Looking Back in Philipstown

150 Years Ago (January 1872)

Johnny Spellman was accused of stealing $62 from his widowed mother while she was out. Discovering the theft, Mrs. Spellman ran to the Cold Spring depot with a lantern to look for the teenager. Frank Murphy, who saw her weeping there, took the lantern and hopped on the milk train headed to Garrison, keeping his eye on the east track. He spotted Johnny in the tunnel and jumped from the slow-moving train to grab him and take him home.

Henry Champlain, known in Nelsonville as “Champ,” killed two foxes.

Two wagons, both belonging to Dr. F.D. Lente, collided on Main Street nearly opposite the Cold Spring House. His son and mother were thrown out but not seriously injured; it wasn’t clear if they were together or each driving a wagon.

The Nichols News Depot, next door to the post office, was the local agent for a forthcoming work by Mark Twain called Roughing It. “We have specimens of the engravings and letterpress and do not hesitate to decide that the book will rival The Innocents Abroad,” it said in a notice.

Mahlan Coe was extinguishing the kerosene lamps at 9:30 p.m. to close Geo. McCabe & Co. when the last one exploded, igniting cotton batts directly overhead. Coe and three others attempted to extinguish the flames with their overcoats but had to haul the batts to the floor and use water and wet blankets.

The West Point Iron Co. asked the Town of Philipstown to close the road at the boundary of its property at the north end of West Street. This seemed odd to the editor of The Cold Spring Recorder, since the street was within the boundaries of the village, so he dug up the 1846 village charter and found it had given control of the streets to the Village Board. However, he also found a codicil from 1851 that returned the power to open, alter and close Cold Spring roads to Philipstown. He asked if any readers knew of any later codicils that sent the power back to the village. 

Justice Ferris heard a lawsuit filed by Randolf Croft, who claimed Abram Purdy had sold him a horse that was “windbroken,” or had trouble breathing.

Gotlieb Schneck, who was employed at the West Point Foundry at a job site in New York City, apparently abandoned his family living on Garden Street. The Recorder reported: “That there is a woman in the case is morally sure — a married woman named Stock.” 

A newly published book, Pillars in the Temple; or Sketches of Deceased Laymen of the Methodist Episcopal Church Distinguished as Examples of Piety and Usefulness, by the Rev. William C. Smith, a former pastor of the Cold Spring church, included profiles of residents Alfred LaDue and Samuel Davenport.

125 Years Ago (January 1897)


A title page from Salmagundi

A traveling exhibit organized by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution included artifacts on loan from residents of Cold Spring, such as a Farmers’ Almanac with notes in George Washington’s handwriting given to the late James K. Paulding by Mrs. J. Washington of Mount Vernon; a copy of the Salmagundi, a short-lived newspaper founded by Paulding and Washington Irving in 1807; a broken thermometer said to have hung in Washington’s tent during the war, given to Paulding by a granddaughter of Martha Washington; and a July 1690 military order signed by Jacob Leisler, then governor of New York, who was executed in 1691 by the British for treason.

The Putnam County Board of Supervisors set a bounty of $1 per fox killed. To collect, residents had to bring the snout and an affidavit to their town supervisor.

The county said its court would be in session on the first Tuesday in February and the first Tuesday in September.

Gerald V. Grace, superintendent of the new Cold Spring water system, made his first annual report. (The system had come online on June 3.) He noted the village had 50 Ludlow fire hydrants and 58 service connections to the mains. On Sept. 8 a line was extended 102 feet from Paulding Avenue to the West Point Foundry Association and a 4-inch extension pipe was being routed to Cragside, the estate of Gen. Daniel Butterfield [now the Haldane campus], at his expense. “I have no recommendations to make, or suggestions to offer,” Grace said. “The system since water was turned on seems to be perfect in operation.”

The Recorder reported that Garrison resident Merton Mosher, “while chopping wood one day this week, had the misfortune to nearly cut off his foot.”

Agnes Jones, a former Cold Spring resident, opened a boarding school for young ladies in Caldwell, New Jersey.

In a brief editorial comment, Irving McCoy, editor of The Recorder, offered: “The people of Philipstown demand better roads.”

Nineteen merchants together announced they would close earlier during the winter months, at 8 p.m., except on Saturdays and West Point Foundry paydays.

Col. James Gore, who grew up in Cold Spring, was appointed adjutant-general of the Indiana militia. He had moved there with his family at age 18.

With approval from the county, the day for Philipstown elections and the annual town meeting was moved from the second Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in March. 

During a week of prayer, the Presbyterian, Methodist, Reformed and Baptist congregations in Cold Spring held daily “union” meetings at the Methodist Episcopal church.

The mumps was raging in Garrison.

The Recorder noted that the ferry was having difficulty crossing the river; a few more cold nights would probably close the Hudson for the winter.

The state Regents’ exams were held at Haldane High School, including those for German, advanced drawing, civics, New York history, spelling, bookkeeping, Latin and hygiene.


A drawing that appeared in 1896 in Popular Science News of an amulet found near Cold Spring.

The Recorder reprinted an article from the November 1896 issue of Popular Science News that reported on Native American artifacts collected in Philipstown by James Nelson, including an amulet in the “Indian Field” about 2 miles south of the village and a sheet copper knife blade. His most prized find, he said, was a small mask made of burned clay found in a gravel pit, although the article’s author surmised it was more likely an ancient souvenir from Mexico.

An electric alarm bell was installed at the Main Street crossing to announce the approach of trains.

Three Guernsey cows valued at $3,000 [about $100,000 today] arrived at the Cold Spring depot from Massachusetts to be transported by ferry to the J. Pierrepont Morgan estate in Highland Falls.

