The Bitter Battle Over the Incorporation of the Village of North Pelham in 1896 Continued After The Vote to Incorporate
Tue., Mar. 17, 2015: Recollections of the "Bitter Fight" To Incorporate the Village of North Pelham Published Fifty Years Later.
Mon., Oct. 27, 2014: Pelhamville Votes to Incorporate as the Village of North Pelham in 1896.
Tue., Jul. 01, 2014: Why Do We Call It the Village of Pelham Instead of Pelhamville? Because We Were Duped!
Fri., Apr. 15, 2005: How Pelhamville "Lost" Its Name!
During the mid-1890s, many residents of Pelhamville looked longingly toward their neighbor to the south, the Village of Pelham Manor that had been incorporated in 1891. Through taxes and issuance of bonds, the Village of Pelham Manor was engaged in a host of infrastructure improvements including road improvements, sidewalks, and even sewers.
A large group of Pelhamville residents banded together and formed a "club" named the "Citizens' League." The initial purpose of the Citizen's League was to support an initiative to incorporate the settlement of Pelhamville as another village within the Town of Pelham. Almost immediately, a group of Pelhamville residents who opposed incorporation formed the "People's Party" to oppose incorporation. Members of the People's Party were so upset with the notion of incorporation that they proposed, instead, that Pelhamville should be annexed by the City of Mount Vernon. Members of the People's Party grew to hate members of the Citizens' League and vice versa.
The Citizens' League, led by Otto E. Stroetzel, a local merchant and resident of Chester Park, argued that major infrastructure improvements could be funded with little or no increase in taxes by incorporating a village that then could issue bonds. They argued that the sale of bonds would immediately fund major improvements while the combined repayment of the amortized principal with the annual interest service would lead to sufficiently-low taxes so that Pelhamville residents would feel little economic impact.
In contrast, the People's Party, led by Pelhamville resident , argued that taxes would skyrocket and that excessive debt would choke growth of the little settlement. They argued that if the area were annexed by Mount Vernon, the tax burden would be spread across a much larger tax base and, thus, would permit the funding of needed infrastructure improvements with much lower tax rates.
Pelhamville residents were bitterly divided. On Saturday, August 29, 1896, a referendum on the proposal was held. A total of 132 Pelhamville residents cast ballots. Once counted, there were 67 ballots cast in favor of incorporation and 65 against. Had only a single voter in favor of incorporation decided, instead, to vote against the measure, the vote would have resulted in a tie.
An election to install village officers for the newly-incorporated Village of North Pelham was scheduled for about four weeks later. Feelings remained so raw, however, that the Citizen's League and the People's Party continued to battle and ran two slates of candidates against each other in the election. To make matters worse, there were initial allegations that changes in certain election laws implemented by New York State earlier in the year (1896) meant that the referendum should not have been held under an older law implemented in 1894. According to members of the People's Party, the old law allowed any resident of majority age to vote in such a referendum but, under the new law, only taxpayers could vote. That meant, according to the People's Party, that about fifty of the 132 ballots cast in the referendum were invalid. The People's Party began consultations with a local lawyer to invalidate the results of the vote.
On September 26, 1896, residents of the newly-incorporated Village of North Pelham gathered to cast ballots for officers of the new village. The officers would serve for about six months until new elections could be held during the ordinary election cycle in March 1897. The Citizen's League offered a slate of candidates led by Jacob Heisser for President of the new Village. The People's party offered a slate of candidates led by Daniel Kennedy for President. One hundred twenty five votes were cast. What followed is nearly unbelievable. According to one account:
"After the polls closed the tellers proceeded to count the ballots. There were 125 votes cast. On the first count the tellers elected Daniel J. Kennedy as President by one majority. The tellers were requested to count the ballots again. They did so, and found that Daniel Kennedy and Jacob Heiser [sic] were tied for President. The ballots were counted again, and the tellers declared that Heiser was elected by one majority. George H. McGalliard and Louis O. Young were elected trustees by one majority. Baltis F. Crowell and Alexander Anderson, both seeking the treasureship, were tied. The People's party will take the matter to the courts to try and have a new election held." (See full text of article below.)
