Looking Back in Philipstown

150 Years Ago (March 1872)

Following the March election, the Cold Spring Village Board was made up of three Democrats and two Republicans and the Nelsonville Village Board of three Republicans and two Democrats. The Cold Spring ballot also included races for clerk, treasurer, collector, street commissioners, assessors and fire wardens.

Drs. Lente and Murdock amputated the right lower leg and left toes of Edward Calanan, a moulder employed by Paulding, Kemble & Co., who had been run over by six or seven wheels of an Albany freight as it pulled into the Cold Spring station. It was surmised the young man had walked up North Market Street and was rounding the tank house when he was surprised by the engine.

The expenditures in the 1872-73 Cold Spring budget included 330 feet of drainage on Main Street; 675 feet of gutters below Town Hall; 437 feet of gutters on Duffy Street; 426 feet of 2-inch iron pipe from the Market Street pump to the dock; and a safe for important books and papers.

A lawsuit filed by James Hennessy against the Rev. Joseph Caro over an unpaid invoice had been called twice in Fishkill Landing [Beacon] and four times at Cold Spring but the defendant never appeared, citing various illnesses. A mediator entered a judgment for $894.17; given Father Caro’s necessary poverty, the presumption was that there was no money to collect. However, Hennessy’s persistent counsel, Owen and Nelson, discovered that the deed to a Market Street lot donated to the Catholic Church by the West Point Foundry had been recorded in Father Caro’s name and it was put up for auction.

A mill on Hutchinson Island, near Savannah, Georgia, owned by former Cold Spring resident T.L. Kinsey, was set ablaze by an arsonist who was briefly held at gunpoint by the night watchman but escaped as the flames spread and demanded the guard’s attention.

William Hill was chopping wood in the Highlands when he cut his foot. He began to walk home but was so weakened by the loss of blood after 2 miles that he stopped at the home of Hezekiah Dykeman, who sent a messenger for the surgeon.

A bulldog named Smart attacked Lillie Nichols, 8, and her sister, Carrie, 6, while they were jumping rope on the sidewalk outside Truesdell’s market. Smart bit Carrie on the cheek and Lillie on the leg; a passing carpenter managed to get the dog to release his grip on Lillie by hitting it with a plane. Mr. Truesdell, when he heard about the incident, had Smart poisoned.

The first steamboat of the season, the River Queen, passed the village at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 16.

Sylvenus Mekeel reported that one of his sows had birthed 66 piglets in a year.

While sweeping the ceiling of the upper hall of her newly constructed home, Cornelia Secor fell down the stairs, which did not have a bannister, and was knocked unconscious. Family members downstairs said they heard a thud but did not immediately investigate.

125 Years Ago (March 1897)

Eugene Barton, the village clerk of Nelsonville and a member of the Village Board, disappeared two days before the election, which he lost by a wide margin. An investigation by the village treasurer found that Barton had, over the previous eight months, forged the signatures of five trustees on nine checks totaling $42.50 [about $1,400 today]. He was arrested soon after in Connecticut.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Frederick Hoffman, a former rector at St. Philip’s Church in Garrison, died at the Jekyll Island Club Resort near Brunswick, Georgia, at age 67.

The Cold Spring Recorder noted in passing that “considerable money changed hands on the result of the fight at Carson City.” [This was a reference to the first licensed prize fight to occur in the U.S., which took place in Nevada on March 17. The winner in 14 rounds received $15,000 ($500,000) and the loser $9,000 ($300,000). Bets were placed by telegram.]

Nevada Boxing

Cold Spring residents bet on this fight in Nevada in 1897 by telegram.

The Recorder reminded village candidates that they were required to file a statement of election expenses within 10 days after the vote.

At West Point, two drummers fought bareknuckle over the affections of Nellie McCaffrey, the daughter of Sheriff McCaffrey, who lived with her parents in Cold Spring. The musicians would cross the frozen river to visit her, The Recorder said. The bout ended in the seventh round when a signal to march was given.

Elvin Hopper, a former Garrison resident who was a guard at Sing Sing, visited the hamlet on a Sunday afternoon to watch the trains and ferry for an escaped inmate.

The trustees of the Presbyterian Church in Cold Spring voted to close to new burials the cemetery on the left side of the road leading from Town Hall to the James estate. The editor of The Recorder called it a wise move because during a recent visit he had found a skeleton that had been disinterred to make room for a new body and 26 human bones scattered on the ground.

