Burglars Shook Pelham Manor Awake Using Dynamite to Blow a Safe in 1894
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During the early morning hours on Tuesday, September 25, 1894, a massive explosion rocked the tiny village of Pelham Manor. Most Pelhamites simply rolled over in their beds and returned to sleep. All thought: "just burglars at the Pelham Manor Depot blowing the safe again."
They were right. The train depot and post office recently had been burglarized on six prior occasions. Pelham Manor and its little wooden train station on the New Haven Branch Line were under siege.
A little before 2:00 a.m. that night, the two night watchmen employed by the Village were patrolling, both distant from the train station. In the meantime, burglars had entered the station and had drilled or broken the combination lock on a massive iron safe. They inserted explosives and a fuse that they lit.
The force of the explosion was surprisingly massive. According to one account, the safe "was a complete wreck . . . The door to the ticket office of the railroad was torn from its hinges by the force of the explosion. Everything in the room was thrown around. The walls were shattered and the heavy iron door of the safe was blown to pieces."
Upon hearing the explosion, both night watchmen knew exactly what had happened. One ran to the home of the train station baggage master and woke him. Those two then ran to the home of the Postmaster, Joseph English, who managed the postoffice and the safe located in the little train station. The three raced to the station only to be met by a scene of destruction. As one report put it, "[t]he railroad station is a frame structure, and it is thought strange that the whole building was not wrecked."
Because the little postoffice served the area including the New York Athletic Club and its summer residences, the safe held a large amount of postage stamps. By the time the three men arrived, the contents of the safe were gone, as were the burglars. About $950 in postage stamps were missing (about $32,215 in 2016 dollars).
Pelham was outraged. Local newspapers reported that this was the seventh time the train station had been robbed in recent years.
Clean up and repair began immediately. Indeed, within weeks, a new "burglar proof" safe was installed in the station to protect against theft of train tickets, postage stamps, and cash.
Then, during the early morning hours of Friday, November 9, 1894, only six weeks later, as the night watchmen patrolled the streets of the little Village of Pelham Manor, a massive explosion rocked the region. Most Pelhamites simply rolled over in their beds and returned to sleep. All thought: "just burglars at the Pelham Manor Depot blowing the safe again."
Sure enough, burglars had entered the newly-repaired station and blown the new burglar proof safe. On this eighth occasion, however, "explosion shattered the combination but the cash box remained intact. The burglars fled before they had completed their work, and secured nothing." Though the station was wrecked again, this time the burglars fled empty handed. Score: burglars, 7 vs. Pelham Manor, 1.
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"BLEW OPEN THE SAFE.
Burglars Rob Pelham Manor Post Office of $950 in Stamps.
The Safe Was in the Depot and Was Totally Wrecked.
Robbers Believed to Have Escaped to New York by Train.
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., Sept. 25. -- Burglars visited Pelham Manor early this morning and robbed the Post-Office which was situated in the depot. Pelham Manor is three miles west of this place, and is situated on the Harlem River branch of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
It was about 2 o'clock when the residents were awakened by a terrific explosion, which shook the whole neighborhood. The two watchmen of the place were about half a mile away in opposite directions from the scene of the explosion. One of them was patrolling his beat and ws in front of the residence of Rev. A. F. Penny, and the other was near the home of Albert C. Roosevelt.
The watchman near the home of Rev. Mr. Penny ran to the house of Baggage-master Skinner, and the two went to the residence of Postmaster English. They went to the depot, and when they reached there they found the Post-Office a complete wreck.
The heavy iron safe, in which $950 worth of stamps had been, was a complete wreck, and the stamps were missing. The door to the ticket office of the railroad was torn from its hinges by the force of the explosion. Everything in the room was thrown around. The walls were shattered and the heavy iron door of the safe was blown to pieces.
From appearances, it looked as if the combination of the safe had been hit with a hammer, ,and then a fuse had been put in the combination.
Besides carrying away the stamps, the burglars took some legal documents which belonged to Postmaster English and which were in the safe. The depot is a frame structure, and it is a wonder that the building was not wrecked by the force of the explosions.
The depot was occupied by Postmaster English's coal and wood office, MM. J. Donlon's real estate office, the ticket office of the railroad and the Post-Office. So far as known neither the coal office of Mr. English, the ticket office nor Mr. Donlon's office was touched.
This is the seventh time the Post-Office has been robbed. Each time previously, however, the safe has not been touched. It was the Post-Office through which the mail was delivered for the New York Athletic Club at Travers Island, and this is the reason why so many stamps were kept there.
The thieves are believed to have escaped to New York on a freight train."
Source: BLEW OPEN THE SAFE -- Burglars Rob Pelham Manor Post Office of $950 in Stamps -- The Safe Was in the Depot and Was Totally Wrecked -- Robbers Believed to Have Escaped to New York by Train, The Evening World [NY, NY], Sep. 25, 1894, p. 2, col. 2 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link.).
"BURGLARS AT PELHAM MANOR.
They Blew Open a Safe and Take$950 in Stamps from the Post Office.
The railroad station at Pelham Manor, on the Harlem branch of the New York and New Haven Railroad, was entered by burglars yesterday morning at 2 o'clock, and the Post Office, which is in the station, was robbed of $950 worth of stamps.
The burglars got into the station while the two watchmen were out. They broke off the handle of the big iron safe, and inserting an explosive blew the safe open. The noise woke up the village.
Postmaster Joseph English and Baggage Master skinner went to the station and found the Post Office a complete wreck. The safe door was blown off and the door of the room, the walls, and the furniture were in ruins. The door of the ticket office, which adjoins the Post Office, was blown from its hinges. The thieves carried off, besides the postage stamps in the safe, some of the private papers of the Postmaster.
