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, November 21, 2017

After a Rash of Burglaries, a New Safe Baffled Burglars at the Pelham Manor Train Station in 1894

It was a magnificent safe.  In fact, it was one of the finest its size that money could buy in 1894.  It was a Mosler -- virtually burglar proof!  

It had to be burglar proof.  It stood in the post office in the Pelham Manor Train Station.  The little post office, managed by Joseph English who also ran a local coal-selling business, had recently been burglarized not once; not twice; but SEVEN times.  Moreover, post offices at City Island and Bartow, also in the Town of Pelham, recently had been burglarized.  

During the most recent burglary at the Pelham Manor Train Station in the wee morning hours of September 25, 1894, burglars dynamited the previous safe, blowing apart not only the safe but also much of the train station.  Those burglars got away with about $950 in postage stamps (worth about $32,215 in 2016 dollars).  See Fri., May 20, 2016:  Burglars Shook Pelham Manor Awake Using Dynamite to Blow a Safe in 1894.

On the evening of November 9, 1894, Joseph English secured his postage stamps and cash in the new Mosler safe, locked the station and departed for home.  One can only guess what happened next.  

In 1894, the new Village of Pelham Manor had a tiny police force.  City Island still was part of the town, but the two Villages of North Pelham and Pelham (Pelham Heights) had not yet been incorporated and, thus, had no police.  The Town maintained a tiny contingent of Constables to provide police protection but, frankly, the handful of Village Policemen and Town Constables at the time had their work cut out for them in providing police protection for Pelham Manor and Town residents, respectively.

Burglaries were a constant problem in Pelham at the time.  Indeed, burglaries and so-called vagrants prompted the settlement of Pelham Manor to create the "Pelham Manor Protective Club" in 1881 -- the predecessor to village government created in Pelham Manor in 1891.

I have written about Pelham burglaries in those years on many occasions.  See, e.g.:

Fri., May 20, 2016:  Burglars Shook Pelham Manor Awake Using Dynamite to Blow a Safe in 1894.

Wed., Feb. 10, 2010:  Train Station Safe at Pelham Manor Was Blown Open with Dynamite Yet Again on April 24, 1902

Tue., Nov. 17, 2009:  1883 Advertisement by Pelham Manor Protective Club Offering Reward for Information About Pelham Manor Depot Burglary

Fri., Mar. 6, 2009:  Burglars Blow the Safe at the Pelham Manor Post Office in 1894

Fri., Feb. 22, 2008:  Burglary Spree in Pelham Manor in 1880.

Mon., Jan. 28, 2008:  1884 Burglary and Gunfight at the Pelham Manor Depot

Mon., Sep. 15, 2014:  1884 Gunfight in Pelham Manor Pits Local Residents Against Pelham Manor Depot Burglars.

Thu., Apr. 27, 2017 1884:  Gun Battle With Burglars Ransacking the Pelham Manor Depot.

That evening, November 9, 1894, after Joseph English left the station, burglars crept into the depot for the eighth time in recent months.  The new safe, however, proved formidable.

The burglars, however, came prepared.  They placed explosives strategically on the new Mosler safe and ignited them.  The top of the new safe was blasted away.  The combination works were shattered.  Yet, the strong box held out against their assaults.

The new safe was, according to one news account, "a mass of twisted iron" after the explosion.  Although a second explosive charge likely would have breached the safe, the burglars apparently feared that the first explosion would bring police, constables, and neighbors.  They fled into the night empty-handed -- one of the few times burglars left the Pelham Manor Train Station empty-handed.

Detail from 1881 Map Showing Pelham Manor Depot and Surrounding
Area Not Long Before the January, 1884 Burglary. Source: "Town of
W., Atlas of Westchester County, New York from Actual Surveys and Official
Records by G. W. Bromley & Co., Civil Engineers, pp. 56-57 (Washington, D.C.,
G. W. Bromley & Co., 1881).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Their Fourth Visit of the Year.

In the phraseology of the street, the burglar fraternity appears to think it has a 'Sinch' on the cash-box of 'Uncle Sam' in the Town of Pelham.  During the past year the post-offices at Bartow, City Island and Pelham Manor have been visited and successfully plundered.

Indeed, the one at Pelham Manor -- Joseph English, postmaster, has been 'held up' four times [sic].  The last demand made upon its exchequer was Friday evening, November 9th.

The burglars on three previous occasions were successful, but this time their scientific skill was tested to the full.  The top of the new Mosler was blown off and the combination shattered, but the strong box held out against their assaults.  No money was obtained but the safe is a sorry sight -- a mass of twisted iron.  It is believed that the burglars were frightened before they had completed their work as another blast would in all probability have proved successful.  No clue."

Source:  EXTRA -- CRACKSMEN AT PELHAM MANOR POST OFFICE -- BAFFLED THIS TIME BY A NEW SAFE -- Their Fourth Visit of the Year, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 12, 1894, Vol. 3, No. 798, p. 1, col. 6.

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