More on Francis Secor of Pelham, Father of James Francis Secor and Grandfather of James Frances Secor, Jr.
Francis Secor (b. May 22, 1776, d. Aug. 23, 1863), was a merchant, shipwright, and ship chandler who reportedly was associated with Robert Fulton in the construction of the first successful steam vessel. Secor was a son of Eli Secor (b. 1743, d. 1830) and Ann Gedney.
Secor bought a 150-acre estate in Pelham Manor and built a grand summer home on the grounds. The family first alternated between their fashionable Murray Hill residence and their grand summer home in Pelham Manor until they suffered a major financial setback and lost a large portion of the family fortune. At that time, they gave up their New York City residence and moved to the Pelham Manor home where they lived thereafter.
I have written before about Francis Secor and his large estate and home in Pelham Manor. See Wed., Apr. 15, 2015: The Secor Estate in the Village of Pelham Manor.
The beautiful Secor family home stood at Wolf's Lane near the Boston Post Road. The extensive property of the Secor estate was known as "Secor Hill." With the death of the last Secor family member living in Pelham, Anna M. Secor, in 1939, the final remainders of the estate were carved up into smaller lots and sold for residential construction.
Francis Secor married Hannah Carpenter (b. 1782, d. 1861). Hannah was a daughter of Daniel Carpenter and Sarah Merritt. According to family tradition, Francis Secor was a friend of noted American author James Fenimore Cooper -- who is known to have written of Pelham in various of his works including "The Spy" -- and of John Jay, founding father and first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Though Francis Secor made his fortune as a merchant, a shipwright, and a ship chandler, a number of sources indicate that he served either as "superintendent" or "foreman" of the construction of Robert Fulton's steamboat. Most importantly, Secor seems to have invented an important part of the steamboat system. During early tests of the Fulton Steamboat known as the North River Steamboat (or the North River), the paddle wheel showered passengers and crew with water. According to family tradition, Francis Secor designed the "box that was used to cover" the paddle wheel of subsequent steamboats that was used for many years thereafter.
Francis Secor and his wife, Hannah Carpenter Secor had a number of children, including:
Zeno Carpenter Secor (b. 1799, d. 1875)
Henry Reynolds Secor (b. 1805, d. 1877)
Sarah Ann Secor (b. 1814)
James Francis Secor (b. 1816)
Charles A. Secor
Thorn Secor (Thorn Secor died young.)
For a time Francis Secor operated "Francis Secor & Son," ship carpenters and proprietors of a marine railway at 103 Washington Street in New York City. The son with whom he worked at the time was Henry Secor. (At the time, according to one account, "West Street was not continued out so far north, and Washington at that point was open to the river.") This concern was operating as early as 1827 and, likely, earlier.
It appears that for a time in the early to mid-1830s, Francis Secor formed a "Ship Chandlery" co-partnership with Frederick E. Gibert while still operating his shipwright and spar making business. The pair apparently operated the ship chandlery business also at 103 Washington Street. On January 24, 1835, an announcement appeared in a New York City newspaper indicating that the ship chandlery co-partnership was being dissolved and that the business would continue to operate at 103 Washington run by Francis Secor. The notice read in full:
"DISSOLUTION. -- The Copartnership heretofore existing between the subscribers, under the firm of Gibert & Secor, was dissolved on the 19th inst. by mutual consent. Frederick E. Gibert and Zeno Secor are authorized to settle the concerns of the late firm,
FRED'K E. GIBERT.
January 24, 1835.
NOTICE. -- The Ship Chandlery business will be continued at the same place on his own account, by
103 Washington street
Source: DISSOLUTION, The Evening Post [NY, NY], Jan. 26, 1835, p. 3, col. 3.
During this time Secor, a Democrat, was an active member of Tammany Hall. His name appears in a number of newspaper accounts of Tammany Hall meetings, occasionally designated as a "Vice President."
Francis Secor's sons, Zeno, Henry, Charles, and James Francis Secor, followed in their father's footsteps. They formed the shipbuilding firm of Secor Brothers that operated out of Jersey City. During the Civil War, Secor Brothers constructed at least five ironclads for the U.S. Government and delivered one, the Mahopac, to the government only a week or so before their father's death.
