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.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Historic Pelham Paintings by John M. Shinn, Former Town Supervisor and Town Historian



Introduction

For an entire week in 1936, the flags on all local civic buildings in the Town of Pelham flew at half staff.   Pelham was in mourning.   It had lost one of its most notable residents, John M. Shinn.  

John M. Shinn had served as Town Supervisor of the Town of Pelham for ten years from 1895 to 1905, Receiver of Taxes of the Town of Pelham, and as Town Historian of the Town of Pelham.   He chaired the Westchester County Board of Legislators for a number of years and was considered an expert on assessment and equalization issues.  He served as a member of the Board of Elections and as chairman of the Republican County Committee of the Town of Pelham.  In addition, at the time of his death on October 15, 1936, Shinn was the last living Charter Member of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church founded in 1876.   He had founded and served as editor of one of the earliest newspapers established in Pelham, the Republican Record.   He was a Mason who served as Treasurer Emeritus of Winyah Lodge, No. 866, F. & A. M.   He served as principal and schoolmaster of the little one-room schoolhouse that served Pelham Manor and once stood on Split Rock Road.  He also was a practicing lawyer.  In short, John M. Shinn was a whirlwind of energy and accomplishment beloved by the entire Town. 

I have written about John M. Shinn and his accomplishments on numerous occasions.  For a few examples, see:


Wed., Sep. 02, 2015:  Former Supervisor, Town Historian, and Local School Principal John M. Shinn, Pelham Icon, Died in 1936.


Fri., Oct. 10, 2014:  Brief Biography of John M. Shinn, Supervisor of the Town of Pelham, Published in 1903.

Thu., Oct. 29, 2009:  Books of Town Supervisor "Honest John Shinn" Turned Up Short in 1906.  


Mon., February 16, 2009:  Outgoing Town of Pelham Supervisor Embroiled in Dispute Over Town Accounts in 1906


Thurs., October 4, 2007:  Biography of John M. Shinn, Pelham Town Supervisor in Late 19th Century.


Wed., Apr. 20, 2005:  Pelham's First Town Historian?



"JOHN M. SHINN"
Photograph Published in 1903. Source: Beach, George O.,
ed., The Daily Eagle's Illustrated History of Mt. Vernon
Embracing a Descriptive History of its Local Government,
Religious, Social and Commercial Institutions, With
Biographical Sketches, p. 89 (Mt. Vernon, NY: Daily Eagle, 1903).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

In addition to all his professional and civic accomplishments, Shinn was a formally-trained and accomplished artist.  He studied art at the School of Fine Arts of the Polytechnic Institute and the American Academy of Design, both in New York City.  Although Shinn also studied law and became a practicing lawyer, after his final term as Pelham Town Supervisor ended in 1905, he returned to his art, painting in a small one-story studio located behind his home at 921 Highland Avenue.  

Near the end of his life, Shinn devoted much of his time to painting scenes relating to the history of his beloved Town of Pelham.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog pays homage to John M.Shinn and the lovely paintings he created.

On the first Monday of each month, members of the Town Board and members of the public stream into the Town Board Room on the second floor of Town Hall, 34 Fifth Avenue.  As everyone is seated, awaiting the monthly meeting of the Town Board, all eyes are drawn to the many beautiful framed oil paintings that hang on the walls of the room.  Each painting depicts an important aspect of Pelham history.  Each painting was executed by former Town Supervisor John M. Shinn who also served as Pelham Town Historian from 1925 until the end of 1931.

The story of these paintings of historic scenes is nearly as fascinating as the story of the artist who produced them.  This article attempts to detail the story of John Shinn's Historic Pelham paintings.  

How the Paintings Came to Be

John M. Shinn was an avid student of the history of the Town of Pelham.  He served as Town Historian from 1925 until the end of 1931.  In about the late 1920s, as he neared the end of his service as Town Historian, Shinn began creating paintings of scenes related to the history of Pelham.  It appears that, from the outset, Shinn planned to present the paintings as a gift to the Town of Pelham.  

According to one newspaper account, many of the paintings "were done from sketches the artist made many years ago, of Pelham landmarks which have long since disappeared."  It appears, however, that many -- if not most -- of Shinn's paintings were created from photographs of Pelham landmarks that were readily available to Shinn from his own Town Historian files.  Indeed, those photographs may still be found in the files of The Office of the Historian of The Town of Pelham.  

For example, at about the time Shinn created his paintings (or shortly before), a photograph from the Town Historian's files of the old Grenzebach Homestead on Boston Post Road was published in the December 16, 1927 issue of the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun.  The photograph and Shinn's painting of the same scene appear immediately below.



Similarly, Shinn painted the "Old Stone House" that once stood on Hunter's Island.  The collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham include a photograph of that structure taken in 1923 that is remarkably similar to the painting Shinn prepared a few years later.  In addition, the photograph of the structure was published in the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun, on October 15, 1926, shortly before Shinn executed his version.  See the comparison immediately below.



Another example is John M. Shinn's painting of the Prospect Hill Schoolhouse (below) where he once served as an instructor and principal.  There is an undated photograph of the schoolhouse in the files of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.  Once again, the photograph is remarkably similar to Shinn's painting of the same subject.



A fourth example is Shinn's painting of the Kemble House, a home that still stands at 145 Shore Road (below).  Shinn's painting is virtually identical to a photograph in the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham taken in 1923 by William R. Montgomery (who succeeded John M. Shinn as Town Historian).  Clearly this photograph also was used by John M. Shinn as he created his painting.  



A fifth, and, for now, final example is Shinn's painting of the so-called "Pell Treaty Oak" that once stood on the lawn of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.  A Pelham legend, since determined to be apocryphal, said that local Native Americans signed a deed granting Thomas Pell the lands that became the Manor of Pelham under the branches of this mighty oak on June 27, 1654.  By the earliest years of the 20th century, little remained of the mighty oak as it neared its end.  This painting depicts the Pell Treaty Oak at about that time.  




In virtually every instance of the paintings created by John M. Shinn, there is a photograph, an engraving, or a newspaper image in the clippings files of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham from which each such painting evidently was created.  

Regardless of the means John M. Shinn used to acquire the subjects of his paintings, he executed each wonderfully well.  Each depicts an historic scene at a moment in time either in the late 19th century or the early 20th century.   

There is some confusion over precisely how many such paintings Shinn created.  One account says that he painted a "score or more of paintings" of historic scenes in Pelham.  Fifteen such paintings hang on the walls of the second floor of Town Hall today.  Each of the fifteen is pictured below, with the title given them by John M. Shinn quoted and a brief explanation of the significance of each following each image.  

Shinn seems to have painted these works during the late 1920s and the early 1930s.  One newspaper report published in The Pelham Sun on June 13, 1930 indicates that by June 13, 1930, Shinn had completed his first "series" of paintings that he planned to present as a gift to the Town of Pelham.  The completed first series included, according to the account, the following:  (1) Glover's Rock (see below); (2) Split Rock (see below); (3) Reed's [sic] Mill in Eastchester with the background of the woods of Pelham and the salt meadows (whereabouts unknown); (4) the Sound off Travers Island (this may be what Shinn labeled "PELHAM SHORE OF LONG ISLAND SOUND At Back of Old Roosevelt Home" -- see below); (5) the Old Parish House at the corner of First avenue and Sixth street (see below); (6) the Old Stone House on Hunters Island at moonlight (see below); and (7) the old Prospect Hill School in Winter (see below).

