Looking Back in Philipstown

150 Years Ago (September 1870)

After John Gallagher and Jerry O’Neill, who had been drinking together, began to quarrel, O’Neill drew a revolver and shot Gallagher in the face. The bullet entered the lower part of his chin and came out the back of his neck but did not mortally wound him. The editor of The Cold Spring Recorder editor noted the assault had been reported in the Newburgh papers and suggested that “unless Cold Spring becomes a more orderly and temperate village, we must expect that business will flee away to better regulated places.”

The Recorder declared Morris Avenue to be the village’s “finest street” after an unnamed individual paid to have it top-dressed with gravel.

James Y. Dykeman opened a hat and shoe store in the former post office.

Professor King, who ascended in a hot-air balloon to 10,000 feet from Newburgh, reported looking down at Cold Spring and West Point but that “the great sensation comes when, with the naked eye, 60 miles away, I discerned the city of New York … alone, bricks and mortar, a muddled mass with a smoky haze.”

After returning from a quick errand, storeowner Sidney Patterson was informed that a young man named Willie Robinson had taken money from behind the counter. Constable Travis found the culprit in Nelsonville with a large supply of fruit and candy. He was taken before Justice Ferris, found guilty and sent to the State Reform School on Randall’s Island.

Constable Travis arrested Isaac Ryder of Highland Falls on an allegation of bastardy made by Mary Fitzgerald of Cold Spring. He was released after agreeing to pay child support.

An inquest was ordered in the death of Hiram Odell, 60, whose body was found by a passerby at about 2 p.m. after he saw Odell’s hat in the street and then saw Odell’s legs protruding from a well. When Odell’s body was pulled out, his head was in the pail. Officials surmised that Odell, who had been drinking, became thirsty and leaned too far while lowering the pail.

125 Years Ago (September 1895)

William Southard found a carrier pigeon with the tag C23933 that had been killed by a hawk.

William Ladue Jr. won the Putnam County bicycle racing championship, taking home $25 and a silver cup.

The Fish estate hosted a Labor Day baseball game in which each team was comprised of five women and four men. When the contest ended in a 7-7 tie, a rematch was scheduled for the next Labor Day.

Professor H.C. Wilson, who was traveling the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie to New York City on a pneumatic [inflatable] boat, passed by Cold Spring.

A New York Central train traveled from New York City to Buffalo in a record 407 minutes, at an average speed of 64 mph. It reached Cold Spring in 53 minutes.

While the keeper at Town Hall was out on an errand, his wife heard a knock on the door leading to the jail. Samuel Van Tassell, who had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly, asked for a glass of water, but when she turned to fetch it, he knocked her down and escaped. Van Tassell turned himself in five days later and was fined $10.

A horse pulling a wagon owned by Mrs. Edwards Pierrepoint of Garrison ran away near Indian Brook. It broke the guard rail and tumbled down the embankment, breaking its neck, but the wagon became stuck on a tree at the edge of the precipice, saving the driver.

The Village Board approved the purchase of 70 street signs.

James Ruddiman, who came to the U.S. from Scotland around 1865 to work at the West Point Foundry and later opened a saloon, died at age 63.

Alice Moffat presented a framed portrait of George Washington to the Mekeel’s Corner school.

The Haldane school announced its tuition rates for non-residents: $15 annually for the academic department, $10 for the grammar department, $8 for intermediate grades and $5 for primary grades.

Harry Lockwood, who had moved to Ohio six years earlier, returned to the village by horse and wagon. The trip took four weeks.

Although somewhat hard to believe, John Barrett, 25, of Putnam Valley, had never seen a steamboat or ridden on a train until a recent visit to Cold Spring. The Recorder assured readers that “the above is a fact; we know of people in the same town, now well along in years, who have never been 3 miles from home.”

An 18-foot rowboat named Ethel and belonging to Anna Warner, author of the novel The Wide, Wide World, was stolen from her boathouse on Constitution Island. It was the fourth boat pilfered from Miss Warner in five years.

