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, November 08, 2016

Allegations that Pelham Republicans Stole the Town's Democratic Primary in 1898

"I reject the cynical view that politics is a dirty business."

-- U. S. President Richard Milhous Nixon . . . .

With the 2016 U.S. presidential election upon us, it seems a perfect time to revisit how entertaining Pelham's own local politics have been over the years.  The subject has been fodder for a host of Historic Pelham articles including, by way of merely a few examples, the following:

Wed., Jan. 25, 2006:  The Pelham Manor Protective Club Flexed its Muscles in the 1886 Town Elections.  

Fri., Feb. 27, 2009:  More on the 1906 Village of North Pelham Elections in Which the Village Blacksmith Surprised Republicans and Democrats Alike and Won

Tue., Feb. 26, 2008:  Disputed Pelham School Board Election of 1882 Led to Charges of Fraud.  

Fri., July 8, 2005:  How Did a Village Blacksmith Win the 1906 North Pelham Election by Cornering the Market on Sleighs? 

Tue., Oct. 14, 2014:  "There Is Endless Bitterness of Heart" -- Pelham Manor Women Pull a Fast One in 1882.

Mon., Jun. 08, 2015:  Was "Honest Jim Reilly" Really So Honest?  Blacksmith and, Later, Politician in the Village of North Pelham Died in 1937.

Wed., Aug. 17, 2005:  More on the Village Blacksmith Who Won the 1906 North Pelham Election by Cornering the Market on Sleighs.

Thu., Mar. 12, 2015:  Pelham Democrats Purportedly Stole the Supervisor Election in 1886 by Importing Paupers from Hart Island to Vote.

Wed., Mar. 23, 2016:  The Bitter Battle Over the Incorporation of the Village of North Pelham in 1896 Continued After The Vote to Incorporate.

Thu., May 12, 2016:  Forget Luck of the Irish! We Should All Have the Luck of the North Pelham Democrats (At Least in 1901).

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog tells the story of how Pelham Republicans stole the Town Democratic Primary on Monday, March 14, 1898 to ensure that their Republican slate for Town officers would appear on the Democratic ticket during the general election as well.  The story is quite simple and revolves around the notice of the primary vote.

It seems that in advance of the highly-anticipated "Democratic Primary and Convention" in the Town of Pelham, notice of the vote stated that the vote would take place on March 14 from "8 to 9 o'clock."  Democrats were to vote for County Committeeman, Town Committee, and delegates to the Town Convention.  The notice, however, did not state whether the vote would be in the a.m. or the p.m.

No suspicions were raised among Democrats because the notice made clear that the Town Democratic Convention would be held the same day.  Such conventions previously had been held in the evening, immediately following the vote.  This time, however, things would be different. . . . 

There were a number of Pelhamites in on the scheme who were described in one account as the "knowing ones."  The knowing ones knew something unusual was afoot.  Additionally, "all arrangements [had been] made" in advance.

Promptly at 8:00 a.m. that Tuesday, the polls were declared open and voting began.  Promptly at 9:00 a.m., the polls were declared closed.  Only seven votes were cast.  It appears that the seven votes were cast by the "knowing ones" . . . . 

The Democratic Convention was held that evening as in previous years.  As one might expect, however, during the day word trickled out that the primary vote had been held that morning and that Frank Lyon had been elected County Committeeman while W. A. McGalliard, Charles A. Barker, and several others had been elected to the Town Democratic Committee.

The entire Town was abuzz throughout the day with the news that the "knowing ones" had pulled a fast one in an apparent effort to take control of the upcoming Town Democratic Convention scheduled for later that evening.  When the Convention opened, Pelham's rank and file Democrats packed the old Town Hall.  Indeed a crowd gathered for a little good old-fashioned entertainment.  What next happened to the rank and file Democrats reportedly "took their breath away."  

Frank Lyon acted as Chair of the convention.  Lincoln White acted as Secretary.  The Town Committee and the Convention promptly endorsed the entire Republican Ticket to run on the Democratic ticket for Town offices (except the candidate for Tax Collector and two Town Constables).  In the case of Tax Collector, the Committee and the Convention endorsed Charles A. Barker for the candidacy -- one of those who had participated in the shenanigans.  

The crowd was furious and let out a chorus of hisses.  As the crowd hissed, the Chair quickly declared the Convention closed.  Only then did the room settle enough for rank and file Democrats to demand another session.  With the Convention closed, however, "it was too late and the party must abide by the action of the convention."

It was, according to one local newspaper, "one of the most remarkable primaries ever held."  Only in Pelham, only in Pelham folks. . . . . . 

The Old Town Hall on Fifth Avenue Where Today's Town
Hall Stands.  Here the Democratic Convention Following
the Primary Vote on March 14, 1898 Took Place.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge. 

Please exercise your right today, dear Pelham, and vote!

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Immediately below is the text of a newspaper article about the events that form the basis of today's article.  It is followed by a citation and link to the source.

The Republican Ticket Practically Endorsed.

The Democrats of Pelham held their primary Monday.  It was in more than one sense of the term the most curious meeting ever held in that old town.  The call for the meeting read from '8 to 9 o'clock.'

It did not state whether this was to be a.m. or p.m. and a majority of the party took it for granted that it would be p.m. as the convention was advertised to be held on the same day.

However, a few of the knowing ones had all arrangements made, and at 8 o'clock in the morning the polls were declared open and voting for County Committeeman, Town Committee, and delegates to the Town Convention was begun and candidates for these offices chosen.

It is reported that when the polls closed at 9 o'clock there had been just seven votes cast.

Frank Lyon was elected to the County Committee, and the Town Committee was made up of W. A. McGalliard, Charles A. Barker, and several others.

The primary naturally formed the topic of conversation on the street of this quiet little town and when evening came a crowd gathered in the old Town Hall.  Frank Lyon acted as chairman of the convention and Lincoln White, Secretary.

What surprised the rank and file more than anything else, and almost took their breath away, was the endorsing of the entire Republican ticket with the exception of Tax collector and for this office Charles Barker was named.

The constables nominated were Democrats.

When the ticket was named a round of hisses went over the room.  Several Democrats protested after the convention adjourned and threatened to call another session but the time had gone by, it was too late and the party must abide by the action of the convention.

It was one of the most remarkable primaries ever held."

Source:  PELHAM'S QUEER PRIMARY AND CONVENTION -- A CONFUSING PRIMARY CALL RESPONSIBLE -- The Republican Ticket Practically Endorsed, Mount Vernon Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 15, 1898, Vol. XXIV, No. 1816, p. 1, col. 6.

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