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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pelham Leap Year Celebrations in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s

Pelham loves a party.  It always has.  One sort of celebration that seems to have waned in recent years, however, is the celebration of Leap Year.  With today being Leap Day in this Leap Year, it seems most appropriate to consider the history of Leap Year celebrations in our little town.  

For many years in many different nations (in earlier times), there were folk traditions providing that during a leap year women were "permitted" to propose to men with most such marriage proposals on Leap Day.  In some countries Leap Day was even referred to as "Bachelor's Day" in recognition of the folk tradition.

By the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s in much of the United States including Pelham, the tradition had evolved into a celebration where parties, dances, and events were scheduled with an expectation that women and girls would play a role that, in those days, men and boys traditionally played.  For example, women would ask men out, would send them a carnation or boutonniere in advance, would pick them up and escort them to the event.  At dances, women asked men to dance, cut in on other dance pairs, and the like.  As one wag put it, in terms more appropriate then than now, at such dances it was the men who were "wallflowers."  

1908 Leap Year Post Card:  "Be careful Clara, that's a fine
Specimen!"  Source:  WIKIPEDIA - The Free Encyclopedia:
Leap Year (visited Feb. 27, 2016).  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

During the 1920s, 1930s, and even the 1940s, clearly the most popular form of Leap Year celebration in Pelham was a "Leap Year Dance."  Such dances were sponsored by organizations including the Manor Club, the Young Men's Republican Party of Pelham, and others.  As one might expect, such dances also were held at Pelham Memorial High School.

Others hosted private Leap Year parties or sponsored gatherings such as bridge tournaments on Leap Day in honor of Leap Year.  Perhaps the oddest form of Leap Year celebration in the Town of Pelham, however, involved what Pelhamites called the "Leap Year Lily."

Some Pelham residents attempted to nurture a particular plant in the hope it might bloom on or near Leap Day.  The plant, native to Sumatra, was what we call today a "Corpse Flower" Also known as the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus Titanium).  In Pelham, the plant was known as a "Leap Year Lily" -- a name that seems unique to our town.  Residents apparently named their plants in this way because the plants were known to "leap" in growth by as much as fifteen inches in a day and, in the case of one such Pelham Leap Year Lily, reached a height of more than five feet.

Giant Corpse Flower, Also Known as the Titan Arum
(Amorphophallus Titanium), Similar to the Ones
Grown in Pelham in 1932 and Celebrated as
"Leap Year Lilies."  Source:  WIKIPEDIA - The Free
Encyclopedia, Amorphophallus titanium (visited
Feb. 27, 2016).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

In February 1932, neighbors of Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Burnett of 246 Loring Avenue streamed to the Burnetts' garden to see their "Leap Year Lily" that had grown to a height of 63 inches and bloomed.  As noted by the local newspaper, given the awful stench emitted by the plant -- a stench that evolved to attract insects that preferred carrion to pollinate the plants -- neighbors admired the odd curiosity "from a distance."  

Once the local newspaper reported on Pelham's Leap Year Lily, others came forward with stories of their own such Leap Year Lilies.  Mayor and Mrs. Edward B. Harder of the Village of North Pelham announced that they were cultivating several such plants that were smaller than the one cultivated by the Burnetts.  

Yes, Pelham has always loved a celebration.  Celebrating Leap Year with a Corpse Flower, however, certainly seems . . . . . . . a little odd.

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Below is the transcribed text from several stories that appeared in The Pelham Sun during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s describing Leap Year celebration events in the Town of Pelham.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"SOCIETY . . . 
[Text Omitted]

Miss Lorna Doone, of Third avenue, entertained at a Leap Year Dance at her home recently.  The guests included:  Miss Marion Farrell, Miss Murtel Trigge, Richard and William Farrell, Stanley Parker, Frederick Hilderbrandt, Mr. and Mrs. Willard Young, and Joseph Farrelly, of Pelham.  Frederick Brown, Miss Anne Gogh, Miss Alice Doone, Miss Laura Smith, of New York.  Stanley Church, Albert Johnson, Herbert McCord, Miss Mary Simonson, of New Rochelle, Robert Kelley, of Cape Cod, Lee Seeley, of Mt. Vernon.  The Misses Borghild and Lillian Johnson, of Sherwood Park, Yonkers.  Miss Helen Payton and Harold Hungerford, of Scarsdale. . . ."

Source:  SOCIETY, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 24, 1926, p. 7, cols. 1-3.  

Grew Fifty-three Inches in Fifteen Days at Burnett Home on Loring Avenue -- Lives on Air.

The problem of how to exist during these days of depression has been solved by a plant -- so all ye bankers and brokers, take note.

Grandiflorum oderiferous obnoxious -- the Leap Year lily, a bulbous plant which, when laid on a saucer, without dirt or moisture, or other visible means of support is quite likely to suddenly shoot out a spike that will grow ten or even fifteen inches in a single day, and finally, after attaining the height of an average man, blossom forth in a glorious lily-like flower of blood-red hue, is one of the most curious plants seen in the Pelhams for many years.  Quite as disconcerting as its rapid growth, is the nauseating odor which it creates during its pollination season -- an odor of carrion, making it impossible for anyone to stay in a closed room with the flower for any length of time.

The Snake-tongue of the Orient as the flower is sometimes called, is in possession of Mrs. E. F. Burnett of 246 Loring avenue.  The bulb was given to her by a neighbor, Mrs. Goldsborough, four years ago.  Each summer after planting it has sent up a short red-tipped spike which would unfold into a magnificently veined green leaf about the size of an umbrella top.  The leaf dies down each fall and the bulb is taken up and stored in the usual manner.

This year, however, the early days of January witnessed a sudden appearance of a short red spike which thrust its way upward and began to grow with amazing rapidity until devoid of leaf and in appearance resembling a broom it reached an elevation of 10 1/2 inches on January 16th.  A record of its growth from then was kept by Mrs. Burnett.  It shows that on January 17th an inch was added and another inch the following day. On the 18th the plant added another 1 1/2 inches and repeated the performance the following day.  During the following two days it added 2 1/2 inches and then made a leap of 8 inches upward on the 22nd and 7 inches on the 25th; on the 26th it got into full stride adding 15 inches to its stature and the next day putting on 5 more; on January 28th with the addition of another day's upward climb the sturdy stalk had ascended to 57 inches and the two following days it added 6 inches for a total score of 63 inches.  The spike at the end of the stalk then unfolded into a lily 19 inches in height with a flaming tongue going on upward for 28 inches -- and then came the dawn, and the floral gas attack as the Literary Digest has described its pollination odor.  

Many neighbors have visited the Burnett home and viewed the flower from a respectful distance and marveled at its growth minus water and earth.  A botanist tells us that the bulb acts as a storage battery for the energy which is taken from the sun's rays through the agency of the green leaf.  The offensive odor is a means of attracting the carrion flies of the desert, which act as the fertilizing agent of the plant.  

The plant is a remarkable one to grow for once -- but once is enough."

Source:  LEAP YEAR LILY GROWS 15 INCHES IN SINGLE DAY -- Grew Fifty-three Inches in Fifteen Days at Burnett Home on Loring Avenue -- Lives on Air,The Pelham Sun, Feb. 19, 1932, p. 5, col. 1.  


