Looking Back in Philipstown

DeWitt Clinton train

The early DeWitt Clinton train inspired a replica that came through Cold Spring in 1921.

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150 Years Ago (July 1871)

Seventeen Cold Spring residents signed a letter to the Board of Trustees claiming that its vote to raise the pay of the street commissioner from $1.75 to $2 per day had violated the 1846 village charter. The commissioner, David Holmes, had submitted a bill for $21 but the board delayed paying it until it could get legal advice. In response, their counsel noted that the charter limited the pay of the street commissioner to 75 cents a day but that the village had been paying more for some 20 years. He also noted that, under state law, the trustees could be paid up to $1 per day each as overseers of highways but that the village bylaws required them to be volunteers. The Cold Spring Recorder suggested it might be time to update the charter.

James Duffy of Parsonage Street was critically injured on July 4 when a small cannon set off a supply of powder in an open box.

J.A. Murphy agreed to pay for the damages to the fence at the pound, which he broke open to free his cow, which had been found wandering the village. Two weeks later, a cow owned by Murphy approached the pump opposite B Street while being driven from pasture and knocked down a girl and cut her skin and dress with its horn.

The editor of The Recorder noted that each man owns the sidewalk and half the road in front of his lot, that the public has only the right of passage, and that “lounging” on either is technically a crime. He blamed storekeepers whose “hunger for trade makes them submissive” when tolerating loiterers.

Johnny Wood, the son of James Wood of Market Street, was playing with the head of a horse owned by Charles Bullock while its wagon was being unloaded when the animal bit off his thumb and an 8-inch tendon from his forearm. A crowd gathered at Boyd’s Drug Store to see the wound dressed and observe the fragment.

A reader complained in a letter to The Recorder that, during the funeral of a child of Lawrence Schmidt, the tobacconist, at his home by the railroad, mourners had to step over a drunken man lying near the front door. Mrs. Schmidt called the constable but was told the officer would need a warrant to remove the man, which Justice Ferris later said was not the case.

Gilbert Forman’s low fields were covered with frost early one morning and his potatoes damaged.

Following a competition before an examining board, the eldest son of Jackson Dykeman, the district attorney of Westchester County and a native of Cold Spring, was selected by Rep. Clarkson Potter to receive a commission to West Point.

Joseph Ferris, while driving a rickety wagon on Academy Street with two wheels on the sidewalk, spilled a load of wood.

A stranger who was about 80 years old was seen wandering Garrison over two days before he was detained and his sons notified in New York City. The man was first noticed by the coachman for Mr. Belcher, who had to stop and climb down to get him to leave the middle of the road, where he was walking deep in meditation. Later that day, he was seen on the railroad track near Garrison; a constable removed him and secured his lodging at the hotel. The next morning, he was again on the track and was taken to the depot, where he lunged at the baggage master with a razor blade before attempting to slit his own throat. The man was brought to Cold Spring to await his sons, who said their father had been missing. It was not clear how he ended up in Garrison.

O.H. Speedling purchased the former Baxter’s Store in Nelsonville and said he would add a porch for anyone who wished to rent it as a retail store. Otherwise he planned to turn it into a market.

The highway commissioners voted to build an iron bridge made at the foundry over the pond at Vinegar Hill.

Despite shouted warnings from the flagman at the Main Street crossing, Fergus Brady attempted to beat the train in his wagon. After the engine clipped the fender, Brady held tight to the reins and was pulled off the vehicle, which was reduced to fragments. Neither horse nor driver were injured.

When a southbound freight train pulled into the Cold Spring station, its brakeman could not be found. He was finally located unconscious on the top of a caboose, having apparently been knocked unconscious by the bridge frame at Breakneck. He was taken to the residence of Issac DeLapoy, the night watchman at the depot, and a telegram was sent to his father in Westfield, Massachusetts.

William Andrew Rose, 5, was standing on the wharf in front of his house opposite Cold Spring to watch a steamer when the swells caused him to slip into the water. His mother saw him disappear and ran to the spot to find him clinging to a timber. She went into the water and put her son into a small boat moored nearby but when she tried to climb aboard, her wet clothing was too heavy. Men on the steamer alerted George Howell, who was on the shore in Cold Spring, and he rowed across to rescue her.

