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, August 21, 2014

Biographical Sketches of Two Members of the 1887-88 Westchester County Board of Supervisors With Pelham Connections

In 1887, The Eastern State Journal of White Plains, New York published on its front page brief biographical sketches of each of the newly-elected Supervisors of the various Towns of Westchester County who, together, made up the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County.  Two of the Town Supervisors had connections to Pelham.  The first was Charles Henry Roosevelt, Supervisor of New Rochelle, whose family owned a vast swath of the land that later formed much of the Village of Pelham Manor.  The second was Sherman T. Pell, Supervisor of Pelham.

The two men could not have been more different.  Charles Henry Roosevelt was an honorable man.  Sherman T. Pell was not.  Indeed, Sherman T. Pell was a dishonest scoundrel.

I have written about Sherman T. Pell before.  See Bell, Blake A., Take the Money and Run:  Pelham Town Supervisor Sherman T. Pell, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 19, May 13, 2005, p. 14, col. 2.  

Sherman T. Pell engaged in election fraud to extend his service as Town Supervisor of the Town of Pelham.  Then, in 1893, after completing seven years of service as Town Supervisor but recently defeated in his bid for re-election, Sherman T. Pell simply disappeared, never to be seen again.  Worried that there might be a fiscal reason for the disappearance, the Town Board audited the Town's accounts and discovered $1,700 missing.  That was bad enough.  Soon, however, the scandal grew darker.  Soon it was discovered that for years Sherman T. Pell had been forging notes on behalf of the Town of Pelham and forging the Clerk of the Town's signature on those notes.  Pell then sold the forged bonds on Wall Street for amounts totaling up to $100,000.  He absconded with the ill-gotten proceeds of his criminal enterprise.  His disappearance was a pathetic attempt to leave the Town of Pelham and its taxpayers holding the bag.  Sherman T. Pell reportedly fled to South America and was never brought to justice.  After years of litigation, the "investors" who purchased the forged bonds were left holding the bag and suffered the losses.

In contrast to Sherman T. Pell, Charles Henry Roosevelt was a diligent, honest and hard-working Town Supervisor who represented New Rochelle honorably and ably.  I have written about him and his family and their ties to Pelham on prior occasions.  See, e.g.:

Tue., May 13, 2014:  Elbert Roosevelt, An Early Settler of the Manor of Pelham, and Other Members of His Family.

Mon., Apr. 05, 2010:  Obituary of Noted Pelham Manor Resident C. H. Roosevelt Published in 1901

Thu., Jan. 01, 2009:  A Brief History of Pelham Bridge

Wed., Jan. 29, 2008:  Brief Obituary of Rev. Washington Roosevelt of Pelham Published February 13, 1884

Mon., Nov. 19, 2007:  1901 Obituary of Charles Henry Roosevelt, Grandson of Elbert Roosevelt, One of the Early Settlers of Pelham Manor

Mon., Dec. 18, 2006:  What May Be The Earliest Patent Awarded to a Resident of Pelham: Patent Issued to Elbert J. Roosevelt on May 29, 1866

Wed., Dec. 13, 2006:  More About Isaac Roosevelt of Pelham Who Carved His Name on a Glacial Boulder in 1833

Mon., Nov. 13, 2006: The Isaac Roosevelt Stone Carved in 1833

Wed., Sep. 20, 2006:  Brief Biographical Data About Elbert Roosevelt of the Manor of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 06, 2006: Pelham Loses its Right To Use the Town Dock in the Early 1900s.

Copy of Undated Daguerrotype Showing Samuel Pell, His Wife and Family.
Arrow Indicates Young Sherman T. Pell, a Son of Samuel Pell of City Island.
Source:  Digital Collection of the Author.

Transcribed below is the text of the relevant portions of the 1887 article containing the biographical sketches of Charles Henry Roosevelt and the cowardly criminal scoundrel Sherman T. Pell.  The text is followed by a citation to its source.  


We give below a short biographical sketch of each of the newly elected supervisors.  They are by virtue of their selection representative men, and inasmuch as they will constitute the local legislature of the county for the current year, and their acts will affect each tax-payer, and each citizen as well, the people have a right to know of their history and qualifications. . . . 

*     *     *


Charles Henry Roosevelt, Esq., the new supervisor of New Rochelle, was born Nov. 4, 1832, at Sandy Hill, in the northern part of this state, and is the son of the Rev. Washington Roosevelt.  His grandfather bought a farm in the town of Pelham in 1798, near Hunter's Island, and for many years spent his summers there, residing in New York City in the winter.  Members of the Roosevelt family still reside on the old place.  The village of Pelham Manor occupies a part of this historical farm.

Mr. Roosevelt came to New Rochelle from New York city in 1858, and entered into partnership with the late Robert H. Coles, then surrogate of this county and under the name of Coles & Roosevelt, did a large business.  During the war he took very decided and active part in raising troops and in the political campaigns supported the administration with voice and pen, speaking every night in the week to his fellow-citizens for a long time, and was known as a 'War Democrat.'

Mr. Roosevelt has been elected supervisor of New Rochelle three times; the first time over Henry D. Phelps, who had held the office for a number of years, and who was justly regarded as one of the most popular republicans in the county.  At the second and third elections he was nominated by the democrats and endorsed by the citizens' association and the republican party.  In the Tilden and Cleveland campaigns, Mr. Roosevelt was very active, speaking night after night to large audiences, and in every way aiding his party.

Mr. Roosevelt is well-known as a gentleman of solid legal attainments and of pleasing address.  He has been active, earnest, and self-sacrificing as a democrat, and is deserving of consideration at the hands of his party.  The honorable position of County Judge, at the expiration of the present term, would be a fitting reward for fidelity and long service in the democratic ranks, and for which his qualifications eminently are apparent. . . . 


The town of Pelham is represented in the board of supervisors by Sherman T. Pell, after whose ancestors his town was named.  He was born on City Island October 21, 1853, educated there and in New York city, and is a worthy representative of a noted family of that vicinity.  His occupation is that of an insurance broker and agent and dealer in real estate.  He was town clerk of Pelham from 1875 to 1880; was elected supervisor in 1886, and is re elected for 1887.  Mr. Pell was an attentive member last year, was efficient as a legislator, and accomplished more for his town than has been done before for many years.

Pelham is the smallest town in the county.  New York city has absorbed the best part of her territory for park purposes, and brought her down to an acreage uncomfortably small for a township.  If we are to judge of her value by the real estate experts who testified before the park commission, we shall conclude that she is a real diamond -- small in extent but immensely valuable.  Pelham has been the homestead of a great number of the old families who were noted in social circles a half century ago.  Most of the heads of the families have disappeared, and their estates are represented by new names and strangers to our people.  The old stock of the Hunters, the Morrises, Schuylers, Bartows, Secors, Jessups, Boltons, and Rapelyeas are gone by reason of age, and the dissolving view brings new Christian names or strange patronymics to the front; but the land is there, and time is fast drawing the monster metropolis up to cover up its water-washed meadows."

Source:  SKETCHES OF MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS FOR 1887-8, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Apr. 9 ,1887, Vol. XLIII, No. 1, p. 1, cols. 3 & 5-6  .

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