Patterson in the 19th Century


The following account of Patterson in the 19th century covers the years 1865-1875, and was written by the Rev. Horace E. Hillery. Hillery intended the narrative to be a history of the Patterson Presbyterian Church, but the account also gives an overview of world and national events during that time period, including the Civil War, and also gives much information about the makeup of Patterson at the time. The account was published in 1938.

Hillery lived in Patterson for several decades, and was most visible as the pastor of the Patterson Presbyterian Church. He was also very interested in local history, with many published articles, and was appointed the first Putnam County Historian in 1953.

The History of the Patterson Presbyterian Church 1865-1875
by H. E. Hillery

Part I. World, National and State Backgrounds

The ten years following the Civil War were bursting with world significance. England liberalized her suffrage through peaceful action. Russia's earlier movement toward freeing her serfs was given up. Japan's revolution moved toward modernization. Spain spent years in civil war and anarchy. Prussia fought two successful wars - first with Austria, then with France. This was followed by the establishment of the German Empire. Italy was at last a united people. France was forced by the threat of war with the United States to give up her empire in Mexico. Napoleon's empire gave way to the present French Republic. Alaska was purchased from Russia by the United States. A sporadic attempt by disbanded New York troops to invade Canada was put down. Two years later Canada was given the status of a Dominion.

Two world views engaged the mind of man. Darwin's "Origin of Species" (1859), while creating considerable effect in England and on the continent of Europe, was lost to American thought for nearly twenty years because of the Civil War. In 1870 the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility became the capstone of the Roman hierarchy.

National Finances

Except for the short depression of 1867, America was to know exceptional prosperity, until the five years' panic beginning in 1873. Until 1865 easy money had been the general policy of our national government. This was stepped up by the issuing of "greenbacks," or paper money during the war. But the National Bank Act of 1865, and the movement toward the withdrawal of greenbacks, produced a short depression. The election of 1868 was based on the issue of hard and easy money. Hard money won. The wars in Europe gave timely aid to this policy. In spite of all the land opened by the Homestead Act, wheat soared in price through the demands of warring peoples. In 1873 when European soldiers returned to planting and harvesting, the price of wheat in America was less than half that of the previous year. In 1875, the government moved once more toward hard money, though the law was not put into effect for four years.

Problem of Disbanded Soldiers

The problem of disbanded soldiers was happily solved. The Homestead Act of 1862 granted free land to all takers. The discovery of precious metals in the Rockies attracted the adventurous. The extravagantly subsidized continental railroads - the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific - absorbed surplus labor. The wave of Scandinavian migration had set in, that was to bring one-fourth the population of the Scandinavian countries to America in a short time. While most of them moved to the Middle West, a smaller stream found its way into this community.

Protective tariff was the governmental policy, except for a brief reduction in 1872.

Political Life

Politically, the close of the Civil War found the Republican Party in power in both the nation and the State. But in the main, New York was to ally herself with the "solid south" for much of the following decade.

Horatio Seymour, former New York Democratic governor, in 1868 was Presidential candidate against Grant. Republican Governor Fenton was succeeded for four years by the Democratic Governor Hoffman. In 1872, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune and liberal Republican, became the Democratic candidate against Grant. General John A. Dix was the successful Republican governor. Two years later the Democratic Party elected Samuel J. Tilden Governor. The year before, at the outset of the depression, the Republican Congress had voted themselves a healthy increase in salary and had made it retroactive. The next year the House was Democratic.

Strain of War

The strain of four years war on the moral stamina of the people was akin to the late World War. A distinct decline was seen in the attitude of the politicians. "To the visitor belongs the spoils" became the order of the day. "Carpet bagging" political appointees from the North, bred in the South a resentment which years have not healed. Though no taint has ever fastened itself upon President Grant, relatives, friends and political appointees were among those singled out for scandal.

