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, March 30, 2017

Only Months After its Founding in 1851, Pelhamville Suffered its First Fatal Railroad Accident


In September 1851, the New Haven line railroad tracks through Pelham were not quite three years old.  The tiny settlement of Pelhamville, through which New Haven line trains passed, was only a few months old.  The New-York Daily Times, known today as The New York Times, was only a few days old when it reported on a gruesome railroad accident in Pelhamville -- believed to be the first fatal railroad accident in the Town of Pelham.

On the evening of Monday, September 22, 1851, the engineer of a New-Haven Line passenger train looked ahead on the tracks as he approached the tiny settlement of Pelhamville.  As the steam locomotive with its massive cow-catcher clickety-clacked down the tracks pulling several passenger cars, the engineer saw a man standing on the tracks ahead of the train.  

The engineer pulled the cord and sounded the blaring steam whistle of the locomotive.  The man on the tracks ahead, however, seemed to pay no attention to the whistle.  The engineer tried to throw the engine into reverse but it was too late.  The massive iron cow-catcher struck the man in the legs and killed him.

The body of the unidentified man was carried to the New-York Hospital, once located on the west side of Broadway between what are presently Worth Street and Duane Street.  The following morning New York City Coroner, Seth Geer, M.D., held an inquest in the matter.  The engineer of the locomotive at the time of the accident was sworn and deposed.  The engineer testified that:

"on the night in question he was in charge of the engine attached to a passenger train of cars on the New-Haven Railroad, and while approaching the village of Pelhamvile, he saw a man standing on the track, and instantly sounded the whistle, to which he paid no attention.  Witness then endeavored to reverse the locomotive, but could not accomplish it until the cow-catcher had struck deceased in the legs."

At the conclusion of the inquest, the Coroner's Jury immediately returned a verdict of accidental death, finding "That the deceased came to his death by accidentally coming in contact with a locomotive engine on the New-Haven Railroad, when near Pelhamville, Westchester county."

The deceased was about 45 years old and "could not be identified by any person."  The name of the first person to die of a railroad accident in Pelham is now lost to history.



Engraving Depicting Steam Locomotive and Cars Near the
Tunnel at New Hamburg on the Hudson Line.  The Train Likely is
Nearly Identical to the One that Killed a Man Along the Tracks in
Pelhamville on September 22, 1851.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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The newspaper article that forms the basis for today's Historic Pelham article appears immediately below.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"THE NEW-HAVEN RAILROAD ACCIDENT. -- Coroner Geer proceeded to the New-York Hospital yesterday morning, and held an inquest upon the body of the unknown man who was killed on the New-Haven railway on Monday night, and noticed in yesterday's Times.  The engineer of the locomotive was sworn, and deposed, that on the night in question he was in charge of the engine attached to a passenger train of cars on the New-Haven Railroad, and while approaching the village of Pelhamvile, he saw a man standing on the track, and instantly sounded the whistle, to which he paid no attention.  Witness then endeavored to reverse the locomotive, but could not accomplish it until the cow-catcher had struck deceased in the legs.  The deceased was about 45 years of age, and could not be identified by any person; and the jury returned the annexed verdict -- 'That the deceased came to his death by accidentally coming in contact with a locomotive engine on the New-Haven Railroad, when near Pelhamville, Westchester county.'"

Source:  THE NEW-HAVEN RAILROAD ACCIDENT, New-York Daily Times, Sep. 25, 1851, Vol. I, No. 7, p. 1, col. 3 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Important Description of the Oyster Industry in Pelham in 1853


One of the earliest successful non-agricultural industries in the Town of Pelham was the oystering business conducted principally from City Island.  In 1853, The New York Herald published an extensive account of the entire oyster industry from Virginia to New York.  The account sheds fascinating light on the extent, nature, and importance of the industry for the Town of Pelham.  It further provides interesting insights on the history of the industry on City Island.

City Island may have been part of the Town of Pelham in 1853, but it was its own, insular, little world.  There was no bridge that connected it to the mainland.  There were barely 500 residents according to the 1850 U.S. Census, likely reflecting about one hundred families.  Virtually every family was involved, in some fashion, in oystering at that time.  

According to the report, as of about the early 1820s there was no meaningful oyster trade in the New York City region.  To the limited extent that oysters were sold in New York City, they typically were taken from natural beds since the practice of the creation of artificial beds through oyster cultivation, the modern practice of which was pioneered by City Island oystermen, had not yet become widespread.  See Fri., Apr. 13, 2007:  Oystermen of City Island (When It Was Part of the Town of Pelham) Pioneered Oyster Cultivation.


By about the 1830s, however, oystermen in the New York region were engaged in extensive oyster cultivation in addition to harvesting oysters from natural beds in a host of locations around New York City including the waters of Long Island Sound near and even distant from City Island.  As the oyster became a more common food item in the city, its popularity grew as an inexpensive source of tasty nutrition that could be prepared in a host of ways including raw, stewed, fried, baked, and countless other ways.  Demand soared and wealthier men with capital began to rush into the industry not unlike a mini gold rush.




At about the same time, oystermen discovered that by removing oysters from natural beds and transplanting them to artificial beds in the proper sorts of locations, they could increase the size of the oysters and improve their taste and quality.  They also discovered that they could manipulate the period within which the oysters spawned, a period during which they were unfit for consumption, so that the season during which the delicacy was available could be lengthened.  As the quality and size improved, demand increased concomitantly.  

By 1853, the oyster industry was massive.  Wholesale and retail sales exceeded five million dollars annually (nearly $200,000,000 in today's dollars).  More than fifty thousand people were employed in the industry on the oyster beds, in conveying oysters to market, and in the wholesale, and retail establishments that distributed the delicacies to the public.  More than five million dollars was invested at the time in boats of all sizes to carry on the oystering.  

