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, February 26, 2008

Disputed Pelham School Board Election of 1882 Led to Charges of Fraud

Yesterday I posted to the Historic Pelham Blog an item regarding the Pelham School Board elections of 1881. One year later, the School Board election was much more controversial and led to charges of voter fraud. A lengthy article about the election appeared in the October 15, 1882 issue of The Sun, published in New York City. The article provides important and fascinating background regarding the battle for control of the School Board fought between the citizens of Pelham Manor and those of Pelhamville. The text of the article appears below.



Alleged Fraud at the Polls in Pelham School District.

Pelham Manor and Pelhamville are one school district. A colony of well-to-do New York and other business men inhabit the Manor. No stores are allowed to be built there, no dogs are allowed to go abroad loose, and the tramp is confronted with notices that $10 reward will be paid for his arrest. The little village, two miles away, is clustered about half a dozen country stores. There is said to be a notion in Pelham Manor that the village is not nice, and an impression in the village that the Manor is haughty. Among the residents of Pelham Manor are Mr. R. C. Black, of Ball, Black & Co.; T. D. De Witt, the coal merchant, of this city, and W. E. Barnette, counsel for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad.

Last Tuesday night the annual meeting of the school trustees of the district was held. About 100 men and 30 women assembled in the little school house. The large number of women was a surprise to the Pelhamville people. The terms of two trustees had expired and the election was to fill the vacancies. There were two tickets, on one of which Mr. George H. Reynolds, the President of the Board, a Pelham Manor man, ran for reelection, and upon the other Mr. W. Scott Bertine, the candidate of the villagers. When the polls were opened, Mr. Reynolds marshalled the women, and voted them solid for himself, to the consternation of Bertine's friends. They had counted upon his election by 17 majority, whereas they only got 52 out of 125 votes.

Immediately after the election, when it became known that Mr. Reynolds had again been chosen to the office he had held for six years, charges of fraud were made, and a movement was set on foot to prosecute him for violation of the State Election law. It was charged that many of the women who had voted were not only not entitled to vote, but were not even residents of the district.

A SUN reporter obtained the following statement from Jacob Heisser, a school trustee:

'Up there at Pelham Manor, you see, they don't want their children to mix with ours, and they want to run the whole business. We have two school houses in the district, one here and one at the Manor. While there are but fourteen children attending school there, there are two teachers and they have a fine brick school house. We have forty-two children, and but two teachers. The meeting the other night had only just begun when Mr. Reynolds sprang the election upon us, contrary to the usual custom. He marched the women up to the box and voted them. Half of them had no right to vote, some of them didn't even live here, and one was a servant who had not been in town three days. One hundred and twenty-five votes were cast, 30 by women. Last year only 9 women voted. Mrs. J. Mary, an English woman, came up to vote three times, and I challenged her each time, but she swore her vote in. A Miss Underhill, who was on a visit here and who had not been in town two weeks, swore her vote in. Mrs. Godfrey, a German and not a citizen, voted, and so did Miss Mary Donlon, a young girl, who pays no taxes. You see the law says that a woman to vote must either have paid taxes upon $50 worth of property the year before or have a child down on the school census list. I know that neither Miss Donlon nor Miss Underhill is assessed.'

Mr. Heisser said that money is being subscribed to defray the cost of carrying the matter into the courts and prosecuting Mr. Reynolds. The Board, he said, will recognize Mr. Bertine only, and allow him to take his seat, leaving Mr. Reynolds to oust him if he can.

Mr. Reynolds, who owns one of the finest houses at Pelham Manor, and who for twenty years has been the chief engineer of the Delamater Iron Works, laughs at the threat against him. He offers to bet any amount of money that the Board of School Trustees will not even unseat him.

'Why,' said he, 'Pelham Manor pays ninety per cent of all the school money. They are too poor to pay it over there at Pelhamville. The follow a dog in the manger policy, and don't even wish to allow us to spend our own money. As to the women voting, while I deny that a single servant was in the school house, I admit that Miss Donlon and other ladies voted. I claim that the law does not require a woman to pay taxes or be mother or guardian of a school child. The law places no disability whatever upon women that does not lie upon men.'

Mr. Bertine, the defeated candidate, seconds Mr. Heisser in his views, and says that he expects to be sustained by the courts."

Source: Elected By Women's Votes, The Sun, Oct. 15, 1882, p. 1, col. 2.

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