Looking Back in Beacon

USS beacon

The USS Beacon visited its namesake city in 1971.

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

150 Years Ago (August 1871)

The Matteawan correspondent of The Fishkill Journal reported that, while business had been slow in July, the hat factories were ramping up for heavy orders expected in the fall. The Matteawan Manufacturing Co. was turning out hats by the truckload and preparing to make cloth hats, while the Seamless Clothing Co. planned to go in heavily on skirts and was turning out 1,500 daily, along with hats, druggets (wool cloth pieces) and glove linings.

Two stowaways from New York City jumped off a train at Dutchess Junction on a Friday night, filled sacks with whatever valuables they could find, and were waiting to sneak aboard the next train that stopped when they were caught.

The decapitated body of James Slinery of Matteawan was found on the Harlem Railroad track near Millerton. Witnesses said Slinery had nearly $100 in cash the night before, which was missing, and foul play was suspected.

According to newspaper accounts, a dispute arose among members of the Board of Education at the Kingston Academy over the appointment of John Charlouis, formerly of Matteawan, to teach French and German. One board member, W.H. Hayes, said the professor was “not exactly the proper person to be a teacher of young ladies and gentlemen,” citing “certain alleged conduct of the professor on the Masonic excursion.” (The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News cryptically offered: “Charlouis is a queer sort of fellow, a vivacious individual, but his record is not entirely clear.”) When another board member, Dr. Frisselle, made disparaging remarks about Hayes’ own character, Hayes responded by slapping Frisselle, knocking him to the floor. Charlouis and the board’s president later protested in letters to the editor that the report was untrue, noting that Charlouis had been hired.

125 Years Ago (August 1896)

Charles Kiltredge of Fishkill Landing died suddenly at Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, while attending a reunion of the alumni of McCollom Institute, a private high school. Kiltredge had concluded a brief address in a chapel when he fell into the arms of the gentlemen present and expired. [The institute closed in 1906 and today the building houses the town offices and police station.]

McCollom Institute

In 1896 a Fishkill Landing man died at a reunion of his classmates at the McCollom Institute in New Hampshire.

A group of intoxicated workers from Aldridge’s brickyard were walking along the tracks just before 10 p.m. after a payday visit to Fishkill Landing when a northbound mail train caught them by surprise. James Cody attempted to pull John Riley to safety but Riley, apparently thinking Cody wanted to wrestle, held him fast. Both were killed.

McFarlane & Hignell of Fishkill Landing was awarded the contract to build a 40-ton boiler for the steamer James T. Brett.

A supply of bicycles was purchased for the inmates at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Questioned by a New York Herald reporter, Dr. Henry Smith Williams noted that “the bicycle as an adjunct to the cure of mental disease has been steadily coming into favor in the last four or five years.”

Thomas Lord

Thomas Lord

Annette Wilhelmina Wilkens Hicks-Lord died in New York City at age 71. Her father, a Dutchman, settled in Matteawan in 1828, when she was an infant. After moving to Manhattan with her family at age 18, she married a wealthy shipping merchant. He died in 1860, and 10 years later, she moved to Europe and became a well-known socialite in Paris and London. After her return to New York, she had many suitors, including Thomas Lord, whom she married at her Matteawan home in 1877 when he was 81 and she was 52. Lord’s three sons promptly went to court to declare their father incompetent of handling his $2 million estate [$65 million today]. In a settlement, Annette agreed when Lord died 14 months later to a $25,000 annual payment ($800,000 today), which she used to purchase a house on Washington Square. She was a striking beauty, nearly 6 feet tall, often seen riding a thoroughbred on Fifth Avenue. She was buried at the Reformed Church cemetery and a cousin in Rye inherited most of her fortune.

Frederick Middleton, a former guard at Sing Sing who weighed more than 400 pounds, died of heat stroke at his sister’s home in Matteawan.

During a drunken quarrel at a boarding house, two Hungarians employed at Budd’s brickyard fired handguns at each other. One man was shot in the knee and the other in the head; both were treated at Highland Hospital.

The Matteawan Manufacturing Co. turned out 5,412 hats in a single day, its largest output in years.

100 Years Ago (August 1921)

John Cronin, the commissioner of public safety, hired a bacteriologist to examine the condition of the water at Denning’s Point after concerns that it was unsafe for swimming due to sewage. Health officials feared an outbreak of typhoid.

Cronin was criticized when he described the new assessment roll — which included hikes of 100 percent on some factories — as a “magnificent piece of work.” In response, the general manager of the New York Rubber Co. noted that many other municipalities offered “attractive inducements” and that “we want to be located where we may feel the local authorities are friendly.”

Cronin hired a scientist to test the ice cream being sold in Beacon on the suspicion that it did not include the percentage of butterfat required by law.

The body of James Tomlins, a member of the 554 men known as the Lost Battalion, arrived in New Jersey. The Beacon resident had died of combat injuries in an Army hospital in France in October 1918. His division had been trapped in the Argonne Forest by German forces, and only 194 soldiers were rescued.

Charles Lord was taken to the Highland Hospital after being shot in the chest during what was called a practical joke gone wrong. At noon on a Tuesday, Lord, John Matta and R. Powers left the New York Rubber plant to visit Matta’s peach orchard. Lord and Powers were picking peaches when Matta emerged from his home with a .32-caliber revolver that he fired in their direction. Police said they were holding Matta until the outcome of Lord’s injury was clear.

Ten residents were swindled by a dapper salesman who said that, for a $50 deposit, he could secure them a cheap, decommissioned Army vehicle.

