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, September 01, 2015

Unveiling of Bronze Tablet Commemorating Old Boston Post Road in Pelham on October 26, 1930

There stands today at the southwest corner of Ingalls Field (once known as Roosevelt Field) near the intersection of Wolfs Lane and Colonial Avenue a boulder with a bronze tablet affixed.  The tablet commemorates the Old Boston Post Road, the section of which that runs through Pelham is known today as Colonial Avenue.  The tablet further commemorates the British encampment along Old Boston Post Road following the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

The bronze tablet is inscribed as follows:


Bronze Tablet Commemorating the Old Boston
Post Road and the Site of the British Encampment
Following the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.
Photograph by the Author, 2003.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

The Knapp Chapter, D.A.R., unveiled the tablet on Sunday, October 26, 1930.  The chapter was newly-organized and the unveiling of the tablet was its first such official function.  That day, the members of the Knapp Chapter gathered with members of the School Board, United States Congressman Benjamin L. Fairchild, and Town Historian John M. Shinn gathered as the Knapp Chapter presented the tablet to the School Board through its unveiling.  Congressman Fairchild and Town Historian Shinn delivered remarks regarding the history of Old Boston Post Road.

"Unveiling Tablet Consecrating Historic Highway.
Mrs. Nathan Vidaver, regent of Knapp Chapter,
D.A.R., presenting bronze tablet to School District
at patriotic ceremony on Sunday.  The picture shows
Mrs. Vidaver, Mrs. Samuel Jackson Kramer, curator
general of the D.A.R.; Mrs. William Cummings Storey,
honorary president general; Mrs. W. W. Warner,
historian of Knapp Chapter, and Ben L. Fairchild who
was the principal speaker at the ceremony."
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge. 

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the transcribed text of two articles that appeared at the time the tablet was unveiled.  The first appeared in The Pelham Sun a few days before the unveiling announcing that the ceremonies would take place.  The second appeared in The Pelham Sun it the next edition after the unveiling of the tablet.  That article recounted important remarks made by Congressman Fairchild and Town Historian Shinn.  The text of those two articles appears immediately below, followed by citations and links to the sources.


The 154th anniversary of the Battle of Pelham will be celebrated on Sunday by the unveiling of a memorial tablet on Roosevelt field, then the site of the British encampment, now the athletic field of Memorial High School.

The newly instituted Knapp Chapter of the D. A. R. must be congratulated on the success of its first undertaking.  The services on Sunday afternoon will be fitting to the occasion, conducted with a quiet dignity.  The battleground will be effectively and permanently marked, for present and future generations to, observe and reminisce upon.

How great have been the changes wrought in the passage of a century and a half.  The Hutchinson River, where Bolton tells us in his history of Pelham, Indians built canoes on its banks in order to make the crossing, is now a limpid stream bordering a delightful parkway.  The sand dunes of Pelham and the forests of Westchester were wild, almost uninhabited districts; toay concrete highways wander through the woodlands, electric lights illumine the darkness, pleasant villas and peaceful families populate its hillsides.  None of this would have been possible, however, had it not been possible, however, had it not been for the courage of those ancestors of one hundred and fifty years ago, who saw it was good and fought to retain it for themselves and their succeeding generations.

Lest we forget the scene of thie sacrifices will be marked and the tablet marking it fittingly inscribed."

Source:  THE BATTLE OF PELHAM, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 24, 1930, Vol. 21, No. 30, p. 2, col. 2.  

Patriotic Organizations Assist In Inspiring Ceremony at High School and Roosevelt Field on Sunday.  Ben L. Fairchild Urges Citizens to Cherish Historical Mementoes.  Town Historian Urges That Former Name of Historic Thoroughfare Be Resumed.

Inspiring patriotic services were conducted on Sunday when Knapp Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, consecrated the old Boston Post road in the Pelhams and unveiled a handsome bronze tablet on Roosevelt Field overlooking Colonial avenue, as the historic highway is now known.  National officers of the D.A.R., former Congressman Ben L. Fairchild and officials of the town and school district participated in the ceremonies which were conducted before an audience composed of members of patriotic organizations and civic spirited citizens of the Pelhams.

Mrs. Nathan Vidaver, Regent of Knapp Chapter, presented the tablet to the school district.  Henry B. Nevins, president of the board of education, accepted the tablet.  Town Historian John M. Shinn read an inspiring historical account of the establishment of the Post road.  Mrs. Samuel Jackson Kramer, of Pelhamwood, Curator General of the D.A.R., and Mrs. William Cummings Storey, Honorary National president expressed the greetings of the national society of the D.A.R.  Mrs. Clarence Connor sang the Star Spangled Banner.

