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.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Brief Description of Scott's Grocery Store at Bartow Village in Pelham

In the 19th century there was an area in the Town of Pelham known as Bartow. The tiny hamlet was a quaint collection of buildings clustered around the little wooden Bartow station on the New Haven branch line. The area was located on the mainland near Shore Road not far from City Island. Today the Pelham Bit Stables stands on shore road in the area once known as Bartow. New York City annexed the entire area, including City Island, in the mid-1890s.

Because plans to create Pelham Bay Park and annex the area swirled for many years, the area never developed as planned. Indeed, ne published account described the lack of development in “Bartow-on-the-Sound” in 1885. It stated:

“This ‘Bartow-on-the-Sound’ was started about 14 years ago. The New-Haven Railroad built a station there for City Island people. At once a town was started with the above high-sounding name. About 80 acres were laid out in city lots, 25 by 100. Jere. Johnson’s services were called in, and he, with his persuasive powers, managed to sell some 50 or 60 lots. Since then a town has arisen – a town destined, it may be, to rival New-York, for in 14 years there have been built, to wit: item, one seventh-rate hotel and gin mill; item, one gin mill without the hotel; item, one blacksmith’s shop; item, one real estate office unoccupied for 13 ½ years; item, one dwelling, part occupied for a Post Office; item, a grocery and feed store; item, about five frame houses; in all about 11 buildings, all told worth about $40,000”.

Source: The Pelham Park, N.Y. Times, Dec. 15, 1885, p. 5.

There is a brief reference to the grocery that stood at Bartow and that is referenced in the article quoted above. It is from a book of fiction authored by Gouverneur Morris and published in 1904 entitled "Ellen and Mr. Man". The pertinent excerpt from that book reads as follows:

"It was quite de riguer in those days for the child that had money to treat the other children at Mr. Scott's grocery-store, near the Bartow station. You could have your pick of many things, but animal crackers, elephants, tigers, lions, and rhinoceroses, and shoe-laces made of licorice were the most choice. You went at the animals like a discriminating surgeon with a knife. You lopped off a leg, then a nose, then another leg, until what had been, say, a stately elephant was nothing but a bitten round of cracker-stuff. Of course those crackers tasted in all parts exactly alik, and yet to this day, if I came across one, I could eat the legs and head with considerable relish, and really feel snippy about the flavor of the rest. But give me [Page 47 / Page 48] shoe-laces! They were always my fancy: shiny, tough, and elastic. You took one end between your teeth, let go with your hands, and worked it, by little bites (you had to guard against biting too hard), all the way into your mouth, then (if I may so express it) you unbit it all the way out. I dare say this was a very nasty way of eating, but, by heaven, I can recommend it! It wouldn't do for a duchess at a court dinner, but for humble people in private life -- mm! mm!

Well, I had been treated so many times, without ever having treated back (for all my fine talk of money), that children's souls began to revolt within them. And I must say mine did too. So that when Walter Craig (a fat and selfish child) up and said point-blank that he wasn't going to treat me any more (and he didn't recommend it to others, either) unless I treated back, matters reached a crisis.

Far from being indignant (how could I be? - my soul was sick), I said, with tearful dignity, that the reason I never treated [Page 48 / Page 49] was because I always left my money at home, but that if anybody thought I hadn't any money, he could say so, and be a dirty little liar; and if anybody thought Iwas stingy, well, let him wait where he was on the steps of Mr. Scott's store until I had time to go home (about three quarters of a mile), get my moneys, and come back, and then if any dirty little liar that said I had no money and thought I was stingy would eat all I would buy for him, he would burst.

Walter Craig (that fat and selfish child), having learned the expression in his father's stable, gave back that he would wait for me until a certain place froze over.

With that I started for home. My whole being was at sea with despair, and there was a buzzing in my ears. There was no way that I could think of in which I could raise as much as a dime. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and knew that Peter had left the other children to come with me. We went along in [Page 49 / Page 50] silence, and I began to evolve a plan by which I might get rid of Peter, and try to sell to Mr. Arcularius [Historic Pelham Note: The owner of the 19th century Arcularius Hotel near Pelham Bridge] or Mr. Blizzard the little gold trumpet (marked in little block letters of 18K.) that Peter had given me.

'You needn't come with me, Peter,' I said.

