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, March 27, 2017

More on Francis Secor of Pelham, Father of James Francis Secor and Grandfather of James Frances Secor, Jr.

For more than two centuries, virtually every American schoolchild has learned about Robert Fulton who is credited with the creation of the earliest commercially-successful steamboat.  Few, if any, of those schoolchildren, however, learned of the important involvement of Pelhamite Francis Secor in that venture.  Today's Historic Pelham article documents a little of the life of Francis Secor and his reported involvement with Robert Fulton's first commercially-successful steamboat.  

Francis Secor (b. May 22, 1776, d. Aug. 23, 1863), was a merchant, shipwright, and ship chandler who reportedly was associated with Robert Fulton in the construction of the first successful steam vessel.  Secor was a son of Eli Secor (b. 1743, d. 1830) and Ann Gedney.

Secor bought a 150-acre estate in Pelham Manor and built a grand summer home on the grounds.  The family first alternated between their fashionable Murray Hill residence and their grand summer home in Pelham Manor until they suffered a major financial setback and lost a large portion of the family fortune.  At that time, they gave up their New York City residence and moved to the Pelham Manor home where they lived thereafter.

I have written before about Francis Secor and his large estate and home in Pelham Manor.  See Wed., Apr. 15, 2015:  The Secor Estate in the Village of Pelham Manor.

The beautiful Secor family home stood at Wolf's Lane near the Boston Post Road.  The extensive property of the Secor estate was known as "Secor Hill."  With the death of the last Secor family member living in Pelham, Anna M. Secor, in 1939, the final remainders of the estate were carved up into smaller lots and sold for residential construction.

Detail from Photograph Showing the Main Secor
Residence in 1915. NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

Photograph Showing an Interior View of the Main House
on the Secor Estate in 1915. NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1867 Map Showing Location of the Home of "F. Seacor,"
the Secor Home Near the Intersection of Wolf's Lane and the Boston
Westchester Co., N. Y." in Beers, Frederick W., Atlas of New York
and Vicinity From Actual Surveys by and Under the Direction of F. W.
Beers, p. 7 (Philadelphia, PA: 1867). NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1868 Map Showing Location of "F. Secor Est."
Near Intersection of Wolfs Lane and Boston Post Road.
Source: Beers, Frederick W., "City Island, Pelham Township,
Co., N. Y." in Atlas of New York and Vicinity from Actual Surveys
by and Under the Direction of F. W. Beers, Assisted by A. B.
Prindle & Others, p. 35 (Philadelphia, PA: 1868).
NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1881 Map Showing the "F. Secor Est." Source:
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 Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1914 Map Showing "Anna M. Secor Est." and
Location of Main House and Service Buildings and Also Showing
Beginning of Development of Portions of the Estate. Source:
Bromley, George W., "Pelham Manor" in Atlas of Westchester
County, N. Y. Pocket, Desk and Automobile Edition, Vol. 1, pp.
128-29 (NY, NY: G.W. Bromley & Co., 1914).
NOTE: Click Image To Enlarge.

Francis Secor married Hannah Carpenter (b. 1782, d. 1861).  Hannah was a daughter of Daniel Carpenter and Sarah Merritt.  According to family tradition, Francis Secor was a friend of noted American author James Fenimore Cooper -- who is known to have written of Pelham in various of his works including "The Spy" -- and of John Jay, founding father and first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  

Though Francis Secor made his fortune as a merchant, a shipwright, and a ship chandler, a number of sources indicate that he served either as "superintendent" or "foreman" of the construction of Robert Fulton's steamboat.  Most importantly, Secor seems to have invented an important part of the steamboat system.  During early tests of the Fulton Steamboat known as the North River Steamboat (or the North River), the paddle wheel showered passengers and crew with water.  According to family tradition, Francis Secor designed the "box that was used to cover" the paddle wheel of subsequent steamboats that was used for many years thereafter.


1909 Replica of the North River Steamboat Designed by
Robert Fulton for Which Francis Secor Reportedly Served
as Foreman or Superintendent During its Construction.
Note the Uncovered Paddlewheel that Showered Passengers
and Crew with Water as the Steamboat Moved Under Steam
Power.  Source:  "North River Steamboat" in Wikipedia - The
Free Encyclopedia (visited Feb. 22, 2017).  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

Francis Secor and his wife, Hannah Carpenter Secor had a number of children, including:

Zeno Carpenter Secor (b. 1799, d. 1875)
Henry Reynolds Secor (b. 1805, d. 1877)
Sarah Ann Secor (b. 1814)
James Francis Secor (b. 1816)
Charles A. Secor
Thorn Secor (Thorn Secor died young.)  

For a time Francis Secor operated "Francis Secor & Son," ship carpenters and proprietors of a marine railway at 103 Washington Street in New York City.  The son with whom he worked at the time was Henry Secor.  (At the time, according to one account, "West Street was not continued out so far north, and Washington at that point was open to the river.")  This concern was operating as early as 1827 and, likely, earlier.

It appears that for a time in the early to mid-1830s, Francis Secor formed a "Ship Chandlery" co-partnership with Frederick E. Gibert while still operating his shipwright and spar making business.  The pair apparently operated the ship chandlery business also at 103 Washington Street.  On January 24, 1835, an announcement appeared in a New York City newspaper indicating that the ship chandlery co-partnership was being dissolved and that the business would continue to operate at 103 Washington run by Francis Secor.  The notice read in full:

"DISSOLUTION. -- The Copartnership heretofore existing between the subscribers, under the firm of Gibert & Secor, was dissolved on the 19th inst. by mutual consent.  Frederick E. Gibert and Zeno Secor are authorized to settle the concerns of the late firm,
January 24, 1835.
NOTICE.  -- The Ship Chandlery business will be continued at the same place on his own account, by
103 Washington street
jy24 2w"

Source:  DISSOLUTION, The Evening Post [NY, NY], Jan. 26, 1835, p. 3, col. 3.

