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.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Multi-Vehicle Pileup of Horse-Drawn Carriages on City Island Road in 1896

Turn on the radio and listen to the traffic report on any given day.  Pelhamites often will hear of a multi-car pileup near the New Rochelle tolls on I-95 or a car crash on the Hutchinson River Parkway at Wolfs Lane or even a fender-bender on Boston Post Road near Pelham Parkway.  When the exhaust fumes grow thick and the traffic heading into or out of the city is thicker than molasses on a cold winter day, can we be blamed if we wish for a simpler time when horses and horse-drawn carriages ruled the roads of our region?

The days of horses and horse-drawn carriages may have been simpler, but don't assume that the roads of our region were never crowded nor the scene of multi-vehicle crashes during those "good old days."  For example, on August 31, 1896, there was a multi-vehicle crash of horse-drawn vehicles on City Island Road.

On a warm Monday in 1896, August 31 to be precise, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Cook of New York City were driving their carriage on City Island Road heading from Bartow toward City Island.  At the same time Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson of Mount Vernon, New York were driving their smart phaeton, traveling toward Bartow from City Island.  A short distance behind the Johnsons were Mr. Henry Keyser of New York City and his daughter also traveling toward Bartow in their wagon.

As the Cooks drove their carriage toward City Island, a nearby tree branch frightened their horse who took off at full speed with the carriage bouncing along on the rough roadway behind it.  Samuel Cook tried desperately to stop the galloping horse, but his efforts were futile and the horse raced out of control dragging the carriage behind it.  

As Cook's out-of-control carriage reached a small curve in the road near the Little Mothers' Home, the carriage smashed into the phaeton carrying Henry Johnson and his wife.  The crash was so violent that Samuel Cook and his wife were thrown over the dashboard of the carriage onto the road.  Mrs. Cook was knocked unconscious.  Henry Johnson and his wife likewise were thrown from their phaeton.  Both were badly cut on their heads and Mrs. Johnson's face was "severely cut."

The Johnsons' horse broke free from the smashed phaeton and raced up the road toward Bartow.  The Cooks' horse likewise broke free from the smashed carriage and raced down the road a few hundred feet when it ran headlong into the wagon of Henry Keyser and his daughter.  The wagon was overturned.  Henry Keyser's daughter was thrown from the wagon and had her arm crushed and suffered a cut on her face.

A member of the Park Police, Roundsman Reed, rounded up the two runaway horses.  In the meantime, an ambulance (presumably horse-drawn) was summoned from Fordham Hospital.  In the meantime, a physician arrived and dressed the injuries suffered by the Cooks and Miss Keyser.  

It seems that no summonses were issued following the multi-vehicle accident that day.  In fact, it seems that traffic tickets in and around Pelham were unheard of for at least the next few years until the rise of the horseless carriage. . . . . . . 

Undated Image of Horse-Drawn Carriage That May Be
Similar to the One Driven by Samuel Cook with His Wife
at the Time of the Accident on August 31, 1896.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge. 

A Basket Phaeton, Circa 1870.  Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson
Were Riding in a Phaeton at the Time of the August 31, 1896
Accident.  Source:  "Phaeton (Carriage)" in Wikipedia - The
Free Encyclopedia (visited Jul. 24, 2016).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

A Road Wagon, Ca. 1896, that May Be Similar to the
"Wagon" Driven by Mr. Henry Keyser, Traveling with
His Daughter, at the Time of the Accident.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

One Horse, Frightened by a Branch, Wrecks Three Vehicles in the City Island Road.

A horse attached to a carriage containing Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Cook, of No. 752 East 163d street, was frightened by a branch of a tree in the City Island road yesterday and ran away.  Mr. Cook's efforts to stop the animal were futile, and at a turn in the drive near the Little Mothers' Home the carriage ran into a phaeton in which Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson, of No. 192 Stevens avenue, Mount Vernon.

Mr. and Mrs. Cook were thrown over the dashboard, and Mrs. Cook was unconscious when picked up.  Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were also thrown from their carriage and badly hurt.  Mrs. Johnson's head and face were severely cut.  Mr. Johnson was cut on the head.

Mr. Johnson's horse darted up the road toward Bartow.  Mr. Cook's horse continued down the road, and had gone but a few hundred feet when it ran into a wagon containing Henry Keyser, of No. 7 East 132d street, and his daughter.  The wagon was overturned.  Miss Keyser was cut on the face and her left arm crushed.  

Roundsman Reed, of the Park police, caught both horses, and summoned an ambulance from the Fordham Hospital.  Before it arrived a physician dressed the injuries of Mr. and Mrs. Cook and Miss Keyser, and they were taken to their homes."

Source:  TWO RUNAWAYS, FIVE HURT -- One Horse, Frightened by a Branch, Wrecks Three Vehicles in the City Island Road, N.Y. Herald, Sep. 1, 1896, p. 6, col. 6.  

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