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, December 23, 2015

More About the Ruffians Who Attacked the Branch Line Train in Pelham in 1878

Recently I wrote about an attack on a New Haven Branch Line train by a group of ruffians as the train passed through the tiny neighborhood of Bartow in the Town of Pelham at about 2:30 a.m. on January 30, 1878.  See Thu., Dec. 03, 2015:  Ruffians Attacked the Branch Line Train in Pelham in 1878.  

That night, as the train passed through Pelham near Bartow Station, a hail of stones struck the cab of the train, smashing its windows and injuring the fireman.  Another hail of stones struck the rear car of the train targeting the brakeman, though he was not hurt.  The conductor had the engineer whistle-signal a stop of the train.  It was brought to a halt and backed up to the site of the attack as the engineer, brakeman, conductor, and others assembled weapons to battle the attackers. 

The train men lit lanterns and climbed off the train with their guns. They could make out seven men lingering in the darkness of the woods as the ruffians began jeering them. The train men started firing shots at their attackers but soon realized the futility of the endeavor, climbing back onto their train for the brief trip to Harlem River.

Further research has revealed more to the story of the attack on the train and the young men responsible.  It turns out that shortly after the incident, all the young men involved in the incident were arrested except a few, two of which were expected to turn State's evidence against the remainder.  Some of the young men spoke to a New York newspaper in a rather pitiful effort to avoid prosecution.  Their story purported to lay out the events of that night nearly 140 years ago from the perspective of the young men who attacked the train.

Most of the men involved were in their early to mid-twenties.  Several of the accused claimed that the men had gathered for a "skimmerton" -- also known as a shivaree.  One of their friends, Henry O'Neil, had married the week before and was staying with his new wife in a home at the settlement of Bartow in the Town of Pelham.  The young men began their skimmerton outside the Bartow home where O'Neil and his new bride were staying.  A skimmerton is a tradition where friends gather with pots, pans, horns, and noisemakers to embarrass newlyweds outside their homes in the night.  In a bid to end the skimmerton, Henry O'Neil gave the young men five dollars to leave for the saloons.  

The men included James Havey, John Havey, John Molloy (brother of Henry O'Neil's new bride), Robert Molloy, Nat Moore, John Goss, and Jim Gordon.  Various members of the group had drinks in Mahoney's saloon and Odell's saloon, both located near Bartow station on the New Haven Branch Line.  

At about 2:00 a.m., the gathering began to break up and the men departed for their nearby homes in Eastchester in two groups walking along the Branch Line railroad tracks.  At that point, as one might expect, their stories diverge.  One group of three men, John Malloy, Jim Haveny, and John Haven, purportedly lagged behind the others and saw a train pull out of the Bartow station.  The train then stopped, which they thought was odd.  When they saw train men with lanterns climb off of the train, they realized that their compatriots had "stoned" the train so they took off running.  When their compatriots caught up with them, they claimed that they had thrown one stone and one sarsaparilla bottle at the train.  The newspaper account of the interview ended with the statement:  "The train men say that a shower of stones struck the engine and several of the cars.  One of the fireman's wrists was injured."

1877 American Passenger Steam Locomotive
Likely Similar to the One Attacked in Pelham on
January 30, 1878. Source: Maw, W. H. & Dredge, J.,
eds., The Engineering Journal: A Weekly Journal, Apr. 6,
1877, p. 267.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of a news account after the young men of Eastchester were arrested for stoning the Branch Line train on January 30, 1878.  The article is followed by a citation and link to its source.

First Serenading a New-Married Pair and then Stoning a Railroad Train.

All the young men who stoned the train at Bartow's Station on Wednesday have been arrested except James Havey and John and Robert Molloy.  It is said that the Molloy brothers will be used as State's evidence.  They and others, it is reported, have been summoned before the Grand Jury at White Plains to-day.

John Molloy said yesterday that Henry O'Neil married his (Molloy's) sister on the Sunday before last, and was living with her on Mr. Bartow's place, not far from the station.  On the Tuesday night preceding the attack on the train he with some of the lads living about East Chester got horns and tin pans and went down a skimerton.  [NOTE:  The reference is to a "skimmerton," also known as a "shivaree," where friends use pots, pans, horns, and noisemakers to bother newlyweds.]  

'Everything happened all right at the skimerton,' he said.  'I went in, and O'Neil gave me $5 and told me to use $3 of it to treat the boys.  They decided to go to Mahoney's saloon at the station.  I had nothing to say about that part of it, and went along with the money.  We took a drink; but it was cold there, and we went over to Odell's saloon.  We took several drinks, there, and then we went back to Mahoney's place, Mahoney built a fire for us, and we sat and drank there until nearly 2 o'clock.  I didn't drink much, and Jim Gordon didn't drink anything but soda and sarsaparilla.  As we started to go home we were in two parties.  In the first there were Nat Moore, 25 years old, who peddles fish; John Goss, 24 years old, the son of Fenton Goss, a laborer; Jim Gordon, 22 years old, son of William Gordon, a cartman; and my brother Robert, 16 years old.  I was in a party of three that lagged about a couple of telegraph poles behind.  We took the railroad to go home by, instead of the Pelham road because it was straighter.  Jim Havey, 20 years old, son of Patrick Havey, a farmer, and John Havey, 20 years old, son of the Road Commissioner, were with me.  Just as we were coming to the station, we noticed the train come to a stop.  That was very strange because it had just left the station.  Then we saw three men getting off of the train with lanterns.

'They've been stoning the train,' says I.

'You're right,' says Jimm Havey.

'That's what's the matter,' says John Havey, who is no relation of Jim.  

'Just theen the men shouted, 'Stand, or we'll shoot.'

'I says, 'Legs, grant me a favor,' and we put off over the fields.  I went down to Barow's place, and stayed there in the cold until I heard the train start.  They say it was ten mminutes, but I thought it was half an hour.'

Robert Molloy, the youngest of the party, said:

'I was coming along the track with Moore and Goss and Gordon.  We saw the train just starting out from the station, says Moore.  'I'm going to throw a stone at it.'  'Don't,' says I, and Goss he said something.  He knew it was locked, too.  Then the train came on, and I ran ahead because I thought there was going to be some stoning and I wanted to get away from the party.  Just as I got about opposite the tender some smoke and ashes filled my eyes, and I had to shut them.  A little after that Gordon came up and says he, 'I threw a sarsaparilla bottle in.'  He meant into the train, as I understood it.  After that I ran ahead up the track as fast as I could.  The other fellows hollered after me to look out for the culvert, and I think they went a different way home.  After I got up on Prospect Hill, about a mile from the station, I heard the train start.'  

The train men say that a shower of stones struck the engine and several of the cars.  One of the fireman's wrists was injured."    

Source:  OUT ON A NIGHT'S LARK -First Serenading a New-Married Pair and then Stoning a Railroad Train, The Sun [NY, NY], Feb. 6, 1878, p. 3, col. 6.  

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home