Each year about $500,000 worth of so-called "East River" oysters supplied from artificial and natural beds off of City Island, Bridgeport, Norwalk, Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and other locations along the mainland shore of the Sound and from Northport, Oyster Bay, Lloyd's Harbor, Huntingdon, Cold Spring, and Cow Bay on the Long Island Shore were sold in New York City.  According to The New York Herald, at that time "The largest proportion comes from City Island, where there are extensive artificial and natural beds, which furnish some of the best oysters obtained in the East river."

In 1853, there were about one hundred large East River oyster boats that harvested and then transported oysters to Oliver Slip on the New York City docks.  Of those one hundred boats, twenty-five were from City Island.  About one hundred City Island men were engaged in the oystering business on City Island.  According to the report:

"Some of the best oysters are those sent from City Island, which is situated on the East river, at a distance of eighteen miles from the Battery.  The island is a little more than three miles in circuit, and is inhabited principally, if not solely, by oystermen.  Of the hundred boats employed in conveying East river oysters to Oliver slip, twenty-five are from this place.  The number of men engaged in the fisheries about the island is about one hundred, all of whom live there with their families.  These men make a comfortable living at their occupation.  They own nearly all the boats, and are a hardy, industrious, and independent race of men.  The whole amount of property invested in the oyster trade with this island, including the boats of the oystermen and of the dealers, the value of the beds, &c., is estimated at one million of dollars.  And this is not more than one-third of the whole amount invested in the entire trade of the East river."

In addition to the twenty-five large boats or sloops owned by the oystermen of City Island, they also had "between seventy and eighty smaller ones."  The twenty-five larger sloops and the seventy-to-eighty smaller oystering vessels worked the waters of the Sound seasonally.  According to the same report:

"They generally commence their work in September, and continue till June; but during that month and the two succeeding ones their business is partially suspended.  During these three months they employ their time in overhauling their boats or cultivating their ground, for some have small tracts of land upon which they raise different kinds of vegetables.  There was formerly communication between the island and the main land by steamboats, but those have long since stopped running, and their place at present is supplied by the boats belonging to the oystermen themselves.  City Island is a little world by itself, and its inhabitants have very little connection with the great and busy world outside of it. It has a population of about four hundred, including women and children, and such is its present prosperous condition that its inhabitants are able to maintain an excellent school.  A few years ago a small, but handsome, church was erected near the centre of the island, and its bells may be heard of a Sunday, on either side of the river, summoning the people to worship."

The City Island oystermen would use tongs, rakes, and dredges to harvest oysters from their artificial beds and from natural beds in Long Island Sound.  The so-called "Eastern Oysters" typically fell into four categories of size referenced in the industry, in ascending sizes, as:  Bushes, Cullins, Boxes, and Extras.  Bushes were the smallest, typically about 4-1/2 inches long in 1853.  Oystermen could sell a bushel of Bushes for about fifty cents.  

The largest oysters, called Extras, averaged about nine inches but could range up to eighteen inches.  These sold for up to $20 per thousand oysters.  The Cullins and Boxes were the sizes in between.  Cullins, the second smallest, sold for up to $4 per thousand oysters.  Boxes sold for up to $10 per thousand oysters.

City Island oystermen typically sailed their sloops and boats loaded with these oysters to Oliver Slip in New York City.  Oliver Slip was a dock area at the foot of Oliver Street.  Oliver Street still exists, but no longer ends at the waterfront  due to landfill extending the area outward into the East River.  In 1853, the Oliver Slip area was tiny and over-crowded.  There were nine "oyster scows" wedged into the dock with no room for other vessels.  The oyster scows were barges that were about thirty feet long and twelve feet wide, each covered with a roof and with an office at one end.  The scows, owned by oyster wholesalers, remained permanently docked at the location.  The hold of each was compartmentalized to receive different varieties of oysters in various classes of size.  See Chiarappa, Michael J., New York City's Oyster Barges:  Architecture's Threshold Role Along the Urban Waterfront, Buildings & Landscapes:  Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Vol. 14, pp. 84-108 (Fall, 2007).  

City Island oystermen would arrive at Oliver slip with their sloops laden with bushels of oysters, ready to haggle.  There was no place to dock, so they would have to tie up somewhere along the waterfront and then use carts to haul their oysters to the wholesalers at Oliver Slip.  Retailers including representatives of saloons, restaurants, and the like from throughout the City converged on Oliver Slip and other nearby oyster docks like the one opposite Washington Market and another called Coenties Slip to purchase oysters for sale to their customers.

By 1853, City Island oystermen were prospering in the oyster trade and building a lovely and comparatively affluent little New England "fishing" village in the Town of Pelham.



Oystermen Dredging in Long Island Sound in 1883.
Source:  Harpers Weekly, Aug. 18, 1883.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the majority of the text from The New York Herald article.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"THE OYSTER TRADE OF NEW YORK.
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Where do all the Hard Shells Come From?
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Extent of the Business in the Metropolis.
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Five Million Dollars Worth Sold Yearly, &c., &c., &c.
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This is a business in which almost every person holds an interest, for there are very few who are not dependent upon it for one of the most important articles of human food.  Oysters were at one time regarded as a luxury, but they have now become almost as indispensible [sic] as tea or coffee, with which our remote ancestors were but little acquainted.  It is only within the last thirty years that the oyster trade was established in this city.  Before that time, it is true, oysters were sold here; but the business transacted was exceedingly limited, and there was little or no inducement for persons to engage in it.  Nearly all that were brought to market were procured from the natural beds, for the benefits to be obtained from planting were but imperfectly understood by a few of the dealers, or entirely unknown to them.  In the course of a few years, however, the business grew into importance, and men of capital and enterprise engaged in it.  The planting of beds -- a very essential part of the trade -- was commenced; the few oyster boats, of diminutive size, engaged in supplying New York, became an immense fleet; an extensive trade bean with Virginia; the East river became a mine of wealth to those who worked its beds; the coasts of our bays and the shores of our rivers were explored and given over to the tongs, the scrapers, and the dredges of the oystermen.  It was found that by removing the oyster from its natural bed to an artificial one, it could not only be increased in size, but improved in quality, and rendered fit for use at any period of the year.  This was a very important matter to understand, for there are certain months when the oyster is unfit for use in consequence of its being full of spawn.  While they remained in the natural bed they were always subject to this objection; but if not permitted to lie too long in the artificial one they could be preserved free from spawn.  Although they increased in size, they seldom or never became more numerous by transplanting.  Hundreds of vessels are constantly employed, during certain months, in transplanting in the East river, in Prince's Bay, and other parts of the waters of this State.

