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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Pelham Recalled the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 Upon Death of Riley Ellsworth Phillips in 1927

On December 27, 1885, the mail express train out of Boston known as the late night "Owl Train" reached Pelhamville during a major windstorm.  Just as the train sailed past the Pelhamville Station, the gale lifted the station's massive wooden passenger platform into the air and flipped it onto the tracks. 

Engineer Riley Ellsworth Phillips saw the obstruction ahead, cut the steam, and braked.  It did not help.  The locomotive engine smashed into the overturned platform, left the rails, and tumbled end-over-end down the 60-foot embankment, dragging the fire tender and a large mail car with it.  Though the passenger cars left the rails and bounced along throwing the passengers inside about the cabins, no passenger car tumbled down the massive embankment.  

Engineer Phillips and his fireman, recently-married Eugene Blake, were thrown out of the cab as it flipped end-over-end down the embankment.  Phillips was bruised, but lived.  Fireman Blake, however, was crushed during the incident.  He was found at the foot of the embankment and was carried into the nearby Pelhamville train station.  Some accounts say Fireman Blake was laid on a "cot" of some sort in the Pelhamville station.  Others say he was laid on the floor.  

Most accounts agree, however, that once carried into the Pelhamville station, the mortally-injured Eugene Blake suffered tremendously for an agonizing forty minutes.  During most of that time, he was administered to by an angel -- a woman who stepped out from among uninjured train passengers to offer help.  The woman was Emma Cecilia Thursby, a famous American celebrity and singer who traveled the nation giving concerts.  

I have written about Riley Ellsworth Phillips and the Pelhamville Train Wreck on a number of occasions.  See the bibliography with links at the end of today's article.  

The Pelhamville Train Wreck was so significant and so affected Pelhamville residents that it was written about repeatedly in the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun, for many decades after the wreck.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes yet another article about the wreck in 1885.  The article appeared in The Pelham Sun the week following the death of Riley Ellsworth Phillips.  Its text is immediately below, followed by a citation and link to its source.

*          *          *          *          *

Riley Ellsworth Phillips, 80, Dies After Sixty-one Year Service, Was Seriously Injured When Locomotive Left Rails At Pelhamville in 1885

The death last Thursday of Riley Ellsworth Phillips, veteran locomotive engineer of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad recalls to many of the older residents of the Pelhams, the wreck of the 'Bankers' Express' at the old Pelhamville station, on the night of December 27, 1885.  That accident in which one man was killed and Phillips' locomotive and tender were hurled from the railroad embankment at what is now Pelham station, was the only wreck charged against the record of the veteran engineer.  

Old timers can tell a vivid story of the wreck at Pelhamville.  To them it brings a living picture of the little town as it was in the old days.  The railroad embankment was crossed by a grade crossing at what is now Fifth avenue.  It was little more than a wagon track made by the carts of the farmers from the farm districts between the railroad and Long Island Sound.

A brick station stood to the west of the grade crossing.  A platform of oak planking extended some distance past the station.  It was this platform that was responsible for the wreck of the crack 'Bankers' Express' with Phillips at the throttle.

The high wind of a winter storm tore the platform from its moorings, and lifting it up turned it over onto the railroad tracks, shortly before the express was due to pass through Pelhamville.

Making up time, Phillips had the big locomotive doing its best when the train approached Pelhamville station.  Suddenly he saw the wrecked platform lying right in the path of the train.  He endeavored to apply the brakes, but the danger was unavoidable.  The heavy locomotive crashed into the timbers, leaving the rails hurtled through the air to the foot of the embankment, carrying the tender and baggage car along with it.  Fortunately the passenger coaches did not leave the rails.

Phillips crawled out of the wrecked locomotive, seriously injured.  The body of his fireman was later found in the wreck.  Three mail clerks were injured.  Removal of the wreck took more than a week with the inadequate wrecking machinery used in those days.  

Phillips recovered and was absolved from all blame.  He continued in the service of the railroad and was one of the road's most trusted employees.  He would have completed his sixty-second year with the railroad in July.  

He was eighty years old and was a veteran of the Civil War."

Source:  DEATH OF ENGINEER RECALLS WRECK OF BANKERS EXPRESS AT PELHAMVILLE -Riley Ellsworth Phillips, 80, Dies After Sixty-one Year Service, Was Seriously Injured When Locomotive Left Rails At Pelhamville in 1885, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 25, 1927, p. 10, cols. 1-2.  

*          *          *          *          *

Only known photograph showing the aftermath of the
"Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885.” The January 16, 1886
issue of Scientific American included an artist’s depiction
of the same scene in connection with an article about the
wreck describing it as "A Remarkable Railroad Accident"
that occurred on the New Haven Line in Pelhamville
(now part of the Village of Pelham) at about 6:00 a.m.
on December 27, 1885. See A Remarkable Railroad Accident,
Scientific American, Jan. 16, 1886, Vol. LIV, No. 3, pp. 31-32.
The engine and tender lie in the foreground with the mail
car behind. NOTE: Click Image To Enlarge.

