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, September 02, 2015

Former Supervisor, Town Historian, and Local School Principal John M. Shinn, Pelham Icon, Died in 1936

For an entire week in 1936, the flags on all local civic buildings flew at half staff.  Pelham was in mourning.  It had lost one of its most notable residents, John M. Shinn.  He had served as Town Supervisor of the Town of Pelham, Receiver of Taxes of the Town of Pelham, and as Town Historian of the Town of Pelham.  He chaired the Westchester County Board of Legislators for a number of years and was considered an expert on assessment and equalization issues.  He was the last living Charter Member of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church founded in 1876.  He had founded and served as editor of one of the earliest newspapers established in Pelham, the Republican Record.  He was a Mason who served as Treasurer Emeritus of Winyah Lodge, No. 866, F. & A. M.  He served as principal and schoolmaster of the little one-room schoolhouse that served Pelham Manor and once stood on Split Rock Road.  He was a formally-trained and accomplished artist.  He also was a practicing lawyer.  In short, John M. Shinn was a whirlwind of energy and accomplishment beloved by the entire Town at the time of his death on October 15, 1936. 

I have written about John M. Shinn and his accomplishments on numerous occasions.  For a few examples, see:

Fri., Oct. 10, 2014:  Brief Biography of John M. Shinn, Supervisor of the Town of Pelham, Published in 1903.

Thu., Oct. 29, 2009:  Books of Town Supervisor "Honest John Shinn" Turned Up Short in 1906.  

Mon., February 16, 2009:  Outgoing Town of Pelham Supervisor Embroiled in Dispute Over Town Accounts in 1906

Thurs., October 4, 2007:  Biography of John M. Shinn, Pelham Town Supervisor in Late 19th Century.

Wed., Apr. 20, 2005:  Pelham's First Town Historian?

Photograph Published in 1903. Source: Beach, George O.,
ed., The Daily Eagle's Illustrated History of Mt. Vernon
Embracing a Descriptive History of its Local Government,
Religious, Social and Commercial Institutions, With
Biographical Sketches, p. 89 (Mt. Vernon, NY: Daily Eagle, 1903).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog collects a few of the many obituaries and articles that appeared at the time of the death of John M. Shinn.  Each is followed by a citation and a link to its source.

Artist - Lawyer, Former Official of Pelham, Passes in City

A heart attack yesterday brought to a sudden close the life of John M. Shinn, former supervisor of Pelham, a post he held for 15 years.  He was eighty-seven.

Stricken in the morning at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Leslie Brewster Smith, of 259 East Fourth Street, this city, he died at about 5:30 P.M.

Funeral services will be held in Huguenot Memorial Church, Pelham Manor, at 3 P. M. Sunday.  

Mr. Shinn was born in Dubuque, Iowa.  He received elementary education at Waterloo, Iowa, and secondary learning at Hannibal, Mo.  The desire to be an artist drove him into St. Louis in 1872, where he attended the School of Fine Arts of the Polytechnic Institute and the American Academy of Design, both in New York City.

Turned to Law

His artistic education ended with his enrollment in New York Law School.  He was admitted to the bar and opened an office in this city.  

In 1876 he married Isabell King and settled in Pelham Manor.  There he filled the position of principal of public schools for five years, after which he accepted a position at Washington, D.C. tabulating statistics of the Roman Catholic Churches for the eighth census.  At the end of a year he resigned and returned to Pelham Manor.  

There began his career as an active member of the Republican Party.  He served, successively, terms as Pelham Receiver of Taxes, Supervisor, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Supervisors for two terms, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, delegate-at-large and Chairman of the Equalization Committee for Westchester County.  He was considered an expert on assessment equalization.  

Also Town Historian

At the same time he held the posts of editor of the Pelham Republican-Record, and town historian of Pelham.  

As historian, he wrote a full account of the history of Pelham, which as reprinted in the Daily Argus.

Mr. Shinn was a member of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church, the Manor Club and was a member of the Men's Club of Pelham and Winyah Lodge 866, Free and Accepted Masons.  He served as treasurer of the lodge for several years and recently was elected treasurer emeritus.

Surviving Mr. Shinn are two daughters, Mrs. Smith of Mount Vernon, and Grace A. Shinn of New York City, and a son, J. M. Clayton Shinn of New Rochelle."

Source: JOHN SHINN DEAD AT 87The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 16, 1936, p. 10, col. 4

Educator, Editor, Artist, And Historian, 87; Was Active In Growth of Town
Principal of 'Little Red Schoolhouse' Became Chairman of County Board of Supervisors; Town Will Pay Tribute at Funeral Service at Huguenot Church on Sunday.

John M. Shinn, 87, former Supervisor and Town Historian, died yesterday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. L. Brewster Smith, of No. 259 East Fourth street after an illness of several hours.  Death was caused by heart failure.  Mr. Shinn was stricken with a heart attack on Wednesday night and slowly relapsed until the end came at 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon.  His son J.M. Clayton Shinn was also at his bedside when the end came.

Mr. Shinn had been a resident of Pelham since 1876 and his life was closely tied up with the growth of the town.  His energetic interest in local affairs continued until his last days when although making his home in Mount Vernon he spent most of his time in Pelham and his presence was felt in the many activities in which he was interested.  On Oct. 5 he was honored as the only living charter member of the Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor and he took an active part in the program in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the church.

The Rev. Lewis Gaston Leary, former pastor of the church, who was the speaker, said this in tribute to Mr. Shinn and Mr. Alfred L. Hammett, who has been [a] member of the church for 54 years:

'Their brows are unfurrowed by the cares and strife of life, because they have lived with Him for whom we built this church.'

