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, September 10, 2014

An Account of the Pelham Manor Police Department in 1906

I have written about the early days of the Pelham Manor Police Department as well as a few of the police officers who served the Village and its citizens. See, e.g.

Wed., Apr. 30, 2014:  Gun Battle on Witherbee Avenue in 1904 Results in Wounded Pelham Manor Police Officer.

Mon., Apr. 21, 2014:  Early History of the First Years of the Pelham Manor Police Department.

Thu., Jan. 07, 2010:  Pelham Manor Police Establish Speed Traps on Shore Road in 1910 to Catch Those Traveling Faster than Fifteen Miles Per Hour

Wed., Aug. 09, 2006:  The Saddest Day in the History of Pelham Manor's "Toonerville Trolley".

Wed., May 04, 2005:  Philip Gargan, Chief of Police of Pelham Manor, New York

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an account of the Pelham Manor Police Department during its earliest years and provides the image that appeared with the article. The article appeared in The Pelham Sun on the occasion of the announcement of the retirement of Pelham Manor Patrolman James Butler who joined the force in August, 1906.  The text of the article is followed by a citation to its source.

"When Jim Butler Joined the Manor Police Dept."
"Phil Gargan [Left] and Jim Butler [Right] back in
1907 when they were both comparatively newcomers
to the Pelham Manor police department.  Gargan who 
later became chief of the department retired in 1931."
Source:  Jim Butler Recalls Pelham Manor Police Dept. In 1906,
The Pelham Sun, Nov. 13, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 32,
Second Section, p. 9, cols. 2-3.

"Jim Butler Recalls Pelham Manor Police Dept. In 1906
Desk Officer at Police Headquarters Who Will Retire On January 1st Tells of Colorful Days When Village Was Small.

Patrolman James Butler of Pelham Manor Police Department, who last week announced his decision to retire on January 1 after 30 years of service, has watched the Pelham Manor police force grow from a group of 5 men into the present efficient force numbering 22 men.

At the meeting of the Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday night Patrolman Butler's resignation was presented by Mayor Edmund C. Gause, who expressed sincere regret at seeing Butler leave the department.  A resolution expressing the appreciation of the village officials for Butler's long and efficient service was unanimously adopted.  

Patrolman Butler, known to most residents of Pelham as Jim Butler, joined the Pelham Manor Police Department in August, 1906.  At that time there were four other patrolmen on the force, Patrick Callahan, Philip Gargan, Albert Savage and Joseph Colligan (now deceased), acting under Chief Ralph Marks.  Charles H. Pond was president of Pelham Manor at that time.

Each member of the force worked from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., and had to do a reserve duty one day a week, working 24 hours straight.

The day that Jim joined the force the police headquarters was in a small shack at Pelhamdale and Black street, and therein lies an amusing incident, for a few days later Jim reported for duty and found the shack missing.  After a frantic search, Jim finally located 'Headquarters.'  The officials had decided to move to the present site on Penfield Place and Jim came across the shack, mounted on planks, moving slowly towards the new location.

The village was divided into 5 posts.  One man patrolled each post and the fifth officer remained at headquarters to receive complaints.  The patrolman stationed at headquarters selpt there during the day-time.  That was the 24-hour police protection, 30 years ago!

These policemen, strange to relate, were also firemen.  When a fire was reported, a bell would sound at headquarters.  Tom Dooley (recently retired) would drive up with the village wagon and the patrolmen, after switching the team of horses from the street wagon to the fire apparatus clanged down the street to the fire.  

Another duty of the policemen on foot was to trap speeders on the Shore Road.  This amazing feat, accomplished without the means of a motorcycle, caught as many as 30 or 40 motorists a day, Jim affirms.  Three patrolmen were stationed at points of vantage on the Shore Road, a measured distance apart, armed with red flags and stop watches.  A motorist was clocked as he passed one patrolman, and if he was found to be over the speed limit, he found himself flagged to a halt by the second officer and handed a summons.  The speeders were taken to headquarters, released on bail and the patrolmen would make their way back to the speed trap to snare additional violators.

One of the interesting fashion notes on the old police department were the helmets worn by the patrolmen.  They were the tall, sturdy helmets similar to those worn by the London 'bobbies'; white in the Summer and black in the Winter months.  As there were no sidewalks in the early days and no snow removal, the policeman had to patrol his beat shod with tall rubber boots all Winter.

After 10 years of service, Jim was promoted to desk duty under Chief Philip Gargan and has performed in that capacity ever since.  Jim became the veritable fountain of information of the Pelham Manor Police Department.  He has listened to so many complaints that he has acquired a knack of being able to tell instantly whether or not a complaint is a reality or just a false alarm inspired by too much imagination on the part of some citizen.

Patrolman Butler recently passed his 65th birthday.  He was born on November 8, 1871, on Elizabeth street, New York City.  He attended St. Patrick's School in New York City.  Before joining the Pelham Manor police force he acted as a detective in 'Dreamland' in Coney Island, and was a detective on the New Have Railroad for 5 years.

In 1892 he married Miss Nora Covona of New York City.  He has three married daughters residing in New Rochelle, and 3 grandchildren.  Patrolman Butler now lives at No. 121 Hill street, New Rochelle.

With the retirement of Patrolman Butler in January, the village of Pelham Manor will lose the services of a man who may be best lauded as 'a real cop.'  Many citizens will miss the officious tones of Jim's ringing voice in answering calls at the police headquarters with the brief yet all enveloping salutation:  'Pelham Manor Police Headquarters, Patrolman Butler speaking!'"

Source:  Jim Butler Recalls Pelham Manor Police Dept. In 1906, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 13, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 32, Second Section, p. 9, cols. 2-3.

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