Looking Back in Philipstown

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

150 Years Ago (February 1871)

Eugene Allis, 14, the son of Sylvester Allis, the Cold Spring postmaster and editor of The Cold Spring Recorder, accidentally shot and killed a classmate, Debbie Speedling, inside the post office after his father had stepped away and left him in charge. The teenager testified that when Debbie came by at about 10 a.m., “I held the pistol up to the light and she wanted to see it.” He attempted to remove the cartridge but it was stuck. When he set the gun on the mail drop box, it fired and the bullet hit her in the forehead. “Father did not know I had the pistol,” Eugene said. “He had forbidden me to use pistols. Some time ago I went to E. Baxter’s to buy a pistol and he would not sell me one unless I had a written order from my father.” Eugene instead purchased the weapon and bullets from a friend.


A Maori chief in New Zealand, from an article by J.C. Bates that appeared in Scribner’s Monthly in 1871

J.C. Bates, who was traveling through the southern U.S. looking for a place to start a business, had his article about the Maori of New Zealand, “Life in the Cannibal Islands,” published in two parts in Scribner’s Monthly. [Part 1] [Part 2]

A search warrant was issued for the home of Benjamin Ireland in the Highlands, where the constable allegedly found an assortment of stolen articles squirreled away, including handkerchiefs, laces, beads, buttons and neckties. Mr. and Mrs. Ireland, their daughter, Mary, and an Irishman named John Maheady were arrested.

The rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church singed his hair and beard when he opened the furnace doors at the church and there was an explosion of coal gas.

Samuel Austin carried the furniture for the new Cornell Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church chapel down Main Street in Cold Spring on its way to Garrison.

A shell contract was completed at the West Point Foundry on a Thursday at noon and the workers dispatched, sending a small army of men into the streets.

125 Years Ago (February 1896)

A one-mile race was proposed from Stony Point to Breakneck between the Empire State Express operated by the New York Central and a five-man bicycle given a running start.

Thieves broke into St. Mary’s Church and stole altar ornaments and vestry articles — all gifts from wealthy residents with summer homes in Philipstown — and a pair of richly carved, hammered brass vases given to the church by a sister of the rector, the Rev. Elbert Floyd-Jones. It was surmised that the criminals were tramps who escaped on a passing freight.

On an evening before the Philipstown election, the Democrats convened in the main hall of Town Hall and the Republicans in its jury room. After each selected their candidates, the caucuses created a joint committee to see if they could produce a unanimous union ticket. That ticket included Democrats for supervisor, assessor and highway commissioner and Republicans for clerk and collector, with positions such as constables, election inspectors and justice split evenly.

100 Years Ago (February 1921)

Col. Rhinelander Waldo

Col. Rhinelander Waldo

Col. Rhinelander Waldo of Garrison, a former New York City police commissioner who owned a large amount of property in Philipstown, including the former Warren’s Tavern (now the Bird & Bottle), was appointed by Gen. J.J. Pershing to the general staff of the U.S. Army.

A performance of the Pedler’s Parade was presented at the Methodist Church, with residents portraying characters such as the Hurdy-Gurdy Man, Dr. Corn Curer, Cake Seller, Pop Corn Vendor, Indian Girls and Irish Apple Woman. The event raised $75 for the church.

A number of children suffering from whooping cough, measles or severe colds were sent home from school.

The Cold Spring basketball team won an exciting contest against the Garrison Reserves at the parish house in Garrison, 9-5.

The euchre tournament between the Odd Fellows lodges of Cold Spring and Beacon ended with a feast of clam chowder, frankfurters, rolls and cocoa.

Frank Dalzell, one of five brothers born and raised in Cold Spring, died at age 68. He became a drug clerk at age 16 at Boyd & Co. and in 1885 opened his own drugstore at Main and Garden streets. Frank had been an honor graduate of the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York, taking first prize in pharmacy and third prize in all branches. He was also the local agent for the Mechanics Savings Bank of Beacon and a teller in the Cold Spring National Bank. His wife planned to take over as druggist.

