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, December 08, 2005

The First Stone Bridge Built Across Eastchester Creek in Pelham, 1814-1815

In the early 19th century there was no easy way to travel by roadway along the Long Island Sound from New York City through the Town of Pelham. Among the many obstacles to the construction of such a roadway was the lack of a bridge across the mouth of the "East Chester Creek" where the Hutchinson River empties into the Long Island Sound. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little of the history regarding the construction of the first bridge across Eastchester Creek.

The mouth of the Hutchinson River where it meets the Long Island Sound is quite wide. As Lockwood Barr points out in his popular History of Pelham published in 1946 (see p. 83), the first place above the mouth of the river where the waters can be forded was known as "Wading Place" in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wading Place is where today's Colonial Avenue crosses the Hutchinson River beneath the Hutchinson River Parkway overpass that crosses Colonial Avenue. That location, of course, is quite distant from the mouth of the River.

In the early years of the 19th century, Pelham landowners who lived on the mainland near City Island realized that a bridge across the mouth of the River would substantially increase the value of their lands. Consequently:

"A group of property owners in Pelham, West Chester and City Island were instrumental in getting passed an Act of the Legislature, March 16, 1812, authorizing erection of a toll-bridge across the River at its mouth. Among the incorporators were John Bartow, John Hunter, Elbert Roosevelt, William Bayard, James Harvey, Richard Ward, Daniel Pelton, Joshua Eustace, Herman LeRoy."

Barr, pp. 83-84.

A review of copies of The Evening Post, a newspaper published in New York City at the time, reveals that a company known as the "Eastchester Bridge Company" began soliciting contractors for proposals to build the bridge in 1814. One such advertisement read as follows:

PROPOSALS will be received by the Company, for the building of a Stone Bridge across Eastchester creek, from the town of Pelham to Throgsneck, the distance across computed about thirteen hundred feet ; any person inclining to contract for the erection thereof are desired to call on Mr. JAMES HARVEY, in the town of Pelham near New-Rochelle, county of Westchester, who will exhibit a survey of the creek, and enter into such other explanations as may be required.
May 13 -- 3w"

Eastchester Bridge Company, The Evening Post, May 14, 1814, p. 3.

The same advertisement also appeared in the May 21, May 24, May 25, May 28, June 3 and June 7, 1814 issues of The Evening Post.

James Harvey of Pelham had a particularly significant interest in seeing that the bridge was built. It appears that he planned to sell his large farm in Pelham on the Long Island Sound as soon as the bridge was built. This can be inferred by virtue of an advertisement appeared in a number of issues of The Evening Post shortly after the bridge was completed. The advertisement read:

FOR SALE the valuable Farm on which the subscriber now lives, (formerly the property of Geo. Ra;elye, Esq.) on the manor of Pelham county, Westchester, 15, 1-2 miles from the city of New-York, and adjoining the new bridge lately erected across the mouth of East Chester Creek, containing near 200 acres, and is bounded on three sides by the waters of the sound, of which there is a full view, and of all vessels passing up or down. There is on said farm a large well built dwelling house, and farm house, barn, carriage house, stable, grainery, dairy, smoke house, sheep fold and house, with racks complete for 200 sheep, and many other necessary out buildings, three orchards in full bearing, of the best grafted apples, with a great abundance of every other kind of fruit ; 60 acres of fresh meadow, a proportion of salt meadow, about 30 acres of wood land, the remainder first rate pasture land, the whole capable of being made excellent meadow, and in quality of soil is surpassed by none in the county. Attached to which is a large body none in the county. Attached to which is a large body of sedge. 100 loads of drift stuff may yearly be collected from the stores, the waters of which abound with all kind of scale and shell fish. For further particulars apply on the premises.

A storm destroyed the bridge on April 12, 1816. According to Lockwood Barr, a new bridge was not built for another 18 years. See Barr, p. 84.

Of course, a number of bridges were built over the years at and near that location. To learn more about the iron "Pelham Bridge" built there in 1871 and the hamlet that grew nearby, see the following Historic Pelham Blog postings:

Thu., Aug. 18, 2005: The Opening of the New Iron "Pelham Bridge" in 1871

Tue., Aug. 9, 2005: Cock Fighting at Pelham Bridge in the 19th Century

Thu., Jul. 21, 2005: Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island

Tue., Jun. 28, 2005: The Hotel and Bar Room at Pelham Bridge

Thu., Mar. 24, 2005: The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

Wed., Mar. 23, 2005: Prize Fighting at Pelham Bridge in 1884

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