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.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Books of Town Supervisor "Honest John Shinn" Turned Up Short in 1906

More than a century ago, the outgoing Supervisor of the Town of Pelham, John M. Shinn, was embroiled in a nasty dispute that eventually led to litigation.  Questions arose over the Town accounts during his tenure.  Ironically, the Republican Town leader was known as "Honest John" Shinn.  To make matters worse, Shinn was elected to office immediately after Pelham Town Supervisor Sherman Pell forged the Town Clerk's name to $100,000 worth of bonds, sold them to Wall Street Investors and abscounded with the funds reportedly living out his remaining years in South America.

I have written of this matter, and of John Shinn, before.  See, e.g.:

Mon., February 16, 2009:  Outgoing Town of Pelham Supervisor Embroiled in Dispute Over Town Accounts in 1906.

Thurs., October 4, 2007:  Biography of John M. Shinn, Pelham Town Supervisor in Late 19th Century.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes yet another newspaper article about the matter.  The text appears below, followed by a citation to its source.

Ex-Supervisor of Pelham's Accounts out $17,971.

The books of ex-Supervisor John M. Shinn of Pelham, for two terms Chairman of the board in Westchester County, and known as 'Honest John,' Pelham's 'Little Giant,' show a shortage of $17,971.37 in his accounts, according to the statement of experts who have been examining them.  The shortage covers a period of eleven years, and is said to be due to bad bookkeeping.

Mr. Shinn has turned two of his houses in Pelham Manor over to the New Rochelle Trustee in a joint deed, which will be held to make good the deficiency.

For many years Shinn ran the Republican politics in Pelham.  He started life as a painter and studied at night until he became a school teacher.  He held this place for years.  He was very fond of landscape painting, and some of his works brought him in considerable sums of money.  Not satisfied with this, Shinn studied law, and was admitted to the bar about ten years ago.  When Sherman Pell, Supervisor of Pelham forged the Town Clerk's name to $100,000 worth of bonds and sold them in Wall Street and embarked for South America, John Shinn was chosen at a taxpayers' meeting to fill the office.  Pell is said to have died in South America a few years later, a penniless tramp.  Shinn held the Supervisorship until last Fall, when he was defeated by Louis C. Young, a scenic artist, by 16 votes.  Shinn says that there was no attempt on his part to defraud the taxpayers, and that his shortage is due to careless bookkeeping.  He will reimburse the town for every penny.  No effort will be made to have Shinn indicted.  Republicans and Democrats alike are expressing profound sympathy for Shinn who is very popular in the town."

Source:  "Honest John Shinn" Short, N.Y. Times, Jun. 20, 1906, p. 1, col. 2.

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