Looking Back in Philipstown

150 Years Ago (October 1872)

In an advertisement in The Cold Spring Recorder, Harry Hustis warned others about Mink’s Baggage Express, which he said mishandled his trunk on a return trip from Pennsylvania. He paid Mink’s to ship the trunk to Fishkill Landing but the firm instead left it in Newburgh. Hustis said he had to pay 25 cents more to get the trunk across the Hudson and 50 cents to have it taken from Fishkill Landing [Beacon] to Cold Spring.

Gouverneur Kemble

Gouverneur Kemble (Putnam History Museum)

Dolores: The Story of a Leper, by Mrs. Semper, of Bogota, Colombia, was translated from Spanish by a prominent Philipstown resident, Gouverneur Kemble, 87, on a private commission for a woman who said she wanted to read the novel in English.

Michael Corkkill nearly lost his thumb when it was caught between a coal bucket handle and the hook by which it was being raised.

A New York City man who was attempting to burglarize the home of George Purdy on Morris Avenue encountered the owner, striking him with a stick and nearly breaking his arm. The suspect was found guilty but could not pay the $10 fine so was given 10 days in the county jail.

A group of Philipstown men who supported President Ulysses Grant for re-election, joined by the Cold Spring Band, marched with torches through Cold Spring and Nelsonville to drum up support. In solidarity, the owners of many houses placed candles in their windows. Unfortunately, as the procession made its way along Morris Avenue toward Paulding, some spectators threw stones at the Grant banner. Soon after, supporters of challenger Horace Greeley held their own torchlight procession with the Cold Spring Cornet Band.

T.W. Byington, the principal at the Rock Street School since 1864, resigned to accept a position in Brewster.

While workers unloaded limestone from a boat, a horse owned by the West Point Iron Co. backed off the dock and was dragged down by the cart and drowned.

At 4:30 p.m., a clerk had parked Joseph Perry’s grocery wagon at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets with two girls sitting in the back (for reasons unexplained) while he made a delivery. Upon the clerk’s return, as he put his foot on the iron step and reached for the reins, the mare threw him off and bolted down the south sidewalk of Main Street toward Rock Street, with the screaming girls clinging to its sideboards. The horse and wagon managed to squeeze between the steps of the stores and tying posts until a back wheel was dislodged by a cedar tree. The wagon sank gradually and the girls were deposited unharmed near Mrs. Hyde’s store.

Joseph Perry store

Joseph Perry’s grocery, at the corner of Main and Market streets in Cold Spring, shown in 1886 (Putnam History Museum)

Charley Warren, the milkman, was driving past the furnace when the horse started at the sight of a wheelbarrow and threw him, breaking his left leg. Warren was no stranger to misfortune. A year earlier, his horse ran against a tree in Nelsonville, throwing him off his mount and dragging him. That same year, he lost nearly all his household furniture in a fire at his father-in-law’s home, where he was storing it while building a house. Six years earlier, a colt had fallen on him, breaking his right leg.

The Breakneck quarry sent a record 15,674 granite paving blocks by barge to New York City.

William MeKeel left for Brashear City, Louisiana, with 50 other woodsmen to harvest the oak forests.

125 Years Ago (October 1897)

A New York Central passenger train plunged into the river 2 miles south of Garrison, killing 19 of the 100 people aboard, including eight Chinese workers. All but one victim died by drowning. The Buffalo to New York express, which had six sleeper cars, derailed at 5:35 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The bodies were loaded onto a baggage car brought from Peekskill and divided between the two undertakers in Cold Spring to be identified by relatives. Nearly 3,000 people visited the scene, including one man who took a train door as a memento. “Excellent photographs of the wreck” were available for sale at local drugstores, The Recorder noted. Nearly a week after the accident, a female victim remained unidentified and two victims had not been located by divers. [An inquiry into the cause was inconclusive but investigators suggested the bank under the tracks may have given way. The photos below are from the George Eastman Museum.]

J.Y. Dykman opened a store at the corner of Main and Pearl streets in Nelsonville. The interior was finished in narrow Georgia pine and lined with shelving to display groceries, dry goods, boots and shoes.

To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Prof. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn of Garrison hosted a party for the employees of their estate, Wing and Wing. Later in the month, the Osborns entertained Seth Low, the Citizens Union candidate for mayor of New York.

The Canadian Jubilee Singers performed at Town Hall.

In a classified ad, E.M. Wilson of Fair Street offered to trade two English Pointer puppies for a bicycle.

James McIlravy, the mortician, purchased a new black horse to pull the hearse.

The Recorder reminded readers of a new state law that banned riding bicycles on the sidewalk under penalty of a $50 fine or 30 days in jail. It was the same punishment for riding a horse on the sidewalk.

A representative of a school supply house appeared before the Haldane school board to hawk geometrical blocks, which he said were being adopted by all the leading schools in the country. The board ordered a set.

Capt. Henry Metcalfe, the president of the Board of Water Commissioners, reported that he had the results from a meter he invented to measure usage. He said Cold Spring residents and the West Point Foundry were using about 8,000 gallons per day, but that 82,000 gallons per day were being lost to leaks.

Gen. Daniel Butterfield of Cold Spring delivered an address at the unveiling of a monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in Fishkill to honor patriot soldiers interred there.


The DAR installed a monument in Fishkill in 1897 to honor the Revolutionary War dead.

May Forson announced she would keep the Garrison telegraph office open late on Election Day to receive the returns.

William Benjamin of Garrison brought home a number of deer and moose heads from a hunting trip in northern Canada.

It was announced that, based on the 1896 election results, the order of the parties on the state ballot would be Republican, Democratic, National Democratic, Socialist Labor, Prohibition, United Democracy and Independent Citizens Organization.

