Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (November 1872)

The Phoenix Manufacturing Co. of Fishkill Landing was contracted to build 20 brick machines based on a patent owned by a resident of Newark, New Jersey.

“Aunt Peggy” Decker, a Black woman who lived in Newburgh, died at 107. She was the oldest person in Orange County.

A gale blew two freight cars parked on a side track at Dutchess Junction toward the river, but they derailed before running into the water.

Henry Winthrop Sargent, of Wodenethe, near Fishkill Landing, lost property in the Great Fire in Boston that had been yielding him $10,000 annually in rent [about $243,000 today].

Henry Winthrop Sargent home

The Henry Winthrop Sargent home near Fishkill Landing

Sargent, a renowned horticulturist and landscape gardener, was appointed chair of Group 2 (Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry) at the international exhibition to be held in Vienna in 1873.

A burglar stole 40 pennies from W.H. Harris’ meat market in Fishkill Landing.

According to a news account, a man who had left Matteawan years before for the West was gone so long his wife assumed him dead and she remarried. When he returned, she pretended not to know him — until she learned he was worth $75,000 [$1.8 million], after which she told her new husband to “caper away about his business.”

Who Was the First Librarian?

Minnie Badeau

Minnie Badeau

According to the Howland Public Library, which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary, its first official librarian in 1872 was Joseph Badeau. However, further research by the library and the Beacon Historical Society revealed that his “assistant” (and wife), Wilhelmina “Minnie” Badeau, was the actual librarian, a fact acknowledged only after her death in 1904.

With assistance from the East Fishkill Historical Society, the Howland was able to locate a Badeau descendant, Jane Foster of LaGrange, Georgia, shown below with a portrait of her great-grandfather during a visit to the Howland Cultural Center, the original site of the library.

According to the Howland, the couple and their seven children lived on the second floor of the library. In 1907, when Nancy Lamont became librarian, she moved in with her family, and the practice continued through the 1970s until the library moved to its present location at 313 Main St.

Jane Foster

Jane Foster at the Howland Cultural Center with a portrait of her great-grandfather, who was credited as the first librarian (Howland Public Library)

The Fishkill Landing Gas Works had become profitable, according to The Cold Spring Recorder. “The churches, factories and most of the stores, both at the Landing and Matteawan, are supplied.”

Charles Hunt, the son of Alva Hunt of Glenham, was killed by the accidental discharge of his gun while hunting in New Jersey.

125 Years Ago (November 1897)

The historic Teller house at Matteawan was opened to the public three days a week for 5 cents admission.

Spafford Atkinson, known as Oklahoma Bill, shot James Bogardus in the leg at Thomas Knibbs’ saloon in Matteawan on a Monday afternoon. After 18 days in jail, Atkinson was released when he signed a pledge to stop drinking.

In a Newburgh meat market was a 3-foot-long facsimile of the steamer Homer Ramsdell made entirely of high-quality leaf lard.

Homer Ramsdell

The Homer Ramsdell — imagine it in lard

Bessie Hallenbeck, who lived near Fishkill Landing, reported her husband, George, missing. When she last heard he was at Cold Spring looking for work and it is thought he left for New York City on a barge.

The St. Luke’s Athletic Club football team defeated Highlands Falls, 38-0, and Cornwall Military Academy, 18-0.

Legrand Woolsey, 16, was seriously injured during a pickup football game at Fishkill Landing on Thanksgiving morning, his right side paralyzed. He underwent surgery to remove his appendix.

Frenchy

Frenchy

The French consul-general asked the New York governor to pardon Amer Ben Ali, aka “Frenchy,” who was convicted in 1891 of killing a woman known as “Old Shakespeare” in a cheap lodging house in New York City. Frenchy, described as an “imbecile,” spent six years at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he learned English and began protesting his innocence and declaring himself of sound mind.