The same newspaper report confirms that also in mid-June, 1930, Mr. Shinn was working on an additional second series of paintings:  (1) The Provost [sic] Farm which was once owned by Aaron Burr (see below); (2) The Wolf Homestead (apparently a "crayon drawing," whereabouts unknown); and (3) The Grenzebach Homestead on the Boston Turnpike (see below).

John M. Shinn Donates His Creations to the Town of Pelham, But What Works?


Even though the whereabouts of some of Shinn's paintings of historic scenes in and around Pelham are unknown, that does not mean that any of the paintings he donated to the Town are missing.  It is clear that not all of the paintings he executed were donated to the Town of Pelham.  

Fifteen Shinn paintings hang today on the walls of the second floor of Town Hall.  It turns out that the local newspaper reported at the time that John Shinn donated fifteen of his paintings to the Town.  

There is, however, some confusion.  For example, at least one news report suggests Shinn donated to the Town one work that cannot be located.  It was described in a news report as "a crayon drawing of the Wolf Homestead, a white farmhouse which stood on the site of the present Boston and Westchester Station in North Pelham."  This is not the only confusion, however.  More is described below.

John M. Shinn resigned his position as Pelham Town Historian effective December 31, 1931.  At the time of his resignation, he was 82 years old.

On Friday, January 2, 1932, John M. Shinn and his son-in-law with whom he lived in Mount Vernon, L. Brewster Smith, took fifteen paintings to Town Hall and hung them.  There was no ceremony.  There were no speeches.  There was no gathering.  Shinn and his son-in-law simply hung the paintings as a gift.  There was no fanfare whatsoever.  

A Mount Vernon newspaper reported that the elderly Mr. Shinn said "that for some time he has felt that he has not been earning his pay as Town Historian.  His gift consists of 15 oil paintings of historic places in the Pelhams, executed with care, imagination and genuine beauty."  The report confirmed that "Mr. Shinn has finished nearly all of these paintings in the past few years" and further noted that the paintings "are charming in composition and freshness of color, and there is poetry and feeling in them that makes them the more interesting."

Even upon donating fifteen paintings to the Town, John M. Shinn was not finished.  One newspaper article stated that on the day he and his son-in-law hung the fifteen paintings in Town Hall, Shinn still was working on "finishing a painting of the Bartow Mansion, now the International Garden Club."  

This reference adds to the above-referenced confusion.  The painting of the Bartow-Pell Mansion hangs today on the walls of the Town Board Room.  The same newspaper article suggests that the original fifteen paintings donated by Shinn included a painting of Reid's Mill in Eastchester, the whereabouts now are unknown.  Shinn's subsequent donation of the painting of the Bartow-Pell Mansion presumably would have brought the total number of paintings hung on the walls of the Town Board Room to sixteen (plus the missing "crayon drawing" of the Wolf Homestead).  The whereabouts of the Reid's Mill painting, however, remain unknown.

John M. Shinn's Paintings Go on the Road for Exhibitions

Almost immediately after Shinn's paintings were hung in Town Hall, they attracted widespread attention.  Only months after the paintings were first hung, on Tuesday, May 17, 1932, the paintings were moved to the Manor Club where they were exhibited on "the occasion of the annual luncheon and fiftieth anniversary celebration" of the club.

The following year, 1933, Westchester County celebrated a 250th anniversary.  As part of that celebration, the Westchester County Historical Society sponsored an exhibition on the history of the county at the County Center in White Plains.  Westchester communities, including Pelham, submitted items for display during the exhibition.  Among the many items submitted by Pelham were John Shinn's paintings.  

It is not clear if all or merely some of Shinn's paintings were exhibited during this important exhibition.  News accounts make clear that at least the following paintings were displayed:  (1) the Prospect Hill Schoolhouse; (2) the Bartow-Pell Mansion (indicating that the painting had been completed at least by the time of the news report on November 10, 1933); (3) Split Rock; (4) Glover's Rock; (5) the Treaty Oak; (6) Bolton Priory; (7) the Old Stone House on Hunter's Island; and (8) the Kemble house.

Clearly the Shinn paintings were exhibited elsewhere on other occasions.  Indeed, on April 19, 1935, The Pelham Sun reported that members of the Town Board "were pleased to find on Wednesday that the historical art gallery was on exhibition in the Town Board again."  The report did not indicate, however, where the paintings had been.   

John M. Shinn Dies at the Age of 87

John M. Shinn died on October 15, 1936.  His extensive obituary published in The Pelham Sun noted that after his service as Town Supervisor, "Mr. Shinn returned to his first art, painting, and in his studio on Highland avenue, Pelham Manor, he devoted considerable time to painting a group of historical scenes, which are now on display at the Town Hall."

A photograph of John M. Shinn hangs on the wall of the Town Board room in Town Hall not far from the paintings he left among his legacy.  His photograph appears among those of other Town Supervisors who also served Pelham well.  

An Initial Effort to Catalog The Art of John M. Shinn

John M. Shinn, of course, created works other than the fifteen or sixteen paintings and one crayon drawing that he donated to the Town of Pelham.  Below is an initial effort to list known paintings of John M. Shinn.  The whereabouts of many are not known.  Moreover, it should be noted that the small one-story studio in which Shinn worked for many years that was located behind his home at 921 Highland Avenue burned down on September 12, 1913.  According to a newspaper account of the fire, "the building was destroyed with its contents which consisted of paintings and newspaper records which were valued at about $4,000."  Thus, some likely substantial number of early Shinn paintings clearly were destroyed on that sad occasion.

Here is my initial effort to catalog the art created by John M. Shinn.

"Pelham Road," an oil painting once owned by Mrs. W. F. Greene and exhibited in 1902 (whereabouts unknown)

"Eastchester," exhibited in 1923 (whereabouts unknown)

"City Island," exhibited in 1923 (whereabouts unknown)

"The Comforts of Life," exhibited in 1923 (whereabouts unknown)

"All the Comforts of Home," a large still life in oil depicting a pipe, newspapers, and a flute, exhibited in 1928 (whereabouts unknown)

"Copy of Sir Edwin Landseer's 'The Stable'" in oil, exhibited in 1928 (whereabouts unknown)

"Glover's Rock on Pell's Point - British Landed Near Here Before Start of The Battle of Pelham Along Split Rock Road," oil ca. 1927-1930 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Split Rock Site of the Third Skirmish of the Battle of Pelham," oil ca. 1927-1930 (collections of the Town of Pelham)

"Reed's Mill [sic] in Eastchester with the background of the woods of Pelham and the salt meadows," oil ca. 1927-1930 (whereabouts unknown)

"The Sound off Travers Island" -- NOTE:  This likely is a reference to "Pelham Shore of Long Island Sound -- At Back of Old Roosevelt Home," oil ca. 1927-1930 (collections of Town of Pelham) 

"The Diack -- Parrish House -- The Old Stone House Circa 1852," oil ca. 1927-1930 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Prospect Hill School -- Built in 1835," oil ca. 1927-1930 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"The Prevost Farm," oil ca. 1930-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"The Wolf Homestead," a crayon drawing ca. 1930-1931 (whereabouts unknown)