Citizen's League member and pro-incorporation Pelhamite Jacob Heisser was declared the victor and served as the first President of the new Village. Though somewhat unclear, it appears that the People's Party filed no lawsuits, apparently because the new 1896 election law was deemed not to apply to a referendum of the sort conducted for Village incorporation. Nevertheless, feelings continued to run high as the two opposing camps hurtled toward the new elections in the spring.
In early March, 1897, the two opposing camps each held nominating conventions for the election. It seems that by that time, passions had moderated and tempers had cooled somewhat. There are indications that residents of North Pelham and members of the People's Party had settled into the notion that the decision to incorporate as a village would not be reversed. Thus, the two opposing camps began to battle over other issues like which infrastructure improvements should be made first and whether the voters should be consulted before undertaking some of those improvements. According to one account:
"The nominations of the Citizen's Party were made first, at a convention held Thursday evening at the Fourth avenue Parish House. The nominees chosen are: Jacob Heisser, president; Otto Stroetzel, trustee for two years; Thomas R. Schott, treasurer; William Edinger, collector. Mr. Heisser and Mr. Edinger have served the village faithfully and conscientiously during their first term and this will probably secure for them a re-election. Mr. Stroetzel, to whose indefatigabe efforts incorporation is largely due, possesses all the qualifications for an efficient trustee. School Trustee Scott would make an excellent village treasurer. Several resolutions were adopted at the meeting to the effect that the party favors the sewering and macadamizing of Fifth avenue and Fourth street from throughout their entire extent as the first step towards improvements and also such other improvements as the taxpayers desire.
The Peoples party held its convention on Saturday evening in the Town Hall. The following were the candidates chosen: Michael J. Lynch, president; Daniel J. Kennedy, trustee; Baltis F. Crewell, treasurer; John T. Logan, collector. The chief points of the platform adopted are as follows: That the party disapproves each resolution of the platform of the Citizens' party. That the first improvement should be the establishing of a general grade in the village. The next step should be to properly grade and repair each and every road in the village. That laying of sidewalks is favored if the same are voted by a majority of the tax payers." (See entire article quoted below.)
On Tuesday, March 16, 1897, voters gathered again to select from the candidates presented by the two opposing camps. A total of 128 ballots were cast. In contrast to the election held the previous September, this election resulted in a complete victory for the People's Party. The results were described as follows:
"The following are the candidates and the number of votes received by each: for president -- Michael J. Lynch 66, Jacob Heisser 55; for trustee -- Daniel J. Kennedy 70, Otto E. Stroetzel 51; for treasurer -- Baltis F. Crewell 67, Thomas R. Scott 54; for collector -- John T. Logan 62, William Edinger 61." (See text of entire article included below).
The Citizen's League and the People's Party were becoming interwoven within the fabric of the politics of the newly-incorporated Village of North Pelham. Incorporation, it turned out, was the right decision for the little settlement of Pelhamville.
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Transcribe below is the text of a host of additional articles touching on the topic of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"PELHAM AND WOODLAWN.
Pelham. . . .
THE PROPOSED INCORPORATION
CHESTER PARK, July 13th, 1896.
To the Editor of The Chronicle:
Dear Sir: -- Permit me to thank the people of Pelhamville and the Chronicle through the columns of your most estimable journal for the interest taken and the valuable support given me in my struggle to incorporate Pelhamville and that part of Chester Park belonging to the Town of Pelham. There can be no doubt at all as to the result, now that every body has come to understand that there will be no assessments levied for improvements; that, after bonding the new village, the tax rate will be hardly any higher, and that there will be no expensive officials to pay. The election for or against incorporation will take place on Saturday, August 29th, between 10 A.M. and three P.M., the election for village officers three weeks later, on Saturday September 19th. Contrary to the belief of some of the taxpayers, the law provides that every voter shall take part in these elections, and not only taxpayers.
