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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Beecroft Brothers of Pelham Manor Battled Burglars in 1901


The Beecroft Brothers, sons of John R. Beecroft who died in 1901, were a Pelham Manor institution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  James, Chester, and Fred Beecroft grew up in Pelham Manor, roaming its rural countryside, swimming and fishing in its local waters, and playing baseball and other sports on its open fields.  

Pelham Manor was bucolic and idyllic in 1901.  It also was quiet, dark, and desolate.  In addition, in 1901 Pelham Manor and the surrounding region including New Rochelle were in the midst of a crime wave of repeated burglaries.  Indeed, the Beecroft Brothers had broken up one of the burglaries of the home next door to theirs.  It was the home of the Rev. Alfred Frances Tennney, Rector of Christ Church.  When breaking up the burglary, Jim Beecroft pulled a revolver and fired at the fleeing thieves, though his shots missed their marks.

Several weeks later, Jim Beecroft arrived home at the Beecroft residence on Pelhamdale Avenue around the corner from the New York Athletic Club at 2:00 a.m. on Friday, July 5, 1901.  He was returning from a Fourth of July celebration.  As he reached the front door of his home he noticed the door was ajar.  

As he puzzled over who might have left the door unlocked and open, he thought he heard rustling in the foyer near the open door.  As he started to step inside, two men rushed out of the darkness without warning and attacked him.  The first man struck him in the jaw with a fist.  As Jim began to struggle with the burglar, he heard one of the men shout "You're the man that shot at us; we'll put you where you won't bother us anymore."  The second intruder then walloped Jim Beecroft over the head with a weapon that Jim later said he thought was a blackjack.  Beecroft fell to the floor unconscious.

Hearing the shouts and the struggle, Fred Beecroft awoke in his second floor bedroom.  He climbed out the window and slid down a veranda column.  

The pair of burglars, one a tall, well-built man and the other a short man, took off as Jim Beecroft groggily struggled to his feet from the floor of the foyer.  As Jim's brother, Fred, hopped to the ground from the veranda column, Jim Beecroft took off after the fleeing thieves.

Fred ran out in front of the Beecroft home just as the third brother, Chester, stepped out of the house with a loaded shotgun.  Chester leveled the shotgun at the shadowy figure in the front yard not realizing it was his brother, Fred.  Fred, in turn, saw a shadowy figure with a shotgun pointed in his direction and sprang forward.  Fred grabbed for the gun.  Each unaware of the identity of the other in the chaos and confusion, the two began a deadly hand-to-hand battle over the loaded shotgun. 

As the confused brothers fought, their other brother, Jim Beecroft, shouted from the woods that he was chasing the burglars and needed help.  Suddenly, because of Jim's shout, Fred and Chester realized their confusion.  Fred shouted "I'm Fred!"  The two brothers stopped fighting and took off into the woods after their brother, Jim, and the burglars he was chasing.



The Old Beecroft Home on Pelhamdale Avenue Where the Beecroft
Brothers Fought Burglars at 2:00 A.M. on Friday, July 5, 1901.  Source:
Google Maps Street View (Jul. 2016).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The three Beecroft Brothers rushed through the dense underbrush chasing after the two thieves.  Jim Beecroft got close to the fleeing burglars several times.  Once, as he closed in on them, one of them shouted to warn Jim "not to come too close or they would put him out of business."


As the thieves ran through the brush, one shouted to the other "Bill, I guess it's time to separate:  you take one direction and I'll go the other."  The two split into opposite directions and quickly disappeared in the thick brush.  The Beecroft Brothers were unable to find them.  The pursuers were forced to give up the chase.  The burglars had escaped yet again.  

The Beecroft burglary was the straw that broke the camel's back.  The people of Pelham Manor and New Rochelle were so outraged that $500 in reward money was offered for the arrest and conviction of the burglars.  Moreover, the Village of Pelham Manor soon doubled the size of its police force.  

The Beecroft burglary was the culmination of a large number of similar burglaries in the region likely committed by the same two thieves.  Indeed, according to one news account "For the last few weeks burglars have been having their own way in Pelham Manor, and the homes of many New-Yorkers have been plundered."

