Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (October 1873)

The creditors of Caleb Knapp, whose shoe store at Fishkill Landing was $2,647 in debt [$68,000 today] when he disappeared, gathered at the Court of Bankruptcy to see what they could recover.

Two men who were seriously injured in an explosion of nitroglycerine during blasting near Sylvan Lake were placed on a train at Dutchess Junction bound for Bellevue Hospital in New York City.

James Welsh, a laborer at the Mott Brick Co., near Dutchess Junction, was killed while pushing a carload of bricks along the tracks when he slipped under the wheels.

An empty train car came loose at Glenham and rushed through Matteawan “like a spectral car with Satan for an engineer,” according to The Cold Spring Recorder. Informed by telegraph that the car was coming, officials at Dutchess Junction stopped it with a barricade of railroad ties.

Because of a national financial crisis, the Schenck’s machine shop at Matteawan closed and 100 men were dismissed. At the Matteawan Hat Shop, which employed 282 men, a manager said: “If this thing keeps on 10 days longer, we shall close. The most our employees can stand is a stoppage of one to three months.” The Seamless Clothing Co., which made druggets, hoop skirts and linings for arctic shoes, robes and blankets, had been running 24/7 with 500 employees but had reduced that to daytime with 350 workers.

While fishing at Lake Levenon, 5 miles from Monticello, Dr. H.C. Wilson and Lyman Moses of Matteawan caught 150 pounds of pickerel that weighed from 8 ounces to 4 pounds each.

125 Years Ago (October 1898)

Herman Inman of Matteawan broke his collarbone while bicycle racing at Peattle’s when a person ran in front of him on the track.

William Woods of Cold Spring purchased some of the frame tenement buildings at Glenham owned by the Hiltons and tore them down to sell the timber.

The residence of Reuben Knapp in the Highlands burned to the ground on a Wednesday afternoon. Knapp and his wife and their hired hand were in the field husking corn when they were astonished to see the home ablaze. A neighbor had spotted the flames and sounded the alarm, but the house and everything in it was lost. Working with neighbors in a brisk wind, they did manage to save the barns and other buildings.

The Matteawan Journal boasted that the introduction of electric light and an excellent water supply kept the village on par with other progressive villages.

Frank Howard received word that his brothers, Fred and Irving, had drowned when their small boat capsized while crossing the Hothen Inlet in Alaska. They had gone to search for gold in the Yukon.

John Sullivan

Heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan visited Matteawan in 1898.

John L. Sullivan, the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing, visited the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane when his exhibition tour brought him to Fishkill for one of only three bareknuckle fights of his career, against Jake Kilrain. He and Kilrain, who came along, wore their “ring costumes” and gently sparred for the 600 patients, who jumped on chairs, shouted, clapped and cheered for five minutes. “When I meet you again I hope it will be under more favorable conditions for yourselves,” Sullivan said.

The following week, the Matteawan inmates performed a musical comedy, For Love and War, accompanied by the Matteawan Asylum Orchestra. The cast consisted of prisoners and three guards. In the front row sat the infamous triple murderer, Lizzie Halliday, and Oliver Curtis Perry, the train robber who blinded himself.

The Fishkill Herald printed this notice: “Will the person who surreptitiously abstracted the 1897 5th District registration book from the Town Clerk’s office at Matteawan and left an 1896 book in its place, please return the same.”

The Warm Springs of Fishkill Landing, a baseball team of Black players, hosted the Lone Stars, a team of Black players from Newburgh, winning 71-18. After the game, the teams marched through the streets with a fife and drum, then held a cake walk and a hop.

100 Years Ago (October 1923)

John Pendleton went to City Court to complain that the principal of the Matteawan School had cut his son’s hair without permission. The principal said the boy’s hair, usually combed in a pompadour style, had fallen over his eyes, and he cut it as an act of kindness.

Work on the Melzingah dam site was becoming hazardous because of the number of copperheads, rattlers and other snakes, including a nest with eight inhabitants.

St. John’s Catholic Church sold a piece of its property on Willow Street for $6,500 [$117,000]. It planned to use the funds to build a convent.

