Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (September 1873)

The trustees of the Fishkill Landing schools debated whether to keep segregated classes for Black students up to a certain grade, but Black parents protested their children should not have to attend a separate school at any grade. (At the same time, the Board of Education in Poughkeepsie voted to close its Black school and integrate, noting that only 20 of 74 Black students attended.)

When a man named Latermore drove his horse and wagon across a damaged bridge that crossed the Hudson River Railroad at Fishkill Landing, the horse became frightened and slipped through an opening in the wood. Suspended by the harness, it dangled above a train that passed underneath, then was carefully lowered by ropes. However, the animal was so badly injured it had to be shot.

A boy named James Burks was seriously injured at the Wiccopee Rubber Works at Matteawan when he caught his hand in a grinder.

The Dutchess County sheriff and four officers came to Fishkill Landing in search of a suspected burglar named Rowland. When he escaped, the officers arrested John Faulkner of Newburgh, accusing him of aiding the fugitive. Faulkner said he witnessed the attempted arrest but was too busy delivering ale for a brewery to lend a hand.

The Seamless Clothing Manufacturing Co. leased a building opposite its factory at Matteawan to begin making piano felt.

According to the Fishkill Journal, the Millerton sheriff was taking a prisoner by train to the Poughkeepsie jail when it backed up over the Connecticut line to switch tracks. At that moment, the prisoner stood up and stepped off. Realizing his prisoner was now outside his jurisdiction, the sheriff pleaded with him to return.

The Rev. Duncan of St. John’s Church at Matteawan officiated at the 89th annual convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of New York. Among the guests at the convention, held at St. John’s Church in New York City, were the U.S. secretary of state, Hamilton Fish (a resident of Garrison), and the Right Rev. John Barrett Kerfoot, the bishop of Pittsburgh.

After hearing testimony in a lawsuit filed by a Fishkill resident who said he had been slandered as a thief, a jury found for the plaintiff. Asked for their verdict on damages, the eight jurors suggested amounts ranging from 6 cents to $100 and settled on $12.50 [$320 today].

Charles Winter of Matteawan displayed a 5-pound cluster of Syrian grapes at a Newburgh Bay Horticultural Society exhibit.

Despite an initial report that Mrs. Bellow’s son had been shot to death in Texas, she later learned he had only been stabbed, and survived.

The clerks of Matteawan challenged the clerks of Fishkill Landing to a game of baseball at Prospect Park in Matteawan.

The barn and haystack of Mr. Lester, who was leasing the Knapp farm on Dates Lane between Matteawan and Low Point [Chelsea], was destroyed in a 4 a.m. fire. Gypsies were blamed.

125 Years Ago (September 1898)

The Odd Fellows of Fishkill Landing hosted a Labor Day excursion to Coney Island aboard the Sirius. The iron steamer made a stop at Cold Spring but was so crowded only 16 of the 100 people waiting could board.

The Lewis Tompkins Hose Co. sent a Fishkill Landing undertaker to Cuba to retrieve the body of a member, Sidney Scofield, of the 71st Regiment, who had been killed by a sharpshooter during the Spanish-American War.

Frank McLaughlin Sr., who delivered cigars and tobacco for his brother, David, died after falling from the terrace of his home in Matteawan while tending to his chickens.

A 30-year-old Poughkeepsie man went to the river to gather driftwood; the next his family heard, he was in the Highland Hospital at Matteawan with one leg amputated at the hip and the other at the ankle. For reasons unknown, he had ridden the bumper of a southbound freight train to New Hamburg, where he fell off and was run over. A conductor lifted the injured man back onto the train and continued to Fishkill Landing.

A swindler who claimed to be S. Jerome Armour, a nephew of the Chicago meatpacking magnate, stayed at the Dibble House, where he showed off a check made out to Armour & Co. for $250,000 [$9 million]. Mr. Dibble sent a message to Chicago to verify the guest’s identity, but before he could get a response, the man had disappeared, leaving behind a forged check to pay his board.

The Democrats nominated W. Martin Watson of Fishkill Landing, a lawyer and member of the 71st Regiment, as their candidate for a state Assembly seat. The 23-year-old had opened a recruiting station but, when few men signed up, he enlisted and went to Cuba himself. “He did not return with his regiment and nothing was heard from him for weeks,” reported the New York Sun. “When he arrived home on a Monday night, the town went wild” and he was offered the nomination. The Republican candidate was John T. Smith, the president of two banks and the street railroad.

Police Chief Elijah Mosher, of Matteawan, in search of Antonio Prunier, who was suspected of absconding with his wife’s diamonds, received a tip that he had joined the Army. Mosher wrote to various military camps until Fort McHenry in Baltimore responded that Prunier was there and would be held.

100 Years Ago (September 1923)

Edna Shoemaker, the former principal of the Matteawan School, was implicated in a murder case. She testified that she had written a letter formerly attributed to the victim, Edith Lavoy, who had been one of her teachers. Prosecutors cited the letter at the trial of William Creasy, accused of killing Lavoy, as evidence of motive: In it, she broke off their engagement. Creasy, who was sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing, was given a new trial by an appeals court that ruled the letter was inadmissible because it was not in Lavoy’s handwriting.