During this time Secor, a Democrat, was an active member of Tammany Hall.  His name appears in a number of newspaper accounts of Tammany Hall meetings, occasionally designated as a "Vice President."

Francis Secor's sons, Zeno, Henry, Charles, and James Francis Secor, followed in their father's footsteps.  They formed the shipbuilding firm of Secor Brothers that operated out of Jersey City.  During the Civil War, Secor Brothers constructed at least five ironclads for the U.S. Government and delivered one, the Mahopac, to the government only a week or so before their father's death.  

Source:  U.S. National Archives Photograph, No.
NWDNS-111-B-409.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

During the 1840s, Francis Secor attempted to purchase and add to his estate a large section of land that once belonged to Philip Pell I, then Philip Pell II, then David Jones Pell from various heirs of the widow of David Jones Pell.  He purchased the land at auction, but the sale was not completed and the heirs sold the land to James Hay of Pelhamdale fame.  Francis Secor filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court in 1846 in an effort to unwind that sale and to complete sale of the land to him.  The record of that lawsuit contains a wealth of information regarding Pelham in the mid-19th century and is more than four hundred pages long.  See SUPREME COURT (LATE IN CHANCERY) -- FRANCIS SECOR VS. MARY PELL, et al. (NY, NY:  Banks, Gould & Co., Law Publishers, 1854).  Although it took more than nine years to resolve the action, Secor eventually lost the lawsuit.  James Hay retained the lands that formed his Pelhamdale estate.

Francis Secor was infirm and in poor health in the last years of his life.  On June 7, 1862, he executed his last will and testament in the offices of his lawyer, Thomas C. Fields of New York City.  Unable to sign his name, Secor's attorney guided his hand to make the mark of an "X" on the document and then signed Secor's name to the will also indicating that the X was his mark.  At the end of the will, the attorney included the following statement:  "Thos. C. Fields Bloomingdale Road and 117th street in the City of New York who signed the name of the Testator at his special request."  This later led to a very extensive probate hearing by the Surrogate who took extensive testimony from witnesses regarding the execution of the will, the records of which are quite extensive.

Francis Secor died on August 23, 1864.  He was buried in the Eleazor Gedney Burial Ground in Mamaroneck.  A photograph of his gravestone appears below.  Images of the pages of his will, with the text transcribed, also appear below.

James Francis Secor, a son of Francis Secor, succeeded to the Secor home on Secor Hill after his father's death.  Like Francis Secor, James Francis Secor and his son James Francis Secor, Jr. and his daughter, Anna M. Secor, became notable Pelham residents who shaped the early Village of Pelham Manor and various of its important institutions including the Manor Club.  

Gravestone of Francis Secor Reflecting His Burial
in the Eleazor Gedney Burial Ground, Mamaroneck,
Westchester County, New York.  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

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1827 Advertisement for Francis Secor & Son Shipwrights and
Spar Making with Locations on Washington Street in Manhattan
and on the Beach at Brooklyn.  Source:  SHIPWRIGHTS & SPAR
MAKING [Advertisement], The Evening Post [NY, NY], May 26,
1827, p. 3, col. 1.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.
Transcription of Text Immediately Below.

"SHIPWRIGHTS & SPAR MAKING. -- The subscriber respectfully informs his friends and the public that he still continues the Shipwright and Spar making business at his old establishment, between Carslile [sic] and Rector streets, North river:  and in addition he has established the same business at Brooklyn, below the old ferry, where he has a convenient beach for laying vessels ashore to grave and repair -- and all kinds of materials suitable to do the same; and, also, he has erected a railway for hauling up vessels, where a vessel may be hauled up and graved in three hours and launched again; and it may be further understood that a vessel having a private leak may be hauled up with water enough in her to discover the same as she stands on even keel. --

For further particulars inquire of Francis Secor, No. 106 Washington street, or
HENRY SECOR, at Brooklyn.


DEATH OF FRANCIS SECOR.  --  This venerable merchant and citizen, who has resided for many years at Pelham, in this county, died on Tuesday, the 23d inst., at his late residence, in the 89th year of his age.

Mr. Secor was in the ship-chandler's business, in the ship-chandler's business, in the City of New-York, for nearly half a century.  He was widely known and greatly esteemed.

Mr. Secor's sons, Henry, Zeno, Charles A., and James F. Secor, compose the firm of Secor Brothers, the great ship builders of Jersey City.  They have constructed five of the new monitors for the Government, the last one, the Mahopac, having been delivered only about a week ago."

Source:  PELHAM.  DEATH OF FRANCIS SECOR, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Sep. 1, 1864, Vol. IX, No. 446, p. 8, col. 2.  

"The following biographical sketch was written in 1875 by Thomas Ely Secor for his Harvard Class of 1875 ClassBook, and rewritten by his younger sister Anna Amelia Secor. Underlined names are direct-line ancestors of William Wright Conklin. 

FRANCIS SECOR 1776-1864 

'Francis Secor (my grandfather) married Hannah Carpenter whose father, Daniel Carpenter married Sarah Merritt, and he owned Byron Point' 

'Francis Secor’s father Eli Secor married Ann Hadden.  She was surrounded during the Revolutionary War by Skinners for not telling where her husband was hidden.  Was shot in the shoulder and walked three miles to a doctor to have her wound dressed.  The man who shot her was afterwards shot for cruelty to a man by hanging him and then letting him down, and he vowed to shoot the skinner, and when he did the jury exonerated him' 

'My grandfather Francis knew Fennimore Cooper also John Jay who lived near him in Rye.  I think John Jay was our first ambassador to England.' 

