Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (October 1870)

John Armstrong, 73, who came to the U.S. from England in 1830 to work for the Matteawan Manufacturing Co. as a superintendent, committed suicide in his two-room flat over Mr. Davis’ store. He was described in a newspaper account “as a great admirer of machinery and philosophical works” but also “eccentric.” He left a note that read: “This is my own doing. I ought to have done it before.” The deceased, who owned a manuscript library valued at up to $5,000 [about $100,000 today], was interred at the Methodist burial ground.

Lewis Tompkins opened new streets through land he purchased from the Teller property near the corner of Wolcott and Teller avenues.

Members of the Presbyterian Synod of New York gathered for four days at a church in Newburgh with the Rev. F.R. Masters of Matteawan moderating. Representatives of the five presbyteries, from 160 churches, were meeting for the first time since the synod split in 1838.

125 Years Ago (October 1895)

Members of the Fresh Air Club of New York came to Fishkill on a Saturday night. Rising on Sunday, they gathered at the Matteawan post office at 8 a.m. and walked to Glenham, then to Fishkill Village, across the meadows to the north end of the Fishkill range, and along the summits of Fishkill, North and South Beacons, South Rock, Breakneck and Taurus to Cold Spring, before returning to the city by train.

Robert Hale, 61, a former Cold Spring resident who lived with his daughter in Matteawan, died at his home. His daughter had left on Thursday to visit a friend in Newburgh and when she returned on Wednesday found him on the sofa.

The Dibble Hotel at Matteawan, which had outstanding mortgages of $38,530, was sold at auction for $405.

The Dibble Hotel (Beacon Historical Society)

The Democrats of the First Assembly District, which included Fishkill Landing, nominated William Verplanck as their candidate for the state Assembly.

Jack Walsh and John “Kid” McManus, who had been accused two years earlier of robbing the Matteawan post office and shooting a police officer, were apprehended aboard the steamer Anchoria as it prepared to leave New York City for Glasgow. However, the officer, brought from Matteawan, failed to recognize either man and they were released.

William Carroll & Co. switched production at its Matteawan factory from wool to straw hats. The building dated to 1814, when it was built as a cotton factory. That business failed in 1851 and, in 1858, the Matteawan Seamless Clothing Co. moved in to make felt clothes and wool hats. Challenged by lower-priced imports, it also went out of business, succeeded by Falconer, Carroll & Co. and then Carroll alone.

Sixty members of the Beacon Engine Co. of Matteawan, accompanied by a band, visited Philadelphia to sightsee and drop in on the Neversink Fire Co. in Reading. “The Beacon lights are fine-looking fellows, and they wear a handsome uniform,” reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Ella Cox of Matteawan presented a lecture in Orange, New Jersey, titled “Training Schools for Domestics” at the fall meeting of the New-England Society.

The Duke of Marlborough and Miss Consuelo Vanderbilt and her mother, after coming up on the east side of the river in a tallyho [a fast, horse-drawn coach], crossed by ferry to West Point to stay at Cranston’s hotel. They hired carriages to take them to Newburgh, where they continued their journey after the tallyho was brought by ferry from Fishkill Landing. [The duke and the 18-year-old Vanderbilt were married in New York City on Nov. 6, 1895. The couple had two sons but divorced in 1921.]

The Duchess of Marlborough, formerly Consuelo Vanderbilt

A judge freed Bessie Fairbanks, 19, who had been accused six months earlier of shooting and blinding Isaac Cochran in a New York City saloon. Declared insane, she was sent to the Matteawan asylum, where doctors declared her cured and returned her to the Tombs. The judge said he saw no chance of conviction.

A burglar named James O’Neil testified to a state Assembly committee investigating abuses at state prisons that inmates were clubbed at Matteawan, and that even sane inmates were placed in padded cells. He also said the asylum put men in coolers for days at a time, although the warden denied it.

Law and Order

In October 1895, a reporter for The Sun in New York City visited Fishkill Landing to report on the ongoing dispute between a newly formed Law and Order League and saloon owners. (The reporter noted that Fishkill Landing, which was probably more familiar to Sun readers because it was the train stop, should not be confused with Fishkill, which was farther inland.)

The reporter noted that, based on interviews with local residents, “the trouble began soon after the quiet of the village was disturbed [in July] by the building of a trolley street-car line from the Landing to the Village.” This raised concern among conservative members of Fishkill that the trolley would bring the “sinners” in Newburgh, and the workers at the 13 brickyards along the Hudson who “feared neither God nor the justice of the peace,” into the village. “The talk about the matter rapidly took form in a demand for what would have been called a vigilance committee,” he wrote.

Horatio Oliver Ladd

The Rev. Horatio Oliver Ladd

The Law and Order League that was formed included many prominent citizens, including William Blodgett, a Harvard-educated farmer; the Rev. Horatio Oliver Ladd, an Episcopal minister, the author of The Story of New Mexico and founder of the University of New Mexico; and George Northrup, the Hudson River Railroad agent stationed at Fishkill Landing. The committee noted that Fishkill, a village of 11,726 people, had 114 liquor dealers, and that 90 men had been killed on the railroad tracks, most of them drunk, in the past decade.

Their first target was the Knickerbocker Inn, which had been opened by a man from California and was (it was alleged) open on Sundays. The group sued its owner, a tavern keeper named John Savage. After being convicted of corrupting young men and fined $45, Savage accused Ladd and Northrup of being takeout customers and said the commission was persecuting him because he was Catholic.