The importance of the oyster trade may be judged from the fact that the wholesale and retail sales exceed five million of dollars annually, and more than fifty thousand persons are employed in it.  We include in this estimate those who are engaged on the beds, and in conveying them to market by boats, and the retail and wholesale dealers.  The amount of capital invested in boats of all sizes is estimated at about five millions of dollars, and if we add to this the value of the beds themselves, the depots, &c., the amount would exceed twelve millions.  We consider it necessary to state these few general facts, before going into the particulars of the trade, which we have arranged under appropriate heads. . . . 

EAST AND NORTH RIVER OYSTERS.

Of East river oysters alone, about five hundred thousand dollars worth is sold during the year in Oliver slip.  The supply comes from Bridgeport, Norwalk, Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Sawpits, City Island, and a few other places along the western shore; and from Northport, Oyster Bay, Lloyd's Harbor, Huntingdon, Cold Spring, and Cow Bay, on the southern side.  The largest proportion comes from City Island, where there are extensive artificial and natural beds, which furnish some of the best oysters obtained in the East river.

The artificial beds cover a larger surface than the natural ones, which is owing to the fact that immense quantities of the North river oysters are also planted there.  In fact, about one-third of the whole number planted is made up entirely of those obtained from different parts of the North river -- the beds of which extend at intervals from Piermont to Sing Sing.  The oysters from these beds are not fit for use till they are transplanted twice.  They are, indeed, a very inferior article; and, to use the language of one of the dealers, 'they are considered behind the age.'  Above Sing Sing the water becomes so fresh that oysters cannot live in it, and sometimes, when there is a freshet in the river, large numbers of them, it is said, are killed.  It is not considered judicious, therefore, to remove them from the natural bed for the purpose of transplanting, as the sudden change from the fresh to salt water generally proves fatal to them.  When they are first taken up, they are of a very diminutive size, some being not much larger than a shilling piece, and the largest do not exceed three inches in diameter.  When young, the shell is quite soft, and if planted in Prince's Bay, in that state they would inevitably fall a prey to the large fish which inhabit its waters.  They are, therefore, first planted in the East river beds, where they are allowed to remain for two years; and, when sufficiently large to defy their scaly foes, they are transferred to Prince's Bay, or to other beds in the East river.

The North river is remarkably productive in this shellfish, and in some places so rapid is the increase that they grow upon the top of each other.  In this manner layer after layer is formed, till a perfect rock of oyster shells has been constructed, from four to seven feet thick, and so hard that it is impossible to fasten an anchor in it.  Each layer of oysters kills those immediately beneath it, for this fish always remains in one spot.  During the months of July and August there are very few brought to market, as they are generally full of spawn about this period of the year.  This, it is almost needless to say, renders them unfit for eating, as it gives the meat a milky appearance, and some think an unpleasant flavor.  We should state, however, that this is only the case with those obtained from the natural bed, or those artificial beds in which they are allowed to remain, as the planted oysters are generally fit for use if not allowed to remain too long.  When the oyster is in spawn it has a bloated look, and if cut with a knife a thick liquid, somewhat resembling milk, exudes from it.  There was formerly a law, we understand, in this State, prohibiting the oystermen from taking them up during three months, but that has either been annulled or become obsolete.  About twenty years ago the oysters from the East river were almost unknown in this city, except to a few lovers of the fish.  Indeed, the oyster business of New York at that time was very limited, and, like many other trades, it has increased with the growth of the city.  No person with large capital could be induced to enter upon it, and to cultivate artificial beds in our own waters, except a few, and even those were men of very small means.  Eight or ten years ago, one dealer, who has since become exceedingly rich in the business, invested his capital in it, determined to prove that New York could furnish as good oysters as any other State in the Union, not excepting Virginia, which had always maintained the first rank.  Before this time the East river oysters had a very poor reputation, and, in fact, the demand for them was so limited that the person who entered upon the experiment did so at considerable risk.  As soon, however, as people became acquainted with their superior quality there was an immediate demand for them.  If the beds were as extensive as those in Virginia, the quantity obtained from that State was considerably reduced.  According to the present condition of the trade, and the constantly increasing demand, there is no reason to suppose that it will ever be diminished, or that New York waters alone can supply the New York markets.  Besides, as we have already state in another place, immense quantities are sent, not only throughout this State, but to California, and even to England, where they are considered by some superior to the oysters of that country.  They are certainly more healthy and nutritious.  The English oyster has a sharp, coppery taste, imparted to it by the peculiar saltness [sic] of the water in which it grows, and the nature of the soil.  The water along our coasts is not so brackish or so dense, owing to the large body of fresh water constantly flowing into it from our great rivers, and to this fact is partly attributed the difference in the character of the two oysters.

