Dutchess County
New York
Genealogy and History

Historical and Genealogical Record Dutchess and Putnam Counties


CHAPTER III
THE COUNTY OF PUTNAM


GENERAL VIEW

THIS county was formed from Dutchess, June 12, 1812. It lies upon the Hudson, between 41° 20' and 41° 30' north latitude, and 2° 56' and 3° 26' east longitude, from Washington. It is bounded on the north by the county of Dutchess; east, by the State of Connecticut; south, by the county of Westchester; and west by the Hudson River. Its area is about 234 square miles.

It contains six towns, viz: Carmel, Kent, Patterson, Philipstown, Putnam Valley and Southeast. It was originally called the South Precinct of Dutchess County, and about 1740, the  Fredericksburgh Precinct, which embraced the whole of Putnam. As early as 1772, the present town of Philipstown, including Putnam Valley, was erected into a precinct by the name of "Philipse Precinct." In 1773, the town of Southeast was organized as a separate precinct, by the name of the "Southeast Precinct." This left in the Fredericksburgh Precinct only the towns of Carmel, Kent and Patterson.  March 7, 1788, the term precinct was dropped, and Philipse Precinct was called Philipstown; Southeast Precinct, Southeast town; Fredericksburgh Precinct, Frederick's town.

Carmel and Patterson were organized in 1795 from Frederick's town. This left Frederick's town embracing only the present town of Kent, which name was given to it in honor of the Kent family. Patterson was organized by the name of "Franklin," March 17, 1795, and its name was changed April 6, 1808. Putnam Valley was formed from Philipstown, as "Quincy," March 14, 1839. Its name was changed in 1840.

The eastern part of the county is uneven and hilly, yet very productive, and under a high state of cultivation. The central and western portions are broken by high hills and mountain elevations. The Highlands stretch across its west end. Their altitude is estimated at 1,500 feet above the level of the Hudson. The mountains consist of several steep, rocky ranges, separated by deep, narrow valleys, the principal of which are Peekskill Hollow, and Canopus and Pleasant Valleys. The county is watered by the upper branches of Croton River and several smaller streams, the principal one being Muscoot river. Among the mountain valleys are numerous picturesque lakes, the largest of which are Lakes Mahopac, Oscawana, and Gleneida. In the valleys the soil is a productive, sandy loam, but the mountains are bare and rocky, and only valuable for their mines and quarries. Iron is found in abundance; and serpentine, magnesian limestone, and several other minerals are also found. Peat and marl are found in various localities.

THE PHILIPSE PATENT

In 1691, Lambert Dorlandt and Jan Sebring, emigrants who came from Holland in the early days of New Amsterdam, obtained from the Indians a deed for a tract of land which included the western part of the present county of Putnam, having first obtained the license of Governor Sloughter for that purpose. The purchasers of this tract did not obtain a patent for the land from the governor, but transferred and sold all their right to the premises to Adolph Philipse, a merchant then residing in the city of New York (1697). The land thus purchased comprised"a certain tract of land in our Dutchess county, scituate lyeing and being in the Highlands on the East side of Hudson's River beginning at a certain Red Cedar Tree marked on the North side of the Hill commonly called Anthonys Nose, which is Likewise the North Bounds of Collonell Stevanus Cortlandts land or his Manour of Cortlandt, and from thence bounded by the said Hudson's River as the said river runs northerly until it come to the Creek River or Run of Water commonly called and known by the name of Great fishkill to the Northward and above the said Highlands, which is likewise the Southward bounds of another Tract of Land belonging to the said Coll Stephanus Cortlandt and Company, and so Easterly along the said Coll Cortlandts line and the South bounds of Coll Henry Beekman until it comes twenty Miles, or until the Division or Petition Line between our Colony of Connecticutt and our said Province, and Easterly by the said Division Line, being bounded Northerly and Southerly by East and West Lines unto the said Division line between our said Collony of Connecticutt and this our Province aforesaid, the whole being bounded Westward by the said Hudson River, Northward by the land of Coll Cortlandt and Company and the land of Coll Beekman, Eastward by the Partition line between our Collony of Connecticutt and this our Province, and Southerly by the Mannour of Courtlandt to the land of the said Coll Cortlandt, including therein a certaine Island at the North side of the said Highlands called Pollepells Island."