A hunter named Harry Ireland found a lump of ore in the Fishkill Mountains that “experts” proclaimed to be gold, with a small amount of silver. One news account said several young men who had planned to go to the Klondike [in Alaska, where gold had been discovered earlier that year] changed their plans “and the price of land has already advanced.” However, another newspaper noted that Fishkill was “pretty late in getting into the ring. Gold was discovered at nearly every other point in the United States within 60 days after the news of the Klondike strike.”

A state court ordered a man who sued for $15,000 after he lost his wife and two children in the bursting of the Melzingah reservoir in July to settle for $450. Other survivors were ordered to settle for $150 each. The judge said the plaintiffs should be happy with those amounts because the defendant, the Fishkill and Matteawan Water Co., said its property was mortgaged for $70,000 but it had $75,000 in pending claims.

George Garrison, an inmate at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, escaped. He had been trusted to paint the rear of the building and used one of the ladders to scale the wall. He was captured the next day when he approached a home to ask for something to eat — as it happened, the son of the owner was an attendant at the asylum and recognized him.

A New Jersey court affirmed the conviction of a former detective for the West Shore Railroad Co., Edward Clifford, who gained fame and a $1,500 reward for capturing Oliver Curtis Perry, a train robber who escaped from the Matteawan asylum. The money was his downfall, his friends said, for he neglected his work and began drinking. When he was fired by William Wattson, the division superintendent, he begged for another chance. After being fired a second time, he shot Wattson, who later died. Clifford pleaded insanity but was sentenced to hang.

In an investigative report titled “Cruelties at Matteawan,” a reporter for The New York Herald reported that inmates were being beaten, tortured with hypodermic needles and kept in filthy cells. He based his report on “rumors” and an interview with Perry, the train robber. The reporter noted that although the asylum had only been open for five years, its cemetery had 72 graves.

100 Years Ago (November 1922)

The city planned to collect back taxes from residents, including ex-mayor Samuel Beskin, who did not contribute to repaving and adding sidewalks on Beekman Street. The costs were split between the city, the Citizens Street Railway Co. and residents who had property abutting the street. The day before  the city was scheduled to seize and sell his property, Beskin submitted a check for his share of the street work but refused to pay for the sidewalk. He claimed that city officials gave him the walk and curb at no charge, although there was no record of such an agreement.

John Cronin, the city fuel administrator, said he had received two complaints from residents who were charged $17 per ton for chestnut coal that turned out to be a mixture of buckwheat and pea. Cronin noted that dealers in nearby towns and villages were charging $12 or $13 per ton for chestnut.

A torchlight parade preceded a meeting at the Columbus Institute in support of the Republican candidates J. Griswold Webb for state senator and Rep. Hamilton Fish for Congress. The Beacon City Band led the procession from Town Hall to Fountain Square to Bank Square and back to the institute.

The largest crowd ever assembled to witness a high school basketball game in Beacon watched the home team defeat New Paltz, 34-5, in its opener.

Two schoolboys charged with juvenile delinquency were sent by a judge to the St. Vincent’s School in Albany. One boy was sleeping at night on the sidewalk at Bank Square and the other ran away from home and missed several days of school.

Workers using steam shovels to excavate ground for a government hospital for disabled soldiers [Castle Point] unearthed three skeletons believed to be Native Americans of the Wappinger tribe. Some local residents insisted they were white settlers but could not explain the stone arrowheads on each body’s chest. It was proposed that the remains be sent to the National Museum in Washington.

Margaret Wolgast of New York City became the first woman ever charged in Dutchess County with bootlegging when she was arrested in Fishkill driving a Buick filled with 275 bottles of illicit booze. Wolgast and her male companion allegedly offered the state troopers who stopped them $100 to look the other way, but they were taken to the Beacon police station to wait for arraignment.

Emil Peterson, the husband of Susan Cunningham, a former Beacon resident, was killed when a New York Central freight locomotive exploded near Red Hook. He was buried at St. Joachim’s cemetery.

