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, December 28, 2015

Pelham Manor's Most Famous Cow

The little village of Pelham Manor is famous for many things.  It is world famous for the "Pelham Manor Trolley" that inspired cartoonist Fontaine Fox to create his tremendously successful comic strip "Toonerville Folks" that centered around the "Toonerville Trolley" and ran in syndication throughout the nation for about forty years.  It is famous as the site of the New York Athletic Club's Travers Island facility.  It is famous as the destination of Col. Delancey Kane's "Pelham Coach" once known as the "Tally Ho."  Indeed, Pelham Manor is famous for many more things including . . . a cow.

As late as the 1920s, Pelham Manor was still rural enough with undeveloped areas to permit some village residents to keep livestock and fowl including cows and chickens.  One such resident was E. H. Laing who kept a Jersey milk cow on his property in Pelham Manor.  Laing's Jersey cow, however, was a nomadic beast that loved nothing more than to break free and roam the Pelhams to the consternation of the Pelham Manor police, village residents, and Laing's neighbors.

Laing's cow first became famous when it broke free and wandered the village until it came upon an unidentified Pelham Manor policeman who reportedly was taking a little nap.  The cow couldn't resist showing a little affection and "kissed" the officer with a wet, slurpy lick, awakening him from a sound slumber.  (The news account of the incident was quick to question the veracity of the story since, as it said, "it is denied that the cops in the Manor ever sleep.")

Villagers became annoyed with the bovine because its long, low "mooings" were more like an extended honk.  The sound was easily mistaken for the honk of the village fire alarm when heard from a distance.   

E. H. Laing, it seems, bought the Jersey cow to ensure an uninterrupted supply of milk for his family.  As the local newspaper reported, in Pelham the "supply of milk is all right but not without trouble."  Laing did not fence his property or coral the beast.  Instead, he drove a massive stake into the ground and tied a hitching rope to the cow to keep it from wandering.

The wily bovine seems always to have consider the grass to be greener everywhere else, however.  The cow simply tugged and tugged to uproot the stake virtually at will and meandered however it wished.  

As complaints mounted, Laing added a second stake that was much heavier and larger than the first.  He then fastened his Jersey cow to both stakes with a hitching rope.   

Laing's Jersey cow, however, was not to be denied the greener grass or the delicious cud that followed each such meal.  Early one morning, the cow tugged and tugged until it uprooted both stakes and wandered onto a neighbor's yard where the grass seemed greener.  As the heavy cow grazed, its hooves sank deeply into the neighbor's lawn.  As it moved about the property, the heavy stake that it dragged behind it had a "turf-uprooting effect" that destroyed much of the lawn.  By the time the cow's antics had been discovered, the neighbor's lawn was "well nigh ruined."

Laing and his neighbor had some "discussions" about the matter.  In fact, those discussions were "heated" with the neighbor threatening Laing with a lawsuit.  Pelham Manor's most famous -- or, perhaps, infamous -- cow paid no mind to those discussions, however.  Instead, according to The Pelham Sun, it simply kept "giving milk and trouble daily."

Gone, of course, are the days when Pelham Manor residents kept livestock and fowl.  It may be surprising to learn, however, that those days were gone by the early 1930s.  Indeed, in 1931, one Pelham Manor resident wrote wistfully:

:Well, well, those robust days are over!  Gone from our midst are Mr. Laing's cow, which blocked traffic on Pelhamdale avenue, Mr. Cole's pigs and sheep, gone are chickens, goats; going are cats and pigeons."  

Source:  Blymer, Mary Hall, Overlooking The Sound In 1910, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 17, 1931, p. 13, cols. 1-2.  

Those robust days may be gone.  They are not, however, forgotten.  Instead, they provide a basis for amusing and quaint stories regarding the history of the Village of Pelham Manor during quaint times.

"Jersey Cow" by Anthony Forster.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *         *          *          *

Amusing stories such as that of E. H. Laing's Jersey cow serve as quaint reminders of a time not so long ago when large portions of Pelham retained a rural flavor despite Pelham's borders with the City of New York, the City of New Rochelle, and the City of Mount Vernon.  Today's posting is based on the article transcribed below that is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"Cow Wanders Away; Court Action Coming
Laing Bovine Who Is Reported to Have Kissed a Cop May Appear In Court Action

For some tie past the nomadic habits of a jersey cow in Pelham Manor have been the subject of much table talk.  The cow is the property of Edward H. Laing (of course, you've heard him or heard of him or know him) and its peregrinations have provided several ridiculous situations.  It is reported to have kissed a sleeping cop, but it is denied that the cops in the Manor ever sleep.  Its vocal 'mooings' have been mistaken for the honk of the fire alarm, so 'tis said, and it has made several other demonstrations of its irresponsible character and its disregard for the rights of others, in most disconcerting places.  

E. H. Laing was a notable Pelham Manor resident who was active in community affairs.  He served for a time as Treasurer of the Pelham Manor Taxpayers Association, a taxpayers' advocacy group in the village.  He was a member of the Men's Club of Pelham.  

Laing, it is stated, purchased the cow so that the Laing family could obtain a plentiful supply of milk without trouble.  The supply of milk is all right but not without trouble.  No matter how firmly staked to its hitching rope, the bovine seems able to uproot the stake and meander wherever it wills.

A while ago it started off, despite the additional heavy stake to which it was attached, and dragging the aforesaid stake to the lawn of a neighbor where it browsed in the early hours of the morn.  The neighbor was not satisfied with the new method of cropping the lawn, for the hoof prints of the Jersey cow and the turf-uprooting effect of the heavy stake which the cow dragged along with it, well nigh ruined the lawn.  There were heated discussions and it is rumored that court action will follow.  But of that more anon.  The cow is still giving milk and trouble daily."

Labels: , , , , ,


At 10:58 AM, Blogger Sue said...

This reminds me of the stories about my great-grandmother Nora Straehle's goose in North Pelham. It was in the NY Times in 1905! http://nyti.ms/1mmbvku
Well, the theft of its carcass from the courthouse was in the Times anyway. North Pelham was a wild place!


Post a Comment

<< Home