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, November 28, 2014

Formation of the Pilots' and Wreckers' Association in 1887

The Pilots of City Island served for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries as guides for shipping that traveled in Long Island Sound, through Hell Gate and in waters throughout the New York region.  Unfamiliar with navigation of the local waters, the masters of ships hired pilots to help them make their way through the unfamiliar waters.

In 1887, several young men of City Island formed an organization called the "Pilots and Wreckers Association" to provide assistance to City Island pilots and to serve as a means to facilitate apprenticeship into the profession.  Little is known of the organization except for a couple of brief references to its formation that listed its founding members.  

The young men of City Island who formed the organization were Henry Weaver, Frank Horton, and Henry Gruse.  The purposes of the organization were described as "to assist the regular pilots, whose duties are often a tax upon them more than they can bear, and also to prove a school of training for themselves."  The organization began with sixteen members who took rooms at the southern end of City Island.  

Map of Town of Pelham with Inset of City Island, 1868.
Source: Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35
(NY, NY: Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868).

Below are two news items published in 1887 that reference the formation of the organization.

"NEW ORGANIZATION. -- A number of young men of City Island have formed an organization to be known as the Pilots' and Wreckers' Association, their object being to assist the regular pilots, whose duties are often a tax upon them more than they can bear, and also to prove a school of training for themselves.  The officers are:  President, Henry Weaver; Vice President, Frank Horton; Secretary, Henry Gruse."

Source:  NEW ORGANIZATION, The Yonkers Statesman, Jan. 15, 1887, Vol. IV, No. 975, p. 1, col. 4.


Pelham Bay is completely frozen over, and work in the Bay is suspended temporarily.

There will be an interesting pigeon shooting contest, at Secord's, Bartow, to-morrow.  Mr. J. S. Secord and Mr. B. May are to shoot a match at 10 birds each, for $25 a side.  There will also be birds for sweepstakes and clay pigeons for shooting.  The sport will begin at one o'clock.

Mr. E. H. Gurney and Mr. I. C. Hill, of Pelhamville, went to Mr. Vendemark's near White Plains, Monday evening, with Mr. Gurney's team and sleigh.  As they were coming out of Mr. V.'s yard, the team ran away, throwing the occupants out of the sleigh, and smashing it to pieces and then ran home.  Neither of the gentlemen were hurt.

It is generally understood that the Molloy judgement [sic] against the town of Pelham will be appealed to the Court of last resort.  The proposition to appeal comes from property owners, within the limit of Pelham Park.  In order to allay fears and prevent opposition to the appeal, they say that the judgment is a lien on the property in the town and when the city takes the Park lands it will have to pay its proportionate share of the judgment.  It is a notorious fact that no judgement [sic] recovered against the land of individuals in the town until it goes into the tax levy, and then if unpaid, becomes a lien on the individual property, but if the Molloy judgement [sic] is appealed by the town authorities to accommodate the park gentlemen, the park property will be taken and paid for by New York city, while the judgement is being appealed and before it can get in the tax levy, thus imposing the whole burden upon the people of City Island and Pelhamville.

Although the weather has been extremely cold lately in this vicinity, many of the sportsmen have had quite a lively time.  Ducks of various kinds have made their appearance in the bay, no doubt for shelter from the continuous storm, and man of the crack shots who reside here and on the main, have had a good opportunity to test their skill with long range fowling pieces.  Numbers of them have been very successful.

Mr. Piepgras, shipbuilder of City Island, has secured from Mr. Iselin, of New Rochelle, a contract to build for him a steel plated yacht, from a model prepared by the celebrated builder, Mr. Burgess, of Boston.  He has already commenced to lay her down on the floor of his loft and make her moulds.  He has also a very large and new furnace partially constructed, to be used in heating the heaviest portions of the hull and frame.  No cost or pains will be spared to make her as fast, if not the swiftest craft of the fleet.  She will be finished in time to defend and maintain this season, the laurels long since won against all international competitors.  She will be sloop rigged, and about ninety-five feet over all.

An amateur club known as the Pilots and Wreckers Association, has been organized here recently, consisting of young men ranging in age from 18 to 21 years.  At present they number about 16 members.  Their rooms are situated at the southerly end of the Island.  The object of this association is to be an auxilary [sic] force to assist the regular Pilots who are residents of this place in the arduous duties that are consequent in their profession, and also receive the necessary instruction themselves that is so essentially necessary to fit them to become capable sailing masters holding certificates as regular graduates.  The officers are:  President, Mr. Henry Weaver; Vice President, Mr. Frank Horton; Secretary, Mr. Henry Gruse.

Some of the oyster dealers and growers of City Island, are having quite a harvest.  Captain Joshua Leviness sold in one day last week to New York speculators, six hundred dollars worth, and received the (boodle) cash down as soon as the sale was made.  He is also an extensive dealer nearly all through the eastern portion of this county, sending regularly every week with his heavy double team, from 70 to 80 baskets at one time, all through the towns of Eastchester and White Plains, where he has regular customers, who keep saloons and such like places of business.  The old veteran seems to be as lively as a cricket, and although he is drawing near four score years, seems to have all the vigor and more than hundreds have, who are 40 years his junior.  And those who call to see him at his Central Hotel never go away either hungry or dry.

Some of the Westchester boys who thought they would have some fun at the expense of the City Island boys, brought a very game bird over here one night last week, and selected a very game bird over here one night last week, and selected a very cozy room, and by standing the bedstead up endways in the corner, made room enough to test the game qualities of their rooster, and his opponent that some one of the crowd caught napping on his perch in the coop of Mr. Jacob Smith of this town.  It is said by some who know that the very instant Mr. Smith's bird was placed upon the floor, although just awakened out of his peaceful slumbers, he took in the situation at once, and in full view of his strange enemies and without any previous warning of such a conflict, gave one of the most defiant and high toned exhibitions of his cultured voice, and quickly went to business.  Although his opponent had fought many tough battles and always came off victorious, this time he was knocked out in less than ten minutes by the clock.  After the home bird had delighted the spectators with one more of his musical bonanzas, he was allowed to go home to spend the remainder of the night with company that he always prefers.  It was quite noticeable next day that some of the City Island boys' pockets were very much swollen and painful until they were greatly reduced.  It is now conceded to be a fact, even by the boys of Westchester, that the birds of City Island are very game at any time of the day or night as well as the boys.


Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 14, 1887, Vol. XVIII, No. 950, p. 1, col. 7.

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