Looking Back in Philipstown


This 1863 painting by Thomas Rossiter, which is owned by the Butterfield Library, depicted wealthy members of the Philipstown community. It was displayed at the the Foundry School Museum 25 years ago this month.

150 Years Ago (August 1871)

According to The Cold Spring Recorder, a “miserable man, hatless and friendless,” seen clinging to a tree at Main and Furnace streets was beaten by a man who fled. The victim was referred to the overseer of the poor but arrested that night when he tried to stow away on the milk train.

The Recorder said village residents had come to dread Monday paydays, when hundreds of intoxicated workers filled the streets with “songs, shouts and curses.”

Zopher Post was burned on his face and hands while erecting posts at the Rock Street school. He poured melted lead into a hole drilled into the rock, which contained water, causing an explosion.

Justice Coe postponed hearing a case The Recorder described as a “wife-beating on Kemble Avenue” because he found the witness statements “too conflicting.”

Austin Russell charged two boys with stealing berries from his parked wagon. One was sentenced to five days in jail and the other paid a $2 fine.

Henry Purdy narrowly avoided being hit by the express train when the baggage master yelled out a warning. According to The Recorder, Purdy “did not express his gratitude in the most becoming manner.”

The Ladies of the Masonic Lodge held a peach, ice cream and floral festival.

Dan Rice

Col. Dan Rice brought his famous circus to Cold Spring in August 1871.

Col. Dan Rice brought his circus to the village on Aug. 29, and the Stone & Murray Circus followed two days later.

Charles Coote, 12, of Breakneck, was riding atop a load of sand when a lurch of the wagon threw him between the wheel and the vehicle, fracturing his collarbone.

A. McIlravy, the undertaker and furniture dealer, broke his leg in a fall.

A brakeman was killed when his head hit a small bridge that crossed the tracks just north of the Garrison tunnel.

Peter Louis settled a lawsuit brought against him by the New York Sportsmen’s Society for shooting woodcocks out of season.

125 Years Ago (August 1896)

The newly organized Cold Spring Hose Co. fought its first fire, at a foundry owned by Arthur Naylor on West Street. Firefighters and residents pushed the hose cart to the scene. “The opinion of those present was the old bucket brigade would have been unable to extinguish the flames,” The Recorder said.

The village postmaster dutifully put a letter on the 1:47 p.m. train addressed to “Miss Mary the Cook, Fifth Avenue, New York.”

Col. Thomas Boyle Arden, 83, died at his home in Garrison. The West Point graduate served frontier duty in Indian Territory, fought in the second of three wars against the Seminole in Florida and was assigned to the New Orleans barracks before leaving the military in 1842. He farmed in Putnam County for nearly 20 years before returning to the Army during the Civil War as a military aide.

Sheriff Jeremiah Hazen arrived from Carmel with an order to find 14 jurors to decide whether Martha Squire, 101, was competent to run her affairs. After encountering reluctance, the sheriff offered payment of $2 in gold. When the proceeding at Town Hall was over, the jurors were instead each given a 25-cent silver piece. They protested that “Jerry” had offered $2, but the commissioner said the sheriff didn’t set the pay rate.

Thomas Kane, who had lost an arm in an accident at the West Point Foundry and finished his career working in its office, died at his home on Garden Street.

Nilan Isberg, 20, who had emigrated from Sweden six months earlier to live with his brother, a tailor in Cold Spring, drowned at Stony Point. A friend said Isberg had been in the shallows when he slipped on a rock and disappeared.

Eugene Crawford purchased a Cleveland tandem to be used by the Garrison Bicycle Club as a pacemaker.

Col. W.E. Rogers lost two valuable cows to pneumonia.

Workers from the Hudson River Telephone Co. used the ferryboat Highlander to lay cable between West Point and Garrison.

Edward Meeks, a Garrison native, was promoted from assistant manager at the Smith Premier Typewriter Co. in New York City to a manager in its London office.

