Looking Back in Beacon

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

150 Years Ago (November 1873)

The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher was reported to be so well-pleased with the architectural design of the Howland library building in Matteawan that he wrote Mr. Howland for information about the designer.

Charles Dickens, the orphan bootblack [shoe polisher] on the Fanny Garner at Dutchess Junction, broke his arm while going down the hatchway into the hold. His friends started him in the cigar business until he could resume polishing.

Edward Herriman, a deckhand on the steamer Union, nearly drowned at Fishkill Landing. The boat had backed a short distance from the dock but he didn’t notice the plank and walked directly into the water. The pilot heard his cries.

A new stagecoach was put on the route between Matteawan and the ferry.

The Fishkill Landing Machine Works, located near the depot on the river, said it had not been affected by a national financial panic and continued to operate with a full complement of 100 men at full wages.

150 YEARS AGO fishkill landing steam

A horizontal steam engine made in 1873 by the Fishkill Landing Machine Works

The Chicago Express hit some barrels of flour at Dutchess Junction, smashing one.

The construction of 27 lampposts was completed at Matteawan and the streets lit with gas for the first time.

The Dutchess County sheriff came to Matteawan to sell the stock and fixtures of James McGarvey’s confectionary store, which had failed.

On a Wednesday morning there were 22 steamboats and tows in Newburgh Bay, which delayed the ferry by 30 minutes as it avoided them.

A man invaded the Matteawan home of Peter Evans, drawing a knife from his pocket and saying the devil had sent him to kill the entire family before fleeing into the woods.

Oliver Davidson, the agent at the Sylvan Lake Mining Co., deposited $4,300 [about $110,000 today] in the office safe for payroll and said goodnight to Charles Howard, the telegraph operator and bookkeeper. The next morning, he received a telegraph from Howard, sent from Fishkill Landing, that read: “Had to go away on business. Home tonight.” Alarmed, Davidson rushed to check the safe and found it empty. The night operator at the Fishkill Landing station who sent the telegraph said that Howard’s wife was with him. Howard’s landlord said he had rented his tenant a horse and wagon, which was found at the Hopewell train station.

The baggage handler and American Express agent at the Fishkill Landing depot, identified only as Emmett, abruptly left town. An examiner from American Express came to check the books and found $20 [$500] belonging to Emmett in the safe and $50 due him from the railroad company.

An advertisement from The Fishkill Standard: “The individual who lost his hat when being chased from the cabbage patch on the grounds of the Matteawan Manufacturing Co. can have the same by calling on the watchman.”

A barn owned by Mr. Devereux on the east side of the creek at Matteawan burned to the ground, destroying 5 tons of hay. Arson was suspected.

125 Years Ago (November 1898)

A telephone cable laid in the Hudson River between Newburgh and Fishkill Landing was damaged by a schooner that hooked it with its anchor.

Three barns at a Dutchess Junction farm burned to the ground, killing three horses.

A large number of people at Matteawan became ill after eating headcheese that had been made in newly soldered tin pans.

Elijah Woodworth, 94, of Fishkill Landing, fell out of a tree and bruised his leg while picking apples.

A young mother in Matteawan attempted to take her life by slashing her throat and wrists with a potato knife while standing in front of a looking glass. No reason was given for her despair.

Peter Vosburgh, editor of the Matteawan Journal, was appointed postmaster.

A man’s body was found by hunters in the woods near Matteawan with a pistol at his side and two bullet holes in his head. Authorities concluded he had killed himself.

A man detained in Hartford, Connecticut, on charges of forgery who gave his name as Norman Brown was, in fact, Gardiner Howell, who had been accused of deceiving a Matteawan woman into marrying him so he could have a share of her estate. (He was arrested with a letter from his mother in his pocket.) When asked by a reporter if he had been at Matteawan three weeks earlier, Howell responded: “They say so. I wouldn’t care to state.” The Pinkerton’s Detective Agency asked the police chief to send a sample of the prisoner’s handwriting to its offices in New York City, but Howell refused to provide one.

100 Years Ago (November 1923)

The appointment of a postmaster was delayed when a group petitioned Rep. Hamilton Fish to include at least one veteran among the candidates because neither of the two men who scored highest on the civil service exam had served in the military. Fish declined but said he would be happy to appoint a Republican veteran to another post. He suggested a vote for postmaster, open only to registered Republicans, but one candidate objected to the idea and withdrew.

The coroner said he initially suspected foul play in the death of Orvel Becker, whose body was found on the railroad tracks without his glasses or hat. However, when the items were found three-quarters of a mile down the line, the coroner concluded that Becker had been hit by a train and dragged that distance by the cowcatcher.

A Beacon Coal and Lumber Co. truck was struck by a freight engine. The driver said his view of the tracks was blocked by a parked car.

Construction began on the new Memorial Building at Main and Teller.

On a Saturday night in Poughkeepsie, a man who said his name was Percy Rough came into the Sheriff’s Office wearing a pilot’s uniform. He told the desk clerk that his plane had engine trouble over Beacon, forcing an emergency landing, and that he needed to borrow $10 [$180] to get to Buffalo to secure a propeller. The clerk provided the money in exchange for a pair of shoes as security but Beacon police said they had no record of a plane landing.