Publication last week of the story of the Leap Year Lily which grows in leaps as much as fifteen inches in  single day has brought to light more specimens of the same species which are growing in local gardens.  The lily, or, to use its proper name 'Amothorthalis,' [sic] which established the reputation for sudden growth, is the property of Mrs. E. F. Burnett of Loring avenue, but several smaller plants can be found at the residence of Mayor and Mrs. Edward B. Harder of North Pelham.

The bulbs of these plants came originally from Sumatra in the East Indies, and were brought to America by an uncle of Mrs. Harder who was captain of a vessel making the island a port of call.  These have not been so ambitious as that at the Burnett residence, and have reached a height of only a foot or so, but they show great promise of doing as well as the now famous Leap Year Lily.

Mrs. Harder tells of another member of of her family now residing in Montreal who has one of these plants which is about forty years old and has reached a height of six feet during blooming time."

Source:  MORE LEAPING LILIES ARE FOUND HERE, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 26, 1932, p. 8, col. 8


The Junior Dance Committee of the Manor Club is planning a spring dance for the Juniors at the Manor Club on Monday evening, March 28th at the Manor Club.

This dance will be a Leap Year affair and the young ladies will have an opportunity to invite their escorts.  Mrs. L. Leigh Willard, is chairman of the committee in charge."

Source:  JUNIOR DANCE AT CLUB MARCH 28th, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 26, 1932, p. 3, col. 3.  

"Many Prominent Guests At Young G. O. P. Social Fete
Midwinter Social Function of Young Men's Republican Club Held at Pelham Country Club.

Politics forgotten for the evening, more than 300 members and friends of the Pelham Young Men's Republican Club danced to the small hours in the Pelham Country Club on Saturday night.  The occasion was a Leap Year dance of the Young G. O. P. and proved to be a popular social event.  Dancing was from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.  Music was furnished by the Club Monitor Orchestra.

Included among those present were Supervisor Harold Davis, County Treasurer William Coffey; Alfred Sulla, Jr., Treasurer of the Young Men's Republican Clubs of Westchester County G.O.P., Dominic Amato, Mayor of North Pelham, and Town Councilman Henry Simmen.

Also, James Bollettieri, North Pelham Village Trustee; Henry Geller, Fire Commissioner of the First Fire District and Republican nominee for the post of North Pelham Village Trustee; Town Clerk George O'Sullivan, Theodore Van Twisk, E. F. Eilert, George Usbeck and Louis Engerud.  The dance was replete with good fellowship and termed by Benjamin Pevo, president as the most successful yet held by the Young Men's Republican Club."

Source:  Many Prominent Guests at Young G. O. P. Social Fete -- Midwinter Social Function of Young Men's Republican Club Held at Pelham Country Club, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 6, 1936, p. 6, col. 1.  

*     *     *
Girls are Escorts at Novel Program Staged in Gymnasium of School on Friday night.

It was all staged backwards but resulted in one of the most successful dances ever held in the high school gymnasium, on Friday night, as girls cut in and boys became wall flowers.  The occasion was a Leap Year dance given by the General Organization of Pelham Memorial High School, which was attended by 275 students, their parents and friends.

The dance, classed by those present as the best given by the school in some years, was a Leap Year affair done in the traditional manner.  Many a manly student received a carnation from the florist before leaving home.  And when his girlish escort arrived he found she had purchased the tickets.

Friday being the 13th of March and the pet day of the superstitious those who were afraid of doing the wrong thing found signs tacked around the gym giving solemn warning.  Chaperons for the occasion were Mr. and Mrs. Carl Schilling, Miss Lois Chappell, Miss Janet Taylor and Mr. and Mrs. S. Wynne Keever.

The Cleff Dwellers Orchestra supplied music for the dance.  Miss Edyth Dean, featured vocalist with the Cleff Dwellers, rendered several vocal selections.  A tap-dance team of Jackie Weeks of Mount Verrnon, and James Kennett of North Pelham, entertained between dances.  

Miss Beverly Bender was general chairman of the dance committee.  Assisting in various duties were Inez Belucci, Cadi Roberts, Eugene Mortlock, Evelyn Bodin, Kay Anderson, Isabel Head, Jane Krause, Sybil Rose, Alice Willis, Dorothy Bryer, Dorothy Lavery, Virginia Swan and Ruth Szold.  Hostesses were Barbara Arnold, Shirley and Anne Feurst, Louise and Marion Hurlbut, Fanny Crowe, Patty Hawe, Jean Crozier, Lillion Manger and Phoebe Love."

Source:  Simmen, Arline, Heard Around the High School:  REVERSE PROGRAM AT SENIOR HIGH LEAP YEAR DANCE -- Girls are Escorts at Novel Program Staged in Gymnasium of School on Friday Night, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 20, 1936, p. 5, col. 1.  

Manor Club Will Be Festive With Spring Flowers for Annual Party for Younger Set.

The annual Spring dance for juniors to be held at the Manor Club tonight will take a leap year guise with a group of young girls assuming the duties of a floor committee and the members of the fair sex generally, assuming the social prerogatives usually enjoyed by the boys.  Mrs. Lawrence Morris of Pelham Manor heads the Holiday Dance Committee in charge of arrangements.

Mrs. Morris has announced the following floor committee:  the Misses Isabel Manger, Jacqueline McConnochie, Mary Dowdell, Louise Hurlbut, Virginia Morris, Nancy Bradley, Beverly Bender, Marion Hurlbut, Mary Carreau and Katherine Gillett.

The clubhouse will be decorated with Spring flowers for the party which is a major social event of the season for young people enjoying recesses from preparatory schools and colleges in different parts of the country.  

Music for dancing will be furnished by Ford's Orchestra,"

Source:  LEAP YEAR DANCE TONIGHT AT CLUB FOR JUNIOR SET -- Manor Club Will Be Festive With Spring Flowers for Annual Party for Younger Set, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 27, 1936, Second Section p. 1, col. 5.  

District Deputy and Lecturer to be Greeted by Winyah Chapter on Wednesday Night, Feb. 21.
*     *     * [Text Omitted]

Winyah Chapter is making plans for a Leap Year Bridge to be held in the Masonic Temple on Thursday night, Feb. 29 with Mrs. Duncan Taylor, Mrs. Clarence Elliott and Mrs. A. T. Wolf in charge."

Source:  EASTERN STAR OFFICIALS TO VISIT CHAPTER -- District Deputy and Lecturer to be Greeted by Winyah Chapter on Wednesday Night, Feb. 21, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 10, 1940, p.6, col. 4.  

"Bananas and Hamburger

There had been a Leap Year Dance at the High School and two girls of the fluffy age were telling about it on the bus.  One had undergone an experience which was just rank injustice.  The Leap Year rules called for the girls to take the boys out and pay their way -- which is a mighty bad precedent to set these days.  One was saying:  'I took him over to Lane's and we sat down and all I had was seventy-five cents.  I was careful to order a vanilla soda, and what DO YOU THINK -- he ordered a banana split, and I had to sit there and watch him eat it after I had finished mine.  Was my mouth watering.  I had planned to buy him some hamburgers after that but I just couldn't.'  Banana split and hamburger -- as a doctoring dyspeptic, we nearly collapsed at the thought."

