Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (February 1872)

The Matteawan Enterprise distributed its first issue, noting it was the fourth newspaper to be published in the village following the demise of the Herald, the Chronicle and the Review.

It was reported that John Booth of Fishkill Landing inherited $8 million [$23 million today], supposedly from a relative in England. [This was almost certainly an “unexpected money” scam, in which a grafter claimed a distant relative overseas had left a fortune accessible with an upfront fee.]

During the previous 12 months, Lewis Tompkins had built 13 homes in Matteawan, as well as the stores opposite the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Mr. Andrews, a revivalist, preached at the Matteawan Baptist Church and administered the rite of baptism by immersion to five people.

On a Sunday morning, James McGarvey of Matteawan hid behind a screen in his store to thwart past burglars. At 1 p.m., he grabbed a person who crawled through the rear window, thrust the flat of a screwdriver against his cheek, cautioned the culprit it was a revolver and bound his arms. Soon after, a second culprit appeared, and then a third. Their names were McKane, McClary and Turner, and they were 11, 13 and 14 years old.

A proposal to build a horse-drawn railroad from the river to Matteawan was revived and a bill drafted for its incorporation. It was to extend from the westerly end of Long Dock to the Dutchess and Columbia Railroad in front of the Methodist Church, be completed within five years, have capital stock of up to $50,000 and charge a fare of 10 cents or less.

John Ginley, the ringleader of a group of boys who stoned the house of Patrick McGinnis at Dennings Point and threw rubbish into his well, was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail.

125 Years Ago (February 1897)

The minstrel organization of the St. Luke’s Cadet Corps gave a performance at Town Hall in Philipstown.

The Ladies’ Catholic Benevolent Association in Fishkill-on-the-Hudson faced a dilemma when the president who served during its first year in existence was re-elected, making her past president and president. Since the past president installed the new president, a branch officer had to be deputized to give her the oath.

After Thomas Wood died in Fishkill, Undertaker Battell of Fishkill Landing retrieved the body and secured a burial permit. But the widow Wood was a relative of the wife of Undertaker Donahue of Newburgh, and he understood he would handle the arrangements. At the same time Battell announced the funeral in the Fishkill Catholic Church, Donahue prepared for services at St. Patrick’s in Newburgh. Because Donahue did not have a permit, he could not take the body across the river, so he and his lawyer pressed their case with the Town Board. Wood finally had his funeral, in Newburgh, five days after his death.

Prof. James DeGarmo, of the DeGarmo Institute at Fishkill Landing, was appointed grand representative of the Grand Lodge of Masons of Mexico. (No more explanation was provided.)

DeGarmo Institute

Students at the DeGarmo Institute (Beacon Historical Society)

Daniel Decker, convicted of watching an illegal boxing match, was fined $25.

An unnamed Italian from Fishkill Landing was fined $200 for violating the Raines law. [The law, which was enacted in 1896 and repealed in 1923, raised the drinking age from 16 to 18 and banned the sale of alcohol on Sundays except in hotels with at least 10 rooms that served free food.]

After a passenger aboard the Newburgh-Fishkill Landing ferry felt something strike him in the chest, he noticed a small hole in his coat. He pulled his leather-covered notebook from his vest pocket and in the leaves found a .32-caliber bullet. It apparently had been fired by a hunter a long way off.

Two convicts at the Auburn state penitentiary who had become “insane through idleness” were transferred to the Matteawan asylum, The New York Times reported in its Telegraphic Brevities column.

Fannie Nearing, a science teacher at the Matteawan school, caused a ruckus when she dissected a kitten. The cat had been supplied by a star student who said it was subject to fits; Nearing chloroformed the kitten in a wash bin in the basement. The superintendent said the dissection had been legitimate and denied that each student received a bit of skin as a souvenir, although he conceded some may have taken organs. He noted that the students’ physiology grades had improved dramatically.


A depiction of the alleged dissection that appeared in The New York Sun

Lawrence Glynn, the oldest inmate in the state, died at age 100 at the Matteawan Asylum. He had been accused in 1875, at age 73, of arson but was never tried because he was declared insane. His minders said he spoke of ghosts and goblins and hidden wealth.

100 Years Ago (February 1922)

Irving Byrnes, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Byrnes of Beacon, sailed on the USS America for England, France and Germany, representing the interests of the General Electric Co. He specialized in the wireless telephone and had been assigned to operate and test the transatlantic instruments.

The Tioronda Council No. 124, Degree of Pocahontas, held a banquet to celebrate its first anniversary. It was entertained with a recitation by Mrs. Traver of Cold Spring, “a talented elocutionist who was greeted with a storm of applause.”

