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, February 13, 2015

A Magical Valentine's Day in Pelham Manor in 1895

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day, also known as Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine.  Although the day originally began as a liturgical celebration of one, or perhaps more, early Christian saints named Valentinus, the day has evolved to one associated with love and romance.  Valentine's Day or similar festival dates are celebrated in countries throughout the world.  

Saint Valentine's Day in 1895 was a particularly memorable one for two young people who met on that date in the home of a local resident.  The story of their meeting, their brief long-distance courtship, and their marriage brings warmth to the heart and is a perfect story to help weave a popular holiday into the history of the Town of Pelham.  

In 1895, a bashful 35-year-old confirmed bachelor named George Gaston lived in Indianapolis, Indiana.  In his early youth, Gaston was involved in an electrical business managed by Thomas Alva Edison and Edison's then-close friend, Ezra Torrence Gilliland of Pelham Manor.  Fate, however, led Gaston to Indianapolis where he served as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Indianapolis Transfer Company.

In February, 1895, Gaston's business on behalf of the Indianapolis Transfer Company called him to New York City.  While he was there, Ezra T. Gililland invited him to visit the Gililland home in Pelham Manor.  Gaston put off the invitation until the day before his scheduled return to Indianapolis.  On the appointed day, February 14, 1895, he traveled to the Gililland home where he planned to visit for a few hours.  Instead, he stayed there for two weeks.

Upon his arrival, Gaston met a "charming" English girl who was boarding with the Gilliland family.  The girl, named Miss Ethel Mary Bishop, had been born in Shanghai, the daughter of an English consul serving there.  One published account claimed that at the end of his two-week visit, George Gaston was "done for," but he was far too bashful to propose to the charming English girl.

Gaston returned to Indianapolis, but could not get the charming Miss Bishop out of his mind.  He received letters from his sisters who also visited the Gilliland home.  One was filled with stories of how Miss Bishop danced the night away at a local party and about how "all the men had simply gone daft about" her.  

Whether the power of Valentine's Day still cast its spell over George Gaston or the Green Monster of jealousy reared its ugly head, we will never know.  While reading his sister's letter, however, young George Gaston became a little less bashful.  What did he do next?  A lengthy article in the Boston Sunday Post published in December 1, 1895 tells us exactly what he did next.  Today's Valentine's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the Boston Sunday Post article in its entirety immediately below followed by a citation to its source.

Give Me Pelham Manor, Please, I'm in a Hurry.
Bashful George Gaston Did Not Have Courage Enough to Ask Ethel Face to Face -- Proposed by Long Distance Telephone.

NEW YORK, Nov. 30. -- That romance in life has not yet been extinguished is made evident by the marriage of Miss Ethel Mary Bishop, only daughter of the Hon. James Draper Bishop of London, and George B. Gaston of Indianapolis.

They were married last Tuesday night at the residence of Ezra T. Gilliland at Pelhamm Manor.  

Mr. Gaston is the son of a retired physician, and is the secretary and treasurer of the Indianapolis Transfer Company.  For several years he was associated in this city in the electrical business with Thomas A. Edison and Mr. Gilliland.  All of Mr. Gaston's friends had it settled in their own minds that he would die a bachelor.  His business frequently called him to New York.  While in town he spent much of this time with Mr. Gilliland.

One day last February Gaston arrived in New York on one of his business trips.  His two sisters had been visiting Mr. and Mrs. Gilliland for several weeks, and in their letters home they had frequently mentioned Miss Ethel Bishop, a very charming English girl, who was making her home at the Gillilands'.  From those letters Gaston had learned that Miss Bishop had been born in Shanghai, while her father was serving the English government there as consul.

He heard so much about Miss Bishop that, when he reached New York and Mr. Gilliland extended to him the usual invitation to visit Pelham Manor, the Indianapolis man said emphatically, 'Not much!'

Finally, on St. Valentine's Day, the day before he was to return home, Gaston consented to go out to Pelham Manor for a few hours, just to see his sisters.  He went and stayed two weeks.  He was done for, but he could not bring himself to the point of a proposal.

He returned to Indianapolis.  One morning while he was sitting in his office, a letter came from one of his sisters.  It was largely filled with a description of a german she had danced a few nights before, and told how all the men had simply gone daft about Miss Bishop.  Gaston rushed to his telephone, looked up the number of Gilliland's house telephone in the long-distance telephone book, and asked to be connected.  Pretty soon he heard a feminine voice at the other end of the line call, 'Hello!'


'Hello!  Who is that?' answered Gaston.  'Who?  Oh!  Miss Bishop?  Well, this is Mr. Gaston, Miss Bishop.  Where am I?  In Indianapolis.  Yes, in Indianapolis.  I thought I'd call you up to  -- to ask how my sisters are.  You'll call me one of them and let her speak for herself?  Oh never mind.  I said, 'never mind.'  N-e-v-e-r never.  No, not mine; mind -- m-i-n-d.  Hello!  How are you?  Just going to the city?  Theatre party tonight?  Oh, not going in till the 4 o'clock train?  Wish I were going with you.  I said I wish I were going with you.  I don't know whether my sisters would like to have me or not.  I just wanted to go with you.  Don't be foolish?  Hello!  What did you say?  Hello!  Hello!  Say,. central!  Don't cut me off!  Im not through talking yet.  Gone at the other end?  Well, ring up again.

As Mr. Gaston said last night, he was bound to say something then or die in the attempt.  After waiting some time, he got the Gilliland house again, and began talking with Miss Bishop.

'I beat about the bush for a long time,' he said, 'and then I came out with the question.  She evidently could not understand me, for this was the answer I got:

'Come a little nearer, Mr. Gaston.  I can't hear you.'

'Then I moved about one inch nearer to her in that 800 miles,' he declares, 'and asked the question over again.  This time it was perfectly understood.  I was told that I might not be sure of myself, that I had better wait for a while, and some more things like that.  I said I had lived to be 35 years old, and I guessed I knew my own mind.  Finally I was told that she would give me an answer when she called me up in two weeks.'

That was on Feb. 28.  Two weeks after that Miss Bishop was in Brooklyn one day and stepped into the office of Mr. Gilliland.  She called up Mr. Gaston.

'Hello!  Is that you, Mr. Gaston?  This is Miss Bishop.  Knew the voice did you?  Your memory for sound is excellent.  I wonder if it is as good for other things.  One other thing.  What's that?  Oh, my answer?  Was I to give you an answer about anything?  Hello!  What's that?  I know very well I was?  Yes, I guess I do.  Two weeks have seemed like two years?  You say that very nicely -- over the telephone.  Well, are you sure you knew what you were talking about?  Positive?  And you don't think you'll regret it some time?  Sure?  Well, then, if you want yes, here it is.  What's that?  Hello!  What did you say?  Oh!  Well, you can't have that over the telephone.  You must come for that yourself.  Good-by, George.'

It wasn't long before he came for what he couldn't get over the telephone, and the arrangements for the wedding were made.  Mr. and Mrs. Gaston are now at the Imperial, but this evening they will leave for Indianapolis, their future home."

Source:  HELLO, CENTRAL!  Give Me Pelham Manor, Please, I'm in a Hurry, Boston Sunday Post, Dec. 1, 1895, p. 5, col. 4 (subscription required to access link).

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