Daniel Dugan sued The Beacon Herald and The Beacon Journal for slander, demanding $20,000 [$350,000] in damages. Dugan was involved in a lawsuit with a New York City attorney over a home just outside the city. Dugan gave a statement to the Herald that included allegations that the attorney disputed in a letter to the editor, which Dugan claimed slandered him.

75 Years Ago (November 1947)

A father of four who lived on South Avenue was arrested on a “serious morals offense” involving an 11-year-old boy, on a complaint by the boy’s parents.

50 Years Ago (November 1972)

The State Liquor Authority canceled the license of Vince’s Hideaway on East Main Street after its owner, Rosario Pisco, was convicted on a weapons charge.

The Happy Hour Cafe, at 315 Main St., suffered heavy damage in a 3 a.m. blaze that required 70 firefighters from all three Beacon companies to control.

The Beacon High School senior class sponsored a basketball game between faculty members and a Harlem Globetrotters knock-off, the Harlem Diplomats.

Benjamin Roosa Jr., a Republican, won the state Assembly seat for the newly created 100th District, which included Beacon. He received 48 percent of the vote to defeat the Democratic, Conservative and Liberal party candidates.

The Dutchess County Committee for Economic Opportunity shifted its services from the City of Poughkeepsie to Beacon and rural areas. Its board said it planned to spend $60,000 of its $375,000 budget on housing programs in Beacon and increase the city’s funds by 100 percent “to address the needs of the Spanish community, the poor white and black community, senior citizens and youth problems.” At the same time, it planned to move the city’s Opportunity Center from the grounds of St. Andrew’s Church and cancel funding for the Martin Luther King Library because of “a lack of impact.”

The City Council approved a request from the Beacon-Fishkill Area Chamber of Commerce to provide free parking on Main Street from Nov. 22 to Dec. 25 for the holiday shopping season.

The Dutchess of Beacon Hotel at Main and Elm streets, which was nearly 100 years old, was torn down for an expansion of the Fishkill Landing and Lumber Co. For the previous five years, it had been the headquarters of the Beacon Neighborhood Service Organization but was sold at a tax auction. [The site is now occupied by Dutchess County offices and a parking lot.]

The Dutchess

The Dutchess, aka the Holland House, was torn down in 1972.

Two Beacon patrolmen, William Penn and William Ashburn, spotted flames at 12:40 a.m. at 48 North Ave. and rushed into the home to save three residents.

The City Council approved a resolution to have the Department of Public Works take over garbage collection. The cost was expected to be at least 30 percent less than two bids received.

Francis Kapusinsky, the superintendent of schools, revealed that 35 of the district’s 200 teachers did not have state certification. He said that, regardless, many had been given tenure.

25 Years Ago (November 1997)

Twelve candidates were on the ballot for six seats on the City Council, including seven running for office for the first time. However, three incumbents were re-elected and the Democrats maintained their 4-3 majority.

Dutchess County residents voted to trim the size of the Legislature from 35 to 25 seats.

The Dutchess County Old Timers Baseball Association inducted Joe Ranalli and Chet Pietrowski of Beacon into its Hall of Fame.

In an attempt to slow traffic on Rombout Avenue, the City Council voted to create a four-way stop at its intersection with South Chestnut.

Pamal Broadcasting took control of WSPK-FM (K104) and WBNR of Beacon and laid off four DJs and a newscaster.

A 19-year-old Beacon man pleaded guilty to the possession of six bags of crack cocaine he said he intended to sell on Main Street.

The FBI launched an investigation into the alleged beating of a 17-year-old Black teenager from Beacon by guards while he was incarcerated at the Dutchess County Jail awaiting trial on robbery charges.

Scenic Hudson presented its concept plan for 21 acres of land it owned on the Beacon waterfront, including shops, restaurants and lodging. The nonprofit said it would spend about $750,000 on improvements, such as a paved entrance road and a pedestrian plaza, before showing the property to developers.

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