'Grandfather Francis Secor superintended building the first steamboat and went on trial trips.  The paddlewheel showered them with water and grandfather designed the box that was used to cover the paddlewheel, which was used on steamboats for many years.  He went in business in the ships chandlery business (sold ropes and supplies to sailing vessels and these vessels came in at a dock on West Street near grandfathers store.)   Many men of note used to wait in his office.  I think Uncle Charles, Zeno and father carried on the business after their father gave up on account of failing eyesight.  Grandfather lived near his place of business.' 

'Francis Secor and Hannah Carpenter ran away and got married; she only 14 years old.  They had twelve children, among them Thorn, Henry, Zeno, Sarah Ann, Charles A. and James F. Secor survived.  They, my father’s mother and father formed the Baptist Church, McDougal St., N.Y.  Spencer H. Cone was the minister.  Spencer H. Cone was an actor and after his theatre burned down he was converted and studied for the ministry.  Was one of the most noted ministers of his time.' 

Grandmother was a sincere Christian woman, well educated for her time, and used to entertain visiting ministers and even had a Catholic priest for a friend.  Father said, ‘Those ministers had wonderful appetites’.'"

Source:  Francis Secor 1776-1864, "Written by grandson Thomas Ely Secor and granddaughter Anna Amelia Secor," Ancestry.com (visited Feb. 20, 2017; paid subscription required to access via this link).  


Charles Fredrick Secor, esteemed one of the finest practical authorities in the science of metallurgy and mining engineering, died suddenly on Tuesday at the residence of his father, Charles A. Secor, No. 62 West Fifty-fifth-street, at the age of 47.  Mr. Secore was a native of this City.  His grandfather, Francis Secor, was the foreman of Robert Fulton in the construction of his celebrated experimental steam-boat.  He was also the the inventor of the dry-dock system now in use in this City.  The grandson at an early age became interested in metallurgical studies and was accordingly sent to the Freiberg School of Mines, in Germany, where he was graduated with distinction.  From Freiberg he went to Paris and studied for several years at the Ecole Polytechnique.  On his return to America he settled in San Franisco, and was soon spoken of as one of the best practical authorities on the Pacific slope.  He was one of the discoverers and original promoters of the famous Comstock lode.  He remained in California and Nevada for 17 years, and only returned to his native City after his health had been permanently impaired.  The immediate cause was the bursting of a retort in his laboratory, and the consequent exposure to the fumes of quicksilver -- an accident from the effects of which he never recovered.  On Tuesday, about 12 o'clock, Mr. Secor was in his usual health.  A few minutes later he fainted, and was removed to his room insensible.  Death supervened before a physician could be summoned, probably from a stroke of apoplexy.  Mr. Secor was the inventor of an amalgamator, which is now being successfully introduced in the mining regions, and had amassed a comfortable competence.  The funeral services will take place at the residence of his father at 10 o'clock this morning, the Rev. Dr. Tiffany officiating."

Source:  OTHER DEATHS -- CHARLES FREDRICK SECOR, N.Y. Times, Mar. 10, 1881, p. 5, col. 5.

"Supreme Court -- General Term.

Francis Secor vs. Mary Pell and others.  --  This cause was argued on the 10th and 11th instant.  Suit was commenced in 1846, for the specific performance of a contract to sell a farm in Westchester.  It appears that in October, 1845, the farm was sold at auction by E. H. Ludlow & Co., at the Merchants' Exchange in New York. -- Mr. Secor attended the sale, and the premises were struck off to him.

Subsequently the counsel of the seller met the counsel of purchaser but they could not agree as to the title, and although the purchaser's counsel offered to submit the questions discussed to other counsel, the offer was rejected, and the premises were afterwards sold to another purchaser.  A bill was then filed to compel the seller to perform the contract and give a title.

F. R. Tillow and P. T. Cutler for the plaintiff W. Silliman and Samuel Lyon for defendants.

The Court adjourned yesterday afternoon, having heard arguments in the cases on the calendar to 39, inclusive.

The decisions pronounced in cases heretofore argued, we will publish on Monday."

Source:  Supreme Court -- General Term. BEFORE JUSTICES BROWN, STRONG AND ROCKWELL. Francis Secor vs. Mary Pell and others, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 13, 1855, p. 2, col. 4.  See also Decisions made at a General Term of the Supreme Court for the Second Judicial District at the City of Brooklyn, July 21, 1855, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul. 25, 1855, p. 2, col. 4 ("Francis Secor against Mary Pell and others. -- The decree of judgment of the special term affirmed but without costs.").  

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Below is the text, followed by images of the pages, of the last will and testament of Francis Secor.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"[Page 1]

In the name of God Amen -- I Francis Secor of the County of Westchester and State of New York, Shipwright, do make, publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament, hereby declaring to be null and void any other last Will and Testament heretofore made by me -- 

First I give, devise, and bequeath to my grand-daughter Matilda McCord the daughter of my deceased son Thorn Secor and wife of George McCord, the sum of Five hundred dollars which sum I hereby direct my executors to pay to the said Matilda within two years from my decease -- out of any personal Estate of which I may die possessed -- 

This sum I consider a proper amount to bequeath to her for the reason that I supported her mother and herself from the decease of her Father till her marriage --

Second one fifth part of the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate real, personal and mixed I give devise and bequeath to Lydia S. Secor wife of my son Charles A. Secor to have and to hold the same unto her the said Lydia S. Secor her heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns for ever -- 