The Knights of Columbus presented a three-act “Western comedy,” The Stubborn Motor Car, followed by dancing to Shine’s orchestra of Peekskill.

Several silent moving pictures were presented at the Philipstown Town Hall, including Shipwrecked Among Cannibals, a “7-reel super special” billed as an educational travel documentary; The Mad Marriage, starring Carmel Myers, which was said to be “especially pleasing to women”; and Hoot Gibson in a 2-reel Western, Double Danger.

double danger

A poster for Double Danger, which was shown at Town Hall in 1921

Rep. James Husted of Westchester proposed a new federal judicial district that would include nine Hudson Valley counties, including Putnam and Dutchess. Without their own district, the counties had to send bankruptcy and other litigation to New York City, where it was often held up for a year or more.

The steamboat Poughkeepsie made six trips each way through the ice above Constitution Island to free a tug and four Erie barges that had been frozen in place for a week.

The Philipstown Lodge of the Masons held its first annual banquet. Ticketholders arrived at Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. to form a line, then marched in time to the music to their seats. A performer from New York City told “bright and wholesome” stories, followed by the Rev. Walter Reid of Tarrytown, who argued for more restricted immigration to improve the quality of those admitted into citizenship.

The menu for the Washington’s Birthday Supper at the Methodist Church included roast lamb, gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed peas, cabbage salad, pie, cheese and coffee.

With Garrison being one of the last places in the state without electric lights, residents lobbied Peekskill Light & Heat to extend its wires from Annsville. They had earlier asked Cold Spring Light & Heat to extend its wires without success.

The Rev. Elbert Floyd-Jones applied the honorary match that started the fires under the boiler at the new Cold Spring Textile Co.

The Putnam County almshouse reported it had received 24 inmates during the previous year, discharged 16 and had 10 deaths, leaving it with a population of 29.

W.T. Glover of the Internal Revenue Service announced he would station himself at the Cold Spring post office to assist taxpayers beginning Feb. 28.

75 Years Ago (February 1946)

Gov. Thomas Dewey nominated George W. Perkins Jr., who had a home in Cold Spring, for reappointment to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. [Perkins had served on the commission since 1922 and was its president when he died in 1960 at age 64. In 1949, he was appointed by President Truman as the U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He had also served as president of the Haldane school board.]

50 Years Ago (February 1971)

The Putnam County Historical Society dedicated the Rogers Studio, which had been constructed in the early 19th century, probably as a schoolhouse, on the Garrison property of Daniel Haight. (During the Revolutionary War, Haight ran a tavern; tradition has it that Gen. George Washington visited and, after hearing a maid trip on the second floor, quipped: “I’ve heard of people falling down stairs, but never upstairs.”) By the time Marquerite Walker Rogers bought the property in 1912, the small building had been turned into a chicken pen. When she sold the land, she had the structure moved to a spot on Route 9D. When she sold that land, she moved the building to Cold Spring, where she converted it into a bookbinding studio. In 1969, she donated the structure to the Putnam County Historical Society (now the Putnam History Museum), which affixed it to the north side of the newly completed addition to its building, the former Foundry School.

Rogers Studio

Workers prepare to move the Rogers Studio in 1969. (Putnam History Museum)

The George A. Casey Post 275 of the American Legion celebrated its 50th anniversary with a dinner and dance at Dutchess Manor.

About 50 parents from the North Highlands met with officials from Haldane and the Our Lady of Loretto school to discuss student behavior on school buses.

Kathleen Daly, 48, of Garrison, died in an afternoon fire at The Homestead on Route 9D south of Upper Station Road. The Garrison Volunteer Fire Co. extinguished the flames with water from the home’s pool and the Highlands Country Club but did not discover Daly’s body until the next morning. The three-story home dated to 1760. The coroner ruled the death accidental.

