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

150 Years Ago (April 1873)

After the home of Sylvester Townsend burned in Matteawan, all that remained was its 25-foot chimney. The next morning, five girls ages 7 to 12 were playing at the chimney base when it crumbled. Two died and three were seriously injured. A sixth girl had spotted the structure swaying, grabbed a toddler and jumped out of the way.

Samuel Stewart of Newburgh died of arsenic poisoning. According to his wife, who was sickened but survived, she had been making a pie when she reached to the top shelf of the cupboard for an ingredient. She said a piece of paper flew down and white powder fell on the pie. She told authorities she assumed it was cream of tartar and scraped it off with a spoon.

John Monell of Fishkill Landing purchased 17 acres in Matteawan that he planned to turn into a subdivision called Prospect Square.

Shoenig’s store in Matteawan was destroyed by fire; the proprietor had closed early to attend the circus and a kerosene lamp apparently exploded. Shoenig was alerted by an announcement in the circus tent.

eumelan grape
The Eumelan grape was discovered in Fishkill Landing.

In a presentation to the Michigan Pomological Society, an enthusiast described modern grape varieties such as the Eumelan, believed to be a cross between the Clinton and Isabella, that grew by chance in the Fishkill Landing yard of Mr. Thorne around 1847 and was documented 20 years later by horticulturist C.W. Grant of Iona Island.

William Agnew, an engine-room stoker on the White Star steamer Baltic, was killed by a train at the Fishkill Landing station. He was survived by his wife and three children in Liverpool, England.

Samuel Peters of Tarrytown, a patient at Dr. Kittredge’s private insane asylum at Fishkill Landing, fell or jumped from a river ferryboat and drowned.

Charles Brown, formerly of Fishkill Landing, hanged himself at Annsville, near Peekskill. It was said that after a quarrel with his wife over the location of a hen’s nest (she wanted it moved away from the water), he attacked her with a knife. When she wrested the weapon from him, he said, “If I can’t kill you, I can kill myself.”

125 Years Ago (April 1898)

Philip Smith, a bookseller from Fishkill Landing, was arrested in Cornwall on charges that he rented obscene books to boys for 25 and 30 cents each. Smith’s brother, John Smith, also lived in Fishkill Landing, where he was president of the First National Bank, Mechanics Saving Bank and Citizens Street Railroad, and chaired the Republican Committee of Dutchess County. [Smith was later fined $250, or about $9,000 today.]

According to the Fishkill Standard, after seeing a club-footed girl on the street in Matteawan. Dr. Tetamore made her a cast from plaster of paris so she could walk like other children.

Coroner Bevier of Matteawan was called to Dutchess Junction, where he “had a queer experience with the Arabs there,” according to The Cold Spring Register. Daniel Mauy, who worked at Timoney’s brickyard, had been killed after he stepped in front of railcars coming down an incline into the yard. In her grief, Mauy’s widow “pulled her long black hair from her head by the handful” and the dead man’s companions were “very much excited,” the coroner reported, making it difficult for him to assemble a jury to view the body.

The proprietors of soda fountains in Fishkill Landing collectively agreed to double the price of a glass of ice cream soda water to 10 cents.

Peter McShane, 17, ran away from home to join the Navy, telling recruiters he was 22. His parents had him returned to Fishkill Landing.

According to the New York Evening Journal, whistles blew and church bells rang in Matteawan and many other towns at the news that President William McKinley had signed a resolution of war in support of Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain. At the same time, a company of 100 engineers boarded the train at West Point to travel to New York City, where they planned to sail for Key West to join the fight. [Instead, the company was sent to California for training and never saw action.]

Burglars entered the railroad depot at Matteawan by standing on empty oil barrels to cut out panes in the windows of the ladies’ waiting room. They stole 75 cents from the ticket office till and broke into two express packages.

100 Years Ago (April 1923)

Three years after being transferred from the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane to the Hudson River State Hospital, Bernard McDonough escaped and made his way by foot and hitchhiking to the Beacon facility, which he said he preferred. He was promptly returned to Poughkeepsie.

Frank Hutton, who was reported to have hanged himself, quipped in a letter to the editor: “I deny I committed suicide. It is true I have been hanging around the house for several days, but not at the end of a rope.”

The Beacon Lumber & Coal Co. offered a $25 reward for information about overnight burglars who were repeatedly stealing its coal.

Four inmates who escaped from the Matteawan asylum at 3 a.m. by stealing a hospital car at gunpoint were recaptured in Kent, Connecticut. Two gave up peacefully and two fired on police and were each shot in the leg. The two injured fugitives were spirited back to New York and placed under guard at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie. The others said they would fight extradition, although they were soon turned over when New York officials noted an earlier court ruling that Matteawan patients had no such rights.

