Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (August 1870)

The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, 52, spoke in Newburgh as part of a lecture tour to celebrate the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which banned laws that prevented any man from voting based on his “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” (Click here to read a contemporary account of his speech.)

Frederick Douglass in 1870, the same year he visited Newburgh (Photo by George Francis Schreiber)

125 Years Ago (August 1895)

Peattie’s Academy of Music at Fishkill Landing opened for the season with a production of Old Rube Tanner.

By one account, the Dutchess County district attorney and two detectives “worked nearly all day in a private room” to get information from William Hopkins, a guard at the Matteawan State Hospital for Insane Prisoners who was accused of accepting a bribe of diamonds, a gold watch and jewelry to aid in the escape of train robber Oliver Curtis Perry. Hopkins was said to have implicated Amelia Haswell, who posed as a missionary, in the plot. According to authorities, Hopkins was supposed to leave clothes and a pistol at the Brinckerhoff race track for Perry but got drunk in town instead. Haswell and Perry’s father wrote letters to Hopkins demanding he return the jewels, which helped tie him to the plot.

Twenty-six girls employed in the card room at the Matteawan Manufacturing Co. went on strike after they discovered four of the workers were receiving 90 cents a day to make wool hats, while they were paid only 70 cents.

The 33-member uniform division of the Poughkeepsie chapter of the Knights of Pythias visited Fishkill Landing to perform drills for about 1,500 spectators on the grounds of the Colonial Inn. The men arrived on the 4:30 p.m. train and took electric cars to the top of the hill. Afterward, they re-formed and marched through the main street of Matteawan.

100 Years Ago (August 1920)

A Buick carrying four women, a baby and a chauffeur overturned on a Sunday afternoon and went down a 20-foot embankment on the Albany Post Road near Beacon. Police said they could get no coherent story from the occupants — none of whom were injured, although the car was destroyed. The group hired another car and left without giving their names.

When members of the Barbers’ Association of Beacon agreed to raise the price of a haircut from 35 to 50 cents, three of the city’s shops kept the old price and the agreement collapsed.

George West, secretary of The Law and Order League, charged that gambling was being permitted in Beacon, an accusation that the police chief said was nonsense.

In 1920 a retired telegraph operator claimed he had seen the body of John Brown at the Fishkill Landing station in 1859.

Alonzo Burton, a retired telegraph operator, while celebrating his birthday, claimed that, in 1859, while standing on the station platform at Fishkill Landing, he saw the box containing the body of John Brown [who had been hanged on Dec. 2 for attempting to incite a slave insurrection]; and that two years later, at the same place in the early part of March 1861, he saw Abraham Lincoln on his way to Washington, D.C., to be inaugurated as president.

E.F. Cummings of Beacon submitted a slogan for a contest sponsored by The Evening World in New York City for slogans for Warren Harding, the Republican candidate for president. Cummings offered: “Vote for Harding; he’s no fool; we’re tired of ‘one-man’ rule.”

A detective for the New York Central Railroad thwarted the robbery of a freight train south of Beacon by a gang that was throwing off bales of silk before being frightened away. The railroad sent a detective with every freight shipment of silk or whiskey.

A Beacon man driving in Poughkeepsie said he sounded his horn three times as he turned from Market onto Cannon but two pedestrians paid no heed and were knocked down. He said he put the men in his car and drove to the police station. The men were not hurt and the driver was not detained.

The 10-year-old son of contractor Allen Norman narrowly escaped death when he crawled atop the coal in a train car that was taken to the siding of the Matteawan Manufacturing Co. and dumped. His father and 20 other workmen frantically shoveled the coal for 10 minutes until they found the boy, who was rushed to Highland Hospital.

The upper dock at Denning’s Point, which ran to a float in the Hudson, collapsed under the weight of the children in swimming regalia. No one was injured.

About 200 tons of powder and shells exploded at the Bannerman Island Arsenal, blowing the northwest corner of the island into the Hudson. The castle tower was blown into the river and a 25-foot section of a stone wall was sent onto the railroad tracks on the mainland. Window panes were broken in Beacon and grocery cans fell from the shelves at Sandford’s grocery.

A judge ruled that Jennie Moss was entitled to half of the profits from the Moss Candy Co. on Main Street owned by her husband, Joseph Moss. She said he had agreed when they married in 1919 to share and bequeath her half of his rents, profits and earnings but had not done so.

William O’Rourke, 25, of Beacon, was arrested on charges of manslaughter based on the account of an 18-year-old New Hamburg woman who died at Highland Hospital following what a newspaper account termed “an alleged criminal operation.” The paper reported O’Rourke had implicated Nellie Sanyes, a midwife in New York City. The district attorney said O’Rourke insisted he begged the woman to marry him; police said they found two letters from O’Rourke to Sanyes making an appointment and confirming the price would be $50.

75 Years Ago (August 1945)

A 21-year-old soldier from Cold Spring was charged with assaulting a summer boarder at Camp Beacon. According to the sheriff, the soldier got out of a car to ask directions to New York City. As the man provided them, the soldier punched him in the jaw.