During the 1840s, Francis Secor attempted to purchase and add to his estate a large section of land that once belonged to Philip Pell I, then Philip Pell II, then David Jones Pell from various heirs of the widow of David Jones Pell. He purchased the land at auction, but the sale was not completed and the heirs sold the land to James Hay of Pelhamdale fame. Francis Secor filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court in 1846 in an effort to unwind that sale and to complete sale of the land to him. The record of that lawsuit contains a wealth of information regarding Pelham in the mid-19th century and is more than four hundred pages long. See SUPREME COURT (LATE IN CHANCERY) -- FRANCIS SECOR VS. MARY PELL, et al. (NY, NY: Banks, Gould & Co., Law Publishers, 1854). Although it took more than nine years to resolve the action, Secor eventually lost the lawsuit. James Hay retained the lands that formed his Pelhamdale estate.
Francis Secor was infirm and in poor health in the last years of his life. On June 7, 1862, he executed his last will and testament in the offices of his lawyer, Thomas C. Fields of New York City. Unable to sign his name, Secor's attorney guided his hand to make the mark of an "X" on the document and then signed Secor's name to the will also indicating that the X was his mark. At the end of the will, the attorney included the following statement: "Thos. C. Fields Bloomingdale Road and 117th street in the City of New York who signed the name of the Testator at his special request." This later led to a very extensive probate hearing by the Surrogate who took extensive testimony from witnesses regarding the execution of the will, the records of which are quite extensive.
Francis Secor died on August 23, 1864. He was buried in the Eleazor Gedney Burial Ground in Mamaroneck. A photograph of his gravestone appears below. Images of the pages of his will, with the text transcribed, also appear below.
James Francis Secor, a son of Francis Secor, succeeded to the Secor home on Secor Hill after his father's death. Like Francis Secor, James Francis Secor and his son James Francis Secor, Jr. and his daughter, Anna M. Secor, became notable Pelham residents who shaped the early Village of Pelham Manor and various of its important institutions including the Manor Club.
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"SHIPWRIGHTS & SPAR MAKING. -- The subscriber respectfully informs his friends and the public that he still continues the Shipwright and Spar making business at his old establishment, between Carslile [sic] and Rector streets, North river: and in addition he has established the same business at Brooklyn, below the old ferry, where he has a convenient beach for laying vessels ashore to grave and repair -- and all kinds of materials suitable to do the same; and, also, he has erected a railway for hauling up vessels, where a vessel may be hauled up and graved in three hours and launched again; and it may be further understood that a vessel having a private leak may be hauled up with water enough in her to discover the same as she stands on even keel. --
For further particulars inquire of Francis Secor, No. 106 Washington street, or
HENRY SECOR, at Brooklyn.
DEATH OF FRANCIS SECOR. -- This venerable merchant and citizen, who has resided for many years at Pelham, in this county, died on Tuesday, the 23d inst., at his late residence, in the 89th year of his age.
Mr. Secor was in the ship-chandler's business, in the ship-chandler's business, in the City of New-York, for nearly half a century. He was widely known and greatly esteemed.
Mr. Secor's sons, Henry, Zeno, Charles A., and James F. Secor, compose the firm of Secor Brothers, the great ship builders of Jersey City. They have constructed five of the new monitors for the Government, the last one, the Mahopac, having been delivered only about a week ago."
Source: PELHAM. DEATH OF FRANCIS SECOR, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Sep. 1, 1864, Vol. IX, No. 446, p. 8, col. 2.
"The following biographical sketch was written in 1875 by Thomas Ely Secor for his Harvard Class of 1875 ClassBook, and rewritten by his younger sister Anna Amelia Secor. Underlined names are direct-line ancestors of William Wright Conklin.
FRANCIS SECOR 1776-1864
'Francis Secor (my grandfather) married Hannah Carpenter whose father, Daniel Carpenter married Sarah Merritt, and he owned Byron Point'
'Francis Secor’s father Eli Secor married Ann Hadden. She was surrounded during the Revolutionary War by Skinners for not telling where her husband was hidden. Was shot in the shoulder and walked three miles to a doctor to have her wound dressed. The man who shot her was afterwards shot for cruelty to a man by hanging him and then letting him down, and he vowed to shoot the skinner, and when he did the jury exonerated him'
'My grandfather Francis knew Fennimore Cooper also John Jay who lived near him in Rye. I think John Jay was our first ambassador to England.'
