History Nuggets

Each month we will add more to our list of historical Names, Places, Events, etc.  Please be sure to check back regularly.  Thanks to John Vassak, Robert Treadway, Kathie Collins and Helen Powers for compiling the information.  The society maintains files on these entries.  We have bulletins on some, genealogies, articles, etc.  Contact us for additional information and sources.  We are working on confirming primary sources for the information posted so some entries might be edited as new information is found.

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American Condensed Milk Company, Purdys, NY

Founded in the 1840s by William H. Ireland Howe, the factory, located in old Purdys where the present parking lot is for the railroad station, employed many local people and processed 6,000 to 10,000 quarts of fresh milk daily.  Most of the milk came from local dairy farms in North Salem.  Milk was shipped to NYC by the NY Central Railroad, Harlem Division.  It was the predecessor to the Borden Factory in Brewster.  Photo from the collection of the North Salem Town Historian.

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Balanced Rock
This 60-ton boulder (estimate) is located on Titicus Road just west of the intersection of Keeler Lane.  It consists of granite indigenous to New Hampshire and rests three to four feet above ground on five smaller stones of limestone.  It is assumed to have been placed here during the glacial period.  Our Rock has fascinated professionals and amateurs for decades and much has been written and surmised about it.  Photo from the collection of the historical society.

Battery Farm
This private home, located next to June Cemetery, was once a training facility for Major John O'Ryan's company.  The original, main house was built in 1805.  In the late 1800s then owner A. Eggleston sold it to Major O'Ryan, Commanding officer of the First Battery Light Artillery, N.G., NY - hence the name 
Battery Farm.  The main house was used as Officers' Quarters and a large wing was added to the rear and used as a Mess Hall.  Images from a private postcard collection.


Sarah Bishop
A hermitress from Long Island, who, after seeing destruction of her parental mansion and suffering cruelty at the hands of a British officer, abandoned society.  She lived in a small cave on West Mountain near the Lewisboro and Connecticut borders from the time of the American Revolution to her death in 1810.  She is buried in an unmarked grave in June Cemetery.  Image from a private postcard collection.

The Blizzard of '88
March 1888, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic - here's what was witnessed locally:
Sunday, March 11, snow began to fall at 9:00am
Monday, March 12, snow continues.  Trains at Katonah were snowed in
Tuesday, March 13, still snowing.  Drifts over roads and fields as high as some houses.  Milking and tending farm animals a struggle; almost impossible to get from house to house
Wednesday, March 14, railroads stopped.  No milk sent to New York since Saturday
Saturday, March 17, men were employed by the town to try and open impassable roads
Photo from the collection of the North Salem Town Historian

George Bernard Butler, Jr. - 1838 - 1907 - Distinguished Artist
Born in NYC, at age 15 encouraged by Washington Irving to pursue a career as an artist rather than a writer.  He studied in NY under Thomas Hicks and in Paris under Thomas Couture.  Accomplished painter who was awarded honorable mention and honors at the Chicago (Columbian) Exposition of 1892.  Earlier works included "Girl in a Gray Shawl," which hung at the NY Met until 1956.  In 1893 he did a portrait of First Lady Frances Cleveland.
In August 1861 he joined the Union Army in the Civil War and in July 1863 he lost his right arm at the Battle of Gettysburg.  In 1864 his father, George Butler, Sr., bought 350 acres, including the Hacheliah Brown house, in Butlerville, Somers; sometimes listed as "Croton Falls."  In 1883 he settled at this homestead where he continued with portraits and genre paintings.

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Cat Ridge Cemetery
Cat Ridge Road runs between Bogtown and Mills Roads.  Much of the area along Cat Ridge was originally settled by the Van Scoy family.  
The cemetery on the west side of the road was once the burying ground of a small Baptist Church situated on the same site.  This church was very close to the early Van Scoy house, where the Woolworth house now stands.  The old church was still standing as late as 1867 but was inactive and apparently abandoned.  It is possible that the burying ground was originally a Van Scoy family cemetery.  This Baptist Church was incorporated in 1833.  Burials in the cemetery begin about 1803 and the last was in 1889.  The cemetery holds just over 50 graves.   A recently restored pre-1842 receiving vault is located at the back of the site.  In 2015 the town's historic preservation commission and the historical society organized an extensive restoration of the site, including repairs to broken and damaged stones and the vault.