Source:  Bananas and Hamburger, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 8, 1940, p. 2, col. 3.  

Pelham Country Club Scene of Inter-Sorority Leap Year Dance on Saturday Night in Manor.

About 350 members of the younger set attended the Leap Year dance which was held at Pelham Country Club on Saturday night, sponsored by Phi Tau, Phi Delta and Sigma Phi Nu sororities.  

Blue and red cellophane featured in the decorative scheme.  Music was furnished by Bill Edwards' Sweet and Swing Orchestra.  A number of feature dances added variety to the program.

Gardenias were presented as favors to the chaperons who included Mr. and Mrs. Myron McLane, Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Crozier, Mr. and Mrs. Michael P. Tully, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Markey, Mr. and Mrs. F. R. Stirn and Mr. and Mrs. Harold B. Barnett.

The committee included Miss Doris Barnett, president of Phi Delta also Miss Marie Leyendecker, Miss Eleanor Anderson, Miss Lucille Wilson; Miss Mary Tully, president of Sigma Phi Nu, Miss Janet Bogart, Miss Eileen Stephenson, MMiss Helene Tylor, president of Phi Tau, Miss Barbara Williamson, Miss Jane Longus and Miss Jane Guard."

Source:  DANCE ARRANGED BY SORORITIES POPULAR PARTY -- Pelham Country Club Scene of Inter-Sorority Leap Year Dance on Saturday Night in Manor, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 2, 1940, p. 8, col. 1.  

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Friday, February 26, 2016

108 Years Ago Today: Freight Train Wreck on the Branch Line Between Pelham Manor and Bartow Station

Pelham is a town once tied to the sea.  Yet, it developed its unique character, principally, from the multiple railroads that later muscled through the town from the adjacent metropolis of New York City.  

In the early to mid-19th century, railroads blossomed from New York City. The New Haven Line, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (the "Branch Line") and, in the early 20th century, the New York, Westchester and Boston Railway crossed Pelham.  There were bound to be accidents.  

Accidents there were.

I have written of major railroad accidents in and around Pelham.  One such accident, known as the "Pelhamville Train Wreck," attracted truly international attention and was featured on the cover of the January 16, 1886 issue of Scientific American.  The Pelhamville Train Wreck occurred at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and First Street on December 27, 1885.  There have, however, been many other railroad accidents in and near our town. 

Detail from Front Cover of the January 16, 1886 Issue of
Scientific American that Featured a Cover Story About the
Pelhamville Train Wreck Entitled "A Remarkable Railroad
Accident." NOTE:  Click on Images to Enlarge.

In 2004, I wrote an article that collected information about all the train wrecks that have happened near the Pelham Manor Station that once stood at the end of today's Esplanade.  See Train Wrecks Near Depot Square in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 44, Nov. 5, 2004, p. 13, col. 1.  For a list of articles regarding Pelham train wrecks, see the bibliography with links, where available, at the end of this article.  

One such wreck occurred on the Branch Line between Pelham Manor Depot and Bartow Station on February 26, 1908.  It was a particularly tragic, and deadly, accident.

The Branch Line between Pelham Manor and Bartow Station during the 19th and early 20th centuries was treacherous.  Just east of the Bartow Station was a place where the tracks were laid across a short bridge known as "Rock Cut Bridge" and then through a cut into a large rock outcropping.  The cut through the rock outcropping that gave the bridge its name was known, appropriately, as "Rock Cut."  Between Rock Cut and the Bartow Station (immediately to the west of Rock Cut) was an area where -- even as late as 1908 -- two tracks from the east turned into four tracks from that point onward toward the east into New York City.  To make matters worse, as westward trains that were headed toward New York City approached the area, there was a curve in the tracks immediately before Rock Cut known as "Pelham Manor Curve."  If this all seems a recipe for disaster, consider the following:  through the entire area, trains from the west headed eastward toward New York City were barrelling down an incline . . . . 

Without electric signals or radio communications, there were critical safety precautions to be taken in the area of Pelham Manor Curve, the Rock Cut, and the Rock Cut Bridge, particularly because freight and passenger trains shared the tracks.  Freight trains headed toward New York City frequently stopped where the tracks branched from two into four tracks as they awaited instructions from nearby Bartow Station as to the track they should take.  Any time, of course, a train stopped in such fashion, it was supposed to be protected with a flag and, in darkness, with railroad lanterns.  That meant that the train flagman was expected to hop down from the stopped train and carry a flag and lanterns to a point sufficiently behind the train to flag and signal any oncoming train that there was another train stopped ahead.  

At 5:00 a.m. on February 26, 1908, it was both dark and misty.  Freight Train No. 581, headed toward New York City, was a steam locomotive pulling 25 freight cars.  Charles Deenier was the train flagman.  No. 581 stopped where the two tracks from the east (headed toward New York City) branched into four tracks "to await orders to go on toward the Willis avenue terminus."  Deenier's job as flagman was to hop off the stopped train, head down the tracks behind the train and, at that time of the early winter morning, deploy a flag and railroad lanterns to signal any approaching train that there was a train stopped on the tracks ahead.  

God only knows why Charles Deenier did not do his job as flagman 108 years ago today.  

Approaching from the east toward New York City was a truly massive freight train, No. 561.  The locomotive pulling the freight cars was of the "monster type."  It had to be a monster.  It was pulling 45 freight cars -- not quite twice the size of No. 581 stopped on the tracks ahead.  

Train engineer Leonard Boat of Hartford, Connecticut was in the cab of No. 561 and looked for a flag at the Pelham Manor curve.  According to an important account, "when he did not find one he supposed he had a clear way in on to the freight tracks."  The way, of course, was not clear.  An account published the day of the massive wreck said:

"[The Engineer, Leonard Boat] let the train run on down the grade, which was sufficient to give the train quite a momentum.  The train went on through the cut and out on the Rock Cut bridge, and then Engineer Boat saw ahead of him, only about 150 yards away, the standing train.  The gloom and mist of the morning would have prevented a much nearer view had the track been straight and open. Engineer Boat at once applied the air brakes, but the slippery rails and badly working air operated to render this unavailing.  The train slid on with the weight of the forty-five cars and their down-grade momentum, and crashed into the caboose of train No. 581.  The force was such that the locomotive plowed through the caboose, or cabin car, and into the last freight car."

On the engine with Engineer Boat were firemen James Messner of Hartford and Walter Davis of Springfield.  It was unusual to have two firemen to feed the fire that powered the steam engine, but No. 561 was massive, requiring two.  In addition, "Head Brakeman" James Valver of West Springfield was aboard the engine as well.  

As No. 561 parted the gloom, darkness, and mist of the early winter morning, Engineer Boat was the first to see something ahead.  He jammed the brakes but instantly realized, in his heart, that the monster train he drove would not stop in time.  

Imagine this:  you are engineering such a massive train and perceive ahead a disastrous crash.  Your colleagues and friends are with you in the engine. You have only seconds to react.  What would you do?