Third -- One fifth of my estate after paying the above legacy of five hundred dollars I do hereby give, bequeath, and devise unto

[Page 2]

Anna Mariah Secor wife of my son James F. Secor to have and to hold the same unto her the said Anna Mariah, her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns for ever --

Fourth  I do hereby give, bequeath, and devise one fifth of all my estate after paying the above mentioned legacy of five hundred dollars to Mary Ann Secor wife of my son Zeno Secor to have and to hold the same unto her the said Mary Ann Secor her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns for ever -- 

Fifth -- I do hereby give, devise, and bequeath unto Martha Mariah Secor wife of my son Henry R. Secor, one fifth of my estate real, personal, and mixed, after paying the above mentioned legacy of five hundred dollars to have and to hold the same to her the said Martha Mariah Secor for and during her natural life and at her decease it is my wish and I so direct that the share or portion of the said Martha Mariah Secor be divided equally between the children of my said son Henry R. Secor as follows -- Theodore Secor, H. Alonzo Secor, Charlotte A. Secor, Eviline Secor and Malvina Secor, share and share alike -- 

Sixth  I do hereby give, devise, and bequeath unto my daughter Sarah Ann now the wife of John G. Merrell, one fifth of my estate real, personal and mixed, after paying the above 

[Page 3]

mentioned legacy of five hundred dollars and after deducting from said one fifth hereby devised to her the sum of Two thousand dollars to have and to hold the same to her and to her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns for ever -- 

Seventh.  One thousand of the two thousand dollars hereby directed to be deducted from the share of my daughter Sarah Ann, I hereby give and bequeath unto Martha Mariah Secor wife of my son Henry R. Secor.  The other one thousand dollars of said two thousand above mentioned, I hereby give and bequeath unto Anna Mariah Secor wife of my son James F. Secor in consideration for the care and attention she has bestowed upon me -- The reason I direct this deduction of Two thousand dollars from the share of my daughter Sarah Ann is that I have heretofore loaned her husband, John G. Merrell sums of money which with the interest thereon I consider equal to this sum.

Eighth I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my son James F. Secor and my son Zeno Secor Executors of this my last Will and Testament -- In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this seventh day of June in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Two -- 

Francis Secor
X  his Mark


Signed, seaed, published and declared by the testator as and 

[Page 4] 

for his last Will and Testament in our presence, who in his presence, in presence of each other and at his request have signed our names hereto as witnesses --

Charles R. Truex
83rd St. & 3rd Avenue
City of New York

Thos. C. Fields Bloomingdale Road and 117th street in the City of New York who signed the name of the Testator at his special request."

New York Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999:  New York,
New York Probated Jun. 8, 1865, Proceedings, 1865 (Available
via Ancestry.com; Note:  paid subscription required to access via
this link).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

New York Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999:  New York,
New York Probated Jun. 8, 1865, Proceedings, 1865 (Available
via Ancestry.com; Note:  paid subscription required to access via
this link).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

New York Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999:  New York,
New York Probated Jun. 8, 1865, Proceedings, 1865 (Available
via Ancestry.com; Note:  paid subscription required to access via
this link).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

New York Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999:  New York,
New York Probated Jun. 8, 1865, Proceedings, 1865 (Available
via Ancestry.com; Note:  paid subscription required to access via
this link).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Sketch Published with Story of Gruesome Suicide in 1902 May Contain Only Known Depiction of the Original Pelham Manor Train Station

He was a well-liked, athletic, and young Harvard-educated lawyer who was quite popular in Newport, Rhode Island and in New York City.  He was 32 years old.  His name was George Griswold 2d, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John N. A. Griswold of Newport, Rhode Island.  His uncle was W. J. Emmett, a member of the family that owned the famed "Kemble House" located at 145 Shore Road in Pelham Manor.   The original portion of the Kemble House was built before the Revolutionary War, likely in about 1750.  It still stands, with the original section now forming the left (southern) wing of the home when viewing it from Shore Road.

In the autumn of 1902, something changed about George Griswold 2d.  Mrs. Griswold arrived in New York City with her son and rented a studio apartment for herself and another for her son in Carnegie Hall.  In November, Mrs. Griswold quietly sent her son to a "retreat" in Bay Ridge, then arranged for her and her son to board in the Kemble House at 145 Shore Road in Pelham.  By the time she and her son moved into the Kemble House, George was suffering from severe mental illness.  He constantly attempted to harm himself and spoke frequently of suicide.  His condition was so bad that in addition to servants, Mrs. Griswold hired two burly male nurses to stay with them in the Kemble House so that at least one male nurse was with George every minute of the day.  Their names were Charles Hill and A. A. Walters.

Young George Griswold 2d was no longer permitted to have a razor to shave.  Soon his hair was quite long and he had sprouted a beard.  The nurses "guarded him" constantly in the Kemble House to keep him from harming himself.  

Late in the evening on Monday, December 22, 1902, it was Charles Hill's turn to watch Griswold during the overnight shift.  Griswold seemed agitated most of that night and paced the floor of his room, smoking a pipe and muttering.  About 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 23, the whistle of a train traveling on the Branch Line that passed the Pelham Manor Train Station about a mile away blew its whistle.  Hill heard Griswold mutter "Oh, those trains, those trains.  How can I live with their rattle always in my ears?"  Griswold then became quiet.

Once Griswold grew quiet, Charles Hill stepped into his own room in the house for a moment.  When Hill returned, Griswold's room was empty.  An open window revealed how Griswold had made his escape.

Hill sounded the alarm.  He and A. A. Walters began a search of the neighborhood which, at the time contained only a handful of homes between Shore Road and the Branch Line railroad tracks.  They were still searching when word arrived that a man had just been killed on the Branch Line railroad tracks near the Pelham Manor Station. 

