Historic Pelham

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Confusion Over Where Residents of Hart's Island in Pelham Should Vote in 1884

During the 19th century, confusion arose over whether Hart's Island was part of the Town of Pelham, part of Westchester County or part of New York City. This created confusion over where residents of the Island should vote. The matter was clarified by statute, but later Pelham residents became outraged as the political machines of New York began to push people who worked on Hart's Island to vote in Pelham.

A brief article published in The Sun on August 31, 1884 recounted the confusion and how it was addressed by statute. The text of the article appears below.

"The Hart's Island Vote.

An employee in one of the city's institutions on Hart's Island wrote to the Election Bureau to ask where he ought to vote at the coming election -- in Pelham or in New York. Investigation showed that custom sanctioned Pelham as the polling place of inhabitants of Hart's Island, while the map plainly put the island in Westchester county. On the other hand, chapter 238 of the Laws of 1869, which empowered the Charity Commissioners to establish an industrial school on Hart's Island, referred to the island as the property of the city and county of New York. To offset this, in the Revised Statutes of 1875 Hart's Island is included in the town of Pelham, while chapter 782 of the Laws of 1870 takes the same view, saying that the boundary line had not been altered since Capt. Bond drew his map in 1711. The Chief clerk of the Election Bureau concluded that the balance of authority lay with Pelham, and advised the anxious inquirer to vote there. The vote of Hart's Island is not large. The island is tenanted chiefly by the dead in Potter's Field."

Source: The Hart's Island Vote, The Sun, Aug. 31, 1884, p. 6, col. 2.

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