Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (October 1872)

The son of Alonzo Bishop of Fishkill Landing ran off with gypsies, but his father went after them and brought him back.

William Robinson of Matteawan was injured when the night express from New York City slowed at the Fishkill Landing station so he and a companion could jump from the back. He lost his footing and struck his head on the track.

A burning mosquito net, ignited by a candle, fell onto Mrs. Wood as she slept in her room at a boarding house south of Fishkill Landing. The widow managed to roll out of bed and avoid serious injury.

The 11-year-old daughter of George Howe was fishing with a boy of the same age from a Fishkill Landing bridge when she fell into the water. Her companion spotted a braid of hair near the surface of the water, grabbed it while holding a small tree and pulled her up until he could grab her arm.

The Shenandoah Mining Co. was busy opening a hematite iron ore mine on the Sprague farm in the Fishkill mountains. A deposit of magnetic ore had been found higher up and smaller deposits of carburet of iron (used in the manufacture of stove polish), plumbago and copper.

Business was good at the seamless clothing works in Matteawan, which was turning out an unusual number of carpets, glove linings and hats, and at the nearby hat works, which was producing 300 dozen per day.

A proposal to raise $840 [about $20,000 today] through a tax levy to build a station for the Hook and Ladder Co. was defeated, 47-6.

After the express train from Montreal hit someone on the drawbridge near Dutchess Junction, the train stopped but the brakeman and the bridge tender could not locate a body. John Kernan, aka “Jimmy the Soldier,” was apparently hurled into the river, where his remains were found three days later.

The hours of employees at Schneck’s machine shop in Matteawan were reduced to eight hours a day as a cost-cutting measure.

Barker Bump was found dead in his bed at Matteawan.

When Charles Bingham of Newburgh returned from a supply trip to Marlborough, he parked his wagon near his house and went to the barn to feed the stock. His wife came out to retrieve the articles he had purchased and noticed a blanket under the seat with something rolled up inside. It was a baby boy, about a day old.

The son of John McKinnon of Fishkill Landing died of injuries suffered when he was run over by a streetcar.

Matty Howe of Fishkill was convicted by a jury in Poughkeepsie of manslaughter in the death of her newborn the previous winter. She alleged that she became pregnant by her employer, Edward Lane. When she went into labor, he angrily sent her on a wagon to the one-room home of a midwife, where she gave birth. Two days later, she began to walk back to Lane’s, with her child in her arms. On the way she saw two men she knew, and “cast down with shame, feverish and weak,” by one account, she hid the child behind a fence. She said that by the time the men had passed, the child had died of exposure. The judge sentenced her to a year in the penitentiary.

125 Years Ago (October 1897)

Maj. William Haubennested presented a large silk flag to the Beacon Engine Co. in Matteawan in appreciation of “many favors received by him,” according to the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News.

The wife of Charles Lonergan arrived in Matteawan from Syracuse to identify the body of her husband, who had been found dead on the railroad tracks. She said he left the city two weeks earlier but she had heard nothing until notified of his death. The body was sent to Chicago, where his wealthy mother resided.

The State Lunacy Commission ruled that a prisoner at the Buffalo State Hospital named Willie Gipp, who was accused of shooting his elderly parents, killing his mother, could be transferred to the Hospital for Insane Criminals at Matteawan. According to the staff, Gipp lapsed into catalepsy soon after being admitted and was fed with spoons and tubes. Gipp’s father objected to the move and alerted the district attorney. He said he had forgiven his son.

Admiral John Worden

Admiral Worden, in a photo by Mathew Brady

Admiral John Worden, who commanded the USS Monitor in its 1862 standoff with the Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads, died in Washington, D.C., at age 79. A native of Swartwoutville, a hamlet in the Town of Wappinger, Worden became a naval officer at Fishkill in 1834 when he was appointed midshipman.

George Freeman, a Black man who was guiding a group of white members of the Fishkill Hunt Club to target practice in meadows east of the village, was shot in the lower back by a man who said the hammer of his weapon caught on a vine. Freeman was taken to the General Hospital at Fishkill Landing and not expected to live. “Although the discharge of the gun was accidental, Freeman’s colored friends are enraged over the affair, and they threaten vengeance,” reported The New York Times.

About 100 veterans from the 128th New York Regiment held their annual reunion at the Dibble Opera House in Matteawan. The regiment left Dutchess County on Dec. 5, 1863, for Baltimore and New Orleans with 1,000 men. It fought in the Shenandoah Valley and later was stationed in Savannah, where it joined Gen. Sherman’s forces following his march to the sea. Sixty percent of the regiment did not survive.

Mrs. Winthrop Sargent purchased the former John Rothery home on Schenck Avenue in Matteawan to create a vocational reform school.