Adolph Philipse having thus acquired the title from the original owners, proceeded at once to take the necessary steps for obtaining a patent for his lands, and presented a petition to Benjamin Fletcher, who was then governor of the Province of New York, which was granted June 17, 1697. While the Indian deed to Dorlandt and Sebring and the subsequent transfers only conveyed the land extending back from the Hudson River to a marked tree on the line of the Rombout Patent, or "Land of Cortlandt and Company," the patent of Governor Fletcher conveyed all the land between the river and the boundary line between New York and Connecticut. To confirm his title to this additional tract Adolph Philipse obtained a new Indian deed in 1702.

Adolph Philipse continued in the full possession of his Highland patent till the time of his death, which occurred in the latter part of the year 1749. He died without issue, leaving his estate to his nephew, Frederick Philipse. The latter had five children,—Frederick, Philip, Susannah, Mary and Margaret. By his will, dated June 6, 1751, Frederick was disinherited, and, Margaret dying young, the property was equally divided among the remaining three. Philip left a widow, who married one Ogilvie; Susannah married Beverly Robinson, and Mary married Col. Roger Morris. On the 7th of February, 1754, the patent was divided into nine lots; three, each 4 miles square, bordering upon the Hudson and denominated "water lots;" three, each 4 miles wide by 12 long, extending north and south across the patent, and denominated "long lots;" and three, each 4 miles square, upon the east border, denominated "back lots." Philip, Susannah, and Mary Philipse each owned one of each kind of lots. (See map on opposite page.)

On the 14th of January, 1758, previous to the marriage of Mary, a deed of marriage settlement was executed, by which her estate was vested in such children as might be born under the marriage, reserving only to herself and husband a life interest in the property. When Robinson and Morris and their wives were attainted for treason, October 22, 1779, their property was sold, chiefly to the former tenants.

In 1809, John Jacob Astor bought the interest of the heirs of Morris in this property for £20,000. The State  to protect those who held title from the Commissioners of Forfeiture, passed a law, April 16, 1827, "To extinguish the claim of John Jacob Astor and others, and to quiet the possession of certain lands in the counties of Putnam and Dutchess." By the provisions of this act it was agreed that if the United States Supreme Court should decide in favor of the Astor's claim, then the State should pay in extinguishment of the title the sum of $250,000, and if the Court should decide that Astor was entitled to the lands with all the improvements, then the State should pay the sum of $450,000, and the act to be in force in case Astor and his associates should accept these terms in a formal manner, within the term of six months after its passage, and as a test of the claim, five suits in ejectment should be prosecuted to judgment in the Circuit Court of the United States, and the judgments presented by writs of error to the Supreme Court for final determination, and if any three of the five suits should be decided in the favor of Astor he should be entitled to the sum named, which should be paid in certificates of public stock.

These terms were not accepted, and suit was begun against James Carver, who was in possession of a farm on Lot 5. The case came to trial in the U. S. Circuit Court in New York, November 7, 1827.

Three suits were tried, each resulting in favor of Astor; upon which the comptroller was directed to issue stock for the full amount, with costs (April 5, 1832). The amount issued was $561,500. Astor thereupon executed proper discharges to the people of the State, and to the defendants, James Carver, Samuel Kelly and Nathaniel Crane, in satisfaction of judgment.

Few suits have been tried in the State involving larger interests to greater numbers, or which were argued with more ability than this. In the suit against James Carver, the counsel for the plaintiff were Messrs. J. Ogden Hoffman, Oakley, Emmett, Piatt, and Ogden; and for the defendant, Messrs. Talcott (Attorney General), Webster, Van Buren and Cowls.

THE ROMBOUT GORE.

This Gore was a tract of land to the north of the Philipse Patent, and was for many years a source of dispute and litigation between the Philipse family and the owners of the Rombout and Beekman Patents, which adjoined them on the north. The dispute arose, not from uncertainty as to the bounds of the Philipse Patent, but from the peculiar manner in which the south lines of the Rombout and Beekman Patents were described. The south bounds of the Rombout Patent are thus defined: "Also from the said Fish kill or creek called Mateawan, along the said Fish kill into the woods at the foot of the High Hills, including all the reed or low lands at the south side of said creek, with an easterly line four hours going, sixteen English miles." The Philipse family claimed that by the terms of the Rombout Patent the Fishkill Creek was its south boundary and, as the Philipse Patent was bounded on the north by that patent, it followed that the Fishkill was their northern boundary. Again as the Beekman Patent was said to be "on the north side of the Highlands" and they were bounded north by the Beekman Patent, it followed that they owned all the land south of the north line of the mountains. On the other hand the proprietors of both the Rombout and Beekman Patents claimed that the north line of the Philipse Patent was a due east line from the mouth of the Fishkill and that their southern boundaries extended to it.