William Taylor received a telegram from a Newburgh attorney saying that a cousin of Taylor’s late wife had left $10,000 to their two daughters.

The Philipstown Crushing Co. built a stone crusher on the farm of Milton Smith in Nelsonville, near the highway, to provide material for concrete.

The Hudson River Railroad Co. banned bicycle riding on its tracks, while Cold Spring said its police officer would enforce ordinances against riding on sidewalks or without a light after dark.


Li Hung-chang, seen here in a Vanity Fair illustration from August 1896, visited West Point but disappointed the Cold Springers hoping to see him.

A contingent of residents traveled to West Point to catch a glimpse of the Chinese diplomat Li Hung-chang and his famous yellow jacket and three-eyed peacock feather (an adornment typically restricted to members of the imperial clan). Unfortunately, Li declined to come outside because it was raining.

The Highland Grange Farm in Garrison lost its contract to supply milk for the West Point cadets when Thomas Allen, who had been leasing the land from the Philips estate, unexpectedly left town.

Josiah Ferris picked 12 quarts of blueberries at the Sunk Mine swamp.

Irving McCoy, the editor of The Recorder, made an impassioned plea to end burials at the old cemetery on the west side of the road from Town Hall to the James estate. He reported that a body had to be dug up to make room for the most recent interment and that the decayed casket and bones were used as fill. A few days later, McCoy picked up 26 bones. “Who is responsible for this outrage?”

Fifteen children from New York City who alighted from the 1:03 train on a Monday afternoon were taken to one of the farmhouses near the village where they were to be entertained for two weeks by the Fresh Air Farm.

The steamboat Adirondack fell short in an attempt to set a speed record from New York City to Albany. It left New York at 6 p.m. and passed by Cold Spring at 8:40 p.m. before finishing a nonstop run in 7 hours and 50 minutes — an hour longer than a trip made in 1864 by the Daniel Drew that included nine landings.

Three Philipstown men took the top spots in a 1-mile bicycle race at the Putnam County Fair. William Ladue finished in 3:05, followed by James Brooks and Eugene Crawford. In an unusual move, two spectators at the finish line asserted in a letter to Brooks that he had won by at least 5 inches.

100 Years Ago (August 1921)

Fishermen reported that tomcod, which usually don’t swim farther north than Spuyten Duyvel, had been caught near Newburgh.

To prevent the sharing of passes, the New York Central announced that commuters would need to use a ticket holder provided by the railroad that had a photo of their face affixed to it.

President Warren Harding signed a bill, introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Hamilton Fish Jr. of Garrison, awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross to the serviceman in the newly constructed Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

A colorized image shows the 1921 arrival from France of the body interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Harry Farris complained to the Village Board that a lot he owned on Mountain Avenue had been assessed at $500. The board president said that every lot on Mountain was assessed at that value, and that the Farris parcel had not appeared on the tax rolls until that year, when the oversight was corrected. A trustee asked why Farris, who in 1916 had been village clerk, had never alerted the assessor. Farris persisted in his protest and was referred to the village attorney.

The Cold Spring Light, Heat & Power Co. installed 17 lights on Main Street, from the dock to the Nelsonville line. Made by General Electric, they included reflectors to enlarge the horizontal illumination.

Pearl Doles Bell

Pearl Doles Bell, who visited Cold Spring in 1921 in her “auto cottage”

Pearl Doles Bell, the editor of Fashionable Dress, stopped in Cold Spring on the way to Maine with her husband in their “auto cottage” — a home on wheels with a parlor, bedroom, bath, electric lights, running water and gas stove.

A “clean-up” squad from the Veterans Bureau in Washington, D.C., set up shop at Town Hall to assist disabled veterans who had not yet made claims for compensation and vocational training. Agency physicians examined each man and give him a “disability rating” for his application. An official noted that a recent change in federal law meant that the men did not have to prove their ailments or mental disorders were the direct result of their service.

