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, August 25, 2015

Joan Elizabeth Klink Secor, Known as Annie, Was a Notable Pelham Manor Resident and Town Historian

Joan Elizabeth Klink Secor, known by family and close friends as "Annie," was one of the most beloved residents to have lived in the Village of Pelham Manor.  She was born in Vallejo, California in 1858.  She met James F. Secor, Jr. in 1880 while he was in Vallejo to inspect dry docks that had been built there by his father.  After a brief courtship, the couple married and moved to Pelham Manor where James Secor's father, James F. Secor, Sr., had built a large summer estate.  (I have written about the Secor estate before.  See Wed., Apr. 15, 2015:  The Secor Estate in the Village of Pelham Manor.)   

Joan Secor quickly became a social and cultural force in Pelham Manor.  She became president of the Tuesday Afternoon Club in 1900 and, when that Club merged into the Manor Club (which became a women's club) in 1914, she served as president of the newly-merged institution as well.  She stablized the finances of the Manor Club, presided over the fund-raising for, and the construction of, the new Manor Club building that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  She retired from service as president of the club after 26 years in May 1925 when she departed for California to live with family members there.  A beautiful oil portrait of her, painted by George Brehm, still hangs in the assembly room of the Manor Club.

Mrs. Secor served as the second Town Historian for the Town of Pelham.  She served in this capacity for five years before she removed to San Francisco upon her retirement.  While serving as Town Historian, she wrote a pamphlet detailing the Town's historic landmarks published in 1924.  For the electronic text, see Secor, Joan Elizabeth, Landmarks In and Near Pelham (Pelham, NY:  The Town of Pelham, 1924) (published by the Town of Pelham on the occasion of the dedication of Pelham Memorial Park on May 30, 1924).

On Saturday, July 23, 1932, Joan Secor died suddenly at her home in San Francisco.  Once word reached Pelham, tributes poured in.  Her obituary, a series of tributes, and a number of photographs of her appeared in the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun.  Those materials are presented below.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

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"Mrs. Joan E. Secor Dies In San Francisco; Manor Club President 26 Years
One of Pelham Manor's Most Revered Citizens; Was First President of Tuesday Afternoon Club Founded in 1900; Later Merged With Manor Club; Town Historian for Five Years.

Mrs. Joan Elizabeth Secor, who for twenty-six years was president of the Manor Club and the guiding spirit in the growth of the club, died suddenly on Saturday at San Francisco, where she has made her home since May, 1925.  Funeral services were held at San Francisco on Monday.  The remains will be brought east for interment.  Plans for interment have not been arranged yet.

She was the widow of James F. Secor, old resident and at one time school trustee.

Mrs. Secor was the aunt of Miss Anna Cockle and Isla V. Cockle of Pelham Manor.  She is also survived by four sisters, Mrs. Vincent Cottman and Miss Jane Klink of San Francisco, Mrs. Emil Theiss and Mrs. Franklin Huntington of Norfolk, Va., and two brothers, George T. Klink and William M. Klink, of San Francisco..

Mrs. Secor was born at Vallejo, Calif., in 1858.  In 1880 Mr. Secor while inspecting the dry docks at Vallejo, which were constructed by his father, met Miss Joan Elizabeth Klink, and after a short courtship the couple were married at Vallejo.  They came to the Secor home in Pelham Manor to live shortly after.  The dynamic personality of the young bride soon established her as a leader.

In 1900 the need for a women's club in Pelham Manor was recognized and Mrs. Secor was instrumental in establishing the Tuesday Afternoon Club whose meetings soon became the culture center of the village.  Mrs. Secor was elected president of the club.  Other officers were Mrs. Charles B. Hull, vice-president; Mrs. William B. Randall, secretary; Mrs. Charlotte E. Cowles, treasurer.

The Tuesday Afternoon Club used to meet in one of the alcoves of the Manor Club building.  The Manor Club had been established as a men's club in 1887, and for years it has been successful.  However, at the time of the organization of the Tuesday Afternoon Club, the Manor Club was experiencing difficulties, and the organization was glad to encourage the use, at a nominal fee, of the building by the women's club.

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In 1914 the Manor Club joined with the Tuesday Afternoon Club, and the women replaced the men as officers.  Mrs. Secor was elected president of the new Manor Club and she remained in the chair until her departure from Pelham in 1925.  After that she was honorary president.