Train Engineer Leonard Boat must have done something right.  "[J]ust before the moment of the crash," everyone in the engine of No. 561 leaped from the train into the darkness and onto the ground below.  Every man in the engine escaped injury except one of the two firemen -- James Messner "who rolled down a steep bank and received internal injuries and many bruises.  He was later taken to New Rochelle Hospital, in a serious condition." 

Flagman Charles Deenier on the stopped train was not so lucky.  Inexplicably he was in the last car of No. 561 rather than down on the tracks signaling the stoppage.  The monster locomotive, with no crew aboard, pushed by the weight of 45 freight cars barreling down the incline smashed into the stopped train.  

The locomotive tore through the last car of the stopped train.  Immediately the wreckage ignited and began to blaze.  An alarm was called to the City Island Fire Department which responded and extinguished the blaze.  Only then was the mangled body of flagman Charles Deenier discovered in the wreckage.

A wrecking crew was dispatched and quickly cleared the a track for passenger trains.  Within hours, all wreckage was cleared and all four tracks into the metropolis of New York City were open once again -- 108 years ago today.

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Below is the text of an important article about the February 26, 1908 freight train crash that is the subject of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

Negligent Brakeman on N.Y., N.H. and H.R.R., Met Instant Death in the Crash.
Wreckage of Cars Began to Blaze Immediately After Accident Near Bartow.

The misty weather and slippery condition of the rails are given as the causes for a serious wreck this morning on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company's old line from Willis avenue to New Rochelle, near Bartow, which is the City Island station.  A brakeman was killed and a fireman badly injured.

The dead man was Charles Deenoir, brakeman, on the first train, who was crushed and horribly mangled in the caboose of his train.  The injured man is Fireman Messner of the second train, who received internal and other injuries and was taken to the New Rochelle Hospital, where the doctors say he may not recover.

The wreck occurred in the dim light of the early morning, just east of the Bartow station.  A short distance beyond this station there is a big cut, known to the trainmen as 'Rock Cut.'  Between the cut and the station, freight tracks branch off on either side, making four tracks, on into the city.  Passenger and freight trains alike use the two tracks from New Rochelle to the point where the four tracks commence.  

A little after 5 o'clock this morning a freight train, No. 581, of twenty-five cars, pulled in on the freight tracks from the east and stopped to await orders to go on toward the Willis avenue terminus.  The train was supposed to be protected by a flag.  Deenier, the dead man, was the train flagman, and it was his duty to be back across Rock Cut bridge, through the cut itself, and out around Pelham Manor curve, with a flag, and at that hour with red and white lanterns.  That he was killed when the crash came and that his body was found in the ruins of the caboose proves that he was not at his post of duty.  The superintendent of the division says Deenier is to blame for the wreck which cost his life.  Whether he was asleep in the caboose or not can only be guessed.

While the train was thus standing unprotected, another freight train of forty-five cars came upon the scene.  Engineer Leonard Boat of Hartford, Conn., who was in the cab, says he looked for a flag at the Pelham Manor curve, and when he did not find one he supposed he had a clear way in on to the freight tracks.  Therefore, he let the train run on down the grade, which was sufficient to give the train quite a momentum.  The train went on through the cut and out on the Rock Cut bridge, and then Engineer Boat saw ahead of him, only about 150 yards away, the standing train.  The gloom and mist of the morning would have prevented a much nearer view had the track been straight and open.

Engineer Boat at once applied the air brakes, but the slippery rails and badly working air operated to render this unavailing.  The train slid on with the weight of the forty-five cars and their down-grade momentum, and crashed into the caboose of train No. 581.  The force was such that the locomotive plowed through the caboose, or cabin car, and into the last freight car.  

On the engine with Engineer Boat were firemen James Messner of Hartford and Walter Davis of Springfield -- there are two firemen on the monster locomotives of the type used -- and Head Brakeman James Valver of West Springfield.  These all stayed with the engine until just before the moment of the crash, and then tumbled off the locomotive on both sides.  All escaped without injury except Meesner, who rolled down a steep bank and received internal injuries and many bruises.  He was later taken to New Rochelle Hospital, in a serious condition.  

The wreck almost immediately took fire and a call was sent for the City Island Fire Department, which speedily extinguished the blaze.  The body of Deenier was found in the debris of the caboose, horribly mangled.  He had been killed instantly.  He lived at 171 Alexander avenue, the Bronx.  The body was later removed to the Fordham Morgue by order of Coroner McDonald.

During the first moments of excitement Conductor Louis Hagenar of train No. 581 ran up to the wreck.  When he was sought a few minutes later he could not be found, and it was reported that he had been killed also in the caboose, until some one remembered seeing him afterward.  He was missing for some time, but finally returned and said that the excitement had unnerved him and made him run away.  Conductor William McGill of train No. 561, the second train, remained on the scene.

A wrecking crew was sent to the scene from Manhattan in a short time, and the passenger tracks were quickly cleared of obstruction.  The inbound freight track was not cleared until several hours later.

Coroner McDonald later ordered the arrest of Engineer Boat on a technical charge of homicide, and he was taken in charge by the City Island police."

Source:  FREIGHT TRAINS COLLIDE; ONE MAN KILLED, ONE HURT -- Negligent Brakeman on N.Y., N.H. and H.R.R., Met Instant Death in the Crash -- ENGINE SMASHED A CABOOSE -Wreckage of Cars Began to Blaze Immediately After Accident Near Bartow, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 26, 1908, p. 5, col. 2 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

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I have written many articles that document train wrecks in and near Pelham.  This is not a complete list, but it collectively should serve as a guide for those who wish to research the issue of train wrecks in the region.  

Mon., Sep. 24, 2007:  The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Bell, Blake A., The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885: "One of the Most Novel in the Records of Railroad Disasters, 80(1) The Westchester Historian, pp. 36-43 (2004).

Train Wrecks Near Depot Square in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 44, Nov. 5, 2004, p. 13, col. 1.

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

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Haunted House of Hart Island

Hart Island, adjacent to City Island in Long Island Sound, once was part of the Town of Pelham just like City Island.  During the Civil War, Hart Island was used as a mustering-in site and a training facility for Union troops, 50,000 of whom passed through the island on their way to fight the Confederacy.  In addition, there was a Confederate prisoner of war camp on Hart Island during the Civil War that was open for only about four months at the end of the war but lost 7% of its Rebel prisoners to death due to harsh conditions, lack of shelter, and extreme over-crowding.  One might expect that Hart Island might be the focal point of the tortured spirits of many who died there in horrific circumstances even before the island became a burial field for New York City's paupers.

Indeed, shortly after the cessation of the Civil War, Hart Island remained crowded with military men and their families, housed in a variety of buildings constructed on the island during the war.  One such family was a young military couple:  an officer of the Fourteenth Regiment Regular Infantry and his wife.

In late September, 1865, the young officer was startled late at night by a gruesome noise.  It was distinct and utterly unmistakable.  It was a person struggling for breath.  To the seasoned military man, the breathing "appeared like that of one who had been wounded in the lungs."  It sounded as though the labored gasps were painful.  They were accompanied by a most horrid sound of "suppressed groans." 