Cyrus Duroy, the Internal Revenue Service collector for the 14th District of New York, noted that 1040 forms could be picked up at the post office in Newburgh. The forms were six pages: two for the return, two for a duplicate and two for instructions. The deadline was March 15.

Herbert Webb, who had enlisted at age 16 in the French army to fight in World War II because the U.S. Army turned him away, returned to Beacon with his Australian bride, Sylvia Kershaw. He met her while traveling after he graduated from Oahu College in Honolulu.

Edward Coffey, the 65-year-old superintendent of the Budd brickyard at Dutchess Junction, dropped dead at his mother-in-law’s funeral. The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News said “his affection for his mother-in-law” may have contributed.

The mysterious Thomas E. Shannon, who had testified on warrants that he purchased illegal whiskey at Beacon establishments that were then raided by the state police, returned to the city looking for $45 from the mayor, who, he said, had hired him for $5 a day to gather evidence. “If Mayor Stafford does not pay me that money, I am going to start something,” said the Orange County resident.

J.B. Lodge, manager of Mount Beacon, planned to build a crushed-stone road from the foot of the incline to the Beaconcrest Hotel (below). The only other way up the mountain was by cable car.


The Trinity Five of Beacon dropped out of the fledgling Central Hudson Valley semi-pro basketball league, citing a lack of home games. It also complained that, during a loss at undefeated Wappinger, the Bleachery’s star fouled out but refused the referee’s order to leave the game. The league president said the result would stand because the Trinity Five had not filed a formal protest.

A basketball team from the American Legion in Poughkeepsie showed up for a benefit game but discovered the Beacon post member who had invited them was out of town and no one knew anything about it.

75 Years Ago (February 1947)

At the first meeting of the Beacon chapter of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Turiga spoke about the Dutchess County Tumor Clinic at Vassar Hospital. He said that, since it opened in 1939, the clinic had treated 1,541 people with malignant cancers, 77 percent of which were skin cancers that are highly curable in early stages. Of the other 362 patients, about 1 in 5 were still alive after five years.

The Beacon Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to study the feasibility of opening a youth center.

Pianist Jose Echaniz (below), a native of Havana, performed at the high school at the invitation of the Beacon Civic Music Association.


Pianist Jose Echaniz

Police said they found no evidence of foul play in the death of Charles Lucas, 57, a bartender who lived and worked at the New Haven House on Beekman Street. He had been found in a hallway with a fractured skull. The owner of the hotel said Lucas told him he felt unwell and left for his room; soon after, the owner heard a thud and found the bartender on the floor near the stairs.

A late-model sedan stolen in College Park, Maryland, was found abandoned on Tioronda Avenue by a patrol officer. It was missing its radio, fog lights and spare tire.

Charles Atwell, a Beacon resident who was a junior at Purdue University, was among 250 students injured when a bleacher collapsed at halftime during a basketball game against Wisconsin. Three students were killed.

50 Years Ago (February 1972)

A state report included Beacon among 54 school districts that needed to submit reports about how they planned to end “racial imbalance,” defined as the minority population at one or more schools being at least 10 percent higher than the district average. In this case, South Avenue Elementary had a minority population of 51.4 percent compared to 25 percent for the district.

The Poughkeepsie boys’ basketball team defeated Beacon, 102-96.

Police were searching for a 54-year-old disabled veteran who had been missing more than a week after leaving work at the Technical Tape Co. Police suspected he had drowned in Fishkill Creek while walking his dog, which was found two days later. The dog crouched on the creek bank while rescue squads used grappling equipment to search the creek near where a man’s glove was found.

25 Years Ago (February 1997)

Metro-North said it would study the feasibility of running passenger trains between Beacon and Brewster.

The school board said it would spend $18,000 to $20,000 to design additions to the Glenham and Sargent elementary schools. The Glenham principal said the school was so crowded that art classes were held in the cafeteria.

Eric Warren, a new resident of Beacon, was rummaging through a trunk in the attic of his father’s home in Cold Spring when he found 75 copies of Harper’s Weekly from 1861 and 1862. He spent the next year reading through them, which he said gave him a deeper appreciation of the Civil War. The newspapers weren’t that valuable because many were saved and they were printed on wood pulp, which helped preserve them.

Luke Dysard of Beacon High School won the Section I wrestling title at 220 pounds.

The Committee to Restore the Mount Beacon Incline Railway hosted a fundraiser to build support to reopen the mountain, which Scenic Hudson had purchased in 1995. The committee said it hoped to restore an abandoned ski lodge as a local history museum.

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