Front Cover and Images of the January 16, 1886 Issue
of Scientific American that Featured a Cover Story About
the Pelhamville Train Wreck Entitled "A Remarkable Railroad
Accident." NOTE: Click on Images to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written before about the Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885 that resulted in the death of Fireman Eugene Blake and injuries to several others including the train engineer, Riley Phillips. See:

Mon., Sep. 24, 2007:  The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885

Bell, Blake A., The Pelhamville Train Wreck of 1885: "One of the Most Novel in the Records of Railroad Disasters, 80(1) The Westchester Historian, pp. 36-43 (2004).

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Even New York City Didn't Want to Pay Pelham Taxes

I have written about the massive tax burden that the Town of Pelham faced beginning in the 1880s after New York City began acquiring lands within the Town of Pelham to create Pelham Bay Park.  A judicial decision released by the New York Court of Appeals was construed as permitting New York City to own the lands without having to pay the Town of Pelham any property taxes on those lands.  

Suddenly, Pelham taxpayers faced a major burden.  Although they remained responsible for maintenance of the roads and the provision of services such as constable protection, schools and the like for the area acquired by New York City, the costs of providing those services town-wide was being spread over a much smaller tax base.  In addition, the smaller tax base suddenly found itself responsible for discharging the entirety of the Town's bonded indebtedness that was originally incurred to provide infrastructure for much of the area acquired by New York City.  

Pelham residents made impassioned pleas to their elected officials to pass legislation to require New York City to pay property taxes to the Town.  Local residents wrote letters to the editors of regional newspapers complaining of the injustice.  

For more background regarding this significant period in Pelham's history, see:

Fri., May 20, 2005:  1888 - Pelham Fears Bankruptcy Due to the Creation of Pelham Bay Park.

Fri., Sep. 23, 2005:  Pelham Tries To Kill the Plan to Create Pelham Bay Park: 1887.

Mon., Jan. 21, 2008:  Litigation Over Compensation for Pelham Property Owners Whose Lands Were Taken by New York City for the New Pelham Bay Park.

Wed., Feb. 04, 2009:  Pelham Has Second Thoughts in 1887 About the Proposal To Create Pelham Bay Park.

Thu., Feb. 05, 2009:  New York City Corporation Counsel to Pelham in 1887: We Told You So!

Fri., Feb. 06, 2009:  More on Pelham's Displeasure with the Loss of Pelham Bay Park Lands from the Tax Rolls in the 19th Century.

Tue., Jan. 19, 2010:  Pelham to New York City in 1888:  "You Should Pay Taxes!"

Thu., Jun. 05, 2014:  Pelham Fights City Hall: Pelham Fights Creation of Pelham Bay Park During the 1880s.

Fri., Jun. 13, 2014:  1887 Letter to Editor Details Tax Burdens Pelham Bore Due to the Creation of Pelham Bay Park.

The injustice Pelham faced at the time was very real.  After New York City acquired Pelham lands to create Pelham Bay Park, New York owned about 1,700 acres of land within the Town of Pelham, assessed at about $500,000.  The remainder of the entire town was only roughly 1,300 acres, assessed at about $750,000.  Though much of the cost of maintaining the roads and infrastructure on the lands acquired by New York City would remain the same, owners of a much smaller proportion of the land in the town would be required to bear the tax burden.  .

The local tax rate applicable to the poor citizens who owned land in the portions of Pelham that were not purchased by New York City for use in Pelham Bay Park skyrocketed to 6% -- multiples of the previous tax rate.  As Pelhamites repeatedly pointed out, if New York City were to be required to pay taxes on the Pelham lands it owned, New York City residents would experience a tax increase of only one-eight-hundredth of one percent!  Pelham was outraged and battled the issue as New York City worked to annex Pelham Bay Park (as well as City Island and other portions of the surrounding region) in the mid-1890s.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of a brief article regarding the issue published in The Sun of New York City on February 5, 1888.  The text is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

1905 Map of Pelham Bay Park. Source: Office of the President
of the Borough of the Bronx Topographical Bureau, Topographical
Survey Sheets of the Borough of the Bronx Easterly of the Bronx
of the Bronx River" (1905) (Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map
Division, The New York Public Library). NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

"Rough on Pelham, but Must We Pay for It?

The city of New York insisted that if it had got to buy 1,700 acres of the town of Pelham for a park that it didn't want, at least it should not be compelled to pay taxes to the town of Pelham on the land.  It got this condition enacted into the law.

Now W. R. Lamberton writes to Mayor Hewitt asking him to support a bill introduced in the Assembly providing for the continued taxation at the present assessed value new parkland laid out outside of the city.  He puts his plea on the ground that otherwise the tax rate of Pelham, which town has only 1,300 acres left, will be raised to six per cent., and that that will bankrupt the town, which has already a flourishing bonded debt.

Mr. Lamberton does not say that the city is responsible for the unfortunate condition of the town, but he says that the city is rich, or, as he puts it:

'Do you think it is right to aid in oppressing the poor fishermen of City Island and the day laborers of Pelhamville, and in destroying the values of their little homes merely to save New York 1-800 of 1 per cent. in the New York city tax rate?'

The 1,700 acres are assessed at $500,000, and the rest of Pelham $700,000, Mr. Lamberton says that the town never encouraged the park scheme."

