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, April 22, 2009

1877 Account of Competition for DePeyster Medal at the Glen Drake Range in Pelhamville

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I have completed my recent efforts to uncover more information about the "Glen-Drake" rifle range in Pelhamville during the 1870s. See:

Mon., April 20, 2009:  Only Known Image of the Glen-Drake Rifle Range Near Pelhamville.

Wed., April 1, 2009: Evidence of a "Glen-Drake" Rifle Range in Pelhamville During the 1870s.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an article that appeared in a New York City newspaper in 1877 describing the competition for the DePeyster medal at the range.  The brief article sheds additional light on the history of the range.

"GLEN DRAKE RANGE, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- A very limited number of the members of the First, Second, and Fifth Divisions of the National Guard met at the Glen Drake range, on Sept. 27, the occasion being the regular match for the DePeyster medal.  This is the grand match of the American Rifle Association, and as the badge had been won twice by two marksmen, an interesting contest was expected, particularly as the Westchester sharpshooters had been practicing steadily at this range, 300 yards, fully intending that the beautiful medal should not again leave their county.  The conditions of the match are:  Open only to National Guardsmen in uniform, distance 300 yards, standing, military rifles, State model, seven rounds per man, and the ground between the firing points and the butts being very hollow, close work is required to secure an average score.  The mid-day train brought the New York and Brooklyn marksmen to the range, and as the weather was pleasant, all looked forward to a fine afternoon's sport.  Unfortunately, the pleasure was marred by a squabble for the possession of the trophy, and the assistance of a constable and justice of the peace was finally needed to settle the dispute.  The cause of the quarrel was the direct refusal of Lieut. J. A. Gee, the last winner of the badge, to surrender it to the proper officers of the association until the close of the match.  One of the essential conditions of this contest is that the winner shall give bonds for its safe keeping, while in the bond is a clause which binds the holder to return the badge to the association whenever so requested.  This rule has been readily complied with in all previous contests.  Capt. Charles F. Robbins, the first winner, gave bonds, and returned the badge previous to the second match.  Lieut. Gee himself, the second winner, gave bonds, and also returned the badge in the proper manner.  Private Backofen, who won the third and fourth matches, did likewise, and it was not until after the close of the fifth contest that any trouble was experienced.  Lieut. Gee, who won this match, was not prepared with his bonds; but as he expected to attend some military ball or entertainment the evening of the match, he requested permission to wear the badge, promising to return it, or give the necessary bonds in a few days.  This favor, Mr. Thompson, the Treasurer of the American Rifle Association, readily granted, and the Lieutenant, having obtained possession of the badge, failed to either return it, or give the required bonds, notwithstanding the repeated demands of the successive treasurers and secretaries of the association.  Tired at length of waiting for the badge or the bonds, the Board of Directors called the match, and Major Coburn, the executive officer of the range, previous to commencement of the firing, approached Lieut. Gee, and said:  'Now, Lieutenant, if you are ready to turn over the badge to the association, we will proceed with the match.'  This very just request the Lieutenant declined to accede to, stating that he refused to give up the badge until the match was completed, when he would turn it over to the winner.  The Lieutenant is a regular attendant at the Creedmore matches, and he must have known that a medal or trophy is invariably turned over to the executive officer before the commencement of a new match, and his direct refusal to comply with the request rather astonished Major Coburn.  However, he endeavored to convince Lieut. Gee of his error, but the latter refused to see it, and a general row was imminent.  This was stopped by the interference of Mr. Jarvis, the acting Secretary of the association, who had entered a replevia suit, the complaint being that Lieut. Gee was wrongfully detaining the property of the association.  All parties, therefore, adjourned to the Justice's Court at Pelhamville, where the Lieutenant again refused to deliver up the badge, and taking it from its case, pinned it on his breast, and said that it must be taken from him by force.  The justice then ordered the constable to remove it from the Lieutenant's coat, which was accordingly done.  Thus ended the squabble, and, of course, the match for that day, and the men wended their several ways, it is needless to say, not in the best of humor.  The officers of the association are content with their rights in obtaining possession of the badge, while the Lieutenant and his friends threaten civil suits and court-martial.  We opine that the matter will be allowed to rest just where it is.  The association is about to contsult the donor, Gen. DePeyster, as to the future contests for his badge, and it is very probable that the coming matches for the medal will be held at Creedmoor, where they will be well attended.  The annual match for the Fifth Division prize was held on this range, on Oct. 5:  distances, 200 and 500 yards; five rounds at each range."

Source:  Glen Drake Range, Westchester County, N.Y., The Spirt of the Times [New York, NY], Oct. 6, 1877, p. 252, col. 3.

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