Billy Hill, a professional singer whose obituary said he was asked to sing “La Marseillaise” or “The Lost Chord” at every gathering he attended, died at age 85.

West Point donated two 700-pound brown stones to the Putnam County Historical Society to replace missing milestones Nos. 62 and 63 on Old Albany Post Road.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

The essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie was born in Cold Spring but his family moved to Buffalo when he was 5.

A biography was published of essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie, who was born in Cold Spring in 1845 after his father moved from Carmel to open a grocery business at Market and Main streets. Mabie was an editor at the Christian Union and wrote 20 books, including William Shakespeare: Poet, Dramatist and Man and American Ideals, Character and Life, which was based on a series of lectures he gave in Japan in 1912 for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

A New York City newspaper profiled John Flagler, a Cold Spring native who sold his tubing company to U.S. Steel and became a yachtsman.

James Glover placed a notice in The Recorder asking for the return of two boxes of horse bandages that had fallen from his carriage.

75 Years Ago (August 1946)

Eddie Mancari, a former Haldane sports star, recruited 22 players (including his brother, Charlie) for an alumni football team to play games for charity against opponents such as the Pleasantville Vets and the Mamaroneck Stars. His roster included Jerry McElrath, a former halfback for the Pennsylvania Military College, and Harry Bocchino, a former tackle for Rensselaer Polytechnic.

50 Years Ago (August 1971)

The Walter Hoving Home for Troubled Girls in Garrison held a tag sale in the 24-room mansion on the former Philipsbrook Road estate of Alfred Smith, general manager of the New York Central Railroad.

The Continental Village Property Owners Association asked Philipstown for a 99-year lease at $1 annually on a park district building known as the clubhouse.

Voters rejected a revised spending proposal presented by the Haldane school board, 595-145, forcing the district to adopt an austerity budget. The first attempt had been rejected, 713-196.

Mayor Anthony Mazzuca of Nelsonville reported that the members of the Fish and Fur Club had offered to donate their clubhouse on Main Street to the village, saying they could no longer afford its upkeep. [The structure is now Village Hall.]

Mazzuca, who was also chief of the Nelsonville Police Department, which had four part-time and three volunteer officers, reported that between April 1 and Aug. 10 it had issued 89 traffic tickets, handled six dog complaints and made 22 arrests.

Allan Kelly, an environmental activist, warned in a letter to the Putnam County News & Recorder: “If Con Edison receives an operator’s license for its mammoth, experimental Nuclear Plant No. 2 at Indian Point, and if there’s ever an accident that would release deadly radioactivity into the environment, everyone living in this area would have had it.”

The Cold Spring Village Board, in a 3-1 vote, rejected a proposal to install a traffic light at Main and Fair streets.

A crew member of the sloop Clearwater who lived in Cold Spring was arrested for indecent exposure after he allegedly stepped ashore at Bear Mountain’s south pier and took a shower in the spray of a fire hydrant. In addition, he and another crew member, also from Cold Spring, were charged with resisting the officers who boarded the sloop, which somehow came unmoored and began drifting in the river.

25 Years Ago (August 1996)

Cold Spring celebrated its 150th anniversary with a festival that included Punch & Judy puppet shows by Fred Greenspan; a Main Street mural; a concert for children by Mike Klubnick; sack races; a tug-of-war; and a waterfront block party with music by The Satellites.

As part of the anniversary celebration, the Foundry School Museum announced it would exhibit “The Gun Foundry,” the 1866 masterwork of John Ferguson Weir, and “A Pic-Nic on the Hudson,” an 1863 portrait by Thomas Rossiter that included many Cold Spring luminaries posing on Constitution Island.

A stoplight was installed at the intersection of Routes 9D and 403 in Garrison.

An anonymous donor purchased the 1,500 used books that remained after the Desmond-Fish Library’s annual sale to donate to the state prison system.

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