Source:  Rough on Pelham, but Must We Pay for It?, The Sun [NY, NY], Feb 5, 1888, p. 11, col. 6.  

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Violin Virtuoso Toscha Seidel, And Famed Dog Hector, Lived in Pelham

Toscha Seidel was a Russian-born violin virtuoso who came to the United States in the late 1920s.  He settled for a short time in Pleasantville, New York, but by about late 1929 he moved to Pelham where he resided for at least the next decade.

Born on November 17, 1899 in Odessa, Ukraine, Russia, Seidel became a student of the great violinist Leopold Auer in St. Petersburg in 1912 and studied with him until 1918.  Once he emigrated to the United States he married Estelle Manheim of San Francisco on January 1, 1929.  Estelle Manheim graduated from the University of California where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree and taught in California before the couple married.

Soon after the couple moved to Pelham, Toscha Seidel became a radio celebrity.  He became known to millions of radio listeners through his performances on the weekly "Toscha Seidel Program" broadcast by the Columbia Broadcasting System.  During summer months he performed on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 p.m. on the CBS Symphonic Hour as a soloist.  Seidel rose to the rank of musical director of the Columbia Broadcasting System and as chairman of the CBS musical advisory board.  

Detail from Undated Photograph of Toscha Seidel.
Source:  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
Division, Digital ID:  LC-DIG-ggbain-26228.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

In 1924, Seidel purchased the so-called Da Vinci Stradivarius, a violin crafted by the great master in about 1714.  The violin was so-named because its owner in 1865 "compared it in beauty of tone to one of Da Vinci's beautiful paintings."  Seidel kept the famed violin in a safe at the CBS Studios.  

According to several sources, in 1934, while living in Pelham, Seidel gave violin instruction to Albert Einstein who reportedly gave him, in return, a sketch diagramming the length contraction aspect of his general theory of relativity.   

As if such claims to fame were not enough, Toscha and Estelle Seidel of Stellar Avenue in the Village of Pelham Manor were famous throughout Pelham for one additional reason.  They were the owners of "Hector," a monumentally-large Great Dane that lounged on the couple's front doorstep surveying his kingdom.  According to an article published in The Pelham Sun on July 8, 1932, Hector was:

"a perfect war lord of a Great Dane, one hundred-and-seventy pounds of him, stretching his powerful length across a doorstep -- that is the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Seidel.  And the Great Dane in question is Hector, brother of Lindy, the National Champion.  As we looked at Hector we felt it could be nothing but the merest accident that prevented him from being the Champion himself and we speculated idly as to just what kind of a fellow his brother could be."

During the 1930s, Toscha Seidel also performed in a number of Hollywood productions including the movies "Intermezzo," "Apomethe," and "Melody for Three."  The very brief clip immediately below shows Toscha Seidel performing a portion of Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms in the movie "Apomethe."

According to one brief biography of Toscha Seidel:  "Seidel performed on violins by Antonio Stradivari "Da Vinci" 1712 (now known as the Ex-Seidel), Giovanni Battista Guadagnini 1786 (now known as the Ex-Seidel), as well as copy of the "Alard Stradivari" by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume 1860. He died on November 15, 1962."  Source:  "Toscha Seidel" in Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (visited Dec. 17, 2016).  

*          *          *           *          *

Below is the text of an article and an image published with it that form the basis for today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"Toscha Seidel with Mrs. Seidel and Hector, the family pet,
at the Seidel residence on Stellar avenue, Pelham Manor.
Source:  Leary, Margaret, Toscha Seidel Talks Of $60,000
Violins, Dogs And The Suburbs In His Pelham Manor,
The Pelham Sun, Jul. 8, 1932, p. 5, cols. 2-4.  NOTE:  Click
on Image to Enlarge.

"Toscha Seidel Talks Of $60,000 Violins, Dogs And The Suburbs In His Pelham Manor
By Margaret Leary

Other times, other manners, indeed!  It isn't only fashions in women's headgear and the like that change.  Fashions in musicians change, too.  Take Toscha Seidel, the celebrated violinist for example.  Perhaps one has a mental picture of the usual long, black waving hair, unviolated by the barber's shears, the funeral black tie and the general dreamy, abstracted expression that one associates with the French romantic poets who so loved to contemplate the grave.  Nothing in the world could be further from the truth.  Mr. Seidel is a young, energetic person, and when the reporter from The Pelham Sun visited him, wore white flannels and could easily have been mistaken for any other innocent suburbanite enjoying the coolness of his Pelham Manor home on a July afternoon.

If one strolls along Stellar avenue and happens to see a perfect war lord of a Great Dane, one hundred-and-seventy pounds of him, stretching his powerful length across a doorstep -- that is the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Seidel.  And the Great Dane in question is Hector, brother of Lindy, the National Champion.  As we looked at Hector we felt it could be nothing but the merest accident that prevented him from being the Champion himself and we speculated idly as to just what kind of a fellow his brother could be.

If one asks Mr. Seidel about Hector, showing any interest, he will bring out the dog's pedigree which is all properly framed and hangs on the wall of his office in his home.

