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.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Reminiscences Of Long-Time Pelham Manor Resident Evelyn Randall Published in 1938

Evelyn Smith Randall and her husband, William Bradley Randall, were important early residents of the Village of Pelham Manor.  The couple began spending their summers in Pelham Manor in a bungalow they built on a lot extending from Park Lane to Beech Tree Lane in the early 1890s when there were only a few homes built on Manor Circle and virtually no other homes between the branch line railroad and Shore Road along Long Island Sound.  In 1896, the couple moved to Pelham Manor permanently and expanded their bungalow into a beautiful home named the "Hermitage."  

The Hermitage, Home of William B. and Evelyn Randall in
Pelham Manor for Many Years.  The Home No Longer
Stands.  Source:  Courtesy of The Office of The Historian
of the Town of Pelham.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

I have written about William B. Randall, Evelyn Randall, and their home, the Hermitage, on a number of occasions.  See:

Thu., Apr. 30, 2015:  Obituaries of William B. Randall, a Notable Pelham Manor Resident, and Information About His Family and Home.  

Fri., Apr. 29, 2005:  Mr. and Mrs. William Bradley Randall And Their Pelham Home Known as The Hermitage

Tue., Jul. 10, 2007:  An Early Event in the History of Pelhamwood

Fri., Jul. 17, 2009:  Brief Biography of William B. Randall of Pelham Manor Published in 1900

Thu., Oct. 23, 2014: A Mystery: The Club House Built by the Pelham Shore Improvement Company.

In 1938, Evelyn Randall wrote a pair of articles published in the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun, recording her reminiscences of her early days in Pelham Manor.  She and her husband were active members of the community.  Consequently, Evelyn Randall's reminiscences touch on a host of historical matters including early development of the Park Lane and Beech Tree Lane area, the transition from horses to automobiles, the early days of the Manor Club and the Tuesday Afternoon Club, the origins of Wykagyl Country Club, and the origins of today's Pelham Country Club.  

Mrs. Randall's reminiscences provide a fascinating glimpse of life in Pelham Manor during a simpler, more rural time.  The text of her two articles appears immediately below.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.


By EVELYN RANDALL (Mrs. Wm. B. Randall)

Reminiscences of an oldtime Pelham Manor resident, presenting an intimate and charming picture of life in the early days of the village.

This article, the first in a series of two, written by Mrs. William B. Randall of Park Lane, longtime resident of Pelham Manor, will make its appeal to both old and new residents of the community.  To the former group, it will doubtless recall many pleasant memories and associations of other days, and to the newer residents it will serve to bring a vivid picture of what Pelham Manor was like in the days before the turn of the century and in the years that followed.  Mrs. Randall, long a prominent resident, has with Mr. Randall for many years taken a leading part in the social and club activity and general life of the community.  A woman of cultured tastes, her influence has long been felt in the Manor Club.

Early Days in Pelham Manor

When we were young, Mr. Randall and I used to enjoy traveling up from the City to see the Spring Games at the New York Athletic Club, and as we walked past Christ's Church and along the thickly shaded country road toward the railroad station [i.e., today's Pelhamdale Avenue] we thought that Pelham Manor must look like rural England, and that we should like to live in it.  

After we were married we did come to Pelham Manor where we acquired a modest lot on Park Lane.  

When children came the problem of where to go for the Summer became so urgent that we built a bungalow on our lot and we spent several Summers there before enlarging it for our year-round home in 1896.  [This is the origin of the home on Park Lane known as "The Hermitage."]  

Early Troubles

When we first came to the country, I was afraid of tramps, of the dark woods, of the noise of the hoot owls, in fact of everything.

If Mr. Randall were detained late in town I would go to bed with a pistol and a candle on a chair by my bedside.  In my nervousness I might easily have shot someone by mistake.  

In those first years we suffered many inconveniences.  We had neither water, gas, sewer, electricity, nor sidewalk, and of course, no telephone.  The narrow road had a layer of stone at the bottom but it needed several layers more before it could be called a road.  The road ended at our property and later on Mr. Randall extended the road down to the Sound at his own expense.  

Our land was very rough, it had never been subdued or cultivated in any way.  We struggled long to make a lawn, and had a gang of men with grub hoes to dig up the stones and rocks and level it off.  

In the fields adjoining, weeds and grasses grew as high as one's head, and one day our little daughter, Phoebe wandered down a tiny path and was lost for hours.  She was finally picked up by the carpenter and brought home.  We also were devoured by mosquitoes.  

In our year-round house we proudly put in one of the first hot water heating systems, the first pure white kitchen, and one of the first sleeping porches.  

As soon as we came to live in Pelham Manor, Mr. Randall joined the sewer commission.  We also struggled to put in water and gas and each achievement would seem like an exciting adventure.

As a reward for his efforts, Mr. Randall was elected a trustee of the village and he finally became President.  During his term an amusing incident occurred.

An Amusing Incident

One warm Summer evening at about nine o'clock, a gentleman wandered into the little old station at Pelham Manor to take the Branch Line train of the New Haven, to New York.  He was intoxicated after spending a happy day with his friends among the 'Indians' on Huckleberry Island, and he failed to make the train which was moving slightly.  He fell to the ground and our policeman, Joseph Colgan, and Mr. Harry Dey ran out on the track to assist him.  Unfortunately, he mistook them for robbers and to their horror drew out his gun.  They thought it unwise to force the matter to an issue and the intoxicated man walked the supposed 'robbers' all the way to the Athletic Club at the point of his pistol.  The man, later on, was identified, arrested and fined and after being lectured by the Rev. John H. Dey, editor of the Evangelist, on the evils of drink, he was glad to evaporate.