It was under the guidance of Mrs. Secor that the Manor Club extended its membership from a handful of women to more than 500.  It was also under her direction that the present clubhouse of the Manor Club was financed and constructed.  She officiated at the laying of the cornerstone in 1921 and at the dedication of the building in 1922.

Mrs. Secor retired as president of the club in May, 1925, at which time she left Pelham to take up her residence in San Francisco.  Glowing tribute to her 26 years as president of the club was paid by the members of the Manor Club at the annual banquet.  An engrossed resolution was presented to the retiring president as well as handsome gifts in token on the esteem in which Mrs. Secor was held.  

Mrs. Secor was unanimously elected Honorary President and in recent years acted in an advisory capacity.  

Annually at the final meeting of the Manor Club a telegram of love and congratulation was forwarded to the honorary president of the club.  A similar greeting was received from Mrs. Secor.  At the last annual meeting she sent the following message:

'Greetings from the far away California coast, where I lived until I was in my 23rd year and then upon occasion of my marriage to Mr. Secor in 1880, I came to New York and shortly afterward to Pelham Manor.  I can truly say that I have lived my life in Pelham Manor, that is, in its working years, and they are the years that count.

'It was the Manor Club which gave me my first experience in the art of managing public affairs, and I learned during the years I was its president.  It is not the length of time one is in office, but what one accomplished while there which counts.  I now see that the whole-hearted cooperation in things that are uplifting, the generous willingness to do something to make the club better, more stimulating to what is highest and best in our daily lives, had made the Pelhams a finer place in which to live.  This was the great aim of our young years, and it has been accomplished as I see and feel although so many miles away.

'Life in the Pelhams is a finer thing by reason of the influence of a group of women who worked and still do, to bring out the best qualities of those about them through the study of literature, music, art, the drama and the various sections.

'Therefore, I say to you who thus labor, 'go forward, be not weary of well-doing.'  To my dear friends Mrs. Longley, who is to retire from the office of president, I send my warm love and congratulations upon her successful presidency, and now will close, my dear Sophie (Mrs. H. E. Dey) with kind remembrances to my many friends in the Manor Club, among whom you are surely included.


'Honorary President.'

Mrs. Secor was for many years a contributor to The Pelham Sun.  Her historical articles were widely read and her history of Pelham, which she compiled as Town Historian, is very interesting.

Mrs. Secor's love for Pelham is shown in the tribute, 'A Toast to Pelham' which is printed in this issue of The Pelham Sun.  A framed copy of this tribute was presented to The Pelham Sun by Mrs. E. T. Gilliland, old resident who was a dear friend of Mrs. Secor.

As a tribute to the memory of the late Mrs. Secor the flag on the clubhouse grounds will be flown at half mast staff for a month.

The portrait of Mrs. Secor, painted by George Brehm and hanging in the assembly room of the club is draped in black.

A large spray of flowers to entirely cover the coffin was sent by the Manor Club to San Francisco."

Source:  Mrs. Joan E. Secor Dies In San Francisco; Manor Club President 26 Years -- One of Pelham Manor's Most Revered Citizens; Was First President of Tuesday Afternoon Club Founded in 1900; Later Merged With Manor Club; Town Historian for Five Years, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1932, Vol. 23, No. 19, p. 1, cols. 1-2 & p. 4, cols. 4-7.  

Officials of Manor Club and Old Residents of Pelham Express Sorrow

Pelhamites grieved at the news of the death of Mrs. Joan E. Secor.  The Pelham Sun has received many expressions of tribute from old residents and those who were associated with Mrs. Secor in her 26 years as president of the Manor Club.

Mrs. Walter B. Parsons, who recently was elected president of the Manor Club, was deeply moved at the news of the death of Mrs. Secor.  In an interview with The Pelham Sun she said as follows:

'To those of us who had the privilege of working under Mrs. Secor's guidance, she will always stand out preeminently as a dominant personality, because of executive ability and force of mind and character.  She had an unusual appreciation of all things beautiful, especially beautiful literature.  She was tolerant, patient, sympathetic and understanding; added to this, the endearing faculty of remember-

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ing people's names.  She was peculiarly fitted for her position as president of the Manor Club because she loved people, and in return, they all loved her.  The fullness of her life will always be an inspiration.'