"The Grenzaback [sic] Homestead -- Now the Site of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church," oil ca. 1930-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Early Pelham Town Hall," oil ca. 1927-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Bolton Priory," oil ca. 1927-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Boy Scout Cabin -- General Howe Tree," oil ca. 1927-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Bridge to City Island -- Once Part of Pelham," oil ca. 1927-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Treaty Oak at Bartow-Pell Mansion -- Where Thomas Pell Met with the Indians," oil ca. 1927-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Old Stone House on Hunter's Island -- Once the Mansion of John Hunter," oil ca. 1927-1931 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"Bartow-Pell Mansion -- Build on Site of First Pell Mansion," oil ca. 1932 (collections of Town of Pelham)

"A stable scene, appealing with its group of friendly old draft horses," exhibited in 1934 (whereabouts unknown)

Images of the Paintings of John M. Shinn in Town of Pelham Collections

Immediately below are images of the various paintings of John M. Shinn in the collections of the Town of Pelham.  Each is followed by a quote from the plaque affixed to the frame of the painting containing Shinn's own title of the painting.  Thereafter I have added information about the subject matter of the work.  



"BARTOW-PELL MANSION
Built on Site of First Pell Mansion
By John M. Shinn"


A newspaper report indicates that John M. Shinn was working on this painting at the time he donated other paintings to the Town of Pelham on January 2, 1932.  The "First Pell Mansion" to which the title of the painting refers is a reference to the home built by John Pell, nephew and principal legatee of Pelham founder Thomas Pell, who is believed to have built a home on or near the site during the 1670s.  For more, see:  Mon., Nov. 03, 2014:  More on the 17th Century Location of the Manor Home of John Pell of the Manor of PelhamTue., Sep. 12, 2006:  Evidence Sheds Light on Location of An Early Home of John Pell, 2d Lord of the Manor of Pelham; Bell, Blake A., The Manor House of John Pell, Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 51, Dec. 24, 2004.


"BOLTON PRIORY
By John M. Shinn"


The Priory built by Rev. Robert Bolton and his family beginning in 1838 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  For more information about The Priory, see the following article and the many articles about the same topic to which it links:  Wed., Mar. 09, 2016:  The Passing of an Era: The Bolton Family Sells The Priory in 1883.


"PELHAM SHORE OF LONG ISLAND SOUND
At Back of Old Roosevelt Home
By John M. Shinn"


This view looks out over what is called by some "Le Roy Bay" and by many Orchard Beach Lagoon.  Hunter's Island may be seen across the water.  These waters were used as the "Boat Basin" during the 1964 Olympic Rowing trials held off the shores of Pelham and Pelham Bay Park.  See Tue., Apr. 19, 2016:  The 1964 Olympic Rowing Trials Off the Shores of Pelham in The Orchard Beach Lagoon.  The "Roosevelt Home" referenced in the title once stood overlooking the waters and Hunter's Island from a small knoll located essentially along today's boundary between Pelham Bay Park and Westchester County.  Near the spot depicted in this painting is the famous boulder carved with the following inscription:  "ISAAC ROOSEVELT 1833."  To learn more about the Roosevelt family in Pelham, see the following article and all the links to related articles on the same topic:  Fri., Oct. 16, 2015:  An Obituary of Charles Henry Roosevelt of Pelham Manor.


"BRIDGE TO CITY ISLAND
Once Part of Pelham
By John M. Shinn"


This painting depicts the "old" City Island Bridge that was first built in 1868 and that was replaced by an iron bridge that opened on July 4, 1901.  (That iron bridge currently is being demolished to be replaced by a soaring new bridge to City Island.)  To learn more about this bridge (and to view a well-known photograph of the old bridge that is nearly identical to this painting by John Shinn), see:  Fri., Mar. 13, 2015:  An Important History of the City Island Bridge Built in 1868 and the Way Brothers' Ferry That Preceded It.  


"BOY SCOUT CABIN
General Howe Tree
By John M. Shinn"


This painting depicts the Pelham Boy Scout cabin from an unusual perspective different from most photographs and images of the structure.  From this view, the massive stone chimney of the cabin is obscured by the so-called "General Howe Tree."  Clearly this view has been chosen to emphasize the famous tree as much as the cabin.  The cabin and tree once were located near the parking lot on the hill that overlooks today's Friendship Field, the Little League baseball field located at the rear of the Glover Field complex.  To learn more about the Pelham Boy Scout cabin and the Lord Howe Chestnut, see the following articles (and all of the links to related articles contained therein):  Fri., Feb. 19, 2016:  The 600-Year Old "Lord Howe Chestnut" Tree that Once Stood in Pelham; Mon., Oct. 31, 2005:  Remnants of Pelham's Boy Scout Cabin Near The Hutchinson River Parkway; Tue., Jul. 19, 2005:  Pelham's Boy Scout Cabin Near The Hutchinson River Parkway.  


"EARLY PELHAM TOWN HALL
By John M. Shinn"


The Town of Pelham decided in 1857 to build its first dedicated Town Hall.  Construction began a year later on today’s Shore Road near today’s Pelham Bit Stables / Bronx Equestrian Center in Pelham Bay Park.  The building was razed in the 1950s by New York City park authorities.  The building was, at times, used as a schoolhouse for Pelham schoolchildren.  To learn more about this early Pelham Town Hall, see:  Thu., Feb. 26, 2015:  The Use of Pelham's Town Hall on Shore Road as a Public Schoolhouse During the 1880s; Wed., Dec. 03, 2014:  Pelham Proposed To Build A Town Hall and Post Office in 1857; Tue., May 11, 2010:  Mystery Solved - Pelham Town Hall That Once Stood On Shore Road Was Used as a School; Mon., Mar. 13, 2006:  Two Photographs of Pelham's Town Hall That Once Stood On Shore Road; Bell, Blake A., Pelham's First Town Hall on Shore Road in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 35, Sept. 3, 2004, p. 8, col. 1.


"OLD STONE HOUSE ON HUNTER'S ISLAND
Once the Mansion of John Hunter
By John M. Shinn"


The history of Hunter's Island, once part of the Town of Pelham, is overshadowed by the towering figure of John Hunter and the mansion he built on the island beginning in about 1812.  Most writings about Hunter's Island focus on John Hunter and his mansion. Far less attention, however, is given to the Old Stone House that once stood on Hunter's Island near Hunter's Mansion. This painting by John M. Shinn depicts The Old Stone House.  A portion of the Old Stone House is believed to have been built long before the construction of Hunter's Mansion and is said to have stood on the island as early as the seventeenth century.  The reference in the title of the painting to "Once the Mansion of John Hunter" is a reference to the fact that John Hunter likely lived in The Old Stone House while his main mansion was being built.  To learn more about The Old Stone House on Hunter's Island, see the following article and the links to many related articles contained therein:  Tue., May 12, 2015:  The Old Stone House That Stood on Hunter's Island Near John Hunter's Mansion


"GLOVER'S ROCK ON PELL'S POINT
British Landed Near Here Before Start of
The Battle of Pelham Along Split Rock Road
By John M. Shinn"
At various times since 1901, the giant boulder known as Glover's Rock that sits next to today's Orchard Beach Road has had a tablet affixed to it indicating that the Battle of Pell's Point (the Battle of Pelham) was fought nearby on October 18, 1776.  Oddly, the Battle was fought nowhere near Glover's Rock.  William Abbatt misidentified the giant boulder as the place where the battle began in his book published in 1901 entitled "The Battle of Pell's Point."  Shortly thereafter, the rock was "named" after John Glover, who led the American patriots in the battle, and an historic plaque providing erroneous information about the battle was affixed to the boulder.  The error arose because in trying to place the progress of the battle, William Abbatt was unaware of the existence of a detailed and highly-accurate map showing the progress of the battle prepared by Charles Blaskowitz in 1776.  Instead, Abbatt relied on a less detailed and certainly less-accurate map prepared by Claude Sauthier.  Though Glover's Rock played no role in the Battle of Pelham, it was for many years believed to be an important historic site and, thus, was the subject of this painting by John M. Shinn.  To learn more about Glover's Rock, see:  Wed., Dec. 17, 2014:  Installation of the First Memorial Tablet on Glover's Rock on October 18, 1901;  Mon., Feb. 28, 2005:  Glover's Rock on Orchard Beach Road Does Not Mark the Site of the Battle of Pelham.