Corrupt Governments

Of all corrupt governments, New York City and State was the prize. "Boss" Tweed was born in New York City and schooled in the political practices of the volunteer fire companies. He soon rose to the control of the New York County's Board of Supervisors. In 1868 when Hoffman became Governor, Tweed added the State to his plunder. One plan which miscarried was to make Putnam County a reservoir and park for the City. In 1871, a quarrel over the division of spoils was exposed in the New York Times. Four judges were impeached. Tweed and his gang were imprisoned. Democratic Governor Tilden completed the cleanup by ousting the Erie Canal graft ring. After ten years the moral tide had set in.

The Revival in 1875 in this community may have had a quite definite relationship to the increasing moral temper of the American people.

Part II. The Community

During the Civil War, farmland in New York State increased 15% in value, and wages increased 70%. In spite of the "hard" money policy generally followed by the Federal government, except for the short recession of 1867, prosperity continued for seven years - wars in Europe, discovery of precious metals in the West, speculation, and government subsidy of continental railroads - all brought an increasing wave of prosperity. But the five-year depression beginning in 1873 reached Patterson with telling effect. Those who had prepared, weathered the storm. Those who had not, lost what they had. The ten years following the War showed a considerable turnover in the property ownership of the community.

The moral relaxation that follows war revealed political corruption throughout the nation and the State. While New York State was generally Democratic during this period, Patterson followed the political fortunes of the newly established Republican Party by a two to one vote. Tavern-saloons, generally served the community as voting centers. Tripp, Cotteral and Chase at Towners, Cowls hotel and Cowls store at Haviland Hollow; Akins Corners on Route 22; and Fletcher and Seaman at Patterson Station; were places of this character.

Town Officials

Supervisors for this period were: Sylvester Mabie, Hiram Penny, Daniel Judd, William Green, Alfred C. Penny and James E. Taylor. Town Clerks, were for some years Cyrus B. Lawrence (owner of "City Mills") and then Lewis Pugsley (general merchandise partner with Edson Sloat and postmaster of Patterson). Town Clerks for shorter terms were John W. Towner, D. Coleman Nichols, 0. W. Sloat and then Charles S. Irish.

Local differences of interest created friction immediately following the War, and may have carried over into the Church disturbance that was in effect about the same time. The almost complete turnover in town officers and church officers ten years later may reflect a new temper in the community.

Town Finances

In the early part of the War (1862), by a vote of 58 to 7, a "tax of $5,000 on the town to pay volunteers $100 each" was raised. By 1864 the Pawling Bank held the town's note for $6,500. In the same year another levy up to $10.000 was voted to pay each volunteer $300 each.

The Civil War
In 1961 the Rev. Hillery published a book titled Putnam County in the Civil War. The book gave an overview of the causes of the Civil War and the roles that Putnam County residents played in the war effort. Topics include Patterson and Putnam notables serving in the Union Army, the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, the Borden Condensed Milk Factory in Breswter, and the 59th Regiment. The book is well illustrated. The book was distributed through the Office of the Putnam County Historian. The Rev. Hillery was County Historian at the time.

The 47 book is presented here in its entirety in the form of four PDF files. These files are best downloaded with a broadband internet connection. Each of the four files is completely searchable. For example, you can search for "Patterson" to find all references to the town of Patterson. A table of contents is presented on page 1. Click on any of the links below to download a section of the book. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view the files and is available for free by clicking on the Adobe link below. A new browser window will open when you click any of the links.

Pages 1 - 12 (660k)
Pages 13 - 24 (619k)
Pages 25 - 36 (647k)
Pages 37 - 47 (638k)

