Patterson in the 18th Century

by John J. Bodor in 1976, then the Historian for the Town of Patterson

Although Patterson was fortunate in escaping the ravages of battle, it seems everyone, including George Washington, may have fought elsewhere, but visited here.

From earliest times, eastern Putnam County was well-known as an unspoiled region where wildlife abounded. Remnants of the camps of nomadic tribes who followed the mastodon herds over 3000 years ago have recently been discovered. Although these Stone Age people seldom built permanent shelters, traces of their culture in the form of pottery, projectile points and bones have established then as our first guests.

Some time later small parties of Indians camped in some of the same areas of Patterson while using the region as a hunting and trapping ground. The area of the now pollution-threatened Great Patterson Swamp, was mentioned in an Indian-Dutch Treaty of 1716 as a valuable fur trapping ground. Strange as it may seem, no permanent Indian village seems to have existed here which has led some to speculate that this area was a sort of communal hunting ground for several local tribes. In 1707, the Swamp was sold to Lt. Gov. Nathan Gold of Connecticut.

Pine Island, a 200 foot earth and stone ledge in the center of the Great Swamp, was also for a time a sanctuary and camp for a band of 30 or so counterfeiters. They successfully printed thousands of 20 Shilling Rhode Island notes from 1744 to 1757 until their ringleader had the misfortune to get caught. He confessed his crime but never disclosed the names of his cohorts or the location of the counterfeit printing plates. He was subsequently, hanged and his gang was captured by a posse of local citizens and authorities.

In 1760 the area was claimed by the Philipse family who remained loyal to the Crown. After the close of the war, it, along with the families other holdings, were auctioned.

It is interesting that stores of gangsters and the like living on Pine Island prevailed until the late 1800s. Residents, through oral history tapes, have related unverified stories of their parents, warning them as children not to venture into "The Swamp."

During the Revolution, then a part of Dutchess County, the present Town of Patterson and surrounding region was known as Fredericksburg. Between September 19 and November 28, 1778, Washington was headquartered in the house of John Kane, which today is located on Quaker Hill in Pawling. His forces, the second line, commanded by Major General Lord Sterling, numbering 17,000, were encamped along what is now Route 22 in Patterson. Surprisingly, research shows that none of the four Brigades were New York State troops. While it is probable some local soldiers belonged to these companies, the majority were from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina.

It is little known that Fredericksburg can boast of hosting as varied a group of notable officers as any in the county, Major Generals DeKalb, Gates, Green, McDougall, Steuben; Brigadier Generals Hand, Knox, Nixon, Parsons, Paterson, Smallwood, Wayne; Generals Lincoln, Schuyler and St. Clair, all found themselves in the vicinity at some time during the war years. Careful study has disclosed none other than Alexander Hamilton also visited the area.

A second smaller Revolutionary Army camp was established in town by the Marquis de Lafayette in the winter of 1780.

Still other, less disciplined camps of "Cowboys" and "Skinners" were known to exist during the war years. These bands of men of questionable loyalties could probably be compared to the highwaymen of Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest. They roamed the countryside at will and were feared by local residents. One fairly well-organized Tory gang was active in this area raiding Pawling and Patterson and assembling at a ledge known as "Robbers Rocks" to divide and hide their booty, until their leader, Wait Vaughn, was killed and the rest captured.

Thus far no records of additional, Revolutionary military encampments have surfaced. But, during the summer of 1895, some military men felt that, "save now and then a small Indian outbreak, the lazy banner of Peace has been flapping dreamily for years and most of its members appear to have little chance of becoming practical soldiers. Hence the recent action instituted by the War Department is warmly welcomed by the majority of officers whose military talents have been rusting out in the forced leisure and dreadful monotony that are the distinguishing characteristics of life at any army post." In what resembles the summer camp of today's National Guard, the First Artillery from Fort Hamilton, N.Y., marched cross country to Tyringham, Mass. and, as you might have guessed, joined the long list that visited Patterson.

The seventy five men, under the command of Capt. John W. Dillenback pitched their tarps, after marching from Shrub Oak to Patterson, on the shores of East Branch of the Croton River. An English journalist accompanying the band wrote of their stay, "After dinner a retreat was sounded and every man mustered for inspection, after which they were free to go where they pleased till taps. It was a noticeable feature of this march of real American soldiers that, although no restraint was placed on them, and they were at perfect liberty to adjourn to the village inns and sample all the taps they wished, there was not here or in any other place the slightest exhibition of rowdyism. Nor did the representative ...on this occasion see any drunkenness. This surprised him ...having noticed the behavior of English soldiers when off duty, on a country marching. But every man in this military new departure conducted himself as if the honor of the nation were in his special keeping.