The jury in a lawsuit filed by Mortimer Ballard, who claimed Thomas Finaughty owed him $200 because his chickens, horses, hogs and dogs had trespassed on his land, deliberated for 10 hours before awarding Ballard 6 cents.

Another jury heard a lawsuit filed by Louis Ballard against Finaughty for $200 for allowing his chickens to trespass, but could not agree on a verdict after three hours of discussion. A second jury threw out the case and the judge fined Ballard $18.45 for bringing a meritless action.

A third lawsuit filed by Margaret Ballard against Finaughty was tossed when the plaintiff failed to show. The judge fined her $11.75.

100 Years Ago (July 1921)

At a meeting of the Putnam County Historical Society, W.L. Culver shared news of discoveries made by members of the Field Exploration Committee that he chaired for the New York Historical Society. For several years, the committee members had been trying to find the locations of Revolutionary War campsites. Guided by contemporary accounts, it had located Camp Robinson on the west side of Cat Rock Road in Garrison, which was occupied during the winter of 1779-1780 by soldiers from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Among the artifacts was the original die, or matrix, used to manufacture the officers’ buttons of the 21st British regiment, which had probably been found by a soldier at Saratoga and discarded. Culver said there were still traces of hearths that marked the sites of the log huts that the soldiers lived in. Culver noted that the committee had located a camp called Connecticut Village about two years earlier but was still looking for the New Boston and Soldier’s Fortune camps.

The Lending Library, which had opened in January with three members, reported it now had 126, and that its 550 books had been checked out 3,008 times.

Teachers from Garrison, Nelsonville and Haldane held a picnic at the Cragside estate [now the Haldane campus] for children who took part in the Wild Flower Show. The children were enrolled as junior members of the Wild Flower Preservation Society of America, whose aim was to protect native plants.

The Rev. George Williams, who over four years had expanded the Baptist Church by 20 members and overseen the installation of an organ, piano and pipeless heater, resigned to accept a call at another church.

Mary Smith, the county agent for dependent children, told the Putnam Board of Supervisors that three children were no longer wards because their mother had been located in another county, where she had remarried.

The Garrison Union Free School hired Meta Byrnes as principal, Katherine Millicker as intermediate teacher and Emma Rathjen as primary teacher.

Dr. J.G. Simmons, who purchased the Helen Wilson place in Garrison, entertained about 30 members of the Westchester Tennis Club of the Bronx.

Grace Tiemeyer complained to the Village Board that the Cold Spring Light, Heat & Power Co. had destroyed shade trees in front of her property by sawing off limbs. The clerk was directed to notify the firm that no trees were to be trimmed without the approval of the board.

The Cold Spring Market purchased a new, up-to-date slicer.

The State of New York purchased the 1,600-acre Van Cortlandt estate, including Anthony’s Nose and a road from Manitou built 30 years earlier.

In Garrison, the Graymoor school and grounds were leased to Mr. Costello, who opened a gas station that offered refreshments.

The trustees of Philipstown School District No. 13 presented a budget of $7,000 that covered teachers’ salaries, payments to truant officers, a clerk, a physician, a treasurer and a janitor, and costs for a library, fuel, insurance, books, supplies, water, repairs and a new flag pole.

The body of Sgt. George A. Casey was brought to Cold Spring from France and laid to rest at Cold Spring Cemetery. Casey had been fatally wounded three years earlier during the battle of the Argonne Forest, and the local American Legion chapter was named in his honor.

Harry Nelson DeLanoy wrote a poem in memory of Casey that began: “Hark! Up the village street there comes / The tread of feet to muffled drums; / And, rumbling on the earthen road, / A caisson bears its flag-draped load, / While hoofs of horses, on the ground, / Seem but to add a solemn sound / That breaks the cadence of the tread / Of comrades marching with their dead.”

The famous Empire State Express Engine No. 999 traveled through Cold Spring pulling a replica of the DeWitt Clinton engine and coaches that was on its way to Chicago for display. The original engine had been built at the West Point Foundry.

The Empire State Express Engine 999

The Empire State Express Engine 999

After 20 years as a grocer in the Dykeman building at the corner of Main and Pearl, C.W. Smith announced he would convert the place to an auto service garage.