North Salem Circus
Inspired by the success of Hachaliah Bailey who in the neighboring town of Somers exhibited his elephant Old Bet, North Salem residents John June, Lewis Titus and Caleb Angevine formed this first circus syndicate in America in 1830, known as the June Titus and Angevine Company, aka American National Caravan, the North Salem Caravan and the Flatfoots!  During warm months they traveled throughout the states including New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana and Michigan with tigers, lions, leopards, panthers, elephants, zebras, bears, camels and the first hippopotamus in America.  By autumn they were back in North Salem where the animals were distributed among families and farmers who had buildings to accommodate them.    By 1842 the syndicate was dissolved.  John June's home stands today on June Road, Lewis Titus' on Titicus Road and Caleb Angevine's on Hardscrabble Road.

Constant Spring
In the 1930s this was a fully equipped summer camp for girls aged six to fourteen held at the Battery Farm property when it was 175 acres in size and the home of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Raymond.  For two summer months of fun for only $250 (an extra $35 for horseback riding) there was swimming, croquet, archery, badminton, arts and crafts.  Perhaps the name comes from the two crystal clear springs on the property, so the brochure boasts.  Image from the archives of the Westchester County Historical Society

Croton Falls Baptist Church
The Baptist Society was organized in 1833 and met in a small wooden church in the area where Cat Ridge Cemetery stands today.  By 1868-69 it moved to Croton Falls and was reorganized under the leadership of Rev. Victor W. Benedict.  In 1878 a new, high Victorian Gothic church designed by J. A. Wood, with two octagonal towers of unequal size, walls of board and batten siding and incised and carved wood, was built.  It was contender for the most outstanding church in Westchester.  In 1977 the entire church was destroyed by fire.   Photo from the collection of the historical society (Mehahn)

 

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Charles John Frederick Decker
Born in 1873 to Civil War veteran Charles Decker and wife Magdalene (Jung) Decker in New York City.  In 1889 graduated PS83 and the following month the family moved to Croton Falls.  His mechanical aptitude was evident in his work at George Juengst and Sons and later at the Hingley Machine Co.  1896 saw the start of his public service as he assumed appointments as clerk in the WC Clerk's office, then Deputy County Clerk the following year and clerk of the Supreme Court in 1898.  He married Clara Gregory in 1900 (CF Baptist Church) and had two daughters - Madeline L (1901) and Charlotte G (1908).  They resided in the Big House in Juengstville at Croton Falls.  During the WWI years he held leadership positions supporting the war effort - American Red Cross, Salvation Army, 4 Minute Men, US Liberty Loan Committee and the Selective Service Draft Board.  In 1925 he was elected W C Clerk and served two terms.  In 1930 he became commissioner of the Court Calendar, after which he retired but continued to serve locally - CFFD, NS Town Committee, CF Baptist Church and the Westchester Historical Society.  He died in 1952, age 79, and is buried in Ivandale Cemetery, Somers.  
Photo from the collection of the North Salem Town Historian

Thomas W. Decker
Decker, the owner of a NYC milk route, bought nearly 400 acres of farmland in the 1860s stretching from the area of Cat Ridge Road north to Delancey Road.  See the 1893 Bien Atlas which shows the Decker Farm dba Morrisania Dairy, before the construction of the Titicus Reservoir.  He was the first milk dealer to persuade the NY Central Railroad to deliver fresh milk to NYC, 1600 quarts daily.  The reservoir construction forced Decker to move his home to higher ground on the northeast corner of Titicus and Delancey Roads where it remains today.  Twentieth Century owners include the Wallaces, Barbara and David Vail, and Missy and Donald Buckley.  The image, from Scharff's History of Westchester County, shows the house with the original wing.  Later the wing is moved up Delancey Road to become a home of its own right.   

