Looking Back in Beacon


Notorious inmates at the Matteawan hospital for insane criminals in 1897, from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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

150 Years Ago (January 1872)

A 15-year-old Newburgh Academy student disappeared while skating home alone across the Hudson River after meeting friends at Fishkill Landing, who had warned him to watch for air holes in the ice. The boy’s father offered a $100 reward for the recovery of his body.

A Methodist Episcopal revival at Matteawan saved more than 150 souls.

Writing in the New York Observer, a columnist praised a Hudson River Railroad conductor: “Some days ago, on my way down [to New York City], I implored the brakeman to make just a little fire, as our feet and noses indicated such a low degree of temperature that falling asleep might prove fatal. His uniform had not ruined him, for he was evidently affected by my remarks, and with gentle tone replied: ‘I haven’t a stick of wood since we left Poughkeepsie, but I’ll try to get some at Peekskill.’ This soft answer warmed me far more than if the man had given me an opportunity to become excited in discoursing upon railway management and manners.”

125 Years Ago (January 1897)

An early morning fire tore through the Fishkill Standard on Main Street in Fishkill Landing, destroying the editorial offices and damaging bound volumes that dated to 1862. The editor of The Cold Spring Recorder noted with some admiration that the Standard appeared on time the next day as if nothing had happened.

A lengthy front-page story in The Philadelphia Inquirer recounted a visit to the Matteawan state hospital by delegations from Pennsylvania and Connecticut that were interested in starting their own facilities for insane criminals. The superintendent led the visitors on a tour of the wards, each of which held about 80 men who sat playing cards, dominoes and checkers. An isolation ward for less-serene inmates had 16 men guarded by four attendants and the women’s ward upstairs held 40 prisoners. The prison was so admired that officials at other New York state mental hospitals tried to transfer unruly patients there even if they hadn’t been convicted of a crime.

William “Stovey” Catskill was arrested at Matteawan on a charge of illegal prize-fighting after he put his boxing opponent, Daniel Flanagan, into a coma in the ninth round during a midnight bout in Walter Hart’s barn in Newburgh. Both fighters lived in Fishkill Landing; they fought with 2-ounce gloves, with the winner to receive a purse of $400 and the loser the gate receipts. About 60 men from Matteawan and Fishkill were in attendance; each paid $2 admission, along with their bets. Mrs. Hart, whose husband was absent, threatened to go to the police but was convinced to stay quiet. After Flanagan was knocked out with two vicious punches, word spread that he was dead on the mat and the spectators scattered. (Within a week, 32 had been arrested.) Flanagan was a hatter with the Matteawan Manufacturing Co., and Catskill was employed by the builders Scofield & James.

About a week after the match, while out on bail, Catskill saved a 10-year-old boy who had fallen through the ice on a mill pond at the Dutchess Hat Works. He skated to the edge of the hole, jumped in, lifted the boy out, then pulled himself out on a board.

100 Years Ago (January 1922)

The city attorney resigned a week after a City Council meeting held on Christmas Day at which he had what was described as “a violent disagreement” with the city administrator. John Donnelly said only that he was leaving because of increased responsibilities as deputy appraiser of the Port of New York.

John McFarlan, a druggist, was arrested for carrying a revolver with an expired license. Police were alerted following an incident in which McFarlan had shouted at another motorist because he did not have his headlights on. The men stopped and argued, and the complainant said he noticed the outline of a pistol in McFarlan’s coat pocket.

Representatives of teams from Beacon, Newburgh and Wappingers Falls, along with two from Poughkeepsie, created the Central Hudson Valley Professional Basketball League. The teams agreed to play each other four times, with games in Beacon on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.

After a member of the City Council said that basketball games should be allowed on Sundays because baseball games and movies were permitted, the Rev. John MacCulloch, pastor of the First Baptist Church and a former college player, said he had never participated in a basketball game that was clean enough to be played on the sabbath.

William Toffey, who 20 years earlier had opened a sausage and frankfurter factory in Glenham, died at Highland Hospital.

A man was charged with stealing and chopping up a neighbor’s boat for kindling. Police said the man appeared to have dragged the M. Maud, which did not have runners, for a quarter-mile before giving up and sawing the 30-foot cockpit into 4-foot lengths.

Dan Perrone, of Hudson Avenue, was arrested after firing 15 shots into the air. A neighbor, John Sarvennera, was also arrested for firing his gun; he said he thought Perrone was trying to kill him, so he returned fire. Perrone told police he was testing the revolver, which he had purchased to protect Mrs. Jerry Corrella from the Black Hand Society, which had allegedly been sending threatening letters written in red ink to Italians in Beacon.

