Looking Back in Philipstown

great boston fire

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 caused soul-searching in Cold Spring. (Library of Congress)

150 Years Ago (November 1872)

In anticipation of Election Day, the combined Republican clubs of Philipstown, Peekskill and Newburgh marched for two and a half hours in a cold wind on a Friday night with brass bands playing martial music. After the Peekskill club members boarded the train for home, the rest of the entourage went to Town Hall for supper.

The Republican candidate for president, the incumbent Ulysses S. Grant, received 512 votes in Philipstown and his challenger, the Democrat Horace Greeley, 487.

Two mechanics sent to fix the boilers at the West Point Foundry furnace suffered serious hand injuries. One was badly burned and the other suffered a deep cut when the punching machine pushed his hand against the serrated edge of a section of boilerplate.

Dr. C.P. Kreizer, hired a few weeks earlier as principal of the Rock Street School, resigned to take a better-paying position. Mr. Lycett of New Jersey was quickly appointed to replace him.

The Cold Spring Village Board heard complaints about the lack of water in pumps on Main Street because of leaf blockage.

The Rev. Benjamin F. Bowen, of Ohio, was a guest preacher at the Baptist Church. According to an account in The New York Times 11 years later that referred to him as a “clerical black sheep,” Bowen was invited to become its pastor, a position he held until 1875. When Bowen was accused in New Jersey in 1883 of defaulting on hundreds of dollars in personal loans from congregants, investigators wrote to Cold Spring and were told Bowen had been dismissed there “for peculiar methods of financiering.” The locks were changed but Bowen broke in and refused to leave the pulpit until arrested. Bowen denied being fired, saying he left Cold Spring voluntarily rather than take sides in a church scandal. It turned out Bowen had been dismissed from two Ohio churches before he fled to New York.

The first snow fell on Nov. 16, which prognosticators said meant there would be 16 days of snow over the winter based on the age of the moon at the time.

The Great Boston Fire on Nov. 9, which destroyed 776 buildings and killed 20 people, compelled the editor of The Cold Spring Recorder to take stock of the village, noting that “building after building has been erected” since a memorable fire at the corner of Rock and Main in 1860 “but not a drop more water is stored below Kemble Avenue.”

Twenty men, “mostly unmarried,” were laid off from the West Point Foundry.

Bob Cronk and a girlfriend were walking north on the railroad tracks when they saw the New York Express and moved to the east track. They heard a whistle and bell, which alarmed the woman. Bob was telling her it was the engine gone by when the cowcatcher of a northbound train scooped him up and carried him for some distance. He was not seriously injured.

A stranger who said he was employed at the furnace inquired about a room at the boarding house operated by Mr. McKinley on Market Street. He asked to see the room so he could change clothes. He did — into a $40 suit [about $1,000 today] owned by Jean Baptiste, another lodger. He also stole Baptiste’s wallet. The culprit left quietly but was later arrested in Newburgh.

Josiah Ferris offered a $5 reward for the return of his white hound dog with a light yellow head and a large black spot on each side of his body.

Richard Rollings was injured during the construction of a tunnel at West Point. He was holding a drill when a scale of heated steel from under the hammers struck him in the center of the eye. After three days of excruciating pain, the piece dropped out.

John Dolan, a widowed train flagman who had been stationed for many years at Constitution Island, where he lived with his six children, was found dead in shallow water about halfway between the bridge and the island. He had been returning from the market, and his basket and its spilled contents were nearby. A coroner’s inquest concluded he had fallen from the seawall, been knocked out and drowned.

A stranger buying a $1.95 ticket at the station said he heard someone had drowned nearby. When he was told that six children had been orphaned, he pushed his $3.05 in change back toward the clerk for their benefit. The clerk noted the man’s name — R.P. Benfield, of Troy — and alerted The Recorder to his charity.

125 Years Ago (November 1897)

Following the election, The Recorder reported: “The Democrats carried the state and the Republicans, Putnam County.”

Pranksters were stealing fence gates, including one that ended up on the top of the flagpole at the Haldane school.

The Rev. E. Floyd-Jones, the priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, moved from Garrison to the rectory on Paulding Avenue.

W.A. Ladue, the accomplished amateur bicycle racer from Cold Spring, had his Putnam County championship revoked following a complaint by a competitor. A.E. Palmer said that the sole purpose of another rider, F.B. Pelham of Cold Spring, was to pace Ladue. Palmer appealed to the League of American Wheelmen, which ruled that Ladue had to return his medal and cash prize. Pelham was suspended from competition for a year.

A Putnam Valley woman, Elizabeth Tompkins, was jailed after she threatened her 19-year-old daughter with a butcher’s knife and whipped her. The daughter had left home to stay at her grandfather’s. Tompkins and her husband went to retrieve her. When she refused to go with them, Tompkins waved the knife, saying, “If you don’t, you die.” She then produced a whip and struck her until she climbed into the wagon. An uncle — Mrs. Tompkins’ brother — filed a complaint with a county judge.

colgate-ad

A Colgate Soap ad from 1897, the year a salesman passed out samples in Cold Spring

J.H. Mendell, representing the Colgate Soap Co., circulated in the village, leaving samples at each house.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Cold Spring Social Club played St. Steven’s College in a football game on DeRham’s field on the road to Garrison.