The tumblers on the lock at the Perry & Reilley grocery at Main and Market got out of order and an expert safe man had to be called in from New York City.

Philipstown voters approved propositions allowing the sale of liquor consumed on premises (413-279); takeout sales (318-250); liquor prescribed by a physician (346-215); and liquor sales at hotels (388-229). In Putnam Valley, all four propositions were defeated.

mamie fish

Marion “Mamie” Fish

The Gilded Age

One of the characters on HBO’s new series, The Gilded Age, is based on Marion “Mamie” Fish, whose family had a home in Garrison as well as mansions in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island.

Mamie (1853-1915), was the aunt of Hamilton Fish III, the founder of the Desmond-Fish Public Library in Garrison, which has posted a page about her at bit.ly/mamie-fish as part of Women’s History Month. It notes that she was known for her “creative parties with unusual guests and themes” and for “being direct, outspoken and possessed of a quick wit.”


Gilded Age

Ashlie Atkinson (center) portrays Mamie Fish in HBO’s The Gilded Age. (Photo by Alison Rosa/HBO)

A check mailed from New York City five years earlier and addressed to A.J. Hopkins in Carmel was finally delivered. It had been sent to Carmel, Ohio.

The Cold Spring Village Board appointed Peter Wood as lamplighter.

The Conley Comedy Co. performed a week of shows at Town Hall.

A large oak on a Main Street lot owned by T.F. Doron was cut down but, by miscalculation, crushed a storehouse owned by his neighbor.

Mrs. T.N. Cheeseman had a lawn tennis court constructed at The Briars, her Garrison estate.

100 Years Ago (March 1922)

An extended downpour caused more damage to the Philipstown roads than even the oldest residents had seen, although in Cold Spring only Northern Avenue had to be closed because of a 4-foot-deep rut.

In anticipation of the opening of the Storm King Road, the Garrison and West Point Ferry Co. planned to add a second boat that was 70 feet longer than the Highlander and could carry up to 20 cars.

Storm King Road

A second ferry boat was added in 1922 between West Point and Garrison in anticipation of the opening of the Storm King Road.

Andrew Phillips, an Italian resident of Cold Spring, was shot and killed on the railroad platform at 8 p.m. on a Sunday. Archangelo Congionti, a fellow countryman employed by the Walker estate in Garrison, was arrested.

The Philipstown Electric Corp. applied to the Village Board for permission to install poles through Cold Spring to carry electric current to Garrison.

Two patients from Philipstown and one from Southeast were using the three beds endowed to Putnam County at the Bowne Memorial Hospital in Poughkeepsie.

Surveyors began to plot out a state highway from Mekeel’s Corner [the intersection of Route 9 and Route 301] to the Cold Spring village line. At the same time, New York Telephone Co. workers began installing poles from Cold Spring to Fred Mosher’s place in the North Highlands.

The Philipstown Garden Club won two prizes — for dinner and luncheon table decoration — at the New York Flower Show.

75 Years Ago (March 1947)

Roland Jones moved from Pine Plains to the 1,100-acre Sunk Mine Farm in Cold Spring to become its machinery foreman.

Ralph Taylor of Poughkeepsie, upon his retirement after 36 years with the New York Central Railroad, most recently at Harmon as chief clerk of the car department, recalled an incident in which a passenger train headed for New York City had just negotiated a curve south of Cold Spring when the entire track slid into the river. As a result, the line was moved farther east, setting up the “S” curve familiar to passengers who, if sitting far enough back on the train, can see the engine ahead as it rounds the curve.

A 36-year-old Brooklyn man who jumped into the river at Garrison, where the water was about 4 feet deep, and began walking into the depths was pulled to shore and committed to the Hudson River State Hospital for a 30-day observation.

50 Years Ago (March 1972)

The Loretto School said it would have to reduce the number of students or close because of rising costs and the difficulty of finding teaching nuns.

Hudson River Sloop Restoration announced a program called Clearwater Polluter Reports to document industrial waste being dumped into the river.

Robert Gilliam III of Market Street in Cold Spring, a former first lieutenant in the Marines who was studying at Columbia University, was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.

Wayne Stellefson of Haldane High School won the state championship in the shot put at the winter track finals at Cornell University with a heave of 58 feet and 1 inch.

A 13-year-old Garrison boy was killed when he was struck by a car on Route 9 south of Snake Hill Road.

Edward Collard, the last living member of the first Haldane school board, died at age 83. He also served as Philipstown clerk for 22 years.

