Editor’s note: Beacon was created in 1913 from Matteawan and Fishkill Landing.
150 Years Ago (December 1873)
Long Dock was reported to be in “deplorable condition,” filled with large holes that could cause a human or horse to snap a leg, according to the Cold Spring Recorder. In addition, the road leading to the dock had holes that could break a wagon spring.
School No. 12 at Matteawan was the largest in Dutchess County, with an average daily attendance of 254 students. The smallest was No. 13 at Dover, with an average attendance of 3.5. The Matteawan building was also the most expensive, valued at $25,000 [$640,000 today]. The Glenham district had the largest library, with 5,600 books.
Michael Kongh, a flagman at the drawbridge south of Fishkill Landing, drowned in the river. He had been in the U.S. for only six months.
To protect his hands while carrying a full ash can from the stove, a Fishkill Landing resident grabbed his wife’s wrapper. After emptying the pan outside, he threw the wrapper into the corner of the bedroom. Soon after, an upstairs tenant smelled smoke and found the wrapper smoldering.
The fire companies of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing attempted to save as much of downtown Fishkill as they could after a devastating fire broke out at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning. But the flames spread quickly, destroying 14 businesses and three homes on both sides of Main Street, including the Union Hotel, Lyric Hall and the offices of the Fishkill Journal. Damages were estimated at $118,000 [$3 million].
The Episcopal churches in Matteawan, Fishkill Landing and Glenham raised $283 [$7,200] for St. Luke’s Hospital.
Alexander Bedrossiam, a New York City cigar dealer, accused Edward Costa of Fishkill Landing of stealing 2,500 cigars, 1,000 cigarettes and several pounds of Turkish tobacco.
125 Years Ago (December 1898)
A 304-foot yacht owned by banker J.P. Morgan, the Corsair III, built at the shipyard of T.S. Marvel & Co., was launched at Newburgh and towed down the river to New York City.
The first issue of the monthly American Patriot was published in Newburgh.
A Fishkill Landing woman, Mrs. John Powell, was fatally burned when a lamp she was carrying exploded, igniting her clothing.
Gardiner Howell, who had been accused of deceiving a Matteawan teacher into marrying him so he could have a share of her estate, pleaded guilty in Connecticut to passing bad checks and was sentenced to two years in a county jail. He insisted his name was Norman Browne but relatives of his wife identified him.
Six convicts allegedly driven mad by idleness because of a law that banned convict labor were transferred from the Kings County Penitentiary. The four inmates convicted on state charges were sent to the Matteawan asylum and the two federal prisoners — each convicted of holding up trains in Indian Territory — were relocated to the National Insane Asylum in Washington, D.C.
Amid a cheering crowd, the Fishkill and Matteawan Band performed “Home Again from a Foreign Shore” at the Rhinecliff station as a train carrying members of companies from Kingston and Poughkeepsie arrived home from the Spanish-American War in Cuba.
According to the Poughkeepsie Enterprise, a Kingston woman raised suspicions with her husband when she told him she was going to New Jersey to attend her grandmother’s funeral but took a box of household items and their portable oil stove. Soon after, he went in search and chanced upon her — and her German boyfriend — at a restaurant in Newburgh. The couple fled but the husband followed her to Fishkill Landing and demanded she return the wedding ring he had purchased for $3 [$75]. She refused and panhandled enough change to return to Newburgh, leaving the box and stove behind.
100 Years Ago (December 1923)
Poughkeepsie police contacted the license bureau in Albany after a hit-and-run crash sent a car bumping across the trolley tracks. Although shaken, William Dolson of Beacon, who was traveling with his wife and granddaughter, recalled the plate number of the vehicle as 665-178.
George Bachus admitted to the police chief and city judge that he stole $184 [$3,300] from Fred Knapp, a local butcher, but authorities said he might not be prosecuted because his wife and two young children depended on him for support, and he had returned the money. Bachus lifted the cash while visiting a disorderly house with Knapp, who was intoxicated.
Authorities in Boston offered praise for the police chief for his assistance in the prosecution of Arthur Vieth, convicted there of polygamy and sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Two years earlier, Vieth rented a room in Beacon with a woman named Chapman who insisted she would leave if he did not marry her. Vieth apparently found a man on the street to pretend to be a minister; that deception contributed to his conviction.
After Rep. Hamilton Fish suggested that Republicans hold a special election to determine which of two candidates he should endorse to be appointed postmaster, Daniel McGinn initially bowed out, saying he was insulted by the idea. He changed his mind and was trounced by Frank Cummings, 730 to 418.
Land that had been in the Verplanck family since the granting of a patent by King James was sold to a newly organized brick company. It included 140 acres of clay and sand deposits along the river.
Edward Hayden, the city editor of The Beacon Journal, put in a claim for a $500 [$9,000] reward offered by Dutchess County for the capture of killer “Bad Bill” Monroe. Hayden, one of nine people who requested the money, said he interviewed a neighbor of the victim who first identified Monroe as a suspect.