The survey and map have been ordered and will be ready for examination in about eight or ten days; the census has been taken, and according to law notices will be posted that this census, mmp and verbal description are open to public inspection at a place yet to be designated.
Permit me to say furthermore that, while our committee is sure of victory, it does not intend to go to sleep, knowing very well that we have a small but very determined minority to overcome. While we respect the opposition of those whose opposition is based on honest conviction, and have no respect for those who oppose incorporation for selfish reasons, we intend to fight them all, tooth and nail, until the end is accomplished.
Very respectfully yours,
OTTO E. STROETZEL.
PELHAM, N.Y., July 13th, 1896.
Editor of The Chronicle:
It is to be hoped that the vigorous attempt now being made by Mr. Stroetzel and his colleagues to accomplish the incorporation of Pelhamville (as it is still familiarly called) will be staunchly backed up. It was evident at the mass meeting, held last week, that there was an undercurrent of opposition, but after listening to the statements there made, it is difficult to see on what possible grounds this opposition is based.
Even supposing the improvements so badly needed had to be paid for by a small addition to the tax rate, the benefits reaped in an increased value of land for residential purposes, would make it a splendid business bargain. But, on the contrary, it was clearly shown by reference to Pelham Manor, that a thoroughly general and efficient system of improvements in roads, sidewalks, lights, &c., could be had and paid for by a bond issue, the yearly interest charge for which would be less than is now paid for the spasmodically poor attempts of the past few years.
Surely, if the issue is studied fairly and thoughtfully, every resident, be he owner or renter, trademan or wage earner, must feel that the argument for incorporation is all one way.
With the village incorporated and improvements made, outsiders will be attracted and instead of being kind of 'Sleepy Hollow' this place will take that position in the rank of suburban residential places, which its beautiful natural advantages fully entitle it to. And the undoubted pecuniary gain to property owners accruing, should make them a solid unit in the endeavors now being made to bring it about.
Source: PELHAM AND WOODLAWN -- Pelham, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 17, 1896, p. 3, col. 3.
"PELHAM AND WOODLAWN
The Incorporation Committee has issued circular entitled 'Why should you vote for incorporation of North Pelham?' It is an excellent treatise on the matter of incorporation and plainly foretells the benefits and advantages to be derived from such an incorporation. In it the question of how to secure improvements, such as good roads, sidewalks, drainage, sanitation and lighting, is asked, and is answered in the following extract:
'First -- You can get greater improvements under present conditions by simply increasing your tax levy. But the burden of immediate payment would make this course unjust and intolerable.
'Second -- You can get them by annexation to Mount Vernon. But the system of assessments for improvements in vogue there would be as burdensome. Undoubtedly, great advantages would follow annexation, but how about immediate benefit? Would you not be somewhat in the position of the residents in the districts recently annexed to New York, who have immediate taxation with remote benefits?
'Third -- You can have village incorporation as now advocated. After incorporation as now advocated. After incorporation you can raise by the issue of bonds, sufficient funds to make all necessary improvements, such as roads, sidewalks, etc., at once, under your own direction, and therefore, exactly as you wish them done. The yearly interest charge on bonds will be less than we now pay for repairs. Therefore, you should vote for incorporation.'
The election is held next Saturday from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M."
Source: PELHAM AND WOODLAWN -- Pelham, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Aug. 21, 1896, No. 1755, p. 3, col. 3.
"PELHAM AND WOODLAWN
It Was a Close Vote, But It Means That North Pelham Will Soon be a Village.
It is now North Pelham. Saturday the question of local incorporation was decided in the affirmative by the small majority of two votes. 132 ballots were cast, 67 being for and 65 against. The election was conducted by Supervisor Shinn and Town Clerk Caffrey, the polls being open from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon.
