Looking Back in Philipstown

sells and gray circus

The Sells & Gray Circus sets up the big top at a stop in Wisconsin in 1970. The circus visited Cold Spring in 1972. (Sawdust and Spangles)

What happened this month 25, 50, 75, 100, 125 and 150 years ago

150 Years Ago (August 1872)

At 10 p.m. on a Monday night, at the estate of James Haldane, three maids doing the laundry told the coachman they had heard strange noises. The four went to investigate and found the library door was being held fast from the inside. The coachman went outside and entered through a window, where he found three men with their faces blackened by burnt cork making off with boxes of cigars. A struggle ensued, but the maids began screaming and the men fled. At the insistence of Mrs. Haldane, the coachman and maids searched the house; as he opened a closet, a man leaped out, fought with the coachman and escaped through the kitchen. An hour later, when the coachman went to the carriage house, he encountered another of the men. He hit him with a shovel he had brought for protection and was kicked in the abdomen in return. Authorities surmised the intruders meant to lock the maids in the ground floors while they ransacked upstairs but had not anticipated the coachman. They may have blackened their faces believing someone in the house would recognize them, suggesting an inside job.

St. Joseph’s Church in Garrison was formally dedicated. The steamer West Point brought a large number of people from Cold Spring for the service, which was conducted by the vicar general to Bishop John McClosky.

St. Joseph’s Church in Garrison

St. Joseph’s Church in Garrison

The steamers Herald and Cayuga arrived near West Point when the wind blew their tows completely around, blocking the river and delaying the Albany night boats by nearly two hours.

James Cunningham, who was employed on the Peekskill gravel train, was accused of assault with intent to rape. He said he would marry the woman but the judge held him for further action.

From The Cold Spring Recorder: “John Robinson’s alligator, which escaped from the circus and was supposed to be in the Hudson, has been captured.”

Charley Doyle Jr. fell about 20 feet from a scaffold at a building site, breaking two planks on the way down. He was able to walk home. “Severe internal injuries are probable,” reported The Recorder, “but at the time of this writing none are reported.” [Doyle survived; see below.]

Gen. William Morris

Gen. William Morris (Putnam History Museum)

A sailboat carrying Gen. William Morris, of Undercliff, and two companions capsized near West Point when a schooner ran its bowsprit into the sail. The younger men climbed aboard the schooner by its chains but Morris seated himself on the overturned boat as it floated away. He was rescued by another schooner and the boat was recovered near the Garrison tunnel, complete with two coats with pocket watches that had been laid in the bow just before the crash.

After the departure of a young man named Johnson who accompanied Mr. Norris from New York City for a Sunday visit on Rock Street, the Norris ladies noticed a scarf, necktie, gold pin, $1 note and gold watch and chain missing. A telegraph alerted the police and the visitor was arrested on the arrival of the Mary Powell with a carpet bag containing the stolen items. Johnson was returned to Cold Spring but begged so persistently for mercy that Mrs. Norris declined to prosecute.

125 Years Ago (August 1897)

While working in the hayfield at Cragside [now the Haldane campus], Samuel Cronk stuck the tine of a pitchfork into his calf.

The Haldane school board voted to exempt the J.B. & J.M. Cornell firm, which had revived the West Point Foundry by moving its factory there from New York City, from paying property taxes. However, the New York Department of Public Instruction said private businesses could only be exempted by the state Legislature.

Stuyvesant Fish, president of the Illinois Central Railroad, purchased Glenclyffe, the Garrison residence of his father, the late Hon. Hamilton Fish.

Charley Doyle Jr. was mugged at gunpoint on Market Street at midnight. One bandit held the revolver while the other rifled through Doyle’s pockets. When they found only 10 cents, they demanded his clothing. He was removing his coat when footsteps were heard and the men fled.

A Newburgh newspaper reported that Henry Moody of Cold Spring had been released by a sympathetic magistrate following his arrest for public drunkenness because he was a veteran of the Battle of Balaklava in 1854, where he was wounded in the leg. In fact, The Cold Spring Recorder noted, Moody had been shot by a farmer in Middle Hope, where he was a berry picker.

William Hoss went to New York City to retrieve his nephew, James Mosher, 14, after the Gerry Society [the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, founded by Elbridge Gerry] contacted Officer McCaffrey to say the boy had been arrested for vagrancy.

Thomas Edison, having completed a $2 million iron ore factory in Ogden, New Jersey, started work on a second plant in West Portal, New Jersey. A third plant was planned for the Sunk Mine in Putnam Valley, where five years earlier Edison had taken a long-term lease at $10,000 per year.

The Recorder noted that Hamilton Mable, associate editor of The Outlook, a popular weekly newsmagazine, was a native of Cold Spring.

