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, June 15, 2017

More on "The King of Pelham" -- The Most Ornery Bull Ever Kept in Pelham

He was called "The King of Pelham."  He was big.  He was mean.  He was the most ornery Holstein bull ever kept in Pelham.  He ruled the pasture located on the property of Colonel Richard Lathers adjacent to Lathers Woods.  The property later became what we know today as Pelhamwood.  The story of The King of Pelham is a tragic one that reminds us of days of yore when large farms dotted the North Pelham countryside.

I have written before about the ornery bull called "The King of Pelham," saying:

"The Walsh family supplied butter, milk, and other dairy products to residents of North Pelham, Pelham Manor, and New Rochelle. The dairy farm included a large pasture and cattle barn. The pasture was enclosed by stone walls and, in some parts, by a wire fence. Patrick Walsh followed a daily routine. Each morning he opened his cattle barn and drove his cattle into the pasture to graze. Every afternoon he went to the pasture and drove the cattle back to the barn. The King of Pelham, however, was a different matter. He was so mean and ornery that Patrick Walsh had to keep him chained while in the pasture. Walsh often kept the old bull tethered to a forty-feet long chain for his own protection and that of his family. According to a report in the New-York Tribune published on July 14, 1900, 'the bull had a reputation in the neighborhood for being vicious' and 'it was a menace to the neighborhood.'"

Source:  Wed., May 11, 2016:  "The King of Pelham" -- Pelham's Most Ornery Bull That Chased Pelhamites and, in the End, Killed His Owner.  

Today's Historic Pelham article details more about one of the many incidents that gave The King of Pelham his ugly reputation while reminding us of a time when much of Pelham remained rural farmland marked by croplands, dairy farms, and orchards.  Though The King eventually killed his owner, dairy farmer Patrick Walsh, today's article tells the story of The King and a pair of young Belles who dared to take a shortcut across The King's pasture, thinking the bull was chained as usual.  

September 4, 1898 seemed no different in Pelham than any other day.  Miss Ethel Fairchild was vacationing for a few weeks in the Village of North Pelham.  She was staying with Frank Dodge and his wife.  Frank Dodge was a famous scenic artist of the Herald Square Theatre, a major Broadway Theater in New York City.

Each day during Ethel Fairchild's vacation, part of the glorious enjoyment of Pelham included a beautiful stroll from the Dodge Household in North Pelham to the Pelham Station on the New Haven main line, accompanying Frank Dodge as he left on his daily commute to New York City.  

The early morning of September 4, 1898 was no different.  Vacationing Ethel Fairchild accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dodge all the way to Pelham Station where the two women watched him climb aboard the New Haven Line train and recede into the distance.

Miss Fairchild and Mrs. Dodge turned toward the Dodge home in North Pelham.  As the pair started to walk toward Fifth Avenue to head home, the vacationing Miss Fairchild suggested the pair should simply cut across the dairy farm pasture ahead.  That pasture was part of the Patrick Walsh Farm leased from Colonel Richard Lathers who owned Lathers Woods, what we know today as Pelhamwood.

The pasture was a small cleared area in one corner of Lathers' Woods.  It was located very roughly where today's September 11 Memorial, Daronco Townhouse (and parking lot) now are located.  In the midst of the clearing, farmer Patrick Walsh kept The King of Pelham tethered by a fifty-feet long chain attached to a ring in the bull's nose with the other end anchored to a tree.  

As the two women made their way across the woods of today's Pelhamwood toward the pasture clearing, Ethel Fairchild was the first to notice that the bull's chain had come loose from the tree.  She let out a little scream.  

According to the account quoted in full below, The King of Pelham was in a particularly ornery mood that day due to maddening heat and pesky flies.  As the bull turned toward the women, he reportedly "caught sight of a red ribbon on Miss Fairchild's hat."  The bull started toward the intruding women at a slow trot.  

The women gathered up their skirts and began running toward the pasture fence, an eight-feet high barbed wire affair.  As they began running, so did the angry bull, chasing after them.  

The King of Pelham was fast.  In mere moments, he closed the distance of the chase to only twenty feet as the two terrified women scrambled for their lives.  Providence, however, played its hand.  The bull's chain, dragging along behind the rushing animal, snagged for a moment in a sapling.  The Holstein had to stop and free itself from the snag.  Though the women were "nearly faint from terror and loss of breath," they raced ahead.  By the time The King of Pelham freed himself from the snag, the two women were one hundred feet away and nearing the fence.

The fence, however, was no simple affair.  Given the viciousness of the bull and its previous encounters with Pelhamites who tried to cross its pasture from the Pelham Train Station, farmer Walsh had built a sturdy barb-wire fence that was so high it could not easily be scaled.  