Pelham Manor homes that had been burglarized included:  the home of D. I. Carson, treasurer of the Southern Bell Telephone Company; the home of the Rev. Alfred Frances Tennney, Rector of Pelham Manor's Christ Church; the home of Professor A. C. McGiffert of the Union Theological Seminary where they stole about $500 of silverware and the wedding presents of the Professor and his wife; and the home of J. Hull, a wealthy New-Yorker, who lived on the Esplanade and was connected with the American Tobacco Company. 

The attempt to burglarize the Hull home revealed more about the two burglars responsible for the Pelham Manor crime spree.  One night Mr. Hull and his wife were in their home when their two Dachshunds began barking furiously.  The couple investigated.  Mr. Hull peered out a window in the front of the house.  Mrs. Hull went to a back window.  As she peered out, she was face to face with the two burglars trying to pry the window open.  The burglars ran, but Mrs. Hull got a good look at them.  One was a tall, well-built man with side whiskers.  The other was a short man.  Both were surprisingly well dressed.  

The two man crime spree was not limited to Pelham Manor.  Indeed, police authorities reportedly believed that the same two men were responsible for two burglaries and two additional attempted burglaries on Lafayette Street in New Rochelle as well as burglaries in that city of the homes of Alonzo Guest Charles Mars.  In the Guest burglary, the thieves stole "a small quantity of silverware and table cutlery, cigars, clothing and an umbrella."  In the Mars burglary, the thieves ransacked the home.  About $50 worth of goods were taken.  Drawers were emptied onto the lawn of the home in the frantic search for valuables.  The same two thieves also "attempted to rob the residence of A. Kistinger and another house nearby but were evidently frightened away by dogs."

The Beecroft burglary and the related crime spree of the summer of 1901 were seminal events that prompted an expansion of the Pelham Manor Police Department.  Pelham no longer would countenance thieves who wished to "have their way in Pelham Manor."

*          *          *          *          *

Given the shocking nature of the Beecroft burglary, many newspapers reported on the event.  Below is the text of a number of such articles published in 1901.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"BROTHERS FIGHT ROBBERS.
-----
ONE KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS BY BURGLARS.
-----
THE OTHERS MISTAKE EACH OTHER FOR HOUSEBREAKERS, AND STRUGGLE OVER SHOTGUN.

James Beecroft, one of the sons of the late John R. Beecroft, was severely beaten by burglars at his home, in Pelham Manor, yesterday morning about 2 o'clock.

Beecroft had been out to a Fourth of July celebration.  As he went to the front door he noticed that it was open.  He was wondering who had been careless, when he heard a noise in the dark hallway, and suddenly two men sprang out of the parlor and rushed on him.  One man struck him on the jaw with his fist and at the same time the other came down on his head with a weapon that felt like a blackjack.  Beecroft heard one of the assailants exclaim:  'You're the man that shot at us; we'll put you where you won't bother us any more.'  Then he fell to the floor unconscious.

The excitement aroused an older brother, Fred, who came out of the second story window and slid down a post of the front veranda.  At the same time another brother got up and ran down the stairs with a shotgun.  He saw Fred in the front yard, and, thinking that he was the burglar, levelled [sic] his gun at him and was about to shoot.  Just then 'Jim,' who had recovered, set up a cry in the woods that he was chasing the burglar and needed help.  

The brothers had clinched with each other and were in deathly combat for the shotgun, but when 'Jim' called they saw their mistake, and, letting go of each other, joined in the chase.  The burglars took opposite directions through the woods, and ran for nearly a quarter of a mile.  When they reached the home of Colonel De Frece, James Beecroft was close on their trail.  They turned to him several times, and warned him not to come too close or they would put him out of business.

The tall burglar said to the shorter one as they ran:  'Bill, I guess it's time to separate:  you take one direction and I'll go the other.'  With this they disappeared in opposite directions, and the Beecroft brothers were unable to find them.  The burglars had escaped through the dense brush, and the pursuers were forced to give up the chase.  

The robberies were the sole topic of conversation in Pelham Manor yesterday.  Nobody in the manor feels safe, and some of the women are so nervous that they are on the verge of collapse.  The citizens have decided that some extraordinary method will have to be employed, and they will hold a meeting in a few days to increase the police force.  It is likely that detectives from this city will be employed until the gang is effectively broken up.

