Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (September 1872)

William King, a former resident of Fishkill Landing, married a young woman from Matteawan but proved himself a “rascal,” according to the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News. When J.E. Member heard that King would be in town for the wedding, he notified the police. It seems King had once worked at Members’ grocery and stolen $20. When confronted by Officer Hanson at his fiancee’s home, King handed over $20 and the matter was resolved.

When Fred VanVoorhis heard that Member had recovered his money, he too alerted the police, saying that King had pocketed $112 while an employee of his sewing machine agency. When confronted again, King promised to visit VanVoorhis to settle up, but instead fled with his new wife up the Poughkeepsie road. Two officers took the next train in pursuit while Hanson and VanVoorhis traveled by buggy. King was arrested and brought back to Matteawan by steamer; his new mother-in-law bailed him out. Once released, King hired a horse and buggy “for a few hours” but returned them only four days later. When he refused to pay, the livery owner seized trunks of personal items King had left at a local hotel.

125 Years Ago (September 1897)

S.W. Atkinson, known as “Oklahoma Bill,” visited Matteawan to share details of his 1,430-mile trip to win a $100 bet. He was resting in town before making paid appearances in New York City. B.E. Salmon had wagered that Atkinson could not travel from Eagleville, Missouri, to Cold Spring driving a single horse within 50 days. He finished in 48 days and 5 hours, trading horses only once.

A 5-year-old girl who lived in Walcottsville, a suburb of Matteawan, was critically injured after being accidentally shot in the chest by her 8-year-old sister with a revolver found on a shelf. She was rushed to Highland Hospital so doctors could locate the bullet, but the X-ray machine was broken.

The Fishkill Standard issued a supplement with half-tone engravings of the officers of the Lewis Tompkins Hose Co.

W.W. Anthony, editor of The Matteawan Journal, published a 15-cent souvenir account of the Melzingah dam flood in July that killed eight people.

Henry Trostler, who had been released from the Matteawan asylum for the criminally insane but ordered to return to his native Austria, angered the district attorney by instead searching for his daughter, who had been an infant when he was committed. At a hearing, a judge gave him 30 days to find her.


There are 15 known copies of this 1804 dollar; one sold in 1999 for $4 million.

According to New York World, a stranger came into a store in Matteawan saying he had just been offered $35 for an 1804 silver dollar he had carried around for years. With the man’s permission, the merchant took the coin to the Matteawan National Bank, where a teller told them it was one of only four in existence and that one had recently sold for $1,800 [about $64,000 today]. Upon his return, the merchant offered the stranger $50 for the coin, which he accepted. However, after the stranger had gone on his way, it was found that the year on the coin had been altered; it was actually a far more common 1801 dollar.

Charles Ott, the tender at the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut rail crossing, saved the life of an elderly woman who went under the gate onto the tracks at Fountain Street as a train approached. After Ott pushed her out of the way, the cowcatcher on the engine grazed him. “The daring act was witnessed by a larger number of people,” reported The Brooklyn Citizen, “who at the time expected to see both parties ground to death.”

The Fishkill-Matteawan Street Railroad Co. reported gross earnings during the previous fiscal year of $35,500 [$1.27 million] and net income of $2,800 [$100,000].

The body of Charles Hazard, the former editor of the Elmira Telegram, was found in the Hudson River with his trousers filled with stones. He left a note on shore: “I can stand it no longer. Over there is rest.”

The Academy of Music in Fishkill Landing opened its season with a performance of The White Slave, a popular melodrama about a young woman in the South before the Civil War who is mistaken for Black and enslaved.

academy of music

The Academy of Music at Fishkill Landing opened its 1897 season with The White Slave.

William Jameson, while attempting to win a $100 bet by riding his bicycle from New York City to Albany in a set number of hours, “met his Waterloo,” according to the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, when his wheel broke while he was cruising downhill near Tioronda, a mile south of Fishkill. He took the train the rest of the way.

A stranger came into a Matteawan shop owned by Walter Jackson, who repaired bicycles and shod horses, to have a tire fixed. He gave his name as John Jackson and, when he heard Walter’s name, said: “I ought to have a younger brother named Walter Jackson somewhere around here. It has been 20 years since I have seen him, and it is likely he moved away.” Walter responded: “Well, you have stumbled over him, for my brother John left home 20 years ago.” John, who was 15 years older than Walter, said he had lost track of the family after he moved to Canada and then Illinois.

Salvador Alvaretta, a refugee attending Miss Dewee’s private Cuban school in Matteawan, drowned in Fishkill Creek.

The New-York Tribune notified long-distance bicycle riders that while the roads at Fishkill Landing were in fine condition, “the bell ordinance is strictly enforced.”

100 Years Ago (September 1922)

Striking plumbers agreed to return to work with the promise that wages would be increased in January to $8 a day [$140]. Plumbers in Newburgh remained on strike, demanding $10 per day.

A benefit fund established for the family of Officer Charles Lucy, who was shot and killed when responding to a call, reached $1,313 [$23,000].

Michael Spino of Beacon was awarded the contract to repair the dam on Mount Beacon with a low bid of $34,995.50 [$617,000], or 50 cents less than the city had budgeted.