Delancey Hall
Built as a manor house in the Georgian style in 1769-1770 by Stephen DeLancey after his marriage to Hannah Sackett in 1768.  He was a Loyalist and she a Patriot; their marriage dissolved within a few years and Stephen remained in the house until 1776.  Some say the house was used for Tory (Loyalist) trials and as a jail.  Revolutionary troops camped on the grounds, including those of General Rochambeau in 1782 while en route to Rhode Island after the battle of Yorktown, VA.    In 1787 DeLancey house was bought and the academic institution known as the North Salem Academy opened.  Students were housed on the upper floors.  Graduates included Daniel Tompkins, who went on to be governor of NY and Vice President under Pres. James Monroe, and Ogden Darius Mills, who gained financial fame as an entrepreneur in the California Gold Rush.  By 1886, due to declining enrollment and mounting costs, the building and property were turned over to the Town to be used as a town hall.  Major renovations were done in 1954-57, including turning the second floor into a large room used by the NS Library.  The most recent renovations in 1990 turned the second floor into offices and overall, careful historic repairs throughout the building.  Image from a private postcard collection.

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Finch Farm
Thomas Vail, 1714 - 1786, acquired land in Lot 4 of the Oblong and built the original farm house, the left wing of the present home, located on the west side of Vail Lane.  Several generations of Vails lived in the house including David and his wife Elizabeth, who circa 1845 purchased a large tract of land on the east side of Peach Lake to which they eventually relocated.  Their daughter, Maria, married James Finch (a fourth generation Finch born in North Salem) in 1852 and James purchased the farm and house, to which he added the large center section of the present home.  Finch family members lived there until 1928, when Duncan Bulkley and his wife purchased it.  They added the kitchen wing on the right side and renamed it Dongle Ridge Farm.  Why, you may ask!  Photo from the Clifford collection

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Goldens Bridge Hounds
Founded in 1924 by famed hotel man John McEntee Bowman when he registered a tract of land between Goldens Bridge and Brewster, NY with the Masters of the Foxhounds Association.  Follows traditions of dress, language and code of behavior developed in England and Ireland.  In 1936 name changed to Goldens Bridge Hounds and it was incorporated.  Their success rested on the fact that they had agreements with local farmers to cross their fields.  Roy Jackson was their first Field Master and Benjamin Funk their first Huntsman.  R. Laurence Parish was the first Master of the Hunt; he lived in North Salem and moved the hounds to his Rock Ridge Farm at the western end of Baxter Road.  In 1951 joint Master Carlo Paterno (with Daniel McKeon) donated 5 acres on Baxter Road where the present kennels and club house still stand.  The Hunt continues today with the formal season beginning the first Saturday of October and extending through March with hunting twice a week.  A separate Pony Club was founded in 1956 by Ann D. Parish, giving children an opportunity to learn proper horse care and responsibility, moral judgment, self-confidence and leadership.  Current Masters include Elizabeth Almeyda, Eugene Colley, Bruce Colley, David Feureisen, Peter Kamenstein and Ed Kelly.  Image from the collection of the historical society

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Juengst Family and Business
The founder of the Juengst family business in the Croton Falls area was George Juengst and his sons Charles, George, Jr. and Augustus.  Juengst was a German emigrant with strong mechanical and industrial skills.  The family first manufactured Empire sewing machines in Somers, NY until the NYC Dept of Water Supply cut off their water power circa 1870s during construction of their dams and reservoirs.  The family relocated to Croton Falls and leased an older Purdy family-owned factory building where they manufactured machinist tools and metal working machinery, wrenches and shapers.  Over the next several years they built homes for their families and workers and expanded a series of factory buildings along the Croton River just over the line in Brewster.  They manufactured book binding machines and were the first to create generators and a dynamo which electrified northern Westchester in 1897.  George Juengst, Jr. served on the NS Board of Education as member and president for over half a century.  Augustus Juengst’s home is on the local historic landmarks registry.   Image from a private postcard collection.

