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, July 31, 2007

City Island Historical Society Nautical Museum Expected to Recover From Arson Fire That Damaged it on July 13, 2007

Shortly before 9:00 p.m. on Friday, July 13, 2007, one or more arsonists set a fire on the front porch of 190 Fordham Street, City Island, Bronx, NY. The resultant fire destroyed the entrance to the City Island Historical Society Nautical Museum. According to an announcement posted to the Society's Web site:

"The entrance to the museum was destroyed and there was considerable smoke and water damage to the foyer and the hallway. Fortunately, most of the collection is intact and only minor damage was inflicted on some photographs in the hall and on a skiff near the entrance. The condominium board assures us that insurance will cover most of the damage but we will not be able to reopen to the public for a matter of weeks, if not months."

According to an article in the "Bronx Boro News" section of today's New York Daily News, teenage vandals are suspected to have started the fire while setting off fireworks. See City Island Battles Fire - And Vandals, Daily News, Jul. 31, 2007, p. BW1, col. 3 (Bronx Boro News Section).

The Society facilities could have suffered a much worse fate. According to the same article, typically-heavy Friday evening traffic on the approach to City Island (including City Island Bridge) slowed backup emergency responders trying to make their way to the scene. Sixty firefighters fought the blaze which "caused serious damage to the building's facade but largely spared the artifacts inside." Id.

The museum is located in a building that opened as a public school in 1898, shortly after New York City annexed City Island from the Town of Pelham. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today's article about the fire describes the damage as follows:

"In addition to the front porchbeing destroyed by the fire, the exhibit area suffered smoke and water damage.

One of the 16 apartments in the building also sustained severe damage, and the community center in the basement was flooded from hose water."


A relief fund has been established. Those who wish to contribute to the relief fund may contact the Society at 718-885-0507. Additionally, it appears that the City Island Civic Association plans to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. Both the Fire Department of New York and the New York Police Department are said to be investigating the fire as a crime.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

1885 Report Notes Decline of Oyster Industry Near City Island in the Town of Pelham

In 1885, the Commissioner of Fisheries of the State of New York issued a gloomy report about the decline of oysters in New York waters. The report focused on the area around City Island in the Town of Pelham as "typical" of such declining oyster beds.

A news account published in the New York Times summarized the report. That news account is reproduced below.



The last Legislature of the State having made an appropriation of $5,000 to be expended by one of the New-York State Fish Commissioners for the purpose of investigating into the causes of the decrease of oysters in the waters of the State, to determine what extent oysters were injured by starfish or other animals, and to ascertain how the oyster industry may be protected, the report due to Mr. E. G. Blackford presents the fullest information on these various subjects. Prof. H. J. Rice having specially in charge the scientific portion of the work, the report under notice comprises such examinations as were made by Mr. Blackford of the beds themselves, with a supplement, due to Prof. Rice, on the propagation and natural history of the American oyster.

As the time of investigation was necessarily limited and the beds numerous, Mr. Blackford thought it wiser to study what were the typical oyster regions and to gather testimony from practical oyster workers, so that the results should serve as a basis for further research should the Legislature desire to continue the work in the same direction. Prof. Baird, the United States Fish Commissioner, who has always shown himself so desirous of giving his aid to the fishery industries of the State, having placed the Lookout at Mr. Blackford's disposal at the nominal cost of running expenses during some two weeks, 10 different localities on the Sound and on the north shore of Long Island were visited and dredgings made both of the natureal and planted beds of the vicinity, careful record having been taken of the condition of the bottom, of the number and quality of the oysters, and also of the presence of the enemies of the oyster. During the first months of last Winter a series of meetings or conferences of oystermen were held, and from these much information was obtained. Mr. Blackford's personal observations did not extend to any oyster territory of the State to the eastward of Patchogue on the south side, or Port Jefferson on the north side, of Long Island.

About 19 miles from New-York is City Island, which Mr. Blackford designates as the typical oyster community. Here he found that persistent working of oyster territory 'has had a marked effect in diminishing oyster areas.' The tendency seems in every case, for the oystermen to take all the available oysters off of the natural beds, and when these are all despoiled, to convert them into beds for planting purposes. It becomes, then, difficult from the claims made by oystermen to determine which are planted or natural beds, which is at least something to be thankful for; but from the destruction of the natural beds, it must become obvious that as these are the nurseries or the young oysters, and where the spat is formed in the greater aboundance, their loss is a serious one. The oyster business is, however, as a whole, greater than it was some years ago, 'and this has been brought about by the extension of the planted lands at the expense of the natural ones.' The Commissioner finds some fault with the indifference shown by oystermen to study the nature of their business. They are content to follow in the old rut. * * * Most of the men are trying to work entirely too much ground, apparently on the principle that it is much easier to get $100 worth of oysters from 10 acres than to do the work which will bring in return $150 from one acre.' Examinations of the planted bed are never made by the owners until the oysters are secured for a market. Efforts on the part of those who plant to catch the embryotic oysters and to secure spat for themselves is never thought of. When oystermen use the dredge and bring up the drill, (Vrosalpinx cinerea,) which kills the oyster, they rarely if ever pick it out and destroy it, but throw it overboard again, so that it may again lessen their yield. From the natural enemies of the oyster, the drill and the starfish, these being the natural destroyers perhaps for their eradication little can be done, but there is no place in the Sound where just complaint is not made as to the injury the oyster industry received from the dumping of garbage, and the presence of sludge acid from the petroleum works. In many instances when Mr. Blackford dredged at quite a distance from New-York the presence of city refuse was shown. 'There can be no doubt,' writes Mr. Blackford, 'that there is one enemy which certainly can be gotten rid of if the right means are employed, that is the refuse material from oil works and sugar refineries which is now thrown into the water.'

Mr. Blackford pays considerable attention to the claims of oystermen to their beds and the rights granted them by certain corporations. This subject is an exceedingly complex one, difficult of solution, and it is quite a question as to whether any of the towns have the right to grant such privileges. In the South Bay patents of 1666 and of 1686 give certain privileges as to the securing of beds, but the validity of such grants is very doubtful. In fact, the lease question seems to require certain fixed laws. In his conclusion Mr. Blackford thinks that the investigations made by him demonstrate that, as a whole, the oyster industry, as carried on in the waters of our State, is of much greater scope than it was formerly, and is of constantly increasing importance, and that this extension of the boundaries of our oyster areas is due entirely to labor in the direction of private cultivation. In other words, while the amount of land upon which oysters can be found to-day is considered greater that [sic] it was 15 or 20 years ago, and accodingly the yield of oysters is also considerably greater, the increase in the number of beds is due to the fact that the oystermen have, in response to the increasing demands for this dainty from our enlarged population, monopolized land from the public domain beneath water, which was before such appropriation of no value as oyster-producing territory, since the bottom was too muddy to admit of any 'set' taking place and thriving upon it. To supply this extensive area with the raw material required for future results the natural growth beds have been almost incessantly and unscrupulously drawn upon for their products, until now it is probably impossible to find a piece of natural growth oyster ground within the limits of our State waters, which in productiveness, and especially in the size of the oysters obtained from it, is not very much below what it was only a few years ago. The private beds have thus been increased at the expense of the natural grounds, but in connection with this destructive working of the natural beds by the oystermen, it should constantly be borne in mind that there are always more or less natural enemies of the oysters on all natural beds, and that these enemies are at work for a goodly portion of the time, just as the oystermen are, in getting their living by industrious application and persistence in their peculiar lines of research, and in endeavoring, by fully as unscrupulous methods as those in use by the oystermen, to cause trouble in these peaceful communities. Besides the devastation caused by these natural enemies of the oysters and the nearly incessant tonging and dredging which have been practiced upon these beds by the oystermen for years past, sometimes, as has been shown, to their entire extinction as natural growth grounds, and their subsequent sequestration as private property, they have been and are now the dumping grounds for quantities of garbage, mud, and various kinds of trash from the cities of New-York and Brooklyn, most of which refuse material should have been destroyed on land, and never allowed to be carried away to be dumped into our waters and assist in filling up our channels and destroying our harbors and fisheries.

