Looking Back in Philipstown

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

150 Years Ago (January 1873)

Drs. Lente and Murdock performed hip surgery on Elisha Baxter of Nelsonville at his home after he fell from a ladder that slipped while he was clearing snow from his roof. They expected their patient would be confined to bed for much of the winter.

The editor of The Cold Spring Recorder pleaded with children who sled down Main Street to stay to the right and stop yelling at pedestrians to get out of the way.

Two government teams delivering baled straw from a train car at Garrison to the stables at West Point fell through the river ice and were rescued only with great effort.


In 1873, Stephen Davenport of Philipstown supposedly acquired the right to sell these patented pruning shears in Putnam County.

A man who called himself P.B. Spaulding visited the home of Stephen Davenport 2 miles east of Cold Spring. He said he wanted to give Davenport the license to sell a newly patented pruning shear in Putnam County. By Davenport’s recollection, he would only have to send Spaulding a percentage of each sale. But he also admitted he had been confused about the plan and the contract he had to sign. In fact, the contract promised Spaulding $240 up front [$6,000 today], and the next day, Spaulding took the agreement to the bank to withdraw the money. Constable Morrison arrested Spaulding in Rome, New York, but a local judge released him on his promise he would voluntarily return to Cold Spring to answer a fraud charge. When he didn’t, Morrison (with his mustache dyed and wearing spectacles as a disguise) tracked the fugitive to Utica. Spaulding was sent to the Putnam County jail but bailed out by his lawyer, who provided $2,000 [$50,000].

The Recorder noted that four local merchants “made all the haste of which their horses were capable while driving on business — of course, such staid citizens would not be guilty of racing!”

Laborers from West Point who spent their pay in the village but did not have enough left to pay fines for disorderly conduct received 10 days in jail.

When Mahlan Coe, a clerk at George McCabe’s store who lived on the second floor, heard noises in the night, he grabbed his revolver and gingerly descended the stairs. One burglar stood at the Rock Street entrance, ready to open the door for the gang’s escape. Coe fired a shot and the bandits fled, with the nearest one “rolling out like a ball.” The next morning, the bullet could not be found.

At sunrise on Jan. 30, the temperature was minus 28 degrees on Garden Street and minus 22 degrees in the North Highlands.

125 Years Ago (January 1898)

On Jan. 7, Irving McCoy, the editor and proprietor of The Recorder, observed: “Already new resolutions are becoming burdensome.”

McCoy noted that January was the season for stories of narrow escapes from suffocation by coal gas or drowning while skating.

The day after the river froze on Jan. 3, West Point cadets began skating over.

The Alonzo Hatch Electro-Photo Musical Co. performed at Town Hall, sharing scenic views projected from an Animotiscope, invented by Thomas Edison. The presentation was accompanied by singing by Hatch, a tenor.


An Animotiscope, shown here projecting an image in a theater, was demonstrated at Town Hall in 1873 by tenor Alonzo Hatch (inset).

Dr. Edward Sherow of New York City, a nephew of Sidney Barnhart of Cold Spring, died of a cocaine overdose.

The Putnam Board of Supervisors set the tax rates at 60 cents per $100 of assessed value in Cold Spring — the lowest in the county. By contrast, the rate was 91 cents in Carmel and 85 cents in Putnam Valley.

Edward Cole, the postmaster, probably saved the entire block when he quickly threw a pail of water on a Rochester lamp that exploded inside the office.

The New York Sun printed a list of the names of Civil War veterans who were receiving pensions, including that of Hiram Miller, who had enlisted at Cold Spring in 1865 and received $72 per month [$2,600] because he was incapacitated by rheumatism. However, Miller had been dead for 18 months. The agency that secured the pension for Miller said it was no longer being paid; names remained on the list for three years after the last signed request.


Ezra Cornell

Gen. Daniel Butterfield of Cold Spring delivered a eulogy for Ezra Cornell (right) at the university on Founder’s Day but later admitted he had overlooked a local connection: Cornell had installed the first telegraph wire from Bull Hill (Mount Taurus) over the Hudson River to Storm King.

