Patterson Town History - An Introduction

The area which makes up Putnam County was purchased from the Wappinger Indians by two Dutch speculators in 1691 for a "competent sum of money". The deed from the Indians to the Dutch traders conveyed a tract of land which embraced the western part of Putnam County. Six years later the Dutch traders sold the land to Adolph Philipse, the son of an extremely wealthy merchant, and the land became known as the Philipse Patent. After Adolph Philipse purchased the land, he then obtained the proper patent from the British Governor of the Province of New York. This patent included all the land to the Connecticut border. Adolph Philipse then obtained a new deed from the Indians in order to confirm his ownership in this additional land. In 1765 the Wappingers Indians challenged his patent but both the Provincial New York and English courts denied their claims.

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Patterson in 1867, from the Beers Atlas (click on any portion of the map to zoom in on that portion of the map)

Adolph Philipse died childless. His property was inherited, through his nephew, by three of the latter's children - Philip, Susannah, and Mary Philipse. The patent was divided into nine "lots" and each heir received three nearly equal lots of the same type - one "water lot" on the Hudson River, one "long lot" in the center of the patent and one "lot" on the Connecticut border. During the War of Independence both Mary and Susannah's husbands remained loyal to the British Crown and therefore their lands were forfeited to the State of New York. Over the years the land owned by Philip Philipse was sold privately to his tenants.

At the time of the early settlement of the colonies, the geography of the county was but little understood, and erroneous descriptions of property boundaries led to endless controversies, not only between individuals but between colonies as well. The boundary between the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (New York) and the English colony of Connecticut was in the very earliest times a fruitful source of contention. After the Revolutionary War it fell to the States of New York and Connecticut to settle the boundary dispute. The settlement led to a strip of land in eastern Putnam County one mile, three quarters and twenty rods wide. This strip is a portion of what is known as the "Oblong" or "Equivalent Lands" which was not part of the Philipse Patent.

The Patterson portion of a tourist map prepared in 1947.
A portion of an 1804 map by Surveyor General Samuel DeWitt shows the present Putnam County as part of Dutchess County. Patterson was then known as Franklin. South Street in 1908. South Street in 1920. Four proud fisherman display their catch in a turn-of-the 20th century postcard by W. C. Wood of Towners. The postcard is simply titled, "The Big Catch by Four Aquatic Veterans of Patterson N.Y.". A postcard bearing a 1912 postmark shows Main Street (NYS Route 311) as an unpaved road.

The Fredricksburg Precinct (or as it was later named, Fredrickstown), of which Patterson was only a portion, was named after Fredrick Philipse. After the War of Independence, the Town of Franklin, in honor of Benjamin Franklin, was established, its boundaries corresponding to those of present day Patterson. The Town was initially settled by Scotch families or their descendants. A few of these settlers came here from Westchester and New York, but the greater number were from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Initially, many small settlements arose at various areas in the Town. One of these settlements was established at Haviland Hollow Road, Cowl's Corners (now at the intersection of Haviland Hollow Road and NYS Route 22). Another settlement was formed at what was called the "Four Corners" and later re-named Towners after James Towner who kept a public house there. A third prominent settlement was "the city" or "Patterson Village", located near the present site of NYS Routes 311 and 292. All of these early populated areas were established near a stream or well traveled road. These streams acted as a power source for the mills and equipment used in producing grains, fabrics and yarns.

In 1808, the name of Franklin was relinquished and the Town of "Paterson", named after State Legislator Matthew Paterson, was formed. Until 1812, the area now known as Putnam County was part of Dutchess County. On June 12 of that year, the New York State Legislature separated what was originally known as the "Philipse Patent", and later as the "Southeast Precinct," from Dutchess County, and created Putnam County.

Originally there were only two ponds located in Patterson, Hinckley Pond and Little Pond. Hinckley Pond, named after the Hinckley family, is now called "Ice Pond" and is located in the southwestern portion of Town. Little Pond, so named because it was the smaller of the two ponds in Patterson, is located in the southeast corner of Town.

The railroads came to Patterson around the time of the Civil War, and with it came an increase in population. The population of Patterson in 1800 was 1506 and in 1875 had grown to 1523 The Putnam Lake area developed in the 1930s mainly for summer homes, but during World War II, many of the families that made their winter residence in New York City become full time inhabitants of Patterson.

The center of the town of Patterson moved at least three times as the focus of the region changed over the years. When the town was known as Fredricksburgh, the town center was located at the Triangle Inn Corner, now the intersection of NYS Routes 311 and 292. A tavern and inn, popular with travelers passing through the area, occupied the site. The town center moved east to the area now know as NYS Route 22 during the "Drovers" era, when cattle were driven south along the road to southern markets. Drover's hotels lined the road. Finally, with the coming of the Harlem Railroad, the town moved west to the area surrounding the tracks.

