Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (July 1871)

After arriving on the steamer Mary Powell in Poughkeepsie for an excursion, the 47th Regiment Brooklyn met at the armory with the 21st Regiment, which included Company H of Fishkill Landing. When President Ulysses Grant happened to be changing trains at the Poughkeepsie station after a visit to Staatsburg, he was persuaded to detour to review the troops.

125 Years Ago (July 1896)

Tony Gavin broke the 72-hour record for bicycling from Buffalo to Manhattan by a comfortable 11 hours. The only accident he had on the trip was when he hit a rut at Dutchess Junction; he cut his knee and the back of his bicycle took 30 minutes to repair. Gavin, a police officer, was traveling to New York City for the police cycling championships to benefit the New York Herald Free Ice Fund, which distributed ice in the tenements during the summer.

Left alone in the kitchen, John Case, an inmate at the Matteawan asylum, disappeared, apparently through an open window. (He had been sent to the hospital after completing a 15-year sentence for killing a police officer in Syracuse and being judged insane.) Officials searched both sides of the river, but Case had never left the building; he was found in an air shaft. The inmate, who was described as having blue eyes, a mustache and a scar that extended down the left side of his nose to his lip, said he had hidden to demonstrate his sanity so he could be released.

100 Years Ago (July 1921)

More than 50 entries were received for a motorcycle climb to the top of Mount Beacon on the Fourth of July. The race was organized by the Crotona Club of New York and the Beacon post of the American Legion. About 3,000 spectators were expected to watch the riders compete in five events for $500 in prizes.

After the armatures of the Mount Beacon Incline burned out on July 4 after three trips, hundreds of hotel guests were forced to walk down in sweltering weather.

Samuel Taub reported that someone stole his Boston bulldog, Beautie, from his car at 9:30 p.m. while it was parked in front of the Boston Candy Kitchen.

The body of a week-old infant with its throat slashed was found in the Hudson River at the Beacon dock by a ferryboat employee.

A Poughkeepsie woman who suffered a head injury after being thrown from her vehicle during a crash in Fishkill was taken by Dr. Howell White of Beacon to his home for treatment.

A former Beacon resident who panicked and jumped from the window of his Poughkeepsie apartment when he saw flames on the roof of the building next door died of his injuries at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The man landed in a bar after crashing through its skylight.

Highland Hospital had its first baptism, of George Ebstein.

Clark Duryea, 35, an evangelical minister from Monticello who was holding nightly revivals at Groverville Park, was the talk of the state because his 27-year-old wife had eloped with a married man and taken their two children with her. She was said not to sympathize with Duryea’s religious views.

A Glenham man serving time for burglary escaped from the city jail between 8 and 11 p.m. on a Friday night by loosening enough bricks in the wall of his cell over several days to create a hole he could squeeze through. Officials said the prisoner apparently put each back in place to disguise his progress. He was captured the next day while taking a nap at his home and sent to the county jail.

A state judge reversed a decision by the Workmen’s Compensation Committee to award $1,300 to an employee at the Matteawan Manufacturing Co. The man claimed that the twine on the bundles of hats he processed had caused blisters that led to blood poisoning and the amputation of two fingers.

The bookkeeper at the Fishkill National Bank in Beacon for more than 30 years was indicted on federal charges of embezzling $13,000 after a state audit uncovered irregularities. Authorities said the suspect did not live extravagantly or invest in the stock market but that his only daughter had recently married.

75 Years Ago (July 1946)

Dunbar book cover

Lida Keck Wiggins, who had moved to Beacon 20 years earlier and had been the social correspondent for The Beacon News and Beacon Light, died in a nursing home. In 1931 Wiggins won a contest in Ohio for lyrics for an official state song (although it was never adopted), and in 1939 her poem, “Hudson’s Stream,” won second prize in a Hudson Valley poetry contest held in connection with the World’s Fair. Her books included a 1907 biography of the Black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and Know Thy Neighbor; Or, Character Reading, a 1909 account of numerology, fortunetelling, astrology and psychoanalysis.