75 Years Ago (July 1946)

William Hageny, the principal of Haldane High School, said that members of the board of Putnam school directors would be called into a special session to select a county superintendent following the resignation of Harold Storm. Asked who was qualified for the position, Hageny replied, “I know I am.” He said he had not been aware, until informed by the Poughkeepsie New Yorker, that Storm had been appointed as superintendent of the Arlington and Pleasant Valley district.

The Putnam County Fish and Game Association received 3,000 pheasant eggs from the state and hired a breeder to rear 500 birds. In addition, chicks would be distributed to farmers in batches of 100 to raise. The association hoped to be able to turn loose about 1,500 adult cock pheasants in the fall.

Rep. Mallory Stephens, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee whose district included Putnam County, was challenged in the Republican primary by Henry Ekstrom, chair of the Putnam Board of Supervisors, who had also secured the Democratic nomination.

50 Years Ago (July 1971)

A 7.5-mile section of Interstate 84, through Newburgh, opened at noon on July 1, completing the 72-mile freeway from the Connecticut line in Putnam County to the Pennsylvania line in Orange County.

Mayor Raymond LeFever warned mini-bike riders using village streets that they would be ticketed.

Merton Akers, a former news manager for United Press International and author of a syndicated column called This Was the Civil War, died at age 72 at his Cold Spring home. In 1951 he had helped lead UPI into the teletype era.

A 21-year-old man from White Plains died when he slipped and fell 100 feet into an abandoned copper mine off South Mountain Pass Road in Garrison. He was a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and had been exploring with two friends.

Walter Goodwin Sr., who was the golf pro at the Highlands Country Club in Garrison for 18 years, died at age 74. Born in Belfast, he served with the British Army during World War I and the Canadian Army during World War II.

The Medical Arts Building in Cold Spring opened an exhibit of photos by Robert Beckhard of Garrison depicting people riding the New York City subways.


A collection of photos that Robert Beckhard took of the New York City subways was auctioned in 2014 for $250. His photos were displayed in Cold Spring in 1971.

The Putnam County Historical Society opened an exhibit of jugs made in the brickyards and pottery yards that lined the Hudson River in the 19th century, with the notable exception of those made at Fishkill Landing by John or Jacob Caire.

A gala was held at the Holiday Inn in Fishkill to honor Father John Mills on his 10th anniversary as rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. When he arrived in 1961, the church had recently suffered a fire.

William H. Osborn Sr., a metallurgist and former president of the Hudson River Conservation Society, died at age 76 while recuperating in Massachusetts from injuries sustained after he fell from a horse at his Garrison home, Forest Farm. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia University School of Mines, Osborn had twice been wounded in action while fighting in France during World War I.

25 Years Ago (July 1996)

After two years of construction, a $235,000 bridge opened over the railroad tracks at Little Stony Point. The previous bridge had been condemned.

Vinny Tamagna, who represented Philipstown on the Putnam County Legislature, said it was “reprehensible” that NYNEX was removing pay phones in the area, including at the Continental Village clubhouse, unless they averaged at least $5 in revenue per day. “In an emergency, lack of a phone could result in loss of life,” Tamagna warned. He asked anyone who saw phones being removed to call him.

A public hearing was held on a proposed Cold Spring law that read: “No person shall engage in coasting or sliding, sledding, tobogganing, roller skating or rollerblading on any street or sidewalk in the village as follows: Chestnut Street, Main Street, Lunn Terrace, Market Street south of Main, Morris Avenue, Parsonage Street north of Pine, the waterfront including the dock area, and all of West Street, Mountain Avenue and Northern Avenue.”

The Desmond-Fish Library held an open house for its new director, Carol Donick, a native of Pennsylvania who had lived in Paris and Moscow. [Donick left in 2013 to become director of the Kent Public Library.]

Hamilton Fish Jr.

Hamilton Fish Jr.

Hamilton Fish Jr., a former congressman and Garrison resident, died at his home in Washington, D.C., at age 70. He had first been elected in 1968 after defeating future Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy in the Republican primary. The funeral service was held at Trophy Point at West Point.

Tamma Cain, a Garrison native, left for Atlanta to serve for two weeks as a line judge during the tennis competitions at the Summer Olympics. Cain learned the game at the Highlands Country Club and spent 15 years as the tennis coach at Fairfield University. She also had officiated at the U.S. Open seven times.

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