The Beacon Taxpayers’ Association sued the city, saying officials had purchased a vehicle for $5,900 despite a requirement in the city charter that any purchase of more than $2,000 not included in the budget had to be approved by voters.

The City Council voted unanimously to support the construction of a state highway along the river from Beacon to Cold Spring.

A 13-year-old girl died when she jumped from a moving vehicle near Beacon because she thought it was about to be in a crash.

Although volunteers formed a bucket brigade, a cottage on Mount Beacon owned by a Newburgh woman was destroyed in a fire.

A 27-year-old Beacon man was charged with starting a fire at a Lagrangeville farm that caused $18,000 in damage. Police identified him because he left behind his truck from Dutchess Light, Heat & Power. The man said he was cruising back roads when he got lost after dark and ran out of gas. He was attempting to drain gas from a pickup truck in a barn when he struck a match so he could see. He fled and walked home by following the railroad tracks.

75 Years Ago (September 1947)

Two Beacon banks processed 148 bonds worth $35,000 issued to veterans for unused leave after Congress allowed the bonds to be redeemed before the five-year maturity date. The average payment was about $200. Nationally, by September 1948, about 75 percent of $2 trillion in “terminal leave” bonds had been cashed.

Sir Alvary Gascoigne

Sir Alvary Gascoigne

A 28-year-old patient at the Craig House — the daughter of Sir Alvary Gascoigne, the former British ambassador to Japan (right) — disappeared from the facility. Hospital officials said the woman had been depressed since her brother was killed in a tank battle in World War II; she had served in The Flying Wrens, an all-female squad of motorcycle dispatchers. After a witness placed her near Fishkill Creek, a dam was opened for the first time in 26 years so divers could more easily search the water. Three weeks later, she walked into a house at Dennings Point and asked for a cup of tea. She told police she had slept in the woods and survived on berries.

Paulie “Kid” Hawks, a Beacon boxer, had his streak of 128 bouts without being knocked out ended by Johnny Richards of Poughkeepsie. Hawks had been recruited from the crowd to fight in the main event because six boxers from Long Island didn’t show up. Two other boxers returned to the ring for a second match to fill out the card.

The City Council created the position of city engineer.

A 54-year-old Beacon resident was struck and killed by an automobile as she walked in Churchill Street near the intersection with Spring Valley. A native of Austria, she had lived in the city for 36 years.

Leo Burns opened Leo’s Restaurant and Bar at 182 Main St.

50 Years Ago (September 1972)

A burglar broke into Leo’s Tavern at 182 Main St. and rifled the coin-operated pool table, jukebox and cash register.

The Beacon Teachers Association voted to report for work on the first day of school despite not having a contract. At the end of that first day, however, with negotiations stalled, they voted to strike. Because a state law did not allow public employees to strike, a state judge twice ordered them back to work. They refused, and the district closed the schools. Three weeks later, the union and district agreed on a three-year contract that raised starting salaries by 13 percent to $9,450 [about $67,000]. Despite the settlement, the state judge found the union guilty of contempt of court, sentencing the president and its chief negotiator to 30 days in jail each and three other officers to 10 days each.

New York said it planned to convert the 750-acre Stony Kill farm in Fishkill into an environmental education center with the approval of the Verplanck family, which had deeded the property to the state in 1942 with restrictions.

stony kill farm

The Verplanck tenant farmhouse at Stony Kill (Photo by Daniel Case)

Louise Corrado won her second consecutive women’s golf championship at the Southern Dutchess Country Club after catching the leader on the 16th hole with a hole-in-one. The tie was broken on the third extra hole.

Beacon High School won its second football game in three years, defeating Valley Central, 22-0.

In a crackdown on loitering, police arrested 10 teenagers, ages 16 to 18, charging them with obstructing sidewalks and doorways on Main Street, littering and being rude to store owners and passersby.

The Planning Board was asked to allow a developer to build a 12-story building at 42 Fishkill Ave., or two stories more than allowed.

A Beacon couple pleaded guilty to kidnapping a New York City real estate agent in 1971 and holding him hostage at a Cedar Street apartment. They were caught after police traced a call they made to the victim’s wife demanding $200,000.

25 Years Ago (September 1997)

Christopher Eve set a 3.1-mile course record at Memorial Field in 16:23 as the Beacon High School cross-country team clinched the league title.

City Judge Anthony Pagones, 66, resigned, saying the part-time, elected job had become too time-consuming because of a growing criminal and civil calendar. He said that when he was first elected nearly 20 years earlier, the job took about two days a week but that he was now in the courtroom daily.

City Council Member Chris White was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest after a Beacon police officer encountered him and White’s girlfriend, Laurie Siegel, walking through the private Fairview Cemetery after dark. At a City Council meeting the next day, Siegel said the officer had been aggressive and disrespectful. In response to the criticism, the police union said White should resign; Judge Pagones sentenced him to 10 hours of community service. [White, who left the council that year, went on to manage a district office for Rep. Maurice Hinchey and work in planning for Ulster County. He was hired in January 2021 as Beacon’s city administrator.]

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