Looking Back in Philipstown

What happened this month 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, and 150 years ago

150 Years Ago (November 1870)

Addison Merrick dug up a 29-pound, 32-inch-long beet with a circumference of 28 inches. Sylvenus MeKeel also showed off his turnips that measured 15 inches or more around.

A participant’s speech at the meeting of the Ministerial Association of Methodist clergymen “was an able and exhaustive Bible argument against the use of wine,” according to The Cold Spring Recorder.

Bridget and Patrick Ward were fined $5 each for stealing planks from a barge at Foundry wharf.

The Census Bureau announced that the population of Putnam County had dropped by 140 people in the previous decade, to 13,862.

Two cows and a heifer owned by Gilbert Baxter in the lower Highlands were killed by lightning.

The sewing school announced it was moving for the winter from the basement of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church to the school building on Furnace Street.

Burglars who broke into the home of John Haldane on Morris Avenue apparently took their time, as his stereoscopic views were scattered around in one room.

The Recorder declared that the young men who stood in front of churches on Sunday mornings to stare at young women as they left services were a “decided nuisance.”

A group of drunken rowdies assailed the home of Thomas Mekeel at Mekeel’s Corners, but when he kept them at bay by showing his gun, they proceeded to James Smiths’ front fence, tearing off its pickets.

The Recorder threw cold water on a report by the “West Point correspondent” of The New York Times that a group of men had blown a hole into the side of Storm King and unearthed a treasure chest hidden by Capt. Kidd and filled with Spanish doubloons. The leader of the group, according to the Times, was David Briggs, a Spiritualist who had dreamed about a rusty chest submerged in the river and consulted a clairvoyant for its precise location.


At a recent virtual roundtable hosted by the Putnam County Historian’s Office, members of local historical societies and museums discussed how many current and former residents have donated ephemera and artifacts discovered in closets and attics while stuck at home by the pandemic over the past eight months.

In Cold Spring, the Putnam History Museum received material related to the ferry that operated between Garrison and West Point in the 19th century. It was contributed by Anthony and Taylor Mike Belcher, former longtime residents of Garrison and descendants of Henry White Belcher, who owned the ferry.


John Duncan at the Putnam History Museum with a ferry seal stamp and photos donated to its collection (Photo provided)

“One exceptional item is a seal stamp for the West Point Ferry Co., which operated from about 1854 to 1900,” said John Duncan, the collections manager.

The Belchers also sent photos of Garrison Landing from the 1920s and 1930s, which filled a gap — most landing photos in the museum collection are from the late 19th century or the past 50 years.

“Donations documenting local history have been a silver lining during the pandemic,” said Jennifer Cassidy of the Putnam County Historian’s Office. To learn how to donate items, call 845-808-1420 or email [email protected]

125 Years Ago (November 1895)

The first installment of Cold Spring water mains arrived by boat, followed by 100 Italians laborers to dig the trenches, beginning around the block bounded by Main, Market, West and New streets. The village’s first fire hydrant was installed at the corner of Main and West.

Several of the Italians brawled on Rock Street on a Sunday evening and one or two were left with head wounds after being struck by empty bottles.

A former West Point cadet died of injuries received while playing in the Army-Navy football game two years earlier.

Hamilton Fish II

Hamilton Fish II

Hamilton Fish II of Garrison was reelected speaker of the state Assembly, which had 105 Republican and 44 Democratic members. (The state Senate had 36 Republicans and 14 Democrats.)

At a meeting of the Haldane Board of Education, the building committee reported that on dark days it was impossible for students in Miss Egan’s and Miss Gallinger’s rooms to see their books. The committee suggested cutting holes in the partitions to allow light in from the hall.

Capt. Henry Metcalfe, president of the new Board of Water Commissioners, announced it had adopted a fee schedule. Residents would pay an annual charge that covered all the faucets, baths and water closets in a dwelling and was calculated by the frontage feet and number of stories. Alternatively, a homeowner could install a meter and pay 20 cents per 1,000 gallons. Farmers would be charged $1 for the first cow and 50 cents for each additional. Bakeries, saloons, soda fountains, public baths, livery stables, private stables with hoses, factories and other business consumers would be required to install meters.


