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, and Cynthia Curtis. 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.
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.
George Fox Bailey (1818-1903)
Considered one of the greatest showmen of his generation, George F. Bailey learned the circus business as an apprentice, then partner, of his father-in-law, Aaron Turner. Upon Turner’s retirement, Bailey ran the business solo for a number of years. By 1858 he was involved in several different circus touring companies, only some bearing his name. He is credited with being the first to have a circus and a menagerie perform together, the first (as Turner Circus) to erect canvas tents for performances, the first American Circus to tour Latin America, and the first to acquire a hippopotamus, years before Barnum. Bailey formed various partnerships over the years with other circus entrepreneurs including Lewis June, John Nathans, Avery Smith, and Lewis B. Titus.
As a young man with very little education, prior to his involvement in the circus, Bailey apprenticed at a general merchandise store in North Salem, eventually becoming the proprietor of Bailey’s Tavern. The 1850 census lists Bailey as a 31-year-old innkeeper with a wife, three daughters and a son. Bailey died in 1903 in NYC, the last of the original Flatfoots. Having been in the circus business for over 40 years, he left an estate of over a half-million dollars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Born in Greenwich, Ct in 1817, Mr. Close was an eminent lawyer – graduated Yale College 1842 and admitted to the Bar in 1845. He joined with William H. Robertson to form Close & Robertson, which firm lasted for 41 years. In 1846 he married Samantha Brush Numan and they had three children, Lewis, Sarah and Frances.
In 1854 he moved his private office to Croton Falls, first living on East Cross Street next to his office. He later built Elmhurst on the hill overlooking the area. After buying the surrounding farmland he worked with Enoch Avery to develop the area, known as Harvey Birch Hills.
Close was Supervisor of North Salem from 1868-1893. During that time he was counsel to the Harlem Railroad, the NY Central RR and the NY/New Haven & Hartford RR. For 12 years he presided over Bankruptcy Court as Chief Justice. He also served on the Commission to draft amendments to the New York State Constitution. He died at Elmhurst on Nov 19, 1894.
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)
Croton Falls Fire Department and Croton Falls Fire District
On December 5, 1892 citizens met at Abram’s Drug Store in Croton Falls and 46 men signified intentions of forming a fire company. On January 19, 1893 at Union Hall in Croton Falls a “Company” was organized under the laws of the State of NY with George Juengst, Jr. president and Fred Purdy chief. The first hand fire engine was purchased.
In 1897 the company was still relying upon individuals to bring a team of horses to transport the engine to a fire - $5 was given to the first to arrive! The early 1900s saw several major fires – Tompkins Paint Store in the Schworm Building, the Croton Falls Hotel, the Croton Valley Lumber Co., the White home and Store in Purdys, among them, but the company had few and inadequate resources to fight the fires.
In 1934 revived interest brought life back to the company and they reorganized. Presidents who led over the following years included R. L. Lenz, Art Goudey, Otto Baust, Charles Burgess, Fritz Krafft and H B Turner. In 1935 Chief Henry Blumlein built a pumper truck on a LaSalle chassis donated by Donald Outhouse. In 1938 the first fire district was established and two years later the first firehouse was built in Croton Falls and a Ward LaFrance engine was purchased.
In 1949 a Fire Protection District was formed to include areas beyond the Croton Falls and Goldens Bridge districts. At that time appx 150 men were affiliated with the department. A second Ward LaFrance engine was added and two years later a John Bean high-pressure Fog Fire engine was purchased. With two engines, a second company was formed in Salem Center; Percy Williams was Captain. In the mid-'50s the two districts were merged as one.
Today the Department is over 100-strong. Visit their website for more: https://www.crotonfallsfire.com/
Photo of Chubb Hughes, 18 years old, and his home-made fire truck, 1933; The march to the new firehouse 2007.
Croton Falls Ladies Auxiliary
Formed in 1936, the first to serve were Mrs. William Purdy, president; Mrs. J. R. Tompkins, secretary; Mrs. James H. Hughes, secretary; Mrs. R. L. Lenz, treasurer (we will find the first names for these ladies!). Over the years they have contributed much to the financial and social success of the department. Of note, the Auxiliary financed the construction of an Honor Roll Board for the 14 members who served their country in WWII. They also purchased an inhalator in 1945.
The 'ladies' have continued their fundraising today by hosting fairs and penny-socials.