During that time both the incorporators and the anti-incorporators worked hard in bringing out the voters. Many business men staid [sic] home all day in order to vote and help their side to win. In the afternoon the contest became exceedingly interesting and the outcome was awaited with eagerness and ill forbodings. When the votes were counted however there was a loud hurrah by the victors.
Mr. Otto E. Stroetzel, President of the Citizen's League, who instituted the movement, and the committee in charge, deserve special praise for their untiring and successful efforts.
The election of officers will be held sometime before the 18th inst. The complement of officers consists of a president, three trustees, a treasurer and a clerk, the last of which is appointed. For the office of president, the names of Mr. O. E. Stroetzel and Dr. Charles A. Barker have been mentioned, but no caucuses have been held yet to nominate tickets of which there will be at least two. . . .
Since Saturday evening a beautiful American flag has been floating from the tower of MMr. Stroetzel's handsome home in Chester Park, to commemorate the incorporation victory."
Source: PELHAM AND WOODLAWN -- Pelham -- INCORPORATION VICTORIOUS -- It Was a Close Vote, But It Means That North Pelham Will Soon be a Village, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 4, 1896, p. 3, col. 3.
A Village Election.
To-day an election of officers for the newly incorporated village of North Pelham is being held in the town hall at that place. There are two tickets in the field, one comprising those who favor incorporation, and known as the citizens' party candidates, and the other is called the People's ticket and was organized by the anti-incorporation voters. As both parties have nominated prominent men an exciting contest is generally looked for."
Source: WESTCHESTER COUNTY -- A Village Election, The Evening Post [NY, NY], Sep. 26, 1896, p. 20, col. 6.
"THE COUNTY. . . .
TO-DAY'S ELECTION IN NORTH PELHAM. -- The recently incorporated village of North Pelham will have its first election of officers, this afernoon. There are two tickets in the field -- one supported by those who favored incorporation, and the other by those who were opposed to it."
Source: THE COUNTY, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Sep. 26, 1896, Vol. XIII, No. 3945, p. 4, col. 4.
"COUNTING IN NORTH PELHAM.
With 125 Ballots Cast the Tellers Can't Decide the Election.
MOUNT VERNON, N. Y., Sept. 26. -- The first election of village officers in the town [sic] of North Pelham ws held to-day in the Town Hall, and it created great excitement.
A month ago the citizens held an election and voted for incorporation of the town [sic] of North Pelham by two majority. The citizens in favor of annexation formed a league which they called the People's party. Those in favor of incorporation formed a club which they named the Citizens' League. To-day both leagues had tickets in the field. The polls opened at 9 A.M. and closed at 4 P.M. After the polls closed the tellers proceeded to count the ballots. There were 125 votes cast. On the first count the tellers elected Daniel J. Kennedy as President by one majority.
The tellers were requested to count the ballots again. They did so, and found that Daniel Kennedy and Jacob Heiser were tied for President. The ballots were counted again, and the tellers declared that Heiser was elected by one majority. George H. McGalliard and Louis O. Young were elected trustees by one majority. Baltis F. Crowell and Alexander Anderson, both seeking the treasureship, were tied. The People's party will take the matter to the courts to try and have a new election held."
Source: COUNTING IN NORTH PELHAM -- With 125 Ballots Cast the Tellers Can't Decide the Election, The Sun [NY, NY], Sep. 27, 1896, Vol. LXIV, No. 27, p. 9, col. 2.
"PELHAM AND WOODLAWN.
Pelham. . . .
Those who were opposed to incorporation have engaged S. J. Stilwell as counsel to have the election declared void on the ground that it is illegal, having been conducted under the laws of 1894 instead of 1896. The difference between these laws is that in the latter one, only taxpayers are qualified to vote while formerly all residents were entitled to cast a ballot. The anti-incorporators were defeated in the first village election, they electing only one trustee and a treasurer. They are therefore rather disgruntled and desire to upset the whole thing. The prime movers in the matter are ex-Judge Vincent Barker, defeated candidate for village trustee, Justice F. M. Lyon, Town Clerk Caffrey and others. Those who uphold incorporation claim upon legal advice that the election will stand."