Howard Zeliph of Nelsonville, who had been a rural mail carrier for 41 years, moving from a horse to a Model T Ford, died at age 95.

A home owned by Delmar Karlen off Route 9D, about 500 yards from the Garrison firehouse, was severely damaged by a fire. Water was pumped from the Highlands Country Club.

A 16-year-old Haldane High School student died at a hospital after she stumbled and fell 350 feet into an abandoned rock quarry in Philipstown. About 30 Cold Spring firefighters used ropes and formed a human chain to rescue her.

Students from Haldane junior and senior highs volunteered to help at the understaffed Letchworth Village, a residential facility in Rockland County for the profoundly retarded. The students spoke with patients, helped them move their belongings to a new ward and mopped and disinfected a dormitory that housed 150 older men supervised by two attendants. [The institute closed in 1996.]

25 Years Ago (March 1997)

Officials from Philipstown, Nelsonville and Cold Spring met to discuss how to spend a $100,000 state transportation grant.

About 50 people attended a presentation at which Scenic Hudson outlined its plans for the 85-acre West Point Foundry and Foundry Cove.

The Philipstown Town Board approved a $1.2 million project to scrape sediment and corrosion from 5 miles of water pipes in Continental Village and line them with cement.

A fundraiser was organized for Bob Sampogna, co-owner of the Foundry Cafe, whose home in Verplanck burned down while he and his family were vacationing in Florida.

The architectural work of Margo Neri, a Cold Spring resident, was featured in an issue of W Magazine. She had recently completed the renovation of the Cherry Lane Theatre in Manhattan.

The Haldane girls’ basketball team won the Section I title for Coach Ken Thomas’ 200th victory but later fell in the Class D state final to Pine Valley to finish 23-2.

The Garrison school board was told that Putnam Valley would be interested in discussing a joint high school, perhaps at the former Capuchin property [now the site of the Philipstown Recreation Center], which would need $1 million to $2 million in renovations.

Bruce Simon of Garrison won the North Atlantic Road Racing Championship of the Sports Car Club of America with his F-Production 1500 Triumph Spitfire.


Bruce Simon (center) of Garrison with his 1978 F-Production 1500 Triumph Spitfire, in a photo taken in 1992 (Photo provided)

The Philipstown Town Board discussed the proliferation of cell towers. “There are already four towers in place, four applications on file and seven to eight more anticipated,” said Board Member Steve Rosario. “I urge our consideration of a moratorium and a public hearing.” Board Member Andy Merante commented: “We should strive for the least obtrusive apparatus and minimal numbers required. When more advanced technology is available, have the companies remove the towers.”

At the next meeting, Rosario reported on his attendance at a workshop for local officials on “how not to become ‘road kill’ on the information superhighway.” He reported: “The most important point is to work with the companies to prove that the towers that are approved provide sufficient coverage for cellular phone service and not to argue the locations.”

The Garrison school board voted 5-1 to offer students a third choice for a high school, along with Haldane and O’Neill, by adding Yorktown. It had earlier rejected a proposal to add Briarcliff Manor, citing its tuition costs.

A 33-year-old woman was found in her Rock Street home in a semi-conscious state, the apparent victim of a drug overdose. Upon her release from the hospital, she was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

The Philipstown Town Board held a two-hour discussion in response to a petition from 15 residents of Horton Road about the alleged unlawful construction of a multi-family residence on land purchased in a tax sale.

A parent at a Garrison school board meeting said his eighth grade son and other students had been pelted with nails during a visit to see O’Neill High School. In response, another parent who had children at O’Neill questioned the claim, citing “these Garrison kids coming back with their fallacies.” The first parent responded, “You’re calling our children liars?” The eighth grader, who was at the meeting, later wrote in a letter that he had gone with his father to the meeting to “see how adults discuss issues together in a democracy.”

2 thoughts on “Looking Back in Philipstown

  1. After reading that the Cold Spring Village Board in 1897 named Peter Wood as lamplighter, I feel so disconnected — I don’t even know who our current lamplighter is! [via Instagram]

    • The word ‘synchronicity’ comes to mine; the other day I happen to be thinking about a a song “The Old Lamp Lighter” by Wood Herman and his Orchestra. It went like this “He made the night a little brighter wherever he would go, the old lamp lighter of long long ago. His snowy hair was so much brighter beneath the candle glow the old lamp lighter of long long ago ~~~ ” 🙂