Mr. Seidel, who is thirty-two-years old, is animated and quick, both physically and mentally, the visitor soon feels.  He was born in Odessa, Russia, and has studied the violin since he was a child of seven.  The late Professor Leopold Auer, who died in 1930, was his teacher from 1912 to 1918.

Mr. Seidel is known to millions of listeners through his radio programs.  He is musical director of the Columbia Broadcasting System and is heard on weekly 'Toscha Seidel' program.  He is also chairman of the musical advisory board.  In the summer months he is heard as soloist on the Symphonic Hour on Sundays at three o'clock.  He has a few very advanced pupils but the majority of his time is devoted to his radio work.

He has been around the world on concert tours and his hobby is bacteriology!  Who said musicians didn't have brains?  Hoffman, the pianist is interested in mechanics.  Mr. Seidel told us and he seemed to think it not at all strange that he found pleasure in hours of study at the Rockefeller Institute.

On New Year's Day, 1929, Mr. Sediel married Estelle Manheim of San Francisco.  Mrs. Seidel was graduated from the University of California where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree and taught in California before her marriage.

'Is Mrs. Seidel a musician,' we asked, and chuckled at the quick and amused response.

'No, thank heaven!'  There was no possibility of misunderstanding the spirit back of it.

Mrs. Seidel appreciates music, needless to say, but she is not a creative artist.  One is usually considered enough for a household, we remarked.  Incidentally we had the pleasure of meeting the lady in question later and admired her poised and gracious air.  Before coming to Pelham Manor about two and a half years ago the family lived in Pleasantville.

'Do you like Pelham Manor?' we felt it our duty to ask and were told that the violinist does like it.  Likes its quiet atmosphere and his charming neighbors.

Mr. Seidel is the possessor of a rare and very valuable violin, the 'Da Vinci Stradivarius.'  It was made in 1714and has been in the possession of Mr. Seidel since 1924.  The value of this exquisite instrument which the artist uses constantly is estimated at $60,000.  Most of the time it is kept in a safe at the Studio in New York.  Monsier [sic] Chardon who owned the violin in 1865 compared it in beauty of tone to one of Da Vinci's beautiful paintings.

Mr. Seidel naturally is much interested in radio and its possibilities and in the changes that the advent of television may make in its future development.  He brings to his conversation a touch of imagination and vision and a quick good humour.

On July 11th Mr. and Mrs. Seidel will leave for Lake Placid where they will spend a two weeks' vacation with Mr. Carl Goldmark.  The violinist will be heard on the radio again on Sunday the 31st, after his vacation.

Hector, on his good behavior exhibited company manners as we left and very gravely lifted his right forepaw.  We took it respectfully, feeling that we had received an accolade, at least!"

Source:  Leary, Margaret, Toscha Seidel Talks Of $60,000 Violins, Dogs And The Suburbs In His Pelham ManorThe Pelham Sun, Jul. 8, 1932, p. 5, cols. 2-4.  

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stage Coach Days In Old Pelham

Due to the influence of Hollywood, many associate stage coaches with the Wild West in 19th century America.  For nearly 125 years, however, stage coaches rumbled through Pelham on the Old Boston Post Road (today's Colonial Avenue), the Boston Turnpike (today's Boston Post Road), and on Shore Road and City Island Road (a portion of which includes today's Orchard Beach Road).  I have written before about the stage coach days in old Pelham.  See, e.g.:

Fri., Mar. 11, 2016:  How Did Pelhamites Travel To and From Nearby New York City in 1857?

Fri., Sep. 05, 2014:  Post Card Image of Bartow and City Island Stage Coach With Driver.

Wed., Aug. 13, 2014:  The Nineteenth Century Stage Coach Presented to Local Boy Scouts by Famed Illustrator Edward Penfield During the 1920s.

Fri., Aug. 08, 2014 1894:  Pelham School Budget Vote:  Stage Coach Authorized To Transport Pelham Students in Days Before Autos and Buses.

Fri., Jul. 25, 2014:  Stage Coach Accident in Pelham in Early 1883

Fri., Mar. 21, 2014:  Examples of Very Early Merchant Advertisements in the Town of Pelham

Mon., Apr. 12, 2010:  New York Athletic Club Stage Coach Accident Leads to Death of Pelham Manor Man.

Wed., Mar. 03, 2010:  1879 Advertisement for Robert J. Vickery's City Island Stage Line, A Predecessor to the City Island Horse Railroad

Mon., Oct. 26, 2009:  Pelham Was a Principal Station on the Stage Coach Route of Dorance, Recide & Co. Which Carried Mail Between New York and Boston.

Thu., Sep. 24, 2009:  Brief Newspaper Account of the January 1, 1883 Annual Meeting of the Pelham Manor Protective Club (article includes account of an accident involving one of Vickery's stages). 

Tue., Jan. 27, 2009:  Biography of William Vickery, a 19th Century Resident of City Island in the Town of Pelham.

Mon., Mar. 21, 2005:  Pelham Was A Station Stop for the Stage Coach That Carried Mail from New York To Boston in the Early 19th Century.

In 1813, New York City newspapers published announcements of the opening of another new stage coach line:  the New-York & Boston New Line Diligence Stage running from New York City to Boston by way of New Haven, Hartford, and Providence.  

