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, July 23, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Bridegroom: Pelhamville Rocked by Mystery in 1893

The newly-built Church of the Redeemer was full and was decorated gloriously for a lovely wedding.  The pews were packed with guests.  The organist was in the organ loft ready to play the wedding march.  The prospective bride was radiant in her wedding gown and stood in the vestibule with her beaming father who was ready to walk her down the aisle.  All that was missing from that perfect autumn day on October 5, 1893 was . . . the bridegroom!

An hour passed with no bridegroom.  Finally, the Rev. Dr. Cornelius W. Bolton was forced to address the assembled guests.  He announced that the wedding would be "postponed."  

The bride fainted.  According to one account, she "had to be carried home in a carriage, and now lies in critical condition from shock.  It is feared that she will lose her reason."

The case of the missing bridegroom caused a sensation.  Newspapers in cities as far away as Washington, D.C. published stories about the mystery.  Where was the bridegroom?  What had happened?  Why did he fail to appear at his own wedding?  The prospective bride simply refused to believe that she had been left at the altar.  She feared that her beloved had met with foul play.  

Two days later, the bridegroom showed up.  He had a wild story that strained credulity.  Yet, according to an account published at the time, "He spoke earnestly and apparently truthfully."

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of two articles published at the time that detailed these strange events.  To find out what happened, and whether the prospective bride married her beau or kicked him to the curb, read the remainder of today's posting. . . . 

1910 Post Card View of the Church of the Redeemer
Which Was Newly-Built When the Wedding Was Scheduled
To Be Held on October 5, 1893.

Mystery Connected With the Disappearance of a Bridegroom.

A special to the New York World from Mount Vernon, N.Y., says:  Pelhamville, a hamlet one mile east of this city, has a sensation.  Miss Kate, the pretty nineteen-year-old daughter of George McGalliard, a well-to-do mason and builder of New York city, was to have been married to MacDonald Cross, a middle-aged widower, employed by the Wilson Adams Lumber Company of this city, but he failed to meet her at the altar.

Cross came here six months ago from Glen's Falls.  He owns considerable property in that city.  
He had not been in Pelhamville long when he met Miss McGalliard.  He paid frequent visits to her home and was well liked by everybody there.  Shortly after meeting her he proposed and was accepted.  The wedding day was set for a week ago, but on account of the bride being taken ill it was postponed until last Monday.  Invitations had been sent out for the wedding, which was to have been celebrated at the Church of the Redeemer, in this village, by the Rev. Dr. Bolton.

At the appointed time the church was crowded.  The pastor was in his study awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom to sign the marriage license, the organist was in the organ loft ready to play the wedding march and the bride, dressed in her wedding gown, was in the vestibule with her father waiting for the bridegroom.

An hour passed and he did not put in an appearance.  The Rev. Mr. Bolton had to announce to the guests that the wedding must be postponed.  The bride fainted, and had to be carried home in a carriage, and now lies in critical condition from shock.  It is feared that she will lose her reason.

Miss McGalliard will not believe that she has been deserted.  She fears that Mr. Cross has met with foul play or has been taken suddenly ill in New York.

On Saturday Mr. Cross spent the evening with his intended.  He had already given her the wedding ring to take care of, but on that evening asked her for it, so that he could have a proper inscription engraved on the inside of it.  Miss McGalliard gave it to him, and he parted with her and said that he would call on Sunday.  He did not do so, but the young lady thought nothing of it.  

Cross' absence and strange conduct is a mystery."

Source:  HE COMETH NOT, SHE SAID, The Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], Oct. 5, 1893, p. 8, col. 2.  

Croff's Strange Story of Why He Was Not at the Marriage Altar.

Kitty Byrd McGilliard, the pretty nineteen-year-old daughter of George McGilliard, a wealthy contractor of Pelhamville, N. Y., who was to have been married on Monday last to Isaac McD. Croff, a widower who lives at Mt. Vernon, N. Y., but who failed to appear, as narrated in yesterday's Star, has been married at last.

Croff returned to Pelhamville Wednesday night about 5:30 and at 7:30 the Rev. C. Bolton was called to the McGilliard residence, where he tied the nuptial knot.  

To a reporter who called at the McGilliard residence yesterday afternoon Mr. Croff told a remarkable story and apparently truthfully.  

'On Monday morning last,' he said, 'the day I was to be married, I left Mount Vernon for New York, where I desired to make some purchases.  I had very nearly $600 in my pockets when I started.  I made my purchases in the city and took them to Mendel's package office at the 42d street depot, as I desired to go and see a lady who had been a most excellent friend of mine and tell her I was to be married.  Her name I do not care to give, as I do not consider it necessary.  

'After I had called on the lady in question.  I started to walk to the Grand Central depot.  When I reached 57th street and 8th avenue, I glanced at my watch and discovered I had but ten minutes in which to reach the depot in time to take the 1:02 train for Pelhamville.  Seeing a cab standing by the curb, apparently disengaged, with the driver on the box, I stepped in and told him to drive me to the Grand Central depot as quickly as he could.  While I spoke, two strangers, well dressed, followed me into the cab, one of them saying, as he got in:  'This is the best chance we have had in a year.'  I paid no attention to them or the remark, and the driver started off at a rapid pace.  

'Suddenly, before I could make a move, one of them (I noticed he was tall and had a gray mustache and wore a silk hat) sprang toward me and grasped me by the throat with one hand, while the other man, a short, thick-set fellow, pushed a handkerchief under my nose.  This is the last thing of which I have any recollection until I found myself on Wednesday morning, two days after, standing two blocks away from the depot in Troy, N. Y. [Editor's Note:  North of Albany, about 155 miles away.]  I was too bewildered to know where I was, and I felt weak and sick.  

'I examined my pockets and found that all my money was gone except what I had stowed away in one of my inside pockets.  I believe the two men took the $567.  At any rate it was gone; also my watch and two rings, which I wore on my finger.  One of them I valued very highly.  The wedding ring which I was to use was also gone.  I then telegraphed to Pelhamville that I was in Troy, and did not know how I got there.  This is all I can say except that I called on Dr. Carlisle of Mount Vernon, and he, after a thorough examination of me, said that I was suffering from a strong dose of chloroform, but would be all right in a few days.  

'I intend to go to New York and see Supt. Byrnes and lay the facts before him.  I am a poor man, and the loss of that money, at present, is the loss of a fortune to me.  You might also say that Mrs. Croff and I will start on our wedding trip tomorrow night.'

Croff's truthfulness has never been questioned before, and all his neighbors in Pelhamville believe his story."

Source:  THE MISSING BRIDEGROOM, The Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], Oct. 6, 1893, p. 7, col. 3.  See also KITTY MARRIED AT LAST, The Anaconda Standard, Oct. 26, 1893, p. 7, col. 1; Why He Was Not Married. -- Mr. Croff of Pelhamville Says He Was Chloroformed and Robbed in a Cab, N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 1893, p. 3; THE BRIDEGROOM RETURNED -- Mr. Croff Tells a Remarkable Story of Adventure, The Indianapolis News, Oct. 7, 1893, p. 1, col. 4; A BRIDEGROOM MISSING, The Sun [NY, NY], Oct. 4, 1893, p. 1, col. 6.  

I have written about this strange turn of events that included a happy ending before.  See Thu., Apr. 21, 2005:  Can You Imagine What The Bride's Father Was Ready To Do?

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