Railroad Street (Front St) from a 1898 postcard. The card identifies the camera position as Sloat's Corner, named for the store of O. W. Sloat. On the left in the distance is the Patterson Depot of the New York Central Railroad. The Putnam Cigar Factory is to the right of the Depot. In the foreground on the right is the Bee Hive (Adelson & Block), which later became the Bloch Department Store. This is a very rare photo of the building taken before the open porch was enclosed to provide more selling space. The building still stands today. Two views of Railroad Street (Front St), from 1909 and 1911. Another look at Railroad Street in a c.late 19th century postcard looking south from a vantage point that is north of Main Street (NYS Route 311). The pond in the foreground was used for ice by the Sheffield dairy plant, which later sold it to the Patterson Fire Department for use as a water supply for firefighting. The pile of logs in front of the pond may be part of a small lumberyard. It is known that a few early contractors also operated lumberyards near the pond, and the logs may be from one of those businesses. Arthur Newcomb and A. O. Tilton were among those known to have lumberyards in the vicinity. The American House hotel and boarding house is the large structure on the right. A steam locomotive seems to be taking water at the water tower across Main Street. An unnamed rural road in Patterson, possibly Old Route 22 (1913).
This aerial view taken in 1948 shows a very different Patterson than the one we know today. The view is looking west and the New York Central Railroad tracks, now the Metro North Railroad Harlem line, can be seen running left to right along the bottom of the photo. The Patterson Hamlet is seen above the tracks. The road running through the center of the photo from top to bottom is NY Route 311. The roadway just above the tracks along the bottom right of the photo is Orchard Street which used to run into the limestone quarry. (Jeff Hyatt)

Up until 1930, the major economic activity within Putnam County was agriculture. The principal products produced during this period were meat and milk. As the demand for milk by New York City residents increased, the Putnam County farmers, who in the early 1800's had raised cattle for market, also became milk producers. Additionally, the availability of water power along the many streams in this hilly County gave rise to a milling industry. However, the acquisition of more than 8,000 acres of choice farmland from 1866 to 1910 by New York City for the Croton Water Supply System led to the decline of agriculture and the shift of population from the farm to the village. By the early 20th century, the major sources of economic activity of earlier years had either ceased or were seriously curtailed. Thus, Putnam County changed from a county of farms and some manufacturing to one of country estates, suburban homes, seasonal dwellings and residential developments.

In 1930, the State Line Golf and Country Club, Inc. joined forces with New York Daily Mirror Holding Co., a land development company run by the Smadbeck brothers, to create a lake community. Five Putnam farms were purchased along with some land in New Fairfield, CT., for a total of 1,111 acres. The Morlock Brook was dammed to form a 200 acre artificial lake. 11,000 building lots were mapped in the development, to be occupied by summer cottages, general stores, restaurants, gas stations, dance pavilions, and taverns. Thus the community of Putnam Lake was born. Construction proceeded annually, and 880 buildings were constructed by 1944. 75% of the lots were sold the first year alone. Today the summer cottages have been converted to year-round houses, and Putnam Lake is Patterson's most densely populated neighborhood. Residents of those houses have deeded lake rights that allow them to enjoy recreational activities on Putnam Lake.

Matthew Paterson, after whom the town is named, was a native of Scotland who came to this country in 1752. He served as an officer in the French and Indian War under General Abercrombie. After the war, he settled in New York City and became a businessman. He re-settled in Fredericksburg in 1770 to be closer to his grandson, James Paterson Esq., and became a tenant farmer. Paterson built a home off Cornwall Hill Rd. in 1780, and became a prominent and influential citizen. He may have been the inspiration for many other Scottish French and Indian War veterans to settle in the area now known as Patterson. He served as a state legislator for nine years, a county justice of the peace for several years, and was a member of the Assembly for Dutchess County from 1782 to 1789. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church. While he took no part in the American War of Independence, Paterson was said to have been a great service to the government in many ways. Because of his stature and his loyalty to Dutchess County, he was influential in delaying the eventual splitting of the new county of Putnam from southern Dutchess County. Paterson died in February 1817 at age 85. Matthew Paterson is buried in the Maple Avenue Cemetery.

The original name of our town was spelled "Paterson", but was changed to its current spelling in the mid 19th century because of continuing confusion in the mail system with Paterson, New Jersey.

Two views of the Matthew Paterson House in the 1960s. (The Patterson Historical Society) The property was purchased by Matthew Paterson in December, 1781, from the Commissioners of Forfeitures after the War of Independence. Before the purchase, it is believed that Paterson was a tenant on the property beginning in 1770, when he first came to the town. Several members of the Paterson family lived in the home until the early 20th century, when it was sold to the Seeger family. Thus, it was one of the few properties to remain in the same family for almost a century and a half. It is not known when the existing structure was completed, but it is believed to date to the early-to-mid 19th century. A part of the original Paterson home is believed to be contained in the existing structure.