The Eastchester Bridge Company Raised Tolls on Pelham Bridge Before It Was Even Built
The first Pelham Bridge was built between June 4, 1814 and March 18, 1815. Shortly before construction of the bridge began, however, the Eastchester Bridge Company was able to obtain an amendment to the original March 6, 1812 statute authorizing construction of the bridge and granting the exclusive toll franchise to the company for a period of thirty years.
On March 25, 1814, New York passed "An ACT to amend an act, entitled 'an act to Incorporate the Eastchester Bridge Company,'" 37th Sess. Ch. LIV. The amended statute did several things to benefit the Eastchester Bridge Company. It extended the exclusive toll franchise period from thirty years to thirty-five years. It substantially increased the amounts of the tolls the company was authorized to charge for crossing the bridge. The original statute required the company to account annually to the comptroller for monies received and expended. The amended statute repealed this obligation, alleviating some of the company's administrative burdens.
The amended statute added penalties that could be enforced in court against any disgruntled travelers who damaged the bridge or its facilities or who made it past the toll gate without paying the required toll. Moreover, in recognition of the fact that the War of 1812 was raging at the time the statute was amended, the amendments required the company to allow Federal and state troops and their wagons, carriages, and equipment to cross the bridge toll free.
The increased tolls seem amusing today. The amended statute authorized the following tolls:
- every four wheeled pleasure carriage with two or more horses, nineteen cents;
- every two wheeled pleasure carriage and horses, ten cents;
- every pleasure sleigh and horses, ten cents;
- every common waggon and horses, six cents;
- every stage-waggon and horses, twelve and an half cents;
- every common sled and horses, six cents;
- every ox cart and oxen six cents;
- every horse cart and horse, five cents;
- carriages of all kinds, drawn by mules, shall pay the same tolls as if they were drawn by horses;
- every man and horse or mule, five cents;
- every horse, mule, ox, cow or steer, one cent; and
- every dozen hogs, sheep or calves, and so in proportion for a greater or less number, six cents; for every foot passenger, one cent.
Once these increased tolls were authorized by New York State, it appears that the Eastchester Bridge Company was prepared to move forward. Within the next few months construction began on the famed Pelham Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Hutchinson River where it meets Eastchester Bay.
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Below is the text of the statute that forms the basis for today's article. It is followed by a citation and link to its source.
An ACT to amend an act, entitled 'an act to Incorporate the Eastchester Bridge Company.'
Passed March 25, 1814.
WHEREAS the president and directors of the Eastchester Bridge Company, have by their petition to the legislature under their corporate seal, prayed that certain amendments may be made to the act whereby they are incorporated: Therefore,
Corporation confirmed and continued.
I. BE it enacted by the People of the state of New-York, represented in Senate and Assembly, That the persons created a body politic and corporate in and by the act hereby amended, and their successors, shall be and continue a body politic and corporate, by the names and with all the powers and privileges in the said act mentioned, for and during the term of thirty-five years and no longer, any thin in the said act to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.
7th sec. of former now repealed.
II. And be it further enacted, That the seventh section of the said act hereby amended,be and the same is hereby repealed.
Toll which may be demanded.
III. And be it further enacted, That instead of the toll which by the said act the said company are authorized to demand of of all persons passing the said bridge, a toll not exceeding the following rates, to wit: For every four wheeled pleasure carriage with two or more horses, nineteen cents; for every two wheeled pleasure carriage and horses, ten cents; for every pleasure sleigh and horses, ten cents; for every common waggon and horses, six cents; for every stage-waggon and horses, twelve and an half cents; for every common sled and horses, six cents; for every ox cart and oxen six cents; for every horse cart and horse, five cents, and carriages of all kinds, drawn by mules, shall pay the same tolls as if they were drawn by horses; for every man and horse or mule, five cents; for every horse, mule, ox, cow or steer, one cent; for every dozen hogs, sheep or calves, and so in proportion for a greater or less number, six cents; for every foot passenger, one cent;
Power of toll-gatherer.
and it shall be lawful for the toll-gatherer at the said gate, to stop any person or persons from passing through the said gate until they shall have respectively paid the toll herein allowed to be collected: Provided always nevertheless, That any troops in the service of this state or of the United States and all artillery waggons and other carriages and stores of every kind belonging to this state or to the United States, shall be permitted to pass the said bridge free of toll.
Penalty for injuring the bridge, &c.
IV. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall wilfully do, or cause to be done, any act whereby the said bridge to be erected as aforesaid, or any thing appertaining thereto, or the toll-house or gate of the said company shall be destroyed or injured, the person or persons so offending, shall pay and forfeit to said corporation, double the amount of the damages sustained by such offence or injury, to be recovered by the said corporation with costs of suit, in an action of trespass, in any court of record having cognizance thereof, which action shall in every instance be considered as transitory in its nature.
