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 01, 2009

Evidence of a "Glen-Drake" Rifle Range in Pelhamville During the 1870s

Occasionally I run across puzzling references to events in the Town of Pelham that seem to have been lost to history. Such is the case with a couple of references I recently have found regarding a "Glen-Drake" rifle range created in Pelhamville in 1875. I do not now know the precise location of the range, although one of the references describes it as located "two-thirds of a mile north of the depot of the New York and New Haven Railroad at Pelhamville, with a road running in a straight line from the depot to the range." That road, it seems, would be today's Fifth Avenue, thereby placing the range approximately in the area of today's Chester Park neighborhood.

It appears from the references that during the fall of 1874, officers of the 7th Brigade of the State of New York National Guard organized a club to promote and encourage riflery under the name "American Rifle Association". The Club secured land and developed a two-hundred yard range that it quickly determined to be too small for its purpose. "After considerable labor and some expense", the Club developed a new range in the spring of 1875 in Pelhamville. John T. Underhill, Colonel of the 27th Regiment Infantry, served as the Club's President and led the effort to develop the new range which opened in October, 1875. Thereafter, matches were shot on every Saturday. The new range allowed shooting from distances as long as 600 yards to 800 yards.

Immediately below I have transcribed two letters published in annual reports of the Adjutant-General that reference the Glen-Drake Range.

TUCKAHOE, November 29, 1875.}

Major and I.R.P., 7th Brigade, S.N.Y.N.G.

MAJOR -- In accordance with your request, I have the honor to report the progress of rifle practice in my regiment for the past year has been rapid, and the interest evinced by the rank and file steadily increases. In the fall of 1874, a number of the officers organized and incorporated a club for the purpose of promoting and encouraging this most essential part of the school of the soldier, under the title of the American Rifle Association. A two hundred yard range was secured and practice commenced. Matches were shot on Christmas, 1874, New Year's day, 1875, Washington's Birthday, July 4th and Thanksgiving Day. In the spring of this year the range there occupied was found to be inadequate, and the association empowered me, as its President, to secure a larger and more commodious location.

After considerable labor and some expense, the site at present occupied was selected and secured, targets at once erected and practice commenced.

Glen-Drake range is situated two-thirds of a mile north of the depot of the New York and New Have Railroad at Pelhamville, with a road running in a straight line from the depot to the range. Pelhamville is thirty-five minutes' ride from the city of New York, and the fare by excursion ticket is seventy-five cents. The range was formally opened in October, the 27th Regiment being present, since which time matches have been shot on every Saturday. The prizes for which these matches were held have for the most part been offered by prominent residents of Westchester county, except in one instance, that of the De Peyster medal. This medal, without doubt the finest in the possession of any rifle association, was offered by Major-General I. Watts De Peyster, to encourage off-hand shooting. The conditions under which it is shot for are as follows: Only members of the National Guard in uniform are allowed to compete; distance, 300 yards, 7 scoring shots; position, off-hand; rifle, Remington military, open sights.

This has been shot for three times, Captain Robbins, I.R.P. Seventh Regiment, winning it once, Lieutenant Gee, Eighth Regiment, winning it once, and Sergeant Backhofen, of the Forty-seventh Regiment, winning it at the last match, held on Thanksgiving Day.

The present range admits of practice at 600 yards, shooting from west to east, a natural bank or hill forming the epaulement in rear of targets, of which six adjustable, canvass, Wimbledon style except dummy, are now in operation. By slightly changing firing point a range of 800 yards is secured. [Page 332 / Page 333]

It is the intention of management to erect a spacious building for the accommodation of visitors, with a small armory and apartments for range-keeper attached, and to inclose with a suitable fence such portions of the grounds as will secure them from the intrusion of malicious persons and prevent all danger.

This can only be done by a liberal appropriation on the part of the State for the purpose, and, having once finished this part of the work, there can be no good reason why the association should not be self-sustaining.

The ground also affords ample provision for encampments of regiments, there being a large level plain on which regimental or even brigade drills may be held. This fact alone, taking into consideration its accessibility to New York and its retirement from all evil surroundings, should bring it favorably to the earnest attention of the State authorities.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Colonel Twenty-seventh Regiment Infantry, N.G.S.N.Y."

Source: Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York Transmitted to the Legislature January 5, 1876, pp. 332-33 (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Company 1876).

YONKERS, November 30, 1875.}

Inspector of Rifle Practice, Fifth Division:

COLONEL -- I have the honor to transmit herewith my report of the rifle practice of this brigade. Under the directions of the brigade commander, I have been engaged in perfecting a system of rifle practice, based upon your instructions, and the orders which have from time to time been issued by the General Inspector of Rifle Practice, but, owing to the recent date of my appointment as brigade inspector, and to the delays incidental to a proper acquaintance with the conditions of the various armories, etc., scattered, as this brigade is, over so [Page 326 / Page 327] large an area of country, I have not been able as yet to put it in effect. Much preparatory work has, however, been done in awakening interest in target practice, with excellent results. Two efficient ranges have been established, besides that of the Poughkeepsie Rifle Association, viz.: The Glen Drake range at Pelhamville, Westchester county, and the Morsemere range at Yonkers, in the same county.

The establishment of the Glen Drake range is due to the energy of Colonel John T. Underhill, commanding the 27th regiment, assisted by the officers of his command, and certain influential citizens of the neighborhood.

Much irregular, and some regular, practice has been had by the members of the 27th Regiment, under the management of Captain A.W. Peck, I.R.P., the results of which, so far as they can be tabulated, are herewith transmitted, together with a special report from Colonel Underhill, for your information. I fully indorse all that is therein said of the capabilities of this range, which I think is unusually well adapted for the use of the National Guard, and I feel sure that in my next annual report I shall have the pleasure of recording a great advance in the efficiency of this regiment.

The Morsemere range has been established by an association of gentlemen, residents of Yonkers, who have kindly thrown it open to the use of the National Guard, who come there in uniform.

Under the able management of Captain Douglas Smyth, I.R.P., 16th Battalion, acting under orders from Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Cooley, a great work has already been done in increasing the efficiency of that command, the results of which are shown in his report, which I take pride in transmitting.


Besides these two ranges, so well established, as to warrant their recognition as official ranges of this brigade, it gives me pleasure to refer to a number of temporary ranges, which have been established at different places, within the limits of this brigade, prominent among which is the range at Goshen, Orange county, which has been established by the energy of Captain R. C. Coleman, I.R.P., 19th Battalion, where some good work has been done.

To Colonel Dickey, of the 19th Battalion, great credit is due for the choice he has made of an officer so pre-eminently qualified for an inspector of rifle practice as Captain R. C. Coleman.


Besides those entitled to wear the Marksman's Badge, it is proposed to establish in this brigade a corps of sharpshooters, by a still higher [Page 327 / Page 328] test of skill, at all ranges, up to and including 600 yards, to be made up of regimental and battalion corps, the details of which are soon to be set forth in a general brigade order.

I have the honor to remain, Colonel,

Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Major and Inspector Rifle Practice, 7th Brigade."

Source: Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York Transmitted to the Legislature January 5, 1876, pp. 326-28 (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Company 1876).

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting especially with the mention of Alfred Cooley. He was a civil war hero who went on to be a real estate developer in Westchester County. In 1890, he incorporated the Yonkers Park Association and began developing the area which we know today as the Crestwood section of Yonkers.
Gigi Carnes
Crestwood Historical Society and
Curator, Westchester Parks Dept.


Post a Comment

<< Home