Hill and Walters raced to the scene.  What they found was gruesome.  George Griswold 2d, tormented by his own demons, had cast aside his hat, kneeled next to the train tracks, and laid his neck on one rail.  A passing train decapitated the young man.  

The nurses and the family tried to keep the matter private.  The body was taken to the distant Village of Westchester where the nurses informed the Coroner that they knew the deceased and his name was "G. G. Martin."  Although local police knew it was the body of George Griswold 2d, the Coroner issued a permit for removal of the body under the name of G. G. Martin to a funeral home even more distant on West Farms Road in preparation to have the body shipped to Newport, Rhode Island for burial.

Given the gruesome nature of the death, sensationalized newspaper accounts appeared in many newspapers throughout the region.  One such report appeared in the New York Herald on December 24, 1902.  Significantly, the newspaper report included not only photographs of Griswold, the Kemble House, and the two male nurses, but also a sketch of the area from a "bird's eye view" that included a depiction of the Pelham Manor Station near the spot where the body was found.

The published sketch appears below, with an additional detail of the station taken from the sketch.  The sketch may be significant because there do not appear to be any extant images of the Pelham Manor Train Station that was replaced with a station designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert that opened in 1908, six years after the suicide of George Griswold 2d.

Images Published with the News Article Published by the New York Herald
That is Quoted and Cited in Full Below.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.
Detail Showing the Pelham Manor Station as Depicted in the
Sketch Above Published by the New York Herald.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

The sketch must be taken with a grain of salt.  It does not appear to be a true-to-life depiction of a bird's-eye-view of the region at the time.  Clearly it is not intended to be to scale.  Additionally, there were more structures actually present in the neighborhood than depicted in the sketch.  For example, though the sketch includes a fairly accurate depiction of the Christ Church sanctuary building, it does not show associated church structures that existed at the time.  Likewise, the sketch only shows two residences located in the Manor Circle area, though several more existed (and the ones shown are generalized views of homes in that area).  Nevertheless, the sketch does purport to depict the train station.  Moreover, a comparison of the sketch of the station is at least consistent with a map published in 1899 that depicts the footprint of the same station.  

Moreover, there are elements of the sketch of the station that seem to ring true.  The structure is depicted as a long "shotgun style" station adjacent to the tracks.  A map of the area published by John Fairchild in 1899, only three years before Griswold's suicide, indicates that the Pelham Manor Station was a long "shotgun style" structure adjacent to the tracks, as the detail from the Fairchild Map shows immediately below.  

Detail of John Fairchild Map Published in 1899 Showing
the Pelham Manor Train Station and Surrounding Region.
Source:  Fairchild, John F., Atlas of the City of Mount Vernon
Plate 24 (Mount Vernon, NY:  John F. Fairchild, 1899).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

As the detail of the station from the sketch suggests, there may have been an "eyebrow" style roof dormer facing the plaza side of the station.  There appears to be an entrance door flanked by a single row of windows on each side of the door on the plaza side as well.  On the side of the building facing the New York City boundary (the side depicted above the words "PELHAM MANOR STATION" in the sketch) there appears to have been a door flanked by a single window on each side.  It looks as though there is a wooden walkway outside that door and that the walkway extended around to the side of the station facing the railroad tracks as a wooden station platform.  It is very difficult to tell from the sketch, but there is at least a suggestion that a portion of the platform along the tracks was covered by an extension from the roof.  Interestingly, in 1902 there were three tracks adjacent to the station -- just as the sketch seems to depict.  

Although the station appears to have been a single story, the existence of the eyebrow-style dormer in the roof and a small window visible above the side door facing the New York City boundary both suggest that there was an attic above the ground floor of the station.  

Though the grisly death by suicide of George Griswold 2d in the early hours of December 22, 1902 was a terrible tragedy, it is possible that as a consequence of his tragic demise we have one of the only known images of the Pelham Manor Station that preceded the one designed by Cass Gilbert built in about 1908. 

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Below is the text of the New York Herald article that forms the basis of today's article.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"George Griswold 2d Ends His Life While Demented; Eludes His Nurses and Throws Himself Under a Train
Had Been Cared For in a Cottage by His Mother and the Two Attendants.
Body Found Later on Tracks and is Identified by Men Who Sought Him.
Scion of Wealthy and Socially Prominent Family Lost Reason Just as Career Opened.

In an undertaker's establishment in West Farms road lies the body of George Griswold 2d, scion of a prominent family.  Demented, he had escaped the nurses who had guarded him in a cottage, where his mother lived with him,  and after a wild scurry in the biting cold and over the frozen country, he had placed his head on a railroad track and had been decapitated by a train.  

But as far as is known officially he was in life G. G. Martin.  As such his death is recorded on the blotter in the police station in West Chester village.  This is the name by which he is known to the undertaker, and under this same name the Coroner granted a permit for the removal of the body.  Yet there are policemen who knew he was George Griswold 2d; the undertaker has heard this was his name, and the nurse who reported the death to Coroner Williams says he told that official the true name of the dead man and his family history.


That such mystery should be observed, it is admitted, was to conceal the fact that he was the only son of John N. A. Griswold, an octogenarian, who makes his home in Newport, R. I.; that his uncle is W. J. Emmett, of New Rochelle; that his cousin is George Griswold, of Tuxedo Park, and last that he had lived with his aged mother and two men nurses in a cottage in Pelham road for the last three weeks, the restraint of the nurses being necessary because in his mania he had developed suicidal tendencies.