Including the phrase "Diligence Stage" within the name was no accident.  A "Diligence Stage" (known as a "Dilly" for short) was a solidly-built stage coach typically drawn by four (or more) horses.  The Dilly was associated with a successful public stage coach conveyance system in France that was mimicked in other European nations including Germany and Spain.  In Europe, a "Dilly" could be a long, bus-like coach with many rows of seats, pulled by many horses.  It could be something that looked more like a modern bus than Hollywood-influenced images of stage coaches.  

On August 16, 1813, the New-York & Boston New Line Diligence Stage departed at 2:00 a.m. and rumbled quickly through Pelham along the Boston Turnpike (today's Boston Post Road).  The stage made it to Hartford where passengers spent the "night."  Within a short time of arrival, the Dilly departed Hartford at 6:00 a.m. proceeding to Providence and Boston during the day.  

At the same time (2:00 a.m.) each day (except Sundays), a Diligence Stage started toward New York from Hartford.  It stopped at "Mr. Butler's Hotel at New Haven" for breakfast, then rumbled down Boston Post Road through Pelham and on to New York City where it arrived in the evening each day.  

The Boston Turnpike section that ran through Pelham at the time was about a decade old.  Built to shorten the route toward Boston in the area, the Boston Turnpike was a more direct route than the winding route up to the Old Boston Post Road crossing of the Hutchinson River at today's Colonial Avenue and East Sandford Boulevard.  

It seems nearly impossible today to imagine that stage coaches once rumbled up and down a dusty, unpaved Boston Post Road through Pelham several times each day.  Yet, for nearly 125 years, various stage coach lines ran such conveyances through Pelham nearly every day.

An advertisement announcing the opening of the New York & Boston New Line Diligence Stage with an image of a stage coach drawn by four horses appears immediately below.  It is followed by a transcription of its text to facilitate search as well as a citation and link to its source.

1813 Newspaper Advertisement Announcing the
Opending of the New-York & Boston New Line
Diligence Stage that Traveled Through Pelham on
Today's Boston Post Road.  Source:  NEW-YORK
[Advertisement], New-York Evening Post, Sep.
8, 1813, p. 1, col. 4.  NOTE:  Click on Image To
Enlarge.  Text Transcribed Below to Facilitate Search. 


BY the way of New-Haven, Hartford and Providence to Boston, will commence running on Monday the 16th day of August, to start from New-York every morning at 2 o'clock, (Sundays excepted,) and arrives at Hartford the same night to lodge, will leave Hartford at 6 o'clock, A.M. and arrive at Providence and Boston at the usual time.  The New Line Diligence Stage will start from Mr. Bennett's Hotel at Hartford, every morning at 2 o'clock (Sundays excepted) breakfast at Mr. Butler's Hotel at New-Haven, and arrive at New-York the same evening; -- where passengers can be accommodated with Seats to Proceed on in the Regular Southern Stages to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington City.  Stage fare and baggage as usual.  All baggage at the risk of the owner thereof.  For Seats in the New Line Diligence Stage, apply to THOMAS WHITFIELD at the Stage office, No. 1 Courtlandt-Street, corner of Broadway, New-York; -- at Mr. BUTLER'S HOTEL, New-Haven; at Mr. BENNETT'S Hotel, Hartford; at Mr. E. MACOMBER'S and Mr. E. FOSTER'S, Providence; -- at Mr. BOYDEN's Market-Square and Mr. J. TRASK's Bloomfield-Lane, Boston.

The Proprietors of the New Line Dilligence [sic] Stage, respectfully inform the Public that they have spared no expense in providing New Stages, able Horses and careful drivers and every thing necessary for the Comfort and Accommodation of Passengers that may please to favour this Line with their custom.  This Line travels on the best Turnpike Road through the principal Towns between New-York and Boston.


N.B. Extra Carriages Furnished, and Expresses sent to any part of the United States, by THOMAS WHITFIELD, No. 1, Courtland Street, New-York.

Aug 12"

Source:  NEW-YORK & BOSTON NEW LINE DILIGENCE STAGE [Advertisement], New-York Evening Post, Sep. 8, 1813, p. 1, col. 4.

Postcard Image of "Bartow and City Island Stage Coach Line"
Postmarked Sep. 6, 1910.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, December 26, 2016

Pelham Stood Alone in Westchester When It Voted to Go Dry in 1896

"Oh, I suppose we will have to establish a 'dead line' up at
our country place at Travers Island, and everybody found
on the wrong side of that line will have to be shot."

-- Words of Superintendent of New York Athletic Club's 
Travers Island Facility in 1896 After Pelham Voted to Ban
the Sale of All Alcohol in Town.  Since a Portion of Travers
Island Is in New Rochelle, the Club Merely Moved its Bar
to the New Rochelle Side Though, Thankfully, It Never 
Had to Create the Proposed "Dead Line" to Enforce Local
Prohibition by Gunshot. . . . 

It was election day in Pelham, 1896.  What a day it was!  By 9 o'clock in the morning the ballot boxes already were stuffed nearly full.  Yet, "all day long carriages were dashing through the streets picking up and bringing in tardy or reluctant voters from the outlying districts."  A momentous issue was on the ballot.  It was an issue that "brought to the polls many voters who might not have been induced to leave their homes to assist in settling any matter of less moment."  It was whether liquor would continue to be sold within the town limits of the Town of Pelham.  

