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.

Monday, August 08, 2016

More on Unsuccessful Efforts in 1884 by Town of Pelham to Replace the Wooden City Island Bridge

Recently I wrote about an ultimately unsuccessful effort in 1884 to have the New York State legislature authorize the Town of Pelham to issue bonds to fund the replacement of the old wooden City Island Bridge built in 1868 by David Carll with a new wooden bridge.  See Wed., Jul. 20, 2016:  Bill Introduced in 1884 to Authorize the Town of Pelham To Build a New City Island Bridge.  Further research has revealed that the story behind this ultimately unsuccessful effort to replace the old wooden bridge with a new one is more complex and more interesting than first thought.  Indeed, it represents yet another example of a 19th century battle between mainlanders and islanders.  

It turns out that the introduction on March 6, 1884 of a bill entitled "An act to authorize the contstruction of a bridge in the town of Pelham, Westchester county, between the mainland of said town and City island, and to authorize the acquiring of land therefor, and the issuing of bonds of the said town to pay for said bridge" was a direct response to a pair of lawsuits brought on behalf of the mainlanders to halt appropriations for the new bridge.

A brief newspaper reference published on March 7, 1884, the day after the bill was introduced, indicates that for months a Pelham mainlander had been engaged in lawsuits to stop the Town of Pelham from appropriating funds to build a new wooden replacement bridge.  Indeed, Pelham Manor resident (and mainlander) George H. Reynolds initially brought two lawsuits.  The first was brought against Town Supervisor James Hyatt (an islander).  Reynolds filed a related action against the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County.

Plaintiff Reynolds sought relief to block Town of Pelham appropriations of $25,000 for a new City Island Bridge and $1,750 "for road purposes."  Initially, on December 12, 1883, the New York Supreme Court entered an order against Reynolds and in favor of Town Supervisor James Hyatt in the first action.  Although the record is a little vague, it appears that on March 1, 1884, the New York Supreme Court entered final judgments in the two lawsuits granting mainlander Reynolds the relief he demanded.  Consequently, "[t]he appropriations of $25,000 for a new bridge at City Island and $1,750 for road purposes are annulled by these judgments."  

George Huntington Reynolds was a nationally-renowned steam engineer and inventor known for designing the steam engine for the now-famous USS Monitor that fought in the first battle of the ironclads during the American Civil War.  Reynolds lived with his family in Pelham Manor for many years.  He was an active member of the Pelham Manor Protective Club and served as President of the local school board for eight years.  He built a palatial home in the Manor that no longer stands.  He was one of the nation's preeminent mechanical engineers and was involved in many projects that are stories in and of themselves.  Late in life he moved to Connecticut, but various of his children and grandchildren remained in Pelham and surrounding areas for many years.

George Huntington Reynolds in Photograph Published in 1903.
(Chicago, IL: J. H. Beers & Co., 1903). NOTE: Click on Image
To Enlarge.

In short, it seems that in 1883 and 1884, City Island resident and Town Supervisor James Hyatt led an initiative on behalf of City Islanders to fund replacement of the old wooden City Island Bridge by spreading the cost of the bridge replacement across all Pelham taxpayers.  Thus, the Town Board appropriated $25,000 to build the new wooden bridge.  Mainlander George Huntington Reynolds, in turn, opposed that initiative and successfully sued to block the town appropriations to fund replacement of the old bridge and to fund certain unspecified road work.  Shortly after final judgments were entered in favor of Reynolds in his two lawsuits against the Town Supervisor and the Westchester County Board of Supervisors, it would appear that the islanders initiated the legislative effort to authorize the Town of Pelham to issue bonds to fund replacement of the bridge about which I previously have written.  

Undated Photograph of the Old City Island Bridge
Built by David Carll. NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *           *

Below is the text of a newspaper article referencing the lawsuits brought by George H. Reynolds.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source. 


The women have occupied the time of the justices' courts this week.  Verdict, no cause of action.  

It is reported that Mr. Wm. Belden has obtained a charter to build a horse railroad between City Island and Bartow.

Two weeks ago, Mr. James H. Weaver started off on a trip for the benefit of his health, the objective point being California.  On Monday last, he was heard from in Mexico.

