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 29, 2016

President Grover Cleveland Passed Through Pelham Waters on August 22, 1894

A number of American Presidents have visited Pelham or have had connections to our community.  I have written before of George Washington who, yes indeed, slept here (and visited our community a number of times).  I also have written of Martin Van Buren who visited Hunter's Island in 1839.  I have written of Warren G. Harding who was an honorary member of the Pelham Country Club.  Additionally, Chester A. Arthur is believed to be the namesake of today's Chester Park, developed in the 1890s.  I also have written about the day that the funeral train procession bearing the body of Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed through Pelham as the town mourned his death.  Although there are many posts on these topics, for a couple of examples, see:  

Mon., Feb. 21, 2005:  Presidents Day Post: American Presidents and Their Connections To Pelham

Wed., Mar. 25, 2015:  Pelham Mourned the Death of FDR as His Body Passed Through the Town by Train on April 15, 1945.  

We can add to the list of American Presidents who have passed through Pelham, however briefly, President Grover Cleveland who served as the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.  

President Grover Cleveland on August 9, 1892.
Source:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
Division, Digital ID cph.3a10549.  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

On August 22, 1894, President Grover Cleveland passed through Pelham waters off the shore of City Island at 10:40 a.m. while traveling on the lighthouse tender John D. Rodgers.  The John D. Rodgers was "purposely run at slow speed" as the President passed on his way to Jersey City, New Jersey.  

President Cleveland was returning from a very brief trip to his summer home known as "Gray Gables" located in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts.  He was traveling with his physician because he recently had suffered from Malaria and was recovering slowly.  

Exactly one week later on August 29, 1894, President Cleveland passed City Island at 3:45 p.m. in the lighthouse tender John D. Rodgers again as he and his party returned to Gray Gables for a much longer vacation.  

For each of his trips, President Cleveland traveled on the lighthouse tender John D. Rodgers, captained by W. S. Schley of the Lighthouse Service.  The John D. Rodgers was an iron hulled, side-wheeled steam tender that was 160 feet long.  It launched in about 1882-83 for use in the Third District of the Lighthouse Service.  

Undated Post Card View of "Gray Gables" at
Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts, the Summer
White House of President Grover Cleveland.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Light-House Tender John Rodgers Passes City Island.

NEW YORK, Aug. 22. -- The light-house tender John Rodgers, with President Cleveland on board, passed City Island at 10:40 a.m.  As far as can be learned no special preparations have been made at the Pennsylvania Depot in Jersey City for the transportation of the President to Washington, but it is believed he will travel from Jersey City to the capital by the Congressional limited, which leaves at 3:20 p.m."

Source:  CLEVELAND ON BOARD -- Light-House Tender John Rodgers Passes City Island, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 22, 1894, p. 2, col. 2 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

The President Returns Quietly to His Duties in Washington.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22. -- President Cleveland returned to Washington to-night from his outing at Gray Gables.  Mr. Cleveland seemed in the best of health.

The Congressional Limited train, to which the President's private car was attached, arrived at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station at 8:25 o'clock, exactly on time.  Private Secretary Thurber had arrived early at the station, and went down the platform to meet the President.  Some of the White House ushers and a few policemen in citizens' clothes were also there.  Mr. Cleveland walked down the long platform to the station entrance with Mr. Thurber.  Behind were Secretary Lamont, who had joined the party in New-York, and Dr. O'Reilly of the army, who accompanied Mr. Cleveland to Gray Gables.  The crowd pressed closely about the President, but made no demonstration, and he entered the White House victoria with Mr. Thurber and was driven away in the quietest manner possible.

JERSEY CITY, N. J., Aug. 22. -- President Cleveland arrived here at 3:15 o'clock this afternoon on the lighthouse tender John Rodgers, on his way to Washington from Buzzard's Bay.

The President landed at the Adams Express Company's wharf and walked directly to the private car of President Roberts of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The car, which was in charge of a special crew, was attached to the limited express train which left at 3:32 o'clock P.M.  A large crowd was present to see the President.

The John Rodgers left Buzzard's Bay at 3:30 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, and was reported off City Island at 10:40 o'clock this morning.  The boat was expected to arrive at Jersey City at noon, and no special reason was given for the delay, except that the boat was purposely run at slow speed.  Lunch was served on board.  A squad of policemen, under command of Sergt. McGinnis, had been waiting all the morning to escort the President to the train.

The President was accompanied by Capt. Winfield S. Schley, United States Navy, and his physician, Dr. O'Reilly.  After walking with the President and Dr. O'Reilly, to the car, Capt. Schley returned to the lighthouse tender.

At the car the President was met by Secretary of War Lamont, who went with him to Washington.

It was said that President Cleveland was greatly benefited by his outing at Buzzard's Bay."

Source:  MR. CLEVELAND IN THE WHITE HOUSE -- The President Returns Quietly to His Duties in Washington, N.Y. Times, Aug. 23, 1894.  

Off to Gray Gables for a Rest of Several Weeks -- In Excellent Health.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29. -- Before Washington was fairly awake this morning.  President Cleveland had eaten breakfast and been driven to the Pennsylvania Railroad station, where he took a train for New York, en route to Gray Gables for a long rest.

It was 7 o'clock when Mr. Cleveland left the White House, in company with Dr. O'Reilly, the army surgeon who attends the Presidential family in Washington, and on whose advice Mr. Cleveland made his recent short trip to his seaside home to counteract the effects of malaria.  Secretary Lamont and Private Secretary Thurber joined the President at the station, which was crowded at that early hour with visitors to the Pythian celebration, and the four walked slowly and unconcernedly down the platform to President Roberts's private car, which had been attached to the first section of the New-York express for the accommodation of Mr. Cleveland's party.  Some people recognized the President and pressed closely about him, but they made no demonstration.

Mr. Cleveland was in excellent humor and evidently felt well.  'Good-bye, boys,' he said to the gatekeepers, whose faces have become familiar to him during the last nine years.  The train left Washington at 7:20 o'clock.

JERSEY CITY, N. J., Aug. 29. -- President Cleveland and his party arrived in this city at 1:05 this afternoon, and were escorted directly to the lighthouse tender, John D. Rodgers, which lay at the end of the Adams freight dock.  Capt. W. S. Schley of the Lighthouse Service, met the party as they left the car.  When they reached the elevator leading from the train shed to the pier, Secretary Lamont took leave of the President and crossed the river on his way to Bayside, L.I., where his family is spending the Summer.  The Rodgers was detained for nearly an hour, awaiting the arrival of the President's baggage.  This had been placed on the second section of the train, which was nearly an hour late.

During the walk from the elevator to the tender the President was surrounded by a small knot of persons, among whom were several reporters.  One of them asked the President if he expected any further action in regard to the tariff, but the President merely replied that he had left all thought of that behind him.  As to the length of his stay at Gray Gables, he said he was not certain.  He would rest at Buzzard's Bay several weeks and might spend some time with his family elsewhere before returning to Washington.  As to his health, he said it was 'first-rate.'

The President's baggage arrived at 2 o'clock, and as soon as it was received on board, the Rodgers steamed away for the East River, and at 3:45 P. M. had passed City Island on its trip up the Sound."

Source:  MR. CLEVELAND TAKES A VACATION -- Off to Gray Gables for a Rest of Several Weeks -- In Excellent Health, N.Y. Times, Aug. 30, 1894, p. 4, col. 6 (NOTE:  Access via this link requires paid subscription).

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