Attack on Son of Chester Park Founder William T. Standen in 1894
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."
In 1891, William T. Standen, an actuary with the United States Life Insurance Company, and his wife, Elizabeth G. Standen, owned much of the land we know today as Chester Park in the Village of Pelham. At the time, the land was located just north of an unincorporated section of the Town of Pelham known as Pelhamville.
Though Standen worked in the headquarters of United States Life Insurance Company located at 261 Broadway in New York City, he and his wife had a residence on the lands they owned in the Town of Pelham. They called their residence "The Homestead."
The Homestead was located near the extreme northern end of today's Chester Park. By May of 1891, the Standens had decided to subdivide their land and develop it as “Chester Park”. In May and June of that year, the lands were surveyed for the purpose of creating a subdivision map for development purposes.
that Condition to the Town of Pelham.
There was an odd and sad incident in the early history of Chester Park in the Town of Pelhm in 1894. It involved 16-year-old George Standen, a son of the founders of Chester Park, William T. Standen and his wife, Elizabeth. The incident sheds light on the rough, risky, and rural nature of the area shortly after the founding of Chester Park.
Within view of The Homestead was a large, undeveloped, and cultivated field where the family grew fruits and berries. The detail from a map published in 1899 immediately below shows the location of The Homestead and the field.
On the afternoon of Thursday, August 9, 1894, Elizabeth Standen was seated on the veranda of The Homestead in view of the field where she grew berries and other fruits. She noticed a man carrying a pail walk into her field and begin to pick her berries. While Mrs. Standen did not stop the children of Pelhamville from entering the field and eating her berries, she was unhappy with a strange man harvesting her berries without her permission.
Elizabeth Standen shouted to her sixteen-year-old son, George, to go to the field and ask the man to stop picking her berries. George was in the house with one of his young companions named Jimmy. George and Jimmy walked toward the field to ask the man to leave.
As the pair neared the man, Jimmy recognized the intruder as Vincent Barker and warned George Standen "You'd better not say anything to him or he'll half kill you. Nobody das'n't say anything to the Barkers here."
Vincent Barker was a long-time, early resident of the little settlement of Pelhamville. At various times he served as a high-ranking official of the local Fire Department. Apparently, however, he and members of his family were known as difficult and intimidating people.
While his friend, Jimmy, stayed back, sixteen-year-old George Standen approached the man and asked him to stop picking the berries, saying: "This is our field, and my mother sent me here to ask you not to pick our berries. We need them all ourselves."
Without saying a word, Vincent Barker turned and smashed young George in the face with his fist. George fell to the ground "like a log," his jaw badly smashed and dislocated. Barker grabbed a heavy stick from the ground, stood over the injured boy and cursed and threatened him. Little Jimmy took off running for his life. Barker noticed him and threw the stick at Jimmy, then began chasing him. Jimmy was too fast and escaped.
Barker returned to George Standen who had struggled to his feet and was holding his face while moaning and stumbling toward his house. Barker trailed the injured boy, cursing and threatening him, "threatening him with worse if he ever interfered with any of the Barker family again." Finally, Barker stormed off, "leaving the boy to get home as best he could."
Elizabeth Standen had seen the attack and rushed to her son, helping into the house and summoning a doctor. The physician said the blow could have killed the boy. Elizabeth summoned her husband, an actuary in New York City. William T. Standen swore out a criminal complaint and lodged it with nearby Eastchester authorities who issued a warrant for Barker's arrest. Standen further announced he would file a civil suit against Barker.
Neighbors warned William Standen that if he pursued the matter, Vincent Barker would seek revenge. Standen was not afraid. He said: "I will take chances with the Barkers, . . . and if I meet Vincent Barker I won't be the one to get out of the way. They have terrorized respectable people long enough, and while I am not a fighting man, I don't propose to be terrorized or intimidated."
Diligent research so far has not revealed how the story ended. No record yet has been found of the criminal proceeding, the civil lawsuit (if it was filed), or any further developments.
* * * * *
Below is the text of the article on which today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog is based. It is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"VINCENT BARKER'S BLOW.
HE NEARLY KILLS THE SON OF ACTUARY STANDEN.
The Lad Was Assaulted for Remonstrating with Barker for Picking His Father's Berries -- A Warrant Out for Barker.
A common complaint made by the residents in the vicinity of New Rochelle is that there is insufficient protection afforded to them in their property rights. A certain class of residents that have lived there a long time have come to regard themselves as privileged to trespass and even to steal, and any attempt to convince them to the contrary is likely to result in physical harm to the would-be convincers. In Pelhamville, near New Rochelle, there has been a great deal of trouble lately.
Now the village has become aroused over an alleged assault by Vincent Barker on a son of William T. Standen, the actuary of the United States Life Insurance Company, and it is probable that the matter will end disastrously for Barker, as nearly all the other residents of the place are backing up Mr. Standen in his efforts to bring the assailant to account.