The members of the New York Athletic Club who frequented Travers Island were bemused by all the commotion and the seriousness of the ballot battle.  They knew that a portion of their facility on Travers Island was actually within the town limits of the then Town of New Rochelle that would not be affected by the vote.  They knew that even if the measure passed, all they would have to do would be to buy a New Rochelle liquor license and move the club bar to the New Rochelle side of the facility.  After the measure passed, that is exactly what they did.  See Thu., Aug. 11, 2005:  How Dry I Am: Pelham Goes Dry in the 1890s and Travers Island Is At the Center of a Storm.  

The Raines Law of 1896 was a revenue-raising statute that substantially increased the cost of liquor licenses throughout the State and included a provision to allow municipalities a "local option" to vote whether the municipality would or would not allow the sale of alcohol.  If such sales were allowed by a municipality, liquor licenses would continue to be required.  If not, no such licenses would be issued within that municipality.  Thus, the local option was also known as the "license or no license" question.  

In the March, 1896 Town elections, Pelham and many other towns in the region included a "license or no license" question on the local ballot.  Pelham was the only town in the County of Westchester to vote in favor of "no license" by a majority of eighteen votes, thus banning the sale of alcohol, except by physician's prescription.  The reasons underlying the vote in Pelham provide a fascinating glimpse of what troubled Pelham residents at the time.

Pelham had plenty of experience with saloons and liquor sales.  For many years, the saloons around Pelham Bridge and Bartow, before those sections were annexed by New York City in 1895, had been notorious for their rough clientele and for constantly attracting illegal prize fights.  Likewise the little settlement of Pelhamville had attracted its own share of saloons to the consternation of local residents.  By 1896, there were "four or five liquor stores" in Pelhamville that led to "an amount of drunkenness out of all proportion to the population, due in part to visits from countrymen living not too far away to drive or walk in for their dram."

To make matters worse, during the summer of 1895, the White Hotel, which stood on a very large lot on the southwest corner of Wolfs Lane and Third Street (which becomes Boulevard after crossing Wolfs Lane), began inviting baseball teams from from New York and Mount Vernon to use its baseball and pigeon-shooting grounds (and to seek refreshment within the hotel).  The teams were rowdy, loud, and were notorious for drunkenness and gambling.  

The residents of Pelhamville wanted something done.  Moreover, the residents of nearby Pelham Manor where there were no liquor stores, saloons, or hotels that served alcohol began to worry that their own little village would be at risk.  

In the town elections in March, 1896, town Republicans decided to make the local option issue of "no license" a major centerpiece of their election strategy.  To get local blood boiling, someone distributed a circular pointing out that unless Pelham voted to ban the sale of alcohol, under the new revenue-raising statute known as the Raines Law, new liquor licenses would cost $500 in New Rochelle, $350 in Mount Vernon, and only $100 in Pelham, suggesting that all manner of liquor sellers would flock to Pelham and peddle the devil's own elixir.  

The battle was surprisingly arduous.  The issue, of course, was perceived as a "moral" or "immoral" one, as the case may be.  When the ballots were counted, "no license" won by an eighteen-vote majority.  While that might suggest a Republican victory, it was not.  The Republican candidate for Town Supervisor, John M. Shinn (running for re-election), prevailed.  Democrats won the remaining town offices.  

The vote in Pelham horrified New York City clubmen.  The New York Athletic Club was not the only New York City club with a "summer" clubhouse.  Seeing the "no license" vote in the Town of Pelham, the clubmen created an organization with an Executive Committee known as the "Committee of Nine" to lobby the State Legislature to create an exception in "no license" jurisdictions for such "summer" clubhouses.  

The New York Athletic Club seemed to lord it over the other clubs a bit.  It had its backup plan -- a plan that it was eventually forced to use.  It simply moved its bar to a location on Travers Island within the Town of New Rochelle.

Detail from Map Published in 1899 Showing How Pelham
Border with New Rochelle Cut Through a Portion of the
Original Clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club on Travers
Island.  Source:  Fairchild, John F.,  Atlas of the City of
Mount Vernon and the Town of Pelham, Double Page Plate
No. 24 (Mount Vernon, NY:  John F. Fairchild, 1899).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          * 


There was little talk of party politics about the Town House in Pelham, Westchester County, on Tuesday; but there has seldom been so much interest felt and displayed even in a Presidential election.  The tickets were severally entitled 'Republican' and 'Democratic,' but it is said that they were pretty badly mixed.  At any rate, the voters were mixed, for each candidate was weighed by each voter on some question of local management or town improvement.  There is a struggle about the admission of certain trolley companies, and there are diverse views as to the streets and avenues that the successful company should pass through, opinions being influenced, doubtless, to some extent, by improvement or injury to property, hoped or feared by certain landowners.  It is probable that the views of candidates on these and kindred topics were more eagerly canvassed than those on bimetallism or the McKinley tariff.