The reporter visited police headquarters at Fishkill Landing, where an officer told him that the brickyards each had about 100 employees, few of whom were local residents. “They come here half naked in the spring, and they drift away dressed in an undershirt and overalls in the fall,” he said. “They spend all they earn right here. The town would be dead without them. They spend much of their wages for drink, but you will have to look a long time to find a place where there are so few fights and so little drunkenness, all things considered. We have been proud of the good order of the community.”

100 Years Ago (October 1920)

J.B. Lodge, the manager of Mount Beacon, said he planned to close the mountain and travel with his staff, including Ortone’s Band, to open a winter resort in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Hamilton Fish Jr., the local Republican candidate for Congress, spoke at a Columbus Day celebration organized by the Knights of Columbus. It included the dedication of a large naval gun at Hammond Square and an athletic meet at Caswell Field.

John Cronin, the city’s commissioner of public safety, was speaking at the Harding Democratic League’s meeting at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City when supporters of the Democratic presidential ticket, James Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt, rushed the stage. The meeting resumed after police reserves removed an interloper who had attempted to address the audience. [The Harding Democratic League supported Republican candidate Warren Harding, who was elected but died of a heart attack in 1923.]

Harry Sorenson was seriously injured at the corner of Fishkill Avenue and Old Road when his motorcycle crashed into a pole and he was thrown 15 feet.

75 Years Ago (October 1945)

The submarine chaser USS PC-1252 tied up at Long Dock as part of the city’s Navy Day. The 173-foot-long ship, with six officers and 61 enlisted men aboard, was open for two days for residents to inspect.

The USS PC-1252, a submarine chaser, shown about 18 months before it visited Beacon after the end of the war (U.S. Naval Institute)

Members of the City Council voted unanimously to double the mayor’s salary from $1,000 to $2,000 annually. Arthur Goldsby, the Democratic challenger for the position, said Beacon needed sewers, an incinerator and an adequate water supply. “Our people have had to wait for these improvements and it seems to me the mayor can wait for his salary increase,” he said.

Jimmy Grippo, in later years

Jimmy Grippo, the manager for Beacon boxer Melio Bettina, said he hoped to arrange a challenge against heavyweight champ Joe Louis as soon as Bettinna was discharged from the Army. [Grippo, whose family moved to Beacon from Italy when he was about 12, was better known as a hypnotist and magician and later performed at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for nearly 25 years.]

The Dutchess County Scholastic League invited Beacon High School to join its athletic conference but Beacon balked, saying that every secondary school in the Hudson Valley should be invited, which the league took as a “no.”

Police Chief Jesse Dingee, who lost eight of his 16 patrol officers during the war when they were drafted to serve overseas, said he was happy to have four return so he could extend patrol car service until 10 p.m. and periodically overnight.

50 Years Ago (October 1970)

Joseph Chiarella, 75, of Beacon, who owned Legion Fireworks Co. in Chelsea, died in an explosion that leveled two sheds. He had been mixing powder. Witnesses said they heard two quick blasts.

Elmer’s Falls Tavern from Wappingers Falls remain undefeated in the Beacon Touch Football League after edging the Veterans of Foreign Wars, 12-6.

Takashi Ohta, a Beacon resident for 21 years who was the author with Margaret Sperry of the 1929 biographical novel, The Golden Wind, died at age 78. A native of Izumi, Japan, he served during World War II with the Office of Strategic Services.

During raids in and around Beacon, city police and state troopers arrested 12 people on charges of promoting gambling. In a home on Beekman Street, police said they found records indicating the ring earned about $100,000 annually [about $680,000 today].

For the first time, kindergarten students were sent home two hours early so that teachers could meet their parents.

The City Council passed a law requiring stores to be in business for at least two years before they can advertise a liquidation sale.

The city held a groundbreaking ceremony at Dennings Point for its $4.9 million secondary sewage-treatment plant.

Dr. Jonathan Slocum, president of the Tioronda Co. and the Craig House Corp., objected to plans to re-align Route 9D through the Craig House property. He spoke during a public hearing on the proposed route and four alternatives. Beacon planning officials argued to have the road placed closer to the river, citing “the unrealized development potential of the Craig House and adjoining lands.”

25 Years Ago (October 1995)

A trading firm, Jireh Resources Co., and its Chinese partner, Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co., said they planned to sign a joint-venture agreement and move to Beacon. Juan Carlos Salcedo, a senior partner at Jireh, planned to travel to Shanghai to sign the paperwork, pending approval from the Chinese government.

Three Beacon High School students were arrested after players from Hendrick Hudson High School were attacked as they returned to their bus following a boys’ soccer game. One player suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Melio Bettina, 78, was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles. Bettina was ailing, so his brother, Joe, and his cousin, former Mayor Jim Fredericks, attended the ceremony. Bettina fought in 99 pro fights over 14 years and had an 82-13-3 record, with one no-decision.

Police raided Hajji’s Emporium at 394 Main St. after allegations it was selling pirated VHS copies of movies that were still in theaters. A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America said the tapes were recorded by people who snuck camcorders into theaters.


HOW WE REPORT
Trust MarkThe Current is a member of The Trust Project, a consortium of news outlets that has adopted standards to allow readers to more easily assess the credibility of their journalism. Our best practices, including our verification and correction policies, can be accessed here. Have a comment? A news tip? Spot an error? Email editor@highlandscurrent.org.

Leave a Reply

The Current welcomes comments on its coverage and local issues. Submissions are selected by the editor to provide a variety of opinions and voices, and all are subject to editing for accuracy, clarity and length. We ask that writers remain civil and avoid personal attacks. Submissions must include your first and last name (no pseudonyms), as well as a valid email address (which will not be published). Please allow up to 24 hours for an approved submission to be posted. All online comments may also appear in print.