr, seems to have followed within the next few years. Messrs. Black and Starr were significant members and important leaders in the Pelham Manor Protective Club, a precursor to organized the Village Government that developed upon incorporation of the Village of Pelham Manor in 1891.

The "Colonel" died suddenly on Sunday, September 30, 1888 in his home. According to his obituary, he died "of congestion of the lungs" and left a widow and three children.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The First Anniversary of the Historic Pelham Blog

On February 8, 2005 -- one year ago today -- I unveiled the Historic Pelham Blog. Since that day, I have successfully posted at least one new "article" to the Blog each and every weekday without missing a single such day including holidays. During the first year of this Blog, I posted 271 articles regarding the history of Pelham and surrounding areas. A mirrored archive containing copies of each and every Blog posting is also available at http://www.historicpelham.com/BlogArchive/BlogIndex.htm.

The articles covered such diverse topics as: The Area Planned for Development by The Pelham Manor & Huguenot Heights Association in 1873 (Dec. 22); The First Stone Bridge Built Across Eastchester Creek in Pelham, 1814-1815 (Dec. 8); In Memoriam: A List of Pelham’s Civil War Dead (Nov. 18); World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham (Nov. 7); Remnants of the Battlefield on Which the Battle of Pelham Was Fought on October 18, 1776 (Oct. 26); Historic Loutrel Briggs Garden “Discovered” in Pelham Manor (Oct. 20); How Dry I Am – Pelham Goes Dry in the 1890s and Travers Island Is At the Center of A Storm (Aug. 11); Today’s Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island (July 21); Pelham Manor Runaway Slave Notice in August 29, 1789 Issue of The New-York Packet (July 18); How Did a Village Blacksmith Win the 1906 North Pelham Election by Cornering the Market on Sleighs? (July 8); The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889 (May 16); The Zeppelin Hindenburg Thrilled Pelham Before Its Fiery Crash in 1937 (Apr. 8); Split Rock – A Pelham Landmark for Centuries (Mar. 28, 2005); and New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham (Feb. 10).

The Blog was nominated for several awards presented by the History News Network at the Philadelphia convention of the American Historical Association. It was nominated in the following categories: (1) Best Individual Blog; (2) Best Post (Four Nominations – Pelham and the Civil War Ironclad USS Monitor, The Zeppelin Hindenburg Thrilled Pelham Before Its Fiery Crash in 1937, Pelham’s Only Known Example of a Home Designed by Master Architect William A. Bates and In 1909 Fear of “Sharp Lawyers” Prompted Cancellation of the Pell Family’s “Fatt Calfe” Ceremony); (3) Best New Blog; and (4) Best Series of Posts (The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 – Parts I, II and III). Alas, it received no honors, losing to spectacular entries maintained by some of the nation's best and brightest academic historians!

An index that lists each and every posting on the Historic Pelham Blog on a single Web page to facilitate use of the "Edit" > "Find" feature of the Explorer browser is accessible by clicking on the specified link at the beginning and end of each Blog posting.

At some point each weekend I try to assemble enough material for five postings that week. To my surprise, I have had little difficulty coming up with new ideas for postings given the almost embarrassing wealth of rich information regarding the history of the area. I plan to continue, God willing, to add articles early each day for the foreseeable future and encourage those who wish to comment to do so using the comment feature available at the end of each article. I have received a wealth of wonderful emails from a host of individuals in the last year commenting on the contents of the Blog and even providing supplemental information on a number of the topics about which I have written. I certainly hope that will continue!

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

February 6, 1893 Request to Allow Trolley Service in Pelham

Barely a month after the incorporation of the Westchester Electric Railroad Company in January 1893, the firm submitted to the Town of Pelham an application for a franchise to operate an electric trolley car line along today's Fifth Avenue between the New Haven Main Line tracks and Pelham's northern border with Mount Vernon. The application, dated February 6, 1893, was among papers located during a cleanup of the basement of Town Hall located at 34 Fifth Avenue on Saturday, January 28. (To read more about the cleanup, see Monday, January 30, 2006: "Cleanup of Pelham Town Hall Basement Leads to Discoveries").