Then there was the great 'moral' question of license or no license, which came in for decision under the Raines law.  It was highly interesting and brought to the polls many voters who might not have been induced to leave their homes to assist in settling any matter of less moment.  By 9 o'clock in the morning the ballot-boxes seemed to be nearly full, and all day long carriages were dashing through the streets picking up and bringing in tardy or reluctant voters from the outlying districts.

The town of Pelham is peculiarly situated.  Since the division last year, in the formation of Greater New-York, it has lost City Island and the Sound shore population, which for years had dominated the inland portion of the town.  It now contains only one village -- Pelhamville -- and in this village there have been four or five liquor shops and an amount of drunkenness out of all proportion to the population, due in part to visits from countrymen living not too far away to drive or walk in for their dram.  The rest of the town is occupied by persons who live in homes surrounded by considerable ground, and who have selected their houses with a view to seclusion and quiet.  This quiet has become endangered by the extension of the trolley lines from Mount Vernon and the easy access thus given to excursionists to the woods and gardens of Pelham Manor, Pelham Heights and the adjacent country.  Last summer a hotel at First-st. and Wolf Lane [sic] invited guests from New-York and Mount Vernon to its baseball and pigeon-shooting grounds, and the noise, even on Sunday, became a serious annoyance to many residents.  It was thought well to put a stop to this and to everything like it.

Circulars were sent to all the voters explaining that under the provisions of the Raines law a license would cost in Mount Vernon $500 in New Rochelle $350, and iin Pelham only $100, thus opening the door to many nuisances.  The issue was made and the fight was furious, the result being a defeat for license by eighteen majority.

What was called the Democratic ticket was elected, with the exception of Supervisor."

Source:  PELHAM, New-York Daily Tribune, Apr. 2, 1896, Vol. LV, No. 18,036, p. 15, col. 4.  

Democrats Gain and the Raines Law Is Said to Be the Reason.

The completed returns from the town elections in Westchester county, which were held on Tuesday in the towns of Bedford, Cortlandt, East Chester, Harrison, Mamaroneck, North Salem, Ossining, Rye, Scarsdale, and White Plains, Democratic Supervisors were elected; while in the towns of Greenburgh, Lewisboro, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, New Rochelle, North Castle, Pelham, Poundridge, Somers, and Yorktown the Republicans carried the day.  Inasmuch as there are five Republican Supervisors from the city of Yonkers and two Democrats, and one Republican is on the Board from Mount Vernon, the present complexion of the Board is sixteen Republicans to twelve Democrats.  The result shows a gain of two for the Democrats and  loss of two for the Republicans.

The city of Mount Vernon will elect its five Supervisors on May 19.  Yonkers elects its Supervisors in the fall.  

In the town of Harrison the Republican candidate, George T. Burling, is contesting the result of the election on the ground that the ballots were improperly prepared.  The case will be taken before the Supreme Court.

The Raines law was a considerable factor in the elections, and it had the effect which has been predicted by many politicians in all parts of the State.  In the small towns and villages in which the license fee will be practically unchanged, the law had but little influence on the voters.

In the larger towns the law was the leading issue, and the effect that it had on the voters may be fairly judged from the action of the citizens of White Plains.  In the last Gubernatorial election there Gov. Morton received 655 votes to Senator Hill's 588.  The town had been brought into the Republican column after a hard fight, but it was counted on as safe to give each year a Republican majority of from fifty to seventy-five.  The Raines law raised the license fee there from $75 to $200, and the saloon-keepers set to work to teach the Republicans a lesson.  They succeeded in winning over enough voters to their side to elect the Democratic ticket by an average pllurality of 100.

Al of the towns voted in favor of the proposition to grant liquor licenses except the town of Pelham in whih is located Pelham Manor, where many wealthy New York business and professional men reside.  There the proposition was rejected by a large majority, and as a result no saloon, grocery, or hotel license can be granted until after the election of 1898."

Source:  THE WESTCHESTER ELECTIONS -- Democrats Gain and the Raines Law Is Said to Be the Reason, The Sun [NY, NY], Apr. 2, 1896, Vol. LXIII, No. 215, p. 9, col. 3.  


The dissatisfaction of the leading social clubs of this city over the Raines Liquor Tax law in its application to those organizations was made manifest and distinct last evening at the headquarters of the Arion Society.  A special meeting had been called for representatives of the clubs to take action regarding the law.  The committee of nine, which had been appointed a week ago last Wednesday night to take preliminary steps, had sent out some fifty invitations to as many clubs to send representatives to the meeting.  

It was regarded last night as a sure sign that the leading clubs of the city were practically unanimous in their views, since thirty-five of those clubs were represented.  The members met in the main dining hall of the club.