President Abraham Lincoln issued a call to arms in April, 1861, but there was no formal enlistment method. Instead, volunteer militias were formed, as they had been since colonial times. The poster is a call for volunteers for the 18th Regiment of the New York State Militia, which had three companies in Putnam County. (The Putnam County Historian) Solomon Carpenter, a 38-year-old farmer from Patterson, volunteered to fight in the Civil War. His enlistment form is dated August 21, 1862. (The Putnam County Historian) Pvt. Thomas L. Corbin of Patterson was a member of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery, Co. G. (The Putnam County Historian)
Patterson needed to raise money for the Civil War effort. As Hillery notes, the plan was to pay each volunteer $100. Several Quakers lived in the Town, and could not pay into the fund because of religious beliefs. The Town government, led by Supervisor Daniel S. Judd, father of Charles H. Judd, decided to raise the money by a special tax. Because of President Lincoln's urgent appeal for troops, the decision was made to forego the usual town meeting to discuss the tax, and to create the tax by order of the town government. Patterson was the only town in Putnam County not to use a bond to secure its war debt. Taxpayers preferred a "pay-as-you-go" method. The note for $6,500 was held by the Pawling Bank, and was signed by forty-four Patterson townspeople. It was paid in May 23, 1864.

In 1867 Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, spoke at the Carmel County Fair. Five years later he left the Republican P arty and ran in opposition to Grant for the presidency.

Temperance sentiment brought the National Prohibition party into being in 1872. A "local option" bill passed the New York Legislature, but was vetoed by Republican Governor Dix. Lectures and social gatherings by the forces of temperance were frequent in Patterson.

Occupations in Putnam

The occupations of Putnam County in 1865 were in the following numerical order of importance: farmers, laborers, servants (each numbered from 1,000 to 1,500), merchants, mechanics, carpenters, machinists, (each numbering from 100 to 250), 88 (?) were still in the army, milliners, blacksmiths, boot and shoe makers, millers, hat and cap makers (each numbered from 50 to 80).

Other occupations of interest in Patterson were: carriage and wagon builder; sash and blind factory in conjunction with the work of undertaker; manufacturer of saddles, harness and trunks; cattle brokers; and freighters.

A collection of ads from the 19th century: Mrs. Delavan advertises "fashionable millinery" work, and M. L. Barber announces that he has assumed the carpentry and sash and blind business of A. Patrick. Barber notes that he will trade wood for goods. Both ads appeared in the January 4, 1859 edition of the Putnam County Courier. In the May 21, 1864 edition of the Courier, J. H. Merritt advertises his dental services. The Carmel resident made calls in area villages served by the Harlem Railroad. During the second week of the month, he was in Patterson on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and in "Towner's" on Fridays and Saturdays. Merritt did not recommend the use of anesthetics. Finally, David Jennings announces his carpentry services in the May 30, 1874 edition of the Courier.

Women's Work

A typical woman's work included: embroidery, making overalls and socks, sewing all day (in one instance 22 yards of cloth was used for a dress), "ironed an awful ironing", baking (including a wedding cake), cleaning the "baggage room", picking strawberries, currants and blackberries, canning the same; having a flirtation with a visiting minister, making a winter bonnet, making sausage, and perhaps most difficult of all, wrested with the building of a coal fire.

In 20 years (1855-75) sheep shearing decreased 90%, although the quality was better. In ten years (1865-1875) pork killed decreased 25%, and beef cattle experienced a sharp decline. Wheat was no longer raised, and the formerly important barley crop was on the way out. Hay, oats, corn, chickens and eggs, and later potatoes and some tobacco (1875) were raised. In 1865, 3,000 gallons of rhubarb wine, and in 1875, 1,000 barrels of cider were produced. A butter and cheese factory between Towners and Carmel may have largely accounted for the yearly production of 30,000 pounds of butter and nearly 900 pounds of cheese. Two metal works produced nearly $8,000. A limekiln lay west of Towners. Eleven gristmills ground slightly less than 60,000 bushels of grain. Nine lumber mills turned out twice as much chestnut as oak, and a smaller amount of walnut and other lumber. The total amount, however, was small, considering that New York State produced the most lumber of any state. 165 farms (1875) of which 55% were 100 acres or more in size, increased their milk production 50% in ten years. In 1875, 2,100 cows produced one million pounds of milk.

