When someone in the future wants to know what was happening hereabouts in 2014, let us hope that past editions of The Rye Record will be readily available online.
By Paul Hicks
When someone in the future wants to know what was happening hereabouts in 2014, let us hope that past editions of The Rye Record will be readily available online. The difficulty in looking for historical information in print editions of old newspapers is made all too clear by the poor condition of old Rye Chronicle issues at the Rye Free Reading Room and in the Rye Historical Society’s archives. These two organizations’ collections of The Rye Chronicle should be merged and protected, as well as digitized and preserved online.
Fortunately, there are some online records of other old papers that contain news about Rye going back into the mid-nineteenth century. The most comprehensive is “Chronicling America” (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. It allows you to search historic American newspapers from and 1836 to 1922 and includes most of the major New York City papers.
The other fine source is a curious site called “Old Fulton NY Post Cards,” which includes digitized pages from hundreds of historic New York State newspapers. It includes the Port Chester Journal, which covered Rye news before The Rye Chronicle started publishing. It can be found at http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html.
Now for some news from another police blotter of yesteryear.
New York Evening Post, August 14, 1860
Archibald Nichols, a boatman living in Rye, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. He had recently proposed marriage to Mary Given, a pleasant-looking Irish girl who had recently been engaged as a domestic in the family of a respectable resident of Rye. His suit, however, was rejected on the grounds of his intemperate habits, and Mary subsequently became engaged to another young man.
At the time of his disappearance, Nichols, having learned that the couple had gone out in a small boat for a pleasure excursion on the Sound, procured a skiff and went in pursuit of them. He was never seen alive again, and some of his friends claim they heard him cry, “Murder!” It was reported that after his body washed ashore, Mary and her fiancée were taken into custody, and the investigation was continuing, but there was no further newspaper report as to the outcome.
Port Chester Journal, June 1891
Port Chester Constable Theodore Parker got a telegram from the Rye police asking him to intercept a murder suspect wearing a straw hat who was heading his way. Constable Parker, who was in slippers in his stable office, jumped into a wagon that was already hitched to a horse and headed for the railroad tracks. He soon found the suspect, but, after investigation, it was determined that the suspect’s travelling companion had died of sunstroke.
Port Chester Journal, August/September 1892
– Rye coachman charged with bigamy, having one wife in Long Island and another in Rye, robbed wife no. 1 of hard-earned wages and awaits action of grand jury.
– A woman reclining in an orchard lazily smoking cigarettes is the latest novelty in Rye. Rather a festive tramp, this female.
– The Fat Man’s Club of Rye will have their annual clambake at Rye Beach on the 28th. Some of the greatest eaters in the county are expected to be present.
New York Times, October 1907
The Rye police are wondering how burglars early yesterday morning managed to carry a 2,700-pound safe from Manuel Sherwin’s tailor shop on the main street of the village. They took it down a flight of stairs and cracked it with nitroglycerin in the backyard without being heard. The safe contained about $500 in cash and jewelry belonging to the tailor’s wife. As the robbery occurred within a block of the police station, the new chief, Louis Elsmere, was doing considerable thinking last night.
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), November 1907
George Nichols, postmaster of the village of Rye, started for Manhattan on business November 4, and that was the last time his family, who were left in desperate circumstances, saw him. Nichols, who was appointed postmaster by President Roosevelt about a year ago, was at one time a wealthy druggist in Rye. It is well known that he plays the races and he has disappeared twice before. Post Office inspectors have found a shortage of funds.
New York Tribune, December 1907
George Nichols, ex-postmaster of Rye, who absconded on November 11, leaving a $1,200 shortage in his accounts, was arrested in Indianapolis last week. He was arraigned in the United States District Court yesterday where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.
From a cursory reading of these news items, one can conclude that Rye was not free from crime in by-gone days, especially in 1907, and it was a particularly unsafe place for men named Nichols.