"PELL -- ROOSEVELT -- KEMBLE HOUSE
Oldest House in Pelham -- Built in 1760
By John M. Shinn"

The so-called "Kemble House" still stands at 145 Shore Road in Pelham Manor.  The wing on the left in the painting above is believed to be original and likely was built in about 1750 -- not 1760 -- as the main farmhouse on a 102-acre farm owned by British Loyalist John Pell (not his brother, Joshua Pell, as often is claimed).  Portions of "Pelhamdale," another home located at 45 Iden Avenue, are believed to have been built at about the same time as the Kemble House.  The Kemble House is best known as a place where the first native-born American Saint, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, spent time as a girl with her aunt and uncle, William and Sarah Pell Bayley.  To learn more about the Kemble House, see, e.g.:  Fri., Mar. 04, 2016:  The First Native-Born American Saint, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, Spent Time in Pelham.  




"PROSPECT HILL SCHOOL
Built in 1835
By John M. Shinn"

John Shinn taught at the Prospect Hill School and served as its principal.  Thus, it seems particularly ironic that he used an old photograph of the school building to create this painting.  The Prospect Hill School building still stands, in a sense.  It was incorporated into the home that stands today at 982 Split Rock Road.  The title of Shinn's painting states that the school was "Built in 1835."  That is mistaken.  In 1840, John Hunter deeded a corner of his land near this site to the Town of Pelham for the purpose of allowing the Town to build a school.  In 1866, for reasons now unknown, the Town of Pelham purchased part of lot 51 fro Terrance Malloy and moved the school to that site (which is now 982 Split Rock Road).  To learn more about Prospect Hill School, see:  Mon., Dec. 08, 2014:  Plans in 1879 to Sell the Tiny Prospect Hill Schoolhouse in Pelham and Use the Proceeds for a New Schoolhouse.



"SPLIT ROCK
Site of the Third Skirmish of the Battle of Pelham

By John M. Shinn"


Split Rock has been a Pelham landmark, some say, for as long as there has been a Pelham.  Today, this giant glacial boulder is located in a traffic island created by the Hutchinson River Parkway, the entrance ramp from the Hutchinson River Parkway to the New England Thruway, and the New England Thruway itself.  As its name implies, the giant boulder seems to have been split in half and has a colorful history associated with a variety of local legends and traditions.  Long believed to have been near Anne Hutchinson's home and the place where she and others were killed by Native Americans in 1643, that legend has been disproved.  This painting of Split Rock by John M. Shinn most likely was created from a well-known post card depicting Split Rock that was in circulation in about 1915 and bears a striking resemblance to this view of the boulder.  The title of this painting correctly suggests that a portion of the Battle of Pelham was fought near the boulder on October 18, 1776.  To learn more about Split Rock, see the following articles and the links to additional related articles contained therein:   Mon., Jun. 15, 2015:  Local Historians Saved Pelham's Beloved Split Rock When the Thruway Was Built; Wed., May 21, 2014:  The Story of Split Rock Road, Named After Split Rock, a Massive Glacial Boulder; Mon., Mar. 28, 2005:  Split Rock:  A Pelham Landmark for Centuries; Wed., Oct. 26, 2005: Remnants of the Battlefield on Which the Battle of Pelham Was Fought on October 18, 1776



"TREATY OAK AT BARTOW-PELL MANSION
Where Thomas Pell Met with the Indians
By John M. Shinn"

It was exceedingly difficult to obtain a photograph of John M. Shinn's Treaty Oak painting without reflections of ceiling lights from above.  The painting, like all the others, is in excellent condition.  The white area in the upper part of the painting is actually light reflecting off the painting.  In any event, John M. Shinn painted this view of the Pell Oak from a well-known and widely disseminated photograph.  He notes in his title that this tree was "Where Thomas Pell Met with the Indians" when he acquired the lands that became the Manor of Pelham on June 27, 1654.  That story likely is apocryphal.  I have written an entire book devoted to that topic.  See Bell, Blake A., Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak (Lincoln, NE:  iUniverse, 2004).  There was, of course, no "treaty" since the simple deed Native Americans executed in Pell's favor was not an agreement between sovereign nations.  Indeed, there is strong evidence that the very tree depicted in this painting was not the giant oak that others claimed was the Pell Treaty Oak during the mid-19th century.  That "Treaty Oak" stood close enough to today's Shore Road so that horses could rest in its shade.  Nevertheless, the concept of a "Charter Oak" is a proud legend recounted by communities like Pelham throughout the United States.  


"THE DIACK -- PARRISH HOUSE
The Old Stone House -- Circa 1852
By John M. Shinn"


This painting by John M. Shinn depicts a home that still stands at 463 First Avenue in today's Village of Pelham.  There are many legends and traditions surrounding this home, built in about 1852 by Alexander Diack.  On October 15, 1855, a man named James Parrish purchased the home.  As the story goes, James Parrish had a business in which he employed a truckman named Adams.  Parrish and Adams supposedly began an express business “as a sideline”.  The business did well.  When James Parrish died, his widow, Mrs. Mary Parrish, supposedly received dividend payments from the business paid in gold.  On one occasion intruders robbed her in her home.  Legend has it that she thereafter hid her gold which remains hidden somewhere on the grounds today.  Her ghost is said to wander the home, dressed in a fine gown, either searching for the gold or continuing to protect it.  To learn more about the home, see:  Mon., Jan. 25, 2010:  Another Account of the 1879 Home Invasion Robbery of the Old Stone House in Pelhamville; Wed., Oct. 14, 2009:  1879 News Account Provides Additional Basis for Some Facts Underlying Ghost Story of Old Stone House in Pelhamville; Fri., March 17, 2006:  1854 Advertisement for the Sale of the Old Stone House at 463 First Avenue in Pelham



"THE PREVOST FARM
By John M. Shinn"


Aaron Burr bought a large farm in Pelham with a home known as "The Shrubbery" that he promptly sold to his step-son, Augustine J. F. Prevost.  The property stretched along today's Split Rock Road adjacent to the Boston Turnpike (today's Boston Post Road).  John M. Shinn painted this pastoral view of the area, although it is not clear whether the view was based on any known photograph.  To learn more about Augustine J. F. Prevost, the Prevost Farm, and members of the Prevost family, see the following article and the various related articles linked therein:  Thu., May 21, 2015:  Pelham Manor Romance: A Tale of Aaron Burr and His Love, Theodosia Bartow Prevost of the Manor of Pelham.  


