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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stage Coach Accident in Pelham in Early 1883

It may be difficult to imagine, but western-style stage coaches once provided an important means of transportation in and around the Town of Pelham.  Perhaps the most famous regular stage line within the Town of Pelham was Robert J. Vickery's Stage Line that operated the short distance between City Island and Bartow Station on the New Haven Branch Line.  One of the stages of that line was involved in an accident on January 10, 1883.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides a little information about Robert Vickery's Stage Line and transcribes the text of a brief article that references the 1883 accident.

Robert J. Vickery was a son of notable City Island resident William Vickery.  I have written about William Vickery before.  See Tue., Jan. 27, 2009:  Biography of William Vickery, a 19th Century Resident of City Island in the Town of Pelham.  William Vickery was born in Somersetshire, England in May, 1824.  He married Jane Vickery, no direct kin, in Bristol, England.  The couple emigrated and settled on City Island in the Town of Pelham in 1854.  There he became, first, a farmer and then a shopkeeper who ran a mercantile business and was known for his large garden with which he supplemented his incoming by selling produce for delivery in New York City.  

Robert J. Vickery was born to the couple on March 13, 1856.  Robert J. Vickery married Mary L. Prout who died in 1881.  He married again, on January 6, 1886, to Marian Horton.  The couple had three children and lived for many years on City Island.  See Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. IV, pp. 249-51 (NY and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1907).

In about 1875, Robert J. Vickery established his stage line running between Bartow Station and City Island.  I previously have published an advertisement for Vickery's Stage Line published in 1877.  I have included that image below as well.

The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], May 25, 1877, p. 4, col. 3.

From the outset, Vickery's Stage Line made trips to and from every train that stopped at Bartow Station on the New Haven Branch Line, ferrying passengers back and forth to (and from) City Island.  As a side line, the business also delivered parcels as part of its services.

Vickery ran the stage line successfully for fifteen years.  With the advent of the horse-drawn railway system that was laid out from Bartow Station to City Island in 1887 and began operating in the late 1880's, the handwriting was on the wall for Robert J. Vickery and his stage line.  On January 30, 1890, a local newspaper reported that Robert J. Vickery and one of his brothers, Fred Vickery, had bought a local livery business in Mount Vernon, NY and would take over its operation.  See [Untitled], The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 30, 1890 (reporting "Messrs. Robert J. and Fred Vickery, of City Island, have bought out the livery business of Mr. A. B. Marsh [of Mount Vernon, NY], and will continue at the same stand.  Mr. Marsh will continue the business of veterinary surgeon at the same place.  Mr. Robert J. Vickery ran the stage line between Bartow and City Island over 15 years, and Mr. Fred Vickery conducted a lively stable and express business at Bartow more than 10 years.  They are reliable and obliging gentlemen.").  

Newspaper Advertisement for Robert J. And Fred Vickery's
New Venture, a Boarding and Livery Stable.
Source:  ROBT. J. & FRED. VICKERY [Advertisement],
The Chronicle [Mount Vernon], May 2, 1895, p. 4, cols. 5-6.

For a period of time, at least one other stage company attempted, unsuccessfully, to compete with the so-called horse-railroad that ran between Bartow Station and City Island, but by the mid-to-late 1890's, it seems that western-style stage coaches had disappeared as a mode of transportation within the Town of Pelham.  See City Island, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 6, 1894, Vol. 3, No. 665, p. 3, col. 2 (reporting "City Island . . . Some people's tongue get them into unnecessary trouble.  For instance, the stage company has been obliged to haul off on account of the onslaught one of its drivers made to the public against the Pelham Park [Horse] Railroad, and the consequence is a big law suit on hand between them.").  

Robert J. Vickery died on June 7, 1902.  His death was reported about a week later in the New York Times.  See Death List of the Week . . . VICKERY, N.Y. Times, Jun. 15, 1902, p. 2, col. 6.  

Below is the text of the article that includes a brief description of the stage coach accident that occurred on Robert J. Vickery's Stage Line on January 10, 1883.


On Thursday evening of this week, a party of young people gave a surprise to the Misses Scofield. 

The collector of taxes has given notice that he will sit to receive taxes for thirty days, from January 13th, inst., from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., as follows: January 13th, 20th, 27th and February 3d, at the court-house, City Island; January 18th, 25th and February 1st and 8th, at the store of Robert Scott, Bartow Station. 

It is stated that from three to four hundred tons of coal are stolen, annually, from eastward bound vessels, while in the vicinity of City Island. Complaint has been made from time to time, of the shrinkage in weight of consignments of coal to eastern merchants. By careful estimate, it is calculated that in some seasons, during recent years, the shrinkage has been as high as 400 tons. In many instances, those in charge of the cargoes permit small vessels to come along side and, for a nominal consideration, the visitor is sent away loaded to the waters edge with coal, paid for by some enterprising eastern merchant. In other instances, it is thought that those in charge of the cargoes are in league with the thieves and deal out to them, coal in such an amount as is not likely to be missed by the owner. A large part of this business goes on while the vessels are at anchor over night, or sheltered from approaching storms. By this practice, tons and tons of coal, it is alleged, are sold along the shore, both on the Long Island and Westchester side of the Sound, as far eastward as New Rochelle, for less per ton than its best cost. City Island coal dealers feel most keenly the effect of this business. The great anchorage for vessels being so conveniently near at hand, a little extra precaution would in a measure, check this wholesale robbery. 

A serious accident, to the occupants of one of Vickery's stages was largely averted on Wednesday last. Owing to the extreme high tide which overflowed the road across the flat, to the depth of about two feet, the driver, Philip Flood, was obliged to make a detour to the eastward, through the seldom traveled streets of the King estate. He had barely completed the detour, when, of a sudden, with the horses on a swinging trot, horses and stage were precipitated into a hole three or four feet deep, which had been left by commissioner Cochran last sumer after taking out a rock. The driver was thrown from his seat down into the hole, between the horses and the single occupant of the stage was hurled with great violance against the forward part of it, sustaining severe bruises. One of the horses was considerably cut, and the stage was badly racked. 

Senator Covert has already introduced his bill of last year, abolishing compulsory pilotage through Hell Gate." 

Source:  City Island, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 12, 1883, Vol. XIV, No. 695, p. 3 unknown, cols. 2-3.

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