Food which at least was a variation from the usual diet, included cod fish cakes, turkey, beefsteak and sweet potatoes, freshly ground corn and milk, new cider, French rolls, oysters, homemade molasses candy, popcorn and roast potatoes.

An epidemic of smallpox followed by a period of dysentery was prevalent in 1872. The same year had a "tremendous blow" (June 14) in which horse sheds at Towners were demolished. A heat wave was followed the next winter with weather 27 below zero.

Social Life

Social life was expressed by jumbo, euchre, cribbage, fortune telling, proverbs, quilting bees, mile parties, rag carpet surprise parties, and frequent sleighing (including travel through the Croton Swamp). Dancing was often a come early, stay late affair including supper dancing and what will you. In one instance they "danced only four sets after supper, then wailed till after four o'clock." One favorite song of the time was, "Come All, Fill the Flowing Bowl." Fletchers, Seaman and Jennings Hall were centers for indoor gatherings. Tweedy's Grove and Picnic Grounds drew during the summer. On one occasion nearly 100 were dancing in the Grove (about fill the floor).

The Odd Fellows met over Akins Tin Shop (Carey's old store). The Grange came into being during this period (meeting in 1874). Schools were often in two terms of thirteen weeks each, half in summer and half in winter. Occasionally the whole school year was from May to October. In District 6, in 1850, the teacher's salary was $1.25 a week. In 1870 it was voted not to pay over $6.50 a week. The average pay in 1876 of Patterson's ten districts was $9.66 a week. Sometimes the teacher was boarded by the "Scholars'" parents according to the number of children in the school. Wood was supplied to the school in the same ratio.

During this period the State School Tax was increased 67%. The Select Schools of this period will be presented by Mrs. Jennie Barrett this afternoon. Mrs. Barrett attended and also conducted a select school.

Singing school was led by Prof. Prindle at Towners. The "Reading Circle" was apparently a declamatory organization.

Whittier, Longfellow, and with reluctance, Scott was read. Fiction included Dickens' "Pickwick Papers," Thackery's "Tale of Two Cities," James Cooper and Lew Wallace. In lighter vein was "Helen Courtney's Promise" and "Mrs. Daffodil's Adorers." The latter "nearly killed" the reader with laughter. More serious was Irving's "Life of Washington," history, travel and a generous number of religious works.

The New York Times and the New York Tribune were read in Patterson homes. An extract from the Tribune penned as comment on a local wedding read: "Hope is like a harebell trembling for its birth."

Part III. The Church

Priest Benedict completed forty years as minister of our church about the close of the Civil War. He spent the remaining five years of his life in the community. Except for his home and thirty acres (where Ralph Nichols now lives) and a wood lot on Bundy Hill, he had not laid by for a rainy day. A year after his retirement, Presbytery called the attention of this Church to his straightened circumstances. The Donation Party which grew out of this information was pronounced a "pleasant party" by one present. Three years later, on the celebration of their Golden Wedding, more than $1200 was showered on the couple. Six months later, within a few weeks of each other, both husband and wife laid down life's work, and now rest directly back of our Church in grateful memory of their labors. Both children and grandchildren were born and buried in the community.

Lt. Epenitus Platt Benedict, Jr. was the son of long time pastor "Priest" Epenitus Benedict, Sr. Lt. Benedict was a member of the 6th Heavy Artillery, Co. D. He was a graduate of the Albany Law School and also served as Patterson Justice of the Peace. (The Putnam County Historian)

An interesting commentary on the influences of life is shown by this Connecticut Yankee. He lived for many years in the South. He married a southern girl. The church in which we worship is southern colonial architecture. During the Civil War not one word appears in the Sessional Records in reference to the conflict. Col. Noah Benedict Knapp, for many years in the South, married a Patterson girl and spent his summers here. At the death of Priest Benedict their home passed to Knapp, and a few years later Col. Knapp's generosity was to bring one of the most munificent gifts which our church has known in its long history. His son, Matt Benedict, went as a Union soldier. For more than 30 years, a select school was part of Benedict's ministry to this community. Incidentally it may have been a part of his successor's troubles.