Some of the best oysters are those sent from City Island, which is situated on the East river, at a distance of eighteen miles from the Battery.  The island is a little more than three miles in circuit, and is inhabited principally, if not solely, by oystermen.  Of the hundred boats employed in conveying East river oysters to Oliver slip, twenty-five are from this place.  The number of men engaged in the fisheries about the island is about one hundred, all of whom live there with their families.  These men make a comfortable living at their occupation.  They own nearly all the boats, and are a hardy, industrious, and independent race of men.  The whole amount of property invested in the oyster trade with this island, including the boats of the oystermen and of the dealers, the value of the beds, &c., is estimated at one million of dollars.  And this is not more than one-third of the whole amount invested in the entire trade of the East river.

Those engaged in planting artificial beds in these waters have their profits considerably diminished by two kinds of fish that prey almost wholly upon oysters.  The first and most rapacious of these is the drum fish, which grows from four to twelve feet long.  It is very voracious; and the luckless oyster that happens to be within its reach, to use the language of the celebrated Hannibal Chollops, gets 'most catawampously chawed up.'  The drum fish literally cuts the shell in two with its teeth, and then extracts the oyster.  It devours immense numbers in this manner, and did it frequent those waters during the whole year it would soon depopulate the beds.  It only makes its appearance, however, about the month of August, so that the damage done is soon repaired by the remarkably prolific powers of the oyster itself.

Besides the drum fish, there is the borer, which grows to the length of half an inch.  It is remarkably hard, and at one end has a sharp point, by means of which it is enabled to pierce the shell of the oyster.  There are some other fish that prey upon oysters, but these are the only kind whose extensive ravages entitle them to particular notice.

In addition to the twenty-five large boats or sloops owned by the oystermen of City Island, they have between seventy and eighty smaller ones.  They generally commence their work in September, and continue till June; but during that month and the two succeeding ones their business is partially suspended.  During these three months they employ their time in overhauling their boats or cultivating their ground, for some have small tracts of land upon which they raise different kinds of vegetables.  There was formerly communication between the island and the main land by steamboats, but those have long since stopped running, and their place at present is supplied by the boats belonging to the oystermen themselves.  City Island is a little world by itself, and its inhabitants have very little connection with the great and busy world outside of it.

It has a population of about four hundred, including women and children, and such is its present prosperous condition that its inhabitants are able to maintain an excellent school.  A few years ago a small, but handsome, church was erected near the centre of the island, and its bells may be heard of a Sunday, on either side of the river, summoning the people to worship.

Some idea may be formed of the extensive business transacted by the East river dealers from the fact that the sales of one, during the last year exceeded one hundred thousand dollars, and this year the demand has increased to such an extent that he is unable to supply it.  Great exertions are at present making to increase the plantations, and large outlays are made for that purpose.  Independent of the oysters sent by sloops, a considerable amount are transplanted over the New Haven road from Stamford, Bridgeport, Southport, and several other places, and some by steamboat from Cold Spring and Oyster Bay, L. I.  Many private families living along the banks of the East river plant beds for their own use; but plantations of this description are not very extensive.  A considerable business in these oysters is transacted in Boston, Hartford, and two or three other eastern cities, but they are said to be of an inferior quality.  They bring in a good price, however, in those places, and that is a sufficient inducement to the dealers to take them so far out of the way. . . . .

BUSHELS, CULLINS, BOXES, AND EXTRAS.

These are the names given to the four sizes according to which oysters are assorted after their removal from the bed.  The bushels are the smallest, and of an inferior quality, while the extras are the largest, and sell for a higher price.  The cullins and boxes are the intermediate sizes, the latter being next to the extras.  The following table gives the relative value of each:  --

Bushes, per bushel..............................50c.
Cullins, per thousand...........................$3.50 to $4
Boxes, per thousand............................ 7.00 to 10
Extras, per thousand............................12.50 to 20

The extras sometimes grow to the enormous size of twelve inches, and they have been known to attain eighteen inches in diameter.  Their average, however, is not more than nine inches.  Bushel oysters are about one half the size of an extra, and the others vary in proportion between these two.  Extras have been sold for eighteen and twenty dollars a thousand, and when scarce they have realized a higher price.  There are some beds on which the growth of oysters is so diminutive that they do not furnish extras, no matter how long they may be allowed to remain undisturbed.  They are generally oysters of four years' growth, for this is about the period an oyster takes to attain its full size.  After that time they commence growing less, until they finally die out.  It is a most singular fact that their death is caused by the increasing thickness of the shell.

From the time they have attained their maturity till their death, the shell becomes thicker upon the inside as well as on the exterior.  In this way it encroaches upon the space of the oyster, gradually reducing it in size, till it dwindles down to a fourth of its former dimensions.

The box oysters are a two years' growth, and there are more of them sold than of any other size.  It may be remarked, however, that as a general, thing the size of the oyster depends as much upon the quality of the sand or mud upon which it grows as on the length of time.

THE WHOLESALE AND RETAIL OYSTER DEALERS.

Under this head may be classed those who sell oysters from the boats and scows at Oliver and Coenties slip, and the docks in front of Washington market, and also the dealers in the various markets throughout the city, the keepers of oyster saloons and restaurants.  Of the wholesale dealers, a considerable number own boats and plant their own beds.  All the oysters in Prince's Bay, and a large proportion of those in the East river, Newark Bay, and in other parts of the waters of this State, are planted by the dealers doing business in New York.  Many of these have grown wealthy in the business, and own splendid country houses and extensive estates on Staten Island.  In fact, the prosperity and rapid increase of the population of that island is owing, in a considerable degree, to the oyster trade of this city.  Before Prince's Bay was laid out in oyster plantations there were very few persons living on it, and it was almost wholly uncultivated.  As soon, however, as the planting commenced, the population received an accession from the oystermen, who took up their habitation on the coast, within view of the plantations upon which they worked.  A few years after the first beds were planted an extent of coast from five to ten miles was covered with oysters, taken from the 'rocks' of Virginia.  The number of men employed upon them, who live upon the island, with their families, is computed at three thousand.

