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, September 23, 2009

Jacob Heisser's Summary of the Early History of Pelhamville Published in 1913

In 1913, The Pelham Sun published reminiscences of the early history of Pelhamville written by Jacob Heisser.  Transcribed below is the text of Heisser's reminiscences.

"The Ancient Pelhamville

It was in the year 1862 that I came to Pelhamville.  The place had a population of about fifty at that time.  Not many of those here then are alive today.  And those who have come here in later years will hardly believe me when I tell them that our present beautiful Fifth avenue was then a cow path.  There were only very few houses, and those were not pretentious.

There were the stone house, corner of Sixth street and First avenue, now occupied by Mr. Snyder, and the most pretentious in those old days; the house now owned by Mr. A. W. Crane, also on Sixth street; the house belonging to Justice Edward A. Patterson, on First avenue, right near Gannon's woods, not far away from there Dan Dockin's house.  On second avenue was John Lynch's little house, where Robert Martini's new house now stands; my father's farmhouse was up where Smith Brothers now have their stables; on Seventh avenue James W. Roosevelt owned and lived in the old house now occupied by Bruce Dick; James Schoebottom's house on Ninth avenue; Frederick Wahl's house on Fourth avenue, near Second street, now owned by J. H. Young; Jacob Speidel's house on corner of First street and Third avenue, now John Rohr's; Walter Ely's on Seventh avenue, now owned by Mrs. M. O'Flynn; Patrick Farrell's on First avenue; Mr. Green's on Second avenue, corner Second street, now occupied by Mr. Temple; Mrs. Bogert's next door, now owned by C. W. Foster.  Then there was the old Wolf homestead, now moved to Sixth avenue and occupied and owned by Henry Straehle, and a couple of others.

A house like the Farrell house back of St. Catherine's Church was the style.  By the aid of good neighbors such a house was put up for between $400 and $500.  They all helped to dig and build.

Railroad accomodation in those days was not exactly what it is now.  From 1862 to 1873 there were no regular stops at Pelham, and but few trains were running.  If I remember aright, trains ran 7.30 and 10.30 a.m. and 3.30 and 7.30 p.m.  But you had to wave a red flag to make them stop here, and then you had to pay 50 cents to New York each way.  In 1873, however the New Haven railroad placed a regular ticket agent here, the trains made stops and the number of them gradually increased.  In 1877 the total population was 245 souls.

The first improvements made in Pelhamville were done by an improvement society that was started by Mr. E. A. Gurney in 1886.  A plank sidewalk was laid from First street to Second street on Fifth avenue; lamps were put up at the various residences, that is at such residences whose owners agreed to care for them.  If two families lived near each other, they would divide up the lamp business, one keeping it clean and lighting it and the other supply the oil.

By and by a few progressive inhabitants began to clamor for improvements, and in 1896 the idea of incorporating the village took a good hold.  The following were especially active in getting a favorable vote upon the question of incorporation:  Otto Stroetzel, John H. Young, C. A. Barker, Jacob Heisser, Alex. Kennedy, G. I. Karbach, James W. Penny (Penny used to keep a pair of rubber boots in Daggett's saloon where he called for them on coming from New York and put them on in an effort to safely reach his house in Chester Park), George Glover, George Pearson, Aug. Godfrey, Mrs. Broege, S. T. Lyman, Louis C. Young, W. J. Evert, M. J. Woods, William Edinger, Isaac C. Hill, John Case, S. Gregoor, J. A. Greer and S. E. Field.

The most active opponents of incorporation were M. J. Lynch and Michael McHugh.

Still, the proposition was carried by 2 votes, 67 voting for and 63 against. 

I was the first President elected and George McGaillard, Louis C. Young and S. E. Lyon were elected Trustees.  B. F. Crewell was elected Treasurer; William Edinger, Collector, and John Case was appointed Clerk.

We had no money, but we set about getting some.  The taxpayers voted a bond issue of $39,000 for street improvements.

That amount and more was spent the next year when J. M. Lynch was elected President, beating me by 11 votes.  Sidewalks were laid in front of houses and thus scattered all around the village. 

No real improvements came for some years, but since 1908 and up to the present time, the people appear to have risen to the occasion and voted money for improvements, which we should have had years ago.

When I think back to 1862 and picture in my mind what old Pelhamville looked like and now go out of my house and cross over to Fifth avenue and take a glance around, I am really astounded not over what improvements I see, but astounded that it took so many, many years to get the old settlers to understand that just such improvements were necessary to build up the community.


Source:  The Ancient Pelhamville, The Pelham Sun, 1913, p. 11, col. 6 (undated newspaper page in the collections of the Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham, NY; digital copy in author's files).

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