'Grandfather Francis Secor superintended building the first steamboat and went on trial trips. The paddlewheel showered them with water and grandfather designed the box that was used to cover the paddlewheel, which was used on steamboats for many years. He went in business in the ships chandlery business (sold ropes and supplies to sailing vessels and these vessels came in at a dock on West Street near grandfathers store.) Many men of note used to wait in his office. I think Uncle Charles, Zeno and father carried on the business after their father gave up on account of failing eyesight. Grandfather lived near his place of business.'
'Francis Secor and Hannah Carpenter ran away and got married; she only 14 years old. They had twelve children, among them Thorn, Henry, Zeno, Sarah Ann, Charles A. and James F. Secor survived. They, my father’s mother and father formed the Baptist Church, McDougal St., N.Y. Spencer H. Cone was the minister. Spencer H. Cone was an actor and after his theatre burned down he was converted and studied for the ministry. Was one of the most noted ministers of his time.'
Grandmother was a sincere Christian woman, well educated for her time, and used to entertain visiting ministers and even had a Catholic priest for a friend. Father said, ‘Those ministers had wonderful appetites’.'"
Source: Francis Secor 1776-1864, "Written by grandson Thomas Ely Secor and granddaughter Anna Amelia Secor," Ancestry.com (visited Feb. 20, 2017; paid subscription required to access via this link).
CHARLES FREDRICK SECOR.
Charles Fredrick Secor, esteemed one of the finest practical authorities in the science of metallurgy and mining engineering, died suddenly on Tuesday at the residence of his father, Charles A. Secor, No. 62 West Fifty-fifth-street, at the age of 47. Mr. Secore was a native of this City. His grandfather, Francis Secor, was the foreman of Robert Fulton in the construction of his celebrated experimental steam-boat. He was also the the inventor of the dry-dock system now in use in this City. The grandson at an early age became interested in metallurgical studies and was accordingly sent to the Freiberg School of Mines, in Germany, where he was graduated with distinction. From Freiberg he went to Paris and studied for several years at the Ecole Polytechnique. On his return to America he settled in San Franisco, and was soon spoken of as one of the best practical authorities on the Pacific slope. He was one of the discoverers and original promoters of the famous Comstock lode. He remained in California and Nevada for 17 years, and only returned to his native City after his health had been permanently impaired. The immediate cause was the bursting of a retort in his laboratory, and the consequent exposure to the fumes of quicksilver -- an accident from the effects of which he never recovered. On Tuesday, about 12 o'clock, Mr. Secor was in his usual health. A few minutes later he fainted, and was removed to his room insensible. Death supervened before a physician could be summoned, probably from a stroke of apoplexy. Mr. Secor was the inventor of an amalgamator, which is now being successfully introduced in the mining regions, and had amassed a comfortable competence. The funeral services will take place at the residence of his father at 10 o'clock this morning, the Rev. Dr. Tiffany officiating."
Source: OTHER DEATHS -- CHARLES FREDRICK SECOR, N.Y. Times, Mar. 10, 1881, p. 5, col. 5.
"Supreme Court -- General Term.
BEFORE JUSTICES BROWN, STRONG AND ROCKWELL.
Francis Secor vs. Mary Pell and others. -- This cause was argued on the 10th and 11th instant. Suit was commenced in 1846, for the specific performance of a contract to sell a farm in Westchester. It appears that in October, 1845, the farm was sold at auction by E. H. Ludlow & Co., at the Merchants' Exchange in New York. -- Mr. Secor attended the sale, and the premises were struck off to him.
Subsequently the counsel of the seller met the counsel of purchaser but they could not agree as to the title, and although the purchaser's counsel offered to submit the questions discussed to other counsel, the offer was rejected, and the premises were afterwards sold to another purchaser. A bill was then filed to compel the seller to perform the contract and give a title.