100 Years Ago (October 1922)

New York State distributed its official roll of 13,908 soldiers who died during or shortly after World War I, including 110 from Dutchess County and 11 from Beacon: John Bump (killed Oct. 20, 1918); Thomas Carroll (pneumonia Feb. 27, 1919); Frank Cramade (killed Oct. 14, 1918); Herman Deicke of 217 Main St. (wounds, Oct. 17, 1918); George Delahay of 35 Eliza St. (gastritis, Dec. 21, 1918); George Deveson of 10 Cliff St. (killed Sept. 28, 1918); Frederick Garrison (killed Sept. 28, 1918); Frederick Harris of 61 Ferry St. (killed Aug. 13, 1918); Austin Robinson (killed Sept. 2, 1918); Frank Van Houten Jr. (pneumonia Oct. 9, 1918); and William Wilson (killed Aug. 19, 1918).

Contractors finished emergency repairs on the 36-year-old Melzingah dam. “The water had made a small opening that soon expanded into a great hole,” reported the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News. As it happened, the City Council planned to ask voters to approve bonds for the construction of a $125,000 concrete dam there, along with repairs to the north Beacon dam, where the cracks were seeping water, and the installation of a force filter near the powerhouse on Fishkill Creek to purify the water during emergencies.

Four men caught stealing chickens at the Rives’ farm shot at two employees while making their getaway in a Ford touring car. No one was injured.

A 10-year-old boy suffered a fractured skull and a broken nose when he was kicked by a horse. A cut over his eye in the shape of a horseshoe required 15 stitches.

A man was poisoned while drinking illegal homemade whiskey at a friend’s home on Railroad Avenue and needed to have his stomach pumped at Highland Hospital. Police alerted the district attorney.

The Long Dock Coal Co. received 33 carloads with 1,014 tons of chestnut coal, as well as a carload of egg coal. It was to be distributed according to plans drawn up by John Cronin, the city fuel administrator.

After voters defeated two referendums to build an addition to the overcrowded high school, the state Department of Education said it might compel a third vote. Should that fail, it said, it would order construction to begin.

Mayor Irving Stafford warned police officers to enforce prohibition laws or lose their jobs. Soon after, officers arrested “Wild Bill” Henderson, who was fined $10 for possession of moonshine he said he made from potato peelings.

Serafine Maraquin, a Spaniard commonly known as John Martin, was arrested on charges he shot William Byrd in the abdomen and both arms during a fight at the Nickerson Brickyards at Dutchess Junction. After the men bickered over the proper laying of sand, Maraquin returned with a shotgun. He claimed Byrd had made a derogatory remark about his mother.

A Beacon police officer detained Edward Cunningham on charges he stole a bicycle and sold it for 75 cents. When his prisoner ran, the officer fired five times, hitting Cunningham in the foot.

Health officials reported the discovery of a “baby farm” in Newburgh, where six infants were found in miserable conditions, including the daughter of a Beacon woman. The woman in charge was found lying in an adjacent room, incapacitated by diphtheria. Police uncovered letters written by several of the mothers, including one who said she was an art student and the father was in medical school and they dared not reveal the birth to their parents.

Peter Tomasillo, convicted of attacking his father with an ax handle, was sentenced to 2½ to 5 years at Sing Sing. In his defense, he claimed he was defending his mother from a beating, although witnesses said she was not home at the time.

75 Years Ago (October 1947)

Residents of Beacon and Poughkeepsie were required by law to register in person before every vote; in Beacon, election officials registered 4,904 people, an increase of 9 percent over the year before.

About 50 people attended an organizational meeting at Bill’s Restaurant for a chapter, or aerie, of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

A woman reported her sister missing when she did not arrive at her Ferry Street home as expected on a Saturday morning train from New York City. The sister showed up two days later, although no explanation was provided in news reports as to where she had been.

The Wonder Bar

A 1947 advertisement for The Wonder Bar

A 33-year-old parachutist died at the dedication of the $2 million Dutchess County Airport in New Hackensack during a “double delayed” stunt. After jumping from a PT-17 at 3,000 feet, the Army combat veteran opened his first chute and detached it. However, his second chute did not open.

Mayor Bolton rejected a plea sent via telegram by the chairman of the National Citizens’ Food Committee to appoint a local committee to encourage conservation, saying that shortages and rising prices were the fault of the federal government.

Following a loss by a softball team of Beacon police officers to a team of Poughkeepsie officers, The Beacon News explained that “our fellows are kept so busy with their duties, which they perform with exceptional efficiency, that they haven’t much time” to practice. The Poughkeepsie Journal responded that the defeat might instead be attributed to the pitching talents of Detective Murphy, who threw a no-hitter.

Leo Baekeland

Leo Baekeland on the cover of Time magazine in 1924

The estate of Leo Baekeland, a chemist who died in 1944 at the Craig House sanitarium in Beacon, was valued at $4 million [$53 million]. After creating velox, a photo printing paper he sold to Eastman Kodak, Baekeland converted a stable in Yonkers into a laboratory to search for an artificial substitute for varnish. Instead, in 1906, he invented bakelite, the first plastic to retain its shape when heated.

A 57-year-old New York City man drowned when he fell from the catwalk of a boat at Long Dock. The seaman had come to Beacon on the SS Andrea Barnes and spent the evening at local taverns. A cabdriver said he helped the victim to the catwalk at about 2:30 a.m. and called out to the watchman but heard a splash as he returned to his taxi.