About two months ago thieves broke open the ticket office and stole a large number of tickets."
Source: BURGLARS AT PELHAM MANOR -- They Blew Open a Safe and Take$950 in Stamps from the Post Office, The Sun [Ny, NY], Sep. 26, 1894, p. 4, col. 2 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link.).
"THE SAFE BLOWN OPEN.
BURGLARS ENTER THE POSTOFFICE AT PELHAM MANOR -- PART OF THE BUILDING WRECKED.
The residents in the neighborhood of Pelham Manor were awakened by a loud explosion about 2 o'clock yesterday morning which shook the surrounding houses. Investigation showed that burglars had broken into the postoffice and blown open the safe. Pelham Manor is about three miles from New-Rochelle, on the Harlem River branch of the New-Haven and Hartford Railroad. The postoffice was situated in the railroad station. Joseph Englihs is the postmaster. Two night watchmen were patroling the village about half a mile fro the station when they heard the explosion. One of them hurried to the house of the baggagemaster, Skinner, and the latter, in company with the watchman, went to the house of Postmaster English and aroused him. The three men then went down to the railroad station and found the postoffice a complete wreck. The heavy iron safe, in which there were stamps worth $950, was wrecked. The door of the ticket office of the station was torn fromm its hinges and the walls were shattered by the force of the explosion. It seemed that the combination of the safe had first been drilled and then a fuse inserted.
The burglars had fled, after securing nearly $1,000, before the postmaster and the baggagemaster arrived. The railroad station is a frame structure, and it is thought strange that the whole building was not wrecked. Postmaster English uses one part of the building as a coal and wood office, and N.J. Donlon another part as a real-estate office. The other rooms of the building are used for the post-office and for railroad purposes. This is the seventh time the postoffice has been robbed. The burglars are supposed to have escaped to New-York on the early morning train."
Source: THE SAFE BLOWN OPEN -- BURGLARS ENTER THE POSTOFFICE AT PELHAM MANOR -- PART OF THE BUILDING WRECKED, New-York Tribune [NY, NY], Sep. 26, 1894, p. 1, col. 3 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link.).
"Postoffice Robbed Seven Times.
New York, Sept. 25. -- Burglars visited Pelham Manor, a station on the New York & New Haven railroad, about fifteen miles from this city, early this morning. They blew open the postoffice safe and secured about 4950 worth of stamps and some small change. the explosion completely wrecked the postoffice. This is the seventh time this postoffice has been robbed."
Source: Postoffice Robbed Seven Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sep. 26, 1894, p. 1, col. 5.
"Postoffice Robbed a Seventh Time.
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., Sept. 26. -- Burglars visited Pelham Manor and robbed the postoffice, which is located on the Harlem river branch of the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad. A thousand dollars' worth of stamps and some legal papers belonging to Postmaster English were secured. This is the seventh time that the postoffice has been robbed."
Source: Postoffice Robbed a Seventh Time, The Sun and Independent [Hamburg, NY], Sep. 28, 1894, p. 2, col. 5 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link.).
"ROBBED A POST OFFICE.
Burglars Also Blew Open a Safe at Pelham Manor.
[BY TELEGRAPH TO THE HERALD]
CITY ISLAND, N. Y., Nov. 13, 1894. -- City Island Post Office was robbed last night of $1,000 in stamps, cash, and postal orders.
Burglars entered the place early last month, but were scared off without securing any booty.
The Pelham Manor office was entered on Friday evening last and a new burglar proof safe 'blown.' The explosion shattered the combination but the cash box remained intact. The burglars fled before they had completed their work, and secured nothing.
The residence of Mrs. C. W. Meinecke, at Pelhamville, was entered by burglars yesterday between five and nine o'clock in the evening. She has been ill for several days and her physician prescribed a sleeping draught, which she took with good effect, as she slept through the robbery. Her servant went to Mount Vernon on an errand and on returning found the lower floor in great disorder.
Mrs. Meinecke's room had been ransacked, and the thieves took a pocketbook containing $25, a certified check for $500 and several private papers.
The pocketbook and pieces of the check were found in the kitchen. Blood spots were visible around the window sash in the dining room, showing that the thieves had cut themselves in breaking the glass. Mrs. Meinecke is the wife of C.W. Meinecke, a wholesale dealer in druggists' supplies, at No. 259 Greenwich street, New York city."
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I have written before about the many burglaries at the little Pelham Manor train station that once stood on the New Haven Branch Line. For a few examples, see:
Source: ROBBED A POST OFFICE -- Burglars Also Blew Open a Safe at Pelham Manor, N.Y. Herald, Nov. 14, 1894, p. 4, col. 5.
Mon., Sep. 15, 2014: 1884 Gunfight in Pelham Manor Pits Local Residents Against Pelham Manor Depot Burglars.
Wed., Feb. 10, 2010: Train Station Safe at Pelham Manor Was Blown Open with Dynamite Yet Again on April 24, 1902.
Tue., Nov. 17, 2009: 1883 Advertisement by Pelham Manor Protective Club Offering Reward for Information About Pelham Manor Depot Burglary.
Fri., Mar. 6, 2009: Burglars Blow the Safe at the Pelham Manor Post Office in 1894.
Fri., Feb. 22, 2008: Burglary Spree in Pelham Manor in 1880.
Mon., Jan. 28, 2008: 1884 Burglary and Gun Fight at the Pelham Manor Depot.
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