The following clubs were represented:  The Arion Society, by Richard Katzenayer, president, and Edward M. Burghard; the Liedderkranz, by William Steinway; Manhattan Club, John von Glahn; Colon Cervantes, A Martinez; Columbia, C. Sichel; Heinebund, Hugo Jansen; New-York Athletic, T. S. Watson and Bartow S. Weeks; Lotos, F. F. Murray and D. B. Sickels; Schnorer, H. C. Schroeder; Press, Frederick Hemming; Holland, Furman T. Nutt; New-York, Carl Eglinger; Cercle Francaise de l'Harmonie, J. Weill; Fidelio, J. M. Klein; Central Turn Verein, W. Henneburg and J. W. Kaebel; 7th Regiment, W. C. Palmer; Harlem, James H. Taylor, and Union League, J. R. Van Wormer.  Other clubs represented were the Progress, Racquet, Riding, Sachem, Tremont, the Verein Frdundschaft, United Service, the Aschenbroedel Society, the Beethoven Maennerchor, the Century Association, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Democratic Club of the Twenty-First Ward, Engineers', Fordham, the German Press, the Harmonic and the New Manhattan Athletic.

In the absence from the city of Frank R. Lawrence, who had presided at the first meeting, Edward M. Burghard was made chairman.  J. H. Taylor, secretary of the Committee of Nine, was chosen secretary of the main body.  It was decided that the session should be held behind closed doors, so that reporters were excluded.

The session lasted about an hour and a half.  There was a ful and free discussion, and not a dissentient voice, according to the statements of members subsequently.  The opinion was unanimous that the Raines law was a menace to the privacy of club life and therefore threatened the best feature of its existence.  One of the speakers was particularly vehement in his denunciation of the 
Continued on Seventh Page.

Continued from First Page.

law as being drawn upon narrow lines which wholly ignored the club development of modern life in large centres of population.  He was vigorously applauded, especially in his reference to the opportunity afforded inspectors and policemen to invade a club at any hour.

The result of the conference was the adoption of a resolution instructing the Committee of Nine to prepare such an amendment to the Raines law as would meet the objections raised by the clubs.  One of the other objections stated was that regarding  the show of the tax certificate 'on the outer walls,' as one member put it.  The general spirit of the meeting was that the Raines law placed clubs on a common level, in the eyes of the law, with the ordinary grog shop.

The committee was instructed to pursue such a course as it considered necessary in framing the amendment and having it introduced into the Legislature.  The committee will hold a meeting at once to frame the desired amendment.  The meeting adjourned indefinitely.

John R. Van Wormer, of the Union League Club, and chairman of the Committee of Nine, speaking of the results of the meeting, said:  'Senatore Raines probably intended to make the large clubs pay a tax under the provisions of the bill, but he forgot the little clubs and coteries and the small table d'hote places, all of which will be disastrously affected by the operation of the law.  The action taken tonight is not a decisive one on the part of the clubmen here.  When the amendment is prepared it will be referred back, and the club will then have opportunity to approve or disapprove it.  It is not expected that the Committee of Nine will go to Albany to present the amendment, but it is hoped that the various clubs will themselves send representatives there to argue in favor of the amendment before the committees of the Assembly and Senate.  The clubs want privileges similar to hotels if practicable.'

William Steinway said:  'This is a good movement, to my mind.  The best interests of the best forms of club-life demand the conditions which we are seeking.  The possibility of interference from outside in the regular and orderly course of club-life is to be deprecated.'

The committee of nine consists of J. R. Van Wormer, chairman; E. M. Burghard, John Von Glahn, F. T. Murray, Bartow S. Weeks, H. C. Schroeder, J. H. Taylor, Aristides Martinez and Gustave Dorval.

Like the members of other clubs, and especially those hving country houses, the members of the New-York Athletic Club have not the kindest of feelings for the Raines bill.  The fact that some of the towns have already taken the privilege of the local option clause in the bill, and that others will follow suit, may in the end have the effect of sending some of the clubs, or rather the country houses of those clubs, to New-Jersey.  Hoboken sees a bright future before it.  The fact that the town of Pelham has decided in favor of no license, when announced yesterday, aused the liveliest sort of discussion among the members of the New-York Athletic Club, and there was some wild scurrying around in the afternoon to find out how the law would affect their house at Travers Island.  

John C. Gulick, a lawyer, and the secretary of the club, was seen at his office in the Vanderbilt Building.  Mr. Gulick had not been informed of the action taken by the town of Pelham, but he evinced little surprise when the information was imparted to him.  'Our club will obey the law,' said he,'as usual.  The action of the town of Pelham may, and then again it may not, affect us up at Travers Island.  As I remember, our country home is partly in the town of Pelham and partly in the town of New Rochelle.  But I cannot say with any degree of certainty whether the clubhouse is on the Pelham side or not.  I think we have a survey of the property up at the clubhouse in Fifty-fifth-st.'

Superintendent Duffy was seen at the clubhouse yesterday afternoon, and, as usual, the good-natured superintendent looked at the bright side of the question.  'Oh, I suppose we will have to establish a 'dead line' up at our country place at Travers Island, and everybody found on the wrong side of that ine will have to be shot,' said he, 'Seriously, though, the action taken by the town of Pelham will not inconvenience us to any appreciable extent.  The club will have to take out a license in the town of New-Rochelle.  It will cost us a little money, possibly, to conform to the new conditions, but it won't be much.  The dividing line between Pelham and New-Rochelle runs diagonally through Travers Island, and cuts the property in two.  I suppose that if any liquor is to be sold, the selling will have to take place on that side which is in the town of New-Rochelle.  Some of the other clubs will not be so fortunate.'"


Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,