Looking Back in Philipstown

philipstown town hall

Philipstown Town Hall about the turn of the century. Who got to live there? (Putnam History Museum)

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150 Years Ago (July 1872)

Judge Barnard lifted his injunction, issued in April, that prevented Philipstown Supervisor Colin Tolmie and Town Hall janitor Reuben Cash from interfering with jailor Benjamin Hughson, who resided in an apartment at Town Hall. At the same time, the judge ordered the Board of Police Commissioners, who had hired Hughson, to explain why he should not be evicted. When Town Hall had been completed in 1867, the supervisor was appointed to manage it, and he had told Cash he could live in the apartment.

The Fourth of July began with the firing of a small cannon in Nelsonville at 1 a.m., followed by “a general fusillade” until breakfast, according to the Cold Spring Recorder. The temperature hovered around 93 degrees until 3 p.m., when it dropped 20 degrees in two hours during heavy rains that led to the cancellation of the fireworks show. During the storm, lightning struck a hickory tree at the home of Harvey Hill, killing a valuable ox that had taken refuge below.

A man who docked a pleasure sailboat at Foundry Dock was arrested when word arrived it had been stolen near Sing Sing.

Pastor not insaneThe Recorder set the record straight (right) about the Rev. W.H. Evans, pastor at the Methodist Church, noting that while he had been suffering for weeks from “nervous prostration,” there were no signs of insanity.

Cold Spring posted signs reminding residents that it was illegal to bathe nude in public between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., such as at Foundry Pond.

Albert Hadden, 35, of Cold Spring, while strolling along the beach at Oscawana Lake and “talking horse” with friends, swam in about 15 feet and began to act strangely. By the time John Murphy pushed an oarless boat from the shore, Hadden had disappeared. His body was recovered three hours later.

Three West Point cadets on a “whiskey tour” were said to have behaved relatively well in Cold Spring but became troublesome in Nelsonville when they attempted to secure a ride back to the dock aboard a wagon driven by a resistant Peter Mekeel and then fought amongst themselves in the street.

A 2-year-old bull that gored Justice Secor in the leg was rewarded by having its nose bored and an iron ring inserted.

The George F. Bailey Circus performed two shows in Cold Spring on a Thursday. Its menagerie included a rhino, lion, whelps, an elephant and camels.

The Cold Spring Board of Trustees gave Mr. Griffin permission to install an iron sewer pipe from his hotel to the river.

James Miller, 10, drowned in a former quarry near the eastern border of Philipstown. His sister and a cousin testified that he had been running toward the hole to drown a small dog when he stumbled at the brink.

The Recorder editor chastised local boys who were killing chimney swallows when they flew low in search of insects.

A deckhand aboard the River Queen was knocked senseless at the dock when he slipped on the wet gangplank and struck his head on a barrel of beer.

While the baggage master chased after a mail pouch that had been thrown from the train and down the grade, a dog snatched a second pouch lying near the station and bolted down North Market Street.

A visitor from Santa Fe, New Mexico, who was waiting for work to be completed at the West Point Foundry on a firearm projectile he had patented, was confronted at his boarding house by Officer Travis, who was looking for a fugitive.

The Recorder noted that Southern peaches had appeared at Dalzell’s and the Highland Market for 20 to 25 cents per quart and marveled at how steamboats and trains “enable us to have a continuous supply of summer fruits and vegetables from early spring to late autumn.”

When Charles Baxter of Mekeel’s Corners encountered a copperhead during a walk, he threw a sharp stone that cut the poisonous reptile in half. Twenty-eight baby snakes then appeared suddenly from a hiding place and also had to be killed.

While his mother shopped at Joseph Perry’s store, Charley Miller put his hand into the coffee mill, which his sister then turned. Dr. Murdock said the boy’s crushed finger could probably be saved.

125 Years Ago (July 1897)

Dakota Bob

Dakota Bob walked into Garrison in 1897.