"THE GRENZABACK [sic] HOMESTEAD
Now the Site of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
By John M. Shinn"

The Grenzebach Homestead was originally the farm house of the Grenzebach family who owned a large farm extending from the New Haven Line railroad tracks all the way to today's Boston Post Road.  The farmhouse stood near the Boston Post Road at the corner of today's Fowler Avenue.  At one point, Dr. Edward P. Fowler of New York City bought the land for use as a summer estate. While he owned the land, he allowed the first Pelham Country Club (the predecessor to today's Wykagyl Country Club) to lease large parts of the estate for use as a golf course.  Eventually a portion of the property on which the farmhouse stood was sold to William T. Grant, a Pelham Manor resident who owned the nationwide chain of W. T. Grant's Five and Ten Cent Stores.  Grant built his mansion, since torn down, on the site of the Grenzebach Homestead.  Grant donated the land that is now the site of today's Our Lady of Perpetual Help church.  To learn more about the Grenzebach Homestead, see Tue., Jul. 15, 2014:  Three Important 19th Century Structures That Stood in Pelham; Wed., Aug. 02, 2006:  The 19th Century Grenzebach Homestead in Pelham.  

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"TOWN HISTORIAN FINISHES VOLUME OF TOWN HISTORY
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Records of Officials Indexed, Paintings of Historical Scenes to Be Presented to Town.
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An interesting volume in the History of the Town of Pelham has recently been completed by Town Historian John M. Shinn.  It includes the indexing of the records of the various municipal governing bodies in the town, and the assessment rolls and dockets of the Justice of the Peace.  Copies of this index will be presented to the Town Board, and the State and County historians.  

Mr. Shinn, who is a talented artist, has completed a series of handsome paintings depicting historical settings in the town as he saw them more than thirty years ago.  The pictures include Glover's Rock, Split Rock, Reed's Mill in Eastchester with the background of the woods of Pelham and the salt meadows; the Sound off Travers Island, the Old Parish House at the corner of First avenue and Sixth street; the Old Stone House on Hunters Island at moonlight; the old Prospect Hill School in Winter.

Mr. Shinn is working on the following series:  The Provost [sic] Farm which was once owned by Aaron Burr; The Wolf Homestead; The Gerzeback [sic] Homestead on the Boston Turnpike.

The pictures will be presented to the Town Board to be hung in the board room at Town Hall.

The town historian has also made an interesting scrapbook collection of newspaper items which tell the story of the growth of the town, with particular stress on accounts of school, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, politics, public officials, fire departments and fraternal organization activities during the last year."

Source:  TOWN HISTORIAN FINISHES VOLUME OF TOWN HISTORY -- Records of Officials Indexed, Paintings of Historical Scenes to Be Presented to Town, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 13, 1930, Section 2, p. 1, cols. 7-8.



John M. Shinn.
JOHN SHINN DEAD AT 87, 
The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], 
Oct. 16, 1936, p. 10, col. 4.

"Pelham John M. Shinn, Painter And Historian, Presents Works To Town Of Pelham
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Gives 15 Painting [sic] He Has Made to Hang In Town Hall
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By MARION HEATH RUSSELL
Daily Argus Staff Writer

John M. Shinn, recently resigned Historian of the Town of Pelham, is going over to the Town Hall on Fifth Avenue today to hang some pictures.  His son-in-law, L. Brewster Smith, with whom he makes his home in Mount Vernon, may go along to help.  There is no ceremony planned, no excitement, no presentation speech.  Simply and quietly, as he retires from office, Mr. Shinn is making a gracious gift of exceeding value to the town.

A charming, delightfully witty old gentleman of 82, Mr. Shinn says that for some time he has felt that he has not been earning his pay as Town Historian.  His gift consists of 15 oil paintings of historic places in the Pelhams, executed with care, imagination and genuine beauty.  Mr. Shinn is the artist.

While he is putting up these pictures, it will be Mr. Shinn's duty as retiring Town Historian, to hang a photograph of himself on the wall of the hall in the group of former Supervisors of Pelham.  He was Supervisor of the town for ten years, and previously had been Receiver of Taxes.  These are only two of the honors which have been given to him in the community in which he is so highly esteemed.

Published Newspaper

For many years he has been a member of the Board of Elections, resigning two weeks ago.  He is the present chairman of the Republican County Committee of the Town of Pelham.  At one time he published a Pelham newspaper.

Mr. Shinn retired from the practice of law seven years ago, and was appointed Town Historian of Pelham in 1925.  For years he maintained a law office in the First National Bank Building in Mount Vernon, where he is well known and also an interior decorating and painting establishment in Mount Vernon.  He has kept a legal voting residence on Jackson Avenue, in Pelham Manor, to which village he first came in 1875.  

Along with his law practice, and countless activities in political, fraternal and church circles, Mr. Shinn has found time to devote to painting.  He insists that as an artist he is an amateur, not a finished craftsman, but those who have seen his work will tell you emphatically that this is not so.  The paintings that he is giving to the town today, aside from their historical value, are charming in composition and freshness of color, and there is poetry and feeling in them that makes them the more interesting.  Mr. Shinn has finished nearly all of these paintings in the past few years.

Made From Sketches

Many of them were done from sketches the artist made many years ago, of Pelham landmarks which have long since disappeared.  Old farms, landscapes that have changed, the little old Prospect Hill school house, the Treaty Tree that was blown down in the 1870s [sic], are treated with a fidelity and charm of atmosphere that will bring back to Pelham residents the little towns of many years ago.

Painted Two Views

Two of the finest of these paintings include a view of the cove between Travers Island and Hunter Island, looking toward Hunter Island from the Pelham shore.  The other, a view familiar to residents of the entire county, is one of the original Pell houses, later called the Emmett Cottage, now the residence of Mrs. Richard Kemble.  The attractive old red house standing on a slope above the Shore Road, just over the border line from New Rochelle, is pictured in the snow, the trees and stone wall lightly dusted with snowdrift, serene and quiet as it was when there were no automobiles and very few houses nearby.

Another picture in the collection is a crayon drawing of the Wolf Homestead, a white farmhouse which stood on the site of the present Boston and Westchester Station in North Pelham.  Another is the old Grenzyback [sic] farm, which was on the Boston Post Road, on the hill near the present Pelhamdale Avenue.  The white farmhouse is seen in the snow, overlooking the Turnpike, where travelers paid toll at the gate before going on their way.

A landscape gives a glimpse of the Prevost Farm, once owned by Aaron Burr, down the hill from Split Rock Road on the route travelled by British soldiers on their way to the battle of White Plains.  Another picture shows Split Rock, with a tall tree that has since blown down, and another, Glover's Rock, on City Island, where the Daughters of the Revolution have placed a memorial tablet commemorating the battle of Pell's Neck.  

Picked Historic Subject

There is a view of the Boy Scouts' Cabin in Pelham with the old chestnut tree under which General Howe's men are said to have stopped for luncheon.  Other subjects are the James Parrish House, grey stone with green shutters, which still stands, the oldest house in North Pelham; Reed's Mill, in Eastchester; a view of the Sound from City Island; one of the oldest houses in Pelham by moonlight -- a low stone building once a dwelling-house, then a carriage house, now a gardener's cottage, out on Hunter Island.  

