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.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Report of Fight with Trolley Construction Crew in Pelhamville in 1898

In the late 19th century, rival trolley companies raced to construct lines throughout the New York region.  Rivalries among competing trolley lines led to at least one instance of violence in Pelhamville in 1898.  A fascinating account of the incident appeared in the October 8, 1898 issue of New Rochelle Pioneer.  The account appears below.



The little village of Pelhamville has a very lively railroad row on its hands the outcome of which will be watched with the keenest interest by the friends of the Union Trolley Company and the New York and Connecticut Traction Company. 

The rivalry between the Union and the Connecticut company precipitated a fight in Pelhamville Saturday afternoon. 

The trouble between the two companies dates back several years, when the Traction company received a franchise from the Trustees of North Pelham to construct a line connecting Mt. Vernon and New Rochelle.  The trustees granted the franchise on the condition that the line should be in operation inside of a year.  Last month the trustees granted a franchise to the Union Company, known as the Huckleberry road, over the same route, on the ground that the Traction Company had violated its franchise.

The Union Company was to have commenced work on this new franchise as soon as their lines to New Rochelle had been completed.

The Traction Company on Saturday decided to steal a march on its rival, and early in the afternoon a gang of Italians appeared on the ground and started to tear up the road at Fourth street and Fifth avenue, North Pelham.  The men under foreman Mack had succeeded in laying several feet of track when Councilmen Vincent Barker and George McGalliard drove up and ordered the men to stop. 

They refused to do so and Constable Marks, who appeared on the scene, arrested the foreman of the gang and some of the laborers.

Later the Councilmen were joined by Village President M. J. Lynch, Dr. Charles Barker, James Seaman, James Riley and John Case, who tried to block the street in order to prevent the transportation of rails.  Dr. Barker drove his buggy into th excavated tracks, but the Italians picked it up and removed it. 

At this juncture some members of the fire department appeared.  They turned the fire hose onto the gang of Italians who scattered into the woods. 

Word was telephoned to the Mt. Vernon police for assistance, but Chief Foley could not send men where he had no jurisdiction over them, and he was obliged to refuse the request. 

Contractor Smith's men were called on to fill in the excavated trenches and restore the street to its proper condition. 

Foreman Hannon, of the Union Company, who has a gang of men at work in New Rochelle, heard of the trouble, and hurried his force into Pelhamville, and started to lay a line of tracks for the Union Company. 

The Connecticut Company, anticipating some more trouble of this character, had procured an injunction from Justice Dickey, of the Supreme Court, Brooklyn, which was served on the Union Company, and for the time being work ceased.

The Union Company being in possession of the field, kept an army of Italians on the streets all Saturday night and all day Sunday."

Source:  Trolley Row at Pelhamville, New Rochelle Pioneer, Oct. 8, 1898, p. 1, col. 1.

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