Elders of the Church

During all his ministry the name of Hayt was most frequent in the church. No less than a dozen Hayts had been received into the church the decade before his coming, and during his ministry a dozen more were received. The girls of the family married future church officers Cornwall, Pudney and Baldwin. Six elders were to carry on the leadership of the church from Benedicts ministry. Hervey Crosby served as elder from 1834. Fifteen years later David H. Lawrence, Samuel M. Cornwall and Benjamin B. Benedict, 2nd, each of whom had served the church in various offices for years, were elected to the eldership. Two active churchmen from other communities, James 0. Towner and Cornelius T. Pudney, were made elders in 1864, the last year of Benedict's ministry.

Hervey Crosby and David H. Lawrence found themselves at variance with Priest Benedict. Tradition says it was Benedict's temper and his unfavorable appraisal of a certain scholar's ability that caused the breach. Crosby and Benedict carried their feud to Presbytery. Crosby was removed from active membership. Lawrence took his letter to the South East church.

Ministry of Rev. Sherwood

When young Rev. Nathan M. Sherwood came as pastor, Hervey Crosby was restored to active membership and to the eldership, and two years later David Lawrence returned his letter to the Patterson church and shortly after was re-elected to the eldership. During Sherwood's short ministry, James 0. Towner and Samuel M. Cornwall were lost to the eldership, the first by letter, the other by death.

In 1865, the first year of Sherwood's ministry, the large addition on the north end of the church was undertaken. James R. Hayt, New York City merchant, builder of what is now Capt. Gelinas' home, and for years Clerk of the Church, was made chairman of the building committee. In addition to work and materials from New York City, generous sums were paid to R. Dean, Nichols and Co. and Jennings. The painting by the Wrights was included in the $900 building report.

Before the addition was complete, other interests engaged the attention of the young minister. Tradition says the wedding of Emily, the daughter of Elder Benjamin B. Benedict, to Rev. Sherwood was performed in the as yet uncompleted church. A baby girl blessed their home in the spring of 1867.

Other officers of the church in this period were George T. Dean, Deacon since 1849, who also served as Treasurer, Trustee and Collector at various times. Trustees were William Weed and John Clark Weed and Francis Theodore Baldwin. Also John Towner, Benjamin C. Baker, Benjamin Cowl, Esq., E. A. Hayt, and others served for short terms.

At the annual meeting, the trustees were instructed to "forbid persons from digging soil from in front of the burying ground" by law if necessary, and a committee was appointed to build a fence in front of same. A few years later the ground on the south side of the highway was graded to its present level.

Priest Benedict's interest in his select school might naturally have led to his neglect of the boys and girls of the public schools. At any rate the Sabbath school had developed under the superintendency of Elder Cornelius Pudney independently of the minister. When Rev. Sherwood sought to oversee the school he was quite ignored. The record would indicate just grievance. On the other hand, impartial estimates of Uncle Pudney's lovable character would indicate that tact might have healed the breach. The legal friction which stirred the community that year may also have played a part. Except for Pudney, Sherwood's father-in-law Benjamin Benedict and the other elders supported their minister. Trial was to be had at a special meeting of Presbytery at Patterson. In the meantime Sherwood found an opening in the Reformed Church in Cold Spring. With Pudney's assurance to Presbytery that he would fulfill his vows as elder "to study the peace, purity and prosperity of the church", the case was dismissed.

Only seven were received into the church during Sherwood's pastorate. A few left the church because of the friction, and other, as often happens, simply became inactive.

If, however, it did nothing more than rouse James Paterson to his responsibilities as a churchman, the church experienced a host by that act.