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Mrs. William B. Randall of Pelham Manor, historian of the Manor Club, said as follows:

'Although Mrs. James F. Secor removed from Pelham in 1926 her death will bring to her many friends and neighbors here, a renewed sense of loss.  For she was a woman of distinguished talent and education, a leading spirit in the village activities for many years and the beloved friend of everyone who knew her.  Blessed by nature with a brilliant mind as well as a heart particularly warm and sympathetic, she enthusiastically gave herself to her friends, the church, philanthropies and especially to club work.  

'At the time of her death she was honorary President of the Manor Club of which she had been president for thirteen years.  Previous to that she had been president of the Tuesday Afternoon Club for as long a period.  She was an Honorary Director of the Pelham Home for Children of which she had also been President.

'The nobility of her nature and her ardent love for the higher things of life will always remain an inspiration to everyone who knew her.'

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'News of the sudden death of Mrs. James F. Secor has come as a great shock to her many friends of twenty years or more.  Her love and devotion to the finer things of life set a standard of high thinking and purposeful living.  She was an inspiring leader of the Manor Club in its various activities and with a genuine love of womankind was able to harmonize and appreciate the efforts of each and every group engaged in club work.  In passing, she has left a heritage of understanding and sympathy which has enriched the lives of all who knew and loved her.'  -- Mrs. James L. Gerry.

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'Mrs. Secor's death brings a feeling of deep loss to all who knew her.  She was a friend of thirty-four years standing, a woman whom I admired as one of the most talented in the community.  In her death I feel a keen sense of personal loss.'  -- Mrs. Edward Penfield.

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'To me the passing of Joan E. Secor, a deep friend of forty-two years, is an irreparable loss.  As a citizen of this community she manifested a splendid kind of civic pride and love for everything that was fine and beautiful.  Her memory will remain with us many years.' -- Mrs. E. T. Gilliland, old resident of Pelham Manor.

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'We were grievously shocked when the news reached us, that Mrs. Secor had died at her home in California.  We had known the Secors as friends and near neighbors for upwards of thirty years.  Mrs. Secor was indeed a faithful friend, a tender hearted sympathizer in times of trial, a consistent Christian and a loyal citizen whose loss was deeply felt when she decided to make her home in California among the friends of her youth, after her husband's death.  We are all glad that those friends have graciously permitted her to rest beside her husband.

'The people of Pelham will not soon forget Mrs. Secor who for many years did so much toward making our town such an attractive place in which to live.'

-John M. Shinn,
Former Town Historian.

'I can think of no woman in Pelham Manor who will be more sincerely mourned than dear Mrs. Secor.  Her name is closely associated with the upbuilding of the Manor Club which will stand as a memorial to her efforts and devotion to its members and to her numerous friends.' -- Mrs. H. G. K. Heath.

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'I have known Mrs. Secor since I came to Pelham almost thirty-two years ago.  As a friend she was always loyal, sympathetic and inspiring.  She was a natural leader and her leadership was never disputed from the beginning of the Tuesday Afternoon Club and the formation of the present Manor Club, until she resigned in 1925 when she went to live in San Francisco.  She was generous, liberal-minded and forward-looking, always eager to adopt the good ideas of the younger generation.  She held a unique position, not only in the Manor Club but in the whole community.  No woman was more loved, admired and respected or will be more sincerely mourned.'

-- Mrs. Henry E. Dey.

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'The death of Mrs. Joan Secor marks the passing of one of the loveliest characters for whom we are all so sincerely grieving.  It has been my greatest privilege to have known and loved her truly.  And she was kind.'

Mrs. Danforth Brown."

Source:  PELHAM MOURNS LOSS AT DEATH OF MRS. SECOR -- Officials of Manor Club and Old Residents of Pelham Express SorrowThe Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1932, Vol. 23, No. 19, p. 1, col. 2 p. 4, cols. 5-7.

By the Late Joan E. Secor

Pelham!  Wherein three great racial strains were mingled in the early settlement of the locality -- English, Dutch and French -- a glittering triad through which glows Britain's brain and Holland's soul and the undaunted spirit of France!  Stand at attention, citizens of the Pelhams and briefly review our glorious inheritance.

Borne from afar on the breeze, hear Chaucer's lay and Milton's strain, and Shakespeare's song blending with the majestic rhythms of the 'King James Vision!' Catch the gleams of Rembrandt's brush; the stern notes proclaiming the 'Revocation of the Edict of Nantes,' of the mighty voices of statesmen, philosophers, poets, as the battalions of France step to the music of the 'Marsellaise,' or answer the call from early America to the great Lafayette!  From leaf-strewn lane and quiet wood catch echoes of the marching feet of Revolutionary soldiers!  The rattle of wheels along the 'Old Boston Post Road,' mingling with the whir of wings and the soft calls of linnet and lark!

