Looking Back in Philipstown

150 Years Ago (January 1870)

The ferryman, Thomas Lipsey, and some of his passengers, hearing a cry at 5 p.m. in heavy fog that sounded like “O-o-o-o!,” rowed back across the river after landing at Cold Spring. They found a young woman, Anna Rose, on the rocks on the western shore, drenched from the rain and exhausted, having become disoriented while making her way over the mountain to visit a friend.

The four horses pulling a load of cough drops produced by Smith Brothers of Poughkeepsie took off down Main Street without their driver until the wagon overturned.

A jury awarded Mr. Flood $20 damages for defects in a cow he purchased from Mr. Bean.

As the funeral procession of Elijah McKeel slowed while it proceeded down Pear Tree Hill in Nelsonville, the pole of the mourners’ wagon broke the rear window of the hearse.

Nora McCarty, who a year earlier had slipped on the stairs at Town Hall and broken her leg, slipped on ice on Rock Street near the schoolhouse and broke her arm.

The Rev. Francis Russell gave a reading as part of the Lecture Association series, mostly from the writings of Charles Dickens.

Bailey of Breakneck made a seam blast with two and a half kegs of powder, sending enough rock down the mountain to supply the stonecutters for a good while.

A reader wrote to the editor of the Cold Spring Recorder to note that he had been coming up Main Street when he saw “a crowd of these nuisances [boys] in front of Schoenfeld’s, encouraging some other boys to fight and swear. Some grown men were there too, doing nothing to preserve the peace and order of our village.”

The Beverly Robinson House in Garrison, where Benedict Arnold spent his last night before fleeing to a British warship on the Hudson, got a new roof and “will now last the remainder of the century if not destroyed by fire or in some other extraordinary manner,” noted the Recorder. [The house burned down in 1892.]

The Beverly Robinson House got a new roof in 1870. (Putnam History Museum)

A young man named Wyant was arrested for stealing two picks from Patrick O’Donnell on Church Street and selling one to O.M. Baxter for 50 cents.

Joseph Caux of Nelsonville was blinded in his right eye while chipping a piece of iron.

The “lightning calculators” of School District No. 3 challenged the pupils of No. 10 and No. 13 to an adding competition at the Rock Street school on any afternoon.

Sylvenus MeKeel reported he had plowed his corn field as if it were April. “We never heard of such a feat in Philipstown until this year of funny weather,” the Recorder noted.

125 Years Ago (January 1895)

The New York Central Railroad enacted a policy that baby carriages and bikes must be checked as luggage. It also announced the end of reduced fares for clergy. Although the papers reported this was due to ministers reselling their tickets, the railroad insisted the fare had been introduced only for the 1893 World’s Fair.

After sending tramps, idlers and drunkards to the county jail in 1894 cost Philipstown $4,387, the board of supervisors voted to board convicted vagrants at the King’s County penitentiary for $2.25 per week each.

The town clerk reported 11 more births than deaths in the previous year.

Mahlon Coe launched a campaign to get stores to close at 8 p.m., except Monday and Saturday, so merchants could spend more time with their families. However, farmers complained they rarely had time before 8 p.m. to get to the village.

A West Point cadet attempting to cross the river on the ice became stuck on a large cake that floated to near the Foundry dock, where he was rescued by a steamer.

Hamilton Fish of Philipstown was elected speaker of the state Assembly.

The truant officer, Quinlan, reported he had warned several children that they must attend school.

The Recorder reported that the “onion social” had become the rage. Six young women stood in a row and one of them bit an onion. The young men paid 10 cents each to guess who it was, with those who chose correctly getting to kiss the other five.

The paper also made note of several laws that it suggested weren’t being enforced: news dealers displaying titillating publications such as the National Police Gazette in their windows; residents throwing ashes in the street, which looked especially bad after a snowfall; sledders using brakes that tore up the roads; and wagon drivers not having a bell.

A theatrical troupe booked for a week at Town Hall left on Wednesday morning after playing to empty benches on Monday and Tuesday.

An oil lamp exploded inside the post office.

Thieves stole a flock of Plymouth Rocks — 25 birds — from the hennery of John Wise at Breakneck, killed them, plucked them, and left the feathers and heads in the coop. A week later, thieves took 45 chickens from Charles Emerson.

The champion walker Fred Miller and his dog Guess passed through Cold Spring on a return trip from New Orleans. Miller had begun his walk in New York City a year earlier and returned by way of Cincinnati and Buffalo with a promise from the Police Gazette to pay him $5,000 for the stunt.

A number of residents were suffering from the grippe [flu].

An explosion at the Orange County Powder Works about 3 miles west of Newburgh was loud enough to be heard in the village, but the cause is unknown as the only man in the building was killed.

The Recorder noted that the use of slates was being discouraged at school in favor of paper and lead pencils, which were thought to be easier on the eyesight.

The Musical and Literary Circle held a contest at its weekly meeting in which each young woman handed a partly-completed apron to each young man, along with thread and a needle. The men had 30 minutes to complete the most artful hem.

“The ice crop, which is most important in the Hudson Valley, and which is as susceptible to being ruined as the orange crop of Florida, seems to be all right,” the Recorder reported. “There will be plenty of good ice next summer, and it ought to be cheap.”

A painting by Andrew Fisher Bunner shows an ice harvest on a lake in Rockland County around 1890. (New-York Historical Society)

David Haight, of the North Highlands, owned the oldest farm team in the county and perhaps the state, Harry Clay, 29, and Lady Clay, 30, until the death this month of Harry. Haight had the team for 25 years.