Lizzie Bailey was hired to catalog the Haldane school library.

The editor of The Recorder complained that, while it was illegal to sell cigarettes to children, “you see boys using coffin tacks in the public streets every day.”

In a headline over the obituary of Elisabeth Paulding, 78, The Recorder reported she had “joined the silent majority.”

The superintendent of the Glenclyffe estate in Garrison offered a $50 reward for the identity of the person who had stripped an apple tree of its fruit.

A canal boat loaded with building sand sank near Constitution Island.

After defeating West Point, 10-0, the Harvard football team departed on a sleeping car attached to the 8:23 p.m. express train.

At the request of the Good Government Club of Brewster, local pastors each gave sermons on the same Sunday morning on Christian citizenship.

A box of empty beer bottles was thrown from a train carrying the Cook County Democracy, a political club from Illinois, as it passed Breakneck, striking a trackman in the chest and breaking his shovel.

75 Years Ago (October 1947)

Gilbert Forman, the former Philipstown supervisor, lost his River Road home and its contents in a fire. It took the Cold Spring and Nelsonville fire companies eight hours to extinguish the blaze.

The Italian-American Club of Cold Spring organized a two-day Columbus Day celebration, including a Saturday dance, a Sunday parade with 25 bands and a football game between Haldane alumni and the Jersey City Destroyers.

A 37-year-old Cold Spring man who had been convicted of burglary but escaped from Great Meadow prison in Comstock was captured when he emerged after a night in the woods and found himself surrounded by 75 state troopers.

50 Years Ago (October 1972)

Rep. Gerald Ford of Michigan, chair of the Republican National Convention in Miami and House minority speaker, visited with Charles Velardi, the Putnam County coordinator of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, at the Poughkeepsie airport to discuss the Nixon campaign. [The next month, Nixon received 73 percent of the vote in Putnam over George McGovern.]

State troopers arrested three Peekskill men at George Logan’s gravestone business on Peekskill Road in Nelsonville. Logan called the police when he spotted the men pulling a rented truck onto the property, apparently intent on stealing granite. They were charged with trespassing.

The Village of Cold Spring reminded residents that it was illegal to dispose of anything other than toilet tissue into the sewage system, including sanitary napkins, paper towels, rubber contraceptives and pieces of bed linen.

25 Years Ago (October 1997)

The Philipstown Town Board voted 4-1 to refer a proposed 90-day moratorium on the construction of cellular communications towers to the Planning Board.

A mother and daughter were eating dinner at the daughter’s home on Old West Point Road in Philipstown when they heard a hissing sound. When the mother opened a cabinet door under the kitchen sink, the cleaning chemicals inside exploded. The women each suffered first- and second-degree burns.

The Philipstown Town Board postponed cutting down a 48-inch-wide tree on Indian Brook Road that Garrison resident John Benjamin estimated was at least 300 years old. An arborist noted that while the tree had a hollow section, it could still be structurally sound. Several residents, led by Barbara DeSilva, asked the board to create a tree committee.

Officials with the Cold Spring Water District said that, because of a lack of rain, the reservoirs had fallen below 50 percent capacity and asked residents to conserve.

The district held a ribbon-cutting for its newly completed filtration plant. Mayor Anthony Phillips noted that the village water system was created in 1896 when mains were installed along Main Street, some of which were still in use. Mayor Ed Cleary of Nelsonville said he hoped the plant would put an end to the joke, “Blame it on the Cold Spring water.”

Fire, police and ambulance crews held a joint training in the parking lot of the former Butterfield Hospital with a staged accident between a school bus and a Volkswagen.

Two men dressed in dark clothes and knit caps attempted to break open the rear door of the First Union Bank at 41 Chestnut St. at 1:15 a.m. but were thwarted by Patrolman Corless, who chased them down Marion Avenue. They disappeared into the woods and escaped, despite the efforts of several police dogs.

The Philipstown Model Railroad Club was working on a 15-by-20-foot HO [1:87] scale layout that depicted the Hudson Line, including the village of Cold Spring and West Point Foundry. The club met in the basement of St. Mary’s church.

The Uncommon Caffe of Hyde Park opened a location at 82 Main St.

The Haldane football team, winless in six games, recorded more than 350 yards of offense while defeating Ardsley, 48-0.

A half-page ad in the Putnam County News & Recorder signed by “Working Class People for a Better Future” asserted: “The Town of Philipstown has become the weekend playground and clubhouse of the New York City elite. The ordinary man — the blue collar worker, the guy just trying to get by — is no longer welcome here… Once inducted into Club Philipstown, many get special membership into another club, Club Scenic Hudson.” The ad criticized the Philipstown Dirt Road Association for preserving “narrow, bumpy, dangerous roads” and lamented that much of Philipstown was parkland that was not on the tax rolls.

Philipstown and Pawling became the 40th and 41st communities to join the Hudson River Valley Greenway, which was created to develop “a strategy for regional cooperation based on environmental protection and economic development” among 242 local governments in 12 counties.

One thought on “Looking Back in Philipstown

  1. The item about the train wreck south of Garrison in 1897 that killed 19 people — including eight Chinese workers — reflects a larger part of history.

    Between 1863 and 1869, about 15,000 Chinese workers completed the transcontinental railroad — 700 miles of tracks be-tween Sacramento, California, and Promontory, Utah. More than 2.5 million Chinese citizens had come to the U.S. in 1864 after a labor shortage threatened its completion, and were paid less than American workers.

    Violence toward Chinese increased in the 1870s and many sought safety by making their way to New York to find work in laundries and restaurants, and as laborers. Today’s anti-Asian racism is deeply rooted in this history. This tragic story from 125 years ago tells us so much. [via Instagram]