John Gilmore, 56, a former resident of Philipstown who organized the National Biscuit Co. [a consolidation of baking companies known as the “biscuit trust”], was organizing a similar trust to control the milk business in New York City.

The Rev. A.T. Dickson, a “colored divine” [Black evangelist] from Troy, stayed at the Garrison Hotel while leasing a hall in Highlands Falls for lectures.

100 Years Ago (August 1922)

Surprise Lake Camp unveiled a sun dial named for the late Leon Katzentein, who had been the summer camp’s administrator from 1912 to 1919.

Surprise Lake Sundial

This sundial was dedicated at Camp Surprise in 1922. (Photo by Thomas Weaver)

A rally was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall by striking railroad men.

The cornerstone was laid for an addition to the Our Lady of Loretto School.

A baseball team of aqueduct workers from Cold Spring defeated a team of aqueduct workers from Peekskill, 5-0.

An employee at the estate of J. Richmond in the North Highlands was badly bitten on the nose by a dog.


Douglas Fairbanks in The Americano

The Chautauqua Association hosted an open-air screening of the 1916, six-reel Douglas Fairbanks film, The Americano, on Sandy Land lot. There was also an educational short called A Trip to the Moon.

Patrick Sheridan, proprietor of the Hudson View Hotel, purchased the Kelley House on the north side of Main Street east of his hotel.

The cemetery bridge in Nelsonville collapsed while being inspected for damage by Mr. Logan, who fell 10 feet into the creek bed.

Three one-act plays — “The Slave with Two Faces,” “The Florist Shop” and “Suppressed Desires” — were presented at a benefit for the Parish House in Garrison, which was shared by all denominations.

J.P. Donohue offered four houses for sale at the Garrison station, including two with  water service.

Fred Butler, formerly with the Alice Neilson Opera Co. and now “the world’s greatest interpreter of religious music,” led a service at the Methodist Church.

Fred Butler

Fred Butler during a trip to Figi

A new lodge of the Sons of Italy was organized in Cold Spring with 62 members. Following the installation of officers, the group adjourned to the Bella Vista hotel on the waterfront for a banquet.

Francis Early’s parents said he had not been home in three weeks and asked anyone who had seen him to contact them.

Five canal boats loaded with grain en route to New York City from Buffalo docked at the Main Street wharf. The captain said because he was short of coal, it was more economical to wait two or three hours than to fight the tide.

75 Years Ago (August 1947)

James Reidy, 55, an employee of the Harbor Hill Inn, died while taking a walk on Paulding Avenue. He was a retired member of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Merton Akers, a United Press executive, was said to have a collection of old Hudson River prints that rivaled one owned by a former Peekskill Star reporter. Akers began his hobby after he bought a Cold Spring farm and realized the Currier & Ives print hanging in his study showed the view of West Point from his new house.

Robert Patterson, who resigned in July as secretary of war and returned to his 90-acre farm near Cold Spring, was asked in an interview for his thoughts on the disposal of the $100 billion worth of supplies procured for World War II. “Anything I would have to say on that would be of no value,” he replied. He also declined comment on a Senate investigation of $40 million Howard Hughes had received in wartime contracts to build transport planes.

Memories of Continental Village

Gene Palmer at age 11

Palmer at 11

For 10 years beginning in 1947, when he was 8, Gene Palmer lived with his family at 253 Sprout Brook Road in Continental Village, after moving from West 157th Street in Manhattan. In June, Palmer began posting recollections of that time and place at cortlandtchronicle.blogspot.com. Below are a few excerpts:

■ “In 1947, the owners of the Saltbox House [No. 249] were movie actors, three middle-aged midgets, unemployed at the time we arrived. My brother John and I got a tour of the house after we introduced ourselves. The actors told us that they played in the famous Wizard of Oz movie. Less than a year later, they sold the house to the Boyd family and moved back to New York City.”

■ “In 1957 my friend Billy Wert introduced me to George Perry, [a young adult] who was working on an old Model T Ford. He had the hood up, and he said he was setting the time on the ignition. After a short chat, he gave me a disconnected spark plug wire to hold to test the spark between the cable and the spark plug. I had never done this before. I knew nothing about car engines. When he started the engine, I got a shock that made me drop the wire and fall backward. Either the insulation on that wire was inadequate or I was a superconductor. He and Billy were laughing. I found out Billy had qualified as a member of George’s ‘spark squad’ a few weeks before. Apparently this was George’s electrifying way of saying howdy.”