Thirty-two years old, a graduate of Harvard and the University of Oxford and recently admitted to the Bar, young Mr. Griswold was as well and favorably known in this city, as he was in Newport.  When in that city he lived with his father in his handsome residence in Bellevue avenue, opposite Touro Park.  Every summer he was there, and, with an inclination to athletics, he took part in the lawn tennis tournaments in the Casino.  For some years his mother had resided in Colorado.

About three months ago Mrs. Griswold took a studio in Carnegie Hall and soon thereafter her son took a studio in the same building.  There was nothing in his manner there to show he was erratic, but about a month ago he went to a retreat in Bay Ridge.  A week later his mother closed her studio, and a few days afterward she and her son took possession of a cottage in Pelham road, Pelham Manor.  With them were several servants and two nurses -- Charles Hill and A. A. Walters.


These men soon saw the young man's mind was affected -- in fact, this was not hidden from them by Mrs. Griswold.  His one idea was to kill himself, and so one of the nurses was constantly by his side.  He was not permitted to shave, because it was feared he might use the razor to take his life, and his hair grew long and his beard sprouted.  A dull silver knife was given to him at meal time, and whenever he went out for a walk one of the nurses was by his side.  

It was Hill's turn to watch him between midnight on Monday and six o'clock yesterday morning, and as the family deemed it best for the nurses not to be in the same room, at times Hill was in an adjoining room.  He noticed Mr. Griswold did not sleep; he walked about his room constantly, talking to himself and smoking a pipe.  About five o'clock he heard a freight train on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad rattle along the tracks, almost half a mile distant, and he said: --

'Oh, those trains, those trains.  How can I live with their rattle always in my ears.'

Going to his room for a minute the nurse did not hurry back, as all was quiet in Mr. Griswold's room.  But when he did re-enter, it was to find it empty.  An open window showed how the young man had made his exit.


Alarming his fellow nurse, Hill ran from the house without delay.  But the country is wild there; the ground was frozen; no one is abroad at that time of the morning and there are few watchmen to guard the half dozen houses between the home of the Griswolds and the railroad station.

They were still searching when it was learned that a man who had been killed on the railroad track had been found where the tracks pass over Prospect Hill road, just above Bartow, and almost three miles from Mrs. Griswold's cottage.  When the nurses went there they saw the body was that of their patient.  It was taken to the police station in West Chester village, where Hill said he recognized it as that of G. G. Martin.  The Coroner O'Gorman was called and he made out a permit for the removal of the body, as that of Martin, to the establishment of Bernard J. Lavan, in West Farms road.

No attempt was made to deny the young man had been irrational.  That he must have deliberately placed his head on the rail and awaited the approach of a train was shown by the fact that his only other injury was a broken arm.  He had even thrown aside his hat before he threw himself on the track.

It was decided to keep the body in the undertaker's until Friday, when it will be taken to Newport for burial.  Young Griswold's other sister is the wife of Colonel H. R. O. Cross, of the British army, and she lives in England."

Source:  George Griswold 2d Ends His Life While Demented; Eludes His Nurses and Throws Himself Under a Train, New York Herald, Dec. 24, 1902, p. 5, col. 1.  

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

More on the Unsolved Murder of Pelham Manor Policeman John McGuire in 1918

In the early morning darkness on Tuesday, May 7, 1918, members of the Pelham Manor Police Department were still abuzz over an attempted burglary and brutal assault earlier in the night at the home of wealthy cigar manufacturer Herman Rokohl who lived at 255 Corona Avenue.  At 4:00 a.m. that morning, there was a shift change.  

Pelham Manor Patrolman John McGuire, one of the oldest members of the department and a large and powerful man, had just finished the shift.  He waited at Four Corners for the Pelham trolley.  He could hear it clattering along Pelhamdale Avenue headed toward Four Corners.  In the darkness ahead, Patrolman McGuire saw the trolley stop near Witherbee Avenue.  A shadowy figure climbed aboard.  

Given the attempted burglary earlier that night, McGuire decided to identify the person who had just climbed aboard the trolley.  As the trolley approached, the unarmed officer stopped it and climbed aboard.

"Which passenger got on last?" asked McGuire of the trolley motorman.  The motorman pointed to a passenger in a corner at the rear of the trolley.  

Patrolman McGuire approached the passenger and said:  "We want to ask you some questions. You'll have to get off here with me." Patrolman McGuire reportedly linked his arm with that of the passenger and the pair moved to the front of the car.

Patrolman McGuire reached the steps of the car first and started down them. As he did, the suspect pulled a pistol, shoved it into McGuire's back and emptied the revolver.  Patrolman McGuire died instantly. In the confusion, the despicable and cowardly murderer fled.  There were military men from Fort Slocum on the trolley who gave chase, but the murderer escaped.  Patrolman McGuire left behind a wife and two sons, one of whom was serving in the U.S. Navy at the time.

Within a few hours, New Rochelle police arrested John Brennan of Oak Street, New Rochelle as the suspected burglar who assaulted Herman Rokohl earlier in the day.  Brennan, it was thought, could not have been the murderer of Patrolman McGuire, however.  He was a white man.  The suspect who shot and killed Patrolman McGuire purportedly was a black man, although later evidence suggested otherwise.  Though Brennan was held without bail and hauled before a Westchester County Grand Jury for the burglary, the murder suspect apparently was still at large.  

One of the military men who witnessed the murder was Fred Mostert, a member of the Medical Corps stationed at Fort Slocum.  About two weeks after the murder, on Friday, May 17, 1918, Mostert was in New York City and saw a black man on the street whom he believed was the murderer.  He alerted New York City police who arrested the man, John Surgeon Barton, who was charged with murder.    