Beginning in about 1893, the Westchester Electric Railroad Company began organizing and, soon, constructing street railway lines in Mount Vernon, Pelham and New Rochelle. The company became a subsidiary of the Union Railway Company over which the Third Avenue Railroad Company acquired control in 1898. Including the tracks in Pelham, the Third Avenue Railroad Company was able to assemble a streetcar system that extended from lower Manhattan through the City, the Bronx and into Southern Westchester County.

An image of the company's application to construct the first portion of its lines in Pelham appears immediately below. Beneath that is the transcribed text of the application to facilitate full text searches.

"New York, Feby. 6, 1893.

To The Honorable Town Board

Of The Town of Pelham, New York.


The undersigned, the Westchester Electric Railroad Company, a corporation duly organized under the laws of the State of New York, respectfully petitions your Honorable Body for the right to construct, maintain and operate a street surface railroad to be operated by electricity through, over, upon and along the following street or highway in the Town of Pelham, together with the necessary connections, switches, sidings and turnouts for the convenient working of the same.

Beginning at a point on Wolf's Lane immediately south of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad crossing, thence in a northerly direction along said Wolf's Lane (also called 5th Ave) through the Village of Pelhamville to the boundary line of the Town of Pelham,

Trusting that favorable action may be taken on the above petition we are

Yours very espectfully [sic],

Westchester Electric Railroad Co.

by H. N. Corlis, President [?]"

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Plans to Create a Horse-Drawn Trolley Car System in Pelham in Early 1890

Records in the Town's archives suggest that in early 1890, Town officials considered a request to develop a horse-drawn trolley car essentially along the route later taken by the electric trolley line that inspired the Toonerville Trolley. The route planned for the "horse railroad" as it was called was planned from the railroad station on the New Haven Main Line along Pelhamdale Avenue to the Pelham Manor Depot on the Branch Line and then continuing along Pelhamdale Avenue to today's Shore Road where it would make a right turn toward the southwest and proceed along the road to the boundary between Pelham and Pelham Bay Park. The plans were never put into effect.

The Town's archives contain a typewritten resolution prepared by the Town's "Highway Commissioners" that reads as follows:

"WHEREAS an application has been made to this Board by the Pelham and Travers Island Railroad Company for leave and consent to build a horse railroad in the Town of Pelham, County of Westchester and State of New York, from the depot at Pelhamville in said town, through Pelhamdale Avenue to Pelham Manor Depot, and from thence through Pelhamdale Avenue to the Pelham Road and from thence westerly along the Pelham Road to the line of the City Park.

NOW THEREFORE, Be it resolved that such request be granted on condition however, that the said Company shall comply with all the provisions of Chapter 252 of the Laws of 1884, pertinent hereto.

AND PROVIDED further that the said company comply with the following conditions and agreements to wit

FIRST:- That the surface of said railroad, when complete, shall not be above the level of the road on which it runs, and that it shall conform when finished to the present surface of said roads as near as may be.

SECOND:- That if after the completion of said railroad or any portion thereof, there shall be any defect or obstruction in the roadway between the tracks or in the road for a space two feet outside the outside rail, dangerous to public travel or which in the opinion of the Highway Commissioners should be remedied or removed, the said railroad will, upon twenty-four hours notice from said Commissioners, remedy or remove said defect or obstruction, or in default of said company doing so, said commissioners may repair said defect and remove said obstruction and the said company will pay to the said commissioners the cost of such repairs or removal as a part of the consideration for this consent.

THIRD:- That said company shall place their tracks on the southwest side of Pelhamdale Avenue, the inside track to be at a point thirteen feet from the fence line of property on the southwest side of said Avenue and on the southerly side of the Pelham Road.

FOURTH:- That the said company shall pave with cobble stones or macadamize, the surface of the road between the rails, and for a space of two feet on the outside of the outside rail, and to pave between the road and any sidings, and the sidings to construct and maintain proper culverts at [illegible] crossing Pelhamdale Avenue.

FIFTH:- That said work shall be completed on or before October 1st, 1890, provided however, that if the same shall be interrupted and stopped by injunction the time for completing said road shall be extended for the same period of time that said injunction shall remain in force.

