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.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Efforts to Divide the Town of Pelham Into Two Towns Began as Early as 1856

During the mid-19th century, the Town of Pelham was splt politically.  Interestingly, it was not split on party lines but on geographic lines:  the islanders versus the mainlanders. 

The principal population of the Town at that time lived on City Island.  The population on the mainland, however, was growing.  The mainlanders began to chafe at the refusal of City Islanders to vote in favor of authorizing funds to improve roads and infrastructure on the mainland. 

As I have written before, in 1859, many of the most illustrious mainland residents filed an application with the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County to splt the Town of Pelham into two towns.  By that time, the proposal was to create a first town consisting of City Island, Hart Island, and High Island (and their "appurtenances") and a second town consisting of the mainland, Hunter's Island, the Twins (and their "appurtenances").  The 1859 application was made by members of the Marshall, Morris, Bartow, Grenzebach, Coudert, Roosevelt, Hunter, Schuyler, and Secor Families, among others.  On September 23, 1859, the group published notice of the application in the Eastern State Journal published in White Plains, New York.  See Mon., Mar. 09, 2015:  The Feud Between Mainlanders And City Islanders in the Town of Pelham Turned Ugly in 1859.  

Further research has revealed that the ultimately unsuccessful initiative to divide the town and create two towns began at least as early as 1856.  That year, Pelham mainlanders published a host of legal notices in their efforts to divide Pelham into a "mainland" town and a "City Island" town.  One of many examples of the notice may be seen below.  It is followed by a transcription of its text, a citation and a link to its source.   

It appears that in 1856, the mainlanders intended High Island and Hart Island to remain with the mainland half of the town, with only City Island forming the new "Town of City Island."  By 1859, that had changed.  In 1859, published notices indicate that High Island and Hart Island were intended to remain with City Island as part of the new "Town of City Island."

Legal Notice Published in 1856 of Request by Pelham
Mainlanders to Divide the Town Into a Mainland Town
(with a Few Islands) and a Second Town Encompassing
[Legal Notice], Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Nov.
7, 1856, Vol. XII, No. 26, p. 3, col. 2.  NOTE:  Click on Link to

"NOTICE OF APPLICATION TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF WESTCHESTER COUNTY.  --  Notice is hereby given, that the undersigned freeholders of the town of Pelham, in said County, will apply to the Board of Supervisors of said County, at the next annual session thereof to be held at the Court House, at White Plains, on the twelfth day of November next, for a division of said town of Pelham into two towns, by the following division, namely:  That so much of said town of Pelham as lies on the main land, with its present boundaries, except on the 'Sound' side, and the islands known as Hunter's, The Twins, Hart, and High Island, and each of their appurtenances, retain the name of Pelham:  the boundary on the 'Sound' side being a line equi-distant between the main land, High Island, Hunter's Island, The Twins, and Hart Island on the one side, and City Island on the other side.

And that so much of said Town of Pelham as is comprised of said town of Pelham as is comprised in City Island and its appurtenances, shall be known as the town of CITY ISLAND -- Thus dividing the town of Pelham as at present known, into two separate towns.  -- Pelham, September 9th, 1856.

William B. Penfield,
John Muller,
John Scully,
Edward A. Patterson,
Anthony Talford,
Nathaniel Hudgson,
Joseph Walsh,
James Parrish,
Adam Underhill,
Michael O. Easley,
James Durty,
Lewis Speidle,
Frederick Case,
Ph:  Schuyler,
John Case,
E. J. Roosevelt, 
John Bolton,
Isaac Roosevelt,
C. W. Bolton,
E. D. Hunter,
James Hinman,
F. Secor,
D. M. Davenport,
William Davison,
Peter C. Roosevelt,
James Tindle."

Source:  NOTICE OF APPLICATION TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF WESTCHESTER COUNTY [Legal Notice], Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Nov. 7, 1856, Vol. XII, No. 26, p. 3, col. 2.  

Map of Town of Pelham with Inset of City Island, 1868.
Source: Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35
(NY, NY: Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868).
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

Research has not yet revealed why the initiative to split the Town of Pelham into two towns ultimately failed.  One possibility is that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Westchester may not have had the authority to enact such legislation -- only the State of New York, particularly since the Town of Pelham was created by State statute in 1788, reaffirmed by State stature in 1827 defining the "limits and divisions" of the Town of Pelham.  See  and Mon., May 07, 2007 1827:  Statute Defining the "Limits and Divisions" of the Town of Pelham.

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