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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Sensational Burglary in 1899 at Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor

Grace Thompson was a mere teenager on November 27, 1899.  A student at Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls, officially named "Pelham Hall," she lay asleep in her bed at 2:00 a.m. that night in the Edgewood House dormitory on Edgewood Avenue at Boston Post Road.  Her sleep became disturbed.  She stirred a bit, finally opening her eyes.  There, in her room, stood a strange man.

Grace froze for a moment.  Apparently sensing that he might have awakened her, the man slipped out of her room into the hallway where a kerosene lamp was burning dimly.  For a moment Grace Thompson looked and saw that the burglar was a short man with a handkerchief that concealed his face.

A westerner and daughter of a western banker, Grace Thompson was good with a revolver.  She reached into her things and pulled out her loaded handgun. Knowing the man had slipped quietly into the hallway, Grace stepped to the open window of her room and fired a single shot into the open countryside outside the window.

The gunshot had its intended effect.  It awakened most of the seventy students and additional faculty.  Within a moment, the electric lights and the electric burglar alarm of Edgewood House were turned on.  The sounding of the huge gongs of the burglar alarm awakened anyone still asleep and much of the surrounding neighborhood.  

Amidst all the chaos, the burglar was still inside Edgewood House, hiding somewhere.

Those in Edgewood House, however, were nothing if not well armed.  A French teacher on the second floor pulled out her loaded revolver.  A night watchman on the third floor began a search carrying his loaded revolver.  Mrs. Hazen's husband, John Cunningham Hazen, also was on the third floor.  He carried a loaded double-barrel shotgun as he searched with the night watchman for the hiding burglar.  

In the meantime, clusters of students wearing their nightgowns and robes "rushed from one room to another."  The French teacher with her revolver simply stood in her doorway peering up and down the hallway on the second floor of Edgewood House watching the chaos.  Something caught her eye.

The French teacher observed movement at one end of the hallway.  She turned and saw a man trying to slip quietly down a rear stairwell.  The unnamed French teacher had nerves of steel (readily apparent from the fact that she taught teenage students).  She never lost her nerve.

Slowly and stealthily the teacher followed the route of the man, at a distance, as he made his way down the stairs from the second floor past the first floor and into the basement.  The teacher creeped behind him through the basement until he reached a basement window through which he climbed.  As he climbed through the window, the teacher fired.  The shot missed as the burglar scrambled through the window onto the lawn outside.  The errant shot, however, alerted John Cunningham and the night watchman where the fleeing burglar might be found.

The burglar took off running across the grassy lawn of the campus.  The French teacher raced to the basement window and fired at him a second time.  Again she missed.  This time, however, her shot helped John Cunningham and the night watchman catch sight of the fleeing man.  Then the sharp crack of a revolver and the booming thunder of the shotgun shook the neighborhood.

As the smoke cleared, it became apparent that both John Cunningham and the night watchman had missed their mark.  The burglar disappeared into nearby woods never to be seen again.  

The students of Pelham Hall had a story to tell their friends and family -- a story that Mrs. Hazen did not really want told.  

Indeed, Pelham Hall experienced a number of sensational burglaries during the twenty five years it operated in Pelham Manor from 1889 until 1915.  I have written before about such burglaries at the school.  See, e.g.Thu., Jul. 12, 2007:  The Infamous Burglary of the Girls of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor in 1905.

"Edgewood House" Built Facing Today's Edgewood Avenue (with Rear
Toward the Esplanade). Edgewood House, Which No Longer Stands, is
the Pelham Hall Building Where the November 27, 1899 Burglary Occurred.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Undated Postcard View of "MRS. HAZEN'S SCHOOL PELHAM MANOR,
N.Y." All Three "Houses" of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls Are Depicted in
the Photograph Which Was Taken From Across the Esplanade (Both Lanes
Visible in the Foreground). Chester House is on the Left.  Edgewood
House is in the Center, Slightly in the Rear (It Was Named After the Street
it Was Closest to).  Marbury House, named after Anne Marbury Hutchinson,
Is on the Right.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Consternation Caused by an Invader in a Female School.

