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.

Monday, January 28, 2008

1884 Burglary and Gun Fight at the Pelham Manor Depot

The population of Pelham grew quickly after the Civil War. With development came problems, particularly as so-called “tramps” found the area enticing and hitched rides to Pelham on trains running on the New Haven Main Line and the Branch Line. Before the Village of Pelham Manor was incorporated in 1891, local residents founded the Pelham Manor Protective Club as a means of working together for the good of their community. Nearly the entire adult male population of the area – 52 local residents – subscribed as members. Members of the DeWitt family of Pelham Manor were members of the "Club".

The purpose of the club was “to assist the public authorities in maintaining law and order within a radius of one mile from Pelham Manor Depot....” The club raised money to fund its work, which included guarding against tramps, petty thieves, stray livestock and other local problems. The records of the club, which was disbanded once the village of Pelham Manor was incorporated, provide documentation of the development of a local government in lower Westchester County in the 1880s.

As part of the locality's crime-fighting initiative, burglar alarms were installed in a number of locations including the little Pelham Manor Train Depot on the New Haven Branch Line where burglars had struck before. One evening, that burglar alarm awoke R. C. DeWitt who raced to the Depot with his pistol and soon found himself in a gun battle with the burglars. An Account of the incident appeared in the January 10, 1884 issue of the New-York Tribune and is transcribed below.

"PELHAM MANOR -- About one a.m. yesterday Mr. R. C. DeWitt, of Pelham Manor, was aroused by the ringing of his burglar alarm, which indicated that the depot of the New-York, New-Haven and Hartford Railroad Company on the Harlem River Branch had been entered by burglars. Mr. De Witt went to the station, armed with his revolver. Then he discovered that a couple of burglars had forced their way through a small window into the ticket office. He fired at them five times, and the robbers in return fired shot for shot, without effect. They made their escape from the building, followed by Mr. De Witt and some of his neighbors; but owing to the storm and darkness of the night all trace of them was soon lost. They obtained only a small amount of money."

Source: Pelham Manor, New-York Tribune, Jan. 10, 1884, p. 8, col. 4.

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