Alexander Hustis, a former resident of North Highlands, was indicted for manslaughter in the killing of a Black farmhand. Philip Daniel, part of a group of men working at the Hustis farm in Rockland County, had arrived at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. According to a coroner’s report, when he came out of a shed, he was confronted by Hustis, armed with a shotgun, who accused him of stealing chickens. Daniel said he was getting a rope. When he walked away and ignored a command to stop, Hustis shot him in the leg. Hustis went back into the house while Daniel limped to the barn, where he was found at daybreak by his co-workers. Hustis was held for four days on $1,000 bail but released when Daniel didn’t appear for a hearing. (Daniels was at St. Francis Hospital in Jersey City, where he died that day of blood poisoning.) Daniels’ widow said her husband told her before he died that he was getting a rope for a cow in the barn.

The Melnotte Hypnotic Co. performed at Town Hall, but The Recorder reported that the show was so bad that the audience left en masse. The performers, from Peekskill, “were lucky in getting out of town without being mobbed.”

Two weeks after a train derailment south of Garrison killed 19 people, the body of the last missing passenger was found in the river about 4 miles south and a female passenger was identified as a 21-year-old Buffalo woman moving to New York City for a new job. The engine, after being pulled from the river, was back in service.

The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad granted a request from village officials to have the No. 37 train that left New York at 9:15 p.m. stop at Cold Spring. The railroad said it would do so if it had passengers to unload. “This is a heavy train and Cold Spring is a hard place to start from,” it explained.

Dr. J.P. Filllebrown added a telephone connection to his office at Spalding’s drugstore and at the residence of Dr. William Young, where he rented a room.

The newly elected Putnam County sheriff, Garrison resident John P. Donohue, took the oath of office.

For the first time in seven years, the clock at the National Bank of Cold Spring stopped running.

Two workers from the Hudson River Telephone Co. were in the village removing tree branches that were causing interference.

A few days after Mr. Spalding placed a penny-in-the-slot machine with chewing gum and candy in front of his drugstore, he opened it find a few pennies and many more pantaloons buttons and hair pins, along with 10 pounds of lead blanks, likely from the hardware store next door.

100 Years Ago (November 1922)

A New York City artist, William De Leftwich Dodge, selected three military figures to paint for a hall of martial fame at the state Capitol. Among the finalists was Gen. Gouverneur Warren, of Cold Spring (below), who seized Little Round Top for Union forces at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gouverneur Warren

Gen. Gouverneur Warren (National Archives)

The Philipstown chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was granted a charter.

Mary Merritt, a granddaughter of Elisha Nelson, who built the first house in Nelsonville, died at age 78.

75 Years Ago (November 1947)

Col. Hans Holmer, an Army officer from Cold Spring, was appointed in Berlin as director of the American Military Government’s transport division.

50 Years Ago (November 1972)

The Help-a-Cat League held its annual holiday boutique at Democratic headquarters on Main Street.

James Bosco retired after working in Philipstown as a school bus driver for 42 years. From 1936 to 1943 he transported Haldane students to high school in Peekskill and from 1944 until his retirement he worked for the Garrison School.

school bus

The 1931 school bus used by James Bosco when he first became a driver in Philipstown.

An overflow, mostly hostile crowd filled a public hearing at Town Hall on a proposal to build a 630-unit, V-shaped condo building on the Edward Swinburne property at Manitou. The proposal had already been rejected by the Philipstown Planning Board.

Rep. Hamilton Fish, a Garrison native, won 72 percent of the vote for the new House District 25. “Good Lord,” said Fish. “I thought I’d be lucky if I won half of that.” Fish’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in Congress.

Rocco Lofaro, a Haldane bus driver, was assaulted on his morning run. After a man on Route 9 waved him down, Lofaro stopped and stepped outside. Without warning, he said, the man began to punch him until passing motorists came to his aid and the man walked away. Lofaro completed his route before driving to Butterfield Hospital. Witnesses identified the man as someone who lived nearby, and the state police issued an arrest warrant.

Thirty-five Putnam County men reported for the draft to fight in Vietnam. The Red Cross gave out care packages with letter paper and candy, and a former member of the draft board distributed copies of The Daily News and held a U.S. flag on the sidewalk as the bus left for New York City.

25 Years Ago (November 1997)

Bill Mazzuca, the incumbent Philipstown supervisor, defeated challenger Barbara Impellittiere by 115 votes of 3,113 cast. In another race, Vinny Tamagna defeated challenger Steve Rosario with 62 percent of the vote to return to the county Legislature.

New York awarded $297,500 to Philipstown for its landfill closure project. The money came from a $50 million environmental bond act approved by voters the year before.

The Putnam Legislature adopted a resolution making English the county’s official language, except for translations provided for emergency, health or legal purposes.

A Garrison resident asked the federal government to investigate possible violations of the Hatch Act during Mazzuca’s re-election campaign for town supervisor. The complainant argued that because Mazzuca worked at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, which received federal money, he was subject to the law, which prohibits federal employees from running for partisan elected positions.

David Barnhart of Philipstown and Allan Metcalf discussed their new book, published by Houghton Mifflin, called America in So Many Words, which explained the origins of 300 words, including mammoth, jukebox and dime. The book grew out of presentations that Barnhart and Metcalf gave at annual meetings of the American Dialect Society about the evolution of modern neologisms.

The Haldane middle-school football team, which finished 6-0, outscored their opponents 122 to 6.

Edward and Frances Olmsted of Olmsted Environmental Services in Garrison were in demand by the news media to comment on a black mold, Stachybotrys, that had killed 12 infants in Cleveland.

Copy Cats changed its name to Grey Printing and moved to 153 Main St.

Zoe Petkanas, a fourth grader at the Garrison School, was cast in four roles in a production of A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden.

Justin Ferdico became the first newborn to reside at The Bird & Bottle Inn in Garrison in more than 175 years. His parents, Jodi and Glen Ferdico, lived at the inn. Jodi was the special events and catering director and the daughter of innkeeper Ira Boyar.

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