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L

The Leatherman

A great curiosity in the 19th Century, the Leatherman still commands a near cult-like following.  He was a vagabond/tramp who appeared in the 1850s.  He may have been French or French Canadian and his name may have been Jules Bourglay.  He was not a beggar in the true sense of the word but a travelling itinerant man who had a regular circuit in Connecticut and New York.  He travelled a 366 mile circuit about every 34 days.  He was notable for his bizarre clothing completely made of leather scraps, especially old boot tops.  The Leatherman, who had a large number of caves, rock shelters and huts along his circuit, was found dead in Mt. Pleasant, NY in late March 1889.  He was buried in Sparta Cemetery in South Ossining, NY.  In 2011 his grave was excavated by CT archaeologist Nick Bellantoni, but no remains were found.  Image from a private postcard collection.

The McDonald Papers
These papers constitute an extremely important collection of interviews with people who were alive during the American Revolution.  The interviews were conducted with people between the ages of 70 and 96 by John MacLean MacDonald, a lawyer, born 1790; died 1863.   Beginning in 1844 and ending in 1852 MacDonald travelled throughout Westchester County and adjoining areas collecting the interviews.  Some 241 different people were interviewed, some more than once, resulting in 407 recorded statements.  They included some of the Patriot refugees who had fled British occupied areas and were temporarily residing in Salem and Upper Salem.  Among them were some of the captors of British Major John Andre, the spy working with Benedict Arnold.  While the family name is MacDonald, the papers have carried the name McDonald since the collection was assembled.

Mile Markers
The first mile markers were placed at intervals of one mile on the Boston Post Road by Benjamin Franklin when he was colonial Postmaster General.  These 18th Century red sandstone markers, engraved with the number of miles from the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets in NYC, assisted post riders in calculating the price of mail as well as telling travelers how far they had to go.  Three markers are located in North Salem:  one on Grant Road just before it merges with Titicus Road; a second on Titicus Road just east and across the road from the town Christmas Tree site; a third on Dingle Ridge Road on the left about a half mile past the intersection with Finch Road.  The protective stone and mortar frame on each was provided by the WC Historical Society.  

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Pine Tree School House 1789-1916 - see Schools below

The Purdy Homestead
The Purdy Homestead, located at the intersection of Titicus Road and Route 22, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.  The oldest part of the building was built in 1775 by Joseph Purdy.  There may have been an earlier Purdy house on the site as there is evidence of early reused timbers.  The Purdy family, of Huguenot background, acquired 1,000 acres in the early 1700s in what was then Van Cortlandt Manor.  The family occupied the house for seven (7) generations.  The Purdys were farmers, mill owners, involved in town government and even the early circus business.  Isaac Hart Purdy gave the land for the original Purdys railroad and train station.  The Homestead remains the property of the Purdy family.  It has housed a shop featuring reproduction antiques and four different restaurants.  Image from a Box Tree menu.

Purdys Railroad Station
As early as 1839, records show that Issac Hart Purdy began to lobby to get the railroad to route their new main line through Purdys and Croton Falls rather than Mahopac and Somers. In 1847 it appears Issac’s hard work paid off and he agreed to grant right of way to the New York and Harlem Railroad for one dollar on condition that the railroad would build a depot at Purdys for both passengers and freight. Issac, an acute and skilled businessman, had the foresight to build performance guarantees into the contract that later, in 1954, saved the shutdown and abandonment of the Purdys Train Station.
The arrival of the railroad to Purdys spurred a period of fast growth. Within three weeks construction of the Purdy’s hotel began. Stores, lumber yards, factories and shops followed in rapid succession. Show business even played a part in the villages’ growth. Local families were prominent owners of the menageries that traveled throughout the country in summer. After the coming of the railroad, huge buildings for animals were erected where these shows then wintered. Today these buildings are used as barns and stables by local townspeople.
Depot Opened: June 1, 1847; Electrified: 1984.  Image from a private postcard collection.