Mr. Shinn was born Oct. 25, 1849, in Dubuque, Iowa, the son of Asa and Azariah Morgan Shinn.  He was educated in the public school at Waterloo, Ia., and at the high school at Hannibal, Mo., where he was familiar with the scenes made immortal in the stories of Mark Twain.  His artistic traits developed early and he studied art in the Polytechnic Institute of St. Louis.  He studied for two years in the life class of Cooper Institute in New York and Antique Art at Academy of Design.

In 1876 he married Isabel King and settled in Pelham Manor.  His artistic and cultural accomplishments prompted the local citizens to offer him the post of principal of the little red schoolhouse on Prospect Hill.  He taught in the school for five years, and then accepted a position in the Census Bureau at Washington.  At the end of a year he resigned and returned to Pelham Manor.

While he was teaching school he

(Continued from Page One) [sic]

Former Supervisor John M. Shinn, Died
(Continued on Page Four.) [sic]

studied law at the New York Law school and was admitted to the bar.  He started practicing law in Mount Vernon.

His personality made him a popular figure in Pelham, and in 1894 the Republicans urged that the 'schoolmaster' accept the nomination for the office of Supervisor.  He conducted a campaign and was elected, continuing in office until 1904.

In White Plains he was a fearless legislator and was instrumental in enacting much progressive legislation.  He was chairman of the equalization committee of the board of supervisors and in 1902 became chairman of the board, a post he held until he retired in 1904.

In 1908 he became the editor and publisher of the Republican Record, and he published a brilliant little weekly newspaper.  It was purchased by The Pelham Sun Publishing Co. in 1919.

Mr. Shinn returned to his first art, painting, and in his studio on Highland avenue, Pelham Manor, he devoted considerable time to painting a group of historical scenes, which are now on display at the Town Hall.

In 1925 when the late Mrs. James F. Secor retired as town historian, Mr. Shinn, who was recognized as the local authority on Pelham history, was prevailed on to accept the appointment.  He was invited to be the chairmanof the committee for the first Memorial Day program in Pelham in 1926.

His was the inspiration for the Sesquicentennial celebration of the Battle of Pell's Point and the pageant which was staged for this observance on Oct. 16, 1926.  The program depicted picturesque incidents in Pelham's history, and attracted thousands of spectators.

He retired as town historian in 1931, when he took up his residence with his daughter in Mount Vernon.  Mr. Shinn was a member of Winyah Lodge No. 866 F. & A. M., and served as treasurer of the lodge for several years.  He was recently elected treasurer emeritus.  He was deeply interested in Masonic work.  

Surviving are two daughters, Mrs. L. Brewster Smith and Miss Grace A. Shinn of Mount Vernon, and his son, Clayton M. Shinn who lives in New Rochelle.

Funeral services will be held at the Huguenot Memorial Church on Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock.  Masonic services will be conducted by Winyah Lodge.  Interment will be private."

Source:  FORMER SUPERVISOR JOHN M. SHINN DEAD -- Educator, Editor, Artist, And Historian, 87; Was Active In Growth of Town, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 16, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 28, p. 1, cols. 1-8 & p. 4, cols. 5-6.   

"Deaths Of A Day

MOUNT VERNON.  Oct. 16.--John M. Shinn, former chairman of the county Board of Supervisors and a representative of Pelham in that body for 15 years, died here yesterday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Leslie Brewster Smith of 259 E. 4th Street.  He was eighty-seven years old.

Mr. Shinn was chairman of the board from 1894 to 1906.  He was a former town historian of Pelham and was an expert on assessment and equalization matters.  He served at various times in Pelham as school principal, receiver of taxes, supervisor and Republican town chairman."

Source:  Deaths Of A Day, The Daily News [Tarrytown, NY], Oct. 16, 1936, p. 15, col. 5.  

Many at Funeral Service For John M. Shinn, Held at Huguenot Memorial Church.

Funeral services for John M. Shinn, former Town Supervisor and Historian, were held at the Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor on Sunday afternoon.  Town and village officials and many of the older residents of the village attended.  The Rev. Willard P. Soper, Pastor of the church, of which Mr. Shinn was a charter member, conducted the religious services.  Harry F. Mela, Master of Winyah of Winyah Lodge, No. 866 F. & A. M., of which Mr. Shinn was treasurer emeritus, conducted the Masonic services with the assistance of Robert M. Montgomery, present Town Historian.  There were 40 members of the Masonic Fraternity in attendance.  

Mr. Shinn, who was at one time principal of the Little Red Schoolhouse on Prospect Hill. died on October 15th at the home of his daughter Mrs. L. Brewster Smith in Mount Vernon.  Interment was private.  

Among those who paid last tribute to Mr. Shinn were former Congressman Ben L. Fairchild, former Supervisor David Lyon, Alfred Hammett of Clay avenue, who with Mr. Shinn was honored at a recent reception to the old members of the Huguenot Memorial Church; Mayor Dominic Amato of North Pelham, Village Clerk Walter H. McIlroy of North Pelham, Village Clerk Gervas H. Kerr of Pelham Manor.

During the service Dr. Soper read the scripture passages which Mr. Shinn had recently read at the observance of the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Huguenot Memorial Church.  

The flags on local civic buildings have been at half staff during the week."

Source:  OFFICIALS ATTEND RITES FOR FORMER TOWN SUPERVISOR -- Many at Funeral Service For John M. Shinn, Held at Huguenot Memorial Church, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 23, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 29, Section 2, p. 9, col. 3.  

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