Mr. Shinn has pictured the Treaty Tree, where in 1654 the Indians ceded the lands to Thomas Pell.  Mr. Shinn saw the tree before it was blown down and has painted it as it was in the 1870s.  He is finishing a painting of the Bartow Mansion, now the International Garden Club, on which property, on the Shore Road, the tree stood.

One of the most charming pictures in the collection is the little Prospect Hill schoolhouse where Mr. Shinn taught for several years.  A one-room building, built in 1835 on a hill near Split Rock Road, it was for a time the only schoolhouse in the community outside the one on City Island, which, like New Rochelle before its purchase by the Huguenots was a part of Pelham.  Many Pelham and Mount Vernon residents were among Mr. Shinn's pupils in this little schoolhouse, including several who are grandparents of school-children today.  

There are a few more paintings to be finished.  Mr. Shinn has made a gift that few historians are capable of giving to their towns, in pictures that will serve as a lasting link between the old Pelham and the new."

Source:  John M. Shinn, Painter And Historian, Presents Works To Town Of Pelham, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 2, 1932, p. , cols. 3-5. 

"Relics Of Old Pelham Are Displayed At Historical Exhibit At White Plains
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Original Grant From British Sovereigns to John Pell For Vast Tract of Land in New World Among Interesting Relics on Exhibit At County Center.
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The Westchester County Historical Society is sponsoring an interesting Historical Exhibition at the County Center in White Plains in observance of the 250 anniversary of Westchester County.

A comprehensive collection of historical relics depicting life in the county and recalling its rich historical past have been gathered together to form a most interesting display.

Mrs. Charles Mills Russell of Pelham Manor has acted as chairman for Pelham's participation in the exhibition which closes on Sunday, Nov. 12th.

The Town of Pelham has loaned for the exhibition a collection of paintings relating to Pelham's history executed by John M. Shinn, one time historian of the town of Pelham.  

Mr. Shinn's paintings include the Original Prospect Hill Schoolhouse as it appeared in 1880.  The last two teachers for this school, it is interesting to note, were the late Isaac C. Hill and Mr. Shinn, himself.  Mr. Shinn also has a painting of the beautiful Bartow House now the International Garden Club headquarters on the Shore road.  The Bartow House stands on the original Pell Mansion land.  There is also a painting of historic Split Rock, the site of the second battle of Pelham [sic] and one of Glover's Rock [sic] on Pell's Neck, near City Island, so-called for Col. Glover who commanded the colonial troops at the battle of Pelham on Oct. 18th 1776.

Mr. Shinn's collection also includes a painting of 'Treaty Oak' where the Siwanoy Indians sold a vast tract of land to Thomas Pell; a painting of Bolton Priory as it appeared in 1866 and the Old Stone House on Hunter Island, by moonlight.  This latter house is claimed by some to be the oldest in the county.  There is also a painting of the Kemble house on the Shore road, once the residence of Joseph Pell [sic].

John M. Shinn also loaned to the exhibition a piece of Charter Oak, under which the treaty was signed by the Siwanoy Indians conferring the township of Pelham and other lands to Thomas Pell of Fairfield, Conn.

Mrs. George W. Lawrence of Pelham Manor loaned a pair of handsome colonial brass andirons and Mr. Ned Burns of Pelham Manor, assistant director of the Museum of the City of New York has contributed an interesting Diorama showing Eastern Woodland Indians preparing a soap stone cooking pot.  There are also several photographs of other Dioramas made by Mr. Burns and on view in the Museum of the City of New York.  

One of the outstanding exhibits of the collection was the reproduction of a kitchen from Hammond House on the Valhalla-Tarrytown Road.  Hammond House is of the pre-Revolutionary period and is owned by the Westchester County Historical Society.

Another interesting piece was a communion chalice and patch presented to Saint Peter's Church in Eastchester by Queen Anne.  There is a piece of silver wrought by Paul Revere and the handsome wedding silver of Cyrus Field; dueling pistols of Alexander Hamilton and John Jay and also John Jay's celestial globe.  For pure historical interest perhaps, there is no more striking object in the exhibit than the original land grant from William and Mary, British sovereigns, to John Pell for a vast tract of land in the new world.

For contrast the exhibition includes several modern industrial exhibitions, the development of transportation alone contributed an interesting feature."

Source: Relics Of Old Pelham Are Displayed At Historical Exhibit At White Plains, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 10, 1933, p. 3, cols. 6-8.  

"J. M. SHINN'S PICTURES ON VIEW AT CLUB
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A group of oil paintings, the work of John M. Shinn, former town historian, depicting the early history of the Pelhams, will be on view at the Manor Club on Tuesday, the occasion of the annual luncheon and fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Manor Club."

Source:  J. M. SHINN'S PICTURES ON VIEW AT CLUB, The Pelham Sun, May 20, 1932, p. 5, col. 3.

"Not in Distress.

Members of the Town Board were pleased to find on Wednesday that the historical art gallery was on exhibition in the Town Board again.  The paintings, the work of former Supervisor and Town Historian John M. Shinn show some interesting points of historical interest in the town.  However, they were not so pleased to find that the American Flag hanging over the doorway was in reversed position.  Dr. J. P. Ruyl, who visited the meeting was all for taking down the 'Code of Flag Etiquette,' on display on the bulletin board outside of the Town Hall and presenting it to the town fathers."

Source:  Not in Distress, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1935, p. 2, col. 3.  

Pelhamgrams
From Dan Dillon

*     *     *    

There is a lot of Pelham history right on the walls of the Town Board meeting room, if the citizenry wants to spare the time to appreciate it.  John M. Shinn, up in his eighties somewhere, but the spryest octogenarian we know of, will be praised by future generations for his gift of paintings.  

The one showing Split Rock Road in the old days, another of the old City Island bridge, another of the Straehle home, and all of the score or more of paintings and drawings hold a worth-while story." 

Source:  Dillon, Dan, Pelhamgrams, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 29, 1934, p. 19, cols. 2-3.


"JOHN M. SHINN OBSERVED 86TH BIRTHDAY, OCT. 25

John M. Shinn, former [Pelham] Supervisor and Town Historian, observed his 86th birthday on Oct. 25th, at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. L. Brewster Smith, of No. 259 East Fourth street, Mount Vernon, on October 25th.  Mr. Shinn in spite of his age, is exceedingly active.  He came to Pelham to teach in the Old Prospect Hill school in 1874.  He later became superintendent of schools and was elected Town Supervisor in 1895, an office which he held until 1905.  For several years he published a weekly newspaper in Pelham.  

He was appointed Town Historian in 1925, and continued in that office until 1932.  He is an accomplished artist, and while he was historian he painted several landscapes showing old scenes in the Town of Pelham.  These have been hung in the board room at the Town Hall."

Source:  JOHN M. SHINN OBSERVED 86TH BIRTHDAY, OCT. 25, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 8, 1935, p. 5, col. 3. 

