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, 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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