Officer Burke was stationed at the Mount Beacon Casino to ensure couples kept their feet moving and didn’t slip into “stepless dances.”


The composer of this famous song visited Beacon in 1923.

Frank Silver, the composer of Yes! We Have No Bananas, spent a few days in Beacon on his way to the Catskills. He told a reporter that he and the lyricist, Irving Cohn, had made $60,000 [$1.1 million] on the song, which had been released in March, and expected to make more.

A Cross Street man who was offered $700 for a lot on South Cedar Street discovered he didn’t own the property. He had won the parcel at a city tax sale, but Beacon said the taxes were current at that location and that the lot he purchased was actually on Brett Street. However, it found the taxes were current there, as well. The buyer said he planned to sue.

An autopsy determined that Thomas Lott, 48, who had been found dead at his home on Beekman Street, was poisoned by mushroom stew. He and two friends made the meal after hunting woodchucks and gathering toadstools; the other two men were not affected.

A Democratic primary vote for the 2nd Ward supervisor ended with controversy. Harold Jones (also the Republican nominee) received four votes, while James Lynch Sr. received three. There was also a vote for James Lynch, but without the “Sr.” it could have been for father or son and was discarded.

Frank Martin, a former Beacon resident who moved to Los Angeles, was a caddy at the Hollywood golf club. His regulars included actors Norma Tallmadge, Larry Semon and Jesse Lansky.

 larry semon

A former Beacon resident caddied in the 1920s in Hollywood for the silent film comedian Larry Semon (left).

Members of the Ku Klux Klan apparently met early on a Wednesday morning at the Wilkes Street baseball field. Cars were seen departing at 1 a.m., and neighbors found the charred remains of a cross. A few days earlier, a cross had been burned in Fairview Cemetery.

The Matteawan Silk Mill shut down temporarily because of a lack of raw material from Japan.

Beacon installed new speed-limit signs at city entrances after a motorist who had received a speeding ticket successfully argued in court that the numbers on the former signs were smaller than state law required.

75 Years Ago (September 1948)

Four men armed with revolvers held up the New Haven House at 12 Beekman St. at 1 a.m. on a Saturday. After binding the owner, John Bruno, and three others, the men stole $139 from the customers and $56 from the register.

Ten days later, one bandit was shot dead and another critically wounded by two off-duty detectives who interrupted the gang during the daytime robbery of a real estate office in Queens. Bruno and a customer traveled to New York City to identify the other two men in a lineup.

A 59-year-old employee at the new St. Joachim’s cemetery dropped dead while arranging the flowers on a newly dug grave.

Beacon firefighters asked the City Council for a $500 raise to their annual salaries of $2,500 [$32,000].

Residents at the Beacon View hotel at 424 Main St. were awakened at 2 a.m. by shouts for help from the second floor. Police found a chair cushion had caught fire and filled a room with smoke.

The body of Pvt. Arnold Lasko, who died in the Pacific during World War II, was among 3,921 casualties returned to the U.S. for reburial.

A 17-year-old Beacon girl pleaded guilty to being a wayward minor and was sent to a reformatory in Westchester County.

During a tackle in a 25-6 loss at Poughkeepsie, a Beacon High School football player suffered what appeared to be a fractured skull. Several years earlier, the high school had dropped the sport after a player was critically injured but had added it back before the 1947 season.

A 12-year veteran of the Beacon Police Department was suspended after being accused of drinking alcohol while on duty.

A former financial secretary of Local 301 of the United Electrical Workers testified to a U.S. House labor committee that he had attended a “secret school” for Communists in Beacon in 1936 as the party attempted to take control of the union.

50 Years Ago (September 1973)

Thomas Wyatt, who had been hired as a riverkeeper by the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, the Scenic Hudson River Preservation Conference, the Sloop Restoration and the Hudson River Conservation Society, told the Beacon Kiwanis Club that the Hudson was making a comeback after decades of pollution.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation sent two planes to dump 4,000 gallons of water on a remote ridge of Mount Beacon to douse a fire that destroyed 10 acres. Officials blamed campers for the blaze.

A 27-year-old Beacon man was sentenced to four years in prison after he and three friends broke into an East Fishkill lumberyard. Because the other defendants were all under 20 years old, the prosecutor referred to the man in court as Fagin, after the character in Oliver Twist who trained children to steal.

25 Years Ago (September 1998)

A Beacon woman wrote to the Poughkeepsie Journal to thank a driver from Beekman Taxi who doubled back on Route 9 just north of Peekskill to give her a ride after her car broke down after dark. He was returning from taking a fare to New York City.

The Beacon school district expanded Glenham Elementary with four classrooms for first graders and Sargent Elementary with six classrooms for kindergarteners.

Sitting in a lawn chair on Main Street during the annual Spirit of Beacon Day, Thelma Cherry, 80, a lifelong resident, recalled that during her childhood in the 1920s, “this was a thriving city.” It had fallen more recently into industrial decline and racial strife, which the 21-year-old celebration was created to remedy.

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