Anticipating certain recommendations, to be based on a more extended investigation, the Commissioner believes that it would be well to pass a law making it a close season for oysters from the 15th day of July until the 1st day of October, that rewards be offered for the capture of starfish, and that those in control of garbage boats should be made to comply with the laws in regard to dumping their loads.

Prof. Rice's experiments with oyster culture are exceedingly interesting. Commencing unfortunately too late in the season, ripe oysters were difficult to obtain, and then again, the temperature of the water in his artificial ponds varied too much in temperature from the same reasons. There is every reason to suppose that in time the artificial culture of the oyster from the ova will be possible. It would seem, however, to require an expanse of water somewhat larger than is at present employed at Cold Spring Harbor. Mr. Blackford, who has a sound, practical acquaintance with the subject under investigation, presents an exceedingly clear and well written report."

Source: Our Oysters: Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries of the State of New-York, N.Y. Times, Jun. 15, 1885, p. 3, col. 5.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Possible Origins of the Oyster Feud Between City Islanders and Huntington, Long Island

Yesterday I posted to the Historic Pelham Blog a small item published in 1869 describing a dispute among the oystermen of City Island in the Town of Pelham and those of Huntington, Long Island. There is an intriguing legend that sheds light on the likely origins of the dispute nearly a decade earlier. It seems that after an oysterman's boat overturned with oyster seedlings on board, a massive oyster bed arose in the area. Long Islanders kept its location secret until a traitor among them reputedly "sold" information regarding the location of the bed to City Island oystermen who promptly harvested many of the oysters. An article published in 1859 described these events. It appears below.

Its Location, Origin and Extent---Size and Quality of the Bivalves---The Numbers Engaged in Gathering them---Exaggerations Corrected.

Some time in the year 1841, a bed of young, or seedling oysters, was found near the east beach, at the mouth of Northport harbor, and there was a lively time among the oystermen, while the deposit lasted, in securing them for the purpose of transplanting. Among others a man familiarly known at Huntington as 'DICK SCUDDER,' was active with his little schooner in conveying away the oysters, his planting ground being directly across the Sound, near Norwalk, Conn. in one of these excursions, while beating over against a strong north-east wind, his craft was struck by a sudden flaw and capsized, spilling overboard thirty bushels, more or less, which were carried upon deck. The precise spot where this accident occurred, nearly twenty years ago, is now covered with a busy fleet of oyster-boats and vessels gathering a prolific harvest from the seed thus accidentally scattered. The little schooner was called the Dream, and its owner has long since gone to the land of shadows, but while living he probably never dreamed that his neighbors would so soon reap fortunes from the accident which deprived him of his hard earnings. Mr. JAMES S. LEFFERTS, who still presides at the little tide-mill at West Neck, where he has ground wheat and corn for nearly half a century, distinctly remembers the incident above related, and HENRY KETCHUM, of Huntington, whose father built the Dream, attests the truth of the statement. This is believed to be the true origin of the famous oyster-bed. Its location is north half-west from Eaton's Neck, one and a half miles, the lower or eastern end being bounded by a rocky reef, which extends nearly north from the point for a distance of over two miles. The length of the bed is about one mile, and its breadth from a half to three-quarters of a mile; the depth of water varying from five to six fathoms, forming a kind of middle ground, the water on each side being deeper. That the spawn of the oysters deposited in Northport and other contiguous harbors could ever have floated five miles, crossing two miles of the ebb and flood tides, and finding a lodgment at this point, is considered improbable.

As was the origin of the bed, so was the discovery, wholly accidental. That the bivalves should have remained just the proper length of time in their hidden home to acquire the proper size for use, and should have been brought to light at the season when of all others they can be most profitably removed, may be considered a happy stroke of fortune. These circumstances have greatly enhanced the value of the discovery. Five men from Darien, Conn., were fishing opposite Eaton's Neck some fortnight ago, when the wind freshening, and finding their boat was dragging, they threw over an oyster dredge, which happened to be at hand. The boat continued to drag, however, and in hauling up the dredge, it was filled with oysters of a large size. They then tried other experiments with the dredge, and shortly became convinced that a bed of great richness and extent lay beneath them. A mutual compact was made to keep the secret, but one or two of the faithless party seized the first opportunity to sell the information to the oystermen of City Island. Five hundred dollars was asked and readily paid for the news, twenty-five oystermen contributing twenty dollars each to make up that amount. One-half of the sum, however, was retained as security for the genuineness of the revelation, and for being conducted to the ground. JOSHUA LEVINESS, one of the wealthiest of the Islanders, being elected commodore of the fleet by unanimous consent, twenty-five boats set sail from City Island under the cover of the night, and proceeded down the Sound. By daylight, the next morning they were off Eaton's Neck, and by the aid of ranges previously obtained, the exact spot was pointed out, and operations commenced. The result soon satisfied them that they had not been deceived, and during the first day, about 700 bushels of fine oysters were obtained, -- amply sufficient to pay for the information. The work went on, they oyster men being so elated at their good fortune that they continued at it all night, and only gave up from sheer exhaustion. So compact were the oysters at first, the dredges refused to grapple them, but since they have been broken up by this harrowing process, the dredges work better. The oysters are what are known in the market as 'counts' and 'extras,' and after being placed for a few weeks in the shallow bays and creeks where they can fatten, will bring the highest prices readily. they are also very uniform in size, few being overgrown on the one hand, or small on the other. Occasionally the shell of a patricarch of the tribe is brought up, which has been turned into honeycomb by the 'borers.' The proportion of shells and stones obtained is also very small, compared with the amount of oysters taken. In flavor and fatness they are equal to the best in market, and, barring the natural saltiness, are preferred by many connoisseurs to Princes Bays, or Shrewsburys.