The former Caswell Military Academy [at 139 Rombout Ave.] was purchased by a New York City firm to refurbish as a factory to make children’s dresses.

Caswell Academy

The former Caswell Military Academy at it appears today, was sold in 1921 to become a factory. (Beacon Historical Society)

William Henderson, a Black laborer who lived in Dutchess Junction, said that many women had knocked on his door since he placed a classified ad in a Beacon newspaper looking for a wife. Henderson said he placed the ad because that’s how his father had found a wife.

A taxi owner sued the city over a new ordinance requiring cabbies to obtain a $15 annual permit that required them to have lived in the city for at least a year.

75 Years Ago (August 1946)

A couple from New Hamburg was injured in a 5:30 a.m. crash at 21 North Ave. when their car skidded on wet pavement and hit a tree. An hour later, a 51-year-old Beekman Street resident was killed when his car hit a tree at 28 North Ave.

Beacon fell to Poughkeepsie, 18-13, in the Eastern New York State Girls’ Softball championship at Middletown in front of 1,000 fans.

Humphrey Hedgecock, an authority on the hibernization of gladioli, spoke at the monthly meeting of the Men’s Garden Club.

The grandfather and grand uncle of a 3-year-old Beacon boy were arrested in New Jersey on charges they had kidnapped him from his mother’s home on South Walnut Street. The boy’s father had been killed during the war and he had lived with his grandparents in Jersey City until his mother remarried.

A New York City man was fined $25 for reckless driving after a patrolman saw him traveling at 35 mph down Main Street while passing other vehicles.

50 Years Ago (August 1971)

A former Newburgh Free Academy football star was charged with the armed robbery of Jo’s Little Store at 73 Teller Ave. After grabbing $500 from the cash register, “he didn’t even say thank you,” said the owner’s daughter. A police officer noted the plate number of a car speeding away from the scene.

More than 6.5 inches of rain fell in less than a week, causing the intersection at Church and North Brett to flood and sending a cascade of mud onto Howland Avenue from the ski slopes being bulldozed into Mount Beacon.

The city was not having much luck clearing the Fishkill Avenue-Maple Street area of roosting starlings. Police fired shotguns into the air; a wildlife expert played tapes of starlings in distress; and the Audubon Society suggested spraying firehoses into the trees.

Donald Hicks, a former Beacon resident who served 10 years in prison for a 1948 robbery of the New Haven House Bar and Grill on Ferry Street, failed in his latest attempt to get the conviction overturned. Acting as his own lawyer, he had filed more than 100 appeals on various technical grounds.

A wildcat strike by meat cutters and butchers closed the A&P for a few hours until union officials ordered the members back to work. They also removed the officers of the local chapter, which had been the only one of four in the New York City area to vote against a new contract.

The Knights of Columbus Hall, constructed in 1885, was demolished as part of a $640,000 midtown urban renewal project.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at 18 South Ave. screened the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds.

John Knifton, a research chemist at Texaco in Glenham, won a bronze medal in the 50-kilometer walk at the Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia. He finished in four hours and 42 minutes.

The USS Beacon visited its namesake city. Commissioned in 1969 and made entirely of aluminum, the Navy gunboat could reach speeds of 40 knots. It was manned by four officers and 25 enlisted men. [The ship was decommissioned in 1977 and sold to Greece in 1989.]

USS Beacon

The USS Beacon, at left, refuels from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, while serving as a plane guard escort for the carrier around 1970. (U.S. Navy)

25 Years Ago (August 1996)

The female inmates at Camp Beacon raised 2,500 pheasant chicks for hunts organized by the Federation of Dutchess County Fish & Game Clubs.

Texaco laid off 130 employees at its Glenham plant amid rumors it planned to close the facility. The downsizing was part of the company’s decision to sell its lubricants additive unit, which had been dinged by a Consumer Reports test that found the products made no difference in performance.

The Beacon City Council closed its incinerator on Beekman Road after computer models of the smokestack showed unacceptable amounts of chromium 6, a toxic heavy metal. The city said it would instead remove the sludge cake with a conveyor and move liquid in tanker trucks at a cost of about $100,000 annually. Neighbors had complained for years about the odor.

A bill to allow Beacon to create a permit-parking system stalled in the state Assembly. Metro-North Railroad planned to begin charging commuters $25 a month at its lot, and city officials feared drivers would fill the free spaces on nearby streets. A second bill that stalled in the Assembly would  have allowed the state to sell 17 acres of vacant land at the Fishkill Correctional Facility to the city for $40,000 to expand a park next to Rombout Middle School.

A 19-year-old Poughkeepsie man and a 17-year-old Beacon teen were arrested after shots were fired on a Monday night outside 182 Main St.

The Beacon Recreation Commission apologized to residents for the lack of a finale to the July 6 fireworks display. It said Bay Fireworks had neglected to ship the finale shells but promised it would extend the 1997 show at no charge.

The Church of the Nazarene dedicated a new multipurpose building at Camp Taconic in Milan. The summer camp was founded in 1910 at Groveville Park in Beacon and moved to northern Dutchess in 1966.

Folkevirke Appleseed, an international learning community based in Beacon, held its sixth annual Scandinavian Midsummer Celebration at Mount Gulian.

Beacon received a $45,000 state grant to clean up the 11-acre Beacon Terminal property along Fishkill Creek in preparation for a greenway trail.

A Poughkeepsie man led police on a high-speed chase on Route 9D that ended when he crashed his Geo Prizm into a utility pole. Police said they attempted to stop the suspect because his car matched the description of a vehicle that nearly hit two bicycle patrol officers on Main Street.

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