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, November 03, 2015

A Major Tennis Tournament was Played in Pelham in 1885

Tennis is mentioned in literature as long ago as during the Middle Ages.  Indeed, a popular form of tennis, believed to be a cousin of today's tennis, was played in Medieval times and is known as "real tennis."  

It took the sport of tennis much longer to reach the little Town of Pelham outside of New York City.  When it came, however, it came thunderously.

In 1884, Pelham residents created the Country Club at Pelham along today's Shore Road inside what now is Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx.  The clubhouse stood not far from the carriage house of the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.  The grounds of the Country Club extended on both sides of Shore Road and encompassed about 34 acres.  

Among the first sports offered by the Country Club was lawn tennis.  I have written about an early women's tennis tournament played at the club June 8-9, 1885, and a men's tournament held in late September of that year.  See Fri., Mar. 25, 2005:  Tennis in Early Pelham.  

"Tennis Players, 1885" an Oil Painting by Horace Henry
Cauty (1846-1909) Depicting a Mixed Doubles Tennis
Match in 1885.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

During the summer of 1885, the town of Pelham was infected with "tennis fever."  The 1885 U.S. National Championships (now known as the US Open) were held from August 18 to August 22 at the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island.  Richard D. Sears became singles champion and was a member of the doubles champion team as well.     

The Country Club at Pelham scheduled a major tennis tournament set for the last two days of September and the first day of October that year.  Among those who reportedly agreed to compete was U.S. National Champion Richard D. Sears.  Although Sears did not compete in the tournament, one of his national competitors, R. Livingston Beeckman did.  The club billed the tournament as the "First Annual Lawn Tennis Tournament of the Country Club."  

1885 Advertisement for "First Annual Lawn Tennis
Tournament of the Country Club."  Text is Transcribed
Immediately Below.  Source:  THE COUNTRY CLUB --
Pioneer, Bet. Sep. 18 and Sep. 23, 1885,
col. 4 (date information cut off on all copies).
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

First Annual
Lawn Tennis Tournament
The Country Club, of Westchester County
Open to all comers, for singles and doubles, on
the Club Grounds.
Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday,
Sept. 29th, 30th, & Oct. 1st.
Ayres balls will be used.  Entires close September
28th, 10 A.M.
Games will be called at 10:30 A.M. each day.
The grounds will be opened to all who wish to wit-
ness the games, upon paying an admission fee of 50 cts
per diem.  Children half price.
Of the Country Club."

The Spirit of the Times, a national sporting magazine, reported on the results of the tournament at the Country Club at Pelham, noting that it was held "in the presence of a large number of residents and visitors."  There were three principal events during the tournament:  men's singles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles.

In the men's single event, R. Livingston Beeckman sailed his way to the final round.  R. Livingston Beeckman was fresh off the U.S. National Championships the prior month in Newport, Rhode Island.  There, following a bye in the first round, he lost to Foxhall P. Keene in the second round.    

Beeckman won the first round by default.  He crushed C. F. Watson in the second round 6-0, 6-2.  Little is known about C. F. Watson, although he seems to have been involved in amateur tennis principally in New Jersey during the mid-1880s.

In the third round, Beeckman faced Morton Spring Paton.  Paton had lost in the second round of each of the 1883 U.S. National Championships, the 1884 U.S. National Championships, and the 1885 U.S. National Championships.  Beeckman crushed Paton 6-0, 6-1.  

In the final round, Beeckman faced Henry Warner Slocum, Jr.  Slocum also was also a national-level competitor.  Only the month before he had also lost in the second round of the U.S. National Championships, defeated by Godfrey Malbone Brinley.  Slocum gave Beeckman a little better run for his money, but Beeckman still defeated Slocum soundly, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, to take the Country Club Men's Singles championship.

Beeckman then partnered with Slocum for the men's doubles event.  Beeckman and his partner sailed to the finals of that event as well.  The pair won the first round by default.  In the second round they faced a pair of unknown amateur tennis players named Morris and Adee.  They beat the pair 6-1, 6-2.

In the men's doubles finals, Beeckman and Slocum faced Morton Spring Paton and Alexander Van Rensselaer.  Van Rensselaer and a partner made it to the semifinals of the 1882 U.S. Lawn Tennis Championships in the men's doubles event.  He and a partner lost in the finals of the same event during the same tournament during 1883 and 1884 as well.  Van Rensselaer made it to the quarterfinals of the men's singles event during the 1884 U.S. National Championships.  

The men's doubles finals at the Country Club at Pelham were the most thrilling matches of the day.  Slocum and Beeckman beat Paton and Van Rensselaer 7-5, 7-5, and 7-5 to take the championship.

The mixed doubles event seems to have been more of an exhibition.  A published account of the tournament results (quoted in full below) suggests there was no championship, merely a pair of mixed doubles matches.  The account describes the results as follows:

"Ladies' and gentlemen's doubles -- Miss Roberts and Beeckman beat Miss Lee and P. R. Morris, 6 2, 6 1; Miss Dickey and L. Gregory beat Miss Watson and E. R. Adee, 6 3, 6 4."