A Cold Spring water bill from 1907 (Putnam History Museum)

Metcalfe, who was also president of the Village Improvement Society, offered 5 cents for every metal and cardboard advertisement removed from trees and posts. Once the boys in town recovered all those signs, the Recorder reported, they stole grocery, drug and cigar signs and punched holes in the corners to make it appear they had been posted. In the end, Metcalfe paid for about 300 signs.

A scarf pin lost by a performer with Howorth’s Hibernica and Comedy Co., which had performed at Town Hall, was recovered by Coleman Oakley of North Highlands. When Oakley refused to return it unless he received a $5 reward, he was arrested on larceny charges.

William Ladue Jr., a clerk at the National Bank of Cold Spring, won a 10-mile bicycle road race in Garrison in 25:27 and was awarded a new camera and gun. Charles Post was second (despite a broken pedal and a pit stop to replace a wheel) and won a bicycle suit; Eugene Crawford was third and won a lantern; and John Homer was fourth and won a handsome sweater.

The Recorder published an accounting of Ladue’s other winnings in bicycle races over the previous year: two silver watches, three gold watches, two diamond rings, a mantle clock, a silver cake basket, two bicycle suits and a silver cup.

William Ladue Jr.

William Ladue Jr. of Cold Spring was awarded a camera and a gun when he won a road race in Garrison in 1895.

The paper observed: “The complaint that bicycles frighten horses is slowly but surely giving away to a protest against horses and carriages getting in the way of bicycles.”

William King installed street signs in Cold Spring made of iron with white enamel letters about 2.5 inches high on a blue background.

A rabid dog owned by Emerson Jaycox of Nelsonville bit at least 17 other dogs. In response, the Cold Spring Village Board ordered that all dogs be muzzled until at least Dec. 31. At the same time, it authorized James Mosher to kill any mad dogs. That led to further trouble when he shot a dog owned by Warren Merritt, who promptly sued for its value.

The Cold Spring clerk recommended the village purchase a safe to store important documents.

E.H. Timm, a member of the Board of Education, spoke at the Haldane Union School about his experiences serving in the Civil War.

A horseless carriage, or motor cycle, making a pilgrimage to Chicago from New York, was stymied by the grade at Nelson Hill and the occupants had to push.

The State Prison Commission asked Putnam and other counties to force convicts sentenced to less than a year in jail to work on fixing the roads.

John Woolcock and Edward Burbe visited a cave near the top of Crow’s Nest opposite Cold Spring, which is located 800 feet above the river on a dangerous approach, to retrieve specimens of quartz they believed might contain silver.

100 Years Ago (November 1920)

Maj. Hamilton Fish Jr. of Garrison was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating the Middletown mayor, Rosslyn Cox.

Fish’s brother, Stuyvesant, the former president of the Illinois Central Railroad, bought 350 acres of land in Canopus Hollow — including the Croft, Odell and Scofield farms and two houses — to add to his Philipstown estate. He also had homes in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island.

Nancy McNeal gave an address titled “The Value of a Hot Dish for the School Lunch” at the Garrison school to about 100 members of the Junior Extension. Mrs. William Church Osborn financed the lunch program at the school.

Attic Mystery Solved

Teresa Lagerman, our community engagement manager, posted the photo below to the Facebook group Philipstown Locals, noting she had found a board with the name “Warren N. Merritt, Nelsonville, N.Y.” in the attic of her Cold Spring village home.

merritt board

Cheryl Allen responded that, according to her research, it referred to Warren Nelson Merritt, a contractor and former mayor of Nelsonville who was born in Cold Spring in 1875 and died in Nelsonville in 1958.

Alan DeMichael, Warren’s grandson, said his grandfather had grown up in a home at the corner of Pearl and Secor streets and later built the home next to it, where he lived until his death.

Finally, Pamela Gunther commented, “This is what Facebook was supposed to be about: connecting!”