The young officer searched the building for the source of the relentless, awful noises.  He could find nothing.  He and his wife heard the gasps and groans, but could not see their source.  Exhausted, the pair "passed the night in sleepless anxiety." 

The next day, the young officer and his wife told others of their sleepless and horrific night.  Another officer of the post volunteered to stay overnight in the house.  Once again, as darkness settled, the awful sound of gasps and groans rattled the very foundations of the home.  Try though he did, the officer was similarly unable to identify the source of the horrific sounds.

Each night, the horrid gasps and groans seemed to emanate from one side of the small building.  Finally, the Quartermaster of the post, Lieutenant Dana, "determined to make a thorough investigation" of the ghostly matter.  The Quartermaster had troops remove the entire side of the building from which the sounds seemed to emanate.  A careful search revealed . . . . . nothing. 

The Quartermaster had the side of the building restored.  That very same evening, the terrifying gasps and groans returned, but were even "louder and more painful" in nature. 

The haunted house of Hart Island became an object of curiosity.  Indeed, the New York Evening Express published an entire article on the ghostly gasps and groans in its September 25, 1865 issue.  That article noted:  "the haunted house is an object of considerable curiosity among the officers -- whose families carefully avoid it -- and by the soldiers who cluster around it, anxious to learn the cause of so singular a condition of affairs."

Some tried, with a straight face, to suggest that the painful gasps and dying groans heard each night in the house were the "nocturnal serenades" of some unidentified and unseen bugs within some of the decayed timbers of the home.  Those who had spent sleepless nights in the home knew better, however.  The sounds were not the hum or buzz of munching bugs.  They were the sounds of a person gasping and struggling for breath as though wounded in the lungs.  They were the sounds of pain and suppressed groans.  Indeed, they were the very sounds that made the Haunted House of Hart Island one that the military families began carefully to avoid. . . . .

Depicting the Military Facilities on Hart Island Only a Month
Before The Haunted House of Hart Island Gained Notoriety.

Source:  The Illustrated London News, Aug. 12, 1865, Vol.
47, No. 1328, p. 128.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the text of the newspaper article on which today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog is based.  The text is followed by a citation and link to the source.

"'SPOOKS ON HART ISLAND. -- There is a ghost excitement on Hart Island, which serves to relieve the monotony of the post; but officers of an inquiring turn of mind have as yet failed to ascertain the cause of the supernatural noises.  A few evenings ago an officer of the Fourteenth Regiment Regular Infantry, who was occupying one of the buildings upon the Island with his wife, was startled at a late hour by hearing a noise of a person struggling for breath.  The breathing appeared like that of one who had been wounded in the lungs, and was very painful, accompanied by suppressed groans.  He made a superficial examination of the structure without ascertaining the cause, and himself and wife passed the night in sleepless anxiety.  The next day the circumstance was related to his brother officers, and at night one of them volunteered to occupy the house and endeavor to learn the cause of the noise.  In this he also failed.

The next night the investigation was continued by another officer, but with similar results.  Finally, the Quartermaster of the post, Lieut. Dana, determined to make a thorough examination, and caused the side of the building from which the sounds appeared to proceed, to be removed, but a careful search failed to disclose anything.  The boards were then replaced, and the house again occupied; but that night the sounds were heard as before, and at times were louder and more painful.  The mystery is not yet solved, and the haunted house is an object of considerable curiosity among the officers -- whose families carefully avoid it -- and by the soldiers who cluster around it, anxious to learn the cause of so singular a condition of affairs.  It is very probable that another and more thorough investigation may disclose the facts that the noise results from natural causes entirely, and that 'spooks' have nothing to do with it.  Bugs may have found a lodgment in some of the decayed timbers, and the supernatural noises may be caused by their nocturnal serenades.--[Commercial."

Source: "SPOOKS ON HART ISLAND", New York Evening Express, Sep. 25, 1865, p. 4, col. 6

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What is Pelham's Connection to the Civil War Ironclad USS Monitor that Fought in the First Battle of Ironclads?


On March 9, 1862, as the Civil War raged, the Union quietly moved a top secret weapon into the waters off Virginia.  The weapon was an oddly-shaped craft that looked like a "tin can on a shingle."  It motored into Hampton Roads Bay where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay near Newport News and Hampton, Virginia. 

The weapon had been hastily designed and constructed to address a specific threat:  the Confederate ironclad known as the CSS Virginia that had been built from the lower hull and engines of the scuttled steam frigate USS Merrimack.  The Union's top secret weapon was the USS Monitor, its first ironclad designed to be impervious to cannon shot, shells, and small arms fire.  

History credits Captain John Ericsson with designing and "superintending" the construction of the USS Monitor.  History also records, however, that the USS Monitor could not have been built without the involvement of an illustrious Pelham Manor inventor who was among the early founders of the settlement that became today's Village of Pelham Manor.  His name was George Huntington Reynolds.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog details Reynolds' involvement with the USS Monitor and provides much detail about his celebrated life.

I have written before about George H. Reynolds and his involvement with the USS Monitor.  See Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2005:  Pelham and the Civil War Ironclad USS Monitor.  

George Huntington Reynolds in Photograph Published in 1903.
(Chicago, IL:  J. H. Beers & Co., 1903).  NOTE:  Click on Image
To Enlarge.


The day before the USS Monitor slipped into the waters of Hampton Roads Bay, Captain Franklin Buchanan of the CSS Virginia had sailed the southern ironclad into the same bay to attack the wooden Union ships blockading the harbor.  The little ironclad ran the USS Congress aground and destroyed it.  It rammed the USS Cumberland and sank it.  The remaining Union ships blockading the harbor watched helplessly as their shot bounced harmlessly off the seemingly invulnerable Confederate ironclad until they had to withdraw from engagement.  

The following day, March 9, Confederate Lieutenant Catesby Jones captained the CSS Virginia as it prowled the waters of the Bay.  Unbeknownst to Lt. Jones, the USS Monitor, famed "tin can on a shingle," had hustled down the coast from New York during a stormy and precarious voyage.  

CSS Virginia in 1862.  Source:  WIKIPEDIA:  The Free Encyclopedia,
"CSS Virginia" (visited Feb. 20, 2016).  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

The Captain of the Union ironclad on March 9 was Lieutenant John L. Worden.  According to a report on the voyage and subsequent battle prepared by the Chief Engineer of the Monitor dated March 9, 1862, the Monitor showed its mettle on the "stormy passage" and "proved . . . to be the finest seaboat I was ever in".  See Letter from Chief Engineer Stimers, USS Monitor, to Captain John Ericsson, Giving an Account of the Engagement, Mar. 9, 1862, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 7, p. 25 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office 1898). 

The First Battle Between Ironclads 

The USS Monitor intercepted the CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads Bay where the ships fought history's first battle between ironclads.  The engagement was significant. The Virginia had been built to break the Union's blockade of southern port cities.  The Union Navy developed the Monitor specifically to destroy the Virginia.  For more than three hours the two ironclads battled each other at close range, but neither was able to best the other.  