At a Girls’ Friendly Society tea at St. Mary’s parish house, Harry Ackley Sackett created profile silhouettes with scissors and black paper at a cost of two for 25 cents.

A census of Cold Spring, required by state law to determine how many trustees were allowed, counted 1,684 residents. Municipalities with 1,000 to 3,000 residents were allowed two to four. Although Cold Spring had four, a special election was required to determine if voters preferred two or three. Nelsonville, which had 525 residents and five trustees, had to reduce its board to two, plus the mayor.

Rep. John Henry Ketcham, whose U.S. House district included Philipstown, offered to mail garden seeds to any constituent who requested them.

The death of John Wyatt, the former Putnam County clerk, prompted a colleague, Judge Charles Tompkins of Washington, D.C., to share “a piece of political history” with a reporter. In 1846, the Whig Party met in Carmel and dispatched Tompkins to Cold Spring to notify Judge Cornelius Warren that he had been nominated as its candidate for Congress. Tompkins had earlier made the acquaintance of a foreman at the stone quarry at Breakneck. He paid a visit to ask the foreman to give Warren a nudge. As it turned out, the foreman was a supporter of Wyatt, who was running as an independent for sheriff against Bill Taylor, a Democrat. The foreman said: “If you will get me 200 or 300 Democratic tickets printed with John Wyatt’s name in place of Bill Taylor’s and also put Judge Warren’s name on the ticket and fold them all up and tie them in a bunch, I will see that every man at work under me votes for them.” The next morning Tompkins had the tickets printed in Fishkill; the votes were enough to elect a Whig candidate in a solidly Democratic district.

A “swamp angel” Parrott gun manufactured at the West Point Foundry that fired 100-pound shells at Fort Sumter and Charleston in 1863 was given by the War Department to the Grand Army of the Republic post in Albion, Michigan, for the cost of freight.


Made in Cold Spring, a Parrott gun that fired 100-pound shells was turned into a monument in Albion, Michigan, early in the last century. (Historical Albion Michigan)

Robert Smith of North Highland lost a good horse to lockjaw after it stepped on a rusty nail.

Dr. Giles removed a tumor from the lip of Alson Mosher, a farmer of North Highland.

Cosmo Picucci, a 45-year-old Italian employed with a construction gang repairing the sea wall at the site of the October railroad wreck south of Garrison, died when he fell from the platform of the work train and under the wheels. He was survived by his family in Italy and two brothers who were working with him.

The Hudson River Railroad Co. settled for $45,000 [$1.6 million] with John Ryan, a Jersey City druggist injured in the Garrison wreck, which killed 19 people.

The river was high on a Sunday morning and flooded the lower end of Main Street.

While Charley Warren was playing dominoes at home with a friend, there was a knock on the door. When he answered, 50 people filed in for a surprise party for his 67th birthday.

The supplements for the Sunday papers, printed upstate and thrown from the southbound mail train on a Saturday afternoon on its way to New York City, were drawn under the wheels and scattered along the rails as far as Stony Point.

100 Years Ago (January 1923)

The state engineer completed plans for a steel bridge over the Hudson between Beacon and Newburgh as part of the new state highway along the river. It would replace a structure known as Mary Ann’s Bridge.

75 Years Ago (January 1948)

Joe “Mo” Mazzuca of Cold Spring lost his fight in the Golden Gloves Tournament in the Bronx but noted the crowd booed the decision.

In Philipstown Basketball League action, the Veterans of Foreign Wars defeated the Young Men’s Republican Club, 68-20, while the Garrison Firemen edged the Cold Spring Dyers, 31-26.

The art class was full, but there were openings in cooking, shop and typewriting at the Adult Evening School held at Haldane.

Organizers solicited donations to build a lighted skating rink on Smith’s Pond in Nelsonville.