Exaggerated statements have been made as to the number of vessels on the ground, some placing it as high as three and even five hundred. From the most reliable information which could be obtained, as well as by actual count by our Reporter, they have never exceeded one hundred and sixty or seventy. Of these, one-half at least are boats under twenty tons, one-quarter of thirty to forty tons, and the remainder ordinary coasting sloops and schooners. The largest vessels are those from New-Haven and other places on the Connecticut shore. City Island and Staten Island have the largest representation, mostly in sloops of a small and medium size, while every place on either side of the Sound which possesses a harbor and floating craft, had one or more engaged in harvesting the oyster crop. The motions of the fleet are controlled by the tide and wind. Forming in line at the east end of the bed--the tide setting to the westward--they move with the current, their sails being set to give them head and steerage-way. The dredges, from two to eight and ten in number, according to the size of the vessel, are thrown over to windward, there being one man for each line; but the whole party waiting to haul up each dredge as it is filled. When the head vessels have reached the end of the 'drift,' they tack, or wear ship, and return to their place at the rear of the fleet, thus keeping up a perpetual promenade. Occasionally a collision takes place, a boom or bowsprit is carried away, or a sail is torn, but so long as it is the result of accident the mishap is taken in the best of humors.

A neighborly feeling pervades the whole squadron, each appearing to enjoy the other's prosperity. When it overblows, or night overtakes them, they run into Lloyd's or Northport harbor, and are on the ground again bright and early the next morning. When a vessel gets its fill it hastens away to some one of the places where the oysters are replanted, and, having dropped its load, returns with all speed to the scene of operations. The Three Sisters, belonging to JOSHUA LEVINESS, during the two weeks secured about three thousand bushels, making an average of 250 bushels a day. The little Fashion in one week took 510 bushels; the Phebe Ann raked in two thousand bushels; the Ann Eliza three hundred bushe;s; and the steamer Jacob Bell has taken one thousand bushels, which are planted in Cow Bay. The Caroline in one day caught eighty hampers, about one hundred and twenty-five bushels. These are samples of the success which as attended the operations of the fleet.

The total amount already taken is variously estimated at from one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand bushels. Should the yield continue as at present it is supposed that over half a million dollars' worth will be secured before the season gets so cold and boisterous as to prevent operations. Rumors of the existence of other beds are also circulating among the oystermen, and when the supply gives out at Eaton's Neck, explorations will be carried on in other parts of the Sound."

Source: The Greaty Oyster Bed, N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 1859, p. 1, col. 3.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pelham's City Island Oystermen Feud with Long Islanders in 1869

In 1869, a feud arose among City Island oystermen in the Town of Pelham and Long Island oystermen who plied the waters of Huntington Bay. A number of ugly incidents arose as a result. Today's Historic Pelham Blog contains the text of an early article about the dispute. In the next few days I will provide a number of such articles.

"TROUBLE AMONG THE OYSTERMEN. - A dispute has arisen between the oystermen of Connecticut and Long Island relative to the right planting oysters from the Huntington Bay. Almost the whole of the north shore lands belonging to the town of Huntington, lying under water and extending from high water mark into the Long Island Sound, are under the control of oystermen residing at City Island, Connecticut and other places. The Long Island men charge that these parties do not own a foot of land in Huntington or pay a ccent of tax; yet, by threats, intimidation and force, they have monopolized the oyster beds and staked off thousands of acres of land for the purpose of planting, thus preventing them from plying their avocations as oystermen. As a last resort the Long Island men have called upon the corporate authorities of Huntington to protect them in their rights, but as yet the authorities have taken no action in the matter. It is by no means improbable that a heavy litigation may ensue from this contest for the possession of these beds."

Source: Trouble Among the Oystermen, N.Y. Herald, Jun. 28, 1869, p. 8, col. 5.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yesterday Was the 100th Anniversary of the Inauguration of Regular Electric Rail Service to Pelham

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the commencement of regular electric rail service to Pelham. According to a press release issued by the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association, Inc.:

"On July 24, 1907, the first regularly scheduled all electric service, utilizing the new overhead catenary wires, began on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad between Grand Central and New Rochelle.

After nearly six decades, the steam locomotives were gone. In 1907, use of AC overhead electric power was a bold -new innovation Today it stiff provides reliable service to commuters from Pelham. The first New Haven electric trains were pulled by little boxcab electric engine, later succeeded by multiple-unit electrically powered pasenger coaches."

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Article About the Pell Treaty Oak Published in 1909

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Yesterday I wrote about the fiery death of the Pell Treaty Oak in 1906. See Monday, July 23, 2007: 1906 Article in The Sun Regarding Fire that Destroyed the Pell Treaty Oak. Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an article that appeared in the same newspaper three years later when the dead stump of the ancient and revered tree was blown over in a storm and, thus, destroyed.





Under It Thomas Pell Bought a Large Part of Westchester County From the Indians in 1654--Blown Down After a Life Extending Over Centuries.

After taking the blows of the elements for several hundred years the old Pell treaty oak in Pelham Bay Park tumbled over a month ago, the victim of a gale, and there remains now nothing but an old stump to mark the spot where it is believed the first Westchester real estate deal was put through two and a half centuries ago.

It was under the leafy shade of the old tree that Thomas Pell negotiated this little real estate deal, standing there with a few companions who had journeyed with him from Connecticut while the sachems inspected gravely his collection of beads, blankets and 'gunnes' and decided that they were worth a large part of what is now Westchester county. The sachems took the blankets and the beads and Pell took the real estate. He was thus apparently the first speculator in suburban real estate, and pretty successful at that for those times.

The old tree under which Pell is supposed to have driven his bargain with the Indians in 1654 made a valiant fight for life in the two centuries and a half that have since passed. Decapitated and dismembered a good many generations ago, it defied the attempts of the elements to complete its destruction, and with its days seemingly done for it surprised all those who watched it in recent years by putting out new branches to be covered with green leaves each spring like the youngsters around it. It seemed to be making another attempt to grow and reassume the place it once had as a monarch of the primeval wilderness.

A few years ago some of the patriotic societies decided to do what they could to preserve it and at their expense they erected an iron fence around it, but this did not suffice to keep off the vandals. Last fall somebody built a fire near it and it roared up the hollow trunk. That fire ended the old tree's fight. There was no more life in it after that, and with its trunk scorched and its new branches withered it fell an easy victim to one of last month's storms, taking part of the fence with it as it fell.

In recent years, with the iron fence marking its nobility, the old tree has been visited by many who have seen it in passing along the Eastern Boulevard. It stood only a short distance back from the road on the grounds of the old Bartow place, now a hospital for crippled children.

That it was no common tree one could easily tell from its size. Its diameter several feet above the ground was over three feet and the stumps of some of its mighty branches twenty feet or more from the ground were two feet through.

Sawed off fresh, these stumps showed so many rings that it was hopeless to ascertain its age by any such method. Once the Park Department tried it, but the man who essayed to count the rings, first trying to distinguish them, gave it up in despair. They have part of this enormous branch preserved up in Commissioner Berry's office now, so that any one who wants to try it can do so.