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Salem Rangers
On April 22, 1843 the Salem Rangers first gathered at the house of George Bailey, then Bailey's Tavern, located on the north side of Titicus Road sandwiched between Old Salem Center Road and Peach Lake Road.  The goal was the improving of martial tactics and, like many other hometown militia groups, was a social organization with military affiliation.  Such groups were a product of the decades that preceded the Civil War and gave birth to the present State and National Guard.  These were volunteers who were fulfilling their required military obligations.  Uniforms featured a worsted plaid frock, pantaloons with a black fringe, a black tabby velvet cap with a red plume and green top.  On public occasions embers appeared equipped with a musket, bayonet, cartridge belt and one square flint.

SCHOOLS
A close look at town maps shows that over time there were over twenty (20) different schoolhouses, schools and or academies in North Salem.  North Salem was the first centralized school district in New York State.  Below are highlights of some of them.

  • Pine Tree School House 1789-1916
    • One of North Salem’s earliest schools, Pine Tree was probably originally a dwelling house.  It can be dated to 1784.  It was located just off Bloomer Road close to June Road (former Route 124) but June Road has been reconfigured since the school was in operation.  The area the school served was in a heavily Quaker area.  The school was later located on Starr Ridge Road in 1884.  After the new school was built in 1884 the old building reverted to being a dwelling again.  The Pine Tree School was discontinued in 1916 in a major consolidation.  The original old building was burned down in June of 1951.  It had become dilapidated and was torched to test a new fire truck.  The second building on Starr Ridge Road still exists as a private home.  Drawing by Warren Bloomer Lucas, as he recalled the building.

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Union Hall
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his large building at the corner of Keeler Lane and Titicus Road was built around 1848 in an area of town known as “Mill Hollow.”  Described as a vernacular Italianate Revival in the town's Historic Landmarks book, Union Hall was once a general store, meat market, meeting hall, music hall, post office and in recent times an antique shop and other specialty shops.  Catholic Church services were held here before St. John’s Chapel was built.  It is four stories in back and two stories in front.  A carriage barn was once located behind the building.  It collapsed under heavy snow in 1996.  Both structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.  Union Hall is also a locally designated landmark.  Image from a private postcard collection.

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John Yerks

Over the years confusion between two men named John Yerks grew and they become melded into one person.  They were distantly related, however.  During the American Revolution a number of Patriot families from lower Westchester found refuge in Upper Salem.  John Yerks, born 1758, was among them.  He was part of the “Scout” which resulted in the capture of John Andre and the failed Benedict Arnold plot.  He never owned a tavern either in North Salem or elsewhere.  John Fashay Yerks, born 1788 (8 years after Andre’s capture), became owner of Smith’s tavern property around 1815 and ran Yerks Tavern until about 1840 when he moved to Mount Pleasant.

Yerks Tavern

Yerks Tavern, once at the corner of Bogtown and Catridge Roads, is generally believed to date back to 1750 on land that was once part of Van Cortlandt Manor.  The Smith family - Caleb Sr and Jr, were tenants on the manor but purchased 218.5 acres in 1773.  They had a tavern license in 1785 but probably had the tavern well before.  In 1815 John F. Yerks obtained a tavern license and most likely was the property owner.  By 1840 Yerks had relocated to Mt. Pleasant and Joseph Worden was the owner.  No deeds of the Smith to Yerks or the Yerks to Worden transactions have been located despite diligent searches.  The building was not occupied after 1912.  It had several owners and was allowed to deteriorate and be vandalized until it disappeared in the 1930s.  It was viable as a tavern location because until 1905 no road existed between Route 138 in Lewisboro and Grants Corners.  Yerkes* Road allowed passage south.   Image from the historical society collection (Keeler Album)  
*Town spelling.

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