For the last few weeks burglars have been having their own way in Pelham Manor, and the homes of many New-Yorkers have been plundered.  The first big robbery occurred at the home of D. I. Carson, treasurer of the Southern Bell Telephone Company.  The house-breakers next attempted to enter the home of the Rev. A. F. Tennney, rector of Pelham Priory, but were frightened away by the sons of the late John R. Beecroft, who shot at them.  They came back for the third time on Wednesday morning and stole about $500 worth of silverware from Professor A. C. McGiffert, of the Union Theological Seminary.  A part of the plunder consisted of the wedding presents of the Professor and his wife.  The burglars took the little boy's wheel, left it at the railroad station, and took the agent's wheel and a wheel that was stored there.

On the same morning they attempted to get into the home of J. Hull, a wealthy New-Yorker, who lives on the Esplanade.  Mr. Hull is connected with the American Tobacco Company.  Two of his Dachshunds began to bark furiously just as the burglars were prying open the window.  Mr. Hull ran to a window in the front of the house and his wife went to one in the rear.  The men were at the back window trying to get in.  When they saw Mrs. Hull they ran.  Mrs. Hull got a good view of them.  She says that one is tall and well built and the other is a short man.  The tall man wore side whiskers.  They were quite well dressed."

Source:  BROTHERS FIGHT ROBBERS -- ONE KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS BY BURGLARS -- THE OTHERS MISTAKE EACH OTHER FOR HOUSEBREAKERS, AND STRUGGLE OVER SHOTGUN, New-York Tribune, Jul. 5, 1901, Vol. LXI, No. 19,955, p. 1, col. 5.  See also BEECROFT BROTHERS ATTACKED BY ROBBERS -- One Made Unconscious -- BROTHERS THEN STRUGGLE FOR SHOT GUN -- Pelham Manor Scene of Many Burglaries -- A Threat Among Words Passed Between Them -- James Beecroft Unconscious, Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 5, 1901, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2,839, p. 1, col. 4 (same text).  

"BROTHERS FIGHT WITH BURGLARS
-----
Two Bold Housebreakers at Pelham Manor Make Attack on the Beecrofts for Revenge.
-----

Burglars have added another crime to the long list credited to them around Pelham Manor by beating James Beecroft and causing his two brothers to fight each other desperately through mistake.  Mr. Beecroft, who is one of the sons of the late John R. Beecroft, was returning home at two o'clock in the morning from a Fourth of July celebration when he was attacked.

As he approached the front door, he heard a noise in the dark hallway, and a moment later two men sprang upon him.  One man struck him on the jaw with his fist and at the same time the other came down on his head with a weapon that felt like a blackjack.  Beecroft heard one of the assailants exclaim:  --  'You're the man that shot at us.  We'll put you where you won't bother us any more.'  Then he fell to the floor unconscious.  

The excitement aroused an older brother, Fred, who came out of the second story window and slid down a post of the front veranda.  At the same time another brother got up and ran down the stairs with a shotgun.  He saw Fred in the front yard, and, thinking that he was the burglar, levelled [sic] his gun at him and was about to shoot.  Just then 'Jim,' who had recovered, set up a cry in the woods that he was chasing the burglar and needed help.

The brothers had clinched with each other and were in deathly combat for the shotgun, but when 'Jim' called they saw their mistake, and, letting go of each other, joined in the chase.  The burglars took opposite directions through the woods, and ran for nearly a quarter of a mile.  When they reached the home of Colonel De Frece, James Beecroft was close on their trail.  They turned to him several times and warned him not to come too close or they would put him out of business.

The tall burglar said to the shorter one as they ran:  'Bill, I guess it's time to separate; you take one direction and I'll go the other.'  With this they disappeared in opposite directions, and the Beecroft brothers were unable to find them.  The burglars had escaped through the dense brush, and the pursuers were forced to give up the chase.

The last few weeks many houses in Pelham Manor have been robbed.  One of the robberies occurred at the home of D. I. Carson, treasurer of the Southern Bell Telephone Company.  The housebreakers next attempted to enter the home of the Rev. A. F. Tenney, rector of the Pelham Priory, but were frightened away by the sons of the late Mr. Beecroft, who shot at them.  Residents of Pelham Manor are in a state of great alarm over the burglaries there, and the village police force will probably be increased."

