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, September 13, 2016

Notable 1903 and 1904 Cross-Country Championships Were Run on a Course Between Travers Island and Pelham Manor Station

In 1903 and 1904, the large area of Pelham Manor bounded by Shore Road, the boundary with Pelham Bay Park in New York City, Pelhamdale Avenue and the railroad tracks along which Pelham Manor Station once stood looked very different than it does today.  The area was virtually undeveloped with heavy woods.  Indeed, before the area was developed it was widely used as a picnic ground.  According to Lockwood Barr in his history of Pelham published in 1946: 

“The groves of trees between the Harlem Branch and the Sound were once a favorite picnic ground. The old trees bear the scars of amateurs who carved their initials--and worse--in the bark.”


Today the region today is fully developed with lovely neighborhoods and virtually no vacant land.  In 1903 and 1904, however, the area was bucolic and undeveloped.  There were a handful of homes on Manor Circle.  One home, the William B. Randall home known as "Hermitage," stood between today's Beech Tree Lane and Park Lane near the boundary with New York City.  The Bolton Priory and its carriage house, cottage, and outbuildings stood near Christ Church and its little one-room school house.  That was it.  There was no Beech Tree Lane, Park Lane, Forest Road, Elm Tree Lane, Bolton Road, Roosevelt Avenue, Priory Lane, or Shoreview Circle.  Instead, there were rolling hills, a large wooded area, and small creeks.  In short, the area was perfect for a cross-country course.  That is exactly what the New York Athletic Club created.

Area of the NYAC Cross-Country Course.  NOTE:
Click Image to Enlarge.

The New York Athletic Club created an ambling two-mile cross-country course between the Pelham Manor Station on the old branch line train tracks and Travers Island, site of the New York Athletic Club summer clubhouse.  For six mile races, cross-country runners made three laps of the two-mile course.  On each lap the runners would emerge from the woods into the sight of race officials and cheering spectators and leap across a thrilling water jump before either heading off for the next lap or, at the final lap, crossing the finish line at Travers Island.

In 1903 and 1904, the cross-country course was the site of very significant competitions.  On November 4, 1903, the "Cross-Country Championship of America" was held on the course.  John Joyce of the Pastime Athletic Club ran the six-mile course with a time of 32:23-4/5ths.

Only three weeks later on November 25, 1903, the "Intercollegiate Cross Country Championship" was run on the course with teams from Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.  W. E. Schutt of Cornell won the six-mile race with a time of 53:15.  Cornell finished first among the six teams that competed.

The following year, on November 23, 1904, the Intercollegiate Cross-Country Championship" was run again on the same course.  Unlike the previous year, this championship was for eastern teams with a separate championship scheduled for western teams.  E. T. Newman of Cornell won the six-mile race with a time of 32:52.  Once again, Cornell finished first among the five teams that qualified and competed.

It may be difficult today to image young men running, leaping, and scrambling across hill and dale in an almost rural setting in this part of Pelham Manor.  The fact that the New York Athletic Club made its cross-country course in this area, however, reminds us of simpler times when much of Pelham Manor retained a more rural character.

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Below is the text of three articles describing the cross-country races run in Pelham Manor in 1903 and 1904.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

John Joyce, Former Cornell Student, Defeats Fast Field.

New York, Nov. 4. -- John Joyce of the Pastime Athletic club, this city, has won the senior cross-country championship of America in a contest at Travers' Island, the country home of the New York Athletic club.

By defeating the field, Joyce took down the numbers of such men as Newton, Grant, Schutt and Valentine, each of whom occupies a prominent place for championships won over long distances.

Schutt is a Cornell student, who spread-eagled the field of two-milers in the intercollegiate contest last spring, while Grant but recently took the measure of the two-mile amateur record, which stood for many years.  The course covered about two miles and was run over three times.  Joyce's time was 32:23 4-5."

Source:  CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPION -- John Joyce, Former Cornell Student, Defeats Fast Field, The Salt Lake Herald, Nov. 5, 1903, p. 7, col. 1 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link.)

Her Seven Representatives Finished in the First Dozen, With Schutt and Woodward Fighting It Out to the Tape -- Harvard Second, Yale Third.

New York, Nov. 25. -- Cornell scored an easy victory in the fifth renewal of the Intercollegiate Cross Country Championship, six miles over the Travers Island course and through adjacent woods to-day.  Thirty-nine athletes started and of these thirty-four finished, but H. M. Frank of Princeton, who was the twenty-fifth man to get home, was disqualified for failing to take the water jump.