After a long controversy the dispute was settled, January 26, 1771. At that time the contest was between Lawrence Lawrence, who owned one-third of the share of Jacobus Kip in the Rombout Patent, and the heirs of Frederick Philipse. The matter was left to the decision of William Nicoll and Thomas Hicks. They decided that the true line was (that) "a line should begin at the northern extent of the bushes or shrubs upon Plum Point : beginning the south side of the mouth of the Fishkill, and should run from thence East 6 degrees North, as the Compass now points, 16 miles, and that the said line shall forever hereafter be and remain the boundary."

At the time of the Revolution this Gore or triangular tract was owned by Beverly Robinson, Roger Morris and Philip Philipse. The shares of the first two were confiscated, and by a law passed in 1784, the tract was divided into three lots, of which the State of New York had two, and the heirs of Philip Philipse had one. The lot of the Philipse family lay next to the east line of the Rombout Patent and was 115 chains wide at the east end, the course of the east line being north 25 degrees 30 minutes west. This lot is the southern corner of the town of East Fishkill. From the Philipse papers it is found that the cost of their claim to this Gore was £1,818 12s.

THE BEEKMAN GORE

As has been stated, the owners of the Philipse Patent claimed that the Beekman Patent lay to the north of the Highlands, and consequently covered no portion of the mountains, while the Beekmans claimed that their south boundary should be a line running due east from the south side of the mouth of Fishkill. The controversy lasted for many years, and finally was settled by a compromise. On the 18th of January, 1758, Beverly Robinson, Susannah Robinson, Philip Philipse and Mary Philipse on the one part, and Henry Beekman, Catharine Pawling and Robert Livingston on the other part, mutually agreed that a line should be run " from Mateawan or the mouth of Fishkill as the Compass now points due east to the Oblong." From this point on the Oblong a line was to be run northerly along the Oblong line, 200 chains, and from thence "a due west line as the Compass now points," to the rear of the Rombout Patent, and this last line should be the boundary between the parties. Samuel Willis, of Hempstead, Long Island, was employed as the surveyor, and the north line is thus described:—"Began on the Oblong line at a large heap of stones set up which bears N. 25 degrees west, 38 links from a large rock on which are cut the letters H. B. B. R. P. P.; a new house erected by Daniel Chase bears the same course the rock does. From thence due west, the line runs about 12 feet south of Wm. Hunt's spring or fountain, where Col. Henry Beekman made the letters H. B., on the rock out of which the water of the spring runs. Said line also crosses a pretty large pond in the mountains, a little south of the middle. On the east shore a monument is set up about 2 chains south of one Baker's house standing in a hollow." The Gore thus obtained was surveyed into farms by Jonathan Hampton and leased and sold to various parties. Like the other, this Gore was divided after the Revolution, between the heirs of Philip Philipse and the State of New York, the State taking the confiscated shares of Beverly Robinson and Roger Morris.

THE OBLONG

This is a tract of land one mile, three quarters and twenty rods wide, commencing in the town of Rye, in Westchester county, and running north through the counties of Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess. It contains 61,440 acres. It was in dispute between the officials of New Netherland and the United English Colonies. An effort to adjust the difficulty was made at Hartford, September 19, 1650, by representatives of both governments, but agreements then arrived at were not adhered to. When the English superseded the Dutch in 1664, commissioners were appointed by Charles II of England, who determined on a line parallel with the Hudson and twenty miles distant from it on the east. This line gave rise to a dispute respecting the right of government over the towns of Rye and Bedford in Westchester county. Another agreement was concluded in 1683, and these towns were adjudged to be subject to New York government, and confirmed by the Crown, March 28, 1700. In 1717, the government of New York took steps to have the line determined, and made an effort to get Connecticut to unite in the undertaking. In 1725 the Commissioners and surveyors of both colonies met at Greenwich, and entered into an agreement
as to a method of resurveying the line. This survey was immediately after executed in part, the report being dated on the 12th of May, 1725, but the complete settlement was not made till the 14th of May, 1731, when indentures, certifying the execution of the agreement in 1725, were mutually signed by the commissioners and surveyors of both colonies. At this time the tract known as the Oblong was ceded to New York in consideration of another tract near Long Island Sound, surrendered to Connecticut.