100 Years Ago (September 1920)

The New York Times noted that “more than 100 undersized, pale East Side boys” were preparing to attend Surprise Lake Camp, one of 92 institutions run by the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies. The paper noted that Surprise Lake had been a summer camp but now also operated from October to June. The boys were instructed by three teachers provided by New York City.

75 Years Ago (September 1945)

The locomotive of a troop train derailed a short distance north of Cold Spring at 6:40 p.m. on a Saturday night. About 475 soldiers returning from Europe and headed to their homes in the West were aboard. The GIs had a long wait in Beacon, where Red Cross workers served coffee.

After the Japanese surrendered to end World War II, Pvt. 1st Class Douglas Knapp of Nelsonville, a former machinist at the Dutchess Tool Company in Beacon, revealed that he had been stationed since May at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where scientists developed the atomic bomb.

Joseph Costello of Graymoor Manor in Garrison, who had been the rear gunner on a B-29 that was shot down over Tokyo, began his trip home after being kept in solitary confinement for three months as a prisoner of war. He was freed on Aug. 15 when Japan surrendered. Writing from the hospital ship USS Benevolence, he told his family that the guards forced the prisoners to sit in small cells on hardwood floors from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. without moving or talking. “They were always jabbing at us and spitting,” he wrote. Costello lost 40 of his 141 pounds during the ordeal. Once he reached San Francisco, he said he planned to fly home with his brother, Arthur Costello, a flight clerk on a B-54 transport in the Pacific.

Robert Patterson, of Garrison Road in Cold Spring, was appointed the secretary of war by President Harry Truman. Patterson succeeded Henry Stimson, who resigned. Patterson, a former judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who had earned the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism during World War I, had worked under Stimson since July 1940 as an assistant and then deputy secretary. He moved to Philipstown in 1938 and resided on the 68-acre Fair Oaks Farm on Route 9D south of the village. That same year, Patterson’s name also came up as a candidate to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Owen Roberts. [In a bipartisan gesture, Truman instead nominated Harold Burton, a Republican senator from Ohio.]

In 1943, during a visit to Hawaii, Robert Patterson (left), a Philipstown resident who was then undersecretary of the War Department, greeted a regiment of African American artillerymen.

The local Selective Service Board was instructed by state headquarters to send 12 men to Carmel for induction, but because the Army and Navy no longer took draftees older than 26, only four men went, including William Le Mon of Cold Spring.

1st Lt. Robert Grindrod of Cold Spring was among the military police officers who broke up a criminal ring in Belgium run by two deserters who sold rations on the black market. While making inquiries at the post exchange, Grindrod noticed a pile of PX ration cards on the counter. Thumbing through them, he found that a name was duplicated. Two officers were assigned to tail whoever picked up the rations, and an investigation revealed the men were receiving 130 cards each week by presenting false purchase orders for a fictitious unit.

Anton Chmela of Yonkers, the president of General Quartz Laboratories, which specialized in radio and television technology such as crystal oscillators, bought Dick’s Castle on Route 9D, which had sat empty for 34 years. The Garrison house, which sat on 100 acres, was the unfinished dream of Mr. and Mrs. Evans Dick, who began construction in 1908 on what would become the world’s largest concrete structure. However, in 1911, after spending $1.25 million [about $34 million now], they abandoned the project with only the main walls (with 150 window openings) and roof complete. Mr. Dick, who was a member of the stock firm Dick Brothers, had died in 1934 at age 75. Chmela said he planned to use the home as the headquarters of his firm and suggested he might launch a TV station that would beam its signal to an 80-mile radius.

Dick’s Castle was sold in 1945 to a Yonkers resident for his radio and TV technology firm. (Halstead Properties)

Edward O’Keefe of Parrott Street won 14 first prizes at the annual show in New York City of the American Dahlia Society.

Col. Jacob Ruppert, the owner of the New York Yankees, the Ruppert Brewing Co. and the 394-acre Garrison estate known as Eagle’s Rest, left an estate worth about $9.5 million [or about $137 million now] when he died in 1939, according to a state tax appraisal. Earlier reports had estimated his estate would be worth $50 million [$720 million].