Dr. James Baird Comes

In January, 1868, Dr. James Baird was supplying our church and engaged in the reorganization of the Sabbath school. Four months later he was employed as stated supply for one year at a salary of $1,000 and an additional sum of $200 in lieu of a manse. That year he lived in the house recently occupied by John Benedict Lawrence, next to James Paterson, and now owned by V. N. Kelley. An offer of $3,000 by the church to the owner, Mr. Banks, was refused. An arrangement with James Paterson enabled Dr. Baird to move to the house just north of the cemetery, which had been occupied by the recently removed Baptist minister, Rev. A. W. Valentine. Dr. Baird lived there the rest of his ministry in Patterson.

At the end of the year, Dr. Baird was called as installed pastor of the church. James Paterson and James R. Hayt were the committee to present the call to Dr. Baird.

In the same year, in recognition of his success in working out a bad situation, Dr. Baird was made moderator of the Presbytery of Connecticut (the forerunner of the Westchester Presbytery).

In 1870, in addition to the three surviving elders, Crosby, Benedict, and Pudney, David H. Lawrence, William Weed and James Paterson were elected elders, the latter being made Clerk of the Session and Benevolent Treasurer.

Rev. E. P. Benedict and Rev. Benjamin Benedict, 3rd, the latter a product of our church, and son of Elder Benjamin B. Benedict, 2nd, assisted Dr. Baird in the ordination of these elders.

William Weed lived on the F. Sprague property. For years he had been a trustee or Collector for the church. It is recorded of him that he did not miss a Friday night prayer meeting for thirty years.

Within three years four elders were lost by death: Crosby (70), Benedict (72), Lawrence (72), and Paterson (73). Only Weed and Pudney were left.

Church Improvements

The thirty years division between the old school and the new school in our national church was healed in 1869. As a celebration of the occasion of this reunion, a goal of five million dollars in church improvements was set for the local churches, the same to be completed in 1872. Fortunately, the very prosperous years of 1871 and 1872 brought the total to nearly eight million dollars.

In our community, James Paterson made a life insurance policy of $,3000 to the church. $1,550 of this was received three years later, and after having the use of the interest for five years, the principle became the major part in the cost of our present manse.

The following resolution was adopted by the church: "In view of Mr. James Paterson's kindness and good wishes for this society, we would most cordially tender him our thanks for his kindness - and pray that God will most abundantly bless and finally admit him into the realms of "glory above".

In the same year, Mr. Paterson offered $1,000 toward a building for "lecture room, Sabbath school and prayer meeting purposes" on condition the church raise a like sum. This was done, and James R. Hayt was again made Chairman of the church's building committee. Our chapel was dedicated November 23rd of the following year.

In appreciation of Mr. Paterson, the church voted that the "pew number forty-four be set apart to him and his heirs as long as they require it." Mr. Paterson and his wife did not live to see the completion of the undertaking.

In the same year the auction of the pews was given up, but the depression the next year in time made it necessary for the church to return to the practice for a few years.

During Dr. Baird's ministry, prayer meetings were held Friday nights in the homes of the community and later in the chapel. A preparatory service was held on Saturday afternoons before communion.

Dr. Baird was an able preacher, but a comment on a particular communion service was that the church was very cold, and that the service was long, with the "long" prayer singled out.

During Baird's ministry, Rev. Sherwood preached one "extremely hot" morning and evening. The pronouncement was an "eloquent discourse". Two sons of the congregation returned to preach - Rev. Benjamin Benedict and Rev. Oliver Dean. Even then Dr. Dean's message was noted as a "good sermon".

In 1875 began the last three years of Dr. Baird's ministry. So great a change in the community and church occurred that to all intents and purposes it was almost a new beginning for the church, and so shall be treated as a separate chapter in the history of the community.

Indicative of the change was the receiving of the first endowment to the church, the incorporation of "The Presbyterian Society," the revival which brought more members into the church than had been received in a dozen years, and which nearly doubled its membership, the addition of four elders to the two elders then serving, and the increase of three new trustees.

Of Dr. Baird it can truly be said, "he did a good work," and brought his ministry to a close when the church was moving forward with renewed momentum.