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.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Dedicated Lover Willing To Confront a Mob and Gunfire: A North Pelham Valentine Story

The crack of a pistol followed by shouts in the darkness made the young man's blood run cold.  He sprinted into the blackness of the North Pelham night, not certain who was shooting at him or why.

What a way to end what, until that moment, had been an enchanted evening.  Ernest Schmidt, a happy young German immigrant, spent the evening with his beautiful sweetheart.  She was a belle of North Pelham.  The pair was in love.

Ernest was floating on clouds as his sweetheart closed the door behind him as he departed late that autumn evening in 1902.  Actually, it was early October 20 because it was just after midnight.

We can imagine Ernest Schmidt tarrying near the porch of his sweetheart's home.  Perhaps he leaned against a veranda column.  Maybe he stood outside and gazed at his lover's home until the last light in the home blinked out.  One thing we know more than 110 years later, young Ernest Schmidt tarried "too long" at his sweetheart's gate.

The dedicated men in blue of the North Pelham Police Department were patrolling the village.  One of them observed Ernest Schmidt and shouted something at the lovestruck young fellow.  Startled, Schmidt ran.

The police officer shouted at the young man to stop, then drew his pistol.  As Ernest stumbled and fled into the darkness, the officer leveled his gun and fired four shots at the terrified young man.

The shots, of course, woke the entire village as well as many in the adjacent settlement of Mount Vernon.  Nearly a score of men pulled on their clothes and ran outside to form an impromptu posse.  As North Pelham police and the rambunctious posse pursued the young man, the police of Mount Vernon joined the search.  

Ernest Schmidt stumbled and ran for his life in the darkness.  How could this have happened?  What would they do to him if they caught him?  Would he ever see his sweetheart again?  Schmidt ran for nearly a mile in the darkness.

Word had spread like wildfire that local police and a posse were chasing a burglar.  Schmidt was terrified -- more a hunted animal than a young lover.

The police and posse searched the darkness.  Soon they heard what seemed like moans.  They came upon a ditch.  Lying in that ditch was the young man moaning as though he had been wounded.

The police and posse dragged the young man out of the ditch.  They discovered he was not shot.  Rather, "he was more scared than hurt."  

The words tumbled out of Schmidt's mouth as he told his story.  North Pelham police dragged the young man back to his sweetheart's house.  There the young belle explained the circumstances and confirmed her lover's story.

North Pelham police released the love-struck young man.  As he stumbled away to return to his home, the police shouted something at him.  They shouted he should never "run away from policemen again."

*          *          *          *          *

Tarried Too Long at His Sweetheart's Gate and Then a Mob Followed Him.

NORTH PELHAM, N. Y., October 20. -- (Special.) -- Because Ernest Schmidt, an inoffensive German, tarried at his sweetheart's door until early to-day, he was fired on four times by a policeman, who mistook him for a burglar.

Schmidt was chased a mile by the policeman and a posse of villagers, who found him, exhausted, lying in a ditch and moaning as though he had been wounded.  Luckily, he was more scared than hurt.  Schmidt's visit to his friend aroused both police departments of North Pelham and Mount Vernon, and also caused a score of two villages to join in the supposed burglar hunt.

Schmidt was taken up to his sweetheart's house, where the young woman came to the door to identify the prisoner and explained the circumstances.  Schmidt was allowed to go with a warning not to start to run away from policemen again."

Source:  A LOVER MISTAKEN FOR A BURGLAR -- Tarried Too Long at His Sweetheart's Gate and Then a Mob Followed Him, Richmond Dispatch [Richmond, VA], Oct. 21, 1902, p. 7, col. 1 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

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