Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (July 1870)

William Dutcher, 20, a well-known endurance pedestrian, on July 4 walked at Williams’ saloon at Matteawan for 115 hours straight. Earlier in the year, he had walked for 100 and 105 hours straight at Marine Hall in Poughkeepsie. However, scandal caught up with him. Despite being married, he was found to have wed a 16-year-old fan whom he passed off as a servant to his sister. At his trial for bigamy, Dutcher said he had not been in his right mind because of all the walking. A jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

A well-dressed man who was found unconscious in the road near Fishkill Landing had been drugged and robbed of $180.

125 Years Ago (July 1895)

William Melius, believed to be the oldest conductor on the Hudson River Railroad, with 44 years on the job, dropped dead at Mott Haven Junction. When he joined the railroad in 1851, he had been driving a passenger carriage between the Fishkill Landing depot and Matteawan.

The Dibble Opera House was sold and discussions began to change its name to the Matteawan Opera House.

The Fishkill Standard opined that “the time is rapidly approaching when Matteawan and Fishkill Landing must of necessity become incorporated as a city” because of their many shared connections and needs.

100 Years Ago (July 1920)

A Beacon woman who had her husband, John Hill, arrested on charge of non-support learned at the hearing that he also was guilty of bigamy and that she was Wife No. 2. Hill lived with his first wife and their three children in Cornwall. Wife No. 2 had married Hill about a year earlier at St. Andrew’s Church while he was employed at the Beacon Tire factory.

Franklin D. Roosevelt of Hyde Park was named as the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket with Ohio Gov. James Cox. Roosevelt began his political career in 1910 when he defeated incumbent state Sen. John Schlosser of Beacon to represent the 29th District, which consisted of Dutchess, Putnam and Columbia counties. By one account, he won the farmer vote by advocating uniform apple barrels.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former state senator who represented Dutchess and Putnam counties, was on the presidential ticket in 1920 with the governor of Ohio.

The owners of Vogel’s Outlet Store, People’s Bargain Store, Sheldon’s Drug Store, a dry goods store and a confectioner created a “shopping center” by constructing their shops on Main Street between Scheneck and Fishkill.

Mary Hall, a former vice principal of Beacon High School, returned to New York after teaching at the American College in Constantinople [Istanbul], Turkey.

Roswel Conkling and Edna Davis of Beacon, who recently had won the Upstate New York dancing championship in Yonkers, prepared to compete for the Ulster County title. One newspaper described Conkling as a “past master of the terpsichorean art and classic tripper of the light fantastic.”

Sgt. Francis Murphy, who died in France of bronchial pneumonia on Oct. 4, 1918, became the first Beacon casualty of the Great War whose remains were returned to the city for burial.

Members of the Beacon Engine Co. chartered the steamer Homer Ramsdell for an excursion to New York and Palisade Park.

In 1920 members of the Beacon Fire Co. arranged for an excursion on the steamer Homer Ramsdell.

After a Weston Transfer Co. vehicle drove over a stretch of freshly poured concrete on Main Street, a patrol officer jumped aboard and instructed the operator to drive the truck to the courthouse.

A Beacon man, Stephen Mapes, escaped injury when the steering knuckle of his Mercer roadster broke and both he and his passenger were thrown over a fence and into a ravine. His passenger broke both arms.

Until city officials intervened, children from Camp Tioronda at University Settlement were swimming in the reservoir that provided city drinking water.

A plane flown by Capt. Arthur H. Kelly, 30, whom The Brooklyn Daily Eagle identified as a resident of Beacon, was shot down on July 16 behind Bolshevik lines on the Polish front. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Kelly was one of the original eight members of the Kościuszko Squadron, a small group of American volunteers who assisted the Poland army in its fight in 1919 and 1920 for independence from Russia. [In November 1921, the bodies of Kelly and two other American casualties were placed in a tomb at the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów. The monument was destroyed by the Soviets in 1969 and later rebuilt.]

George Cohen removed the seats of the Good Theatre in Beacon to use in the Rialto Theatre in Poughkeepsie, which was rebuilt after a May fire. The scuttlebutt was that the Good would be transformed into a dance hall and boxing club.

Rep. Hamilton Fish and John Cronin, the Beacon commissioner of public safety, lobbied members of the Poughkeepsie Auto Club to support the construction of a highway between Beacon and Cold Spring. Putnam County said it had no money to contribute but the men hoped the state would provide $50,000.

The Signer Who Got Away

William Few Jr.

William Few Jr.

Nearly 200 years ago this month, a signer of the Constitution, Col. William Few Jr., was entombed in Beacon. But no one kept up the grave, and a relative eventually came to claim the body.

Few, who was 80 when he died in Fishkill-in-Hudson (now Beacon) on July 16, 1828, represented Georgia at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. He signed the document but was absent for much of the debate because he was also serving in Congress.

Few entered politics after winning acclaim for his military leadership during the Revolution. He had been inspired to become a patriot after his brother, James, was hanged by Loyalists following a tax revolt in North Carolina.

The family fled to Augusta, Georgia, but Few stayed behind, where he was trained by the North Carolina militia. He saw his first action in 1778. After the Constitution was ratified, he was selected as one of Georgia’s first two senators.

In 1799, at age 51, he moved to New York, the home state of his wife, Catherine Nicholson. They lived in Manhattan, where he served on the state Legislature, was the state prison inspector and worked as a bank president before retiring to their country home in Fishkill-on-Hudson.