The tree experts of the park have guessed at its age at anywhere from 300 to 500 years. How many years its trunk had been hollow nobody knows, for hollow it was, and one could climb up to the very top of the huge cylinder.

In the case of a good many trees supposed to mark historic spots there have been some who have had doubts as to the authenticity of the old oak and its connection with the Pell treaty, but near it are some of the graves of Pell's descendants, and if there is anything in the legends of that part of Westchester the old tree saw the bargain driven.

A short distance to the southeast from where the tree stood is the old Bartow mansion, and behind this is the Pell graveyard containing six mossgrown tombstones. They are the graves of Pells bron years after the man who decided to take a chance on Westchester real estate, descendants who no doubt came to respect their ancestor's judgment and were glad of his shrewdness. The oldest tombstone bears the inscription: 'Here Lyes Isec Pell D. Dec. 24 No. 1748.'

At a time when most men were thinking of hewing their own homelands out of the wilderness old Thomas Pell apparently was animated by the same object which to-day leads many a man to invest in property above The Bronx. He didn't want a home; he bought land to sell.

That Pell was the original spectacular in Westchester real estate is borne out by history. One of the histories of Westchester county says of him:

'Pell himself does not even appear to have become a resident of Westchester. He evidently regarded his purchase as a real estate speculation, selling his lands in parcels, at first to small private individuals and later to aggregations of enterprising men.'

A good many similar deals have been made since with some of the land Pell bought, but at higher figures.

Pell had tried several other ventures in the way of land purchases before what is now Westchester caught his eye, and his home was really at Fairfield, Conn., according to the best accounts. Like a lot of the Englishmen in those parts he decided that New York and its vicinity was too good for the Dutchmen.

Perhaps he saw with the eye of the shrewd real estate speculator what splendid villa sites lay along the Sound. At any rate he and a few companions in 1654 made their way through the wilderness, took a look at the country lying between Bronck's River, as it was then called, and the Sound and told the sachems that they wanted to buy.

According to one of the Westchester legends concerning the old treaty tree he and his friends saw a lot of fishhawks making their nests in the trees there and made up their minds that the birds would bring them good luck. That was why they got the sachems Ann-Hoock and Wampage [sic] to meet them there and talk business.

The treaty provided that Pell was to get 'all that tract of land called West Chester, which is bounded on the East by a brook called Cedar Tree Brook, or gravelly brook, thence by marked trees until it reaches the Sound.'

This land extended from East Chester to New Rochelle, and Pelham, Pelham Manor and Pelham Bridge have taken their names from the purchaser of it. Pell was made a lord of the manor by royal grant in 1666 and before he died he had already unloaded several parcels presumably at a handsome profit. One of the first sales he made was that consisting of the old settlement of East Chester.

Although Lord Thomas Pell, as he aftward became, didn't settle on this property himself his nephew and heir, John Pell, did and he carved up more of the property, selling New Rochelle to some of the Huguenots.

According to Randall Comfort, one of the local historians, the old Pell manor house stood near the old tree facing what is now a thoroughfare for automobiles and for years was supposed to be full of ghosts, so that lonely travelers along the lane gave it a wide berth.

Mr. Comfort and others who have taken an interest in the old tree have asked the Park Department to mark the spot where it stood with a tablet telling the story of the little real estate deal supposed to have been made there.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

1906 Article in The Sun Regarding Fire that Destroyed the Pell Treaty Oak

For many years a gigantic, ancient oak stood on the grounds of the Bartow-Pell Mansion in Pelham Bay Park. According to tradition, Thomas Pell met with local Native Americans beneath the branches of that oak on June 27, 1654 and signed the so-called "treaty" by which Pell acquired the lands that became Pelham and surrounding areas.

In a book published in 2004 during the 350th anniversary of the Pell Treaty, I traced the facts underlying the tradition and outlined the history of the so-called Pell Treaty Oak. In the book I concluded that it was unlikely that the tree on the grounds of the Bartow-Pell Mansion was the oak beneath which Pell signed his agreement with local Native Americans. To read more about the Pell Treaty Oak, see:

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell and The Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2004) (click here to learn more).

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak, HistoricPelham.com (visited July 20, 2007).

Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak, The Westchester Historian, Vol. 78, No. 3, pp. 73-81 (Westchester County Historical Society, Summer 2002).

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes the text of an article that appeared in The Sun published in New York City in 1906. The article describes the fire that killed the Pell Treaty Oak.

The Historic Tree Incurs a New Peril - Once Struck by Lightning.

The old Pell oak, which stands at the intersection of the New Rochelle road and the Split Rock road in Westchester, took fire Saturday night from burning grass. Policeman Booth of the City Island substation, who was patrolling the New Rochelle road about 8 o'clock Saturday night, saw sparks leaping from the trunk of the venerable tree. He turned in a still alarm, which brought Engine Company 70 from City Island. Meanwhile a dozen or more people living along the New Rochelle road hurried with buckets of water to the burning tree. The firemen and volunteers worked for hours before they managed to make the water reach the part of the inner trunk where the fire was.

For the last ten years the old oak has been little more than a noble trunk ten feet high and four feet in diameter. It was struck by lightning during a heavy storm and all but about ten feet of the trunk broke off. New branches appeared at the top of the stump and formed an umbrella shaped growth, which increased and throve. The fire Saturday night destroyed most of the new growth and charred the hollow trunk, but the old residents, who take much pride in the historic tree, believe that it can be saved if proper care is given it. It is believed to be nearly 350 years old.

There are many stories told in Westchester about the Pell oak. It is said that Sir John Pell, second lord of the manor, who came over in 1670 and was the first Judge of the Court of Common Pleas from 1688 until 1702, signed a treaty [sic] with the Indians under the oak, which was then in its prime. There is another legend of Westchester that the son of Sir John, Thomas Pell, who married a daughter of an Indian chief, wooed her under the oak. There is a ghost story, too, about the old tree. Somewhere near the middle of the eighteenth century a traveler was murdered and robbed under its branches. The body was found, but the murderer was never caught. The private cemetery of the Westchester Pells, where Sir John and his son are buried, is about 400 feet from the tree. The old Bartow mansion is within a short distance of it.

Yesterday afternoon people from all the region visited the old oak, and the older residents commented somewhat mournfully on its reduced state."

Source: Fire in the Pell Oak, The Sun, Apr. 9, 1906, p. 4, col. 2.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Account of Early Baseball in Pelham: Pelham vs. the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island in 1897

Those who read the Historic Pelham Blog regularly know that periodically I have posted to the Historic Pelham Blog research regarding early organized baseball in Pelham. In fact, I have written extensively on the topic. Among the material I have prepared on the topic are the following:

Friday, November 10, 2006: The Location of Another Early Baseball Field in Pelham

Monday, October 9, 2006: Reminiscences of Val Miller Shed Light on Late 19th Century Baseball in Pelham and the Early Development of the Village of North Pelham

Thursday, March 23, 2006: Baseball Fields Opened on the Grounds of the Westchester Country Club in Pelham on April 4, 1884

Tuesday, January 31, 2006: Another Account of Baseball Played in Pelham in the 1880s Is Uncovered

Thursday, October 6, 2005: Does This Photograph Show Members of the "Pelham Manor Junior Base Ball Team"?