Further disputes arose in regard to surveying the boundary and marking it with suitable monuments. Finally a survey was made in 1860 which was subsequently agreed to by both States.

The Oblong was patented by Thomas Hawley and his associates, June 8, 1731.

THE WAPPINGER INDIANS
AND THEIR CONTROVERSY WITH THE HEIRS
OF ADOLPH PHILIPSE

The Indians who inhabited the shores of the Hudson River were of one race and of one language, with the exception of slight dialetic peculiarities. Under the name of Algonquins were included the various tribes that inhabited New England, Long Island, the eastern portion of New York and regions to the south. The tribe that claimed the land now embraced in Dutchess and Putnam and extending to the north as far as Roeliff Jansen's Kill, in Columbia county, were known as the Wappingers, one of the tribal divisions of the Mohicans.

The Wappingers were divided into chieftaincies, and of these one was the Nochpeems, who were said to occupy the highlands north of Anthony's Nose. Von der Donck, one of the earliest writers on this portion of the country, assigns them three villages on the Hudson : Keskistkonck, Pasquasheck and Nochpeems; but their principal village was Canopus, which was situated in a valley which is one of the most important topographical features of Putnam county, and known as Canopus Hollow. The principal residence of the tribe was north of the Highlands, and on the borders of the Wappingers Creek; but they were generally included in the name of Highland Indians.

Of all their possessions there are but few perfect transfer titles on record and one is a deed by which " Sackereghkigh for himself and in the name of Megrieskin Sachem of the Wappingers Indians," and other Indians sold the land included in the Rombout Patent. The original deed by which the land in Putnam county was conveyed to Dorland and Sebring, who transferred their title to Adolph Philipse, is still in existence, and our knowledge of the facts connected with it is derived not only from this, but from the statements made in the documents concerning the claim of the Sachem David Ninham. All mention of this tribe seems to indicate that they were of a warlike and savage nature. At the time of the outbreak of war against the Dutch, in 1643,"Pachem a crafty man, ran through all the villages urging the Indians to a general massacre. The first aggressive act was by the Wappingers, who seized a boat coming from Fort Orange, killed two men and took four hundred beaver skins." It was only after a sanguinary struggle that the various tribes were subdued, and in 1645, a treaty was concluded between the Dutch and the various River Indians, among whom were included the "Wappinex." This treaty continued till the time of the English conquest, though they were frequently encouraged to unite with other tribes in a general revolt. After the conquest of 1664, every effort was made by the English to remove the cause which had led to so much trouble under the Dutch, and one agreement, which was of the greatest importance, was that no purchase of land of the Indians should be esteemed a good title, without leave first had been obtained from the governor, and that after such leave the purchaser should bring before the governor "the Sachem or right owner," to acknowledge satisfaction and payment, when all proceedings should be entered on record, and constitute a valid title. The adherence of the Indians to the English is shown by the fact that in the war with the French nation, the Wappingers, or "Indians of the long reach" as they were called, accepted an invitation to take part in the war, and with their head sachem and all the males of the tribe able to bear arms, went to Albany and thence to the field. Throughout the long struggle between the French and the English, the Wappingers bore an important part. Moving their families to Stockbridge, they furnished a corps of about three hundred in the war of 1754, and after the war "they demanded restitution from the Abenaquis for the loss of one of their number, and delayed the consummation of peace with them till 1762."

Upon their return from war the Wappingers found their lands in the possession of tenants of the heirs of Adolph Philipse, and this led to a controversy of historic interest.

In 1763 a number of the Philipse tenants renounced their leases, and bargained with the Indians to continue the occupancy of the land. They refused to pay further rent to those claiming ownership under the patentee, whereupon ejectment suits were brought, resulting in the ousting of the occupants.

But the defeated tenant was invariably irresponsible, the Indians more so, and, though successful from a legal point of view, the Philipse representatives found themselves put to great and increasing harassment and expense. Suits at law having thus proved an inefficient remedy, under advice of their counsel, William Livingston and James Duane—both soon to become so famous—they decided to appeal to the Chancery jurisdiction. Under the then charter the Governor in Council constituted the High Court of Chancery of the colony, and on the 6th day of February, 1765, a petition was presented to this tribunal for the interposition of the Board and "such relief in the premises as to his Honour shall seem fit and reasonable." The prerogative of the Crown was held sacred and the production of the royal grant an absolute bar at law and in equity to any proceeding in derogation of the title purporting to be thereby granted, except one—an appeal to the representative of the Crown, and, upon suggestion of abuse of the royal confidence, a proceeding to have the patent annulled by a new exercise of the prerogative.