With the bull bearing down on them again, the two women raced to a small cedar tree that farmer Walsh had used as a fence post when building the fence.  Some of its branches were low enough for the women to grab and scramble up the tree.  As they did, the bull reached the fence as well, snorting and pawing the ground below the women.

Mrs. Dodge edged onto a limb that hung over the fence on the side opposite the bellowing, angry bull and dropped to the ground.  She fell directly into a pile of rusty tin cans and debris thrown behind the barn of a Mr. Lawrence.  Cut by the cans and rubbish, Mrs. Dodge lay in the debris exhausted.  Miss Fairchild thought she had fainted and began to shout for help from the tree branches above.  

Hearing the shouts, farmer Lawrence ambled out behind his barn.  He grabbed a pitchfork, used it to drive The King of Pelham away from the fence, and rescued the two women.  He took the two women into his farmhouse where he and his wife cared for them until they recovered.

According to the news account quoted in full below, "The bull, after being captured, was taken to Walsh's barnyard, and soon will be turned into dressed beef."

Alas, the bull was NOT turned into "dressed beef."  Months later, on July 13, 1900, farmer Patrick Walsh tried to control The King of Pelham with a pitchfork.  The angry animal ignored the pitchfork that the farmer jabbed into its face and, with the speed of a train, knocked the farmer to the ground and gored him through the temple, killing him.

Within hours The King of Pelham was turned into dressed beef.
*          *          *          *           *


Mrs. Frank Dodge and Miss Ethel Fairchild, who are spending the summer at Pelham Manor, near Mount Vernon, N. Y., after running through the woods for nearly a mile only escaped being gored to death by a big Holstein bull by climbing into a low cedar tree, which grew near a barbed wire fence, through which they were unable to make their way.

Mrs. Dodge is the wife of the scenic artist of the Herald Square Theatre, New York city.  Miss Fairchild has been their guest for the last two weeks.  She and Mrs. Dodge, as was their custom every day, accompanied Mr. Dodge to the train at the Pelham station Monday morning.  Miss Fairchild suggested that they return home through the wood known as Winiah [sic; should be "Winyah"] Park, owned by Col. Richard Lathers.  In one corner of this wood is a small clearing, which had been leased by Col. Lathers to Patrick Walsh, a farmer.  In this clearing the vicious bull was tethered to a tree by a fifty foot chain, one end of which was attached to a ring in the bull's nose.

When Miss Fairchild and Mrs. Dodge were in the centre of the wood, within sight of the pasture, Miss Fairchild said, with a little scream:  -- 

'Oh, look at Walsh's bull!  I believe he's loose.'  

As they turned to jump over a fallen tree the animal, maddened by the heat and flies, caught sight of a red ribbon on Miss Fairchild's hat and started toward the women.  The clanking of the broken chain, mingled with the bellowing of the animal, which, with head down and tail up, was coming toward the two women at a trot, made them shake with terror.  Miss Fairchild was the first to recover herself.

'Come!' said she, gathering up her skirts.  'Let's run toward the fence.  Maybe the bull will get tangled in his chain.'

The two women scampered through the underbrush, the bull in close pursuit.  The animal was within twenty feet of the fleeing women when, as Miss Fairchild hoped, the chain caught in a sapling for a moment and gave them a chance to gain a hundred feet on the maddened bull.

Then the animal, loosening the chain, again started in pursuit.  The women were through the bushes now, and the bull was gaining on the women at every jump.  One hundred feet away was a barbed wire fence, eight feet high.  Around them were trees, which they could not climb.  It looked as if there was no escape from the animal.

The women were nearly faint from terror and loss of breath when Miss Fairchild spied a small cedar tree, which was used as a post in the barbed wire fence.  The tree's branches hung low to the ground.  The two women, their tattered skirts impeding their progress, headed for the cedar.  Just as they had climbed to the second branch of the little tree the bull reached the fence and stood pawing the earth.  The women were two much exhausted and frightened for a moment to scream for help.  In a few minutes Mrs. Dodge climbed out on a limb reaching over the side of the fence opposite the bull in the rear of a Mr. Lawrence's barn.

From here she dropped to the ground into a heap of tin cans and rubbish, which cut her about the face and hands.  She was stunned for a few moments, and Miss Fairchild, who thought she had fainted, called loudly for help.  Mr. Lawrence heard the cries, and, hurrying to the rear of the barn, rescued the young women from their predicament, driving the bull away from the fence at the point of a pitchfork.  The women were then taken to the farm house, where, under the care of Mr. Lawrence and his wife, they recovered from their fright and exhaustion.  The bull, after being captured, was taken to Walsh's barnyard, and soon will be turned into dressed beef."

Source:  BULL TREES WOMEN, Alexandria Gazette [Alexandria, VA], Sep. 7, 1898, Vol XCIX, No. 212, p. 1, col. 2.

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