Official reports of the engagement show how the new ironclad technology withstood the old technology of shot and shell.  The report of the Chief Engineer of the Union ironclad Monitor stated in part: "[W]e fought the Merrimack [i.e., the CSS Virginia] for more more than three hours this forenoon and sent her back to Norfolk in a sinking condition.  Ironclad against ironclad.  We maneuvered about the bay here and went at each other with mutual fierceness.  I consider that both ships were well fought.  We were struck 22 times -- pilot house twice, turret 9 times, side armor 8 times, deck 3 times. The only vulnerable point was the pilot house.  One of [the] great logs (9 by 12 inches thick) is broken in two. The shot struck just outside of where the captain had his eye, and it has disabled him by destroying his left eye and temporarily blinding the other.  The log is not quite in two, but is broken and pressed inward . . . . She tried to run us down and sink us, as she did the Cumberland yesterday, but she got the worst of it.  Her bow passed over our deck and our sharp upper edged side cut through the light iron shoe upon her stern and well into her oak. She will not try that again.  She gave us a tremendous thump, but did not injure us in the least. . . .  "You are very correct in your estimate of the effect of shot upon the man on the inside of the turret when it struck near him. Three men were knocked down, of whom I was one; the other two had to be carried below, but I was not disabled at all and the others recovered before the battle was over. . . ." Id.

Ironclads," a Chromolithograph of the Battle of Hampton Roads,
Produced by Louis Prang & Co.  Source:  U.S. Library of
Congress Division of Prints and Photographs (Digital ID
"pga.04044").  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.  

The Connection to Pelham

It was not very long ago that nearly every American schoolchild knew the story of the battle between the ironclads Monitor and the Merrimack (the CSS Virginia) on March 9, 1862.  But, what does this seminal event in military history have to do with Pelham, New York? 

Pelham Manor resident George Huntington Reynolds, it turns out, played a critically important role in the design and construction of the steam engine that powered the Monitor. According to one account: 

"While [John] Ericsson was rushing work on the Monitor he was also trying to complete an engine of his own device. The Government was pushing him to the extent of the speed limit in getting the Monitor under steam. He finished the boat in time, but not the engine. His friend Reynolds had one of his own engines at the Delemater [Iron] Works and finally induced Ericsson to permit the Monitor to be equipped with it. This was done, and the Monitor proceeded on her way to victory. If Ericsson had held out, as he stubbornly did for a long time, the Monitor would not have reached Hampton Roads in time to interrupt the leisurely destructiveness of the Merrimac; nor, perhaps, to have prevented her from bombarding Northern coast cities. Ericsson deserves the greater credit -- he built the Monitor; but George Reynolds should be remembered at the same time, for it was an engine of his invention that he himself put into the little insides of the Monitor which gave her the life impulse that enabled her to be on the job at a critical time in the history of the United States." 

Source: Credit For The Monitor - Part is Claimed for George Reynolds, Engine Builder, N.Y. Times, Aug. 6, 1924, p. 12. See also Credit For Monitor - Others Besides Ericsson Who Should Be Remembered, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 1924, p. 12; To The Editor of The New York Times, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 1924, p. 12; [Obituary of] G. O. Reynolds Jr., Insurance Man, 71, N.Y. Times, Jun. 4, 1956, p. 29 ("He was the son of the late George Osmar and Mable Winchester Reynolds of Pelham Manor, N. Y. His grandfather, George Huntington Reynolds, was one of the heads of the engineering staff of John Ericsson, building of the Monitor."). 

Reynolds likely was for the job of designing and installing a steam engine in the USS Monitor because he recently had gained fame as a steam engineer.  Only six years before, in 1856, Reynolds exhibited a steam engine of his own design at the American Institute Fair, held at the famed Crystal Palace in New York City, for which he received a gold medal.  Due in part to this success, the following year Reynolds was made superintendent of the American Institute Fair.  Additionally, in 1862, Reynolds became general manager of the Mystic Iron Works, Mystic Bridge, Conn., a shipbuilding yard during the Civil war.

Inboard Plans of the USS Monitor with Steam Engine by
George H. Reynolds Visible.  Source:  U.S. Naval Photograph
Via WIKIPEDIA:  The Free Encyclopedia, USS Monitor (visited
Feb. 20, 2016).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

George H. Reynolds lived with his family in Pelham Manor for many years. He was an active member of the Pelham Manor Protective Club and served as President of the local school board for eight years.  He built a palatial home in the Manor that no longer stands. He was one of the nation's preeminent mechanical engineers and was involved in many projects that are stories in and of themselves.  Late in life he moved to Connecticut, but various of his children and grandchildren remained in Pelham and surrounding areas for many years.

Detail from 1893 Map Showing Location of George H. Reynolds
Home (Virtually in the Center of This Detail).  His Home Was
Located Where Today's Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park
is Located Behind Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church.  The
Home Burned Down on June 6, 1940 and the Lot Subsequently
Was Converted to a Public Park.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the text of several resources that shed interesting light on the life of engineer and inventor George Huntington Reynolds, a founder of Pelham Manor.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"GEORGE H. REYNOLDS, who resides at Spring Manor, his handsome country home near Mansfield, Tolland county, is one of the noted mechanical engineers of this country, and he has a high reputation both as a man and a student of practical affairs. 

The Reynolds ancestry is traced to William Reynolds who came from Plymouth, Mass., to Providence, R. I., in 1637, one year after Roger Williams, banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, had located there.  He was one of the original purchasers of the land from the Narragansett Indians, the sum paid for this land, which is now of vast value, being about $26.  William Reynolds was arrested and confined in prison at Hartford, Conn., for his refusal to pay taxes to the Dutch; and again because he refused to pay taxes to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, after they had learned of the existence of Roger Williams, whom they had thought dead.  Mr. Reynolds was married to Alice Kitson in the Open Court in Massachusetts. 

James Reynolds, son of William, died in Kingston, R. I., in 1700.  He settled at Newport, R. I., and after the birth of a child his wife was ordered by a council at Plymouth to appear before them in the month of February to give account of her faith.  She made the trip in midwinter, on foot, carrying her babe in arms, and accompanied by a maid.  Her answers to the questions of the council were not regarded as satisfactory, and she was stripped to the waist, and given ten lashes on the bare back.  Her maid received the same treatment for "being in bad company."  Joseph Reynolds, son of James, was born Nov. 27, 1652, and died in 1722, in North Kingston, R. I.  His wife’s name was Susannah. 

Samuel Reynolds, son of Joseph, was married Dec. 31, 1732, to Ann, daughter of Samuel Gardiner. 

Thomas Reynolds, son of Samuel, and great-grandfather of George H., was married Sept. 22, 1749, to Elizabeth Hopkins, who was born Sept. 22, 1729, a daughter of William and Mary (Tibbitts) Hopkins. 

