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, March 17, 2015

Recollections of the "Bitter Fight" To Incorporate the Village of North Pelham Published Fifty Years Later

In 1896, the decision by residents of the tiny area known as The Heights to obtain special legislation to permit them to incorporate as the "Village of Pelham" brought about bitter feelings and prompted the section north of the New Haven Line railroad tracks to propose incorporation as the "Village of North Pelham."  That proposal, in turn, prompted its own "bitter fight" between the community's "old-timers" who did not want to incorporate and pay higher taxes and the community's new-comers who wanted to incorporate to facilitated paved roadways, sidewalks, street lamps and other such municipal benefits.

Feelings were so bitter that even fifty years later, when writing about the events in 1896, one of the area's oldest residents wrote about the events and emphasized that feelings ran high at the time.  The recollections of that resident, J. Gardner Minard, appeared in an article published in The Daily Argus of Mount Vernon, New York published on February 28, 1946.  I have transcribed the text of the article below followed by a citation to its source.

I have written about these events on numerous occasions in the past.  To learn more, see:  

Fri., Apr. 15, 2005:  How Pelhamville "Lost" Its Name!  

Tue., Jul. 01, 2014:  Why Do We Call It the Village of Pelham Instead of Pelhamville? Because We Were Duped!

"J. Gardner Minard Recalls Bitter Fight Over Incorporation Of Village In 1896

NORTH PELHAM -- With this village planning a mammoth celebration in August, on the 50th anniversary of its incorporation as a village, J. Gardner Minard, one of the oldest residents of Pelham recalled today the community's early days.  At that time Mr. Minard established and edited the Pelham Press, a weekly paper in Pelhamville. 

'Pelham Manor was the only incorporated village in the town at that time and it contained less than half its present area.'  Mr. Minard reminisced.  'Otto Stroetzel, a resident of Chester Park, enlisted my services in advocating incorporation of the section of the town north of the New Haven tracks as a village.

'This met with vigorous opposition from many old timers in Pelhamville, but the opposition was swept aside when the section south of the tracks, north of Colonial Avenue and between the village of New Rochelle and the City of Mount Vernon was incorporated as the Village of Pelham that Spring.

'Pelhamville residents were enraged as the names of the Post Office and railroad station were changed from Pelhamville to Pelham beginning July 1, 1896.  There was nothing now to be done but incporporate Pelhamville as North Pelham that Summer.  At that time there was less than 100 feet of paved sidewalk north of the New Haven tracks and no paved streets, no street lamps and no police force outside of the five town constables.

It created a curious situation, since the Pelham Post Office and Fire Department were -- and still are -- located in North Pelham.  The Fire District was created under the town laws and existed before the two villages were incorporated.'

In 1898 Mr. Minard suspended publication of his weekly to fight in the Spanish American War."

Source:  J. Gardner Minard Recalls Bitter Fight Over Incorporation Of Village In 1896, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 28, 1946, p. 13, cols. 1-3.

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).

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