50 Years Ago (September 1970)

St. Philip’s Church in Garrison held a service and dinner to celebrate its 200th anniversary. The organizing committee was Mort and Adele Williams, Mrs. Fred Polhemus, Dorothea Reeder, Nanette Gordon, Mrs. Alexander Saunders and the Rev. William Reisman.

Putnam County opened its first public park, on Gipsy Trail Road in Carmel.

John Dow

John Dow

John Dow held a champagne concert and art auction at Dick’s Castle to raise funds for his campaign to reclaim a seat in Congress representing a sprawling district that included the Highlands. The Democrat was elected in 1964 and reelected in 1966 but lost his seat in 1968 to Republican Martin McKneally. [Dow defeated McKneally in 1970 but was voted out again in 1972 and never returned to the House, losing races in 1974, 1982 and 1990. He died in 2003 at age 97.]

Early on a Sunday morning, fire destroyed the Viking Village restaurant on the Albany Post Road. The 75 volunteer firefighters on the scene drew water from the Graymoor monastery with a hose relay.

James Bailey, a Cold Spring native who served as a state Supreme Court justice for 21 years, died at age 80. A Navy veteran, he served as Putnam County district attorney for eight years and a county judge for 15 years. He also was a charter member of the Cold Spring Lions Club and the village’s American Legion post.

Herbert Johansen, a writer who lived in Nelsonville, died at age 64. Born in Sweden, he wrote a memoir about setting out at age 17 to find the headwaters of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. He also was a reporter for The New York World, the editor of several weekly newspapers and a staff member at Popular Science for 21 years. Johansen won a Peabody Award for his scripts for the Columbia School of the Air, an effort by the university to offer instruction by radio.

The Loretto parish agreed to sell Chapel of Our Lady, erected in 1833 overlooking the Hudson River, for $10,000 to a group of residents who hoped to preserve what had been the first church built by the New York Archdiocese outside New York City. (Six earlier churches were all built below 14th Street.)

The Chapel of Our Lady before its restoration (Chapel Restoration)

25 Years Ago (September 1995)

A group called Philipstown Economic Progress, headed by John Zenz, asked the Town Board to throw out the recommendations of a three-year study of Route 9 from Annsville Circle to the Dutchess County line, saying they would hurt local businesses.

Vinny Tamagna, who represented Philipstown on the county Legislature and was chair of the Philipstown Republican Committee, asked the county Board of Elections to censure the Philipstown Conservative Party for “misleading or even fraudulent” advertising during the primary campaign for town judge. The conservatives, whose candidate was Stephen Tomann, claimed in an advertisement that the Republican candidate, Lou Liotti, was not a member of the party.

A replica of a Parrott gun built and donated by blacksmith Norm Champlin of Nelsonville was dedicated on the waterfront. Giachinta Brothers provided the base concrete and Jack Allen and Jim Erichson did the formwork.

In 2014, Alexander Randall V, a descendant of the brothers who developed the Parrott gun, visited the replica on the Cold Spring waterfront. (File photo by Michael Turton)

Two Cold Spring residents were arrested and charged with selling and shipping marijuana by UPS from an apartment on Fair Street. Putnam sheriff deputies said they seized 10 pounds of weed, as well as cocaine and $6,500 in cash.

T.C. Boyle, a Peekskill native, signed copies of his new novel, Tortilla Curtain, at Salmagundi Books on Main Street.

Tom Rolston, owner of the Cold Spring Depot restaurant, was named executive director of the newly formed Putnam County Visitors Bureau, and Maurie Webster of Cold Spring was also named to its six-member board. The county and state provided about half of the organization’s $207,000 budget.

Badey & Watson Surveying & Engineering, which was founded in 1973, waived the fee for its 10,000th project, which happened to be for work done on the residence of Herbert Cavanaugh at 30 Garden St. [In December 2019, the firm waived the fee for its 25,000th project, for Maria Ricapito of Cold Spring.]


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