Dakota Bob, who was nearing the end of a seven-month walk from San Francisco to New York City to win a wager, spent a night at the Garrison Hotel. His wavy hair reached below his shoulders and he wore a necklace of human teeth.

Orestos Cleveland, 39, who had moved to Nelsonville from New York City two weeks earlier to open a law office, died unexpectedly of erysipelas.

Abram Ireland of Parsonage Street was charged with assaulting his 16-year-old daughter.

Capt. Henry Metcalfe, who organized a fundraiser to paint a community flagpole, asked donors to pick up their cash from the Village Improvement Association because he had learned the pole was on private property and the owners objected to his campaign.

An employee of the pattern shop at the Naylor & Co. foundry on West Street lost the end of his left thumb to a buzz-saw.

Judge Wood circulated a petition asking the highway commissioner to build a board fence between the Breakneck highway and the railroad tracks.

Rep. John Ketcham

Rep. John Ketcham, who represented Philipstown in Congress in 1897

Rep. John Ketcham, whose district included Philipstown, was appointed to a new House committee on post offices and post roads.

The Recorder noted that “the blue jean epidemic rages in Cold Spring.” [Levi Strauss & Co. had introduced its popular 501 style in 1890.]

At a “petticoat party,” the women discussed getting the vote, bicycle bloomers and “why the young men of Garrison don’t marry.”

The Rev. Isaac Gowen, formerly of the Cold Spring Reformed Church, was named in a $10,000 lawsuit by a man who said he had been arrested without cause in a New York City bar and pool hall targeted by Gowen and other pastors as immoral.

Timeless Advice for Correspondents

From The Cold Spring Recorder, July 2, 1897

Don’t write on both sides of the paper.
Don’t neglect to sign your full name.
Don’t blame the editor if he cannot use your letter.
Don’t tell him you could run the paper better. He knows it.
Don’t forget that politeness is better than a shotgun.
Don’t try to superintend the earth — it’s a big job.

100 Years Ago (July 1922)

After nine years of legal wrangling, Cold Spring officials broke ground on a library and hospital to be built with funds bequeathed by Julia Butterfield.

Sections of pipe to build the New York City aqueduct, each 22 feet long and 9½ feet in diameter and weighing 11 tons, were unloaded at the village dock.

As part of its “careful crossing campaign,” the New York Central Railroad trimmed trees at the Cold Spring depot to provide a clear view of southbound trains.

John Magee, proprietor of the Putnam Garage on Old Albany Post Road, hosted dances every Thursday night on a covered platform he had constructed.

The school lawn in North Highlands was graded so students could pitch horseshoes.

Ernest Curry and his son, Albert, of Continentalville, were injured in a buggy-car accident. Curry, driving a horse and wagon, had inched into the road at an intersection when he saw a car coming at full speed. He waved, but the driver struck the wagon, overturning it and pinning Curry and his son in the wreckage. (The horse fled but was caught near Annsville.) The driver, who left the scene, was located and arrested, but his vehicle was insured and he was released.

Anna Roberts of Parrott Street announced plans to open a beauty shop but in the meantime was making wigs for girls in the West who were said to be tired of bobs.

50 Years Ago (July 1972)

Stella Orr donated a deed to the Putnam County Historical Society (now the Putnam History Museum) for property that contained the foundation of one of the area’s earliest mills. The state had planned to tear down the Old Ludington Mill, built about 1776, to construct I-84 but the six Putnam town supervisors intervened.

Following the defeat of its proposed budget in June, the Haldane school board voted to adopt a contingency budget of $1.74 million. But it also agreed to hold another vote on spending $54,980 for non-essentials such as transportation, books and supplies, extracurriculars and repairs. That passed, 416-353.

Ronald Borner proposed running the Haldane cafeteria as a concession. He had managed the cafeteria at the Marathon Battery Co.