"FORMER SUPERVISOR JOHN M. SHINN DEAD
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Educator, Editor, Artis, and Historian, 87; Was Active In Growth of Town
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Principal of 'Little Red Schoolhouse' Became Chairman of County Board of Supervisors; Town Will Pay Tribute at Funeral Service at Huguenot Church on Sunday.
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John M. Shinn, 87, former Supervisor and Town Historian, died yesterday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. L. Brewster Smith, of No. 259 East Fourth street after an illness of several hours.  Death was caused by heart failure.  Mr. Shinn was stricken with a heart attack on Wednesday night and slowly relapsed until the end came at 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon.  His son J. M. Clayton Shinn was also at his bedside when the end came.

Mr. Shinn had been a resident of Pelham since 1876 and his life was closely tied up with the growth of the town.  His energetic interest in local affairs continued until his last days when although making his home in Mount Vernon he spent most of his time in Pelham and his presence was felt in the many activities in which he was interested.  On Oct. 5 he was honored as the only living charter member of the Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor and he took an active part in the program in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the church.  

The Rev. Lewis Gaston Leary, former pastor of the church, who was the speaker, said this in tribute to Mr. Shinn and Mr. Alfred L. Hammett, who has been [a] member of the church for 54 years:

'Their brows are unfurrowed by the cares and strife of life, because they have lived with Him for whom we built this church.'

Mr. Shinn was born Oct. 25, 1849, in Dubuque, Iowa, the son of Asa and Azariah Morgan Shinn.  He was educated in the public school at Waterloo, Ia., and at the high school at Hannibal, Mo., where he was familiar with the scenes made immortal in the stories of Mark Twain.  His artistic traits developed early and he studied art in the Polytechnic Institute of St. Louis.  He studied for two years in the life class of Cooper Institute in New York and Antique Art at Academy of Design.

In 1876 he married Isabel King and settled in Pelham Manor.  His artistic and cultural accomplishments [prompted] the local citizens to offer him the post of principal of the little red schoolhouse on Prospect Hill.  He taught in the school for five years, and then accepted a position in the Census Bureau at Washington.  At the end of a year he resigned and turned to Pelham Manor.  

While he was teaching school he 

(Continued from Page One.) [sic]

Former Supervisor John M. Shinn, Died
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(Continued on Page Four.)

studied law at the New York Law school and was admitted to the bar.  He started practice at Mount Vernon.

His personality made him a popular figure in Pelham, and in 1894 the Republicans urged that the 'schoolmaster' accept the nomination for the office of Supervisor.  He conducted a campaign and was elected, continuing in office until 1904.  

In White Plains he was a fearless legislator and was instrumental in enacting much progressive legislation.  He was chairman of the equalization committee of the board of supervisors and in 1902 became chairman of the board, a post he held until he retired in 1904.  

In 1908 he became editor and publisher of the Republican Record, and he published a brilliant little weekly newspaper.  It was purchased by The Pelham Sun Publishing Co. in 1919.

Mr. Shinn returned to his first art, painting, and in his studio on Highland avenue, Pelham Manor, he devoted considerable time to painting a group of historical scenes, which are now on display at the Town Hall.  

In 1925 when the late Mrs. James F. Secor retired as town historian, Mr. Shinn, who was recognized as the local authority on Pelham history, was prevailed on to accept the appointment.  He was invited to be the chairman of the committee for the first Memorial Day program in Pelham in 1926.

His was the inspiration for the Sesquicentennial celebration of the Battle of Pell's Point and the pageant which was staged for this observance on Oct. 16, 1926.  The program depicted picturesque incidents in Pelham's history, and attracted thousands of spectators.  

He retired as town historian in 1931, when he took up his residence with his daughter in Mount Vernon.  

Mr. Shinn was a member of Winyah Lodge No. 866 F. & A. M., and served as treasurer of the lodge for several years.  He was recently elected treasurer of the lodge for several years.  He was recently elected treasurer emeritus.  He was deeply interested in Masonic work.  

Surviving are two daughters, Mrs. L. Brewster Smith and Miss Grace A. Shinn of Mount Vernon and his son, Clayton M. Shinn who lives in New Rochelle.

Funeral services will be held at the Huguenot Memorial Church on Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock.  Masonic services will be conducted by Winyah Lodge.  Interment will be private."

Source:  FORMER SUPERVISOR JOHN M. SHINN DEAD, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 16, 1936, Vol. 27, No. 28, p. 1, cols. 7-8 & p. 4, cols. 5-6.  

"JOHN SHINN DEAD AT 87
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Artist - Lawyer, Former Official of Pelham, Passes in City
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A heart attack yesterday brought to a sudden close the life of John M. Shinn, former supervisor of Pelham, a post he held for 15 years.  He was eighty-seven.

Stricken in the morning at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Leslie Brewster Smith, of 259 East Fourth Street, this city, he died at about 5:30 P.M.

Funeral services will be held in Huguenot Memorial Church, Pelham Manor, at 3 P. M. Sunday.  

Mr. Shinn was born in Dubuque, Iowa.  He received elementary education at Waterloo, Iowa, and secondary learning at Hannibal, Mo.  The desire to be an artist drove him into St. Louis in 1872, where he attended the School of Fine Arts of the Polytechnic Institute and the American Academy of Design, both in New York City.

Turned to Law

His artistic education ended with his enrollment in New York Law School.  He was admitted to the bar and opened an office in this city.  

In 1876 he married Isabell King and settled in Pelham Manor.  There he filled the position of principal of public schools for five years, after which he accepted a position at Washington, D.C. tabulating statistics of the Roman Catholic Churches for the eighth census.  At the end of a year he resigned and returned to Pelham Manor.  

There began his career as an active member of the Republican Party.  He served, successively, terms as Pelham Receiver of Taxes, Supervisor, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Supervisors for two terms, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, delegate-at-large and Chairman of the Equalization Committee for Westchester County.  He was considered an expert on assessment equalization.  

Also Town Historian

At the same time he held the posts of editor of the Pelham Republican-Record, and town historian of Pelham.  

As historian, he wrote a full account of the history of Pelham, which as reprinted in the Daily Argus.

Mr. Shinn was a member of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church, the Manor Club and was a member of the Men's Club of Pelham and Winyah Lodge 866, Free and Accepted Masons.  He served as treasurer of the lodge for several years and recently was elected treasurer emeritus.

Surviving Mr. Shinn are two daughters, Mrs. Smith of Mount Vernon, and Grace A. Shinn of New York City, and a son, J. M. Clayton Shinn of New Rochelle."

Source: JOHN SHINN DEAD AT 87, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 16, 1936, p. 10, col. 4. 

"JOHN M. SHINN QUITS TOWN POSTS AFTER MANY YEARS
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Town Historian Tends [sic] Resignation to Supervisor; Relinquishes Election Post Also.
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Town historian John M. Shinn will retire on Dec. 31, after serving the town in several capacities since 1894.  For many years prior to that time Mr. Shinn taught school in the old Prospect Hill Schoolhouse.  

Mr. Shinn's resignation as historian and a member of the Board of Election Inspectors was received by the town board Wednesday.  He relinquished his latter capacity because of 'indignities' which he claims he suffered at the polls in the Sixth Election District on election day Nov. 3.  Mr. Shinn and members of his family were the only voters who were challenged.  The challenges were made because the Shinn family now reside in Mount Vernon, although a legal voting address is maintained at a residence on Jackson avenue which is owned by the historian.  Although he has voted from this address for several years this was the first time his vote was challenged.

