A Complete Vindication
Completed in 1874, the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse marks the southern point of the Middle Ground Flats - a dangerous mud flat located smack between the sister cities of Hudson and Athens. Site of the famous wreck of the Swallow, a lighthouse had been requested to mark the flats - which at the time were submerged at high tide - since the 1830s. But it was not until after the Civil War that funds were appropriated and the lighthouse constructed.
Henry D. Best was its first keeper, and was succeeded by his son Frank M. Best in 1893. However, not everyone was happy that Frank got the job.
Sometime after June 7, 1894 (the article itself is undated), the Hudson Columbia Republican published an article entitled, "A Complete Vindication - Rebuke to Those Who Brought Charges Against Light-Keeper Best."
You can read the original article for yourself:
A COMPLETE VINDICATION
Rebuke to Those Who Brought Charges Against Light-Keeper Best
As the result of the examination conducted by H. W. Alden, Esq., upon May 31st in relation to certain charges preferred against Frank M. Best, light-keeper of the Hudson city light [sic], the Inspector of the Light-house Board, Third District, has made the following report and determination to the National Light-house Board at Washington, D.C., which completely vindicates Mr. Best’s good character and trustworthiness and exposes the falsity of the charges made against him.
We publish the full text of the report, it being a matter in which all citizens of Hudson should be interested, as it discloses the unscrupulous methods adopted in the case, which same methods might at any time be put in operation to attack the character of any person, however up-right and honorable he might be, should he happen to incur the enmity of the ruling political faction:
JUNE 7th, 1894.
SIRS: - In reply to the Board’s letter of May 25th, 1894, transmitting a petition of Matthew Kennedy and others, of Hudson, N.Y., and several affidavits avering [sic] neglects of duty, for the removal of Frank M. Best, Keeper of Hudson City Light, charging that Mr. Best is a questionable character and was at one time arrested for stealing and destroying a boat, that he is generally untrustworthy, I would say that I sent Lieutenant-Commander C. H. West, Assistant Inspector, to Hudson on May 31st to investigate these charges as directed by the Board.
Preliminary to this investigation I informed all parties of these charges that Mr. West would be in Hudson on the 31st day of May, just past, and requested them to be present with their testimony on that occasion.
The investigation revealed the fact that Matthew Kennedy and Frank M. Best were fishermen some fourteen years ago on the Hudson river, and had quarreled about the methods and places where their respective seines should be hauled. Since that date they appear to have continued enemies, although Best left the business of fisherman and went into the employ of the Hudson River Railroad Company not long afterwards.
While in such employ, a boat, or old rotten float used to secure a fish pound, was washed ashore on the bank of the river near the Hudson River Railroad Company’s tracks. Best finding this wreck at this point, regarded it as a flostaam [sic] thrown up by the river, and therefore broke it up and gave it to various railroad employees. It proved subsequently to have been the property of Matthew Kennedy, who had Best arrested and brought before a Justice who adjudged him guilty of destroying Kennedy’s property, and sentenced him (Best) to the limits of the town for a certain period. This action was a mere civil procedure, involving nothing whatever criminal against the said Best.
Subsequently Best was Inspector of Elections, and also ran for Supervisor. In politics the two men differed, possibly, and the bad blood between them is the outcome of village quarrels which ought not to have been brought to the Board’s attention at all.
Andrew Clow, who forwarded these charges to the Secretary of the Treasury, appears in the matter only as a shelter for Matthew Kennedy, who is the principal complainant and was chiefly instrumental in having the petition and other papers signed. Clow’s only desire was to get Best’s position when he gave it up voluntarily, but he did not wish to injure Best’s character.
Best’s character is spoken of highly by the Hudson River Railroad officials as intelligent, honest and trustworthy, having risen in their employ from the lower grades of switchman and baggage master, to a confidential clerk’s position in one of the departments of the road where he collected ground rents and other monies for the company.
His good standing, his general integrity of character and his entire trustworthiness in Hudson, where he lives, is testified by Rev. Mr. Yeisley, Treasurer Rainey, Cashier Boatwick, and Editor Bryan.
Mr. Dennis Kennedy, brother of Matthew Kennedy, who seems to have been instrumental in all this matter, testifies to Best’s good character and to his general trustworthiness.
The charge that his light was not lighted on the 15th and 20th of November, 1893, for a few minutes after sundown, appears to be a cumulative charge, and of little consequence. If these affidavits are true, the parties to this report ought not to have waited some seven or eight months to connect them with some other offense, before bringing them to the notice of the proper authorities, and in these matters, I would state, there is very little ignorance along the Hudson river.
Notably in contrast, however, is the testimony of pilot McKnight, who made the affidavit of the light being out on the occasion mentioned. His present testimony is that the light is generally kept in a most creditable manner and is always bright and in good order, and that such is its reputation on the river.
Mayor Miller and D. Doland admitted that they had signed the petition for Best’s removal without ever having read it, and that they knew nothing of the character of the paper, except that it purported to be a petition to get a light-house for a friend of Matthew Kennedy. Mayor Miller knew nothing of Best except form hearsay, and had signed the paper as a favor to Kennedy who was a friend.
In view of such trifling, as these charges indicate, with the character of a worthy man, I attach no importance to the papers submitted, except to state that they are without reliability or support, and are malicious in intent. They indicate a small village quarrel that is thus sought to be interjected upon the Board for settlement by one set of parties exaggerating trifles almost to the point of lying, in order to secure the removal of a worthy man who is not without credit and trustworthiness in his home, and who, since his appointment, has been a uniformly good light-keeper.
(Signed) W. S. Schley,
Captain U.S. N., Inspector.
The Light-house Board, Washington, D. C.
What do you think of Captain Schley's assessment?
Frank M. Best remained keeper until his death in 1918. His wife Nellie stayed on as keeper for a few months, but found it was not to her taste. William J. Murray was brought on as replacement keeper at the end of 1918.
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