Saturday, June 6, 2009

Francis B. Taylor and the Mayfair Section

In the previous post, we mentioned the name of West Hempsteader Francis B. Taylor, who was hired as an attorney by the People's Protective Association of Nassau County to try an stop the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup from taking place. Taylor actually had a personal interest in stopping the race - his home was located right on the course. He lived on Hempstead Turnpike at the corner of Mayfair Ave. Here is some more information about him, from what I've been able to gather.

Francis Bergh Taylor was born in 1864 in NJ and soon after moved to NY. He was a great-grandson a Revolutionary War soldier from South Carolina named Joseph Moringault and was an active member of the Sons of the Revolution. In 1889, he purchased a tract of land on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike from John T. Hanna, a stock broker who owned a large country estate where the Mayfair section is now located. In the 1906 Belcher-Hyde map below, you will notice J T Hanna's estate just west of Mayfair Ave and Francis Taylor's property just to the east of Mayfair.

In 1890, he received his law degree from NYU Law School (in the third graduating class of the school) and opened up a practice in Hempstead, becoming a prominent local attorney. Possibly owing to his southern roots, Taylor was a staunch democrat in politics, even as a young 20 year old when he worked for the Grover Cleveland 1884 election campaign and helped get the first democratic president in 28 years to the White House. In 1893 he was elected as Justice of the Peace for the Village of Hempstead and in 1897 served as the only democratic member of the Town board. When he left the board in 1898, the Republican who took his seat ensured that the TOH would be governed by one party rule for some time thereafter. Alas, Taylor's party affiliation ensured that his political career never got very far, since Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead had always been republican strongholds. He ran and lost for County Comptroller in 1919, and ran unsuccessfully for State Assembly in 1922 and 1923. In the 1922 defeat which he lost by only 35 votes, he filed a lawsuit claiming ballot irregularities and successfully petitioned a judge for a recount and re-examination of the voting machines. (He evidently lost anyway).

One of the more interesting cases which F B Taylor litigated was one brought in 1905 by a taxpayer of School District 17, involving (among other things) the issue of separation of church and state. Before SD17's John Street School was built in the 1930s, the district schoolhouse was located at the south corner of Nassau Blvd. and Dogwood Ave. The school board had voted to expend $200 in erecting a horse shed on school grounds, the alleged purpose of which was to accommodate people who would attend a religious school that leased the building on Sundays. Taylor successfully brought suit on behalf of his client to prevent the board from what was ruled inappropriate public expenditure.

Francis B Taylor died in 1940 in West Hempstead and his body was taken to South Carolina to be buried together with his ancestors.

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