Mr. Shinn became tax collector of the town in 1894.  He served as Supervisor from 1895 to 1905, two years of which time he acted as chairman of the Board of Supervisors.  He has been an election inspector since 1905.  He was appointed Town Historian in 1925.  He is 83 years old and at one time published a Pelham newspaper."

Source  JOHN M. SHINN QUITS TOWN POSTS AFTER MANY YEARS, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 18, 1931, Vol. 22, No. 39, p. 1, col. 5.  

"ART EXHIBITION AT THE FAIR.
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At the hospital fair held nine years ago one of the attractions was an art gallery, where were hung many valuable paintings loaned by citizens of Mount Vernon, and the upper rooms in the hospital building where these pictures were hung were crowded all the time with lovers of good pictures.  

At the fair to be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week at Turn Verein hall, one of the most attractive booths will be the art department in charge of Mrs. W. F. Greene, who has a very fine collection of pictures and fine statuary.

The collection of pictures include one in water color by Henry Ihlefeld, 'Too Many,' 'The Birches at Seton Falls,' in water color, by Edward Gay; 'Rocks at Kennebrink, Maine,' water color, by Will S. Budsworth; two landscapes, water color, by John H. Young; an oil painting 'Howd'y,' by Arthur E. Blackmore; 'Huguenot Lake,' in oil by H. A. Vincent; 'View on Lake George;' an oil painting by Constant Tillier; 'The Bronx,' and 'Sheep,' two paintings in oil by Louis Rondell; 'Pelham Road,' an oil painting, by John M. Shinn, of Pelham; a tapestry pillow painted in fancy heads by Mrs. Sarah Taylor; a charcoal sketch by Miss Mary Ponton; three plaques, 'Strawberries,' 'Clover,' and 'Daisies,' by Mrs. Edward F. Brush; two pictures in oil, 'Landscape,' and 'On the Lake,' by W. Fisher; a water color, 'Twilight,' by Mrs. Edward Barrett; two water colors, 'In the Adirondacks,' and 'Canoeing,' by Edward Tilton; 'Chrysanthemums,' in oil by Mrs. Klinefelter; and two little water colors, 'Violets,' and 'Sweet Peas,' by Miss M. L. Jenkings.

These pictures and many others are at the home of the chairman, Mrs. W. F. Greene, 25 S. First avenue, where they will be on view this afternoon and evening until ten o'clock, and a cordial invitation is extended to all picture lover[s] to come and see them."

Source:  ART EXHIBITION AT THE FAIR, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 10, 1902, p. 4, col. 1.

"Fifty Pelham Artists Exhibited at Manor Club Art Exposition
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Paintings, Etchings, Sculpture, Rugs, Models, Wrought Iron Work, Fancy Rugs and Bags All Combined to Make a Charming Exhibition Which Attracted Large Crowd
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The Art Section of the Manor Club which gave notice of an exhibit by thirty Pelham artists on March 24th was surprised and delighted when the day arrived to find that they had no less than fifty-six exhibitors.  They were also extremely gratified to welcome several hundred of their neighbors and friends who thronged the assembly room of the Manor Club so that it was difficult to see the work of the artists who had so kindly sent it to be exhibited.  It is evident that there is in this community a strong love for art and a sincere appreciation of our artists.

The exhibition was extremely interesting and it contained examples of the work of men and women of the very first rank.  It is to be hoped that the Manor Club will continue to give our artists the opportunity to exhibit their work and our neighbors the very great privilege of seeing it and of meeting some of them personally.

Appended is a list of the exhibitors and their contribution to this exhibit:

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12.  John M. Shinn, Three oil paintings, still life.  Eastchester.  City Island.  'The Comforts of Life.' . . . "

Source:  Fifty Pelham Artists Exhibited at Manor Club Art Exposition, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 30, 1923, p. 4, cols. 1-2.  

"JOHN M. SHINN'S STUDIO IS DESTROYED BY FIRE
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Pelham Manor, Sept. 12, -- A fire was discovered at 12:59 this morning in the building in the rear of Former Supervisor John M. Shinn's residence, 921 Highland avenue by the Pelham Manor police and an alarm was sent in to the local company.  New Rochelle was notified.  Alarm 97 was sounded in that city, calling several companies to the Manor.

The fire was in the one-story frame structure used as a studio by Mr. Shinn.  It is also the office of the newspaper which was recently purchased by Mr. Shinn.  Mr. Shinn and Police Chief Marks were the last persons in the building.  They left at about 10:30 o'clock.  The chief and Mr. Shinn walked about the Manor until shortly before midnight, when the latter returned to his residence and retired.  

He was aroused by a policeman who told him of the fire.  The flames were at that time making progress and when the firemen arrived the building was destroyed with its contents which consisted of paintings and newspaper records which were valued at about $4,000.  The building and property was [sic] partly covered by insurance.  The origin of the fire is not known, but it was stated today that there was a kerosene lamp in the place which Mr. Shinn was using, pending the installation of electric lights, but Mr. Shinn claims that when he left the building he extinguished the lamp."

Source:  JOHN M. SHINN'S STUDIO IS DESTROYED BY FIRE, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 12, 1913, No. 7,247, p. 1, col. 6.

"LOCAL ARTISTS' WORK SHOWN
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Exhibition Being Held Until April 1 In Metropolis
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There are five Mount Vernon artists exhibiting at the Waldorf in the Society of Independent Artists' Exhibition.

Mrs. Emily K. Baker Dale is showing two autumn landscapes with oak trees and a pointed barn.

Joseph Meierhans is showing two oils done in the new style, one called 'Ocean and Islands,' and the other 'Houses on a Hill.'

Nemiah Mark, who also uses the modern style, is showing a colorful decorative panel.

Miss Edith Musgrave is showing two oils, a nocturne, 'Central Park,' and a view up the Hudson with head of boy and dog.

John M. Shinn is showing two oils, a large still-life called 'All the comforts of Home,' in which a pipe, newspapers, and a flute are displayed, and a copy of Sir Edwin Landseer's 'The Stable.'

The exhibition will continue until April 1st, day and evening."

Source:   LOCAL ARTISTS' WORK SHOWN, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 22, 1928, p. 10, col. 4.  

"Art Exhibit Staged In Pelham Shows Great Talent And Variety
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Manor Club Becomes Art Center for Local Men, Women; More Than 100 Pieces Shown and 45 Artists Are Represented, All Town Residents
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Pelham laid claim to fame in a new field yesterday afternoon.  It stood forth impressively as an art center when 45 artists, all residents of the town, exhibited their work at an Artists' Tea held at the Manor Club.  The Art and Civic Sections and a Town-wide Committee of women, which has been raising funds for the CWA project for murals in Pelham schools, sponsored the exhibit and tea.

The more than 100 exhibits , which lined the walls of the sun room, the lounge and the library of the club, included mural sketches, landscapes, portraits, flower paintings, pen and ink sketches, miniatures, sculpture, craft work in silver and copper, maps, caricatures done in wire, masks, a ship model and architectural drawings. . . . 

John M. Shinn, who has recorded on canvas many of Pelham's old landmarks, has a stable scene, appealing with its group of friendly old draft horses."

Source:  Art Exhibit Staged In Pelham Shows Great Talent And Variety, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 19, 1934, p. 10, cols. 4-5.  

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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