Of the wholesale dealers, many have worked upon the beds in Prince's Bay as dredgers; yet, by perseverance, economy, and industry, they have in some instances amassed immense fortunes.  They are an enterprising and intelligent class of men, and the histories of some of them are full of interest.  Some people imagine that there is very little in this business either interesting or instructive, and eat their oysters without ever bestowing a thought upon those by whose labor they have been provided with them.  There is no occupation that is wholly barren of interest, and this fact is particularly applicable to the oyster dealers.  We were informed of one who commenced in business, while a boy of eighteen, with a skiff which he had purchased on credit.  The boat was worth about forty dollars, and the man himself is now worth forty thousand!  Sixteen years ago, in this little skiff, he was employed in conveying his oysters to the market at Oliver slip; now he owns several sloops, which are engaged in bringing oysters from Virginia or in planting them in Prince's Bay.

There are several of the oyster dealers who do not own scows, and are consequently obliged to sell from their boats.  About two-thirds of the oysters brought to Oliver slip are disposed of in this manner.  This is owing, in a great measure, to the wretched accommodations with which they are provided by the city government.  The owner of each scow is obliged to pay seventy-five dollars a year for dock room; yet he is made to submit to numerous inconveniences which might be removed at a little expense, if the proper city authorities would only bestow a little of their attention on this subject.  There are nine scows in the dock at Oliver slip, the value of which is estimated at four thousand dollars.  They might not improperly be called oyster depots, for they are used almost exclusively for the storage of oysters as they arrive by the boats.  Their length is about thirty feet, and breadth about twelve, and they are capable of holding from one thousand to fifteen hundred bushels.  Some of these are owned by companies of two or three persons, the majority of whom plant their own oysters.  The amount of oysters sold every year by these dealers is estimated at about five hundred thousand dollars.  This is exclusive of the amount bought from the boats, and which is estimated by the dealers themselves at one million dollars.  This estimate is obtained from a calculation of the number of boats arriving during each year and their capacity.  

The scows are all roofed over, and contain and office at one end.  The hold where the oysters are placed is divided into a number of compartments for the reception of the different varieties and sizes.  They are all sold in the shell, while those sold by the retail dealers are opened.  During the fall there is, perhaps, a larger amount of oysters consumed than at any other season of the year, while in the summer there is a great falling off in the sales.

The oyster trade of Oliver slip is not so extensive as that of the dealers doing business in the dock opposite to Washington market.  There are twelve scows in this dock, the value of which is about fifteen thousand dollars.  They are very handsomely fitted up, and strongly built.  This is very necessary, as they are subject to much damage on account of their exposed situation.  There is no pier to break the strength of the waves; and when there is a heavy swell in the river they are knocked against each other with sufficient force to stove in the side of an ordinary boat.  A few weeks ago, a scow was sunk in this place, and several hundred dollars worth of oysters lost, besides the damage done to the scow itself.  The dealers make grevious [sic] complaints of the manner in which their interests are neglected.   They are put to an expense of over six thousand dollars a year, they say, by the want of proper accommodations for the boats, being compelled to land their oysters at a considerable distance from the scows, to which they have to be brought in carts.

There is one dealer here who sells his oysters open, and who sends immense quantities to the western part of this State and to some of the principal cities of the West.  The shipments of another amounted to four thousand five hundred barrels.  These, however, were in the shell, and were obtained from York Bay.  Each barrel contains from five to six hundred oysters, and the price varies from four to five dollars.  It is only within the last five or six years that the dealers commenced shipping them in the shell, and at present a most extensive trade is carried on with Cincinnati, St. Louis, and several other Western cities.  Before this they were sent in kegs, hermetically sealed, to preserve them from the air.  There is considerable skill and experience required in this department of the business, for great risk is incurred by careless packing.  During the first year considerable loss was sustained by the dealers in consequence of their inexperience in the art of preserving them.  They have now, however, attained to such perfection that they can be sent as far as California without receiving any material damage.

There are only two dealers who are engaged in extensive shipments of York Bay oysters, and the amount shipped by these during the fall and spring, is computed at twelve thousand dollars.  The barrels used for this purpose are of the same kind as those employed in stowing flour.  They are sent by railroad and canal; but more are perhaps sent by the latter, as it is a much cheaper mode of transportation.

The sales in and about the slop at Washington market is estimated at three millions of dollars.  This includes the total value of all the oysters sold in the twelve scows and off the boats to the retail dealers in the market and throughout the city.

The persons engaged in the retail oyster business -- by which we mean the keepers of saloons and restaurants in which oysters are sold -- may be estimated at five thousand, and this we think is rather under than over the number.  Those realize a profit of from twenty-five to fifty per cent, so that the amount paid by the consumers in this city alone is about five millions of dollars.  Some of the retail dealers may vie with the wholesale dealers in the extent of their business.  One who keeps from fifteen to twenty men constantly employed in opening oysters, sells about forty thousand oysters a day.  He, however, sends immense quantities to the western part of this State, and to several of the large inland cities throughout the country.  One saloon in Broadway sells over ten thousand daily, in the forms of stews, fries, &c.  There are some dealers who sell them 'in the raw' to private families, by the quart or gallon; and others whose whole business consists in pickling them for home and foreign consumption.  The pickled oysters are sent to every part of the United States by our dealers, and immense quantities are bought for shipment by vessels.  It would be a tedious task to enumerate the various ways in which they are prepared for eating, and as that is a matter which more properly belongs to the cuisine, we must leave it to be treated by those who are experienced in such matters.

RECAPITULATION.
OYSTER BOATS.

