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, October 27, 2014

Pelhamville Votes to Incorporate as the Village of North Pelham in 1896

Today we take the incorporation of our modern villages situated within the Town of Pelham for granted.  On Saturday, August 29, 1896, however, incorporation of the tiny settlement of Pelhamville as the new Village of North Pelham was not "taken for granted."  Indeed, a very hotly-contested referendum to decide the matter was underway that day.  Incorporation was not assured although those who favored incorporation believed they held the majority on the eve of the election.  

Residents of the settlement of Pelhamville were pitted against one another in an emotional debate over what would be best for the locals.  Most residents of Pelham at the time believed that it would simply be a matter of time before the adjacent behemoth of New York City would annex the area and swallow up all of Pelham, Mount Vernon, and surrounding areas.  Proponents of incorporation argued that incurring a bonded indebtedness of $50,000 would require very little taxation of local residents to service the debt and New York City would be obligated by law to take over the bonded indebtedness when annexation finally came.  They argued that with $50,000 from the issuance of bonds, the new Village of North Pelham could fund massive infrastructure improvements while raising little in the way of new taxes.

Those against incorporation argued that the area had been improved successfully over the previous four decades without incorporation and without the need for raising large sums in the form of increased taxes.  They cautioned against incurring debt and reminded that there was no assurance Pelham would ever be annexed by New York City.  They raised questions over the calculations used to suggest that tax increases would be de minimus and suggested that the cost of conducting a Village Government would be much higher than proponents of incorporation suggested.  

Those who believed the majority of voters supported incorporation turned out to be correct -- by the exceptionally-slim margin of two votes out of the total of 132 ballots cast.  The voters of the little settlement of Pelhamville elected to incorporate by a vote of 67 to 65. 

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of two articles that appeared in a local newspaper.  The first appeared the day before the ballot.  The second appeared the following week. after the election, and announced the results.  These two brief articles shed interesting light on a seminal moment in the history of today's Village of Pelham.

Map of Pelhamville Published in 1868.
Source:  Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity from
Actual Surveys By and Under the Direction of F.W. Beers,
Assisted By A.B. Prindle & Others, pg. 36
(NY, NY: Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868) (Detail from Page
36 Map Entitled "Town of New Rochelle, Westchester
Co., N.Y. (With) Pelhamville).

To-Morrow's Incorporation Election.

To-morrow, Saturday, the much talked of matter of incorporating that part of the Town of Pelham formerly known as Pelhamville, into the Village of North Pelham, will be decided by the property owners and residents of the place.  The election will be held at the Town Hall, the polls being open from 10 A. M. to 3 P. M.  While these hours are inconvenient to many, it is probable that there will be a large vote cast.

From present indications it looks as if the question would be decided in the affirmative by a good majority.  The greater number of the citizens concede that incorporation is the only step that can be taken in order to obtain any local improvements, and that action should be taken at once.

Of course, there are some who claim that what was good enough for their fathers and grandfathers before them, is good enough for them, etc., and who fear that they will be unable to meet the increase in their taxes.  It has been clearly demonstrated, however, that there will be only a slight if any increase.  If $50,000 worth of bonds are issued at say 4 per cent, the yearly interest will be $2,000.  The cost of maintaining the government would be but $450; $300 being the clerk's salary, and the treasurer's remuneration, $150.  This would make a total of only $2,450 to be raised each year, and it has been shown that $50,000 will pay for a vast amount of improvements.

If Pelham is annexed to New York city as it probably eventually will be, the place will have all its improvements and the metropolis will have to assume its bonded indebtedness.  If it remains in its present state, and is taken into New York, it will instantly have to bear the increase in taxes, and then wait for years for local improvements, as Woodlawn and the 23rd and 24th Wards have had to do.


Editor of Chronicle:

Some of the non-taxpaying officials among those opposed to incorporation are trying to dissuade non-taxpaying voters from voting on this question on the ground that they are no taxpayers, and therefore not interested in the matter.  But mark the inconsistency.  These same non-taxpaying officials have never hesitated for a moment to accept office at the hands of the taxpayers, although they have never contributed one cent of tax to the community to which they owe their very existence.



Editor 'Chronicle.'

Dear Sir. -- Before going to the polls to-morrow, we would ask through The Chronicle, why, in these days of progress, when everybody wants improvements, are our non-taxpaying officials so bitterly opposed to incorporation?  We have asked some of our saloon-keepers for information.  They said they did not know.  Do you?  You know, we are so green.


Source:  Pelham -- To-morrow's Incorporation Election, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 28, 1896, p. 3, col. 3. 

It Was a Close Vote, But It Means That North Pelham Will Soon be a Village.

It is now North Pelham.  Saturday [August 29, 1896] the question of local incorporation was decided in the affirmative by the small majority of two votes.  132 ballots were cast, 67 being for and 65 against.  The election was conducted by Supervisor Shinn and Town Clerk Caffrey, the polls being open from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon.

During that time both the incorporators and the anti-incorporators worked hard in bringing out the voters.  Many business men staid [sic] home all day in order to vote and help their side to win.  In the afternoon the contest became exceedingly interesting and the outcome was awaited with eagerness and ill forbodings [sic].  When the votes were counted however there was a loud hurrah by the victors.  

Mr. Otto E. Stroetzel, President of the Citizen's League, who instituted the movement, and the committee in charge, deserve special praise for their untiring and successful efforts.  

The election of officers will be held sometime before the 18th inst.  The complement of officers consists of a president, three trustees, a treasurer and a clerk, the last of which is appointed.  For the office of president, the names of Mr. O. E. Stroetzel and Dr. Charles A. Barker have been mentioned, but no candidates have been held yet to nominate tickets of which there will be at least two."

Source:  Pelham -- INCORPORATION VICTORIOUS,  The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 4, 1896, p. 3, col. 3.  

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