The owners of trotting horses waited impatiently for the river to freeze so they could enjoy their annual ice trot.

100 Years Ago (January 1920)

Five Democrats — Frederick Osborn, Henry deRham, Otis Montrose, Thomas Murray and Charles Selleck — asked a state Supreme Court judge to examine the campaign expense reports of Putnam County Judge Bennett Southard. They alleged he violated the Corrupt Practices Act by spending more than $500 on his campaign. Southard filed a report for $499.45 but the men said the Republican and Prohibition candidate had not reported $20 he spent on Election Day to rent two automobiles in Cold Spring.

The American Children’s Dress Co. in Cold Spring donated 15 articles of clothing to the Philipstown branch of the American Red Cross for distribution in Europe.

A state assemblyman proposed that a new state be created called Greater New York that would consist of New York City, Long Island and Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Greene and Sullivan counties.

75 Years Ago (January 1945)

Corp. Wesley Daniels, 23, of Furnace Street, came home on a 30-day furlough from a hospital in Texas where he was recovering from machine-gun wounds inflicted during fighting in France. Only one of the three bullets could be removed.

Staff Sgt. Robert Faulds, formerly of Cold Spring, was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in France in August 1944, when he volunteered to accompany a medical officer into heavy artillery fire to rescue a wounded soldier. Sgt. Malcolm Stevenson of Cold Spring, a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, was awarded the Air Medal for Meritorious Achievement.

Word arrived that Private First Class Thomas Lutze, 19, of Main Street in Cold Spring, died of combat wounds suffered in Belgium. The 1942 Haldane grad, who had been overseas for a month, was survived by his parents and four sisters.

Four Philipstown men — Charles Macher, William Fischer and Dominick Bocchino of Cold Spring, and Jack McIntyre of Garrison — were reported missing in action. McIntyre was the first man from Putnam County to be inducted, on Nov. 24, 1940.

50 Years Ago (January 1970)

Olive Adams, the Philipstown historian and a lifelong Nelsonville resident, died at age 83, and Alfred Zeliph, the retired superintendent of the Stuveysant Fish Farm (later Continental Village), died at age 80.

The Village Board hired the Pure Waters Authority to build, maintain, service and operate a sewage-treatment facility.

The Philipstown board restored the Democratic supervisor’s annual salary to $4,600 after the then all-Republican panel, in its last meeting of 1969, cut it by 35 percent. The change was made after a number of residents protested.

Herb Tauss, a magazine illustrator who lived in Garrison and whose most recent work appeared in the December 1969 issue of Argosy, spoke at the Friends of the Butterfield Library’s annual meeting.

A pulp illustration by Herb Tauss, and Tauss in his home studio in Garrison around 1990 (Wikipedia)

A couple from Newburgh was killed when their 1966 Grand Prix Pontiac collided head-on with a truck on Route 9 in Philipstown, and a couple from New York City died when their car slid on the ice into another vehicle on Route 9D just south of Breakneck Lodge and burst into flames.

The Bijou on Main Street in Cold Spring showed Battle of Britain, starring Laurence Olivier.

Helena Livingston Forster, the daughter of Hamilton Fish who served as a nurse in France during World War I and was active in the suffrage movement in Putnam County, died at age 76. During World War II, she founded the Philipstown chapter of the British War Relief Society. She and her husband, Henry, lived on the old Hopper farm on Travis Corners Road for 50 years.

About 85 boys were on hand for the first session of the Cold Spring Lions’ Saturday morning basketball program at the Haldane gym.

John Benjamin of Garrison, newly relocated to Crested Butte, Colorado, purchased and remodeled an office building at the center of town that was renamed The Country Store and included a bar called The Tailings.

The Haldane school board heard a presentation about the crowded conditions in the elementary school, where classes averaged 30 students and the cafeteria was open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to accommodate everyone.

25 Years Ago (January 1995)

Vinny Tamagna, in his first meeting representing Philipstown on the Putnam County Legislature, recommended that his campaign manager, Joan Lisikatos, be hired as the legislative clerk for $53,550 annually.

After a three-month investigation, state police troopers arrested three Philipstown residents — a 41-year-old man and his wife and brother — on allegations they ran a sports-gambling operation that grossed $1 million annually.

With help from their teacher, third graders at the Garrison School corresponded by electronic mail with students in Australia.

Metro-North announced plans to pave the Cold Spring train station parking lot, institute a permit system and add 30 meters.

Voters in the Garrison school district voted down a plan, 323-206, that would have created more classrooms and funded other improvements.

Putnam County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 29-year-old man after he threw a hatchet across a barroom on Route 9. The suspect was leaving with a large knife when officers disarmed him.

The Open Space Institute, the new owner of the Malcolm Gordon School property in Garrison, offered Philipstown Recreation the use of its athletic fields.

The Putnam County News & Recorder received a number of angry letters after reporting in an unsigned story that during an 84-80 loss by the boys’ basketball team, the Blue Devils’ star guard “spent a good deal of time complaining to the referees” and that Coach Sniffen, “dressed in a Bobby Knight red sweater, took on the famed coach’s antics.”

3 thoughts on “Looking Back in Philipstown

  1. Thank you for a chance to look back! I love to look ahead and follow the trail to where some of these stories lead us. Helena Livingston Forster, grandmother to my friend Nick Forster, bass player of the well-known bluegrass band Hot Rize and founder of eTown, a nonprofit, nationally syndicated radio broadcast/podcast, multimedia and events production company in Boulder, Colorado. Like his ancestors, Nick has created a hub for social, environmental and community events… I wish he’d bring it back home to Philipstown.

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