Thursday, September 15, 2005: Newspaper Item Published in 1942 Sheds Light on Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Thursday, February 10, 2005: New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Bell, Blake A., Baseball in Late 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 17, Apr. 23, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

Today's posting reproduces a brief account of a baseball game played in 1897 between a Pelham club and a baseball team fielded by the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island. The account appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.


SPECTATORS at the Travers Island baseball games may in future expect to witness gilt-edged games, for Mr. Fred M. Hausling has succeeded in organizing a New York A. C. nine that experts pronounce to be the strongest amateur contingent in the vicinity. The pitcher is Thomas Dunne, who has twirled for Brown University to the dismay of the other universities. Eddie Donnelly will act as change pitcher when Dunne is unable to play. James Dunne will hold his brother's deliveries, changing with Tom Cuming, the well-known Stevens Institute catcher. Between them they will cover third base. A. J. Fauss, another well-known local player, will play second base, while the first bag will be covered by 'Bob' Fisher, whose popularity would be sufficient to draw a large crowd to Travers Island, even if he were not a first-class ballplayer. Fred Hausling is modest enough to be looking for a player to succeed himself as shortstop, but, meatime, will play the position, and there is no doubt of his giving satisfaction to the rooters, even if he fails to reach his own high standard of what a ballplayer should be. The outfield will be made up from popular cranks, such as Arthur J. Moore, Eddie Deppeler, Bob Lyons, Harry Lyons and E. B. Bloss.

The arrangements for playing with other teams are not yet completed, but a series of three games with the Crescent A. C. has been decided on. The other clubs who will be asked to play weekly games are Englewood Field Club, Larchmont Field Club, Pelham Field Club, Yonkers A. A.


A GAME of baseball between the New York A. C. and the Pelham Field Club was played at Travers Island, on July 4th, before an attendance of 400. The home team won by a score of 23 to 7. H. S. Lyons pitched for the New York A. C., and struck out fifteen men. The Pelham players only secured five hits. The following played on the New York nine: F. Donahue, catcher; R. C. Fisher, 1st base; M. T. Cowperthwait, 2d base; F. M. Hausling, short stop; R. T. Lyons, 3d base; E. B. Bloss, right field; A. J. Moore, centre field; E. Deppeler, left field; H. S. Lyons, pitcher."

Source: Base Bell in New York Athletic Club Journal, Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7 (Aug. 1897).

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Members of The New York Athletic Club Were Duped Into Believing the Club Created a Small Nine-Hole Golf Course in Pelham Manor in 1897

In 1895, "golf fever" swept across Pelham. In response to the craze, two members of the Hazen family, Mrs. John Cunningham Hazen and Miss Edith Cunningham Hazen, organized "The Pelham Manor Golf Club". The founders laid out a small course on Prospect Hill. The course opened during the first week of November 1895.

It would seem that "The Pelham Manor Golf Club" never became thoroughly established. Its records appear to have disappeared. There is little said of it after the summer and fall of 1895.

At about the same time, however, members of the New York Athletic Club who frequented Travers Island began clamoring for a golf course of their own -- perhaps prompted by envy of the small course that had been laid out by The Pelham Manor Golf Club on nearby Prospect Hill. It seems that in the Spring of 1897, one or more members of the New York Athletic Club decided to rub salt in the wound by duping the New York Athletic Club Journal into announcing that a small nine-hole golf course had been opened by the Club for its members in an area behind the Priory.

According to the announcement printed in the Journal, two club members named C. Smyth and C. V. R. Radcliffe were principally responsible for the "course". Another club member named Cam Smith supposedly laid the course out on lands owned by E. C. Roosevelt, also a member of the Club. The brief entry in the New York Athletic Club Journal published in May 1897 described the developments as follows:


LADDIES who have been clamoring for a golf course in the vicinity of Travers Island are at last accomodated. The energy of C. Smyth and C. V. R. Radcliffe has resulted in the laying out of a nine-hole link on the property kindly loaned for the occasion by the well-known club member and frequenter of Travers Island, E. C. Roosevelt. The chappies who affect the latest form of sport will find the new links very difficult, as they have been discreetly laid over hills and bunkers on the ground back of the priory. Many interesting contests have already taken place over the links, and it appears that Cam Smith, who laid out the course did it with due regard for his own ability, as he at present solemnly affirms that he holds the record for the course of fifty-three strokes. The low record is held by the enthusiastic sportsman, Ernest Thorpe, who spent the greater portion of an afternoon making 427 drives at the ball in order to cover the nine holes.

The game has become popular with the oarsmen in training for the Decoration Day regatta, and ‘Count’ Giannini has to drive his crew away from the fascinating pastime with golf-sticks.”

Source: A Golf Course in New York Athletic Club Journal, Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 3.

In the very next issue of the Journal, the Club announced that it had been duped -- much to the disappointment of the Club's many golf enthusiasts. The subsequent announcement read:

"IT seems almost like sacrilege to jest on the subject of golf. Yet some one has so far ignored all the national associations of the game as to speak lightly and frivolously of such a hallowed subject as a golf course. So the JOURNAL is forced to confess that the golf links mentioned in last month's issue are not in existence, or if the holes do exist they are buried so deep beneath a plentiful crop of hay that even the most recently imported caddy could not discover them.

Since the JOURNAL'S announcement of the golf links, which seem harder to attain than the promised land, chairman of the Athletic Committee, Walter S. Baldwin, has worn a look of worry, now quickly changing to that of despair, as the task of dodging the golf fiends clamoring for the alleged couse becomes more hopeless.

The JOURNAL regrets that any members should have been put to inconvenience on account of the statement about the links, although from our knowledge of golf we opine that there would be just as much sport and exercise in looking for the links as in playing the game and looking for the ball. Hereafter all correspondents who are so impolitic as to joke on the subject of 'golf' will kindly label their communications appropriately."

Source: [Untitled], New York Athletic Club Journal, Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3 (June 1897).

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another British Military Unit History that Notes Participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776

I have previously posted to the Historic Pelham Blog a number of excerpts from British military unit histories that note participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776. See:

Wed., November 1, 2006: Two British Military Unit Histories that Note Participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776

Thu., January 18, 2007: Three More British Military Unit Histories that Note Participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776

Today's posting provides an excerpt from a history of The Fourth, or, The King's Own, Regiment of Foot published in 1839. In it there is mention of the Battle of Pelham and the death of an officer of the Regiment during the battle.

"After this success the army was embarked in flat-bottomed boats, and crossed the East river to York Island, and the KING'S OWN were engaged in the movements by which General Washington was forced to abandon New York; which city was immediately taken possession of by the British.