75 Years Ago (November 1948)

75 YEARS AGO leith

Anna May Leith of Beacon, the first female court officer in Dutchess County

Anna May Leith, who became the first female court officer in the history of Dutchess County when she was appointed in 1932, died at age 67. She also had been a deputy sheriff and committee member for the 1st District of the 1st Ward since 1903.

Rear Adm. Charles Maiden Oman died at age 70, three years after retiring as one of the Navy’s top medical officers. He commanded the Navy base hospital at Brest, France, during World War I and the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland, during World War II. He also wrote a history of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps called Doctors Aweigh.

Gordon Williams, who had been the organist at St. Luke’s Church for 43 years, died at his home on Prospect Street at age 78. On the Sunday before his death, his daughter, also an organist, led a program of his music at the Presbyterian Church but he was unable to attend because of his illness.

Voters rejected a proposal to switch from a board of supervisors to a city manager form of government with proportional representation, with 62 percent opposed.

Police officers fired three shots during two arrests on a Saturday morning. In the first incident, a 24-year-old cab driver from Garrison led police on a chase at 1:30 a.m. and stopped only when an officer fired at the car. In the second, the county district attorney and his wife had returned to their home on Sargent Avenue at 2 a.m. after a party when he heard a noise outside and saw a prowler. After calling for assistance, the DA took a flashlight into the rain and gave chase. Officers later stopped a car on a side street; the driver attempted to flee but stopped when an officer fired two shots into the air. The man was later identified as the suspect.

The Poughkeepsie Journal profiled Marcus “Capt. Mark” Lonsberry, who had operated the Beacon-Newburgh ferry for 52 years, following in the footsteps of his father, Albert, who operated the ferry for 45 years and lived at the end of Long Dock. Two weeks after the article appeared, Capt. Mark died at age 71.

A 22-year-old Main Street resident was charged with assault and attempted rape after he attacked a waitress as she walked home from work.

The heavyweight boxer, Melio Bettina, won a 10-round decision at St. Nick’s Arena in New York City over Enrique Felpi of Argentina. It was the Beacon resident’s seventh straight win in his comeback effort.

50 Years Ago (November 1973)

In a ceremony at the Italian Consulate in New York City, Vincenzo Montone was presented with the Cross of Cavaliere and DiVittorio for his service with the Italian Army during World War I.

Judge Austin Hoyt of the U.S. Tax Court, a native of Beacon, announced his retirement. He was appointed in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.

The Democrats swept the mayoral and commissioner races. Robert Cahill won 60 percent of the vote, while the commissioners of accounts, finance, safety and public safety were each safely re-elected. The closest race was between Red Flynn, who had overseen public safety for 16 years, and Vernon Way, an independent and former police detective.

In the third escape in 12 years from the Correctional Facility for Medical Services, aka the Matteawan State Hospital, four inmates fled after cutting through steel window bars with a hacksaw. One was caught within an hour walking along Route 84; the other three — two men convicted in killings and another of robbery — remained at large for weeks. The captured inmate denied he was an escaped prisoner but had the letters MSH stamped on his shirt.

The Planning Board approved the construction of River View, a 52-unit townhouse complex off Sargent Avenue.

Two former Beacon High students, both 17, were arrested after they allegedly attacked the attendance officer in the school parking lot.

The Beacon High School Dramatics Council presented the mystery Night Must Fall, with senior David Didio in the lead as a homicidal bellhop.

Because of the energy crisis, the Beacon-Fishkill Area Chamber of Commerce said the holiday lights on Main Street would not be turned on until Dec. 10 and then only from 6 to 9 p.m. daily through Christmas.

A 43-year-old Beacon man was shot dead in his parked car at Fishkill and Blackburn avenues at 2 a.m. Police said the victim, a former radio station general manager who lived four blocks away, was hit five times by bullets from two weapons. The next day, the 17-year-old son of a Beacon police sergeant surrendered. Detectives also questioned a second, younger suspect.

A 34-year-old Beacon woman was accused of embezzling from the rental account of the Beacon Housing Authority, where she worked as a cashier.

In the first visit by a collegiate basketball team to the Fishkill Correctional Facility, the New Paltz State College junior varsity took on a squad of inmates, who won, 95-88.

25 Years Ago (November 1998)

bear drop

DEC biologist Dick Henry lowers a black bear in 1998 from a tree on Ralph Street. (Poughkeepsie Journal)

A black bear known to the state Department of Environmental Conservation as No. 249 had to be rescued from a tree in a backyard on Ralph Street. The bear had been captured and tagged the year before when it interrupted a barbecue in Rockland County. No. 249 had been spotted earlier in the day running down Main Street. After the bear fell asleep, DEC biologist Dick Henry climbed a ladder and attached a rope to its leg so it could be lowered to the ground. One neighbor said: “This is the most excitement we’ve had in 16 years.”

The Cold Spring Antiques Dealers Association organized a benefit auction in Beacon for Rob Albracht, who owned the Matteawan Trading Co. with his partner, Joyce Lavin, and had been hospitalized with leukemia. The highlight of the evening was an appearance by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, who donated a 5-foot kangaroo prop from La Cage Aux Folles.

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