There are every variety of oyster boats, from the open skiff of ten tons to the schooner of two or three hundred.  The largest craft are employed in conveying oysters from Virginia and from the most distant beds in the East river, while the smaller kind do not go further thane twenty or thirty miles from New York.  The open boats are principally owned by the men working in the beds, and form the largest proportion of the whole number.  The following table exhibits the number employed in bringing oysters to New York, or in transplanting them from the 'rocks' to the artificial beds.  Of course we do not include in this estimate the row-boats and skiffs engaged in the Virginia fisheries, and which never make their appearance in our waters:  -- 

Number of boats, of all sizes, from fifty to two hundred and fifty tons, employed in the trade in Virginia oysters......................................................1,000
In the East and North river trade...............................   200
In the Shrewsbury trade............................................     20
In the Blue Point and Sound trade............................   100
In the York Bay trade................................................    200
Whole number of boats............................................ 1,520

TABLE EXHIBITING THE YEARLY AMOUNT OF SALES OF ALL KINDS OF OYSTERS, BY THE WHOLESALE DEALERS OF NEW YORK.

Sales of Virginia oysters, including those planted in
     Prince's Bay........................................................$3,000,000
Sales of East and North river oysters......................  1,500,000
     Of Shrewsbury oysters.......................................     200,000
     Of Blue Point and Sound oysters.......................     200,000
     Of York Bay oysters............................................     300,000
Total sales...............................................................$5,200,000"

Source:  THE OYSTER TRADE OF NEW YORK -- Where do all the Hard Shells Come From? -- Extent of the Business in the Metropolis -- Five Million Dollars Worth Sold Yearly, &c., &c., &c., The New York Herald, Mar. 12, 1853, p. 7, cols. 1-5.

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The oystering industry was, for decades, a critically-important economic activity in the Town of Pelham.  Many residents of City Island made their living from the industry or ran businesses that catered to the oystermen.  Accordingly, I have written about Pelham oystering on many, many occasions.  Seee.g.:

Thu., Feb. 11, 2016:  Was a City Island Hotel Keeper Among the First to Learn of the Great Oyster Bed Discovered in 1859?

Wed., Jun. 24, 2015:  The 1895 Oyster War Involving City Island Oystermen - Part I.

Thu., Jun. 25, 2015:  The 1895 Oyster War Involving City Island Oystermen - Part II.



















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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More on Famed Western Film Actor Harry Carey, Who Grew Up in Pelham


Harry Carey, born Henry DeWitt Carey II, was one of the most successful western film actors ever.  He appeared in well over three hundred movies during the early years of Hollywood well into the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Carey was born on January 16, 1878 on 116th Street in New York City.  In 1884, he and his family moved to City Island before the area was annexed by New York City.  Carey grew up on City Island and rambled throughout the region of today's Pelham Bay Park during his youth.

Henry DeWitt Carey II was a son of Henry DeWitt Carey who served as a judge in the Special Sessions Court at White Plains for many years and founded a local dairy known as the Willow Brook Dairy in which he owned an interest for many decades until he sold that interest in the mid-1920s.  Judge Carey also served as president of the New Home Sewing Machine Company.  He also owned an interest in the little horse railroad that once ran from Bartow Station on the Branch Line to Belden's Point at the tip of City Island.  Thus, the Carey family was comparatively affluent.

I have written before about Western actor Harry Carey and his father, Henry DeWitt Carey.  See:

Wed., Jul. 01, 2015:  Western Actor Harry Carey of Pelham, Born Henry DeWitt Carey, Recalls His Boyhood Days in Pelham.

Mon., Jun. 02, 2014:  Henry DeWitt Carey Of City Island in the Town of Pelham.

Mon., May 28, 2007:  Brief Biography of Henry DeWitt Carey, 19th Century Pelham Justice of the Peace.

Today's Historic Pelham article provides more background information on Pelhamite Harry Carey.

Henry DeWitt Carey II was only six years old when his family moved to the Town of Pelham.  The family lived in a home on Terrace Point (sometimes called Carey's Point) on City Island.  

Newspaper reports say that Carey lived a "Huck Finn boyhood" in Pelham.  He hunted, fished, swam, and trapped game in the Pelham Bay region.  One of his most vivid boyhood memories involved driving a horse railroad car on one occasion on the City Island line.  After his death in 1947, a reporter recalled:

"Harry told me how he once drove a horse car in the Bronx.  His father owned and operated a street car line, horse-powered, with headquarters and barns at City Island.  Harry, as a boy, did chores around the barns, and learned to love the horses.  One day, before sunrise, the driver of an outbound car permitted young Harry to drive the team.  It was the great thrill of his life."

Indeed, Harry Carey's exposure to the horses that pulled the street cars may well have played a role in his later love for the west and western-style entertainments.  

After graduating from college, for his health, young Carey took some time and traveled out west.  He reportedly spent some time working as a foreman of a ranch in Montana.  While working on the ranch, he wrote several scripts for "light melodramas."  

Carey's father was not happy.  He wanted his son to return home, attend law school, and settle down.  Carey finally returned home and entered New York University Law School.  According to one account, however, he studied law "against his will."  He wanted to be an actor.

Harry Carey's father, Henry DeWitt Carey, was happy when his son graduated with a law degree from NYU Law School.  He was not happy, however, when his son decided not to practice law and, instead, decided to try his hand at acting.  Carey joined a stock company at the Yorkville Theater where he had a brief run acting in a single show.  He then joined the "Ferris Circuit" playing in so-called "tom shows" at fairs in the region.  (Tom shows were shows based, even loosely, on the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.)  

Finally, Harry Carey decided to try his hand at writing and starring in his own play.  At the age of 28, Carey fell seriously ill and used a lengthy convalescence at his family's home on City Island to write an epic western play titled "Montana."  He set about to have the play produced with him as the star.  