The term Crow Hill first appears in Bolton’s History of the County of Westchester describing “Lot No.12, Crow Hill, leased to Hannah Delavan, wife of Abraham Delavan,…1774….” It also appears on the 1930s G. M. Hopkins Map being mostly on the property of Charles Wallace and Gilbert Lobdell, located on the east side of Delancey Road, approximately ½ mile north of Titicus Rd, with commanding views of the Titicus Reservoir.
According to the Genealogical Record of Descendants of James Bailey and Levi Bailey by George Taft (1948) in a section about natural attractions in North Salem: “Crow Hill, named after a Sagamore chief, lies about half a mile from the Natural Bridge,….deriving its name from the many wild turkeys that frequented the hill and furnished such good hunting.”
Today this area of grass fields includes Windswept Farm with a large colonial-style home overlooking the valley and reservoir below. Crow Hill runs from the vineyard property on the north to the NSOLF Durand Preserve on the south side.
Map snippet from the 1930 G M Hopkins Map of North Salem.
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.
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.
Thomas Vail, 1714 - 1786, acquired 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 Vail collection
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
Reverend Shaler J. Hillyer
From 1834 until his death in 1865, Rev. Shaler J. Hillyer was pastor of the North Salem and Long Ridge (CT) Universalist Society. The church began in 1824 with Thomas Starr King as part-time pastor and the society became incorporated in 1832. By 1833 their simple building was complete and the Rev. William Whitaker was pastor. Hillyer was conducting a private school in New York City with the Grand Street Universalists when he was invited to become the new pastor. The editor of the New York Ambassador, who knew Hillyer intimately, wrote of him in the Universalist Register, “…His conscience was enlightened and tender, we never knew a man more scrupulously honest and truthful, or more careful to do nothing that could injure anyone, or give just cause of offense…. Mr. Hillyer was a clear and logical thinker….. Long will his many virtues be cherished by a large circle of attached friends….”
photo from the collection of the Westchester County Historical Society
In the early 1920s Thomas Hyland and Donald Torcellini asked H. Hobart Keeler for permission to erect a Christmas tree on Mr. Keeler's property across the road from Mr. Hyland's home. They constructed a large tree out of fir branches in a chicken wire frame that could be removed after the holidays. That inspired Mr. Keeler to install a permanent tree and he had the largest fir that could be moved transported from a nursery in Yorktown.
In 1926 H. H. Keeler deeded that quarter acre to the Town of North Salem with the provision that the property could only be used for a Community Christmas Tree. Electric lights were used on the earliest trees and various members of the community would wrap presents to distribute to the local children. After Mr. Keeler's death in 1929 the maintenance of the tree was assumed by various community leaders and in the 1930s became the annual undertaking of the North Salem Improvement Society.
The original tree was over 70 years old when it succumbed to nature. Its successor was planted in the late 1940s and it fell over in 1990 after a storm. A blue spruce was used for a few Christmases until another tree was planted and dedicated in the memory of Harold Milligan who loved playing Santa Claus. On the night that Harold died, that tree was struck by lightning!
Left to right: Eric Tucker, Mrs. Tucker, unk, unk, Albert Lobdell, Mrs. Benjamin Van Scoy, Mrs. Tuttle, Mrs. Gilbert Lobdell, H. Hobart Keeler, Mrs. John Christopher, John Christopher
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.
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.
Originally situated on the south side of Titicus Road circa 1838, the building was sold to Anson Lobdell in 1866 by Charles Stevens. When Anson died in 1872 the property was purchased by his cousin Benjamin but later bought back by Anson's son Albert in 1883 who ran the store with a Post Office within until his death in 1928. When the City confiscated the land for its water supply circa 1892, the building was moved across the road on land just east of the Academy. When Albert died in 1928 his children took over with Cornelia as postmistress. From 1920 through 1940s two gas pumps flanked the sides of the building at road's edge. In 1951 Cornelia retired and the store closed. After being rented out for offices the Town occupied it and in 1971 purchased the building. It was moved back to its current location in 1995 and presently houses the town's building department. Image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walker Evans collection.
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.
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.