SIXTH:- That the said Company shall build said road under the above restrictions limitations and agreements from the Pelhamville Depot to the line of the City Park, along the route laid out, its charter all in the Town of Pelham, to which consent is hereby given.

SEVENTH:- The said railroad when completed shall not interfere with public travel.

/s/ S. S. Wilson
/s/ John Donlon
/s/ John Godfrey

Commissioners of Highways of the Town of Pelham


On this 5th day of February, 1890, before me C. H. Laing personally appeared S. S. Wilson, James Donlon, John Godfrey Commissioners of Highways of the Torn [sic] of Pelham, Westchester County, to me known and known to me to be the individuals described in and who executed the foregoing consents and they severally duly acknowledged to me that they executed the same, as such Commissioners.

/s/ Charles H. Laing
Notary Public
West Co NY"

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Annual Report of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham for 2005

As I have written before, many might be surprised to learn that New York State's "Arts and Cultural Affairs Law" provides that a "local historian shall be appointed, as provided in this section, for each city, town or village". The law further provides that:

"It shall be the duty of each local historian, appointed as provided in the last section, in cooperation with the state historian, to collect and preserve material relating to the history of the political subdivision for which he or she is appointed, and to file such material in fireproof safes or vaults in the county, city, town or village offices."

See N.Y. Laws 1983, Ch. 876 §§ 1, et al.

The law has been in effect in one form or another since 1913. For its derivation, see Education Law § 150, added N.Y. Laws 1947, ch. 820; and repealed by N.Y. Laws 1983, ch. 876 § 4. Said § 150 was from Education Law of 1910 § 1199-a, formerly § 1198, added N.Y. Laws 1913, ch. 424, § 1 (renumbered § 1199-a, N.Y. Laws 1919, ch. 181, § 2).

Pelham has complied with what is called the "Historian's Law" since the law was first enacted. During the last 92 years, eight local residents have served as Town Historian and have collected and maintained material in accordance with that law on behalf of the residents of The Town of Pelham.

Article 57, section 57.09 of the New York State Arts and Cultural Affairs Law provides, in part, that each duly appointed local historian:

“shall make an annual report, in the month of January, to the local appointing officer or officers and to the state historian of the work which has been accomplished during the preceding year.”

In compliance with this statute, on January 27, 2006, I filed with the State of New York and with the Town Supervisor and members of the Town Council an 18-page report filled with images and information entitled "Annual Report ofThe Historian of The Town of Pelham issued to The Supervisor of The Town of Pelham, New York andThe Office of State History, A Program Area WithinThe New York State Department of Education, Blake A. Bell, Town Historian, January 27, 2006 (Covering the Period January 1, 2005 – December 31, 2005)".

The report was prepared and filed to comply with the above-quoted statute. It summarizes work performed and accomplishments achieved by The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham during the period from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2005. It details work in seven principal areas: (1) Educational Activities; (2) Digitization of Important Historical Material; (3) Digital Photographs of the Town; (4) Responses to Inquiries About the History of Pelham; (5) Transcription and Annotation of Important Records; (6) Cooperation With Local Organizations; and (7) Administration of the Office and the Town's Collections.

I encourage those interested in the history of the Town to review the report and provide me with comments or questions regarding its contents. Click on the linked title of the report above to access a copy in PDF format.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

January 2, 1888: The Day Residents of Pelham Manor Decided to Incorporate a Village

The Pelham Manor Protective Club was first established in 1881 as a "Vigilance Committee" to oversee the health and welfare of Pelham Manor residents. Its Executive Committee evolved into a virtual municipal government, using Association By-Laws and resolutions as substitutes for Village ordinances and Club dues and assessments as substitutes for Village taxes. It developed policing, street-lighting, snow-plowing, and other such services for the benefit of local residents. To learn more about the Club, see:

Wed. Jan. 25, 2006: The Pelham Manor Protective Club Flexed its Muscles in the 1886 Town Elections

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

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

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

Bell, Blake A., The Pelham Manor Protective Club Founded in 1881, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 24, Jun. 11, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

On January 2, 1888, the members of the Pelham Manor Protective Club gathered at the home of F. Carles Merry for the annual meeting of the Club. Members of the Club were angry that year. The condition of Boston Post Road was atrocious. As early as February 5, 1887, the Executive Committee of the Club instructed members of a subcommittee "to endeavor to obtain an appropriation from the Town to be expended in the repairing, regulating and grading of the Boston Road on Prospect Hill within the limits of the Town."