Mark Cutten, a Haldane graduate attending Ithaca College, was hired for the summer by NBC to help with its coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions in Miami. Cutten worked with Raymond Kupiec, a former Garrison resident who was production manager for the evening news with John Chancellor.

Sonny Scofield, of 20 Orchard St., retired as the Cold Spring postmaster. He began his career at the post office in 1946 as a clerk and became postmaster in 1958. Scofield served in the U.S. Army during World War II and parachuted into France on June 5, 1944, the day before D-Day.

Mrs. Raymond Impellittiere, who owned the local Ford dealership, hosted a meeting of the Hudson Valley chapter of the Model A Restorers Club.

At the annual Jaycees Community Day, the North Highlands Fire Co. won its third consecutive tug-of-war title over teams from Cold Spring and Nelsonville.

Al Ireland of Nelsonville was named coach of the year at the Art and Design High School in New York City for the fifth straight year. He led the wrestling team, which had not lost in three seasons. An assistant principal attributed Ireland’s success to his “fiery pregame locker room techniques.”

The Putnam Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 to adopt a “weighted” voting system in which each panel member received one vote for every 1,000 residents he represented. For instance, the Carmel supervisor would have 22 votes and the Philipstown supervisor would get eight. Questions were raised about whether the county should change to a charter system in which each supervisor represented the same number of people.

The Hudson Valley Arts Center hosted screenings of six classic horror films at Dick’s Castle on Route 9D in Garrison, which had been under construction since 1905. It was sold in 1944 to the Chmela family, who still lived there.

Members of the Towner family donated a 1773 lease document to the Putnam County Historical Society for 269 acres of farmland from Beverley Robinson to Samuel Towner. The rent was 27 ounces of silver plate annually, rising to 33 ounces after 10 years. Towner served during the Revolution with the Dutchess County militia, while Robinson was a Loyalist who fled to England at war’s end.

Frederick Osborn Jr. was elected chair of the Philipstown Citizens Committee at its inaugural meeting at the Garrison Arts Center. The first order of business was to fight a housing development proposed near Manitou station.

25 Years Ago (July 1997)

The Haldane superintendent said he planned, with help from teachers, to rewrite the seventh-grade English curriculum, which had not been updated in five years. He also said that he wanted elementary students to read at least two books of literature every 10 weeks.

Jamie Copeland presented a petition to the Philipstown Town Board requesting it amend the zoning code so he could renovate the former Garrison Fire Station No. 1 on Upper Station Road and move his design firm there.

Philipstown Pop Warner said it was in jeopardy of not fielding tackle football teams because of a lack of players. It put out a call for 8-to-10-year-olds who weighed 55 to 90 pounds and 11-year-olds who weighed 70 to 85 pounds.

The Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Hudson River Festival, which included, for the first time, a poetry contest. Jo Pitkin won for “Cradle.”

The American Travelling Morrice made stops in Garrison and Cold Spring. Its dancers, with bells strapped to their legs, leap about accompanied by accordions, fiddles and pipe and tabors.

Bruce Simon of Garrison was installed as the Worshipful Master of the Courtlandt lodge of the Free Masons in Peekskill. In the 1820s, the lodge had sponsored the founding of the Philipstown chapter.

Two Philipstown men, ages 25 and 27, were killed on Route 9D near Dutchess Manor when their vehicle swerved in front of a truck and was hit by a second car before catching fire. A 24-year-old Beacon man driving the second car was charged with driving while intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter. The highway was closed for eight hours.

Doris Shaw was hired as executive director of the Putnam County Historical Society and Foundry School Museum. She had been the society’s marketing consultant and lived in the former school for a year as its caretaker.

In Philipstown Softball League action, Carolyn’s (15-2) faced Nowhere (11-3) to determine the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. At the end of regulation (seven innings), the score was tied at 13. After Nowhere took a lead in the ninth, and Carolyn’s responded by loading the bases, Gary Van Tassel casually stepped off first base in the direction of second. He was called out for “leading off,” which was prohibited, ending the game.

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