Spreading Out

Soon after we built our year-'round home we built a stable and began to keep horses.  We took on a coachman and a gardener and two maids and we laid out flower and vegetable gardens.  We also built cowshed and purchased a cow which unfortunately proceeded to run dry.  We purchased coops and a runway for chickens but as we did not understand chickens they soon failed to lay and we ate them.  There was a long, succession of dogs, large and small, and our boats ran from row boats up to power boats.  We also bought adjoining land until we owned five acres.  It was all in the game.  

The Old Manor Club

Our principal amusement, evenings, in those early days was going to the old Manor Club for dances, entertainments, pool and cards.  

Although the clubhouse was small, seating barely one hundred, our affairs had quite an air of smartness.  

People wore evening dress, the women wore long white gloves and at dances the men wore gloves.  I remember that Mr. Randall had eight pairs at once, and Mrs. Corlies would bring me a package of white gloves every year from Paris.  

The old Manor Club was restricted by the deed of gift of the land from having or serving alcoholic beverages and we were constantly troubled to make welsh-rarebits without beer.  The 'he men' of the period also complained at our mild refreshments of ice cream and cake and all this had a bearing on the success of the new Country Club where anything could be had to drink.  

The Tuesday Afternoon Club

One of the very best things that ever happened for the women of Pelham Manor was the founding of the Tuesday Afternoon Club in 1900.  This club was a modest little reading group.  It grew with the growth of the village until in 1914, when the Old Manor Club was about to expire it 'took over' the old club, and made it a regulation women's club with sections for the study of various subjects.  

The present Manor Club is a valued factor in the lives of the women of the Pelhams, enabling them to exercise their talents whether cultural or executive and to make and cement friendships.

Mrs. James F. Secor was the leading spirit in these two women's clubs, and she was the beloved president of one and then of the other during a period of no less than twenty-five years.  

Ed. Note:  The second and last article by Mrs. Randall presenting her reminiscences of other days, will appear in next week's issue of The Pelham Sun."

Source:  Randall, Evelyn, EARLY DAYS IN PELHAM MANOR By EVELYN RANDALL (Mrs. Wm. B. Randall) Reminiscences of an oldtime Pelham Manor resident, presenting an intimate and charming picture of life in the early days of the village, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1938, p. 7, cols. 1-2.  

By EVELYN RANDALL (Mrs. Wm. B. Randall)

This is the second and last article written by Mrs. Randall long a resident of Pelham Manor , in which she has presented a vivid and intimate picture of life in the village of days gone by.

Early Automobiling

About 1910, when a few automobiles began to be owned in Pelham Manor, we still clung to our horses.  

At that time people used to put up their cars in Winter, featuring to have them freeze or get blocked in a snow drift.

It used to give us considerable inward glee on cold, Winter mornings to see these rich and bloated owners of cars standing shivering on street corners waiting trustfully for the 'Toonerville Trolley' to take them to their train while we drove gaily by, nestling in fur robes, our sleigh bells jingling and red tassels waving.  If there happened to be room we would invite one or two to ride.

The Pelham Country Club

It may surprise you to learn that the original Pelham Country Club rented some farm land on the easterly side of Fowler avenue for a nine hole golf course in the early years of golf.  

After a time the land was sold and the club was forced to remove.  The old Disbrow farm on North avenue ,New Rochelle was rented and finally purchased and an eighteen hole course was built.  

The leading spirits were the men from Pelham Manor, though new members soon increased the membership.  The first three presidents were from Pelham Manor, Martin J. Condon, Paul Heubner and William B. Randall who also became life members.

The name Wykagyl was substituted by William K. Gillett who discovered a native Indian tribe associated with that neighborhood.  

About that time there was a tennis club in Pelham Manor which had its home at the Iden Mansion on Wolf's Lane, where they had six tennis courts.  

In 1908 this cljub decided to expand and they chose the present site of the Pelham Country Club.  

The property was the much despised Spreen Swamp which Mr. George Lahey described as 'a repository for discarded iron beds, boilers and tin cans and debris of every description.'  Drainage from half of Pelham Manor flowed into it; it contained a peat bed, quick sands and a swamp where frogs, snakes and mosquitoes flourished.  

With infinite courage and tenacity and at great expense, this unlovely spot 'has been transformed into a lovely park with fine trees, shrubs and running brooks, where formerly there was only rough terrain and stagnant water.'  A full length golf course was finally completed within the village.

This great undertaking was accomplished under the leadership of Mont D. Rogers, Edmjund E. Sinclair and William B. Randall, faithfully supported by the Board of Governors and the entire membership.

I quote again:  'After the construction of the golf course, Pelham Manor property in the vicinity that had been offered at $4,000 per acre, eventually sold as high as $40,000 per acre greatly increasing the wealth of the owners.'

The Pelham Country Club has been a boon to its members giving them health and pleasure."

Source:  Randall, Evelyn, EARLY DAYS IN PELHAM MANOR By EVELYN RANDALL (Mrs. Wm. B. Randall), The Pelham Sun, Aug. 6, 1938, p. 6, cols. 7-8.  

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