The History of New York State
Book III, Chapter XI

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




Lying on the east shore of the Hudson River, between Westchester and Dutchess counties, is Putnam County. This section embraces nearly all of the Highlands east of the river; has an area of 234 square miles; is one of the scenic regions noted for its variety of hills, valley and lake, and through which are scattered the estates and homes of many of the wealth of New York. The mountains of this region are of the abrupt rocky sort, with deep narrow valleys, of which the best known are: Peekskill Hollow, Canopus and Pleasant. The Croton River reaches into the county and in the valley are numerous picturesque lakes, among which the most notable and largest are: Mahopac, nine miles in circumference; Canopus, two miles by one; Gleneida, with an area of 170 acres and 130 feet deep.

There are a number of minerals of minor value in the hills of this district, but none of them are utilized to any great extent. Nor has agriculture or manufacturing ever been followed in any large way. The most of the land in Putnam is incapable of being brought under the plow, but there are a number of fertile areas which had been cultivated since the founding of the first settlements in the county. Dairying takes the lead in agriculture. Milk, the main product, is shipped out over the railroads which tap the region.

During the Revolution the mountains, or rather the passes through them, were considered of high strategic value and carefully guarded. Many large bodies of troops were stationed among the hills, with General Putnam as the commander-in-chief of the forces the most of the time. This latter fact was the reason for the naming of the county after him, when it was set off from Dutchess June 12, 1812. One of the several points fortified was Martlear's, or Constitution Island, in 1775, and from which, in 1778, a huge chain was stretched across the river to West Point. This chain was 1,500 feet long with links weighing 125 pounds. Although of no service during the conflict, it at least held together, which was more than could be said of the greater one placed across the stream from Anthony's Nose to Fort Montgomery two years earlier.

It seems strange that the county was not named after the owner of the greater part of the land out of which it was formed. Probably the name Philipse was in disrepute when the county was formed in 1812, because of the litigation started by John Jacob Astor and other, and the worry which had been borne by the purchasers of pieces of property previous to this time. The Highland patent granted to Adolph Philipse, June 17, 1679, who died without issue in 1749, willed it to his nephew Frederick Philipse. The latter's decease brought the land into the hands of his four children, Philip, Susannah, Mary and Margaret. The territory concerned not only covered Putnam County, except that portion known as the "Gore," to the north, and the "Oblong,: a strip forming the west border of Putnam, but a part of Dutchess as well. At the time of the Revolution, the heirs to the patent had been attainted, and their lands confiscated by the Commissioners of forfeiture. But as a third of the estate was vested in the children of Col. Roger Morris an, therefore, not legally open to seizure, the State had to come to the rescue of the small purchasers of this particular part of the patent lands by settling with the Morris heirs.

The settlement of Putnam County was rather late as compared with the other districts along the Hudson, both because of the rocky character of its terrain and the Philipse patent. It was not the policy of the owners of the patent to sell any of the land, the only evidence of any ale being one by Colonel Morris, in 1765, of 245 acres to a William Hill. The various holdings of the heirs were divided into lots and leased to tenants. Hence it happens that the historian, Smith, writing in 1750, says: "the growth of the country has been very sudden and commenced only a few years ago. Within the memory of people now living, it did not contain above twelve families." And he was writing not only of Putnam County, but Dutchess, of which Putnam was then a part. David Ninham, the Indian sachem, said that in 1725 some whites had settled on the Philipse grant. By 1740 there must have been quite a few settlers in the section, for a church was erected about this time. The population of the county was 8,932 in 1790, and about 10,000 when it was erected in 1812. The 1920 population is given as 10,802.

Upon its erection, Putnam contained the towns taken from Dutchess, Philipstown, Carmel, Frederick, Patterson and Southeast. These towns have had one addition to their number in Putnam Valley formed from Philipstown in 1838. The town of Frederick is now known as Kent. The 1920 populations of these division were: Carmel, 2,299; Kent, 696; Patterson, 1,231; Philipstown, including Cold Springs and Nelson villages, 3,272; Putnam Valley, 704; and southeast, including Brewster village, 2,600. Carmel hamlet, on Lake Gleneida, was chosen as the shiretown, and the country buildings were erected in 1814. Efforts were made in 1840 to have the county seat removed to Cold Spring, but when it was found that the deed to the lands on which the courthouse was built did not permit of the erection of any but county buildings, the movement lost headway.


Carmel, formed from Frederickstown, March 17, 1795, lies on the south border of the county, with a rolling surface, many streams, and the lakes Mahopac and Gleneida, Gilead Kirk and Long ponds, it is perhaps the most favored of the many resort section of Putnam. Lake Mahopac is the pride of the county and, although well known, with settlers on its shores prior to Revolutionary tines, it was not until 1835 that the first of the many hotels, which later clustered about its shores, was built by Stephen Monk.