Considerable anxiety is manifested on City Island, as to the whereabouts of Pilot Geo. W. Scofield.  He passed Bartlet Reef light, last Friday morning, at nine o'clock, in charge of a vessel, since which time nothing has been heard of him.

Mr. and Mrs. George Banta celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary, on Monday evening last.  On the same evening, Dr. M. Cromen celebrated the anniversary of his birthday.  Scores of friends aided in making both events pleasurable.

At the sale of lots held on Friday last, by Messrs. Jenkins & Cameron, the purchasers were, John Bowman, two lots; Thomas Collins, one lot; Jacob Brady, one lot; Geo. Booth, two lots; M. Mulligan, two lots.  One lot was knocked down to Joseph May.  [Illegible] will be resold to-day.  

On the 12th of December last a judgment was rendered by the Supreme Court in favor of James Hyatt, Supervisor, the defendant in the action brought by George H. Reynolds against him.  On Saturday last the plaintiff's attorney entered an order reversing this judgment and giving judgment for the plaintiff.  Another order was also entered in the suit of Reynolds against the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County, being final judgment for him for the relief demanded in the complaint.  The appropriations of $25,000 for a new bridge at City Island and $1,750 for road purposes are annulled by these judgments.

The Commissioners of Highways of the Town of Pelham, have given notice that they will apply at the annual town meeting for a vote authorizing the raising of  $5,735, for the purpose of repairing roads and bridges, to be expended as follows:

Repairing culverts Pelhamdale avenue near Boston Turnpike.....$25.00
Repairing culverts, Washington avenue near Union street.....25.00
Pelham lane, repairing and grading.....50.00
Pelham road [repairing and grading].....50.00
Boston turnpike [repairing and grading].....100.00
Pelhamdale ave., bal. due for repairing.....58.00
Wolf's lane [bal. due for repairing].....85.00
Old Boston road [bal. due for repairing].....75.00
Fifth avenue [bal. due for repairing].....67.00
Fourth street [bal. due for repairing].....65.00
City Island road [bal. due for repairing].....135.00
Culvert, City Island road [bal. due for repairing].....15.00
Shore road, balance due for repairing.....96.00
Pelham lane [balance due for repairing].....125.00
Culvert Pelham lane [balance due for repairing].....10.00
Boston turnpike [balance due for repairing].....125.00
Main street [balance due for repairing].....255.00
Culvert, Fordham ave, west of Main st. balance due for repairing.....50.00
Planking City Island bridge, bal. due.....65.00
Main street, repairing and grading.....280.00
Fordham ave., west of Main street, repairing and grading.....100.00
City Island road, repairing and grading.....300.00
Wolf's lane [repairing and grading].....100.00
Old Boston Road [repairing and grading].....50.00
First avenue, [repairing and grading].....30.00
Second do [i.e., ditto] [repairing and grading].....20.00
Fourth do [repairing and grading].....35.00
Sixth do [repairing and grading].....50.00
Seventh do [repairing and grading].....50.00
Second street [repairing and grading].....20.00
Third do [repairing and grading].....25.00
Pelhamdale ave., [repairing and grading].....90.00
Repairing culverts, Pelhamdale avenue near Old Boston road.....40.00
Bluestoning Pelhamdale ave. and Wolfs lane, south of Pelhamville depot,.....1000.00
Bluestoning City Island road, between Shore road and City Island bridge.....1000.00
Main st., between Ditmars and Cross streets, raising grade.....1000.00

Whether all these repairs are necessary or not we do not pretend to say.  The Commissioners of Highways doubtless think they are else they would not ask for the money, but if there is one appropriation that should be granted more than another it is certainly that one for repairing and grading City Island road and the one for bluestoning that portion of the road from City Island bridge to Marshals corner.  This piece of road has been for weeks past, literally in an impassable condition and no one could be more deeply impressed with the necessity of repairing it than the writer.  From the nature of this piece of road it would be a useless expenditure of money to attempt to repair it, by the method ordinarily employed, of putting clay or sand upon it."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 7, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 755, p. 3, cols. 4-5.  

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