Mr. Fairchild delivered a splendid address urging the citizens of the Pelhams to cherish their historic heritage in the Constitution of the United States, and the many colorful landmarks in their nation-state and community.  Joseph Clifton Brown, superintendent of schools was chairman of the meeting at the invitation of Knapp Chapter.

The members of Pelham Post, No. 50, American Legion, the boy and girl scout organizations formed a colorful background for the patriotic display.

The tablet is affixed to a huge boulder at the southerly end of the high school athletic field, which also marks the site on which the British troops encamped before the Battle of Pell's Point which was fought on October 18, 1776.  It will stand as a marker of two of Pelham's most cherished historical incidents.  

The first part of the program was conducted  in the auditorium of the high school.  Later the meeting adjourned to the athletic field.

In his address Mr. Fairchild likened the changes in the nation to the changes in the historic highway alongside of which the tablet was erected.

'As the old Indian trail was changed into a busy highway,' said Mr. Fairchild, 'did this nation advance into a thriving world power.  The constitution of the United States is the pavement of this national highway.  Repair it if you want to, but keep it so that it will be passable for all who want to keep within its bounds.  Keep a safe highway for those who follow you.

'There are too many persons trying to rip up this good pavement and take away the rights of the various states that make up this great nation.  Learn what you are doing before you make too many repairs.  It is these traditions, disintegrating forces that are destroying the foundation of this nation.  They would establish a bureaucracy that would destroy the fundamentals of this union of self governing states.  Therefore just as you cherish your landmarks in your local communities it is necessary that you cherish the fundamentals of your constitution.'

Mr. Fairchild complimented the Knapp Chapter on their forethought in erecting a permanent memento to one of Pelham's most cherished landmarks.  

In accepting the tablet President Nevins expressed his gratitude to the D.A.R. for presenting the school district with a memorial that will remind the children of the Pelhams daily of their historic heritage and of the sacrifices of those who went before them.

The Rev. William P. Soper, pastor of the Huguenot Memorial church, offered the invocation and the Rev. J. McVickar Haight, pastor of Christ's Church pronounced the benediction.  Music for the program was furnished by the Pelham Memorial high school band under the leadership of A. J. Fregans.

Little Meral Smith and Rosemary Aceola pulled the red, white and blue ribbon to remove the veil from the tablet.  Scout bugler George Scott sounded a salute.  The program closed with the singing of 'America.'

Mrs. Lois Townsley Brown accompanied Mrs. Connor on the piano.

Colonial avenue was formerly known as the Boston Post road.  The post riders followed the old Indian trail and the route was continued as the first stage coach line.  Early in the 19th century the highway that is now known as the Boston Post road was opened to traffic as a toll road.  In his reading, Mr. Shinn told of this story.

'The first settlement in New Netherland, -- as the Dutch colony was named -- was made on Manhattan Island in 1611 or 12, when a few cabins were erected to shelter the fur traders who came to traffic with the Indians,' said Mr. Shinn.  'The Dutch were a trading nation -- not a colonizer in the first place, nor like the English in search of a place of free worship, nor were they like the French, who settled Canada, nor the Spanish who settled the southern parts of North America, Central and South America because of the gold found there, and secondly that they might spread the Christian religion among the Indians.

'The Dutch held New Netherland for over 50 years, when it was captured by the English in 1664, in the war between England and Holland.  The name of the town. New Amsterdam and the colony of New Netherland was changed to New York in memory of the Shire of York in England and also in honor of the King's brother, the Duke of York, to whom he had presented the colony.

(Continued on Page 12.)

(Continued from Page 9)

'Colonel Thomas Dongan was appointed first governor.  It was this Thomas Dongan who confirmed, in the name of his King, the title of Thomas Pell to the Town of Pelham and erected it into the Manor of Pelham.

'Pell was an English gentleman living in Fairfield, Connecticut, who bought this territory of the Indians in 1654 while it was under Dutch control.  Pell's land, or the Manor of Pelham, originally included the present town of Pelham, the city of New Rochelle, Hunter's Island, Pelham Bay Park and City Island.  Pelham Bay Park and City Island and Hunter's Island were annexed to the City of New York in 1895 by an act of the Legislature.  New Rochelle was sold to Jacob Leisler for the use of the Huguenots who were driven out of La Rochelle in France, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

'Colonel Dongan served as governor for three years when he asked to be relieved of his job and sailed for England.  Colonel Lovelace was appointed to fill the vacancy.  Lovelace was a progressive governor and one of his first acts was to buy Staten Island of the Indians for 400 fathoms of wampum, a few kettles, some knives and blankets, probably worth between $25 and $30, about the same amount for which Peter Minuet -- the old Dutch governor -- bought Manhattan Island from the Indians.

