The Mystery of the Missing Proprietor of Bartow Hotel
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From at least as early as 1876, the "Bartow Hotel" stood near Bartow Station on the New Haven Branch Line. For many years, the proprietor of the Bartow Hotel was Charles E. Mahoney. Mahoney and his family lived in the hotel that also included a rather notorious saloon. The hotel was described in 1878 as the "'Bartow Hotel,' which appears to do a composite business in beer and horse-shoeing." See THE PEARL OF THE SOUND, N.Y. Times, Aug. 23, 1878, p. 12, col. 3. (Note: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
During the 1880s, as New York City assembled and purchased the parcels necessary to open Pelham Bay Park, it became clear that the days of the Bartow Hotel were numbered. Indeed, by early 1890, according to news reports, New York City had taken the hotel property and paid Charles Mahoney $1,200 for the structure and the land on which it stood. Mahoney was, however, permitted to remain and to continue to operate the hotel for a time.
Mahoney continued to live in the hotel with four daughters, the oldest of whom was fifteen. Mahoney's wife had died in about 1887.
In late March, 1890, Mahoney was flush with cash. He had deposited in two banks the $1,200 he had received from New York City for the Bartow Hotel (about $40,000 in today's dollars). He announced to his four children, whom he loved dearly, that he was taking his two bank books and taking a train to New York City to meet with his lawyer, W. R. Lamberton, who had an office at 16 Exchange Place in lower Manhattan. Mahoney told family and friends that he would return that evening.
Mahoney left for Manhattan and vanished into thin air.
As the days passed, Mahoney's children grew frantic. Friends and neighbors throughout the Town of Pelham were abuzz over Mahoney's disappearance. Some became amateur detectives, making inquiries and searching for the missing man. Inquiries at the law office of W. R. Lamberton in Manhattan revealed that Charles Mahoney never arrived at Lamberton's office. Most believed Mahoney had met with foul play.
New York City Park authorities grew alarmed and announced that Bartow Hotel had been closed. Mahoney's four girls were allowed to remain in the home. Multiple reports note that their Pelham neighbors and friends were caring for the girls in the absence of their father.
The mystery grew frightening and sinister on Saturday, March 29, 1890. That day a shabbily-dressed young man with blond hair showed up at Bartow Hotel. He told Mahoney's oldest daughter that he was simply a messenger with a message. He said that her father was in New York City and was very ill. He told the girl that her father had asked for her to come to his side. He offered to take her to her father's sickbed. Though the girl demanded to know where her father could be found and asked for details, the young man refused to provide any further information.
As a train bound for New York City pulled into Bartow Station, only steps away from Bartow Hotel, Mahoney's daughter ran next door to a neighbor's house to ask for assistance. This spooked the shabbily-dressed young man who ran to the station and hopped on the train as it departed for New York.
Several of Mahoney's neighbors said that they saw the young man when he arrived at Bartow and approached Mahoney's daughter. At least one neighbor claimed to have seen the man a second time later.
Within a short time, Mahoney's daughter received a telegram signed with her father's name. The telegram asked the girl to come to her father at an address on East 125th Street. It turned out that no such address existed on East 125th Street.
Mahoney's friends and neighbors in Pelham were perplexed. They believed that Mahoney was being held against his will until money could be siphoned from his accounts or, worse, that he had met his end.
Shockingly, on Wednesday, April 2, 1890, Charles E. Mahoney reappeared at Bartow, accompanied by a Constable named Munson. Mahoney told a strange tale, claiming that a woman who said she was his second wife whom he had abandoned had preferred abandonment charges against him and had him arrested while he was in New York City. Mahoney claimed, however, that he never married the woman, though she went by the name Mrs. Mahoney. He claimed that he was prepared to marry yet another woman, though he would have to get out of his "present difficulty" first. According to one account:
"He spent his time Thursday in telling the boys what a great time he had. He was arrested on a charge of abandonment preferred against him by his second wife. Mahoney says that the lady who bears the name of Mrs. Mahoney is not his wife, and that he expects to marry another woman as soon as he gets out of his present difficulty. Mahoney's vacation cost him about $500, and the bill is not all paid up yet."
It seems that although Mahoney had safely returned to Bartow, the mystery of his disappearance had simply evolved into the mystery of his personal life -- a mystery that seems never to have been cracked by New York newspapers or Mr. Mahoney's Pelham friends.
* * * * *
Below is the text of a series of articles about Charles E. Mahoney's strange disappearance and reappearance in the early spring of 1890. Each article is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"WHERE IS MAHONEY?
Sudden and Mysterious Disappearance of a Hotel Keeper.
Charles E. Mahoney, proprietor of the Bartow Hotel, a popular summer road house, situated at Bartow, near City Island, has been missing for the last two weeks. When he left home it was with the intention of visiting the office of W. R. Lamberton, who is his lawyer, at No. 16 Exchange place, saying that he would be back the same evening. He had in his possession at the time two bank books, representing all the money he was worth. This money he had recently received from the sale of his hotel property to the city of New York, the hotel being situated within the limits of the new Pelham Park. The books represented about $1,200 in all. Mr. Mahoney was known as a reliable citizen and was devoted to his home and his four beautiful children. His wife died about three years ago. He never left home before without his people having a full knowledge of his whereabouts.