The Haldane Debating Club addressed the questions: “Resolved, that Lincoln was a greater man than Washington” and “Resolved, that ignorance does more to produce crime than poverty.”

100 Years Ago (January 1922)

The county Board of Supervisors met for its annual reorganizational meeting; as a result of the November election, the panel changed from four Republicans and two Democrats to three Democrats (including Wentworth Colwell of Philipstown), two Republicans and an independent.

John Schillerman moved his “handy store” — selling cigars, candy, school supplies, etc. — to a building on Main Street opposite the Old Homestead Club. He said he planned to also open a pool hall there.

Edward L. Post & Son suggested in an advertisement to “start the new year right” by having your house wired for electric light.

The Cold Spring Fire Co. No. 1 asked the Village Board to purchase a motor-driven firetruck. It noted that there were more than 500 buildings in the village and that, without the fire company, premiums for fire insurance would certainly be much more than what it would cost to buy a truck. It noted that its old cart was straining to carry 350 feet of hose while hitched behind an automobile.

The DuBois Foundry Co. received a contract to manufacture can openers.

After a storm, Cold Spring had the snow plowed by 6 a.m., easing the way for commuters and workers at the button factory and textile corporation. The overnight work was done with assistance from the Electric Lighting Co.Lord Londoun

Sylvanus Ferris presented the Rev. E. Floyd-Jones with a print of Lord Londoun to use in a book the pastor was writing on milestones. Londoun was the British commander who in 1754 improved a Native American trail for use by his troops; it later became the Albany Post Road.

Representatives of the Kinetic Engineering Co. installed an electric organ blower at the Methodist Church. “The human power of the ‘blow boy’ is now superseded by the electric power of a half-horse power,” The Recorder noted. [A blow boy would position himself inside the organ and move a handle to force air into the pipes.]

In November 1921, John Reid, 87, a farmer in Connecticut, deeded his land and earthly possessions to the Friars of the Union at Garrison. He kept only enough cash to sustain him for six months because, he reasoned, “by that time I will be dead.” Reid was right: He lived for two months. His gift was valued at $56,000 [about $930,000 today].

75 Years Ago (January 1947)

The Rev. Leon Ryan, the pastor of Our Lady of Loretto, broke his arm on a Saturday night but still conducted services on Sunday morning.

50 Years Ago (January 1972)

The teen center on Main Street was closed indefinitely after a group of boys tore down one of its interior walls.

John McIntyre scored 42 points for Stevenson’s Painters in an 85-44 win over the Lions Club in the Philipstown Men’s Basketball League.

The winless Haldane boys’ varsity basketball team fell to Oakwood, 52-47; the junior varsity had a better night, defeating Oakwood, 95-25.

Peggy “Sunny” Redmond, a former Garrison resident, was a model in New York City who had been the cover girl on the November 1971 issue of Seventeen.

Sunny Redmond

Sunny Redmond, formerly of Garrison, was a cover girl in 1971.

It was reported that a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy had arrested two boys, ages 11 and 12, after vehicles driving on Old Fishkill Road were targeted by an air rifle.

Cold Spring Mayor Ray LeFever said he counted eight dogs illegally running loose during a drive around the village and suggested that fines might be doubled.

LeFever also noted that Cold Spring, for the first time, had 24-hour police protection.

Mr. and Mrs. O. Rundle Gilbert of Garrison participated in the Fifth Annual Mixed Foursome Golf Tournament in Bermuda against 80 other teams.

25 Years Ago (January 1997)

A state police sergeant appeared before the Philipstown Town Board to explain why the agency had opened a satellite office with two troopers at the Butterfield Hospital. 

The Town Board received a petition from residents of Continental Village Road asking that its name be changed to Sprout Brook Road. Because it was otherwise known as County Road 13, the board agreed to consult the Legislature.

The board considered a project in Continental Village to clean and line with cement about 4 miles of 50-year-old, corroding, cast-iron water pipes. 

The Cold Spring Lions Club placed a mailbox at the south end of the Butterfield Pharmacy to collect used prescription eyeglasses to distribute around the world to those who could not afford them.

A pile of apple tree trimmings and wood chips was illegally dumped in the parking lot of the Audubon Sanctuary on Indian Brook Road in Garrison.

George Stevenson, an artist and Haldane grad, presented a painting to the school of the 1996 girls’ basketball team accepting its state championship trophy.

Bob Bengis resigned from the Philipstown Zoning Board of Appeals, complaining that it moved too slowly. He noted that the Town Board had approved an ad hoc committee in March to review the zoning code, but it wasn’t appointed until September and still had not met. 

Anthony Virgadamo, a member of the Haldane varsity basketball team, disputed an anonymous letter to the Putnam County News & Recorder that said students had been unruly during a home victory over Dover because they stomped their feet and yelled at the Dover cheerleaders to sit down.

Vera Vander Schalk opened a music and art gallery, Flamingos, at 153 Main St. in Cold Spring, in the space formerly occupied by Village Cutters.

Following the filing of three lawsuits against the Putnam Sheriff’s Department by employees, the chair of the Putnam County Democratic Committee asked the county executive to assign a task force to investigate work conditions. He declined.

Dragon Rock, the Garrison home of Russel Wright and Manitoga, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

More than 80 people attended a Garrison school board meeting to hear a report that recommended the addition of Briarcliff Manor to the list of high schools students could attend, along with Haldane and O’Neill High School in Highland Falls. Based on informal surveys of former and current Garrison students, the superintendent said 80 percent of each eighth-grade class could be expected to choose Briarcliff.

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