75 Years Ago (April 1948)

A woman’s screams alerted a patrol officer to two 8-year-olds riding the cowcatcher on a freight locomotive as it pulled into the New Hamburg station. The boys said they had left school in Newburgh, crossed to Beacon on a ferry and sat on the cowcatcher at the station before it traveled the 10 miles to New Hamburg.

Edith Welty, a member of the Yonkers City Council, spoke at a meeting hosted by the Beacon Rentpayers and Taxpayers Association at the high school addressing the question: “Should Beacon have a city manager form of government?”

Charles Banto, a convicted killer, escaped from a second-floor dorm room at the Matteawan State Hospital farm colony by tying his bedsheets into a rope. Although an alarm sounded within 10 minutes, Banto was still at large the next morning.

State troopers searching for a missing 15-year-old who didn’t return home found him at 8 p.m. inside Beacon High School. Police said they had no explanation for why the teen was locked in the school, or why he didn’t attempt to get out.

The City Council confirmed two appointments by the mayor to replace school board members whose 5-year terms had expired.

The weekly, 106-year-old Beacon Light and Fishkill Standard, which owner Robert Pendell called “the only outspoken Democratic publication in Dutchess County,” ceased publication. Pendell cited rising union printer wages and advertising competition. He said his printing business would continue.

Two homeless men, each about 50 years old, were arrested for unlawful entry after they were discovered living in a vacant house on Tioronda Avenue. Police said the men were using blankets stolen from a Highland Hospital ambulance.

50 Years Ago (April 1973)

A dinner dance at Dutchess Manor honored 42 retirees from the Matteawan State Hospital, whose name had been changed to the Correctional Center for Medical Services.

The City Council passed a resolution expressing support for a national, weeklong meat boycott and the mayor added his name to a petition circulated by members of Consumers Against Meat Prices. Costs had risen 5.4 percent in a month.

The Planning Board recommended against a permit to convert an abandoned gas station at 155 Fishkill Ave. into a roofing supply storage facility.

Two Beacon men were indicted for holding up a pharmacy in Rhinebeck with a .22-caliber rifle. Their take was $42 [about $285 today].

The Federal Highway Administration approved a state plan to build a 3.5-mile arterial highway from Dutchess Junction to Route 84. The road would proceed northwest of Craig House Road and across Fishkill Creek to Wolcott Avenue; north along Hudson Avenue, Park Avenue and Ferry Street to Main Street; and then along Route 9D.

The Urban Development Corp. held hearings for the sale of two parcels formerly owned by the Matteawan hospital: Roundtree Builders would pay $60,000 [$408,000] for 24 acres to construct a 300-unit townhouse complex, and the Knights of Columbus would pay $35,000 [$238,000] for 5 acres to build a meeting hall.

The City Council approved the sale by the Beacon Urban Renewal Agency of a parcel at Wolcott and South avenues for $31,000 [$211,000] to Victor Looper for a shopping center. It also approved a permit for construction of a 13-story apartment building at 42 Fishkill Ave. That plan included extending Church Street to connect with Fishkill Avenue as part of a loop system detailed in the city’s master plan.

A clerk from the Gallagher Shell station was robbed at gunpoint while delivering the day’s receipts to his employer’s home on Violet Drive. The employee said the two assailants wore ski jackets with the hoods pulled around their heads and that one was armed with a shotgun.

25 Years Ago (April 1998)

The Vegetable Garden organic restaurant and pizzeria, owned by Rexhep Bobi, moved from Main Street to 389 Fishkill Ave.

The Beacon school district asked a court to issue an injunction after 10 bus drivers called in sick the day after two colleagues had been suspended. The union said there was no organized “sick out,” and that the drivers all had doctors’ notes. The day before, the board had suspended a driver for 30 days for being at fault in an accident and another for 60 days for speeding. After the school board approved the suspensions, 30 drivers walked out of the meeting in protest.

Jose Rodriquez, the Beacon High School boys’ track coach, recorded his 100th career victory with a win over Hendrick Hudson.

The Fishkill Town Board agreed to allow Beacon to annex a 12-acre parcel on Depuyster Avenue. Elsie Burke wanted to give part of the property to her granddaughter, Erin Bursee, but was told Fishkill couldn’t allow a subdivision because there would be no access for emergency vehicles except through Beacon. After the vote, Bursee said, “We always thought we were in Beacon.”

A fire at 215 Main St. left nine people homeless and damaged BJ’s Restaurant at 213 Main. No one was hurt. About 65 firefighters fought the afternoon blaze as spectators filled the street.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

A former longtime national magazine editor, Rowe has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Idaho and South Dakota and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. Location: Philipstown. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.