Tennis seems to have gained a firm foothold in Pelham during the spring, summer, and fall of 1885.  It has been played joyously and competitively within Pelham ever since.

Lawn Tennis in Long Meadow at Prospect Park in 1885.
This Image Likely Depicts a Lawn Tennis Tournament
Much Like the One Played on the Grounds of the Country
Club at Pelham, Sep. 29-30 and Oct. 1, 1885.  Source:
"8.  Lawn Tennis in Prospect Park," in New York City
Department of Parks & Recreation, 9 Things You Won't
See iin Our Parks Today (visited Nov. 1, 2015).  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is text from a couple of articles about the 1885 Tennis Tournament at the Country Club at Pelham.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

First Annual Lawn Tennis Tournament.

The Country Club was organized about two years ago.  Its object was not only for the social enjoyment of its members but the promotion of legitimate sports of all kinds.  The club grounds, situated at Pelham about half way between New Rochelle and Westchester are most admirably adapted for this purpose.  There are about 34 acres of land beautifully laid out, woods and low rolling ground pleasantly relieving the monotony of a dead level.  The club house is a substantial building and tastefully fitted up.  There and a number of tennis courts, second to none in the country, pigeon shooting grounds, the finest polo field in the United States and a better steeple chase course cannot be found.  Access from the city is excellent, either by taking the Harlem Branch of the N.Y., N.H. and H.R.R., at Harlem River to Bartow-on-the-Sound, or by the Main Line and changing at New Rochelle.

At this place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, September 29, 30, and October 1, the first annual


will take place, open to all comers, for singles or doubles.  The winner of the Newport Tournament, Mr. Sears, the champion of the United States, and many of the best players of the country will compete.  Silver cups and other prizes will be competed for, given by the Country Club of Westchester County.

The grounds will be open to all who wish to witness the games, upon paying a small admission fee for each day.  The courts are admirably situated for witnessing the games and the arrangements made by the Lawn Tennis Committee, Mr. Randolph Morris and Mr. Adee, for the comfort of the guests are complete in every particular.  Entries close for the tournament at ten o'clock on the morning of Sept. 28.  All lovers of the game in this vicinity will have an opportunity of witnessing some of the finest lawn tennis playing ever seen in the country.  See advertisement in another column for further particulars."

Source:  THE COUNTRY CLUB -- First Annual Lawn Tennis Tournament, New Rochelle Pioneer, Bet. Sep. 18 and Sep. 23, 1885, col. 4 (date information cut off on all copies).  



This tournament came off last week, in the presence of a large number of residents and visitors.  

Singles - First round.  W. H. Titus beat R. Morris, 6 4, 4 6, 7 5; E. M. Adee beat A. H. Morris, 4 6, 8 6, 7 5; H. L. Magor beat A. M. Wood by default; H. W. Slocum, Jr., beat L. Gregory, 4 6, 6 1, 6 1; R. L. Beeckman beat G. C. Thomas by default; C. F. Watson beat S. E. Appleton, 6 8, 6 4, 6 4; W. H. Sands beat H. M. Peters by default; M. S. Paton beat W. P. Williams, 6 3, 6 1.

Second round.  W. H. Titus beat E. M. Adee, 7 5, 6 1; H. W. Slocum, Jr., beat R. L. Magor, 6 2 7 5; R. L. Beeckman beat C. F. Watson, 6 0, 6 2; M. S. Paton beat W. H. Sands, 6 2, 6 5.

Third round.  H. W. Slocum, Jr., beat W. H. Titus, 6 3, 6 1; R. L. Beeckman beat M. S. Paton, 6 0, 6 1.

Final round, Beeckman beat Slocum, 6 1, 6 2, 4 6, 6 4.

Doubles -- Preliminary round.  Adee and partner beat Sands and Morris, 6 2, 6 2.

First round.  Magor and Gregory beat E. M. Adee and Titus, 6 1, 6 2; Paton and Van Rensselaer beat A. M. Wood and partner by default; E. R. Adee and Morris beat Watson and Appleton, 3 6, 7 6, 7 5; Slocum and Beeckman beat Thomas and Peters by default.

Second round.  Paton and Van Rensselaer beat Magor and Gregory, 6 4, 6 1; Slocum and Beeckman beat K. R. Adee and Morris, 6 1, 6 2.

Final round, Slocum and Beeckman beat Paton and Van Rensselaer, 7 5, 7 5, 7 5.

Ladies' and gentlemen's doubles -- Miss Roberts and Beeckman beat Miss Lee and P. R. Morris, 6 2, 6 1; Miss Dickey and L. Gregory beat Miss Watson and E. R. Adee, 6 3, 6 4.

Much credit is due to Mr. W. H. Sands for the success of the tournament."

Source:  "LAWN-TENNIS" in The Spirit of the Times, Oct. 10, 1885, Vol. 110, No. 11, p. 339, col. 3 (NY, NY:  Oct. 10, 1885).   

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