'The next item of interest to us today is that he visited Governor Winthrop to confer about matters of mutual interest.  The result being that it was decided to establish a sort of pony postal service between New York and Boston Town.

'Governor Winthrop was both the judge and prosecutor of Ann Hutchinson, the founder of the first woman's club in America and the greatest exponent of the right of free speech and religious freedom this country has known.

'The early settlers honored her by naming the river on which she settled after her, Pelham has done the same by giving her name to one of its splendid schools, and Westchester County has given her name to the magnificent parkway that follows the shore of that same river.

'Browning's line, 'No work begun shall ever pause for death', is particularly applicable to the labors of Mrs. Hutchinson.  

'At the time of her murder in 1643 her fame as a defiant champion of freedom against bigotry began.  Suppose she had won in her trial and continued her life among her neighbors in Boston, speaking once or twice a week to a woman's club on religious and governmental matters according to her custom, would her fame have spread over the world?  Would memorial bronzes have been placed on spots made famous by her presence; would statues have been erected in her honor and her name become a household word to millions of her countrymen as it is now?  We cannot say, we leave it to you [to] think upon.

'Now to resume about the Old Boston Road.  The result of the conference between Lovelace and Winthrop was that Lovelace on the 12th day of January, 1673, dispatched a horseman whose saddle bags were filled with mail from the old Fort, now the Battery, up the entire length of Manhattan Island to Spuyten Duvyil ferry on his way to Boston.

'Here he stated over night, and the next day, January the 13th, he passed the boulder upon which we now to -- in a manner -- do him honor while we dedicate a tablet to the Old Boston Post Road.

'The early settlers of New England and New Netherland were slow, deliberate people; Massachusetts had been settled 52 years and New York for over 60 years before this first trip of the postman between the two towns, and nearly 100 years more were to elapse before a stage line was to be established.

'We shall not follow this intrepid man in his journey over the Indian trails then hard to follow because of the snow -- and over crude wagon roads, sometimes laid out by the settlers; most of the streams must have been frozen, if not, he had to wade them through the icy waters.  It is enough to say that within two weeks he rode into Boston Town and delivered his mail.  He must have tarried there but a day or two as his instructions were to return to New York within a month; so that about a month from that 13th of January, 1673, he must once more have passed this spot over the trail which he had blazed as the future Boston Post Road and which we so fittingly dedicate today in enduring bronze.

'But this part of the Old Boston Post Road was fated not to remain the main traveled road from New York.  The route from the Battery to Westchester County line by the way of Spuyten Duyvil ferry was too long by about four miles to those bound  along the shore of the Sound and the ferry at Spuyten Duyvil was a toll ferry at Spuyten Duyvil was a toll ferry, owned by the Phillips of Phillips' Manor, now Yonkers, who had so much political influence in Colonial affairs that no one dared oppose them in proposing any change that would deprive the Phillips of their income from the ferry; however, the dissatisfaction became so great that the Provincial Assembly passed an act in 1774 (over a hundred years, you notice, after the establishment of the mail route) to enable Louis Morris and John Sickles to build a bridge across the Harlem at what is now Third Avenue, New York, 'To shorten the distance from the City of New York to any part of this or the neighboring Colonies.'  This was to be a free bridge.  The American Revolution began the following year and nothing but the preliminary survey was done, and the franchise expired.  But in 1790, Morris obtained another franchise to build a bridge as before.

'John B. Cole purchased the franchise from Morris and built the bridge.  He also built a road from the bridge to the New Rochelle line in 1798.  This road was a toll road and followed practically the present line of the Boston Post Road, running through Pelham Manor and was known as the Boston Turnpike, a term derived from the name of Turnstile, and afterwards bestowed upon the road.  The last toll gate was near Drake avenue in New Rochelle, and I've often heard one of the old settlers of Pelham Manor say that he was going up to the toll gates, though I have not heard that expression since 1876.  The toll on this road expired by charter in 1858.  Since that time the road has been free to all.

'I cannot resist expressing my thanks, as Town Historian, to the Daughters of the American Revolution for their patriotic act in placing this bronze in memory of the Old Boston Road in such a prominent and guarded situation.

'I also want to express my regret that some man or body of men should have, not so long ago, decided to abolish such a historical name as the Old Boston Post Road for one of its streets and substitute the far less distinctive name of Colonial Avenue.

'I think that the association responsible for this demonstration should petition the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham to restore its proper name and I promise them my co-operation."

Source:  D.A.R. UNVEILS TABLET CONSECRATING THE HISTORIC OLD BOSTON POST ROAD, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 31, 1930, Vol. 21, No. 31, Section Two, p. 9, cols. 2-6p. 12, cols. 2-4.

Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak." 

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