In the 1930's land in the southeast corner of the town was "developed" into a summer community around a 300 acre man-made lake. This last group of visitors, primarily from New York City, made Putnam Lake well-known as a summer "campground." Gradually, perhaps, inspired by the threat of Axis bombings or the serene beauty of the area, cottage after cottage was converted into year round dwelling.

Visitors still come to Patterson by way of Route 22 and Interstate 84 past the dank old stone walls that corralled Washington's horses and oxen; they canoe down the East Branch and marvel at the Great Patterson Swamp; they come on school buses to the many camp grounds nestled in the hills, and every "once-in-a-while," one of these visitors decides to stay and discovers that as the Town Motto states. Patterson really has had "a proud past" and does have a "bright future."

Pendergrast's Revolt - author unknown

(part of a series of articles on Patterson written for America's bicentennial in 1976)

About 300 years ago, Frederick Philipse, a young Dutch immigrant, came to this colony. Before his death 50 years later, he had acquired three great estates in the colony, and he was known as the Dutch Millionaire. These lands were located at Yonkers, at Tarrytown and in Highlands of Southern Dutchess County. It is this last tract which afterward became Putnam County, to which we give our attention.

During the next half century, this area grew. Title to the land passed to the younger son, bachelor Adolph. Indian purchase and patent were confirmed. With the growing importance of the area, claim was made of all land as far east as the Oblong. However, Indians claimed that they had only sold three miles back from the Hudson River. It was two generations before this claim and counterclaim was settled by the courts. In the meantime first slowly and then rapidly, tenants and settlers occupied the land until by the close of this half-century, Dutchess County was the second most populous county in the colony.

Thus, it was just 200 years ago that the fourth generation of the Philipse family entered into this inheritance (Robinson, Morris and Philipse). They decided to do something about their claims. It was not long before a very favorable opportunity presented itself. Already preparations were going forward for the inevitable French and Indian War. In 1754 what had been for 50 years only a post road between New York and Albany was made into a wagon road. Transportation by the Hudson River was supplemented by this road running through the Highlands along what is flow Route 9.

The Wappinger Indians were induced to enlist against the French and their Indian allies. The old men, the women and children were moved to Stockbridge, Massachessetts. Here they were lodged in the Indian settlement under the direction of the famous evangelist and theologian Jonathan Edwards who was soon to be called to the presidency of Princeton University. In the same year, the first survey was made between the Hudson and the Oblong by the Philipse interests. This survey followed settlement by many years.


The stage was now set for the Settler's Revolt. Further. north in Dutchess County, settlers had revolted against the claims of the Livingston family, declaring their rights under Indian title. Later, when the Wappingers returned from the war and from Stockbridge, they found their lands occupied. Friction first developed around Fishkill.

In 1764 Samuel Monroe applied for a permit as Guardian of the Indians. It was under this court order, that the sale of the land at Whaley Lake was made in the same year. For granting this court order, the Justice was reprimanded. This was one of the many rentals or sale of lands by the Indians. They claimed they had never sold 200,000 acres of land in Southern Dutchess County. These claims and counter claims went to court. To defray the court expense, the Indians and those who took title from them set up a pool of 500 subscriptions worth five pounds each (about twelve dollars and fifty cents). Subscribers were to be compensated in land, if and when the Indians were successful.

At the trial the Indians found that the Robinson-Morris-Philipse family had hired every lawyer in the colony, fifteen in all. The Indians and their deed-owners were without legal representation and were by law, not permitted to testify in Court.

Samuel Monroe attempted to speak in behalf of the Indians and their tenants, but was threatened with jail if he persisted. Their claims were denied. Title without question went to the Philipse family. For good measure, Samuel Monroe was lodged in the Poughkeepsie jail. From the jail, Monroe wrote to Sir William Johnson, the Colony's Indian Agent, but before Johnson could aid, a band of 1700 settlers stormed the jail and released Monroe.


New tenants were placed, on these lands by Philipse. But old tenants did not take it lying down. Many of these settlers had served in the French and Indian War, and were accustomed to meeting force with force. Bands of men began to ride in the interests of the disposed. Recent tenants were forcibly ejected and the former tenants were returned to their lands. A reward was posted for the arrest for high treason of William Pendergrast, Samuel Monroe and other leaders.