Three members of the Girls Friendly Society at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church — Sheri Heins, Myretta Weise and Rosemary Fleming — visited Mary Carrigan at the East Point Nursing Home in Cold Spring to celebrate her 95th birthday.

Raymond LeFever, the Independent Party candidate for Cold Spring mayor, issued a statement decrying “ugly rumors” about his conduct while serving as a police officer in the village. He denied he had ever been “given to bullying and strong-arm coercion of our young people.”

Angel Guaragna, 14, of Garrison, was struck by a car and fatally injured while walking with traffic on Route 9D after getting off her school bus north of Snake Hill Road. A 58-year-old New Hamburg man was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

The Haldane school board denied a request, 3-1, from the Student Association to change the Pledge of Allegiance recited at the school from “with liberty and justice for all” to “seeking liberty and justice for all.” At an earlier meeting, the faculty adviser to the Student Association, Charles Fredrickson, had started to read a statement accusing Board Member Hugh Villegas of “harassment and violation of privacy” over the issue but was stopped by the board president. The board went into closed session, after which its legal counsel issued an “opinion” that the charge by Fredrickson had been “rash and unwarranted.”

Roland Black, the regional director of the Taconic State Park Commission, said that the demolition of the silos (made with 18-inch, reinforced concrete) and conveyor buildings at the former New York Trap Rock Co. site just north of Cold Spring would be the first step to getting the 3,000-acre Hudson Highlands State Park ready for visitors. But he said he expected the demolition could cost $500,000.

25 Years Ago (February 1996)

The actor James Earl Jones read selections from the Bard at the 10th anniversary benefit of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival at the Boscobel mansion.

A 23-year-old man visiting his aunt in Cold Spring at 55 Main St. was struck and killed by a Metro-North train on a Sunday morning about 200 feet south of the platform. His aunt said he had a history of mental illness.

Residents complained at a Philipstown Town Board meeting about how the Highway Department had responded to a January blizzard and the subsequent flooding. After a resident from East Mountain Road North complained that the road had not been plowed for four days after the storm, Supervisor Bill Mazzuca said that the Town Board deserved some of the blame because the highway superintendent had requested more trucks but the board didn’t want to spend the money.

The Garrison fire company received a new tanker that carried 3,680 gallons of water, twice the capacity of the previous tanker.

The Putnam County News and Recorder announced it had created an email address at 103513,[email protected] for readers to submit letters to the editor.

Geraldine Baldwin, the founding director of the Desmond-Fish Library, resigned.

Caroline Smith, 33, was fatally injured when her car skidded on slippery pavement on Route 301 in Nelsonville east of Fishkill Road and collided with a truck. Her two young children, in the back seat, suffered minor injuries. Smith’s organs were donated, including a kidney to one of her husband’s uncles.

A 21-year-old Cold Spring man was arrested following an argument in which he allegedly punched the sunroof on a car and pulled off a side mirror.

A 40-year-old Philipstown man was arrested by Putnam County sheriff’s deputies and charged with fencing stolen stereo equipment, jewelry, CDs, telephone equipment and tools from his business, Poli’s Diner, on Route 9.

One thought on “Looking Back in Philipstown

  1. Thank you so much for the Looking Back in Philipstown column. Here, you mention of the accidental shooting 150 years ago, on Feb 7, 1871, in the Cold Spring post office of 14-year-old Debbie Speedling by a classmate, Eugene Allis.

    I am a devoted researcher of my family ancestry, and Deborah Ann Speedling was a first cousin, four times removed, of mine. My great-grandmother was named for her. She was the daughter of William Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Speedling (1818-1860) and Eliza Wood (1817-1898), surnames that I’m sure will be recognized in Cold Spring.

    Debbie’s gravestone is in the cemetery near the Haldane school. The inscription reads: “She hath gone in the springtime of life / Ere her sky had been dimmed by a cloud / While her heart with the rapture of love was yet rife / And the hopes of her youth were unbowed.”

    The Current is read with relish every week by me and my family, both the “old” and new news.