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.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pelham Mainlanders Wouldn't Give Up: More Efforts to Split the Town in Two During 1859

Pelham mainlanders were still fed up with Pelham islanders.  As 1859 drew to a close, they were still in the midst of a multi-year campaign to split the Town of Pelham into two towns.  

During the mid-19th century, the Town of Pelham was splt politically.  Interestingly, it was not split on party lines but on geographic lines:  the islanders versus the mainlanders.  The principal population of the Town at that time lived on City Island.  The population on the mainland, however, was growing.  The mainlanders began to chafe at the refusal of City Islanders to vote in favor of authorizing funds to improve roads and infrastructure on the mainland.  The mainlanders wanted out of the deal.  They wanted to spin off the islanders into a separate town.

I have written before about this multi-year campaign to split the Town of Pelham into two towns.  See, e.g.:

Fri., Jul. 15, 2016:  Efforts to Divide the Town of Pelham Into Two Towns Began as Early as 1856.

Mon., Mar. 09, 2015:  The Feud Between Mainlanders And City Islanders in the Town of Pelham Turned Ugly in 1859.

Luminaries of mainland Pelham were behind the effort to split the Town in 1859.  According to a Notice of Application to the Westchester County Board of Supervisors, leaders of the initiative included:  Levin Rothrock Marshall (owner of Hawkswood, also known as the "Marshall Mansion" and, later, the "Colonial Inn") on Pelham Neck; Dr. Richard L. Morris (long-time owner of "Oakshade" on Shore Road and grandson of Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence); Robert Bartow (famed owner of the home known today as the Bartow-Pell Mansion-Museum); Elias Desbrosses Hunter (son and executor of the estate of John Hunter of Hunter's Island); Elbert J. Roosevelt (Pelham Manor landowner and owner of estate that stood on today's border between New York City and Pelham along Shore Road); Charles Coudert, Jr. (a founder of famed international law firm Coudert Brothers and owner of the Pelham Manor estate known as Pelhamdale); Philip B. Schuyler a grandson of General Philip John Schuyler of Revolutionary War fame and long-time owner of the Schuyler Homestead in Pelham Manor who married Grace Hunter, sister of John Hunter of Hunter's Island); and others.

Although I have reproduced one version of the Notice of Application by these gentlemen before, today's posting reproduces a version that appeared in The Eastern State Journal.  The image of the notice below, dated September 9, 1859, is followed by a link and citation to its source as well as a transcription of its text to facilitate search.

State Journal, Undated Page Included in FultonHistory.com
Collections After November 25, 1859 Issue of the Newspaper.

""NOTICE OF APPLICATION TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF WESTCHESTER COUNTY. -- Notice is hereby given that the undersigned, freeholders of the town of Pelham, in the county of Westchester, will apply to the Board of Supervisors of said county, at the next Annual Session thereof, to commence at White Plains, in said county, on the fourteenth day of November next, for a division of said town of Pelham into two towns, by the following division, viz.:  

That so much of the said town of Pelham as lies on the main land, with its present boundaries, except on the Sound side and the Islands known as Hunter's Island and the Twins, and each of their appurtenances, shall constitute a separate and independent township, and be known and designated as the town of Pelham -- the boundary on the Sound side being a line equi-distant between the main land, Hunter's Island, and the Twins with each of their appurtenances, on one side, and City Island, High Island, and Hart Island, with each of their appurtenances, on the other side. 

That all the rest and residue of the present town of Pelham, as at present constituted, and not comprised in the above, including City Island, Hart Island, and High Island, and each of their appurtenances, shall constitute a separate and independent township -- thus diving the town of Pelham, as at present known, into two separate towns. -- Dated September 9th, 1859. 


Among the more interesting aspects of this dispute and the above-quoted notice is that Hunter's Island was proposed for inclusion in the mainlanders' town (which would retain the name of the Town of Pelham).  Of course, Hunter's Island was attached to the mainland by a causeway and its owner would have an interest in the spending of tax dollars to iprove Shore Road, Split Rock Road, and the roadway from Shore Road up to Boston Post Road that, today, is part of the bridle path in Pelham Bay Park along the border with Pelham.  

As I have indicated before, it is not yet clear why the initiative to split the Town of Pelham into two towns ultimately failed.  One possibility is that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Westchester may not have had the authority to enact such legislation -- only the State of New York would seem to have that authority since the Town of Pelham was created by State statute in 1788, reaffirmed by State statute in 1827, defining the "limits and divisions" of the Town of Pelham.  See Mon., May 07, 2007:  1827:  Statute Defining the "Limits and Divisions" of the Town of Pelham.

Map of Town of Pelham with Inset of City Island, 1868.
Source: Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35
(NY, NY: Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868). NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

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