A judge dismissed a reckless driving charge against a man who had been jailed since May following a crash that killed an 11-year-old boy.

An 18-year-old woman was arrested for disorderly conduct after she allegedly threw a milk bottle into the street in Bank Square and refused a police officer’s order to pick up the broken glass. Instead, she began to shout and carry on, he said, drawing a crowd.

The Beacon Assemblies of God held its first services in the former building of the Union Sunday school.

Lt. Col. W. George Devens, a Beacon native and member of the War Department general staff, died unexpectedly in Washington, D.C. He had played football for the Naval Academy, including in the 1924 Rose Bowl, but later transferred to the Army.

A measles outbreak threatened Beacon, Red Hook and Hyde Park.

In a game in Poughkeepsie, the Beacon Texacos were leading Trabasso’s Tavern, 14-2, when the home team rallied in its final at-bat to score 10 runs before Beacon finally ended the game with a strikeout.

A burglar stole $80 from Durkin’s meat market on East Main Street.

A road was cut at Memorial Park to a picnic area with six rustic tables. Four horseshoe pitching boxes were also installed and a stump was removed from the softball diamond.

The city averted a health crisis when milkmen ended a strike for better pay.

50 Years Ago (July 1971)

Beacon received only $3.2 million of its $5.3 million request for federal urban renewal funds, delaying improvements near the post office between Fishkill Avenue and North Chestnut Street.

Executives at R.H. Macy Co., which was planning a shopping center near Beacon, were said to be disappointed by the lack of progress on reconstructing Route 9.

Alfred Kurt von Wolfersdorf, 88, who had been an inmate at the Matteawan State Hospital for 20 years, was denied an appeal of his commitment. He had been imprisoned in 1951 after being judged mentally unfit for trial in the killing of a 14-year-old boy. His co-defendant was executed.

Ted Daley, 42, a Beacon resident who was the leader of the Teamsters local in Yonkers, vowed to win the national presidency against Frank Fitzsimmons, who had been in the role since Jimmy Hoffa was imprisoned four years earlier for mail fraud and jury tampering. Two days later, Daley conceded halfway through a roll call in which he had only received two votes. [In 1977, Daley was convicted of extortion related to truckloads of crushed stone for the driveway of his home in Windham. He died in January at age 91.]

Ted Daley

In 1971, Ted Daley of Beacon challenged the incumbent for the national leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The City of Beacon and the Urban Renewal Agency approved the redevelopment of a burned-out property at 328 Main St. to be occupied by Mid-Town Market.

The city hired the Poughkeepsie Wrecking Co. to demolish a burned-out building at South and Rombout avenues, a house formerly used by the Beacon Day Nursery and the Wolcott Esso station. The work was expected to clear space for a park on South Avenue and a shopping center at Wolcott and South.

The president of the Dutchess County Taxpayers Association said it planned to sue the city to stop a planned 192-unit housing project on Tompkins Avenue. “We don’t want to make Beacon a welfare city,” he said.

A proposed Southern Dutchess Sewer District died when the Town of Fishkill said it would not participate. The Village of Fishkill, the Town of East Fishkill and Beacon had agreed to share Beacon’s secondary treatment plant.

25 Years Ago (July 1996)

The city’s schools and administrative building were receiving a $12.5 million overhaul that officials said would be 60 percent complete by the start of the school year. Kitchens were being renovated and new floors installed in the Rombout Middle School gym and cafeteria. The expenses included $1.5 million for a bus garage and $2 million to link computers in classrooms.

A downtown tour led by members of the Beacon Economic Development Action Task Force designed to spark interest in revitalizing the city attracted about 20 real-estate agents and a few bankers.

A police sergeant sued the mayor, city administrator, police chief and two detectives in federal court, claiming they were trying to force him out of his job because his wife had filed a sexual harassment suit against the city. Beacon officials responded that they filed a misconduct charge against the officer after learning he had secretly taped conversations with a maintenance worker while on duty to help his wife with her lawsuit.

The Hudson Valley Hospital Center, which had offices in Beacon and Cold Spring, became the first regional hospital to mount a page on the World Wide Web.

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