Inquiry at Mr. Lamberton's office elicited the information that Mr. Mahoney had not called there. No other information has been secured regarding Mr. Mahoney except that brought by a young man who called at the Bartow Hotel on last Saturday, and told Mr. Mahoney's daughter Mary that he had been sent to inform her that her father was very ill and he wanted her to come to him at once. The stranger was a blond young man, of shabby appearance, and refused to answer the frightened girl's questions as to the whereabouts of her father. He said he was simply a messenger sent to tell her of her father's condition, and that he could not tell her where he was. The girl refused to go with him, and ran to a neighbor's home for assistance. The young man at once left, taking the train for New York, which was then at Bartow station.
Neighbors and friends have since interested themselves in the case and have made inquiries at every place that Mr. Mahoney has visited in the past. None of his friends has seen him. The Park authorities of New York city have now taken his hotel and closed it up, leaving Mahoney's children destitute. They have allowed them to remain in the house and the neighbors are assisting them. Meantime the town is excited over the peculiar case. The neighbors of Mahoney, one of whom saw the strange young man when he called last Saturday and once since then, believe that Mahoney has been either enticed or taken away by force, by a gang in Harlem who knew he had money and are either holding him until his money is gone or have already made way with him."
Source: WHERE IS MAHONEY? -- Sudden and Mysterious Disappearance of a Hotel Keeper, The Evening Telegram [NY, NY], Apr. 2, 1890, p. 5, col. 4.
"MISSING FROM HOME.
Charles E. Mahoney, who for a good many years has been the proprietor of the Bartow Hotel, a summer road house at Bartow, on the Harlem River Branch Road, has been missing from his home for about two weeks. When he went away from the house he said he was going to see his lawyer, W. R. Lamberton, in New York, and had two bank-books with him representing about $1,200. That is the last that has been seen of him by his family or friends at Bartow. His wife died about three years ago, but he has four children.
Mr. Lamberton says he has not seen him, and that he did not come to his office, as he said he was going to do. His family and friends fear he has fallen into the hands of some roughs, who, knowing he had the money with him, are keeping him until it shall all be used up, or that he has been foully dealt with.
The New York park authorities have taken his hotel and closed it up, allowing the children to remain in it. Last Saturday, his daughter says, a strange young man called at the house and said he had been sent as a messenger to tell her that her father was very ill in New York, and wanted the daughter to come to him. He would not give the address, and she would not accompany him. The authorities are trying to discover his whereabouts."
Source: MISSING FROM HOME, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Apr. 3, 1890, Vol. VII, No. 1,962, p. 2, col. 3.
"MYSTERY ABOUT MR. MAHONEY.
Mr. Charles E. Mahoney, the proprietor of the Bartow Hotel, at Bartow, near City Island, left his home some two weeks ago with the expressed intention of consulting his lawyer, Mr. W. R. Lamberton of No. 16 Exchange place, and has not since been seen by any of his friends or relatives. Inquiries showed that he did not visit his lawyer.
He had with him at the time he disappeared a couple of bank books representing deposits of $900. This money he had recently received from the city for his property, which had been condemned as being within the boundaries of the new Pelham Park. His four children still occupy the house, supported by his neighbors. Last Saturday a shabbily dressed young man called at the house and told the oldest daughter, who is fifteen years old, that her father was very ill and that if she would accompany him he would take her to her father. He declined to tell where her father was and ran off when the girl went to consult a neighbor. Subsequently she got a telegram signed with her father's name, requesting her to come to him at a certain number on East 125th street. No such number could be found.
Mr. Mahoney bore a good reputation and his friends suspect foul play."
Source: Mystery About Mr. Mahoney, N.Y. Herald, Apr. 4, 1890, No. 19,582, p. 3, cols. 4-5.
"HOME AGAIN. -- Charles E. Mahoney, the former proprietor of the Bartow Hotel, who left his family a week ago, returned home on Wednesday night under the charge of a constable. He was arrested on a charge of abandonment preferred against him by his second wife."
Source: HOME AGAIN, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Apr. 4, 1890, Vol. VII, No. 1,962 [sic; 1,963], p. 4, col. 3.
"MAHONEY'S COSTLY VACATION.
Charles E. Mahoney, the former proprietor of the Bartow Hotel, who left his family and went on an extended and somewhat hilarious tour a week ago, returned Wednesday night to Bartow in charge of Constable Munson, and is still in charge of that official.
He spent his time Thursday in telling the boys what a great time he had. He was arrested on a charge of abandonment preferred against him by his second wife. Mahoney says that the lady who bears the name of Mrs. Mahoney is not his wife, and that he expects to marry another woman as soon as he gets out of his present difficulty. Mahoney's vacation cost him about $500, and the bill is not all paid up yet."
Source: MAHONEY'S COSTLY VACATION, N.Y. Herald, Apr. 4, 1890, No. 19,583, p. 9, col. 4.
"COUNTY ITEMS. . . .
--Charles E. Mahoney, for a good many years proprietor of the Bartow Hotel, a summer road-house at Bartow, has been missing from his home for several weeks. When he went away he said he was going to see his lawyer, W. R. Lamberton, in New York, and had two bank books with him representing about $1,200. That is the last seen of him. His wife died about three years ago, but he has four children. Mr. Lamberton says he has not seen him. It is feared he has fallen in the hands of roughs, knowing he had money. The New York park authorities have taken his hotel and closed it up, allowing the children to remain in it. Mahoney returned on Wednesday night under the charge of a constable. He was arrested on a charge of abandonment preferred against him by his second wife."
Source: COUNTY ITEMS, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Apr. 12, 1890, Vol. XLVI, No. 2, p. 2, cols. 2-3.
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