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, December 31, 2014

Town of Pelham Seeks Grant of Underwater Land to Build Town Dock in 1871

In 1871, Elbert J. Roosevelt owned lands in the Manor of Pelham on the shore of Long Island Sound near and south of today's Shore Park.  That year he conveyed to the Town of Pelham a right of way over his lands extending from Shore Road to the Sound in exchange for an agreement by the Town to build and maintain a dock at the end of the right of way for use of the Town of Pelham.  

Elbert J. Roosevelt died in 1885. The Town of Pelham built the dock. The people of the Town used the dock for years.  Immediately below is an image (admittedly of rather poor quality) from a map of the area published in 1889 noting the location of the dock.  Travers Island is visible just north of the dock.

By 1902, the dock was in a terrible state of disrepair.  It even lacked flooring boards and supporting stringers across the decrepit piers driven into the land beneath the waters of the Long Island Sound.  According to one account, no use of the dock had been made for many years "except that men and boys occasionally 'fished from the dock and went in swimming'". 

In September, 1902, persons including Augustus V. H. Ellis purchased the land that included the right of way to what was left of the dock.  The new owners claimed that the Town had breached a condition in the grant of the right of way to the dock by failing to maintain it. They commenced a lawsuit to clear title to the land. Ultimately, New York courts agreed with their claim. The Town of Pelham lost its right to use what was left of the dock for access to Long Island Sound. To read one of the number of reported opinions issued by courts in the case, see Ellis, et al. v. Town of Pelham, 94 106 A.D. 145, 94 N.Y. Supp. 103 (App. Div. 2d Dep't 1905).

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a notice that appeared in local newspapers in May, 1871 regarding the Town of Pelham's plans to use the underwater land conveyed by Elbert J. Roosevelt.  The notice followed special legislation enacted by the State of New York the previous month to authorize the Town of Pelham to use the underwater land as a town dock.

I have written about the Pelham Town Dock before.  See Fri., Jan. 06, 2006:  Pelham Loses its Right To Use the Town Dock in the Early 1900s.

"NOTICE OF APPLICATION FOR A GRANT OF LAND UNDER WATER. -- Notice is hereby given that the town of Pelham, in the county of Westchester, in pursuance of an act of the legislature of the State of New York, passed April, 1871, with the consent of Elbert J. Roosevelt, the owner in fee and occupant of the upland adjoining high-water mark of the waters of Long Island Sound, at a point called Shoal Harbor, in said town of Pelham, will make application to the Commissioners of the Land Office of the State of New York, in the city of Albany, on Wednesday, the 5th day of July, 1871, at ten o'clock in the forenoon of that day, for a grant from the State to the said town, for the purpose of building a dock for the use of the people of the town of Pelham, and between high and low-water makr, and to promote the commerce of the State, and which lands are situated in the said town of Pelham, Westchester County, and State of New York, and are bounded and described as follows:  Beginning at original high-water mark on the northwesterly shore of Long Island Sound, at a point on the land of Elbert J. Roosevelt, distant from the Pelham road ninety-seven feet, at a point on said Pelham road forty-seven feet from the easterly line of land owned by Miss Annette [sic] Bolton; thence running north, twenty-nine degrees east, fifty-seven feet; thence south, twenty-nine degrees west, sixty feet; thence north, sixty-one degrees west, fifty-seven feet; thence north, twenty-nine degrees east, thirty feet, in the place of beginning.  The upland in front of and adjacent to the said land -- a grant of which is to be applied for -- is situated as aforesaid, and owned by Elbert J. Roosevelt, and is bounded on the east and west by lands owned by Miss Annette Bolton, and on the north by the Pelham road, and is occupied by the said parties. -- Dated May 15, 1871.  

JAMES HYATT, Town Clerk.
C. H. Roosevelt, Att'y and Counsel."

Source:  NOTICE OF APPLICATION FOR A GRANT OF LAND UNDER WATER, Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], May 26, 1871, Vol. XXVII, No. 5, p. 4, col. 4.

Detail of 1881 Map of the Town of Pelham Showing "DOCK" Area.
Source: Bromley, George Washington & Bromley, Walter Scott,
"Town of Pelham, (With) Pelham-Manor. (From Actual Surveys and
Official Records by G.W. Bromley & Co., Civil Engineers, Published
by Geo. W. & Walter S. Bromley, 1881)" in Atlas of Westchester
County, New York, From Actual Surveys and Official Records,
pp. 56-57 (Washington, D.C.: G.W. Bromley & Co. 1881).  NOTE:
Click to Enlarge the Image.

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