The Fallkill National Bank of Poughkeepsie said that among the $22,000 in dormant accounts that would go to the state if not claimed was $50 deposited 20 years earlier by Harry Ainsworth, the owner of Longdock Coal Co. of Beacon, who had died some time ago. It wasn’t clear why he did his banking in Poughkeepsie.

A write-in candidate in the Democratic primary for mayor nearly pulled an upset. Horace Graham received 142 votes while challenger Reginald Conkling received 125 write-ins with 22 ballots cast with no vote in the contest.

Beacon’s mayor appointed a committee to study whether the city needed zoning laws.

Wade Kepner

Elks national leader Wade Kepner in 1945

Wade Kepner, the grand exalted ruler of the Elks, said he planned to make an official visit to the Beacon lodge.

Twelve years after her husband, Arthur Robson, left for work in Beacon and never returned, Jane Robson filed for an “Enoch Arden” divorce. [The statute allowed a spouse to remarry if their spouse has disappeared; if the spouse reappeared, they could be divorced. Its name came from an 1864 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.]

A 21-year-old Beacon man who was among the 50 strikers at the Lewittes and Sons Furniture plant in Groveville pleaded guilty to assaulting a worker who didn’t walk out with them.

Beacon prepared on Aug. 11 for news of Japan’s surrender to end World War II, with plans for a parade to Tompkins Memorial field and the signal 5-5-5 sounded on the fire whistles and bells ringing. [Japan surrendered on Aug. 14. The 5-5-5 signal is used to honor fallen firefighters.]

Judge Thomas Hassett died at age 60. A 1902 graduate of Fishkill High School (which became Beacon High School), he was one of the original Board of Education members after the city was founded in 1913. In 1923 he was elected city judge and twice reelected.

50 Years Ago (August 1970)

The Beacon Astros defeated the Wappingers Ions, 5-3, in a Hudson Valley American Legion Rookie Baseball League game.

A Beacon man was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property after $40,000 of antique clocks, lamps, bullhorns and a statue were found in his home. He allegedly stole the goods from homes and shops in three counties.

Beacon officials announced a program to clean up about 200 junk cars in the city.

The City Council voted to spend $419 on a bus transportation study and $927 to purchase a 1966 station wagon to use in its rodent control program.

A 22-year-old Beacon man pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of stolen property. He had been arrested by patrol officers who spotted a safe belonging to the Roosa Furniture Co. in the open trunk of a passing car. When they gave chase, two men jumped from the moving vehicle and ran.

Burglars took $250 from the Paramount Vending Co. on Eliza Street, which repairs and distributes vending machines.

A 30-year-old Beacon mother of five was indicted for manslaughter in the shooting death of her husband in their home on Chandler Street. The accused had been free since her May arrest but was sent to the Dutchess County Jail on $2,000 bail.

The city’s total assessed valuation rose by 3 percent. The losses of assessments from a bankrupt railroad and urban renewal demolitions were offset by construction in developments at Mount Beacon Park and Jessen Park.

A 19-year-old Beacon man was arrested at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning inside the Fishkill National Bank at 200 Main St. The suspect apparently had a key to the front door. A woman called the police after seeing someone inside.

25 Years Ago (August 1995)

The City Council canceled the planned sale of Beacon City Hall to a physicians’ group that wanted to move in immediately, saying it wanted to wait until the $4 million city municipal building was completed. The city earlier tried to sell the structure at auction but received no bids.

The former Beacon City Hall, which was for sale 25 years ago (File photo by Michael Turton)

A 22-year-old Beacon man found guilty of selling crack cocaine was sentenced to 10 years in prison three days after he allegedly tried to escape from the Dutchess County Jail. “You were found with a hacksaw blade working on a fence,” the judge said. “This hardly bodes well for any attempt to rehabilitate you.”

The Martin Luther King Center received a facelift from 28 volunteers from IBM East Fishkill and 10 from the center. The volunteers painted, planted shrubs, refinished bookcases, built picnic tables and did yardwork. Established in 1969, the MLK Center had 80 children and teenagers, ages 6 to 17, enrolled in its programs.

Nobody’s Fool, a movie starring Paul Newman, Melanie Griffith and Jessica Tandy that was filmed during the winter of 1993-94 in Poughkeepsie and Beacon, was released on VHS.

Paul Newman in a scene from “Nobody’s Fool,” which was partially filmed in Beacon.

Students and staff in the Beacon school district raised $1,000 to help families whose children were killed in the April bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. The Beacon Federation of Teachers also donated $1,000.

Metro-North said it planned to add 500 parking spots at the Beacon station by the end of 1996 — bringing the total to 1,100 — but also to start charging for them.

After hearing complaints, the City Council proposed that Beacon pay for half the cost of sidewalks added when it paved streets. Ronnie Edwards and his wife, Cindy Trimble, said they were surprised to receive a $3,100 bill for a 127-foot sidewalk. “It looked beautiful and improved our neighborhood, but the big problem was notification,” Edwards said.


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2 thoughts on “Looking Back in Beacon

  1. I remember seeing Paul Newman going in to eat at The Velvet Feedbag on Main Street. It was my favorite restaurant in town at the time. I also remember that was one of the snowiest winters we ever had. It’s a great movie and it’s fun pointing out all the local sites from 9D, Beacon and even Bedford Avenue in Fishkill, by the library. [via Facebook]

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