Fifty boys tried out for the first soccer team at Beacon High School.

A hatter named Roy Annan with a wife and 6-year-old child in Beacon was arrested on a charge of bigamy. He allegedly married Wife No. 2 in New York City in 1922 and had a 4-month-old baby with her. It was later determined that Wife No. 2 was actually Wife No. 3; to marry Wife No. 3, Annan had shown the priest a fake death certificate for Wife No. 2.

Rep. Hamilton Fish was treated to dinner at the Holland Hotel by Beacon residents to welcome him back from a trip to Europe. Before the event, the congressman visited the Mase Hook and Ladder Co.

75 Years Ago (October 1948)

Eight slot machines were seized at the Elks Lodge, and a Beacon man pleaded guilty to owning and operating them. He paid a $50 fine [$1,500] and the machines, valued at $2,000 [$25,000], were destroyed. The $119 inside was given to the Department of Public Assistance. The slots were discovered by an inspector from the Dutchess County Alcohol Beverage Control Board in a room off the bar.

During a campaign address in Beacon, the Democratic nominee for the state Assembly dismissed the chairman of the Republican County Committee as a “machine boss and dictator.”

A group of 35 Beacon High School students started a school newspaper.

Durisol Inc., which made roofing planks, announced it would construct a $250,000 [$3 million], 10,000-square-foot plant at the former Dennings Point brickworks site. Its innovative planks were made from mineralized wood chips combined with cement and reinforced by steel bars.

50 Years Ago (October 1973)

Frank Moore, the Republican challenger for mayor, vowed that, if elected, he would end urban development projects such as the Tompkins Terrace apartment complex.

Col. William Few, the signer of the Declaration of Independence who had been buried in a vault behind the Reformed Church, was re-interred in Augusta, Georgia. Few died in Fishkill Landing in 1828 while visiting his daughter. A member of the Fishkill Historical Society and Georgia Gov. Jim Carter took part in the ceremony.

The Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps asked the Planning Board for an access road from Fishkill Avenue to Asylum Road on the Matteawan State Hospital grounds, where it planned to build a new headquarters.

The National Shakespeare Co. performed As You Like It at Beacon High School.

Dave Eraca, who played third base for Beacon High School and had a .500 batting average during the spring season, was named the outstanding senior high school player in Dutchess County by the Old Timers Baseball Association.

Dr. Solon Wolff, a retired physician in Beacon, shared a ghost story with the Poughkeepsie Journal: “A former New York City fire chief trained horses on the grounds of the present Matteawan hospital. When one of the famous trotters died, he had the horse buried on the estate. Since that time, many people have reported hearing a mysterious horse which gallops about the grounds at night.”

25 Years Ago (October 1998)

Beacon officials were hopeful that a Façade Improvement Program that offered low-interest loans to property owners to restore their storefronts would return Main Street to its former glory, particularly on the west end. Owners could apply for loans of up to $7,500 at 0.5 percent below the prime rate, which was 8.25 percent.

For the first time, the state parks department allowed artists to visit Pollepel Island to create paintings for a benefit organized by the Bannerman Castle Trust.

James Yanarella, 60, was shot and killed by his wife in Poughkeepsie. He had taught on Saturdays for years at the Yanarella School of Dance in Beacon, which was owned by a relative, and served as master of ceremonies at recitals.

City Administrator Joseph Braun presented a proposed budget to the City Council that included a 6.5 percent tax increase. “We had no tax increase last year,” he said. “This year we have to pay the piper.”

Two new stores opened: Billy’s Cafe at 422 Main St. and Beacon Wine Shoppe and Liquors at 344 Main St., formerly Ritter’s Liquor Store.

Evelyn Merritt died at age 90. From 1954 to 1982, she and her husband ran Dutchess Publishing in Beacon, which printed the Beacon Light, Fishkill Standard and East Fishkill Record.

The Beacon school board hired a Rhinebeck architectural firm to draw plans for a new high school. “Because we design buildings that are tools in the educational process, we have to determine what a high school education in Beacon will mean in the new millennium,” said Louis Turpin, the firm’s founder. The building was expected to cost $30 million [$57 million today].

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