Walking In The Footsteps of Our Ancestors… Melissa Campbell Yerks


On May 6, 1897, the local Chappaqua newspaper reported that Mrs. Osborn Yerks (Melissa Campbell) had moved into the Gabrielle Greeley Clendenin “hillside house.” 

Gabrielle is the daughter of Horace Greeley, the well-known publisher of the Tribune Newspaper. Mrs. Clendenin was well-known for her charity and generosity. With this being just two years after the death of her husband, Albert Osborn Yerks., could this be an act of charity on behalf of Mrs. Clendenin? It certainly makes sense as Osborn and his wife did not have a lot of money. And being a single mom of five kids could not be easy in those days. The home is just down the hill from the famous “Rehoboth” house where Mrs. Clendenin lived until her death. 

Rehoboth… Gabriell Greeley Clendenin’s Home in Chappaqua.

While Gabrielle Clendenin’s home still stands today, the home on the hillside does not. In the Google Street View below, you will see the approximate location of the “hillside house.” It was on a road that we today call Senter Street. Senter Street is the main road to Robert E Bell Middle School. I remember seeing a foundation there as a kid. I am sure it is still there.

Senter Street in the area of the old “Hillside House” of Gabrielle Greeley Clendenin.
Map of the Greeley Farm

Just over a year later, we learn that Melissa Campbell Yerks has moved again, but this time, tragedy has struck.

According to a newspaper article pushed in “The Item,” published on November 17, 1898, Mrs. Osborn Yerks lost everything she owned in a fire that burned the structure to the ground. Luckily, Melissa and two of her sons survived but were left without anything, including winter supplies.

The article mentions that the home just West of the Chappaqua Railroad Station on “Old Pines Bridge Road.” Growing up in Chappaqua, the only Pines Bridge Road I knew of was in nearby Millwood, paralleling Route 100. That seemed too far to be considered “just west” of the railroad station. So, I went on a quest to figure out where they actually lived. 

In researching “Old Pines Bridge Road,” I came up with my first clue in the form of the paragraph below. It comes from the “Proceedings at the Unveiling of a Memorial to Horace Greeley at Chappaqua.”  

Having lived in Chappaqua my entire life, I know EXACTLY where the Horace Greeley Statue was, and there was no Old Pines bridge Road that I knew of anywhere close to there. Modern-day maps were of no help. I could find no reference to Pines Bridge anything near downtown Chappaqua.  

So I turned to my favorite historical map collection, DavidRumsey.com. The map of Chappaqua closest to the year of the fire was the 1893 Julius Bien & Co. Map. Sadly, it failed to show the name of any streets in the Chappaqua area.  

1893 Julius Bien & Co. Map of Chappaqua, New York

So I turned to a 1925 Sanborn Insurance Map collection. Although the map was created more than a quarter-century after the event, I was hoping I would find the names of some of the streets in the area.

BINGO!  In the index of the map collection, I clearly see a Pines Bridge Road that extends from today’s Washington Avenue, down Allen Place across the railroad tracks, to today’s Mill River Road, past the statue of Horace Greeley, then up what is today’s Quaker Road. Since Sanborn Insurance maps are made to cover commercial insurance interests, there was no detailed Sanborn map of the Pines Bridge Road area. But that is not a problem. We are looking for a residence.

Now that I learned where the Old Pines Bridge Road was geographically, I returned to the 1893 Julius Bien & Co. map to take another look. I did not see any Yerks home, but I did see two references to C.B Griffith homes. In the original article about the fire, it does mention that the house that burned belong to Charles B Griffith. There is no doubt that one of these two homes is the one that burned. My guess is that it is the one closer to the “Duck Pond” shown on the map. That would have been a house next to the old Grist Mill that was there at the time. The homes across the street were larger and nicer. It would be unlikely that she could afford to live in one of them.

It not known what happened to Melissa Campbell Yerks. She seems to have disappeared off the grid after this fire. There is no record of her death, which isn’t necessarily unusual for that time. Vital Record keeping had just become law and towns were just beginning to record the events. Could she have remarried? That is doubtful. In the 1900 Census, we find her youngest son, Alfred, age 15, living with his older brother Frank who was married to Mary McDermott. Frank and his second wife at the time, had no children. I think this is a strong clue that Melissa had passed away between the November 17, 1898 fire and the 1900 Census. Her burial location is obviously unknown.

As mentioned earlier, Pines Bridge Road no longer exists on any modern-day map. But parts of it still exist under different names. And, of course, it’s been cut in half by the Saw Mill Parkway.

So next time you are in Chappaqua, consider taking a walk at the Chappaqua Duck Pond, and you’ll be walking in the footsteps of our Ancestors. Is far from the only Yerks house in Chappaqua. In fact, there are several just up the street on today’s Quaker Road and numerous on the other side of the railroad tracks. But those are a story for another day.

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About the Author

Philip (Phil) Hayes is the CEO of Sirius Innovations, LLC. As CEO of Sirius Innovations, LLC, he served as a Technology Solutions Consultant and Web Applications Programmer for fortune 500 companies, large municipalities and hospitals. He is fluent in the SQL, ColdFusion, PHP and Javscript programming languages. He is also a power user of the WordPress Content Management System, commonly used for blogging. Phil's latest product development includes a service called 'Map The Past'. The advanced, yet easy to use functionality offered in this product will enable its members to "Walk in the Footsteps of Their Ancestors". Phil became a Genealogy addict when in 1998, his Uncle, Lloyd W Lewis, sat he and his wife down on the deck of his Uncle's Pennsylvania home and told them the story of his Great, Great Grandfather Henry W. Lewis, the Privateer. The story was so intriguing that Phil found himself yearning for more details. Hence…. Philip Hayes, the Genealogist was born. Leveraging his technology skills, Philip has grown and developed the family tree well beyond what his Uncle could have ever dreamed of. Combining the power of technology and the primary sources from historical documents, Philip developed his own family history web site, based on the Word Press Content Management System (https://www.hayesfamily.us). Upon publishing the site, it has inspired many people to develop interest in the family's history and has connected Philip to several undiscovered relatives and their family stories. Phil is a member of numerous historical and genealogy societies, including the Association of Professional Genealogists

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