Samuel Reynolds, son of Thomas, was born Feb. 12, 1752, and lived in Frenchtown, R. I., and later migrated to the western part of New York, near Buffalo, where he died.  On Dec. 4, 1777, he married Amy Weaver, who was born Nov. 18, 1759, and who died near Buffalo. Their children were:  (1) Sally married Andrew Moredock, a farmer, who died in Killingly; she died in Coventry, Conn. (2) Thomas was a seafaring man in early life, and died in Kingston, R. I. (3) Betsey. (4) Peleg married Mary Wells, and died in Mansfield, Conn. (5) Selah. (6) Christopher is mentioned below. (7) Samuel, a farmer and merchant, was the first agent of the old Norwich & Worchester railroad, and was killed by the cars. (8) Jonathan was a farmer and resided in Ashford, Conn., where he died. (9) John was a tailor, and died in Beloit, Wis. (10) Eleanor and (11) William were twins. (12) Eunice completes the family. 

Christopher Reynolds, son of Samuel, was born July 11, 1790, in Frenchtown, R.I., where his boyhood days were spent.  In 1810 he located at Mansfield, where he was employed as a farm hand by a Mr. Tillinghast, who made his home on the Steven C. Gardiner farm.  He planted the large maple tree, still standing in the yard. It was one of three, but one of the others was killed by lightening [sic], and the other by the heat of a burning barn.  During the War of 1812 Mr. Reynolds was a member of the Mansfield militia, and was one of the few men drafted from the company to go to New London to assist the threatened descent of the British.  After his marriage Mr. Reynolds entered the fulling mill, then located a short distance south of the Tillinghast farm, on land now owned by his son Edwin. The old dam is still there, but the mill has since been torn down.  Here Mr. Reynolds was engaged in cloth dressing, and also in farming a small tract of land, which he had bought.  On this place ten of his twelve children were born.  Until it ceased to be profitable on account of the close competition of the larger mills, he continued at the cloth business.  Then for a time Mr. Reynolds employed his spare time in such labor as he could secure, and, moving to Eagleville, he assisted in building the first dam across the Willimantic river at that point.  While the dam was being constructed large salmon, while endeavoring to get over it, were killed by musket shot.  His former farm was purchased by his two sons, George H. and Edwin, who assumed a large indebtedness, and the parents removed to the farm, where they spent their declining years, and where they died, the husband and father July 21, 1871, from the infirmities of age, and the wife and mother, Sept. 24, 1860.  They were interred in the old cemetery, a mile east of their first home in Mansfield. 

Not withstanding [sic] a severe illness from inflammatory rheumatism, Christopher Reynolds was always a hard-working and industrious man, bravely contending against pain and suffering, until the latter years of his life, when he was almost entirely confined to his chamber.  In early life he was a Democrat, but later became a Republican.  Though not a church member he was a man of high character, honest moral and upright, and he reared a family of which any father might well be proud. 

On Sept. 26, 1813, Christopher Reynolds was married, in Mansfield, to Clarissa Huntington, who was born in that town March 5, 1794, daughter of Jonas and Rhoda (Baldwin) Huntington.  The Huntingtons and Baldwins were among the old and honored families of Mansfield, at one time numerously represented throughout that section.  To this union were born: (1) Adaline, born May 2, 1814, married May 2, 1837, Jacob S. Eaton, a woolen manufacturer of Ludlow, Mass., and died in Indian Orchard, Mass. (2) Melissa, born March 14, 1816, married Sept. 26, 1842, Charles Shumway, for many years a watchman in the Corliss Engine Works at Providence, R. I., and died in Mansfield. (3) Elizabeth, was born March 14,1818, was married (first) March 26, 1854, to Rev. Asa Sanders; her second husband Benajah Gurnsey Roots, a civil engineer, who assisted in the building of the Illinois Central railroad, and later was prominent in State school matters in Illinois. She was killed in a runaway accident. (4) Sarah H., born Jan 31, 1820, was married Sept. 21, 1841, to Fayette Barrows, a farmer, and died in Mansfield. (5) Julia H., Born Oct. 8, 1821, was married Oct 24, 1842, to Leander Derby, a comb manufacturer, who died in San Andreas, Cal.; she now resides in Brooklyn, N. Y. (6) Glenn H., born Nov. 25, 1823, was married May 19, 1846, to Elizabeth F. Eaton. He remained at home engaged in farming until of age, when he went to Providence, R. I., where he was employed in various mercantile lines until 1856.  He then spent ten years at Danielson, after which he managed a store at Cranston, R. I., for the A. & W. Sprague Manufacturing Company.  In 1868 he set up the mill supply business at Providence, where he remained until 1886, when he returned to Mansfield, in a few years removing to Danielson, where he now resides. (7) Jane, born July 9, 1826, died Aug. 8, 1827. (8) John D., born July 28, 1827, was married April 6, 1854 to Martha Slater, and after her death, to Mrs. White. For many years he was a school teacher, and is now postmaster at Andover, N. J. (9) George Huntington is next in the order of birth. (10) Edwin, born March 23, 1831, is mentioned at length elsewhere in this volume. (11) Benjamin Franklin, born Jan. 29, 1833, married April 27, 1857, Amanda Hawkins.  He has been Chief Engineer of the Omaha Water Works for the past seventeen years, and resides at Florence, Neb. (12) Albert W., was born Dec. 11, 1835, married Jan. 15, 1857, Rebecca Runion; he was a mechanical engineer of great promise, and died in New York, from overwork, in testing machinery. 

George Huntington Reynolds was born Feb. 8, 1829, in Mansfield, and like his brothers, early became responsible for his own support.  When quite young he showed signs of that genius that has placed him in the front rank of the calling he is pursuing at the present time.  As a mere boy he and his brothers would erect bridges, make wagons, sled, and other play things with a touch of genuine skill.  The bridges which they erected across the small streams on the family homestead, they used in hauling stone and wood, often overloading their wagons so as to break down the bridges, that they might build them up in better form.  At the age of eleven years George H. was employed on the farm of Mr. Tillinghast, who had given his father employment thirty years before.  Three months’ schooling was allowed him each year; the first year he had $9, out of which he bought his clothing for the year; the second year, $11; the third, $13; and the fourth, $16.  Work began at daylight and lasted until long after dark.  By trapping game, picking nuts, and other side labors, the boy managed to earn enough extra money with which to buy paper, pencils and ink, for use in drawing bridges, vessels, houses and other things in spare moments.  The children of today can hardly comprehend the amount of work a farm boy at that time was expected to accomplish.  During his third year with Mr. Tillinghast, Mr. Reynolds picked sixteen bushels of hazel nuts, which sold for a dollar a bushel, thus netting his employer three dollars more than his year’s wages.  As it is said to take sixteen bushels of nuts in the bur to make one bushel of nuts, the lad must have picked 256 bushels of burs.  These nuts were picked on land now owned by Mr. Reynolds, and also on land then and now owned by the Merrows. During these years of hard work with Mr. Tillinghast, Mr. Reynolds was never sick a day, and never lost a days time. Up to this time his schooling had consisted of attendance during the winter months. When he was fifteen he engaged with Chauncey Dunham, of Mansfield, for $6 a month. Mr. Dunham lived in the house now owned by Mr. Edwin Reynolds as a summer home, and the brick house still standing was made from clay hauled by our subject’ s father when he was eighteen years old. 