That part of Pelhamville known as Chester Pakr is owned by Mr. Standen, whose house is near its edge. Within view of the house is a large cultivated field belonging to Mrs. Standen, in which grow fruits and berries. So popular is this with the children of the village that the owners have been able to get very little fruit from it for their own use.
On Thursday afternoon, as Mrs. Standen was sitting on the veranda, she saw a man with a large tin pail go down the road and turn in at the field where the berries were. While Mrs. Standen does not grudge the children of the village any fruit they may want to pick and eat, she does draw the line at having people go to her property with pails which they intend to fill from her berry patch. Calling her 16-year-old son George she said to him:
'Some strange man has just gone into our berry patch with a pail, George. I wish you would go down and tell hi we want those berries for ourselves.'
George set out for the field, and with him went an 11-year-old boy called Jimmy. The Standens do not know his last name. The two boys on nearing the field recognized the man as Vincent Barker, and Jimmy said to his companion:
'You'd better not say anything to him or he'll half kill you. Nobody das'n't say anything to the Barkers here.'
'Well, he's got no right in our field,' said young Standen, sturdily. 'I'll ask him to go out, any way, and if he won't go then we'll go back.'
While Jimmy kept at a respectful distance, George walked up to the man who was picking berries and said:
'This is our field, and my mother sent me here to ask you not to pick our berries. We need them all ourselves.'
Without saying a word Barker, it is said, turned on the boy and hit him a terrific blow in the face with his fist. Then he seized a heavy stick from the ground and stood over the boy, who had fallen like a log, cursing and threatening him. Young Standen lay quiet where he had fallen, stunned by the blow. The other boy, with an exclamation of fright, started to run, and thus attracted the attention of Barker, who hurled the stick at him and started in pursuit. But Jimmy was too swift for the man, who soon gave up the chase and returned to his victim.
By this time Standen had recovered sufficiently to get to his feet, and with his hands to his face, moaning with pain, was staggering toward the house. Barker followed him for a distance, threatening him with worse if he ever interfered with any of the Barker family again. Finally he went away, leaving the boy to get home as best he could. Mrs. Standen, who had seen part of the occurrence, had run to meet her son, and took him into the house. She was greatly alarmed, and sent immediately for a physician, who, after an examination, found that the boy's jaw had been dislocated by Barker's blow. The physician said that the blow must have been a terrible one, and might have resulted in death had it landed a few inches away, on the temple. Mr. Standen was sent for, and, on learning from Jimmy, his son's companion, of what had taken place, he sent to East Chester and swore out a warrant for Barker. When the details of the assault became known in the village a great many people called on Mr. Standen and urged him to push the case, all having some story to tell of the reign of terror established by the Barkers. They warned Mr. Standen, however, that he was likely to be assaulted at any time by the Barkers. Mr. Standen is built like a man who is able to take care of himself.
'I will take chances with the Barkers,' he told his neighbors, 'and if I meet Vincent Barker I won't be the one to get out of the way. They have terrorized respectable people long enough, and while I am not a fighting man, I don't propose to be terrorized or intimidated.'
He will bring a civil suit, as well as criminal action, against his son's assailant. Young Standen is still suffering greatly, and cannot speak or eat any solid food. Up to yesterday noon, Barker had not been found."
Source: VINCENT BARKER'S BLOW -- HE NEARLY KILLS THE SON OF ACTUARY STANDEN -- The Lad Was Assaulted for Remonstrating with Barker for Picking His Father's Berries -- A Warrant Out for Barker, The Sun [NY, NY], Aug. 11, 1894, p. 8, col. 3 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link.).
* * * * *
I have written about the history of Chester Park on numerous occasions. For more, see:
Bell, Blake A., History of Chester Park in the Village of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 46, Nov. 19, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.
Tue., Mar. 22, 2016: Auction of Chester Park Lands in Pelhamville in 1892.
Thu., Jul. 23, 2015: The Home at 45 Maple in Chester Park Built to Serve as a Church.
Tue., Mar. 24, 2015: An Early Description of Efforts to Open Chester Park Published in 1891.
Wed., Jul. 16, 2014: Final Auction of Remaining Lands of the Pelhamville Land and Homestead Association in 1898.
Thu., Jun. 01, 2006: Early Photographs of Chester Park Among Materials Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.
Fri., Jun. 2, 2006: Several of the Early Photographs of Chester Park Recently Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.
Mon., Jun. 5, 2006: More Early Photographs of Chester Park Recently Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.
Tue., Jun. 6, 2006: More Early Photographs of Chester Park Recently Donated to The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.
Mon., Jun. 19, 2006: Court Decision Issued in 1894 Sheds Light on Finances Behind the Development of Chester Park in the Early 1890s.