Pelhamville Citizens Petitioned to Establish a Fire District In Early 1893
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In late 1892 and early 1893, before the incorporation of the Village of North Pelham and the adjacent Village of Pelham (today's Pelham Heights), residents of the area north of the newly-incorporated Village of Pelham Manor agitated to form a modern volunteer fire fighting unit to fight fires in Pelhamville and the area we know today as Pelham Heights.
Under recently enacted New York State laws, the taxpayers of Pelhamville and Pelham Heights prepared a petition signed by more than half the resident taxpayers in that part of the town asking for the "authority to organize a fire department in that portion of said town lying north of the old Boston Post Road, and to be known as the Pelhamville fire department."
The petition, presented to the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County, was signed by a host of the most notable residents of Pelhamville and Pelham Heights including Congressman Benjamin L. Fairchild, Reverend Cornelius Winter Bolton, noted architect F. Carles Merry, Pelhamville Station Agent Charles H. Merritt, longtime schoolmaster and principal Isaac C. Hill, Judge William H. Sparks, real estate developer Benjamin F. Corlies, and many other important citizens.
The petition to create the fire unit was presented to the Board of Supervisors by Sherman T. Pell, Supervisor of the Town of Pelham and a member of the Board of Supervisors. Pell was in the waning weeks of his last term as Supervisor of Pelham. Pell engaged in election fraud to extend his service as Town Supervisor of the Town of Pelham. Then, shortly (after he presented this petition to create the Pelhamville Fire Unit on February 20, 1893, after completing seven years of service as Town Supervisor but recently defeated in his bid for re-election, Sherman T. Pell simply disappeared, never to be seen again. It turned out that he had embezzled Town funds for years and had forged Town of Pelham bonds that he fraudulently sold to unsuspecting investors in New York City for more than $100,000. Pell was rumored to have fled to Canada or to South America, but was never heard from again and was never brought to justice. See Bell, Blake A., Take the Money and Run: Pelham Town Supervisor Sherman T. Pell, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 19, May 13, 2005, p. 14, col. 2.
On February 20, 1893, however, Sherman T. Pell was simply doing what the constituents he surreptitiously was cheating demanded. He was presenting a petition to the Board of Supervisors of the Westchester County to establish what would become the First Fire District of the Town of Pelham, a forerunner to today's Village of Pelham Fire Department.
As would be expected, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to grant the petition as submitted. Sherman Pell immediately presented the following resolution:
"Resolved, That there be levied and assessed upon the taxable property of all that portion of the Town of Pelham, lying north of the northerly boundary of the village of Pelham Manor, in said town, and collected, the sum of four thousand dollars for the purpose of purchasing a site and erecting a building thereon for an engine house; also for a suitable fire apparatus as provided by chapter 18 of the laws of 1892."
According to the records of the meeting that day, Pell's resolution "was adopted, a majority of all the members of the board, including the supervisor of the town of Pelham, voting in favor thereof." Thus, today's Village of Pelham Fire Department, after months and years of labor, was formally born.
* * * * *
"Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County.
Annual Session of 1892-93
MONDAY, February 20th, 1893. . . .
Mr. Pell [Sherman T. Pell, Supervisor of the Town of Pelham and a member of the Board of Supervisors] presented the following petition:
To the Honorable, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Westchester:
Gentlemen -- The undersigned, taxpayers of the town of Pelham, would most respectfully petition your honorable body for authority to organize a fire department in that portion of said town lying north of the old Boston Post Road, and to be known as the Pelhamville fire department, by authority of and in accordance with the laws of 1892, chapter 18, general laws, section 37, P. P. 1755 and 1756 and laws of 1892, chapter 20, general laws, section 171, P. P. 2261 and 2262.
Wm. H. Sparks,
Gustave I. Karbach,
Ben L. Fairchild, for the Pelham Height Ass.
Louis C. Young,
C. W. Bolton,
W. B. Caffrey,
A. S. Ford,
Wm. S. Algie,
L. L. Hecinbothem,
F. Carles Merry,
C. F. Caldwell,
Pelhamville Land and Homestead Assoc'n by Geo. C. Appell, attorney
W. J. Evert,
B. F. Crewell,
L. T. Vorhans,
George Bowden, Esq.,
John H. Young,
C. H. Merritt,
I. C. Hill,
E. A. Patterson,
Wm. C. Barker,
John T. Logan,
Wm. H. Sparks, Jr.,
M. I. Sparks,
B. F. Corlies,
Geo. C. Appell.