Members of the semipro Beacon Varsity basketball team put out a call for opponents. The squad won 36 of its 42 matches the previous season but could only play away games because there was no local court.

A 72-year-old Corning man was charged with shoplifting an iron from Manning’s appliance store at 506 Main St.

The audiovisual club at Beacon High School listed some of the films it planned to screen at teachers’ requests, including, for the guidance department, The Secretary’s Day, The Secretary Takes Dictation and The Secretary Transcribes, and for the health department, Sitting Right and Tuberculosis.

Thieves broke in overnight at a gas station operated by Eugene Cadmus on Main Street near Chestnut and stole 515 pennies from the cash drawer.

50 Years Ago (October 1972)

The city unveiled its $6 million secondary sewage treatment plant on Dennings Point. Mayor Robert Cahill said the chlorinated effluent that it discharged into the Hudson was 90 percent pure. A representative of the state Department of Environmental Conservation called for residents to support a $1.15 billion environmental bond on the November ballot to fund more municipal sewage plants.

 Beacon sewage treatment plant

The Beacon sewage treatment plant on Dennings Point. File photo

Ed Williams of the Beacon High School football team recovered a fumble with seconds remaining against Kingston, securing a 12-10 victory and improving the Bulldogs’ record to 3-0.

The school board unanimously approved a three-year contract with the Beacon Teachers Association, 8-0, following a strike. Because it is illegal in New York for public employees to walk off the job, five union officials were sentenced to 10 or 15 days in jail but released after 32 hours pending an appeal. The contract raised the average teacher’s salary to $13,300 [$94,000] annually in its third year.

The Dutchess Ski Lodge hosted a three-day art expo with 90 exhibitors. It was coordinated by the Beacon Civic Arts and Cultural Development Committee.

The Planning Board met to discuss a proposal to build a high-rise apartment building on Fishkill Avenue. The developer’s plan included using a foundation built in 1965 for a similar project that was abandoned but the board indicated it wanted the number of apartments reduced from 102 to 96 and questioned the amount of parking and the 12-story height.

Two men died when their tractor-trailer drove off the two-lane Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. Police said the driver swerved to avoid a stalled truck, collided with an oncoming car and broke through a guardrail. The body of his passenger was found in the sleeping compartment.

A proposal by school board member Robert Frankel to appoint representatives of students, teachers, principals, parents and community members as non-voting members who could attend closed meetings was defeated, 5-1.

A city judge sentenced five teenagers convicted of loitering to job assignments at the Public Works Department, after which he dismissed the charges.

Fire destroyed a Monell Place home while its owners, Michael McDermott and his wife, were attending her birthday party at Dutchess Manor.

Walter Foeger, director of the Dutchess Ski Area, announced it had added two trails, expanded its water supply for snow-making and installed 32 lights for night skiing. He said the area would be able to accommodate 3,000 skiers daily.

25 Years Ago (October 1997)

Neighbors in the community surrounding Green Street Park raised $1,500 to build a playground. Local businesses contributed the landscaping, equipment and food for the volunteers who constructed it.

A 20-year-old man was accused of shooting at a person behind the Metropolis Bar on Main Street.

The city received a $250,000 state grant to revitalize the waterfront and make it more accessible. At the same time, Scenic Hudson was drafting a plan to spend $750,000 for cleanup and improvements at 21 acres it owned near the train station. The purchase raised concern with city officials that the nonprofit would keep the land off the tax rolls. “The city can’t afford to subsidize things for somebody else,” said Mayor Clara Lou Gould.

Folk singer Pete Seeger, who lived near Beacon, reacted to the death of John Denver (born John Deutschendorf Jr.), who died at age 53 when his experimental plane crashed in California. “His songs will keep going on for years to come,” he said. “He was just a friendly, natural guy with no pretensions at all.”

The Dutchess Legislature delayed a vote on whether to fund food stamps for 99 county residents who were not U.S. citizens. The federal government had eliminated food stamps for legal aliens as part of welfare reform, but state lawmakers said they would offer them in each county that agreed to pay half the cost. Republican legislators questioned allocating the $84,000 annually, but John Ballo, a Democrat whose district included Beacon, said: “These are legal residents. This is the United States of America. It’s not a country that turns people away.”

The City Council approved the sale, for $1, of the city-owned Dondero Building at 174-178 Main St. to developer Ron Sauers and architect Jeffrey Wilkinson. “We’re putting Beacon back together to the way it once was,” Wilkinson said. The plan called for commercial space and six loft apartments.

Beacon High School chemistry students celebrated National Mole Day with puns, poems, projects and experiments. (A mole is 6.02 x 1023 atoms or molecules.) The day’s only drama occurred when the chemistry teacher, wearing a welder’s mask, dropped a gummy bear into a flask of liquid sodium chlorate and triggered the fire alarm.

Beacon Looms, which opened in 1935 as an expansion of a New York City curtain company, said it would close and dismiss 70 employees. “We just don’t have enough work to keep going,” said Sy Sadinoff, its president. At one time, the firm employed hundreds of people making everything from hats to coats, but business dried up when discount chains such as Jamesway and Woolworth’s closed.

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