The settlement of Carmel began in 1740, when Eleazer Hamblin left Cape Cod with his family, including a new son-in-law, Caleb Hazen, and set up his home. Hazen has, alter, one of the first iron forges in the county. Enoch Crosby, the Harvey Beach of Cooper's "Spy," lived in the town until after the Revolution. Carmel village, the principal settlement in the township and the shiretown, is located on the west side of Lake Gleneida. It contained but few houses at the time of its appointment as the county seat, ]and has never had a population of more then a few hundred, but its position by the shore of lovely lake Gleneida made of it a popular resort. Possibly, the beauty of its site led Daniel Drew to buy, in 1866, Carmel Institute, change its name to Drew Seminary, and make it one of the leading woman's colleges in the State. Mahopac and Red Mills are two of the hamlets o early origin.

Kent, organized as Frederickstown March 7, 1788, had a change of name to Frederick in 1795, and to the present title April 15, 1817. It is the central town on the north border, located among the grandeur of the Highlands, which are found here at their steepest and rockiest. It is the least populous of the towns, the ruggedness of its terrain preventing use being made of its land, either for agriculture, or even for pleasure resorts. The pioneer to first locate in the region is supposed to have been Zachariah Merritt, in 1750. A Joseph Merritt was one of Roger Morris; first tenants, according to a deed dated 1771. Boyd's Reservoir, acquired by the City of New York in 1866, but not completed until 1871, is one of the notable places in the town. Of the several hamlets of this section, the more important are: Farmer's and Cole's Mills and Ludingtonville.

Patterson, formed from Frederickstown and Southeast, march 17, 1795, was named Franklin until 1808, when the present title was assumed. It is the northeast corner town of Putnam; hilly, but with arable land even to the tops of the hills. The sandy loam., ring of the forest exposed, has been under successful cultivation for more than a century and a half. The first to move into the region came probably in 1731 and built their homes in the "Oblong" tract. Matthew Patterson, after whom the town was named, had a farm in the town in 1770. The principal hamlets of the area are: Patterson, on the railroad; Towners and Haviland.

Philipstown, formed march 7, 1788, lost territory to establish part of Fishkill in 1806, and Putnam Valley in 1839. It is the most westerly town, extending ten miles along the Hudson. The most elevated of the Highlands are within its boundaries, with many famous peaks, hurrying brooks and streams and narrow, deep valleys. But little of the surface of the town is suited to farming, although many of the "flats" and some of the valley slopes are cultivated. Building and road stone are quarried in the mountains, and brickyards are ranged along parts of the river shore.

The first settlement of the section was made by Thomas Davenport, in 1715. The principal leader in the populating of Philipstown was Col. Beverly Robinson, who acquired title to the area through his marriage to Susannah, the daughter of Frederick Philipse. Nearly all the early settlements we along the Hudson. Garrison village was founded by Caleb Nelson before the Revolution, and was known as Nelson's Landing. It has been since the days when sloops carried the products of the farms to the metropolis the main shipping point in the town. Cold Spring is the largest village in the county, with a population of 1,433 in 1920. It came into existence when the West Point Foundry was established here in 1818. It quickly became the leader in industries, and at one time had a population more than twice that of the present day. it is situated on the Hudson, was incorporated April 22, 1846, and included the former hamlets: Nelsonville and Marysville.

Putnam Valley, formerly the eastern part of Philipstown, was established as Quincy, March 14, 1839. The name was changed to the present title in 1840 because Quincy was a name identified with the minority political party of the region. The surface of the town is mountainous, the main geographical feature being the two valleys stretching southeasterly, known as Peekskill and Canopus Hollows. The valley soils are fertile but are of small area, and the town has never been largely given to agriculture, or attained any great population. Tradition has it that an Adam Smith, of England, came tot his region in 1720; but 1740 seems the more probably date. A tide of emigration set in about this time, which spread its people over a number of sections in Putnam Valley. Of the early hamlets the more vigorous of the survivors are Oregon, Crofts, and Tompkins.

Southeast, formed from Frederickstown and Southeastown, March 7, 1788, lost some of its area in 1795 to the organization of Patterson. The name of the town indicates its location in the county. There is less of the ruggedness of the Hudson region in this division; the soil is good, and the greater part of the area is under farm fence. Dairying is the main industry. Southeast was one of the first settled places in the county, due no doubt to the location on its east border of the "Oblong," a section of land not included in the Philipse patent, in which a good title could be secured at an early date. The pioneer of the township seems to have been Samuel Smith who came to the county in 1730. There were a number of Long Island families who moved to the section about this time, being buyers of Oblong Tract lots. The agricultural expansion of the township has brought about the formation of more than the usual number of hamlets, among which are: Heddingville, Brush Hollow, DeForest Corners, Doanesburgh, Foggingtown, Southeast Center, Milltown and Dykemans. The largest village is Brewster, whose population ram for many years above a thousand. A farm on which the site of the village is located was purchased by James and Walter Brewster in 1848. Their object was to secure an iron mine, and the water powers of the Croton River. The center of a splendid dairy region, one of the first of the condensed milk plants was opened in Brewster in 1864. This latter business still is in existence, and, together with railroad shops, form the basis of the industrial life of the village.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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