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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Too Smart for Late 19th Century Scammers: Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls

As local developers and land owners worked to subdivide and develop properties in the sleepy little settlement known as Pelham Manor during the 1880's, one of the issues that arose was the adequacy of local public schools.  In an effort to attract potential residents and real estate purchasers, local citizens pressed for the development of private schools to supplement the public school system. 

The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York had a star teacher in the 1880's. Her name was Emily Hall Hazen.  A few Pelham Manor landowners coveted the teacher’s talents and experience.  They still were trying to develop the remnants of the subdivision planned by the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association founded in the early 1870's.  To attract “upper class buyers,” a Pelham Manor landowner named Silas H. Witherbee recruited Mrs. Hazen to open a girl’s preparatory school in Pelham Manor.  According to one account, “although Mrs. Hazen was urged to locate elsewhere, she yielded to the persuasion and promise of support given by the residents of Pelham Manor.”  In 1889 the little school opened, only to become one of the finest girls’ schools in the country before it closed twenty-five years later at the end of the 1914-1915 school year.  The school, officially named "Pelham Hall," was known far and wide as "Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls."  As the school reached its last years, it had served over a thousand students from forty-two States and over two hundred and fifty towns and cities throughout the country.

I have written about Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls on many occasions.  I have included a list of links to numerous such articles at the end of today's posting.  

As headmistress of an all girls school, Ms. Emily Hall Hazen had seen it all.  She was intelligent but, more importantly, she was crafty.  Most importantly, and her husband had imparted to their daughter, Miss Edith Cunningham Hazen, that same intelligence and craftiness.  The subject of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog is an entertaining account that demonstrates just how savvy Mrs. Hazen and her daughter were after running Pelham Hall during its first decade.  It seems that unscrupulous scammers identified Edith Hazen as a potentially-easy mark.  They made their move.  Miss Hazen, however, was too smart for them.  The account of the attempted scam appeared in the New-York Tribune on July 16, 1897.  It is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.

Undated Post Card Showing Mrs. Hazen's School, Circa 1906
(Between Esplanade and Edgewood Avenue).  Note:  Continue
Clicking on Image to Continue Enlarging Photograph.


A clever swindling scheme was attempted not long since upon Mrs. John Cunningham Hazen, principal of Pelham Manor School.  Through the quick wit of her daughter, Miss Hazen, the scheme proved unsuccessful, but it has been perpetrated with better success upon a nyumber of principals of girls' schools.  The plan was as follows:

A man, representing himself as a surgeon in the United States Navy, called upon Mrs. Hazen with a letter of introduction from the Rev. Dr. T. L. Cuyler, and said that he wished to place in her school a young girl whose father, also an officer in the Navy, was on a cruise, and whose grandfather was on the eve of sailing for Europe.  The plot was carefully planned and executed so as not to arouse suspicion.  Arrangements were made for the child to enter the school next term, and, as the terms in the best schools are always payable in advance, 'Dr. S. Shelden,' as he called himself, handed Mrs. Hazen a check for $350 drawn on the Chemical Bank of New-York, and signed by the alleged grandfather.  Mrs. Hazen reminded him that the tuition was only $300, and he replied:  'You may give me a receipt for $300 and your check for the balance.'  Miss Hazen, however, began to suspect something, so she wrote simply a receipt for the full amount ($350), saying she would give him the $50 when he brought the child.  

No more was heard of the expected pupil, who was to have been placed in the care of a governess during the summer, and when the check was presented it was returned with 'Fraud' written across the face.

The Chemical Bank has had many more of these checks from the same source, and Dr. Cuyler's name has been used in many other schools.  Miss Fisher, of New-Brunswick, N. J.; Mrs. Life, of Rye, and a number of others have been defrauded by the same man, and a large sum of money has been secured.  Detectives are at work on the case."

Source:  CLEVER SWINDLING SCHEME -- MISS HAZEN BLOCKS A PRETENDED NAVAL OFFICER'S GAME,  New-York Tribune, Jul. 16, 1897, Vol. LVII, No. 18,506, p. 5, col. 6.  

952 Pelhamdale Avenue, Once Part of Mrs. Hazen's
School for Girls and, Later, Part of the Taft School for Boys.
Photograph Taken in 2005 by the Author.  Note:  Continue
Clicking on Image to Continue Enlarging Photograph.

As noted above, I have written extensively about the private school known as "Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls."  For a few of the many examples, see:

Bell, Blake A., Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls: Pelham Hall, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 40, Oct. 8, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

Tue., Mar. 11, 2014:  An Early History of Mrs. Hazen's School For Girls in Pelham Manor, Published in 1913.

Mon., Aug. 15, 2005:  952 Pelhamdale Served as a 19th Century School for Girls, Then a School for Boys. 

Fri., Oct. 14, 2005:  A Reunion of Alumnae of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls

Tue., Aug. 22, 2006:  Early Advertisements for Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  

Wed., Sep. 6, 2006:  Pelham Hall Shelter, a "Refuge for Erring Girls", Founded by Alumnae of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  

Thu., Jul. 12, 2007:  The Infamous Burglary of the Girls of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor in 1905.  

Mon., Mar. 3, 2008:  1891 Advertisement May Reflect Summer Rental of One of the Dormitories of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls.

Fri., Jul. 24, 2009:  Late 19th Century Photos of Students with Tennis Rackets at Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.

Tue., Feb. 16, 2010:  Photograph of Only Known 19th Century Women's Baseball Team in Pelham, New York.

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