Looking Back in Beacon

Editor’s note: Beacon was created in 1913 from Matteawan and Fishkill Landing.

150 Years Ago (February 1870)

The hat factories at Matteawan were making 175 dozen hats daily and unable to find enough girls to fill orders.

This 1909 postcard shows the hat factories that lined Fishkill Creek in Matteawan.

The Matteawan Herald noted that a newly married couple — a 55-year-old man and his 18-year-old bride — had attracted considerable attention with their constant kissing while waiting for a train at Fishkill Landing. “A ‘local’ wanted to pitch in, but the old gentleman’s cane kept him at bay,” the paper reported.

A Port Jervis newspaper reported that in Matteawan, “loafers crowd ladies off the walks. Bad town that.”

125 Years Ago (February 1895)

A 3 a.m. fire destroyed the Peattie Brothers livery stable, carriage factory and blacksmith shop at Fishkill Landing, along with a nearby saloon. Eighteen horses were killed in the stable.

An Odd Fellows pin

An Odd Fellows pin

Amand Miller, believed to be the oldest member of the Order of Odd Fellows in the country, died at Fishkill Landing at age 80. A native of France, he was initiated into the fraternity in 1837 in New York City.

After burglarizing DeBauns Hardware in Fishkill Landing, three masked men broke into the Matteawan post office and blew up the safe and the front of the building. While making their escape with $200, they encountered a night watchman, whom they knocked senseless with a sandbag, and a police officer, Marshall Snyder, whom they shot in the mouth. Snyder later recalled their conversation as they stood over him. One man apologized, then turned to another and said: “You didn’t need to shoot. You had the drop on him.” The shooter replied, “Well, he had his gun, and he’d a done me if I hadn’t done him.” Before fleeing, the men lingered for a moment to light their cigars. Authorities offered a $1,700 reward but, weeks later, the trio was still at large.

John Schultz, the Matteawan superintendent for the Newburgh, Dutchess & Connecticut Railroad, hired 100 men to shovel out drifts on the tracks after a blizzard.

The body of Irving Frost of Matteawan, who had gone missing at Christmas, was found at the bottom of the raceway [water channel] by workers clearing ice.

100 Years Ago (February 1920)

Robert Rajan, an immigrant from India who had been judged criminally insane soon after his arrival and sent to the Matteawan State Hospital, was put on a train to the Pacific coast to be deported.

A representative of the Carroll Hat Works traveled to Cold Spring to investigate opening a branch shop.

A swindler claiming to represent a Newburgh optometrist went door-to-door selling dime-store reading glasses and “eye washes.”

Under the weight of snow, the roof over the stage at the Peattie Opera House collapsed. Located on Main Street between Walnut and Elm, the building had formerly been a skating rink.

Mayor Samuel Beskin

Mayor Samuel Beskin (BHS)

Mayor Samuel Beskin denied a report that he had purchased The Beacon Journal. He and its managing editor, John Cronin, who also was the director of public safety, had an ongoing feud.

A police officer detained a patient who had escaped days earlier from the Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie.

The U.S. Postal Service established a branch office at 598 Main St.

The New York Rubber Co. shut down for three days because of a shortage of coal.

A mail bag thrown from an express train was cut to pieces after it bounced off a snow bank and under the wheels.

The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News reported that Beacon was facing a serious shortage of teachers because its salaries were considerably lower than in other cities.

Edward Corwin, of Beacon, visited friends in Colorado Springs to sketch Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods.

When George McCoy of Peekskill, president of the Hudson Valley Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the Holland Hotel (below), Mayor Beskin decided to present him with a key to the city. The hotel manager allowed the mayor to use the oversized key to its chicken coop, but McCoy left town without returning it and the guests had to go a few days without chicken on the menu. McCoy mailed back the key with a note expressing his “sincere regrets that the chickens were obliged to suffer for the mayor’s cheap joke on a guest.”

Holland Hotel

The Holland Hotel in 1907 (Shorpy.com)

75 Years Ago (February 1945)

Joseph Chirella of Beacon, a crossing guard in Peekskill for the New York Central Railroad, was credited with averting a wreck when he noticed that the last car of a train from Chicago was wobbling. An inspection revealed a damaged bearing that could have caused the axle to shear off.

The Beacon News switched its endorsement for a seat on the Putnam County Supreme Court from James Bailey to Mortimer Patterson because the latter was a native of Dutchess County.

James McDowell, a student at Beacon High School, won first place and a $25 war bond in a Dutchess County American Legion oratorical contest. Each contestant gave a 12-minute speech on the U.S. Constitution.

Ann Polumbo of Beacon was featured as a “pin-up girl” in a yearbook published for members of the 81st Air Depot group stationed in New Guinea. Her name and photo were entered by a friend, Sgt. Roscoe Scott of Newburgh.

The City Council voted unanimously to ask the state for aid to improve the water system. The health commissioners recommended the installation of an automatic chlorination system for treating water from the reservoirs.

Heavyweight Jimmy Bivens agreed in 1945 to box Melio Bettina of Beacon at Madison Square Garden.

Jimmy Bivins, a Cleveland heavyweight newly discharged from the Army, agreed to box Melio Bettina of Beacon in a 10-round fight at Madison Square Garden.

Beacon High School announced that all of the remaining games on its basketball schedule would be played in the afternoon because oil supplies were running low. The day before, in a game at Yonkers, Coach Bill Hamm pulled his team from the floor in the third quarter and forfeited the game after an argument with a referee.