Such an appeal was made by the Indians. The Philipse representatives were summoned forthwith and a trial immediately had. The Indians were beaten, but not discouraged, and attempted to secure the assistance of Sir William Johnson who had so successfully intermediated in controversies between the Indian tribes and the English. But he declined to interfere. Ninham, the Indian king, then went to England and presented his claims to the Lords of Trade, who communicated in regard to the matter with the Colonial Governor, Sir Henry Moore. In his report to the Lords of Trade, Governor Moore wrote that the proceedings lately had in regard to the Wappinger Indians had been "thoroughly examined in the presence of a great concourse of people." In this examination they had been given every opportunity and no advantage was taken of technical points or their ignorance of legal matters. He also reports that in 1776 riots had occurred in Dutchess county, and great disturbance, the Indians being at the bottom of it. It was reported, and he believed with truth, that the Indians were in the habit of selling their lands over and over again, to any who were willing to purchase. The Lords of Trade also reported in regard to the petition of the Indians. It is also stated that the Indians had previously chosen a guardian, and brought their case before the courts, and were defeated in the trial; that they had then appealed to the Governor and Council, who reported that the claim was groundless and that the lands were fairly sold.

In the Revolution Ninham and his warriors took an active part. Some sixty of them, expert marksmen and skilled in war, joined the American forces and fought with a bravery and valor worthy of their ancient race in the days of their glory. Active in the campaigns of 1777, they joined Washington again in the spring of the following year, and were detached with the forces under LaFayette, to check the depredations of the British army on its retreat from Philadelphia, and they were afterwards transferred to Westchester county, the scene of some of the most hotly contested struggles of the war.

It was on the 30th of August, 1778, that Ninham and his warrior band went forth to the field of their last battle. On that day they met with a scouting party of British under Colonel Emerick, and after a fierce engagement were compelled to retreat. On the following morning the whole of the British force at Kings Bridge was ordered out and the larger part was placed in an ambuscade, while Emerick was sent forward to decoy his assailants of the previous day. In the extreme northern part of the annexed portion of the city of New York is a stream that has borne from the earliest times the name of Tippets Brook. The wooded heights and the banks of the stream were the scenes of a most sanguinary conflict. The attempt to draw the Indians into the ambuscade failed, and upon their advance the British troops had scarecly time to fall into rank. The Indians lined the fences and commenced firing upon the forces under Colonel Emerick.

The Queen's Rangers moved rapidly to gain the heights, and Tarleton advanced with the Hussars and his famous Legion of Cavalry. This being reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, he directed Major Ross to conduct his corps on the heights, and advancing to the road arrived within ten yards of Ninham and his men. Up to this time they had been intent on the attack upon Colonel Emerick. They now gave a yell and fired on the advancing enemy and wounded five, including Colonel Simcoe.

They were driven from the fence, and Tarleton rushed upon them with his cavalry and pursued them down Cortlandt's Ridge. Here Tarleton himself had a narrow escape. Striking at one of the fugitives, he lost his balance and fell from his horse. Fortunately for him the Indian had no bayonet and his musket was discharged. A captain of a company of American soldiers was taken prisoner with some of his men, and a company under Major Stewart, who afterwards  distinguished himself at the storming of Stony Point, left the Indians and fled. The engagement was renewed with the fiercest vigor. The cavalry charged the ridge with overwhelming numbers, but were bravely resisted. As the cavalry rode them down, the Indians seizing their foes, dragged them from their horses, to join them in death. In a swamp, not far from the brook, Ninham made his last stand. When he saw the Grenadiers closing upon him and all hope of successful resistance gone he called out to his people to flee, but as for himself, "I am an aged tree, I will die here." Being attacked by Simcoe he wounded that officer, but was shot and killed by Wright, his orderly Hussar. In this fray the power of the tribe was forever broken. More than forty of the Indians were killed or desperately wounded.

From that time the Wappingers ceased to have a name in history. A few scattered remnants still remained, and as late as 1811, a small band had their dwelling place on a low tract of land by the side of a brook, under a high hill, in the northern part of the town of Kent.

(Source: Historical and Genealogical  Record Dutchess and Putnam Counties New York, Press of the A. V. Haight Co., Poughkeepsie, New York, 1912; pp. 62-79; Transcribed by Terri Griffiths)

 

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