Things were at a white heat. A regiment of British troops were dispatched to Poughkeepsie. As they marched from Poughkeepsie towards this area, they met a band of settlers going to join Pendergrast's followers, who deployed into the corn fields. In the exchange of fire, two soldiers were killed. But before the day was over, 66 of Pendergrast's followers were captured and lodged in the Log Church as a temporary jail. The savage reprisal of the British troops upon the settlers is told by an eye witness:

"It is beyond the powers of language to paint in lively images the horror, the surprise and astonishment of these poor distressed people on that occasion. To see their habitations, some demolished, some robbed and pillag'd and others of them invellop'd in flames of fire to see them at once as it had been, deprived of all their sustenance for which they had labored, sweat and fatigued themselves all the days of their lives and thus driven therefrom in such a hostile manner; and to see others coming in to reap the fruits of their labors to reap whereon they had never sowed."

Apparently the leaders had not been caught. Samuel Monroe fled to Massachusetts where he was safe from New York authorities. Other leaders were not apprehended. But Pendergrast, under the persuasion of his wife, (Mehitabel Wing of Quaker Hill), gave himself up to protest his followers. To make sure there would not be another jail delivery, he was taken to New York for safe-keeping.

Sir William Johnson, about this time had said that every lawyer and judge was related by marriage or blood to the holders of the great estates. To what extent these interests determined court decisions, we do not know. Pendergrast was condemned to death. But before the execution of the Court order, his wife rode to New York, presented her case before the newly arrived Governor from England, Sir Henry Moore, and secured a reprieve for husband. That she was able to make this round trip in three days was a tribute not only to her devotion to her husband and the settler's cause, but also to the many loyal followers, who must have supplied fresh horses for the trip.


The claims of the Indians were not yet settled. They appealed to Sir William Johnson, their agent, who had publicly not taken sides in the controversy. What advice he gave them we do not know, but some of the Indians went to England and presented their claims to those in authority.

Much bad blood was left in the wake of Revolt. The unpopular Quartering Act by which the British troops were foisted on the colony was invoked. A block house was built on that ledge (Buechel's land), and troops were stationed there. A purge of tenants was begun. Many new names appeared in the community which were not there before.

Among them were a group of young Scotch officers who had served in the French and Indian War, and who had chosen to cast their lot with this new land. They were granted preferred leases, and were made the officers of the militia. When the Revolutionary War began a decade later, their, sympathies remained with the Robinson and Morris interest and with England. Now under the guise of loyalty to the Crown or the Patriot Cause, opportunities came to settle old scores by embittered groups. Only gradually did the patriots under Henry Ludington and other leaders in this area, bring these free-booters into line.

Yet how strange, does the historic process move. In less than 15 years after the Revolt, the apparent complete verdict for the Philipse was reversed. The Robinson-Morris families cast their lot with England. As a result, their lands were confiscated by the State and sold at public auction. Tenants, who could secure the testimony of twelve neighbors as to their patriotism, were permitted to buy their lands.

Refugees from Long Island, New York City, and Westchester rented the land of Tories during the War, but when these lands were later put up for auction, many speculators mingled in the bidding. From this time forward, a new temper was among the people. They now knew that they would be assured of the full fruits of their labor. They were at last able to look upon the land which they had so long tilled, or the mill sites which they had so laboriously created, and say: "This is mine."

The Military Crossroads and the Continental Army Encampment
by Dr. Larry Maxwell, Historian for the Town of Patterson

Prior to, and during, the Revolutionary War, the present day towns of Patterson, Pawling, Kent, Carmel and Southeast were all part of Dutchess County, New York. The area they encompassed was called Fredericksburg.

In 1776, after the British took control of the seas and costal routes, like the Boston Post Road (US Route 1), NYS Route 311 and NYS Route 22 became the main military crossroads in America. Route 22 served as a vital link between New England and the rest of the colonies. All messengers traveled this road. It is the same road on which Col. Henry Ludington led the Militia in 1777, as they marched to stop the British, who had just burned Danbury, CT., after his daughter, Sybil Ludington, rode more than 40 miles the night before, to summon the militia.

The road sits next to one of the sites where Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army had their encampment from September through November of 1778. The Army camped there after returning from a victory over the Crown Forces at the Battle of Rhode Island.