After 24 state troopers conducted 16 raids, seized 15 barrels of illegal whiskey and made four arrests, questions were raised about the witness named on the warrants who claimed he had purchased drinks at each of the targeted establishments. No one in Beacon had ever heard of Thomas E. Shannon and the Beacon Journal protested that the raids had targeted “several reputable businesses where everybody knows no whiskey” was ever sold. The police action was prompted by complaints from two churches that Beacon officers were unable or unwilling to enforce state prohibition laws.

75 Years Ago (January 1947)

A Newburgh man sued Beacon, asking for $25,000 in damages, claiming he had been assaulted by officers at the police station after being arrested for disorderly conduct.

A fourth grader at St. Joachim’s parochial school in Beacon died when his sled was hit by a car after he coasted onto Route 52.

A 34-year-old presser at the Beacon View hotel was arrested on a charge of neglecting his family.

Two novice ski trails were opened on Mount Beacon, one heading toward Cold Spring and the other toward the reservoir. A two-mile professional trail, which included a 60-foot jump, was set to open once there was a base of at least 4 inches. Skiers on that trail could return on the incline railway or stop three-quarters of the way down to catch a newly installed, 600-foot tow line.

The number of Republicans in Beacon rose by 26 percent, to 2,459, from two years earlier, while the number of Democrats rose by only 1 percent, to 1,159. Voters not registered with a party grew by 23 percent, to 835, and the American Labor Party remained at 18.

The Chamber of Commerce presented the City Council with a draft ordinance that would divide the city into four zones: one-family residential, two-family or multiple dwelling unit, general business (Main Street and 150 feet on each side) and general industrial. Factories in residential zones would be grandfathered.

James Bruce Southard of Beacon was praised in Art News for his exhibit of paintings at the Ward Eggleston Galleries in New York.

50 Years Ago (January 1972)

The City Council passed a resolution limiting, to 225 gallons per minute, the amount of water that the Dutchess Ski Area on Mount Beacon could draw for snowmaking. To get additional water, the lodge paid the city to have a Tompkins Hose Co. firetruck pump from a private pond, drawing criticism from the Dutchess County Taxpayers Association. But the city said the truck was needed only in “extreme emergencies” and otherwise “just sits around.”

The city held a hearing on a proposal to sell 19.2 acres of surplus property at the Matteawan State Hospital site to Chemprene Chemical Co. for $140,000. The parcel was part of 64.5 acres the state had put on the market.

The chair of the Beacon Democratic Party urged the City Council to move the adoption of its preliminary budget from the end of October to after the election. Although Dutchess lawmakers had nothing to do with the Beacon budget, he said he was convinced one Democratic county candidate lost because of public anger over a proposed tax hike by the city.

Eight patients in the Tra-Nel Nursing Home on North Avenue who were receiving public aid faced a move to facilities in other states following the passage of strict restrictions on nursing homes constructed of wood. The home’s 19 private patients would not have to move.

Digger Phelps, 30, a former Beacon High School star, had lost six of his first eight games as the new basketball coach at Notre Dame, including a 94-29 drubbing by Indiana. “We’re not a good running club and we’re not a good shooting club, and there’s not much else,” Phelps said.

A DeWindt Street man who was out on bail on a kidnapping charge was arrested in New York City when he was discovered in a car that had a machine gun under a blanket in the back seat. While searching the vehicle, police found six sets of handcuffs, 240 rounds of ammo, two pairs of gloves, a flashlight, 20 pieces of rope cut in three-foot lengths and a roll of black tape.

Beacon schools closed for a day after nearly 800 of the district’s 3,500 students were absent because of a flu-like illness.

Pete Seeger and Jimmy Collier performed at the Rombout School in a benefit for the high school yearbook and the Beacon Sloop Club.

The Beacon High School Dramatics Council presented an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Welcome to the Monkey House.

A Holmes man was killed when the two rear wheels came off a tractor-trailer near the entrance of the Newburgh-Beacon bridge and crushed the roof of his car.

25 Years Ago (January 1997)

John Spear Jr., a senior at Beacon High School, bowled a perfect 300 game at Fishkill Bowl. He averaged 202 for the Bulldogs bowling team and held the top Section I scores for a game (257) and series (715).

Two men were charged with assaulting a Beacon man with a hammer in an argument over money.

Patients at the Turning Point, the alcohol and dependency treatment center at St. Francis Hospital, donated a handmade dollhouse to the Grace Smith House, a shelter for battered women in Poughkeepsie.

Elton Brand, bound for Duke University (and the NBA), scored 15 points as the Peekskill boys’ basketball team trounced Beacon, 96-39. Coach Tom Powers joked that he thought his team (3-10) was looking past Peekskill to its next game, against rival Lourdes.

One thought on “Looking Back in Beacon

  1. These are always so interesting to read and share with my middle school students! Thanks for the flashback.