General Washington having taken up a position in another part of the country, the British troops were again embarked in flat-bottomed boats and landed near West-Chester; thence re-embarking on the 18th of October, passed Frogs-neck and landed at Pell's-point, at the mouth of Hutchinson's river. Advancing from thence, the troops encountered a detachment of provincials; a sharp skirmish ensued, in which several men were killed and wounded; and the KING'S OWN lost a [Page 66 / Page 67] most valuable and gallant officer, Captain W. Granville Evelyn, who was mortally wounded, and whose fall was much regretted."

Source: Historical Record of The Fourth, or the King's Own, Regiment of Foot: Containing an Account of the Formation of the Regiment in 1680, and of its Subsequent Services to 1839, pp. 66-67 (London: Longman, Orme, and Co. and W. Clowes and Sons 1839) (Part of Series: Historical Records of the British Army for Publication Under the Direction of the Adjutant-General).

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mention of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 in Writings of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Aide-de-Camp to British General Clinton

Yesterday I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a brief item entitled "Mention of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 in Revolutionary War Diary of David How", an American soldier who fought in General Washington's Army. Today's posting provides a British view of the engagement from the writings of Francis Rawdon-Hastings. The entry is described in a book by Paul David Nelson entitled "Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Marquess of Hastings: Soldier, Peer of the Realm, Governor-General of India". The pertinent excerpt is quoted below.

""Rawdon as usual was serving as General Clinton's aide-de-camp in all these operations. On October 12, he and Clinton had embarked with their comrades on flat-bottomed boats and 'with a good deal of risk' passed through Hell's Gate in a thick fog. Emerging into Long Island Sound, 'we landed at Frog's [Throg's] Point,' but being 'disappointed in our expectations of getting forwards into the country by a bridge being broken down by the rebels, we were again obliged to embark, and landed with little difficulty at Pell's Point.'

As the British advanced, Hastings wrote, 'the 1st Battalion of light infantry,' on October 18, in the battle of Pelham Bay, 'had a smart brush with two or three battalions of rebels, whom we dispersed, but not without the loss of thirty men and some officers.' One of the wounded was Rawdon's cousin, Charles Hastings, the natural son of Lord Huntingdon. In America, Rawdon had gotten his cousin 'placed with the light company of the Welsh Fusileers, [which] was in the hottest part of this action.' Huntingdon would be pleased to know that Charles Hastings had 'behaved as you could wish him.' The young man was 'much approved of by the officers commanding the battalion and exceedingly liked by the rest of the officers. Don't be surprised that he does not write to you, for I assure you it is not in his power.' 14"

Source: Nelson, Paul David, Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Marquess of Hastings Soldier, Peer of the Realm, Governor-General of India, p. 51 (Madison, NJ & Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press 2005).

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Mention of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 in Revolutionary War Diary of David How

There is a very brief reference to the Battle of Pelham that occurred on the 18th of October, 1776 in a diary kept by David How, a private in Col. Paul Dudley Sargent's Regiment of the Massachusetts Line. The brief entry sheds light on the perceptions of the battle among enlisted men who did not witness it firsthand. The entire entry, with footnotes as they appeared in a published version released in 1865, appears below among those entries between October 12 when the British landed on Throggs Neck and October 23 when the author arrived in White Plains in preparation for the Battle of White Plains.

"[October] 12 [1776] This morning the Enimy Landed at Frogg's point ‡ [Footnote ‡ reads as follows: "Throgg's Point, Westchester County, New York. The landing and its consequences are described in HEATH's Memoirs, October 12."] We ware all a larmd and March d Down Almost there And [Page 32 / Page 33] Staid all Day the Enimy Did not offer to March any Distance from there Ships.* [Footnote * reads as follows: "* 'The British encamped on the neck.' -- HEATH's Memoirs, October 12."]

STEPHAN BARKER Died Att Rhie † this Day with the putered feavour [Footnote † reads as follows: "† 'Att Rhie' -- at Rye."]

B 13 STEPHAN BARKER was Buried this Day I Cooked this Day

14 There has ben two Brigades Marchd By hear This Day Towards forgg's point ‡ [Footnote ‡ reads as follows: "‡ 'As two or three brigades have moved this day beyond WILLIAMS'S, you will not march over to support the regiments near Frog's Point without further orders, as this post may be left too bare.' General HEATH to Colonel SARGENT, Kingsbridge, October 14."]

15 I have [been] on guard at fort Independant § [Footnote § reads as follows: "§ Fort Independence, on Tetard's Hill, in the town of Yonkers, Westchester County, New York."] C - Sign Bolton.

16 Our Regt all went to frogg Point on gard Day

17 I have Ben on the Quarter Guard this day C - Sign Liberty.

18 The Regulars Landed above Frogg's point on the main Land. Our people fought Them Killed a great many Both sides we have not The Particulars as yet [Footnote reads as follows: " The action at Pelham, which is here referred to, was one of the best-fought battles of that eventual campaign, both officers and men acting with great coolness and determination. General HEATH has well described the action in his Memoirs, (October 18); but by far the best account is that contained in a letter written by Colonel READ, which has been copied in The Retreats through Westchester County in 1776."]

19 Nothing New this Day

B 20 This Day our Regt all Went Frogg's point to Guard there. At Night I went with a party of men To get all the oxen and the Horses that we Could find And got home to our Barruks At Day brake [Page 33 / Page 34]

21 This morning we ware all Ordered to fix all our things For a march & we marchd one mile and ware ordered Back to out Camps

22 This morning we set out For the White Plains * [Footnote * reads as follows: "* White Plains, the county seat of Westchester County, New York, was, as the roads then ran, about thirty miles from New York and about fifteen from the camp referred to."] With all our Baggage. I went with the Sick and got with in 6 miles of the plains at Night

23 This morning I set out with The Sick & got to the plains † [Footnote † reads as follows: "† 'the plains' -- the usual name given to the village of White Plains by the old inhabitants who resided in that vicinity."]"

Source: Diary of David How, A Private in Colonel Paul Dudley Sargent's Regiment of the Massachusetts Line, in the Army of the American Revolution from the Original Manuscript with a Biographical Sketch of the Author by George Wingate Chase, and Illustrative Notes by Henry B. Dawson in Dawson, Henry B., Gleanings From the Harvest-Field of American History, pp. 32-34 (Morissania, NY, 1865).

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Midnight Fire Destroyed Pelham's Town Hall in October 1908

At midnight on October 24 1908 -- just after a Republican rally ended in the building -- Pelham's town hall suffered a major fire that nearly burned it to the ground. The fire began in the cell area at the rear. Thankfully, no prisoners were in the cells at the time. An article about the event appeared in New York City's The Sun. The text of that article appears below.

Pelham Building Partly Burned After a Political Rally.

WHITE PLAINS, Oct. 24. -- The officials of Pelham are investigating a mysterious fire which practically destroyed the Pelham Town Hall at midnight.