Cornell had five representatives in the first six.  W. E. Schutt, the intercollegiate two-mile champion, was first to cross the line, his time being 53:15, which is 52 seconds behind the time made by John Joyce, winner of the national championship over the same course three weeks ago.

Cornell had seven representatives in the contest and they all finished in the first dozen.  W. J. Hall, of Yale, finished third, and King, of Harvard, bleeding freely from the effects of a bad fall, got home in seventh position.  Cornell not alone took the team honors but all of her men crossed the tape before any of the representatives of Columbia, Princeton or Pennsylvania.

The start was made at nine minutes past 4 o'clock with Jacobus, of Yale, in the lead.  As they disappeared into the woods, Schutt was running second to Jacobus, with Hall, of Yale, and Woodward, of Cornell, close up.

At the end of the first lap Schutt was in front by a narrow margin, the time being 11:23, with Woodward about a yard behind, Hall being third, and the rest of the Cornellians well bunched only a few yards back.

There was little change in the relative positions of the runners in the second lap, at the end of which Schutt was about twenty yards ahead of Woodward, his time being 21:22.  In the final run into the Travers Island grounds Schutt led Woodward by about twenty-five yards and cleared the water jump in fine style, sprinting to the finish with Woodward, Hall, Foster and Magoffin in the order named.

The team scores were counted for each college in the positions that their first four representatives finished, Cornell winning with twelve points, the lowest score on record.  Harvard was second with thirty-seven, Yale third with forty-six, Princeton fourth with seventy-six.  Pennsylvania fifth with 100 and Columbia sixth with 112.

Following is the order at the finish with the time made of the first ten men:  W. E. Schutt, Cornell, 33:15; K. W. Woodward, Cornell, 33:18; W. J. Hall, Yale, 33:26; T. M. Foster, Cornell, 33:42; C. F. Magoffin, Cornell, 33:48; E. T. Newman, Cornell, 33:56; A. King, Harvard, 34:00; D. C. Munson, Cornell, 34:05; W. A. Colwell, Harvard, 34:04; S. Curtis, Harvard, 34:22."

Source:  CORNELL WON THE CROSS COUNTRY RUN -- Her Seven Representatives Finished in the First Dozen, With Schutt and Woodward Fighting It Out to the Tape -- Harvard Second, Yale Third, Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester, NY], Nov. 26, 1903, p. 13, col. 4 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

Ithaca Men Furnish Four of the First Five Men at the Finish, Pennsylvania Being Second, Yale Third, Harvard Fourth, and Columbia Last -- Western Colleges Are to Have Their First Contest of the Kind This Afternoon at the Midway.

New York, Nov. 23. -- Cornell's sturdy athletes once more captured the intercollegiate cross country championship in the run today over the course between Pelham Manor station and the home of the New York Athletic club on Travers Island.  

Five teams made up of thirty-four runners representing Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania took part in the contest, and of the seven men who carried the Ithacan colors, four finished in the first five places, winning the honor, with a total of twelve points.

E.T. Newman of Cornell led the big field during the greater part of the journey and finished fully fifty yards in front of his teammate, C. F. Magoffin, who in turn was a like distance ahead of W. J. Hall of Yale.  Nearly 100 yards back of these leaders  were D. C. Munson and A. Starr, both of Cornell.  The sixth place was won by C. D. Macdonald of Columbia, while W. G. Howard of Harvard was seventh and C. R. Major of the University of Pennsylvania eighth.

Newman's time, 32:52, is twenty-three seconds faster than the time of his college mate, Schutt, made on the same course, a little over six miles, a year ago.  Today's contest was the sixth of its kind which has taken place under the auspices of the Intercollegiate Cross Country association of the Amateur Athletes of America, and Cornell has won five times.

Following is the result by points:  Cornell, first with 12; Pennsylvania, second with 41; Yale, third, with 51; Harvard, fourth, with 52; and Columbia, last, with 73."

Source:  CORNELL TEAM IS FIRST -- WINS THE ANNUAL CROSS COUNTRY RACE IN THE EAST -- Ithaca Men Furnish Four of the First Five Men at the Finish, Pennsylvania Being Second, Yale Third, Harvard Fourth, and Columbia Last -- Western Colleges Are to Have Their First Contest of the Kind This Afternoon at the Midway, The Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 24, 1904, p. 11, col. 4 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

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