F. R. Tillow and P. T. Cutler for the plaintiff W. Silliman and Samuel Lyon for defendants.
The Court adjourned yesterday afternoon, having heard arguments in the cases on the calendar to 39, inclusive.
The decisions pronounced in cases heretofore argued, we will publish on Monday."
Source: Supreme Court -- General Term. BEFORE JUSTICES BROWN, STRONG AND ROCKWELL. Francis Secor vs. Mary Pell and others, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 13, 1855, p. 2, col. 4. See also Decisions made at a General Term of the Supreme Court for the Second Judicial District at the City of Brooklyn, July 21, 1855, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul. 25, 1855, p. 2, col. 4 ("Francis Secor against Mary Pell and others. -- The decree of judgment of the special term affirmed but without costs.").
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Below is the text, followed by images of the pages, of the last will and testament of Francis Secor. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
In the name of God Amen -- I Francis Secor of the County of Westchester and State of New York, Shipwright, do make, publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament, hereby declaring to be null and void any other last Will and Testament heretofore made by me --
First I give, devise, and bequeath to my grand-daughter Matilda McCord the daughter of my deceased son Thorn Secor and wife of George McCord, the sum of Five hundred dollars which sum I hereby direct my executors to pay to the said Matilda within two years from my decease -- out of any personal Estate of which I may die possessed --
This sum I consider a proper amount to bequeath to her for the reason that I supported her mother and herself from the decease of her Father till her marriage --
Second one fifth part of the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate real, personal and mixed I give devise and bequeath to Lydia S. Secor wife of my son Charles A. Secor to have and to hold the same unto her the said Lydia S. Secor her heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns for ever --
Third -- One fifth of my estate after paying the above legacy of five hundred dollars I do hereby give, bequeath, and devise unto
Anna Mariah Secor wife of my son James F. Secor to have and to hold the same unto her the said Anna Mariah, her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns for ever --
Fourth I do hereby give, bequeath, and devise one fifth of all my estate after paying the above mentioned legacy of five hundred dollars to Mary Ann Secor wife of my son Zeno Secor to have and to hold the same unto her the said Mary Ann Secor her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns for ever --
Fifth -- I do hereby give, devise, and bequeath unto Martha Mariah Secor wife of my son Henry R. Secor, one fifth of my estate real, personal, and mixed, after paying the above mentioned legacy of five hundred dollars to have and to hold the same to her the said Martha Mariah Secor for and during her natural life and at her decease it is my wish and I so direct that the share or portion of the said Martha Mariah Secor be divided equally between the children of my said son Henry R. Secor as follows -- Theodore Secor, H. Alonzo Secor, Charlotte A. Secor, Eviline Secor and Malvina Secor, share and share alike --
Sixth I do hereby give, devise, and bequeath unto my daughter Sarah Ann now the wife of John G. Merrell, one fifth of my estate real, personal and mixed, after paying the above
mentioned legacy of five hundred dollars and after deducting from said one fifth hereby devised to her the sum of Two thousand dollars to have and to hold the same to her and to her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns for ever --
Seventh. One thousand of the two thousand dollars hereby directed to be deducted from the share of my daughter Sarah Ann, I hereby give and bequeath unto Martha Mariah Secor wife of my son Henry R. Secor. The other one thousand dollars of said two thousand above mentioned, I hereby give and bequeath unto Anna Mariah Secor wife of my son James F. Secor in consideration for the care and attention she has bestowed upon me -- The reason I direct this deduction of Two thousand dollars from the share of my daughter Sarah Ann is that I have heretofore loaned her husband, John G. Merrell sums of money which with the interest thereon I consider equal to this sum.
Eighth I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my son James F. Secor and my son Zeno Secor Executors of this my last Will and Testament -- In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this seventh day of June in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Two --
X his Mark
Signed, seaed, published and declared by the testator as and
for his last Will and Testament in our presence, who in his presence, in presence of each other and at his request have signed our names hereto as witnesses --
Charles R. Truex
83rd St. & 3rd Avenue
City of New York
Thos. C. Fields Bloomingdale Road and 117th street in the City of New York who signed the name of the Testator at his special request."
Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.