Last evening the Republicans had a big rally there and soon after the meeting ended and the politicians were going home there was an alarm of fire. It was found that the eastern end of the Town Hall, where the cells are, was on fire. Luckily there were no prisoners in the lockup. Politicians and speakers who had taken part in the rally joined the volunteer firemen in fighting the flames and finally saved part of the hall and prevented the fire from spreading to other buildings in the town. How the fire started hasn't been learned."

Source: Fire in a Town Hall, The Sun, Oct. 25, 1908, p. 7, col. 2.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Infamous Burglary of the Girls of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor in 1905

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a school for girls stood at the corner of Boston Post Road and Esplanade in Pelham Manor. It was known as Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls.

In 1905, an employee of the school committed what became an infamous crime; she stole trunks full of jewelry and finery from the wealthy students of the school. Many newspaper stories appeared at the time. One such story appeared in The Evening World published in New York City. The text of that article appears below, followed by a citation to its source.

Trunks Full of Jewelry and Finery Claimed by Students.
(Special to The Evening World.)

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y., May 22. -- Hilda Armstrong, twenty-three years old, who for three years had been employed as a maid by Mrs. John Cunningham Hazen in her Pelham Manor seminary for girls, has been held to await the action of the Westchester Grand Jury on the charge of robbing many of the students as well as Mrs. Hazen.

Detective H. R. Marks, who worked up the case, looks upon Miss Armstrong, who is of Danish parentage, as a regular female Raffles, and it is believed she had been systematically looting the rooms of the young girls for a long time.

In her room, the detective says, were found two trunks containing plunder, while another trunk, telescope bag and dress-suit case containing loot, as alleged in the complaint, were found hidden in another house in Pelham Manor.

One of the complaints on which Miss Armstrong was arrested was made by Miss Launderman, who comes from a wealthy South Carolina family, who lost clothing and jewelry, and which she identified. The stolen property was spread out in a room in the seminary yesterday afternoon and it was then that about fifty students identified articles as their property.

In the trunks were found a bank-book issued by the Union Dime Savings Bank, of Manhattan showing a balance in Hilda's favor amounting to $750 and more than two thousand different articles of clothing, jewelry and other valuable things, many belonging to the girls.

The stolen stuff included lace collars, cuffs, six dozen handkerchiefs, two valuable Bibles, six pairs of costly gloves, parts of silver-mounted manicure sets, gold chains and rings, expensive underwear, silk quilts, silk skirts, silk and ear muffs and a large quantity of linen goods.

When Hilda was arraigned before Judge Hill at Pelham Manor she was represented by Henry L. Ruppert, who waived examination for her, and the case was sent to the Grand Jury.

The girl was released on cash bail. She declined to make any statement."

Source: Seminary Maid Under Bail as Fair Raffles, The Evening World, May 22, 1905, p. 7, col. 1.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Using the Free "Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers" Database to Perform Local History Research

Last March the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities unveiled a beta version of the "Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers" database. Presently the database includes newspapers from 1900 to 1910 from the following states: New York, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Utah and Virginia.

The beta site is actually a prototype of what is intended to be a massive digital collection of historically significant newspapers from all states and U.S. territories published between 1836 and 1922. The prototype site is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the NEH and the Library of Congress.

There already is a wealth of information relating to the history of Pelham during the first decade of the 20th century in the collections. The search page for the site is located at: http://www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica/search_fulltext_advanced.html There visitors can select the state of NY and run a search for Pelham. The search returns 228 items, the vast majority of which are news stories about occurrences in Pelham.

This free resource is an important online research tool for local historians that likely will grow in importance as additional content is added.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

An Early Event in the History of Pelhamwood

Just north of the Pelham station of the New Haven Line is the lovely neighborhood known as Pelhamwood. The neighborhood was developed in the early 20th Century by Clifford B. Harmon and his company, Clifford B. Harmon & Co. A full history of the neighborhood was published in The Pelham Weekly in 2004. See Bell, Blake A., The Early Development of Pelhamwood, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 37, Sept. 17, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

William B. Randall, who once lived between Park Lane and Beech Tree Lane in the Village of Pelham Manor and served as President of that Village for a time, bought the lands that became Pelhamwood in 1907. He intended to develop the land. Within a short time, however, he sold those lands. The actual development was performed by Clifford B. Harmon & Co.

While researching other matters, I recently ran across a brief item published in 1907 in The Sun [New York City]. The item describes Randall's purchase. I have transcribed it below, followed by a citation to its source.

"Miscellaneous. . . . .

William Bradley Randall of Pelham Manor, associated with Charles T. Barney, president of the Knickerbocker Trust Company; Col. Wallach, of the law frim of Wallach & Cook, and Frederick L. Eldridge, vice-president of the Knickerbocker Trust Company, has bought from the Richard Lathers estate the tract of land known as Winyap [sic] Park, Pelham, containing over 132 acres. They have incorporated as the Winyap Park Realty Company. It is the intention of the company to lay out the property as a high class residential park. Washington L. Jacques, proprietor of the Murray Hil Hotel, and Thomas Leclaire Jacques, president of the village of Pelham, have organized a hotel company for the purpose of erecting a hotel to cost about $350,000 and to contain about 300 rooms. They have also taken an interest in the land syndicate."

Source: Miscellaneous, The Sun, Jun. 21, 1906, p. 8, col. 2.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Burglars Learn To Use Technology to Rob Pelham Manor Homes in 1901

In 1901, a technology that we take for granted today -- the telephone -- was still in its infancy. Barely two decades old, the technology was embraced by the bad guys who learned how to use it to further their illicit goals. The article below from The Sun (published in New York City) shows what the criminals were doing.

Ring Up Houses First to Find Out Whether Any One Is at Home.

NEW ROCHELLE, N. Y., June 24. -- Burglars have adopted the scheme of ringing up the telephones in big houses at New Rochelle and Pelham Manor for the purpose of finding if there is any one at home. The residences of D. I. Carson at Pelham Manor, of the Rev. A. F. Tenney, rector of Pelham priory, and of Joseph T. Brown, Vice-President of the Knickerbocker Trust Company, who lives in Rochelle Park, have been robbed by the burglars carrying out this new plan.

On Sunday night burglars ransacked the home of Charles T. Robinson, a New York builder at 85 Centre avenue, New Rochelle, while the family was at church. It was learned afterward that during church time some one had called up Mr. Robinson's house on the telephone and learned that all were out. When Mr. and Mrs. Robinson returned home they found that theives had lighted the gas in every room and carried away $300 worth of silverware and jewelry."

Source: Burglars Use the Telephone, The Sun, Jun. 25, 1901, p. 4, col. 1.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Fatal Train Wreck Near Pelham Manor in 1902

On September 26, 1902 there was a fatal train wreck on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad line near Pelham. The conductor of the train, George Hart, was killed in the accident.

A brief account of the wreck appeared in The Sun on September 27, 1902. It read as follows:

Fatal Freight Accident on New Haven Road Near Pelham Manor.