Barton was a chauffeur for a local judge, Hon. Mark M. Schlesinger.  The Judge hired a number of detectives and "set his office force in Wall Street to work" in an effort to investigate the matter and exonerate his chauffeur.  Even before the matter was presented to a grand jury, Judge Schlesinger was able to establish Barton's innocence.  The charges were dropped and Barton was released from jail.  One of the reasons Barton was released was that evidence had emerged that the murderer may not have been a black man as first believed but instead was "a man who had used a tanning process to color his face and hands for the purpose of operating in dark houses."

Patrolman McGuire was the first of Pelham Manor's Finest to die in the line of duty.  The dastardly murder was never solved.  Nearly one hundred years later, the identity of the murderer remains an enduring Pelham history mystery.

Pelham Manor Police Department in 1910.  Patrolman John McGuire
is Fourth From the Left, Standing.  Caption Reads: "R.H. Marks, Chief
of Police (sitting) Left to Right -- John J. Flanagan, George Booth,
Joseph Colgan, John McGuire, A.D. Savage, Phil. Gargan, James Butler."
Source:  Pelham Manor Police Dept., The Pelham Sun [Pelham, NY],
May 21, 1910, Vol. I, No. 7, cols. 4-6.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written before about the murder of Patrolman John McGuire.  See Wed., Aug. 09, 2006:  The Saddest Day in the History of Pelham Manor's "Toonerville Trolley."  For the text of newspaper reports related to Patrolman McGuire's murder, see below.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  


John McGuire, one of the oldest members of the Pelham Manor Police Force, was shot and killed yesterday morning while trying to arrest a negro, whom he believed to be implicated in the recent burglaries at Pelham Manor and Pelham Heights.  Herman Rokohl, a wealthy cigar manufacturer, was badly beaten with the butt of a revolver by a burglar who had entered his home.

Several hours after Mr. Rokohl had reported the attack on him Lieutenant McGowan of the New Rochelle police force arrested a young white man, who gave his name as John Brennen of New Rochelle, and who was later identified by Mr. Rokohl as the burglar who had attacked him.  Brenna, the police think, was a member of the gang which invaded the Pelhams, which include at least four men, and divided their operations.

Mr. Rokohl, who is 74 years old, though badly battered by the other burglar, was able to tell a complete story of the visit of the intruder to his home.  His sister, Mrs. Fredericks Wedemeier, was asleep on the second floor, when she was suddenly awakened by a flashlight.  She screamed and the burglar ran out into the hall, where he ran into Mr. Rokohl put up a plucky fight, and wrestled about the hallway for some time, but the burglar drew his revolver and pounded his victim over the head.  Though badly hurt Mr. Rokohl kept up the battle until he was knocked down. Then the burglar ran downstairs and out the kitchen door."

Source:  BURGLARY SUSPECT KILLS OLD POLICEMAN, N.Y. Times, May 8 1918, p. 22, col. 2 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

Empties Revolver Into Unarmed Captor and Escapes. . . .

From The Inquirer Bureau.

NEW YORK, May 7.  -- John McGuire, a policeman attached to the Pelham Manor Police Department was shot and killed early today by an escaping negro burglar at the corner of Pelhamdale avenue, near the high school.

The negro had attempted to rob the home of Herman Roaohl [sic] at 255 Corona avenue, Pelham Heights.  Roaohl was awakened by a noise and encountered the negro in the act of rifling a bureau.  In the ensuing struggle the burglar hit him on the head with a blackjack and rushed from the house.

Policeman McGuire was attracted by the screams and chased the negro, who jumped on a passing trolley car.  McGuire, though unarmed leaped after him and dragged him to the street.

The negro suddenly pulled a revolver and fired five shots, one of which lodged in the policeman's abdomen.  He was rushed to the New Rochelle Hospital, where he died half an hour later.  The negro escaped."

Source:  NEGRO BURGLAR KILLS POLICEMAN -- Empties Revolver Into Unarmed Captor and Escapes, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 8, 1918, p. 9, col. 1 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

Pelham Manor Burglar Suspect Escapes Pursuers.

No trace has been found of the negro who shot and killed Policeman John McGuire of the Pelham Manor police force early yesterday at Pelhamdale and Willard avenues [sic].  

McGuire picked up the negro as a suspicious character, who might have knowledge of recent burglaries in the Pelham Manor district.  The policeman, unarmed, left a trolley car to take the negro to the police station.  The negro fired five shots at the policeman and made his escape into the woods nearby, eluding a number of soldiers, who pursued him.  

A few hours before, Herman Rokohl, a wealthy cigar manufacturer, living in Pelham Manor, was viciously attacked by a burglar, who had broken into his home.

McGuire is survived by his wife and two sons.  One of the sons is in the United States Navy."  

Source:  NEGRO KILLS POLICEMAN -- Pelham Manor Burglar Suspect Escapes Pursuers, New York Herald, May 8, 1918, p. 14, col. 6 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  See also NEGRO KILLS POLICEMAN -- Pelham Manor Burglar Suspect Escapes Pursuers, The Sun [NY, NY], May 8, 1918, p. 14, col. 6 (same text).  


Held For Grand Jury.

John Brennan, of Oak street, New Rochelle, who was arrested in New Rochelle early on Tuesday morning, May 7, following an attempted robbery at 255 Corona avenue, Pelham Heights, in which Herman Rokohl, age 74 years, the occupant of the house was assaulted, was arraigned for examination before Justice of the Peace George Lambert Monday evening at the town hall on this village.  The state presented its side of the cast through Assistant District Attorney Ferris.  Brennan was represented by Attorney Moran.  Coroner Stella was present, to gain information and he later stated that he was convinced that Brennan in no way was involved in the murder of John McGuire, the Pelham Manor policeman who was shot several hours after the burglary.  The defense waived examination and Justice Lambert held him without bail for the action of the Westchester county grand jury."