Headquarters of Washington!  Site of the Battle of White Plains!  Site of the Battle of Pelham!

Cottage of Anne Hutchinson!

Cottage of Aaron Burr!

Scenes of the exploits of Cooper's Indian crowd upon the vision -- an ancient house; a giant tree!

A mouldering headstone here and there along the King's Highway or the old Indian trails and paths leading to the waters of Long Island Sound recall the early picture.

Pelham!  Founded upon the principles of civil and religious liberty; vitalized by the toil of Puritan, patroon and Huguenot; consecrated by their sacrifices; dedicated to the service of God and country, we the inheritors of this region offer 'Salutation' to our favored township!

Pelham!  Fairest community with[in] Westchester County's boundaries!  Lilac-crowned!  Lupin-wreathed!  Clover-scented!  Tall trees of glistening dogwood fuard her walks and lanes where merry children shout and play, where church bells ring and school bells call, and homes are altars raised to God our King!"

Source:  Secor, Joan E., A TOAST TO PELHAM By the Late Joan E. Secor, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1932, Vol. 23, No. 19, p. 4, cols. 4-5.  

Also:  http://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2018/Pelham%20NY%20Sun/Pelham%20NY%20Sun%201932/Pelham%20NY%20Sun%201932%20-%200449.pdf

Joan E. Secor in an Undated Photograph.
Image Courtesy of The Manor Club, Pelham
Manor, NY.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

"MRS. SECOR when she became president of the
Manor Club.  Source:  The Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1932,
Vol. 23, No. 19, p. 4, col. 6.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.


It was with deepest regret that the members of the Manor Club and residents of Pelham in general received news of the passing of Mrs. James F. Secor in California on Saturday.  She had passed the allotted span of three-score-and-ten and her life was full of accomplishments that engraved their deeds deep in the history of the Pelhams.

And as a chapter of Pelham's history is ended.  It was a very complete chapter, the many leaves of which it consisted being richly embellished with the virtues of cultural leadership, wisdom, wise counsel and judgment and an inspiring idealism, and all centering on the courageous command given to Mrs. Secor and followed so loyally by members of the Manor Cllub for more than a quarter century.  Mrs. Secor was idolized and her memory will always be revered.  

Turning back those few short years since she left Pelham in 1925, we remember the lines written during a week in which Pelham in its entirety was paying homage to Mrs. Secor and her accomplishments as she retired from public life.  It will bear reprinting:

'A Beloved Woman

'Never before has it been our privilege to witness such a deep tribute of love paid to any woman as that tendered on Tuesday afternoon to Mrs. James F. Secor, retiring president of the Manor Club.

'For twenty-six years she has held that one office and filled it with dignity, remarkable diplomacy, and an unswerving loyalty to the ideals on which it was founded and by which it has grown.

'It was an afternoon of deep emotions for Mrs. Secor is to leave Pelham for California this month, there to make her future home, and as speaker after speaker told of their love for her, of her great service to the club and to the community, of their sadness at the parting they bravely but unsuccessfully strove to master their emotions.  Handkerchiefs were busy, too, in among the members of the audience for whether it be those of the older members or those recently become members, to all, their president is a beloved friend.

'There was never any quation about the power exercised by Mrs. Secor, never any doubt as to the correctness of her judgment, nor of her leadership, never any complaint at the arduous duties which her office entailed, just an inpiring service to the community of all those talents and charms of which she is possessed.  Pelham loses much by her going.

'For the last two weeks social activities in Pelham Manor have centered themselves on individual tributes given at receptions at which Mrs. Secor was the honored guest.  No one in the Pelhams and few outside have been paid greater homage -- sincere, prompted from hearts of those who gave them.

'It is a wonderful thing for any woman to enshrine herself in the hearts of the women of her community as Mrs. Secor has in the hearts of members of the Manor Club, and for the recipient the memories of it all will be pleasant pondering on the sunny slopes of California -- we hope for many years, for Joan Elizabeth Secor has richly earned long life, health and all the blessings which a Great Creator can bestow.

'Our farewell is tempereed in its sadness by the hope of a welcoming return against some day.'"

Source:  THE LATE MRS. JAMES F. SECOR, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1932, Vol. 23, No. 19, p. 2, col. 1.  

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