Source: PELHAM AND WOODLAWN -- Pelham, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Nov. 13, 1896, No. 1767, p. 3, col. 3.
"NEW ROCHELLE. . . .
The faction which was opposed to the incorporation of the village of North Pelham is making arrangements to have the recent election of village trustees set aside. It is alleged that over fifty persons voted who were not taxpayers. The proposition for incorporation was carried by a plurality of one vote."
Source: NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. Tribune, Jan. 23, 1897, Vol. LVI, No. 18332, p. 10, col. 6.
"THE COUNTY. . . .
NOT SETTLED YET. -- The North Pelham village incorporation election is not settled yet. The faction which was opposed to the measure is taking steps to have the election set aside, on the ground that over 50 persons who cast votes were not taxpayers. The measure was carried by a plurality of only one vote."
Source: THE COUNTY, The Yonkers Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Jan. 23, 1897, Vol. XIV, No. 4044, p. 4, col. 4.
"PELHAM AND WOODLAWN.
PELHAM. . . .
The Approaching Election.
The second election of the Village of North Pelham will be held on Tuesday next at the Town Hall, the polls being open from 1 P. M. until sunset. The candidates for the four offices which will be vacant were not nominated until the latter part of last week. They are given below.
The nominations of the Citizen's Party were made first, at a convention held Thursday evening at the Fourth avenue Parish House. The nominees chosen are: Jacob Heisser, president; Otto Stroetzel, trustee for two years; Thomas R. Schott, treasurer; William Edinger, collector. Mr. Heisser and Mr. Edinger have served the village faithfully and conscientiously during their first term and this will probably secure for them a re-election. Mr. Stroetzel, to whose indefatigabe efforts incorporation is largely due, possesses all the qualifications for an efficient trustee. School Trustee Scott would make an excellent village treasurer. Several resolutions were adopted at the meeting to the effect that the party favors the sewering and macadamizing of Fifth avenue and Fourth street from throughout their entire extent as the first step towards improvements and also such other improvements as the taxpayers desire.
The Peoples party held its convention on Saturday evening in the Town Hall. The following were the candidates chosen: Michael J. Lynch, president; Daniel J. Kennedy, trustee; Baltis F. Crewell, treasurer; John T. Logan, collector. The chief points of the platform adopted are as follows: That the party disapproves each resolution of the platform of the Citizens' party. That the first improvement should be the establishing of a general grade in the village. The next step should be to properly grade and repair each and every road in the village. That laying of sidewalks is favored if the same are voted by a majority of the tax payers.
Mr. Lynch is at present one of the Town Commissioners of Highways with which office he has been connected for a number of years. Mr. Kennedy who was defeated for president last year by one vote, will undoubtedly make a strong run. Mr. Crewell has very ably looked after the duties of the treasurer since his election. Mr. Logan, who was defeated for collector last year, has been renominated."
Source: PELHAM AND WOODLAWN . . . The Approaching Election, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY]., Mar. 12, 1897, p. 3, col. 3.
"PELHAM AND WOODLAWN.
People's Ticket Victorious.
The election of the Village of North Pelham on Tuesday was a complete victory for the People's Party, its full ticket being chosen.
The polls opened at one o'clock and closed at 6:04 P.M. The total vote cast was 128. The election was conducted by Trustees McGalliard and Young and Village Clerk Case. The balloting was done in a quiet and orderly manner.
The following are the candidates and the number of votes received by each: for president -- Michael J. Lynch 66, Jacob Heisser 55; for trustee -- Daniel J. Kennedy 70, Otto E. Stroetzel 51; for treasurer -- Baltis F. Crewell 67, Thomas R. Scott 54; for collector -- John T. Logan 62, William Edinger 61.
The entire vote -- 128, exceeded that of last year by three."
Source: PELHAM AND WOODLAWN -- People's Ticket Victorious, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 19, 1897, p. 3, col. 3.