Few vault

The former Few vault at the Reformed Church in Beacon (Photo by ScenesFromTheTrail.com)

He was interred in a vault at the Reformed Church on Route 9D. Several campaigns were launched over the decades to “maintain and construct a proper site in Beacon for the historic figure,” the Poughkeepsie Journal reported, but nothing worked out. With the vault in disrepair, in 1973 a Few descendant petitioned a New York court to move the remains to Saint Paul’s Cemetery in Augusta.

Later that year, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Rogers of Beacon, representing the Fishkill Historical Society, attended a program in Augusta to mark the colonel’s re-interment. Gov. Jimmy Carter was also there.

75 Years Ago (July 1945)

An unidentified serviceman and Angie Pomarico, manager of the Sports Leaguers, each pledged $25 toward a covering for the bleachers at the Memorial baseball field, and a drive was underway.

A Connecticut man was charged with reckless driving after allegedly hitting 50 mph on Verplanck Avenue.

Vincent Grady of Beacon, a member of the Dutchess County Board of Supervisors and chair of its sheriff’s committee, said he had the authority to employ special deputies if a wave of cattle, chicken and pig thefts was declared an emergency.

State officials urged Beacon to speed up its plan to automatically chlorinate the water supply from the Melzingah reservoir, rather than doing it manually.

The New York Rubber Co. and the Kartiganer and Co. hat factory were forced to close because of flooding after a heavy downpour. A landslide blocked Wolcott Avenue and the water on Main Street reached a depth of 3 feet.

The Orange County Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to study the feasibility of a bridge over the Hudson between Newburgh and Beacon.

50 Years Ago (July 1970)

The Beacon City Council rejected a request to rezone a parcel at Church and North Cedar streets from off-street parking to general business. The council also discussed whether to adopt a code of ethics.

A 13-year-old Manhattan girl attending a camp for underprivileged children at University Settlement fell into the swimming pool and drowned before her companions could find a counselor.

Negotiations stalled between the city and the state corrections department over a 48-acre parcel on the campus of the Matteawan Hospital. The state wanted the land for its new Mid-Hudson Regional Development Program. The city objected to the rates that New York said it would pay for sewer and water.

Four prisoners at the Glenham Correctional Facility, a prison at the Matteawan State Hospital complex for developmentally disabled inmates, were charged with assault after attacking guards with broom handles and baseball bats.

The school district and the teachers’ union reached a tentative contract agreement after a state negotiator recommended that the starting salary be raised to $7,500 annually from $7,000 and that the average class size be capped at 25 students. The district said it would continue to pay 100 percent of employees’ medical bills and 50 percent of their family members’; teachers agreed that maintaining discipline and taking attendance would continue to be part of their official duties but dropped a demand for life insurance.

Chief Samuel WoodSamuel Wood announced he would retire after 14 years as police chief and 33 years on the force. Wood said that being chief “is no joke” and that the “job is not what it looks to be. It’s a lot of headaches.”

Dr. Jonathan Slocum, who owned Craig House, donated $250 plus $537 from his father’s estate to a city program to address litter and decay.

Texaco announced that its Beacon plant had developed a muffler filter made of steel wool coated with alumina “which will remove a significant amount of lead and other solid particles from automobile exhaust gases.” The company said the device was one example of alternatives to actually having to remove lead from gasoline.

Sixty state troopers broke up a gambling ring with raids at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in Newburgh and Beacon. They said the bookmakers grossed more than $1 million annually. Eight people were arrested in Newburgh and six in Beacon, including one resident of Catherine Street who was carrying $7,000 in cash.

25 Years Ago (July 1995)

The state Bridge Authority approved spending $189,000 on three automatic toll machines for the Newburgh-Beacon bridge.

The Howland Public Library asked the school district for a $385,000 tax levy but received $310,000 and cut its Saturday hours for the summer.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that, in Beacon, “the loud reports from large radios of what is known as rap music are turning some aggravated business owners to the city for relief.”

Officials gathered at the ribbon cutting for a $3 million project that would include 27 homes at the corner of Verplanck Avenue and Schenck Street on the site of the former Highland Hospital. The lot had been vacant since 1986, when the abandoned facility was demolished.

Highland Hospital

The Highland Hospital in about 1910

Residents of South Avenue and Dennings Street complained to the City Council about the stench from the wastewater treatment plant, which incinerated about 35 tons of sewage on each weekday. The city agreed to test emissions to make sure they complied with federal pollution regulations.

First Lady Hillary Clinton and folk singer Pete Seeger of Beacon were among the recipients in Hyde Park of the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, given annually for contributions to society.

The Korean War Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial includes 19 statues of soldiers, each 7-feet-6-inches tall, cast at Tallix Art Foundry in Beacon.

The soldiers at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., were made in Beacon. (Photo by Tracy Lee Carroll)

The school district received a “magnet school” grant from the state to address racial imbalance at South Avenue Elementary, where students were mostly minorities, and Glenham, where they were mostly white. The plan was to create a program called Democracy 2000 that used the latest technology to entice white parents from around the city to enter a lottery to send their kindergarteners to South Avenue.

A federal appeals court ruled that employees at the Texaco laboratory in Beacon had violated copyright law by making photocopies of articles in scientific journals for reference or to share rather than purchasing additional subscriptions.


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