75 Years Ago (November 1945)

Joseph Lahey defeated Gilbert Forman by 70 votes of 1,920 cast to become the Philipstown supervisor. Forman had held the position for 16 years. Marion Jenkins defeated the incumbent superintendent of highways, Richard Harmon, by 82 votes of 1,884 cast and Norman Champlin won by nine votes to become assessor.

Jane Stevenson hosted a party for her son, Cpl. Kenneth Stevenson, who returned to the U.S. after spending 44 months in the Pacific, the longest record of service for any soldier from Cold Spring. Another son, Staff Sgt. Malcolm Stevenson, had completed 50 missions in Italy with the 15th Air Corps.

Adolf Peters of Lake Valhalla took delivery of the first 1946 model Ford registered in Putnam County, which he purchased from Cold Spring Motors.

Judge James Bailey

Judge James Bailey

James Bailey of Cold Spring, a former Putnam County district attorney, became the first Putnam County judge elected to the state Supreme Court.

The Haldane Central School Blue Devils (5-0-1) won the Putnam County football championship by defeating Carmel, 26-6.

More than 1,000 parents and relatives filled Haldane for Open House Night. The program began with a pageant, “Sing Out, Sweet Land of Liberty,” written by the principal.

Arthur McKay of Garrison won a turkey in a raffle held by the Philipstown post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Cold Spring movie theater.

50 Years Ago (November 1970)

Dick Howser, the third-base coach for the New York Yankees, spoke at the Philipstown Little League’s annual banquet.

The Nelsonville Village Board hired a firm to put its tax rolls on a computer.

Charley Ireland of Haldane High School won the Dutchess County Scholastic League cross-country title by running the 2.5-mile course in 14:01.

Charlotte Post, a third-grade teacher at Haldane, asked her students to respond to the question, “How can I help make my town a better place in which to live?” Most students mentioned picking up trash, while two suggested using lead-free gas and one wanted people to stop burning leaves.

John Burns, executive assistant to U.S. Attorney Whitney North Seymour Jr., spoke to members of the Philipstown Council about how to become a model community ecologically. He said that progress was being made to get the Hudson River clean enough to swim in.

The American Legion post in Peekskill honored Harold Mason of Garrison, who owned a tire store in the city, at its annual Veterans Day dinner. The keynote speaker, Charles Galdabaugh, said that Americans “don’t need the burden of trying to see things clearly through the confusion created by bombings, dope, flag desecrations, wars and other forms of turmoil.”

Joe Giordenello of Avery Road defeated Richie “The Ogg” Monroe of Old West Point Road for the Garrison 8 Ball Pocket Billiard Championship at Duffy’s Tavern in Cold Spring. Giordenello was the former Nassau County Cue Ball champ and had appeared on television playing billiards.

25 Years Ago (November 1995)

Three Philipstown Pop Warner players traveled to Poughkeepsie to compete in the NFL/Gatorade Punt, Pass & Kick. Vinny Millspaugh, 9, placed second in his age group; Chris Pilner was third among 12- and 13 year-olds; and Ryan McConville, 10, advanced to the state competition, to be held during halftime of a Giants-Redskins game.

Stephen Tomann was the only Republican to win a seat in Philipstown when he was reelected as town justice. Ed Engelbride, who lost his seat on the council, blamed a poison-pen letter circulated before the election in the North Highlands. Others blamed the local Conservative Party, which had endorsed the Democrats.

Route 301 in Nelsonville was closed between Fishkill and Peekskill roads for five hours after a van took out a utility pole, causing power lines to fall on the road.

About 35 Garrison school district parents and community members attended a forum titled, “Is There an Alternative to a Building Referendum?”

Karyn Licari of Fishkill gave birth on Nov. 30 to Brianna, Joseph and Nicole, the first triplets ever delivered at Hudson Valley Hospital.

The state awarded a $233,000 contract to a Pleasantville contractor to replace the 78-foot bridge removed a year before from over the Metro-North tracks at Little Stony Point. Park police issued more than 100 tickets and warnings over the summer to hikers who illegally crossed the tracks to reach the park.

One thought on “Looking Back in Philipstown

  1. The water bill shown in this article is signed on the bottom by Edward J. Engelbride. He would be my great grandfather! Thank you for showing me a little piece of my family history.