Westchester County, ss.:
Wm. H. Sparks, being duly sworn, deposes and says that he knows the individuals whose names are signed to the within petition and knows they are taxpayers and residents of the district mentioned in said petition, and that they comprise more than one half of the resident taxes assessed and collected in said district.
WM. H. SPARKS.
Subscribed and sworn before me this 20th day of Feb. '93 }
GUSTAVE I. KARBACH, Justice of the Peace. }
The question was taken on said petition and it was declared granted by the following vote:
Ayes -- Messrs. Banta, Breakell, T. E. Carpenter, Close Fancher, Johnson, Lent, Molloy, Morris, Pell, Platt, Read, Secor, See, Taylor, Thurton and Todd -- 16; nays -- none.
Mr. Pell presented the following resolution:
Resolved, That there be levied and assessed upon the taxable property of all that portion of the Town of Pelham, lying north of the northerly boundary of the village of Pelham Manor, in said town, and collected, the sum of four thousand dollars for the purpose of purchasing a site and erecting a building thereon for an engine house; also for a suitable fire apparatus as provided by chapter 18 of the laws of 1892.
The question was taken on said resolution and it was adopted, a majority of all the members of the board, including the supervisor of the town of Pelham, voting in favor thereof. . . ."
Source: Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County -- Annual Session of 1892-93, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Feb. 25, 1893, Vol. XLVIII, No. 48, p. 1, col. 4.
Below is a list of prior Historic Pelham Blog postings that touch on firefighting and the history of firefighting units within the Town of Pelham.
Fri., Jan. 20, 2017: A Proud Pelham Fire Department Took Possession of a New American La France Fire Engine in 1914.
Thu., Jan. 19, 2017: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold: Don't Mess With a Pelham Fireman.
Thu., Jan. 12, 2017: Six of Pelham's Earliest Firefighters Marched in the 36th Annual Fire Inspection Parade in 1930.
Tue., Dec. 06, 2016: An Account of the Tragic Vaughan Livery Stable Fire in Pelhamville in 1907.
Wed., Nov. 16, 2016: More on the 1889 Fire that Destroyed the Hunter House on Travers Island.
Tue., Oct. 04, 2016: Harry R. King, Fire Chief of the First Fire District From 1911 to 1913.
Wed., Jun. 15, 2016: Organized Volunteer Fire Fighting in Pelhamville Began as Early as 1885.
Tue., Jun. 14, 2016: The First Annual Inspection of Pelhamville Fire Fighting Units in 1894.
Tue., Jun. 07, 2016: When Did Pelham's Minneford Engine Company Acquire its First Fire-Fighting Steam Engine?
Mon., May 16, 2016: Fatal Fire in 1902 at One Fifth Avenue Burned Down the Post Office and Pharmacy.
Fri., Apr. 29, 2016: Famous Meyers Mansion in Pelham Manor Burned Down in 1897.
Thu., Apr. 28, 2016: Pelham Manor Dutifully Extinguished a Fire That Nearly Burned Down its Hated Wooden Train Station in 1896.
Mon., Jan. 04, 2016: Pelham Manor Voters Voted to Disband the Pelham Manor Fire Department in 1928.
Mon., Dec. 14, 2015: Early History of the Village of Pelham Manor Fire Department.
Fri., Dec. 11, 2015: Evidence of An Early Independent Firefighting Unit in Pelham Named "Indians."
Thu., Dec. 10, 2015: Grand Fire-Fighting Competition and Parade Held in the Town of Pelham in 1891.
Wed., Dec. 09, 2015: Pelham's Minneford Engine Company Built a New Fire House on City Island in 1894.
Mon., Dec. 07, 2015: The Code Used on the City Island Fire Bell in the Late 19th Century Used for Fire Alarms.
Mon., Nov. 30, 2015: Another Detailed Account of the 1901 Fire that Destroyed the Clubhouse of the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island.
Fri., Nov. 20, 2015: Account of 1894 Fire in One of Pelham's Earliest Newspapers.
Wed., Sep. 30, 2015: Was it Arson that Destroyed the Prospect Hill School at Jackson and Plymouth Avenues in 1917?