Penalty for not paying toll.
V. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall pass the gate to be erected in pursuance of this act, or shall cause his, her or their horse, carriage, waggon, cart, sleigh, sled, cattle, or other thing or things to pass the said gate without having paid the legal toll therefor, every such person shall forfeit and pay ten dollars for every such offense, to be recovered by the said company for their use, in an action of debt, in any court having cognizance thereof, and which action shall be considered as transitory in nature.
[Note. -- The Eastchester bridge company, was incorporated March 6, 1812. -- Sess. 35, c. 22 -- Its charter was originally limited to 30 years. -- The 7th section of the act amended, and which is repealed by this emendatory [sic] act, required the company to account annually to the comptroller for monies received, expended, &c. -- The toll is considerably increased by this act, as will be seen by comparing its 3d section with the 5th section of the original act, but the company are to allow troops, &c. to pass toll free. -- [See proviso to section 3.] -- The original act did not provide for injuries, &c. done to the bridge, and for frauds, &c. upon the toll-gatherer -- this is remedied by section 4 and 5.]"
Source: 37th Sess., CHAP. LIV., An Act to amend an act, entitled 'an act to Incorporate the Eastchester Bridge Company, Laws of the State of New-York, Passed at the Thirty-Sixth, Thirty-Seventh and Thirty-Eighth Sessions of the Legislature, Commencing November 1812, and Ending April 1815, Vol. III, pp. 53-54 (Albany, NY: Websters and Skinners, 1815).
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Below are examples of previous postings that address the histories of the various Pelham Bridges that have spanned Eastchester Bay for the last two centuries.
Wed., Oct. 12, 2016: More on the Early History of Pelham Bridge Including Ownership of the Bridge Between 1834 and 1860.
Tue., Oct. 11, 2016: Is It Possible The First Pelham Bridge Built in About 1815 Was Repaired After Near Destruction by a Storm?
Wed., Oct. 1, 2014: Bridge Keepers of the Pelham Bridge from 1870 to 1872.
Mon., Jul. 21, 2014: Image of the Second Pelham Bridge Built in 1834 From a Sketch Created in 1865.
Thu., Jul. 17, 2014: Sabotage Brought Down the 70-Ton Draw Span of Pelham Bridge in 1908 and Delayed its Opening.
Tue., Jun. 10, 2014: Construction of the Concrete Arch Pelham Bridge.
Mon., May 12, 2014: The March 6, 1812 New York Statute Authorizing Construction of the Pelham Bridge.
Tue., Sep. 22, 2009: Names of Early "Keepers of Pelham Bridge" Appointed by Westchester County.
Thu., Jan. 08, 2009: Another Brief History of The Pelham Bridge.
Thu., Jan. 1, 2009: A Brief History of Pelham Bridge.
Wed., Jan. 2, 2008: New York State Senate Report on Petition by Inhabitants of Westchester to Allow Construction of Toll Bridge Across Eastchester Creek in 1834.
Tue., Aug. 28, 2007: The Laying Out of Pelham Avenue From Fordham to Pelham Bridge in 1869.
Wed., Jul. 4, 2007: 1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of the Pelham Bridge.
Fri., Jul. 22, 2007: 1857 Real Estate Advertisement for Sale of "Country Seat" at Pelham Bridge.
Fri., May 18, 2007: Celebration at Pelham Bridge in 1872.
Wed., May 16, 2007: Board of Supervisors of Westchester County Vote to Build New Iron Bridge to Replace Pelham Bridge in 1869.
Tue., May 15, 2007: The Owner of the Pelham Bridge Hotel Sold it for the Princely Sum of $22,000 in 1869.
Mon., May 14, 2007: Plans to Widen Shore Road in the Town of Pelham in 1869.
Fri., May 11, 2007: A Sad Attempted Suicide at Pelham Bridge in 1869.
Thu., Dec. 08, 2005: The First Stone Bridge Built Across Eastchester Creek in Pelham, 1814-1815.
Thu., Aug. 18, 2005: The Opening of the New Iron "Pelham Bridge" in 1871.
Tue., Aug. 9, 2005: Cock Fighting at Pelham Bridge in the 19th Century.
Thu., Jul. 21, 2005: Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island.
Tue., Jun. 28, 2005: The Hotel and Bar Room at Pelham Bridge.
Thu., Mar. 24, 2005: The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?
Wed., Mar. 23, 2005: Prize Fighting at Pelham Bridge in 1884.
For more about the Pelham Bridge and its history, see Pelham Bridge, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelham_Bridge (visited May 6, 2014).
Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.