Carey's father was fed up.  He struck a deal with his son.  If the new play, Montana, was a flop, the son would "abandon the stage, and return to the practice of law."  

On April 26, 1906, "Montana" opened before a large audience in New Rochelle Theatre.  Harry Carey made his debut that night as a leading man, playing the role of Jim Graham, foreman of the ranch that was at the center of the show.  The show was a wild success.  The audience was overwhelmed and applauded the entertainment, and Carey, thunderously when the show ended.  There were curtain calls.  

Carey's father, a lawyer and ex-judge at the time, reportedly relented after the show with tears in his eyes and said "So long as it is Harry's choice and the people are with him, I humbly surrender."  Harry Carey took his show on the road for four years and earned $18,000 performing it throughout the country.

Harry Carey had an extraordinarily successful film career playing cowboy heroes for more than thirty years.  He was never truly affected by Hollywood or his success.  Late in life he repeatedly was described as "unaffected," "genuine," "unpretentious," and the like.  He and his wife, Olive, homesteaded a ranch in Saugus, California (part of today's City of Santa Clarita).  Early in his career, as they homesteaded the land, they made ends meet by raising and selling turkeys on the property.  By 1931, the couple had acquired by homesteading and by purchase 1,100 acres of ranch land in Saugus and maintained "a real ranch with no frills about it and . . . staffed with Navajo Indians."

Harry Carey died in Brentwood, California on September 21, 1947 with members of his family and his friend, famed Hollywood western film director John Ford, at his bedside.  Some have suggested he died of a broken heart.  His final stage appearance in New York was in a show titled "Ah Wilderness."  Carey reportedly was "extremely nervous" about the show because it had been done often in New York City and was considered by many to be "outmoded."  The show flopped.  Thereafter Carey reportedly "worried himself into a nervous breakdown, and was ill from that time until his death."


Actor Harry Carey in 1919. Source: Wikipedia.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.



1920 Movie Poster for "Human Stuff" Starring
Harry Carey. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the text of a number of items that relate to today's Historic Pelham article.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"JUDGE'S SON TURNS ACTOR.

Father of Harry Carey, at First Opposed, Surrenders After Seeing Play.

Harry D. Carey, son of ex-County Judge Henry D. Carey of Westchester, capitalist and former President of the New Home Sewing Machine Company, made his debut last night as a leading man in 'Montana,' a play written by himself, before a large audience in the New Rochelle Theatre.

Carey, who is 28 years old, is an athlete and ranchman, and, although his father was strenuously opposed to his going on the stage, the elder Carey joined with the audience in its applause last night.  Laboring under a severe strain, Actor Carey, known in the play as Jim Graham, foreman of the ranch, responded to curtain calls.  As he left the stage Judge Carey's eyes filled with tears.  It is said that Judge Carey, who wished his boy to make a name for himself in the legal profession, said:

'So long as it is Harry's choice and the people are with him, I humbly surrender.'

Young Carey is a graduate of New York University.  After graduating he went west for his health and became foreman of a Montana ranch.  

While there he wrote several light melodramas, which are now being produced.  When he returned home his father desired that he study law, which he did against his will.  It was young Carey's wish to become an actor and portray on the stage the part he played in 'Montana,' which he wrote while West [sic].

It was learned that Judge Carey and his son had a talk before the play was produced, and it was mutually agreed that if it was not well received in the opening night that the young actor would abandon the stage, and return to the practice of law.  Judge Carey's home is at Terrace Point, City Island."

Source:  JUDGE'S SON TURNS ACTOR -- Father of Harry Carey, at First Opposed, Surrenders After Seeing Play, N.Y. Times, Apr. 27, 1906, p. 11, col. 1 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"Hollywood News - by John Chapman
-----

Hollywood, Cal., June 6 -- Harry Carey, who has been hot stuff in the films longer than anybody else I can think of, is the most homespun guy you'll meet anywhere -- and that goes for his wife, Ollie, too.