'Needy,' said Peter, 'I thought that perhaps you was out of money, and that if you was I could lend you some.'

Gratitude to the point of agony surged suddenly within me, and with equal sudenness my rebellious pride and high stomach had refused the offer.

'I've got lots,' I said, with an attempt to feign carelessness. We did not talk very much after that, for I was faint with the superimpending calamity, utterly without invention, and possessed only of a vague desire to get rid of Peter and die.

We had turned into Mosquito Row, when I heard my name called, and turning, beheld the postman in his little cart. [Page 50 / Page 51]

'It's for you,' the postman said, and waved a letter.

I took it and thanked him like one in a trance, and put it into my pocket. There was no chord within me that could have responded to anything less pleasant than sudden riches or sudden death.

I told Peter to wait in the hall till I ran up-stairs and got it. I locked myself in my room. Something might yet be effected with the gold trumpet. I opened the drawer in which I had hidden it, and found that it was gone.

I laid me on the bed, so utterly bowed down with shame and misery that I thought I should die. Some one tried the handle of the door, and then knocked.

'Needy - can't you find it?'

It was impossible to lie successfully any more. I knew it, and yet I lied.

'Because, if you can't find it, I can lend you some.'

'Peter,' I wailed, 'please go back and tell them I can't come because I'm sick. [Page 51 / Page 52]

'I've got a sick-headache,' I added, to fortify my invention.

Peter did not speak for a moment, and when he did his voice was unexpectdly severe and censorius.

'I guess you better come and tell them yourself,' he said.

I rose from the bed and opened the door.

'Have you got it all right?' said Peter.

'It's here,' I said slapping the pocket into which I had put the letter.

'Let's see,' said Peter.

I showed him the envelop.

'Isn't that the letter you just got?'

'Oh, no; it's the one I keep my money in.'

I had formed a vague notion of dropping the envelop into the water as we crossed the bridge, and setting up a great wail over the loss of its contents. Somehow, it is not quite pleasant to write these things about one's self - even if one has changed one's ethics upside down, which I haven't, quite.

Peter pinched the envelop. [Page 52 / Page 53]

'It's paper money, isn't it?' he said.

'How much?'

'I forget,' said I.

Half-way over the bridge I made up my mind to the distressing accident that was to deprive me of means. But at the brink of the deed - I balked. It was too barefaced - too obvious. I resolved boldly to face the other children, tear open the envelop with eclat, and finding nothing in it, to laugh, call myself a donkey, and say that I had been such a fool as to fetch the wrong one.

I am face to face with Walter Craig (that fat and selfish child). I have opened my envelop, and taken out a square of paper with 'From ELLEN' on it in large hand-printing. I have also, somewhat to everybody's surprise, but more especially to my own, produced from the afore-mentioned envelop a ten-dollar bill.

I have little comment to make about this episode in my life or its lesson, which seems to read: lie, and you will be rewarded. It has occurred to me, however, [Page 53 / Page 54] that perhaps God disliked Walter Craig for being fat and selfish more than he did poor little me, who was trying to hold up my head and my father's before men, and whose only means of doing so (or the only means I knew) was lies - lies - lies. Anyway, I lied and was rewarded, and Walter Craig was fat and selfish, and he was punished.

Walter Craig had often eaten dried apricots, but he had never eaten enough. On this afternoon he did. It was a real pleasure to watch them go into him, and to hear the praises whih he showered upon me. He ate steadily for upward of an hour, so that it was a pleasure to see. Then a great thirst began to consume him, and he drank four glasses of water and a bottle of ginger-ale. Then he began to swell.

At first he complained of little pains in the region of his waistband - they were just stitches in the side, he thought. Then he said he felt sick and thought he would go home. His face was white, and beads [Page 54 / Page 55] stood upon his forehead. Reaching the stoop of the store, his abdomen suddenly turned into a hard bowl of agony, and advised him to press his knees against his chin, This he did. Then he rolled, shrieked, and bellowed, for the fear of death and the pains of hell were in him.

It took a doctor to keep Walter Craig's selfish life in his fat body, and when at length he rose from his bed of mortal agony and came out to play, we sympathetic others greeted him whith insulting cries of:

'Glutton! Glutton! La-la-la!'"

Source: Morris, Gouverneur, Ellen and Mr. Man, pp. 47-55 (NY, NY: The Century Co. 1904).

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