■ “My mother, Eustelle Palmer, was an excellent cook and there was always a strong demand in our house for her baked goods. However, she was not the only reputable cook in Continental Village. Mrs. Monowitz, Mrs. Lazar and Rose Cillis baked Jewish specialties. Gertrude Kuty baked Hungarian and Norwegian specialties. Mrs. Esposito baked Italian specialties. Mrs. Zeliph baked Dutch specialties. After the volunteer fire department was organized and money was needed, the wives of the firemen sold cakes, cookies, pies, etc.”

palmer home

The Palmer home at No. 253 Sprout Brook Road in 1950, with a new white picket fence. The coupe in the driveway was a 1936 Ford.

■ “My friend, Paul Kuty, had a subscription to Fur-Fish-Game. In one issue he found a recipe for a raccoon bait. I remember wading in the knee-deep water of Sprout Brook, collecting freshwater mussels to incorporate as part of the recipe. The place where we waded was also the place, many years ago, smallpox-inoculated Joseph Plumb Martin waded with other Continental soldiers when spearing suckers in the summer of 1777. I don’t recall the other ingredients of the recipe, but I remember the awful stink of it, and how we threw it away after failing to attract animals to our traps. Too stinky for them, too.”

■ “During his lifetime, Al Zeliph Sr. was a farmer, carpenter, plumber, dude ranch hired hand, bricklayer, well-digger and a custodian of the clubhouse and water works for the developers of Continental Village. He was about 5’8”, lean and strong, and a man who had a complete country lexicon of words. His family was the first to have a black-and-white TV. During the winter of 1947-48, he often invited his nephew, Cliff Holmes, and me to watch his favorite program, professional wrestling. Al Zeliph used to get feisty during the bouts, shouting at the screen, waving his arms from the edge of his seat. ‘Kick him! Pin him!’ ”

50 Years Ago (August 1972)

Two men wearing ski masks and carrying a sawed-off shotgun and revolvers robbed the Bird and Bottle Inn in Garrison at 10:15 on a Sunday night. After entering through the rear kitchen door, they herded 20 customers and employees into the kitchen and ordered them to the floor. The thieves emptied the cash register of $1,200 and took a checkbook, wristwatch and stopwatch from three customers. A 28-year-old employee from Putnam Valley who tried to flee was shot in the buttocks. The men escaped in a dark, late-model Cadillac Eldorado.

The Philipstown Jaycees sponsored two performances by the three-ring Sells & Gray Circus on Fair Street. According to a published schedule, the circus arrived at 6 a.m. from Newtown, Connecticut, raised the big top at 9 a.m., fed the elephants and jungle animals at noon and performed at 4 and 8 p.m. before departing at midnight for Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

The Haldane school board approved a noncommercial radio station to be operated by students using donated equipment, pending Federal Communications Commission approval.

Nat Anthony, president of the Cold Spring Fire Co., died unexpectedly at age 48. A World War II veteran, he also was past president of the Lions Club.

George & Dees edged Ron’s Esso, 7-6, in extra innings to win the 1972 Philipstown Softball League crown. Both teams had 14-4 records, and the crowd of 200 spectators was thought to be the largest in league history.

25 Years Ago (August 1997)

After Garrison School district voters, for the third time, rejected its proposed spending plan, the Board of Education adopted an austerity budget. The $4.34 million proposal was defeated by 89 votes, although a second proposition to spend $52,250 on sports and extracurriculars passed, 323-306. John Cronin, vice president of the school board, said that he felt the budget was defeated “due to the continued community dissatisfaction with salaries and the lack of trust in the board because of inaccurate numbers provided by the school administration” concerning high school tuition.

Cashin Associates, which had supervised the capping and closure of the Philipstown landfill, asked the Town Board to pay an additional $56,000 because another contractor, Servidone, took 56 extra days to finish the job. Servidone said the town caused the delay when it decided to switch to alternate grading material (AGM) to save money.

A 32-year-old Garrison man who was pulled over on Route 9 for having a cracked windshield refused to roll down his window because he said he suspected the Putnam County sheriff’s deputy was a fake police officer. The deputy called for backup and the driver was removed without further dispute.

The Cold Spring Village Board accepted a low bid of $165,000 from National Metering Services to supply and install 934 water meters in the village following the completion of a $3 million filtration plant on Fishkill Road. The plant was designed to reduce turbidity, or the amount of particulate matter. The problem was addressed by adding alum, which causes the particulate to clump so it would be filtered.

Heather McGuire, a third grader from Cold Spring, waited three hours to hear her favorite country singer, LeAnn Rimes, at the Orange County Fair. When two DJs for the sponsoring radio station, WRWD, realized how long she had been there, they arranged for her to watch the show from the stage and to meet Rimes.

One thought on “Looking Back in Philipstown

  1. “Looking Back” should be must-reading for those who bemoan how “everything has changed.” Thanks!