Around 1820 John Owen purchased a mill on the west side of the Croton River that had been built by Darius Crosby, a Somers resident and member of the NY State Assembly. Owen ran a grist mill, paper mill and cloth manufacturing mill. He was the first paper manufacturer in this part of the country, making the first bank note paper used by the State of New York. The community surrounding the mills along Route 100 had a church, school, post office and some stores. Attorney Thomas R. Lee built his home nearby while Owen amassed some 150 acres. The area became known as Owenville and in 1832 John Owen was the first post master. Shortly before his death in 1842 Owen sold the mills and property to Thomas Lee who continued to operate them until his death in 1860. With the coming of the railroad on the east side of the river in the mid-1800s, the area boomed with development, a new post office was named Croton Falls.
Pine Tree School House 1789-1916 - see Schools below
The Port of Missing Men
Henry Anderson, who bought several hundred acres of land in North Salem and Ridgefield, CT, envisioned a Tuxedo Park development on the mountaintop. Swamps were drained, dams were erected, a water and sewer system and ten miles of roads were built. But the housing development only happened in Connecticut. In North Salem a Tea House was built in 1907 on the highest point with grand vistas to the north. Anderson changed the name to Port of Missing Men after his wife read Meredith Nicholson's novel of same name. Fine dining attracted visitors from all around; by 1913 more than 2,000 guests signed the register. But the financial panic of 1909 and WWI helped to deflate the housing project. By 1930 the teahouse was closed; it fell into disrepair and was taken down by 1946. Some of the land was developed into house lots and the rest Westchester County bought. Today it is Sal Prezioso Mountain Lakes Park. Image from a private postcard collection.
John Principe opened his first garage on the east side of Route 22, just south of the Hardscrabble Road/Route 22 junction in Croton Falls. In the early 1960s, with the construction of I684, this service station was razed and Mr. Principe relocated the business in a new building at the corner of Sun Valley Drive and Route 22, which he shared with the New York Telephone Company. After renovation circa 2015, this building is now the home of the Croton Falls Fire Department.
With the completion of I-684 to Brewster in the late 1960s, Mr. Principe relocated his service station to the corner of Hardscrabble Road and Fields Lane, near the entrance ramp to I684. In 1972 Principe hired Joe Bryson to run the new Getty Station and he eventually bought the business and the land. Today it is a newly built Mobil Station.
Photo compliments of Ann and Joe Bryson
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.
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.
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. Map of Schools in North Salem
Pine Tree Schoolhouse
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.
St. Joseph's School
Under the direction of Msgr. Dargin and sanctioned by Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of NY, the school opened in 1949 for kindergarten through sixth grade, utilizing four classrooms and a connecting, renovated barn with auditorium and kitchen facilities. It was staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Compassion from White Plains. Each year following a new grade was added and by 1952 it hosted an eighth grade graduation of 21 students. Four classrooms were added in 1960 and by 1970 enrollment peaked at 330 students mostly from North Salem and Somers. By 2011, declining enrollment, increasing costs and fewer Sisters forced the school to close. In 2021 the buildings were demolished to make way for a new commuter parking lot. Image from the web.
St. Joseph's Church
Founded in 1845, this Roman Catholic church was the first established between NYC and Amenia with parishioners from Towners to Pleasantville and Connecticut to the Hudson. The original was an unpretentious wood structure built in 1849 situated on Route 22 across from Sun Valley Heights Road in Croton Falls. A spark from a passing locomotive started a grass fire that spread and totally destroyed the church. A new church and rectory were built just over the line in Somers at the corner of Route 100 and Croton Falls Road, dedicated in 1894. In 1901, with the confiscation of property by the City for its water supply the buildings were moved west and remained in use until 2014 when a new parish was built on Plum Brook Road. The large rose window, so called because of its rosette layout with a central stained glass portrait of the parish patron, St. Joseph, surrounded by either smaller windows, continues to define the parish, as it was brought to the new church and installed in the same prominent front gable location. Image from a private postcard collection.
This 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.
When Our Town Was Young
Noted as one of the best ways of teaching history by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, this little book was also praised by Gov. Thomas Dewey when published in 1945. It began as a collection of researched stories by three successive seventh grade classes of Miss Frances Eichner between 1943 and 1945. Information was gathered from local history books but so much more was learned from interviewing older neighbors who grew up in town. The collection of social studies essays was originally formed into a booklet that sold for 35-cents a copy and was included in the Christmas packages sent to over 100 local men in service. Under the guidance of Ms. Eichner, school principal Fred Warner and professional author and neighbor Helen Ferris Tibbets, twenty-five stories were chosen for the first edition of the book, printed by Country Life Press, 1000 copies, and sold for $2.00. Reprints of this book are still available from the historical society
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, 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.