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 02, 2008

New York State Senate Report on Petition by Inhabitants of Westchester To Allow Construction of Toll Bridge Across Eastchester Creek in 1834

On April 2, 1834, the Committee on Roads and Bridges of the New York State Senate issued a report on a petition received from residents of Westchester County to permit Pelham resident George Rapelje to construct a toll draw bridge over Eastchester Creek. The report provides an interesting glimpse of a portion of the history surrounding efforts to construct bridges over Eastchester Creek to shorten the distance from New York City and surrounding areas to Pelham.

The text of the report appears immediately below. It is followed by a citation to its source.

"No. 116.

April 2, 1834.



Of the committee on roads and bridges, on the petition of sundry inhabitants of the county of Westchester.

Mr. Westcott, from the committee on roads and bridges, to whom was referred the petition of inhabitants of Westchester county,


That the petitioners pray that George Rapelje may be authorized by law to build a toll draw-bridge across the Eastchester creek, in the town of Pelham, in Westchester county. The petition is signed by three hundred and eighty inhabitants of that county, and accompanied by a stipulation under the hand of Mr. Rapelje, that he will, if a law for that purpose shall be passed, construct the bridge in a good and substantial manner, at his individual expense.

The petitioners state, that under a law of 1812, a bridge was constructed by a company at the place now proposed for the location of a new bridge, and kept up and maintained until the close of the year 1828, when, the whole stock being owned by one person, he for some cause removed the draw, whereby the use of the bridge was discontinued, and the corporation was soon after discontinued by a course of legal proceedings; that since the discontinuance of the bridge, the inhabitants of the southeasterly section of the county, and particularly those in Pelham, have been put to great trouble [Page 1 / Page 2] and inconvenience, by being compelled to travel and transport their property by a circuitous route, at least four miles further, and over a much more hilly road; that the distance from the town of Pelham, by the way of the contemplated bridge, to the village of Westchester, is only three miles, which without the use of the bridge is increased to nine miles.

The tolls proposed by the petitioners and Mr. Rapelje, are the same as those contained in the former law, which, it is supposed, will be no more than sufficient for repairs and attendance. The offer of Mr. Rapelje is considered by the petitioners as liberal and satisfactory.

Against this application, however, there is a remonstrance, signed by sixty-four inhabitants of Eastchester and Pelham, who state that the former bridge so far obstructed the navigation, that no market boat was run up the creek, during the continuance of that obstruction; but that since the bridge has been removed, their prospects have been so encouraging, from the improving condition of the country above the bridge, that it is now in contemplation to run a market vessel during the present season; that heretofore they have been compelled to carry their surplus produce to New-Rochelle or Westchester landings, or more directly to New-York on wagons, which latter course has been generally adopted; and that no more than about eight families would be accommodated by the proposed bridge.

The committee understand that the Eastchester creek is a very narrow stream, passing through a considerable extent of marshy ground, which divides Throg's Neck from Pelham, and is navigable only by small vessels. It seems by the admission of those who have signed the remonstrance, that no market vessel has used this navigation since the former bridge was built, and although several years have elapsed since it was removed, none have yet been employed upon this stream, and nothing more contemplated than the use of one small vessel the present season. If then, so little use is made of these waters, a bridge properly constructed, with a convenient and well attended draw, does not seem likely to produce an inconvenience of such magnitude, as to justify a denial of the prayer of three hundred and eighty respectable petitioners, subject to the difficulties stated in their petition.

The committee therefore, after a careful consideration and examination of the subject, have come to the conclusion that the prayer of the petitioners is reasonable, and may be granted without material injury to the rights of other citizens. In accordance with this opinion a bill has been prepared, which the committee ask leave to introduce."

Source: Documents of the Senate of the State of New-York, Fifty-Seventh Session, 1834, Vol. II From No. 51 to 126 Inclusive: No. 116, In Senate, April 2, 1834, Report of the Committee on Roads and Bridges, on the Petiton of Sundry Inhabitants of the County of Westchester, pp. 1-3 (Albany, NY: E. Croswell, Printer to the State, 1834).

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