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y., Sept 26. -- As the result of a freight wreck on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, between Pelham Manor and Woodside early this morning George Hart, a conductor, living at 153 St. Ann's avenue, in The Bronx, was killed, and the rest of the crew had a narrow escape. It is said that the accident was due to an optical illusion.

Conductor Hart's train had just rounded a sharp curve beyond Pelham Manor when a locomotive, running light, came around the curve after it and ran into it.

According to employees of the railroad company, the tower operator gave the engineer the signal that the track was clear, with the understanding that he was to run cautiously. He went ahead slowly until a short distance he began rounding the curve. The curve made it appear to him that the freight was on another track, and he opened the throttle wide."

Source: New Haven Conductor Killed, The Sun, Sep. 27, 1902, p. 2, col. 5.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

An Odd Incident in Pelham Manor in 1902

On September 19, 1902, The Sun published an article about an odd incident in Pelham Manor that involved a number of prominent Pelham citizens. A young man who tried to catch a train departing from the Pelham Manor Station on the branch line fell from the rear car and was dragged. The incident was witnessed by a Pelham Manor police officer and Harry E. Day, a prominent artist. When the two men went to the assistance of the young man, what happened next could not have been anticipated by either. An article detailing the incident is transcribed below.





The Policeman, Who Is Also a Pinkerton Man, Had Tried With an Artist to Aid Strachan, Who Called Them Robbers and Cowed Them at a Pistol's Point.

PELHAM MANOR, Sept. 18. -- W. A. Strachan, a young cotton broker of New York, was arrested to-day by Chief of Police Marks of Pelham Manor and held in $200 bail for trial as the result of some fun which he had on Sunday night at the expense ov the Pelham Manor police.

The broker, who is a Southerner, and comes of a prominent family, held up Patrolman Joseph Colgan, a Pinkerton man employed in the Manor, and Harry E. Day, an artist, and marched them a mile and a half at the point of a revolver. Mr. Day is a prominent citizen of Pelham Manor. His father is the Rev. John H. Day, formerly editor of the Evangelist.

Mr. Strachan is a member of the New York Athletic Club. On Sunday, in company with many others, he attired himself as an Indian, and attended the annual handshake of the Indians of the club and the flubdubs of the Larchmont Yacht Club, which took place at Huckleberry island on the Sound.

After the jamboree was over the broker returned to the Pelham Manor station to take the 9 o'clock train for New York. The train was pulling out of the station when he reached there, and in his anxiety to get aboard he ran after it and grabbed the handrail of the rear car. The train was moving too fast for him and he was dragged along and then thrown upon the track.

Policeman Colgan and Mr. Day, who saw him fall, ran to his assistance, supposing that he was killed. They were surprised upon reaching the prostrate man to have him spring up and level a big revolver at them. The broker declared to the officer and the artist that they were robbers, and he told them to throw up their hands or he would kill them. The two men, uncertain as to what he might do in his condition, obeyed. Then the broker proceeded to march them toward the New York Athletic Club.

The men protested that they had intended to do him no harm, and tried to explain who they were, but he would not listen to them. Every time they lagged or tried to explain he levelled the gun at their heads and threatened to fire.

The distance to the club is a mile and a half, over a lonely road, and the broker and his captives traversed it about ten paces apart. When the club gates at Travers Island were reached the broker faced the captives and, covering them again, said:

'Now, get, you rascals, get. If you don't I'll put a couple of bullets through your bonnets. Tell your friends that the Huckleberry Indians are hot stuff.'

The prisoners hurried away and the broker ran into the clubhouse and disappeared. The men who were held up were inclined to treat their experience as a joke, but some of the citizens of Pelham heard of the matter and brought it to the attention of the Village President, William B. Randall, who was forced to act.

Accordingly, a warrant was sworn out, and it was served to-day by Chief Marks, who found young Strachan at the office of S. Munn. Son & Co., in Beaver street. He brought the broker to Pelham Manor to-night and he was arraigned before Justice of the Peace Hill, who held him in $200 for trial.

Bail was furnished by Horace Hatch, a wealthy resident of the Manor. The young broker when arraigned still declared that he thought the two men when they rushed at him were robbers.

It was reported to-night that some of the people of Pelham Manor, indignant at the way their police officers had been treated, would bring the whole affair before the governors of the Athletic Club. Young Strachan's parents are in Europe. The family home at 57 West Seventy-sixth street is closed."

Source: This Broker Arrested a Cop, The Sun, Vol. LXX, No. 19, Sept. 19, 1902, p. 1, col. 5.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of the Pelham Bridge

On January 27, 1857, a brief advertisement appeared in the New York Daily Times offering the Pelham Bridge for sale. The advertisement appears below, followed by a citation to its source.

"FOR SALE - THE PELHAM BRIDGE, OVER East Chester Creek, Westchester Co This is a toll-bridge and has connected with it the lease of the toll-house attached. For particulars, apply to

F. G. Luckey, No. 75 Nassau-st."

Source: For Sale - The Pelham Bridge, N.Y. Daily Times, Jan. 27, 1857, p. 5, col. 1.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

1855 Tax Collection Notice for Pelhamville and Prospect Hill Village

Two small hamlets were developed in Pelham at essentially the same time in the early 1850s: Prospect Hill Village and Pelhamville. New York City land speculators snapped up lots in both the tiny developments. In fact, so many New York City residents owned lots in Pelhamville and Prospect Hill Village that Pelham's tax collector, Benjamin F. Horton, occasionally published notices in New York City newspapers stating that he would be in the City to collect real estate taxes from non-resident owners of such lots. The text of one such notice appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.

"NOTICE. The Collector of the town of Pelham will meet at the North American Hotel Bowery corner of Bayard st to receive taxes of non resident owners of lots of Pelhamville and Prospect Hill, in said town on the 16th day of February in the City of New York.


Source: Notice, N.Y. Daily Times, Feb. 14, 1855, p. 7, col. 6.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Notice of Auction Sale of Lots at Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham in 1874

I have written extensively about "Bartow-on-the-Sound", a tiny hamlet carved from lands around the Bartow / City Island train station that once stood on the Branch Line not far from today's Pelham Bit Stables on Shore Road. See, e.g., Bell, Blake A., Bartow-on-the-Sound, Once a Hamlet in the Town of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 5, Feb. 3, 2006, p. 13, col.

In 1874, an auction notice announcing sale of lots in Bartow appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle. I have transcribed the text of the notice below, followed by a citation to its source.

On the Premises at

Around the New Depot. Water fronts on Pelham Bay, high lands overlooking the Sound, 53 minutes from business centres, and 7 miles from New York centre, with commutation less than stage fare. Free excursion, leaving New York at 10:45 A.M. Collation, Grafulia's Bank, Harrison, etc. Sale absolute. Maps, Tickets, etc., of JERE. JOHNSON, Jr., No. 21 Park Row, N. Y."

Source: Jere. Johnson, Jr., Auctioneer, Brooklyn Eagle, Sep. 11, 1874, p. 1.

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