Source:  BROTHERS FIGHT WITH BURGLARS -- Two Bold Housebreakers at Pelham Manor Make Attack on the Beecrofts for Revenge, The Evening Telegram [NY, NY], Jul. 5, 1901, p. 9, col. 1.  

"PELHAM MANOR ROBBERIES
-----
Beecroft Brothers Lively Experience with Burglars.
----- 

Pelham Manor is a fruitful and evidently a mighty easy field for the unwelcome operations of burglars. Many robberies have been committed there recently, but probably the boldest attempt of all was made at 2 A.M. yesterday, when James Beecroft, one of the sons of the late John R. Beecroft, was beaten by burglars in his own home. Mr. Beecroft, who had been at a Fourth of July celebration, found the front door open when he returned home. Becoming suspicious he entered the hallway as silently as possible. As he did so two men sprang out of the parlor and seized him. One of the burglars struck him a heavy blow on the jaw, while the other felled him with a blackjack. The noise aroused Fred, an elder brother of James, and he slid down a post from the second story window to the veranda. The burglars ran from the house. James, who had recovered quickly, followed them with a shotgun. He saw Fred in the yard, and thinking he was one of the burglars levelled [sic] his gun at him. 

'Let up, I'm Fred!' 

The brothers then chased the burglars toward the woods, but the latter escaped. 

Only a few weeks ago burglars broke into the homes of D. L. Carson, treasurer of the Southern Bell Company; the Rev. A. F. Tenney, rector of Pelham Priory; Prof. A. C. McGiffert, of the Union Theological Seminary, who lost $500 worth of silverware, and J. Hull, of the American Tobacco Company." 

Source:  PELHAM MANOR ROBBERIES -- Beecroft Brothers Lively Experience With Burglars, The Daily Standard Union [Brooklyn, NY], Jul. 5, 1901, p. 8, col. 6.

"SERIOUS FIGHT WITH BURGLARS.
-----
Early Yesterday, in Pelham Manor.
-----

An attempt to rob the Beecroft mansion, in Pelham Manor, early Thursday morning, was the subject of general conversation in that place yesterday.  James Beecroft was severely beaten by burglars at his home, in Pelham Manor, yesterday morning about 2 o'clock.  Beecroft had been out to a Fourth of July celebration.  As he wen to the front door he noticed that it was open.  He was wondering who had been careless, when he heard a noise in the dark hallway, and suddenly two men sprang out of the parlor and rushed on him.  One man struck him on the jaw with his fist and at the same time the other came down on his head with a weapon that felt like a blackjack.  Beecroft heard one of the assailants exclaim:  'You're the man that shot at us; we'll put you where you won't bother us anymore.'  Then he fell to the floor unconscious.  The excitement aroused older brother, Fred, who came out of the second story window and slid down a post of the front veranda.  At the same time another brother got up and ran down the stairs with a shotgun.  He saw Fred in the front yard, and thinking that he was a burglar, levelled [sic] his gun at him and was about to shoot.  Just then 'Jim,' who had recovered, set up a cry in the woods that he was chasing the burglar and needed help.  The brothers had clinched with each other and were in deathly combat for the shotgun, but when 'Jim' called they saw their mistake, and, letting go of each other, joined in the chase.  With this they disappeared in opposite directions, and the Beecroft brothers were unable to find them.  The burglars had escaped through the dense brush, and the pursuers were forced to give up the chase."

Source:  SERIOUS FIGHT WITH BURGLARS -- Early Yesterday, in Pelham Manor, The New Rochelle Press, Jul. 6, 1901, p. 8, col. 1.  

"ROBBERS IN PELHAM MANOR
-----
Beecroft Brothers Have An Exciting Time With Two Thieves.
-----
STRUGGLE OVER A SHOT-GUN.
-----

For the last few weeks burglars have apparently been having their own way in Pelham Manor, and the homes of many residents have been plundered.  

James Beecroft, one of the sons of the late John R. Beecroft, had an encounter with burglars at his home early Thursday morning.

Beecroft had been out to a Fourth of July celebration.  As he went in the dark hallway two men suddenly sprang out of the parlor and rushed on him.  One man struck him on the jaw with his fist and at the same time the other came down on his head with a weapon that felt like a blackjack.  Beecroft fell to the floor unconscious.

