Around the turn of the last century, articles about crimes and other misadventures in Rye occasionally appeared in major newspapers (some in faraway places) that gave fascinating glimpses into life at what many then called “Rye on the Sound”.
By Paul Hicks
Around the turn of the last century, articles about crimes and other misadventures in Rye occasionally appeared in major newspapers (some in faraway places) that gave fascinating glimpses into life at what many then called “Rye on the Sound, ” including the following:
From the Kansas City [Missouri] Journal, August 22, 1897:
“The millionaires of Rye, on the Sound…have combined to keep George Myers, the religious sign painter out of their life… No more shall Myers, slinging green paint in fine religious frenzy, adorn the polished stone walls of the aristocratic fields of Rye with such impertinent and unimportant queries as ‘Where will ye spend eternity?’ and ‘What shall ye do to be saved?’
This George Myers travels around the country on an antique bicycle, to which are slung pots of paint. The truly religious Mr. Myers wears a Salvation Army uniform. Whenever he arrives in a neighborhood he thinks peculiarly wicked he dismounts, chooses a rock, or a stone wall, or, in a pinch, even a board fence, and on this, with lightening-like rapidity, he paints, in large letters, a text or warning to evil-doers…
John E. Parsons, the celebrated lawyer, has a fine country place at Rye. Mr. Parsons is a good church man, and it really grieved him to look out his window one fine morning and see on his stone fence, in letters two feet tall: ‘Repent or go to —-.’ Having painted the ‘to,’ it was plain that the enthusiastic Mr. Myers had arrived at the end of the fence and had no more canvas, so to speak.
He painted ‘Seek heaven and be saved’ on the fence of Charles A. Gould, the iron manufacturer. On the wall of Ophir Farm, where Whitelaw Reid lives, he inscribed ‘Is your soul saved?’ Senator J. Murray Mitchell has a country seat, ‘Grand View,’ and Mr. Mitchell’s grand view is ruined by a warning Myers left staring him in the face: “Repent ye. Why will ye be lost?’
On a rock in Hilltop, Trenor Luther Park’s place, Myers daubed: ‘Why doubt ye Make haste before ye be destroyed.’ He frescoed the fences of William H. Catlin, president of John Anderson Tobacco Company; of the estate of Joseph Park, the grocer; and the country houses of Mrs. Sarah Griffen, J.C. Burling, Reginald P Sherman, and others.
There exists at Rye a protection association. John E. Parsons is president of the association, which moved against Myers. When Reginald P. Sherman met him on the highway, Myers had already painted ‘Seek sal—’ on a rich man’s fence when Mr. Sherman tapped him on the shoulder. ‘Get out of here just as fast as that wheel will carry you or to jail you go for trespass.’
Myers jumped on his bike and disappeared. The texts will be promptly erased and the scenery around Rye will resume its wonted aspect.”
From the New York Tribune, August 28, 1900:
“An angry mob of bathers threatened two keepers of the pavilion at Oakland Beach near Rye on the Sound on Sunday evening. In the crowd were a score of Mount Vernon people, a few of whom are members of the Westchester County Wheelmen. The trouble started over the action of the crowd in towing the float out into the Sound when the keepers wished to keep it in near the shore. [One of the keepers in a rowboat drew a revolver, but the crowd tipped the boat and threatened to drown him.] Several arrests, it is rumored, are likely to follow the incident.”
From the Hawaiian Star, July 7, 1902:
“Summer residents on the Boston Post Road and Milton Point at Rye on the Sound took place in a three-mile chase on the Sound early this morning after two men who had robbed four country houses and captured one of the thieves after he had fired several shots at his pursuers.” [The pursuers, sailing in a yawl, had overtaken the thieves, who had stolen a rowboat from American Yacht Club and dumped much of the loot in the water before trying to escape on land].
From New York Tribune, June 17, 1907:
“Sound pirates entered the home of Jacob Langeloth, president of the American Metal Company, at Rye on the Sound [on Kirby Lane] late Friday night and carried away silverware valued at thousands of dollars…The only clues were footprints in the soft earth leading to the water’s edge…Chief Pflug believes there is little doubt that the robbery was committed by Sound pirates, who have cruised the waters in and about Rye for several years, robbing many of the homes. He said that the boat used by the pirates has become known to the police as the ‘black sloop.’”