Soon after this George H. Reynolds attended a select school in August, September and October, taught by a Mr. Dimock, a student from Yale, who was a thorough instructor, and gave Mr. Reynolds more insight into his studies than he had secured from all his previous schooling, particularly in mathematics, in which he was quite bright. After leaving Mr. Dimock’s school Mr. Reynolds was employed as a spinner in woolen mills in Ludlow, Mass. And at Broad Brook, Wilsonville and Merrow, Conn. He was a master of the trade, and at Merrow he could do his work in half the time his predecessor had needed. It was at Merrow that his first mechanical construction work was done. The mill owners were putting in new machinery, and the boss machinist (sent from Harvard to take charge of the work) selected as his assistant Mr. Reynolds, who showed such an aptitude for the work that the "jealousy of the "boss" was aroused, lest his place might be lost. As a result Mr. Reynolds left the spinning trade and devoted himself to mechanical work. Going to Leominster, Mass., he began work on steam machinery, which has been his work to the present day. In 1856 he exhibited a steam engine of his own designing, and a decided improvement on what had gone before to the American Institute Fair, held at the Crystal Palace, New York, for which he was awarded the golden medal of the Institute, and was made superintendent of the Fair the following year. 

In 1859, Mr. Reynolds became chief draughtsman of the Delamater Iron Works, and in 1862 he was made superintendent and general manager of Mystic Iron Works, of Mystic Bridge, Conn. These works were established for the purpose of building ships and engines for the Government during the Civil war, and when the war was over Mr. Reynolds returned to the Delamater works to assume the position of superintendent, which he held until 1884, when he resigned to take a similar position with the Crane Elevator Company of Chicago. He has done more to improve and perfect the passenger elevator, perhaps, than any other one man living, and is still engaged in the study of it’s problems. His services in this connection are much sought after by builders of elevators, not only in this country but in Europe as well. The dynamite gun greatly interests him, and all the guns so far constructed have been made under his patents. He is consulting engineer of the Pneumatic Dynamite Gun Company of New York, and superintended the gun construction of the dynamite cruiser "Vesuvius." He has also built guns for Italy and England. When the Crane Elevator Company was absorbed by the Otis Elevator Company, Mr. Reynolds was still continued as engineer for the combination. The Locomobile Company of America has engaged him as it’s engineer. He is one of the foremost engineers of this generation, and has taken out more than a hundred patents in his line of work. For many years Mr. Reynolds had his home in Pelham Manor, N. Y. In 1885 he built a handsome and attractive home on land in Mansfield, which he has reclaimed from it’s primitive condition of forest and boulder, and with the aid of the landscape gardener, has made it one of the most picturesque and charming places in the town. This romantic spot has received the name of Spring Manor, from the many springs of clear cold water that well up on the grounds. The entire estate consists of about a thousand acres of land, on which, as a boy, he spent years of hard work for Mr. Tillinghast, as noted above. Personally Mr. Reynolds is genial and social, and he is an interesting talker, with splendid memory, and a large fund of general information. His disposition is hospitable, and his manners democratic. He has traveled widely, and his impressions of the countries he has seen are vivid and impressive. A staunch Republican, Mr. Reynolds has never sought office, though while living in Pelham Manor, he served eight years as president of the school board. 

On Nov. 1, 1853, Mr. Reynolds was married to Abby F., daughter of James Brown, of Westfield, Vt. To them have come children as follows; (1) Nellie J., born Sept. 2, 1854, died in young womanhood. (2) George Osmar, born Dec. 9, 1856, graduated from the Friends’ School at Providence, R. I., entered the service of New York manufacturing firm and is now one of the firm of Hitchcock, Dermandy & Co., manufacturers of hatters’ furs. He is married and has two children, George Osmar Jr. (who shows much ability as an artist) and Grace. (3) Irving H., born April 13, 1862, took up mechanical work in 1879 as a marine engineer, and in 1884, entered the employ of the Edward P. Allis Company of Milwaukee. He has been identified particularly in the development of the Modern High Duty Water Works pumping engine, notable examples of his work being in the city water works of Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Omaha, etc., many of these engines holding the world’s records for economy. At the present time (1903) he is chief engineer of the Allis-Chalmers company, manufacturers of engines, mining and milling machinery, and employing upwards of six thousand men. He married Bertha Barker, of Milwaukee, in 1889. (4) Grace C., born July 10, 1870, died in infancy."

Source: Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties Connecticut Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens And Of Many Of The Early Settled Families -- Illustrated, pp. 188-91 (Chicago, IL: J. H. Beers & Co., 1903).

"Report of the Necrologist

GEORGE HUNTINGTON REYNOLDS passed away January 3, after a painful illness, at his beautiful home at Mansfield Depot, Conn.  Mr. Reynolds was a descendant of James Reynolds of North Kingstown, R. I.  He was born at Mansfield, February 8, 1829.  Being one of a family of twelve children he was early thrown upon his own resources.  Working on a farm in his boyhood, and later as a spinner in a factory, he employed his spare moments studying and practicing mechanical drawing.  As a result he gradually worked his way up to the position of chief draughtsman of the Delamater Iron Works, and, after the civil war, became superintendent of the same.  He held the latter position until 1884, when he resigned to take a like position with the Crane Elevator Co., of Chicago.  His work in that capacity resulted in great improvement in the passenger elevator service.  He was also an inventor and builder of dynamite guns and locomobiles.  In 1853 Mr. Reynolds married Abby E. Brown, of Westfield, Vt.  Four children were born to them, two of whom are living -- George Osmar Reynolds and Irving H. Reynolds."

Source:  Reynolds, Celia Mary, "Report of the Necrologist" in SEVENTEENTH ANNUAL REUNION OF THE Reynolds Family Association HELD AT Mohican Hotel, New London, Conn. THURSDAY, AUGUST 20TH, 1908, pp. 12-13 (Middletown, CT:  Press of Pelton and King, 1908).

"George H. Reynolds

George Huntington Reynolds, the well known mechanical engineer, died at his home, Spring Manor, Mansfield Depot, Conn., Jan. 3, 1908, aged 79.

He was born in Mansfield and when quite young showed signs of mechanical genius which later on placed him in the front rank in his calling.  He began active work as a spinner in woolen mills.  While employed in this capacity at Merrow, Conn., his first mechanical work was done.  As a result he left Morrow and went to Leominster, Mass., where he devoted his time to steam engineering.  In 1856 he exhibited a steam engine of his own design at the American Institute Fair, held at Crystal Palace, New York, for which he received a gold medal and the following year was made superintendent of the fair.  In 1859 he became chief draftsman of the Delamater Iron Works and three years later was made superintendent and general manager of the Mystic Iron Works, Mystic Bridge, Conn., a shipbuilding yard during the Civil war.

After the war he returned to the Delamater works as superintendent, which position he held until 1884, when he resigned to assume a similar position with the Crane Elevator Company, of Chicago.

As consulting engineer of the Pneumatic Dynamite Gun Company, of New York, he superintended the construction of the dynamite cruiser 'Vesuvius' and the dynamite guns built for various governments.  As an inventor he was very successful, having taken out over a hundred patents for various mechanical devices."

Source:  "George H. Reynolds" in American Machinist, Jan. 16, 1908, p. 107.  

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