The excitement aroused an elder brother, Fred, who came out of the second story window and slid down a post of the front veranda.  At the same time another brother got up and ran down the stairs with a shotgun.  He saw Fred in the front yard, and, thinking that he was the burglar, levelled [sic] his gun at him and was about to shoot.  

The brothers had clinched with each other and were in combat for the shotgun.  They soon saw their mistake, and, letting go of each other, joined in chase for the burglars."

Source:   ROBBERS IN PELHAM MANOR -- Beecroft Brothers Have An Exciting Time With Two Thieves -- STRUGGLE OVER A SHOT-GUN, New Rochelle Pioneer, Jul. 6, 1901, Vol. 43, No. 16, p. 1, col. 5.  

"COUNTY NEWS. . . .

-- Since the exciting experience of the Beecroft brothers, of Pelham Manor, one of whom was knocked out by a burglar he met in his home at 2 o'clock in the morning, the authorities of Pelham Manor have decided to double the police force.  They will also probably offer a reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the house-breakers.  There have been half a dozen robberies in Pelham Manor in less than a month.  It is believed that they were all committed by two men.  One of the burglars is stockily built and wears tennis shoes.  The other is tall and thin.  This is the description given to the police by a woman who went to her bedroom window and found the robbers trying to get into her home. . . ."

Source:  COUNTY NEWS, The Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Jul. 1, 1901, Vol. LVII, No. 17, p. 3, col. 4.  

"BOLD WESTCHESTER THIEVES.
-----
Many Houses Looted in New Rochelle and Pelham Manor.
-----

New Rochelle, N. Y., July 17.  --  On account of the numerous robberies in New Rochelle and Pelham Manor the authorities of both places have offered a reward of $250, making a total of $500 for the arrest and conviction of any person captured.  During the past two or three months numerous robberies have been reported to the police of Pelham Manor and New Rochelle.  Despite the fact that the police force has been doubled the robberies continue.

At the home of D. I Carson, on the Boston Post Road, in Pelham Manor, the thieves secured entrance to the house yesterday and obtained about $1,000 worth of silverware.  They next went to the house of the Rev. A. F. Tenney and also secured a lot of silverware and other valuables.  The home of Mrs. J. R. Beecroft was entered several weeks ago and considerable silverware taken.

While the family of James L. Laurent were on the veranda of their home on Locust avenue between 7 and 8 o'clock last night burglars forced an entrance into the library window on the first floor and carried off much valuable material.  After gaining admission to the house the burglars threw their booty on to the lawn.  After they had ransacked the house from top to bottom they went to the lawn and sorted the plated ware from the genuine silver.

The plated ware they discarded and departed with the good silver.  The same night they visited the residence of James L. Waterbury, connected with the Western Union Telegraph Company, and secured much booty.  A number of other robberies were reported to the police, but the names have been withheld."

Source:  BOLD WESTCHESTER THIEVES -- Many Houses Looted in New Rochelle and Pelham Manor, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 18, 1901, p. 8. col. 2.  

"BURGLARS GET SILVERWARE
-----
Homes of Alonzo Guest and Charles Mars on Lafayette Street Visited.
-----
FIRST FLOORS ALL PLUNDERED
-----

Burglars are still active in this city and Pelham.  Early Wednesday morning several residence on Lafayette street were visited.  Two were entered, and at two other houses the thieves were evidently frightened by dogs without securing any plunder.

The thieves entered Alonzo Guest's home while the family were asleep by removing a window screen.  At seven o'clock Wednesday morning they learned of the robbery.  A small quantity of silverware and table cutlery, cigars, clothing and an umbrella were stolen.  The thieves confined their operations to the first floor.

The residence of Charles Mars near Mr. Guest's house was visited on the same day.  Only the first floor was ransacked for valuables and about $50 worth of goods were taken.  Drawers supposed to contain valuables were taken into the back yard and overturned on the lawn.  

The thieves also attempted to rob the residence of A. Kistinger and another house nearby but were evidently frightened away by dogs."

Source:  BURGLARS GET SILVERWARE -- Homes of Alonzo Guest and Charles Mars on Lafayette Street Visited -FIRST FLOORS ALL PLUNDERED, New Rochelle Pioneer, Jul. 13, 1901, Vol. 43, No. 17, p. 1, col. 4.  



Labels: , , , , , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home