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y., Nov. 28. -- Loud shrieks of 'Burglars!' followed by a fusillade of misdirected pistol shots, were the means of disturbing the quiet of this aristocratic suburb at an early hour yesterday morning.  The shots, which were fired at a fleeing burglar, who had forced an entrance into Mrs. J. Chunningham Hazen's school, in the Manor, did not take effect.  There are seventy students in the Hazen School, which is known throughout the country.  Among the students are daughters of supreme court justices, railroad presidents and millionaire business men.  It was shortly after 2 o'clock when Miss Grace Thompson, daughter of a western banker, awoke and saw a man in her room.  As the girl started to get up the burglar softly made his way out into the hall.  By the dim light of a lamp which was burning Miss Thompson saw the man as he passed her door.  He was short and his face was partly concealed by a handkerchief.  Miss Thompson jumped out of bed, and seizing a revolver fired a shot out of the open window.  

In an instant the dormitory was in an uproar.  The electric lights were turned on and the burglar alarms were ringing.  The sounding of the huge gongs aroused every person in the four cottages.  The burglar was hiding somewhere in the Edgewood cottage, but just where no one knew.  Clusters of students attired in their night robes rushed from one room to another.  

Mr. Hazen, who was armed with a double-barreled shotgun, and O'Brien, a watchman, who had a revolver, were searching every corner.  While the men were on the third floor the French teacher stood in her doorway on the second floor with a revolver in her hand.  Suddenly a man was seen sneaking down through one of the rear halls.  

The French teacher did not lose her nerve.  Clutching her revolver, she followed the burglar, who had a long start.  As the man was leaving the building by way of a basement window the teacher fired, and again as he was running across the lawn.  This time O'Brien and Mr. Hazen, who also had caught sight of the fleeing man, fired at him, but their shots went wide of the mark.

The burglar escaped into the woods.  Examination showed that he had gained entrance by way of a basement window."

Source:  A BURGLAR IN A DORMITORY -- Consternation Caused by an Invader in a Female School, The Evening Times [Washington, D.C.], Nov. 28, 1899, No. 1352, p. 1, col. 6.  

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I have written extensively about the private school known as "Pelham Hall" and "Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls."  For a few of the many examples, see:

Bell, Blake A., Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls: Pelham Hall, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 40, Oct. 8, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

Fri., Apr. 07, 2017:  The Twentieth Annual Commencement of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls Held on June 2, 1909.

Wed., Dec. 30, 2015:  Interesting Account of 1894 Graduation Exercises Conducted by Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.

Wed., Mar. 18, 2015:  Account of Women's Cricket Match Played by Pelham Manor Women in 1898.

Tue., Feb. 03, 2015:  1907 Commencement Exercises at Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.

Mon., Feb. 02, 2015:  The Three Houses of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in the Late 19th Century.

Tue., Nov. 25, 2014:  Too Smart for Late 19th Century Scammers: Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls.

Tue., Mar. 11, 2014:  An Early History of Mrs. Hazen's School For Girls in Pelham Manor, Published in 1913.

Tue., Feb. 16, 2010:  Photograph of Only Known 19th Century Women's Baseball Team in Pelham, New York.

Mon., Mar. 3, 2008:  1891 Advertisement May Reflect Summer Rental of One of the Dormitories of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls.

Thu., Jul. 12, 2007:  The Infamous Burglary of the Girls of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor in 1905.  

Wed., Sep. 6, 2006:  Pelham Hall Shelter, a "Refuge for Erring Girls", Founded by Alumnae of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  

Tue., Aug. 22, 2006:  Early Advertisements for Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  

Fri., Oct. 14, 2005:  A Reunion of Alumnae of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls

Mon., Aug. 15, 2005:  952 Pelhamdale Served as a 19th Century School for Girls, Then a School for Boys. 

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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