Source:  HAPPENINGS IN NORTH PELHAM . . . Held for Grand Jury, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 17, 1918, p. 9, col. 1.  

"North Pelham . . . 

Holding Suspect.

Spurgeon [sic] P. Barton, the colored chauffeur suspect who was arrested in New York last Friday evening by detectives from the fourth branch office after he had been identified in the street by Fred Mostert, of the medical corps stationed at Fort Slocum as the man who shot Patrolman John McGuire of this village, a member of the Pelham Manor police department, is being held at the county jail to await the action of Coroner Stella who will hold an inquest soon.  District Attorney Davis and the coroner have been in conference on this case but no announcement of their plans has been made public."

Source:  North Pelham . . . Holding Suspect, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 22, 1918, p. 7, col. 4.  

"North Pelham
Charged With Murder, His Innocence Is Established.

John Surgeon Barton, the negro charged with murder on May 7, of Patrolman John McGuire, of the Pelham Manor police department, has been released from the county jail, where he was being detained to await action of the grand jury.

Barton was arrested in New York city, after he is said to have been identified as the murderer by a soldier from Fort Slocum, who was a passenger on a trolley car going to New Rochelle on the morning of the shooting.  Barton had been employed as a chauffeur by Judge Mark M. Schlesinger, who to Barton's defense, employed a number of detectives and set his office force in Wall street at work on the matter.  He succeeded in being able to establish the innocence of Barton, and consequently the negro was free within fewer than 60 days, and even before his case reached the grand jury.  When arrested, Barton was without money and almost friendless and too poor to employ counsel to aid him in the matter of an immediate investigation of the police testimony.  It was reported prior to Barton's arrest that the real murderer was not a negro, but a man who had used a tanning process to color his face and hands for the purpose of operating in dark houses."

Source:  North Pelham -- NEGRO IS EXONERATE -- Charged With Murder, His Innocence Is Established, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 9, 1918, p. 3, col. 3.  

"Westchester Today!
Pelham Manor Police:  Slaying on Trolley

Pelham Manor Police cover an area of 1.3 square miles and protect a population of 6,114.

The job is a bit tougher than one might gather from those small statistics because of the community's proximity to the more populated New York City and New Rochelle and because three main highways -- the Hutchinson River Parkway, Boston Post Road and the New England Thruway-- not only make Pelham Manor a convenient place to live but also make it a target for marauders and other trouble makers.

Police Chief Joseph Lyon points to two recent bank crimes and the quick apprehension of suspects to illustrate the work of his department.  A man was arrested for the holdup of the Boston Post Road branch of the People's Savings Bank of New Rochelle in Pelham Manor last fall.  There was also a seizure of a 'disturbed' man who threatened personnel of the Manor branch of the First National Bank of Mount Vernon with what later proved to be a water pistol.  

In addition to the chief, Pelham Manor has a lieutenant, five sergeants, 17 patrolmen and six crossing guards.  The department has four radio-equipped police cars with oxygen units, first aid kits, flares, and blankets.  A 15-state teletype alarm system keeps the men abreast of the latest happenings of interest to police.  Bank alarms link directly to headquarters.

There is a pistol range off Shore Road where the police teams practice.  

The department was not always so well-manned and equipped.  In the early days, one man was the force and he had to be content with riding a 'fast' bicycle or hopping a ride on Pelham Manor's 'Toonerville Trolley' to overtake a thief or to apprehend one making his getaway on the trolley.

Pelham Manor's first policemen were James O'Brien and Joseph Colgan, appointed in 1903.  The salary was $30 a month, unlike the salary of the town constables who served on a fee basis.  In 1904 the village fathers appointed Town Constable Raphael H. Marks as chief of police.  Colgan continued to serve under him as sergeant.

Chief Marks had the distinction of being the first 'moonlighter,' being appointed in 1903 as chief of Pelham Village's force and serving both departments simultaneously.  The Pelham Manor department began to grow.  He continued as head of Pelham Manor force until 1919, having resigned in 1910 as chief of Pelham Village.

Philip Gargan, the next chief rose from the ranks.  He fought with the Fighting 69th during World War I and returned from the Army and became chief.

Sgt. Michael Grady succeed Gargan and he was succeeded in turn by James McCaffrey, who was appointed Nov. 8, 1937 and who retired Aug. 31, 1959.  Provisional Chief Charles Baisley next directed the affairs of the department until his retirement Dec. 31, 1961.  Chief Lyon then succeeded him.

The village's worst crime, one which is still unsolved, is recalled by Retired Chief McCaffrey.  About 4 a.m. one day in 1917 [sic; should be 1918], several men were going off duty.  As they were waiting for the trolley, they saw it stop at Witherbee Avenue and pick up a passenger.  Recalling that there had been an earlier report from a resident on Witherbee Avenue [sic] reporting a burglar in the house, police got on the trolley and Patrolman John McGuire stopped it, asking the motorman:  'Which passenger got on last?'  The motorman pointed toward a passenger in the rear corner.

'We want to ask you some questions,' Patrolman McGuire said to the passenger.  'You'll have to get off here with me.'  He linked his arm in the passenger's and they made their way to the front door.  Patrolman McGuire was a big, powerful man and it may have led to overconfidence on his part.  As McGuire preceded the suspect down the trolley steps, the suspect pulled out a gun and shot McGuire in the back, killing him instantly.  The suspect fled."

Source:   Westchester Today!  -- Pelham Manor Police:  Slaying on Trolley, Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Mar. 13, 1963, p. 52, cols. 1-4.  

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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