Frank Deveson, 58, an engineer who had worked at Matteawan State Hospital for 33 years, was struck in a hit-and-run at about 1 a.m. while walking along a dirt road connecting Route 52 to the back of the hospital. He was apparently loaded into a car and dumped more than 2 miles away on Route 52, where he was found, because his glasses and necktie were left at the crash scene. He died later that morning at Highland Hospital. Police said Deveson, who lived at the hospital, was walking home after having drinks with co-workers at Frank’s Tavern in Glenham. Police said they were baffled why the driver, with Deveson in the vehicle, drove in the opposite direction of the hospital.

Beacon Engine Co. No. 1, realizing that its 1887 incorporation had expired nine years earlier, asked state Assembly Member Ernest Hatfield to introduce a bill to re-establish its legal standing.

With many streets impassable after a snowstorm, The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that the city supervisor had directed the highway superintendent to plow the driveway of the private Southern Dutchess County Club so the club pro could get out to visit his mother in the hospital.

A state trooper and a pregnant woman’s brother carried her in a rocking chair for about a half-mile from her snowbound home to Route 9D.

Pvt. William Hoffart of Beacon and a companion were driving a patrol jeep through a Normandy town when a Frenchman flagged them down, saying three German officers were hiding on his farm. One was found in a shed; while searching for the others, Hoffart heard rustling in a hedge. He fired a shot in the direction, prompting the remaining two to surrender.

The “lowly” New York Rangers, who the Daily News said “sometimes travel even slower by rail than they do on skates,” were stuck in a snowbound train near Beacon and failed to show up at Madison Square Garden for a game against Chicago.

Rody Tighe

Rody Tighe was killed in action in December 1944, although word did not reach Beacon until February.

Rody Tighe of Beacon, a Navy fireman, was reported killed in action. [Tighe is buried in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.]

A dog belonging to a local restaurant owner bit three children in separate incidents on the same morning as each walked to school.

The chairman of the board of directors at Highland Hospital said it would be forced to close unless eight nurses and 10 kitchen and laundry workers could be found to fill vacancies.

About a dozen occupants of an apartment at 112 Beekman St., part of a tenement known as the “brick flats,” escaped injury in an early-morning fire.

A jury convicted a 25-year-old woman of stabbing a man in the head during a fight at her Beekman Street home. She claimed self-defense after he struck her.

50 Years Ago (February 1970)

Fred Way, 20, of the Mount Beacon Ski Club, won the Anund Dahlen Memorial Trophy on the 50-meter hill at Bear Mountain with a jump of 157 feet.

A group of parents asked the City Council to approve a 15 mph speed limit on Wolcott Avenue near Sargent Elementary School, as well as a police guard.

Mayor Robert Cahill appointed two trustees to address “the bleakness of the council chambers” by hanging photos of past Beacon mayors.

The head of the Dutchess County Landmarks Association noted in a letter to Cahill that the city was the only municipality that had not submitted any.

Cahill acted as city judge while both Judge Thomas Lynch and City Attorney Milton Epstein were on vacation. In his first case, the mayor dismissed an assault case when the complainant didn’t show up.

A helicopter pilot, John Miller of Poughkeepsie, was praised after he rescued two boys stranded in a sinking rowboat in the Hudson near the Newburgh-Beacon bridge.

In a 175-pound Golden Gloves boxing match in Queens, Jim Healy, 19, a construction worker from Beacon, knocked out Anthony Dina, a Manhattan truck driver, in the second round.

The City Council created a Narcotics Guidance Council that included two clergymen, a former city health officer, an assistant principal from Rombout Middle School and a young lawyer.

Despite an announcement the month before, Mayor Cahill said Beacon had not received a $2.6 million grant to expand its sewage treatment plant. Instead, a state official, who told the mayor a news release was being prepared, clarified that it would only say the city’s application had been received.

Police expressed surprise that a burglar who took a color TV and cash from the L&P Restaurant at 100 Wolcott Ave. didn’t steal any liquor.

A 29-year-old live-in employee at Dutchess Manor accidentally shot himself in the arm when he dropped a loaded pistol while climbing a flight of stairs.

Segments of a January concert by Pete Seeger at Rombout Middle School were aired on CBS as part of a special called “Within One Generation” that examined how members of the same age group could have “attitude differences.”

Robert Weber, who lost a three-way race for finance commissioner, was voted out of the Beacon Republicans for disloyalty. The party had endorsed another candidate, so Weber ran on the Conservative line, splitting the vote and handing the position to the Democrats.

25 Years Ago (February 1995)

A 37-year-old Beacon man was arrested in Cold Spring after a computer check revealed that his plates didn’t match his vehicle. In fact, the plates had been suspended two years earlier; his license had been suspended a year before; he had no insurance, registration or record inspection; he was carrying a weapon; and he had an illegal radio device to monitor police frequencies.

The mayor of Kingston organized a meeting with his counterparts in seven Hudson Valley cities, including Beacon, to discuss how to lobby the state for more economic support in the wake of thousands of lost IBM jobs.

Beacon school district officials reported there had not been a single fistfight or pushing match at the high school in January.

After a taste test, the Beacon school district awarded a $17,620 contract to Pizza & Stuff of Beacon to supply pizza for its cafeterias.

In a front-page story, the Poughkeepsie Journal declared that Beacon “was on the fast-track” to an economic turnaround. Mayor Clara Lou Gould said she expected every building on Main Street would be restored by 2005.

Anthony Bonura, a former mobster convicted of gunning down a 23-year-old man in 1981 outside a Beacon pool hall for a $10,000 fee, was given a reduced sentence because he assisted police with cases in New Jersey. Officials there had placed Bonura in its witness-protection program, but Beacon detectives located him in Arizona in 1994.


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