Thu., Sep. 17, 2015: An Account of the February 28, 1925 Fire at Pelhamdale, A Home on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fri., Jun. 12, 2015: The Tumultuous Reign of Pelham Manor Fire Chief J. Louis Cunningham in the Early 1900s.
Tue., Jun. 09, 2015: Reminiscences of Firemen Who Served From 1893 Until 1923 in North Pelham.
Wed., Jun. 03, 2015: The Bell in Firemen's Memorial Park at First Street and Wolfs Lane.
Tue., Jun. 02, 2015: Important Early Images of the Pelham Fire Department.
Fri., May 22, 2015: History of Pelham's Beloved "Nott Steamer" Known as "Jim Reilly's Boiler."
Thu., Mar. 26, 2015: Fire Destroyed the Old Pelham Manor Post Office in 1945.
Fri., Mar. 20, 2015: Fire in 1932 Devastated the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.
Tue., Feb. 17, 2015: More on the Early History of Organized Firefighting in the Settlement of Pelhamville.
Mon., Feb. 16, 2015: The Great Furniture Fight of 1896: Company of Pelhamville Firemen Resigned En Masse.
Thu., Feb. 12, 2015: Rare 19th Century Image of Pelhamville Firemen Who Served in Relief Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.
Fri., Dec. 12, 2014: Parade and Housewarming Hosted by Pelhamville Fire Department in 1894.
Thu., Dec. 11, 2014: Pelhamville's First Attempt to Create a Fire Department in 1893 Failed Due to a Legal Technicality.
Thu., Jul. 24, 2014: Dedication of the New Fire Headquarters in the Village of Pelham on December 29, 1927.
Wed., Jul. 02, 2014: Election Shenanigans Involving Fire Commissioner Election in 1898.
Thu., Apr. 24, 2014: Information About the History of Fire Departments in the Town of Pelham Published in 1927.
Thu., Jan. 30, 2014: The Night Pelham's Town Hall Burned.
Fri., Jan. 24, 2014: Early Days of Organized Fire Fighting in Today's Village of Pelham.
Thu., Jan. 23, 2014: Another Account of the Devastating Fire that Destroyed the Travers Island Clubhouse of New York Athletic Club in 1901.
Wed., May 12, 2010: Fire Partly Destroyed Pelham Town Hall in 1908.
Fri., Jan. 15, 2010: Photograph of Augustine C. McGuire, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the First District Fire Department in 1913.
Thu., Jan. 14, 2010: 1913 Report of the Firemen's Benevolent Association in Pelham.
Thu., Dec. 10, 2009: More 19th Century Baseball and Firefighting References.
Tue., Dec. 08, 2009: The Darling Triplets: Three Brothers Among Pelham's Earliest Firefighters.
Thu., Oct. 08, 2009: Firefighting Units on City Island in Pelham During the Early 1890's.
Fri., Sep. 04, 2009: 1901 Newspaper Article About Fire that Burned New York Athletic Club Clubhouse on Travers Island.
Mon., Aug. 31, 2009: Contest in 1891 To Determine Which Steam Fire Engine Company Could Throw a Stream the Greater Distance.
Fri., Aug. 28, 2009: Reorganization of the Minneford Engine Company on City Island in February, 1891.
Thu., Aug. 06, 2009: Brief History of the Fire Department in the Village of North Pelham Published in 1913.
Wed., Aug. 05, 2009: Pelham Manor Fire Chief Pleads for Taxpayers to Authorize Purchase of Village's First Fire Engine.
Wed., July 15, 2009: Liberty Hose Company Election in 1898.
Thu., Feb. 19, 2009: The Old Hunter House Burns to the Ground in an Arson Incident on Travers Island on April 4, 1889.
Thu., Jan. 19, 2006: Pelham Manor's Earliest Fire Fighting Equipment.
Wed., Jan. 18, 2006: Newspaper Report of the Infamous Vaughan's Livery Stable Fire in North Pelham in 1907.
Mon., Oct. 17, 2005: The Firemen's Memorial of the Pelham Fire Department.
Mon., Aug. 01, 2005: An 1896 Inspection and Drill of the Fire Department in Pelham.
Tue., May 31, 2005: The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part I of II).
Wed., Jun. 01, 2005: The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part II of II).
Fri., May 06, 2005: The Great Furniture Battle at Pelhamville's Relief Hook and Ladder Company in 1896.
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