Today, the New Rochelle Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the dedication of the bronze bust placed atop the monument on May 30, 1899. Later, they buried a portion of his brain beneath the monument.
The Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York for 1909 included the Fourteenth Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society for April 1909.
This report gave details of preserving the Thomas Paine house and described the monument and bust of the man in New Rochelle, New York.
Thomas Paine House at New Rochelle Saved.
In 1908, this Society co-operated with the Huguenot Association of New Rochelle, N. Y., in saving the house in which Thomas Paine—the friend of Washington, the aide of Gen. Greene, and the author of “Common Sense,” “The Crisis,” etc.,— lived between 1802 and 1809.
This old wooden house formerly stood on the south side of Paine avenue (a widening of See Lane) 1,600 feet east of North avenue, in New Rochelle.
The original part of the house is said to have been built by Huguenot refugees from La Rochelle, France, about 1720.
Local tradition also connects the house with the beginnings of Methodism in America, just prior to the American Revolution, at a time when the house was occupied by Frederick Devoe (or Deveau).
It is said that soon after the Methodist movement was organized in England by Wesley, and when he was sending missionaries to this country to propagate his doctrines, two of them made their way to New Rochelle.
Some days before their visit to the DeVeau house—so the story runs— Mrs. De Veau, who had been quite ill, had a vision that two men would come to her house and heal her.
When, a few days later, the two Methodist missionaries called at her door, she declared that they were the persons whom she had seen in her vision and insisted on their coming in. There they held some kind of services which are said to have been among the first Methodist services held in this country.
During the American Revolution, Deveau, like many other in habitants of Westchester county, was friendly to the British, and on November 10, 1780, he was indicted for treason.
The judgment was signed July 5, 1783, whereupon his farm was confiscated to the State.
On June 16, 1784, Congress presented the farm, comprising 277 acres, to Paine in recognition of his services to the cause of Independence.
In 1787, Paine went to Europe where he remained fifteen years.
Returning to this country in 1802, he took up his residence on the New Rochelle farm, and lived in this house at various times until his death at No. 50 Grove street, in New York city, June 8, 1809.
The house was then sold to the Paine Association which held it for several years. The Paine Association in turn sold it to Mr. Wesley See, who was the owner and occupant at the beginning of the year 1908.
Upon taking possession of the house, the See family found in it Paine’s old brass andirons and Franklin stove in the closet of the room which he formerly occupied as a study.
These and several other relics Mr. See gave to a plumber, and for several years they were on exhibition in the latter’s shop window.
Imbedded in the walls of the house are two bullets, said to have been fired at Paine when he was writing his memoirs of the French Revolution.
In the spring of 1908, Mr. See’s son, Mr. Charles W. See, built a handsome new house southwest of the Paine house, and so close to it that the piazzas touched each other, and was anxious to secure the removal of the old building.
At this juncture, when it was reported that the owner had sold the Paine house to a contractor for $100, the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society entered into negotiations for the acquisition of the house, and at the same time Col. Henry W. Sackett, a vice president of the Society, offered a site to which the building could be removed.
Inasmuch as Mr. See had previously given an option to the Paine Historical Society for $500, the matter remained in abeyance for some months.
In May, 1908, Mr. See gave the house to the Huguenot Association of New Rochelle, of which Mr. Henry M. Lester was president, upon condition that the house be removed at once, and in that month the Association began the removal of the house to its present site in the little park bordering the east side of North avenue, about 200 feet south of the Paine monument.
The Paine monument stands at the entrance to Paine avenue at the eastern side of North avenue.
When Paine died, he was buried about twenty yards south of this point.
In September, 1819, the remains were disinterred by Wm. Cobbett and conveyed to England, with the hope, it is said, that they might be the means of stirring up a revolution.
On November 12, 1839, a monument was erected by public contribution near the site of the grave.
This was repaired and on May 30, 1881, rededicated.
On May 30, 1899, it was surmounted by a bronze bust by Wilson McDonald with appropriate ceremonies.
In 1905, the monument was moved to its present site and on October 14 of that year was committed to the custody of the city of New Rochelle with elaborate ceremonies.
On the latter occasion, Dr. E. B. Foote, Jr., chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, displayed a small box containing a portion of Paine’s brain, which was to be placed under the monument.
On the inner cover of the box was a printed statement to the effect that B. Tilley, the tailor admirer of Paine, obtained the relic when he visited Cobbett at 1011 Bolt Court, Fleet street, London, January 7, 1833.
A few years before the ceremony of 1905, the relic had been purchased by Moncure D. Conway in London; and when Conway heard of the preparations for the removal and rededication of the monument, he sent the relic to be buried under the memorial.
The inscription on the face of the monument reads as follows:
Thomas Paine, Author of Common Sense.
Born in England, January 29, 1737,
Died in New York City, June 8, 1809.
“The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise.” (Common Sense.)
Erected by Public Contribution, November 12, 1839.
Repaired and Rededicated May 30, 1881.
Bronze Bust Erected May 30, 1899.
The New Rochelle Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of the monument and bust of Thomas Paine.