Harry is New York-born and his real name is Henry De Witt Carey, 2d.  Many a New Yorker has come out to the films and gone Hollywood.  Harry is one of the few who have come out here and gone genuinely and unpretentiously western.  The Carey ranch at Saugus is a real ranch with no frills about it and is staffed with Navajo Indians.  Harry and Ollie literally live out of mail-order catalogues and can quote Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck prices on anything from plows to chintz.  Harry even has coal oil lamps in his bedroom because electric light is too harsh for reading.
-----
Many a film star has acquired a 'ranch' after he's got his money.  It is usually very fancy and it rarely makes any money.  The Careys got their place the hard way -- by homesteading it, and Harry and the original Man Who Came to Dinner Joe Harris cleared it.  And before they filed the homestead claim the Careys had a seventeen-acre place in Newhall, just below where Bill Hart is now, and they pieced out Harry's Universal Pictures income by raising and selling turkeys.  They didn't have money enough for real turkey equipment and the birds would roost on the house.  They were restless sleepers, those turkeys, and frequently would keep Harry and Ollie awake.
-----
A week hence will be the 33d anniversary of Harry's movie debut, so Paramount is whooping up a big barbecue party at the ranch -- and, more than incidentally, whooping up interest in Carey's latest picture, The Shepherd of the Hills.  Which is all right, too, because The Shepherd is a big technicolor production and reportedly one of Harry's best jobs to date.  You have to be sort of vague and say 'one of' because Harry has been in more than 300 movies and even he can't remember half of them.
-----
Carey is 63; straight, lean, strong enough to outwork Indians on his place, quick of mind.  His father was a special sessions judge in New York.  Harry grew up on Carey Point of Pelham Bay.  He lived a Huck Finn boyhood, hunting, fishing, swimming and trapping.  First stage show he saw was Frank Mayo in Davy Crockett.  'There was some shootin' and I got scared and hollered.  The old man took me out in the lobby and walloped my tail,' he recalls.
-----
He went to military academy, then through the N.Y.U. Law School.  But he never hung out his shingle.  (A classmate, James J. Walker, was among those who did.)  Harry joined a stock company at the Yorkville Theater, played a villain in tights in When Knightwood Was in Flower.  Then played the ferris wheel circuit in a tom show.  [NOTE:  A "tom show" is a general term for any play or musical based even loosely on the 1852 novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.]  Then he fell ill and spent his convalescence writing a play, Montana, which had its tryout at a city island [i.e., City Island] church.  In the fall of 1906 he got a Klaw and Erlanger booking for it, toured in it four years and made $18,000.  He lost it all on another epic he wrote, The Heart of Alaska.  During summer layoffs he and Joe Harris, a stage villain, lived in a shack on Chimney Sweeps, a little island off Pelham Bay Park.  Harry, a veteran of the stage from the time when actors wore cross-over beards, never played Broadway until a couple of years ago, when he appeared in Albert Bein's railroad fantasy, Heavenly Express.
-----
When Heart of Alaska flopped, Harry took a job making four westerns for the National Film Distributing Company.  And June 14, 1908, faced the camera in Bill Sharkey's Last Game.  Since then he has never been out of pictures for long, and his nearest competitors for the long-run record are Lionel Barrymore, Donald Crisp and Bill Farnum.  Right after he made Trader Horn it looked as though he'd be out of pictures for good -- for he had been in Africa so long that agents and bosses had forgotten him.  But Will Rogers, in a Satevepost piece, happened to opine that Carey was the best of all the western stars, and that compliment put him back in the game.
------
Carey gave John Ford his start as a director, when Ford was eighteen.  One rainy day Harry and Jack were at the Newhall Turkey Farm doping out their first five-reeler, Hell Bent, when John Harris came to call.  'Who's that?' asked Ford.  'A heavy I used to know in Stair and Havlin shows,' said Carey.  'Let's use him,' said Ford.  So Joe got a job and Harry and Ollie asked him to stay with them during the shooting.  That was in 1915 or '16.  Joe is still the Careys' guest.
-----
The Carey fortunes have had their ups and downs.  As homesteaders, they added 420 acres to their original 160, then bought more, now have about 1,100.  They built a clapboard house, added to it from time to time instead of building one that would be more heat-resistant.  They were sentimental about the place because their children, Dobie and Cappy, were born there.  Dobie, twenty and a promising baritone, is so nicknamed because of his baked red complexion and hair.  He's really Henry De Witt Carey, 3d."  

Source:  Hollywood News - by John Chapman, Buffalo Courier-Express [Buffalo, NY], Jun. 7, 1941, p. 10, cols. 1-2.  

"Harry Carey, Who Portrayed More Than 300 Movie Roles, Dies at 69

HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 21 -- (AP) -- Harry Carey, 69, veteran motion picture actor and cowboy hero of the silent screen, died today at his home in suburban Brentwood.

The cause of death was given as a blood clot in the heart, following a weakened lung and heart condition from a recent illness.

The veteran of more than 300 movie roles succumbed as members of his family and Director John Ford, a long-time friend, gathered at his bedside.  

Surviving are his widow, Olive Golden, silent screen actress, and two children, Harry Carey, Jr., and Mrs. Ella Carey Taylor. 

Born Henry D. Carey on January 16, 1878, in New York City, the actor gained popularity as a hard-riding cowboy star in the early days of the motion picture industry -- although never west of the Hudson River until Hollywood beckoned in 1910.  

He was a graduate of New York University, where he was a classmate of the late ex-Mayor Jimmy Walker, of New York city.  His father was the late Justice Henry De Witt Carey, of New York.

Outstanding roles in recent films included parts in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,' 'They Knew What They Wanted,' 'The Shepherd Of The Hills,' and 'Sea of Grass.'"

Source:  Harry Carey, Who Portrayed More Than 300 Movie Roles, Dies at 69, The Cumblerland News [Cumberland, MD], Sep. 22, 1947, p. 1, cols. 1-2 (Note:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

"NEW YORK DAY BY DAY
-----
By CHARLES B. DRISCOLL
------

New York. -- Passing of Harry Carey, Hollywood movie star, affected New Yorkers as deeply as it touched the people of California and the addicts of the western movies in which Harry appeared as hero.

This cowboy hero, who was an honored guest in our home when he could steal time for relaxation, was a native New Yorker, and spent his youth on City Island, a long time ago.  He was nearly 70 at the time of his death.
-----
Harry told me how he once drove a horse car in the Bronx.  His father owned and operated a street car line, horse-powered, with headquarters and barns at City Island.  Harry, as a boy, did chores around the barns, and learned to love horses.  One day, before sunrise, the driver of an outbound car permitted young Harry to drive the team.  It was the great thrill of his life.
-----
At a Christmas party in our home, Harry and his brilliant wife were the center of much attention.  Both were unaffected, intelligent, and devoid of the appearance of boredom which so many Hollywood celebrated stars wear when being saluted by their fans.

Over the coffee at a midtown hotel, Harry and I often discussed farming, horses, and cattle.  Harry was a real farmer posing for the newsreels.  He worked hard at the job, between pictures, and managed to make money in a practical farming venture.
-----
We talked with Harry before and during his last stage appearance in New York, in 'Ah Wilderness!'  It was evident that the actor was extremely nervous about the play, which had been done often in New York and was a bit outmoded.  

Despite the fact that Carey turned in a perfect acting job, the production was not a great success.  Harry worried himself into a nervous breakdown, and was ill from that time until his death. . . ."

Source:  Driscoll, Charles B., New York Day by Day, Joplin Globe [Joplin, MO], Oct. 4, 1947, p. 6, cols. 2-3.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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