Hamilton Fish III, the former Republican congressman who had a home in Garrison, said he was happy to see Henry Wallace announce he would be the newly formed Progressive Party’s candidate for president. Fish said that the former vice president was right to leave the Democratic Party because it had “permitted Franklin D. Roosevelt to maneuver and lie them into World War II.” He also suspected the Progressive Party would benefit Republicans by diverting “400,000 Commies, fellow travelers and radicals” from voting Democratic.

Rehearsals began for a minstrel show organized by the Cold Spring Fife and Drum Corps to purchase uniforms.

Ruth “Bunny” Schaefer was elected president of the Les Jeunes Modes club for teenage girls interested in modeling.

The Columbus Society of Cold Spring (formerly the Italian-American Club) dedicated a memorial and portrait at its headquarters on Main Street to Anthony Nastasi, the only village man of Italian descent to be killed in World War II.

A Thursday afternoon fire destroyed the Diane Metal Products plant on Garrison Road in Nelsonville. A company official said the fire may have started when a nail stuck in an employee’s shoe created a spark that ignited paint thinner on the floor.

With the approval of Garrison and Putnam County, the mostly undeveloped area of Continentalville was added to the Van Cortlandtville school district.

A 1:30 a.m. fire destroyed 96 Main St., which housed the A&P grocery and meat store, an antique shop and two apartments. The next week, the owners of a competitor, Purity Market at 92 Main St., purchased the lot to expand. The Cold Spring Fire Co. also asked for the return of 10 pairs of boots that disappeared from its trucks during the five hours it took to extinguish the blaze.

50 Years Ago (January 1973)

Haldane reported that it had 1,055 students, or 85 more than the previous year. Of those students, 29 came from parochial schools, one from a private school and the rest were new residents. Twenty years earlier, in 1953, the school had 527 students.

Joseph Percacciolo & Sons was awarded the contract for the demolition of the upper story of the transept at the Chapel of Our Lady on Market Street. Residents who were attempting to restore the chapel had discovered that vandals had removed the brownstone window sills and much of the old brick. The Jaycees offered to fence the property.

Haldane High School students published the third issue of The Blue Devil Press.

A 20-year-old Garrison woman was killed at 3:30 a.m. on Route 9D in Fishkill when she lost control of her car while passing on a curve.

The Putnam County sheriff asked Philipstown residents not to have “alarmist attitudes” about reports of burglaries. He noted that between Nov. 1 and Jan. 19 there had been 15 burglaries reported but that six appeared to involve teenagers.

An 82-year-old retired architect who lived on Route 9 in Philipstown was struck and killed by a car while walking along the highway after dark.

Six miles of Route 9D between Route 403 in Garrison and the Bear Mountain Bridge were closed to repair a washout near the Prentice property.

25 Years Ago (January 1998)

The Open Space Institute paid $67,900 for a parcel opposite Nelsonville Village Hall to create a park.

The Philipstown Town Board questioned a representative of MediaOne about why it had missed a deadline in its cable franchise agreement to wire everyone in town by November 1995.

ilmer and sorvino

Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino during the filming of At First Sight

A section of Indian Brook Road in Garrison was closed for two days while an MGM crew shot scenes for At First Sight, starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino.

The nonprofit Putnam County Housing Corp. proposed building 75 to 100 rental units for seniors on a 4-acre parcel on the north side of Secor Street in Nelsonville but abandoned the plan after opposition from residents.

Residents and Cold Spring officials hosted a retirement dinner for Fran Allen, who had been the village clerk for 25 years, serving eight mayors.

Cold Spring dismantled Tiny Tots Park after the group that maintained it, Moms on Mondays, disbanded. Mayor Anthony Phillips said the park would be rebuilt closer to Northern Avenue.

A 27-year-old logger died in Putnam Valley when a trunk rolled off a truck and crushed him.

Faced with overcrowding, the Garrison school board considered installing portable classrooms but balked at the price: $65,000 each plus $3,000 per month.

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