This Week in Rockland: Newspaper Excerpts: Flashback Friday: Week of December 9

2022-12-09 TWIR Image-Ralph Braden

December 7, 1872 – 150 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal

       We venture to affirm that at least one-half or more of the readers of the J
OURNAL have never before heard of the name at the commencement of this article. That they have not heard of it is a circumstance that need not cause any wonder, for it is one of those startling novelties in the way of plants that the indefatigable floriculturist is delighted with when he pounces upon it.
       The first we ever saw of this foliage plant or shrub, was at the conservatories of Tunis De Pew, last winter, with whom they were then an experiment, and not an entire success. This year, however, he has raised a little forest of them, and if the reader of this article has an eye for anything that is showy, strange and beautiful, just go down and ask friend De Pew to show you his Poinsettas [sic] , and he will do it with pleasure. His time is almost exclusively devoted to showing flowers, and he is never happier than when his friends and the public occupy his attention with reference, thereto.
       We should say here that the Poinsetta [sic] will be in bloom until the first of January, and the lovers of flowers in the county are invited to examine them until that time.

December 8, 1932 – 90 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal-News

       In a little, old house, a neat and well-kept home at Grassy Point, near the long beach where thousands of Rockland County folks and their children go swimming in the summer and overlooking the stately Hudson on whose shores he spent the 77 years of his life, lives John O’Keeffe.
       John O’Keeffe, for many years a keeper at Sing Sing, the big place known in gangdom parlance as “Up the River,” now lives on memories of the old days when he was a power in Rockland politics. He was once editor of the Haverstraw Times. Michael McCabe, present editor and proprietor of the Times, is classed among the “elder statesmen,” but O’Keeffe was even before the time of Mike McCabe.
       “Jim Farley is the president maker,” says Old Man O’Keeffe, “but it was me that made Jim Farley.”
       Whether the boast is strictly accurate, or not, matters little. O’Keeffe was at least one of the great ones who helped to “make” Jim Farley, and it pleases the old man to often declare:
       “Jim Farley
he’s my boy. Every night he used to walk into this very house and talk things over with me. There— there on the wall is a picture of the old ball team when Jim was a kid. See the handsome man in the center with the gay moustache—that’s me —John O’Keeffe.
       On a little old center table. in the middle of the quaint parlor, lies a holy book—The Life of the Virgin Mary—a gift to this Grassy Point patriarch and bearing the fading signature of “The. Rev. John Hughes,” who was then Archbishop of New York. The book was printed in 1856. On an added sheet of frayed edged paper pasted on the fly leaf is a note in ink which reads:
       “To be done at once:
              “To be bound in best style of Morocco with beveled edges and Bishop Hughes’ portrait put in, which I left here a short time ago. Gregory Wheaton’s name put on the book. ‘10 April, 1861 —P. Fitzgibbons.”
       On the adjoining page is the following autographed note:
              “Archepiscopal Residence, New York, Feb. 19, 1856.”
              “We hereby approve the English translation of the Life of the Blessed Virgin, by Monseigneur Gentilucci, and give our consent to its publication. John Abp of N York.”
       Side by side with this holy book is a family album in which are many prized old pictures.
       “This handsome girl here was Mame Gormely,” says O’Keeffe. “She was Jim Farley’s mother-in-law. She sang in the choir and had a beautiful voice. She became Mrs. Dave Finnegan and her daughter is the president maker’s wife.
       “See this nice old Irish lady with the fine, delicate face? When she died a good many years ago, she was Mrs. Kate Cunningham, but she was first married to James Gormely, and Mame Gormely, Jim Farley’s mother-in-law, was her daughter. Barney Cunningham was aide to General Meade during the Civil War.
       “These good people were all from Haverstraw and all went to the same old church here—the church which I helped to build. There’s a picture of it on that wall there.”
       In their beautiful old frames around the room hang pictures of other old-time figures—men and women of Haverstraw who built the town that raised Jim Farley. Those who still live still have their pride in him.

December 9, 1972 – 50 YEARS AGO
The Journal News

[Image: Ralph Braden (1920–1986), clipped from The Journal News, 1976.]
       Ralph Braden, newly-chosen chairman of the county’s bicentennial commission, says his group should become the official historical agency for the county.
        The commission was created more than a year ago by the county legislature to coordinate plans for the celebration of the 200th anniversary in 1976 of the American Revolutionary War.
        At present, there is no official county historical agency, although William Dobbin is the paid county historian at $2,000 a year.
        Braden, chosen at the organization meeting of the commission Wednesday night, said he would not like to see the group limit its scope solely to the anniversary celebrations, but act as a broad-based agency covering the early colonial years as well as the period from the Revolution to the Civil War, and perhaps beyond.
        The commission will meet monthly at least in the legislative conference room of the County Office Building, with all sessions open to the public. The next meeting was set for Jan. 10 at 8:15 p.m.
        Other officers elected Wednesday include Matthew Henry of Clarkstown, vice chairman; Stony Point’s Stuart Gates as secretary, and J. Wesley Pullman of Orangetown, treasurer.
        Braden also represents Orangetown and is a history teacher at Spring Valley High School, in addition to being town historian. Gates is history department chairman at Spring Valley Junior High. Pullman is Tappan postmaster and Henry is a public relations expert.
        The commission announced it intends to work very closely with other groups here that are interested in the Revolution, including the county Historical Society, the Tappantown Society, and the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution.
        At the January meeting several committees will be created and members appointed, not only from among the commission but from the general public as well.
        Braden urged all interested groups and individuals either to write or call the commission at the County Office Building to offer their services on the committees or to offer ideas, projects, and suggestions.
        Already created is the youth committee, which will be chaired by Haverstraw commissioner Thomas Casey, social studies coordinator for the North Rockland school district. The group agreed that one of its most important functions will be to involve youth in the bicentennial in a variety of “meaningful” ways.
        The commission decided that one of its functions will be to create a historical reference library and collection on the Revolutionary War at the County Office Building. Assisting in this will be Pearl River School Trustee Mary Sive, who was named to head the photocopying committee.
        Space has already been allotted to the commission, county legislator Herschel Greenbaum told the group, and it will be given a budget for 1973 and each year thereafter. The group decided, at Braden’s suggestion, to rotate officers, probably every year.
       “We are going to be an active, dynamic group,” Braden said, “and as such we want to touch on every facet of life in Rockland, both 200 years ago and today.”


This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC’s mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.



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