By the end of the year, the condition of the road remained poor. Members of the Club spent precious time during the Club's annual meeting on January 2, 1888 discussing this fact. They were fed up with the lack of attention to the matter shown by Town officials who mostly resided on City Island, quite some distance from Boston Post Road. According to the minutes of the meeting that day, the members of the Club took an historic step. They decided that they had had enough and would incorporate a Village to allow them better to control their own destiny. The minutes reflect the following:

"A motion was then made by Mr. Carson and seconded by Mr. Freeland, looking toward the improvement of an the roads in the neighborhood of the Manor. After considerable and a very general discussion of the subject matter of the motion and of the project of the incorporation of the Manor and some of the adjoining property as a village, the following resolution was introduced by Mr. Barnett as a substitute for the motion of Mr. Carson, and was seconded by Mr. Smith, viz:

Resolved that a committee of this Club, consisting of Messrs Carson, Merry, Black, Taft and Townsend, having power to provide for their own organization and to fill vacancies, be and hereby is appointed for the purpose of taking the necessary steps leading to the incorporation of a Village to include Pelham Manor and vicinity, and in the mean time, of making such repairs of the roads as shall be neglected by the Town authorities; with full power to make necessary disbursements for the above purposes; it being understood that the Committee shall, before making any repairs or incurring any expense, notify the Road Commissioners of the Town, of the work needed and endeavor to spur them to the performance of their duty.

After some further discussion this resolution was on motion adopted."

The deed was done, though it took more than three years to effect the incorporation that Pelham Manor residents decided to undertake on that winter day in early 1888.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Notice of 1893 Vote on Proposal To Build Pelhamville's First Fire House

As I wrote here on the Historic Pelham Blog on January 30, the Town of Pelham is in the process of making some improvements to the basement of Town Hall located at 34 Fifth Avenue. Representatives of the Town asked The Office of The Historian to review materials that had been stored in the basement for decades since the material needs to be removed from the basement while the improvements are made. That review turned up a few historically significant items that I have promised to share digitally. (See Mon. January 30, 2006: "Cleanup of Pelham Town Hall Basement Leads to Discoveries").

One of the items discovered during last weekend's review was a poster providing notice of an "election" in 1893 in which the voters residing in the Town of Pelham north of the Village of Pelham Manor were asked to approve a $4,000 assessment to fund, among other things, the construction of Pelhamville's first fire house. An image of the poster appears immediately below. The text of the notice follows the image to facilitate full text searches.


In accordance with the following petition and in persuance [sic] of Chapter 254 of the Laws of 1891 I, E W. Waterhouse, Town Clerk of the Town of Pelham do hereby call an Election to be held by the electors of all that portion of the said Town of Pelham lying north of the northern boundary of the village of Pelham Manor in said town, to be held at the Court House in Pelhamville on Thursday, Feb. 2, 1893, to determine whether the sum of Four Thousand Dollars $4000 shall be levied and assessed for the purpose as set forth in the said following petition.

The polls of the election will be opened at 12 o'clock noon, and closed at 8 o'clock P.M. of said day.


E. W. Waterhouse, Esq., Town Clerk, Town of Pelham.

Dear Sir:

At a meeting held Jan. 13, 1893, at the Court House of Pelhamville of the taxpayers and enrolled members wishing to form a Fire Department as approved by the Town Board, it was regularly moved and seconded to request that you call a special election to ask for an appropriatinn [sic] of Four Thousand Dollars $4000 for this Fire district, consisting of all that portion of the Town of Pelham north of the village of Pelham Manor for the purpose of purchasing the necessary land TO BUILD A SUITABLE HOUSE, AND THE NECESSARY APPARATUS, HOOK AND LADDER, HOSE CART AND HOSE.


S. Gregoor. Secretary.

E. W. Waterhouse. Town Clerk."

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