An ex-convict from New York City took the train to Poughkeepsie in an attempt to help George Donaldson, who had been convicted of a Beacon burglary, escape from the county jail. But authorities had been tipped off and transferred the prisoner to Sing Sing. When Ernest “Hunchback Frenchy” Menett asked for Donaldson, police searched him and found a dozen small saws. Donaldson had earlier planned to escape by attacking guards with a blackjack he made from three lavatory knobs but another inmate dropped a note from a window onto Union Street to alert authorities.
Myrtle Bell died at age 61. She was the widow of Walter Bell, who had been a police officer at the Fishkill-Newburgh ferry house for 20 years when he was shot and mortally wounded in 1911. He had cautioned a man sitting on a bench to put away his handgun. “Say, my friend, I could give you six months for that,” Bell said, according to a witness. He walked away, but the suspect followed, firing twice. The shooter, a native of the West Indies, was taken by bystanders to the police station, but when a crowd gathered and called for a lynching, the sheriff and his deputies removed the prisoner to the county jail. According to investigators, the 23-year-old said he disliked police officers and decided to “get” one. (He was later judged insane and imprisoned at the Matteawan State Hospital.)
A Poughkeepsie woman was charged with petit larceny after a Beacon taxicab driver accused her of stealing $32 [$575]. The driver said he and the woman had “stopped at a local hotel overnight,” according to the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, and in the morning he discovered his money gone. When arrested, the woman was in the company of a young man whom she told police had given her a black eye because she had “temporarily forsaken” him the night before.
75 Years Ago (December 1948)
Pink Waters, a newly appointed deacon at Springfield Baptist Church, was accused of hitting a woman with a hammer and an iron bar during a dispute following an evening service. When a police officer ascended the stairs to Waters’ second-floor River Street apartment to arrest him, Waters allegedly aimed a shotgun at him and threatened to shoot if he didn’t leave. Instead, the officer pointed his revolver at Waters and told him to drop the weapon, which he did.
In a presentation sponsored by the Beacon Savings Bank, Elmer Tripp spoke with students at the Spring Street and South Avenue elementary schools and sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Beacon High School about the benefits of thrift.
The school board considered whether to purchase surplus buildings offered by the War Assets Administration at a 95 percent discount if used for education. The district also would have to pay for transportation, assembly and flooring.
The Chamber of Commerce asked a traffic engineer to devise a plan to reduce vehicle congestion at the Beacon-Newburgh ferry terminal.
A 28-year-old Beacon man was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for armed robbery. He maintained his innocence.
Developers outlined plans at a City Council meeting for an industrial terminal at the former Merrimac Hat Co. factory. At least four companies said they would lease space. If realized, it would be the second industrial project in the city; as of Jan. 1, the Durisol Corp. planned to close its plant in Aberdeen, Maryland, and rely on its newly constructed plant in Beacon.
Beacon boxer Melio Bettina was knocked out in the sixth round in Rochester in a fight with Johnny Flynn attended by 3,800 people.
A 53-year-old Beacon man who was reported missing told police he had been driving to Nutley, New Jersey, when his car broke down. He said he walked through the hilly country most of the night until he came upon a cottage, where he stayed until the forest rangers who lived there could drive him to a police station.
50 Years Ago (December 1973)
The Hudson River Sloop Restoration learned it would receive half of a $10,000 fine levied against Teddy’s Frosted Foods of Highland, which had been found guilty of violating the 1899 Refuse Act by discharging waste into a stream that flowed into the Hudson River.
The Hudson Valley Freedom Theater presented A Raisin in the Sun at Beacon High School.
The five members of the City Council — the mayor and four commissioners — voted to give themselves a raise. They doubled the mayor’s salary to $6,000 [$41,000] annually and that of the full-time commissioner of accounts to $15,000 [$104,000], and increased the pay of the three part-time commissioners by 75 percent to $3,500 [$24,000].
After complaints that a new bus service at Forrestal Heights discriminated against other residents, Mayor Robert Cahill said Beacon was searching for grants to pay for a citywide system.
The council approved spending $23,000 [$159,000] on an engineering study following a state mandate to upgrade its incinerator to meet new air emission standards.
Urban renewal officials found the developer of a parcel at Eliza and Main streets to be in default when he missed a deadline to break ground. The building on the site had been demolished eight months earlier.
Fishkill Pools (20-1) and Beacon Engine (19-2) led the nine-team Beacon Volleyball League.
The city announced that Exxon, its gasoline supplier, was cutting its fuel allotment by 14 percent because of the national energy crisis.
Firefighters said it took two hours to get the gas turned off before they could battle a fire that damaged the Alan Pontiac-Buick dealership at 371 Fishkill Ave.
The director of solid waste management for Dutchess County proposed building a pyrolysis plant adjacent to the Matteawan State Hospital that would process 300 tons of garbage daily. The facility would reduce trash to coarse sand and bake and melt plastic, sludge and tar into fuel oil that could heat and power the hospital.
25 Years Ago (December 1998)
The Bannerman Castle Trust announced it had installed a video surveillance system on Bannerman Island to deter vandals and artifact hunters, although officials said the castle had already been picked clean. At the same time, volunteers completed restoring the island’s paths, allowing garden planners to map formerly inaccessible areas.
Behind The Story
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.