Putnam County History Conference: The Putnam County Bicentennial

Date: March 19, 2011

Time: 9:00-5:00
Location: Mahopac Library, 668 Route Six, Mahopac (845/628.2009)
Contact Hours: 7.5
Cost: $20 (includes lunch)

Immerse yourself in the history of Putnam County. Look at the landscape the people first walked and the homes they built. Hear its music. Tell its stories. Eat its food. See its historic sites. Learn about the Putnam people who over the centuries have made the county what it is today. Meet the people who are preserving that legacy and help us to continue to do so in the 21st century.

9:00 Welcome, Paul J. Eldridge, County Executive [invited]

9:15 Houses of History: The Land on the Eve of Becoming a County, Eugene Boesch, Putnam County Historic Preservation Advisory Committee

The 18th century was a time of change in what is today Putnam County. New settlers entered the region transforming it from a frontier occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years to a locally-based rural, agrarian landscape dominated by Euro-Americans. Soon wider trade and distribution networks appeared. This lecture introduces the audience into how archaeology can be used to explore 18th century house sites in the Putnam County region. Historic archaeology helps create a picture of the County’s past that frequently exceeds and sometimes contradicts the documentary record. What do the artifacts found at these sites reveal about the people who lived in these homes: their ethnicity, occupations, status, subsistence practices, and other cultural patterns? This presentation explores what archaeologists know, do not know, and want to know about such domestic sites; the methods employed to investigate dwelling sites, the types of finds and remains that researchers often encounter; and the insights these sites provide about past lifestyles. The lecture also covers the process by which historic house sites are evaluated for possible inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eugene Boesch has undertaken archaeological excavations in the Hudson Valley area for over thirty years. He received a Ph.D. and other graduate degrees from New York University. Dr. Boesch’s work has primarily focused on Pre-Contact period cultures and adaptations in the Eastern Woodlands of North America and on early Euro-American settlement in the Hudson Valley region. He has worked in Israel, California, and throughout the mid-western United States. More recently his research interests have focused on researching and recording to Historic American Engineering Standards late nineteenth and early twentieth century American industrial complexes for the United States Environmental Protection Agency through its Super Fund program. Currently Dr. Boesch is a faculty member at Adelphi University and owns a cultural resources consulting firm. He has taught at New York University, Vassar College, SUNY Buffalo, Rutgers University, and Nassau Community College. A concern for local historic preservation issues has led him to become a member of the Putnam County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission and the Westchester County Historic Preservation Advisory Committee.

10:15 The Breakup of 1812: Why We Split from Dutchess County – Sallie Sypher, Deputy Putnam County Historian

Even though Putnam County separated from Dutchess County just days before war with Great Britain was declared, the split was caused by many factors unrelated to the war. Historically, there had always been some differences – political, social, and ethnic – between people of the five towns that would become Putnam County and the inhabitants of the other Dutchess towns. Those differences were exacerbated by small inconveniences, oversights, and offenses, none of which alone were enough to cause a rupture. However, in this most tumultuous time since the Revolution, these small incidents, combined with a significant election, propelled the Putnam towns into separating from Dutchess County.

Sallie Sypher has a BA from Mount Holyoke College and a Ph.D. from Cornell University with her dissertation topic Mary of Guise and the End of the Old Alliance, 1542-1560. She has taught at Bronx Community College, been a Councilwoman (1974-1981) and Supervisor in Town of Putnam Valley (1982-1989), was the Putnam County Historian (1990-1996) and is the Deputy County Historian (1996-present). She currently is a member of NY State Historical Records Advisory Board and Regional Advisory Committee of the NYS Documentary Heritage Program.

11:15 Changes in Our Land: Landscape transformations in Putnam County over 200 years- Patricia Houser, former Putnam County Historian

This talk will describe general trends in land use in Putnam County between roughly 1812, when Putnam was formed, and the present day. Causes of the shifts from sheep raising to cattle raising, from beef cattle to dairy herds, and then the question of what happened to the farms will be included in this chronological overview of land use in the area. What effect did the reservoirs have? Who had the most say in what was built and where in the second half of the 20th century, as Putnam became the fastest growing county in the state? The approaching bicentennial of the county is a good time to reflect upon the impacts of the many factors causing changes in our land.

Patricia McMahon Houser has taught college geography and urban planning and is currently working on a manuscript based on her Ph.D. dissertation on the environmental history of New York City’s Croton Watershed. She is a long time resident of Mahopac and Carmel, N.Y.

12:15 Lunch Entertainment by Jonathan Kruk and Rich Bala, Hudson River Ramblers

1:15 Putnam County Bicentennial Community and Committee Reports – Karl Rohde, Putnam County Historian

2:30 Putnam County School/Historic Site Collaborations

  1. Southeast Museum and the Brewster Schools – Amy Campanaro, Executive Director, Southeast Museum
  2. Fourth Grade and the Foundry: The Haldane and Garrison Experience – Kendall Ingenito, Outreach Coordinator, Putnam County Historical Society & Foundry School Museum
  3. Teaching American History through Putnam County – Dan Ricci, Mahopac High School and Putnam Valley Town Historian
  4. Using Music and Storytelling in the Classroom, Jonathan Kruk and Rich Bala, Hudson River Ramblers

4:00 Local Historian Roundtable

  1. Making Local History Accessible in the 21st Century: Using Resources on the Web
  2. Collaborating and Cooperating to Maximize Our Scant Resources
  3. “Putnam County’s Past Cast in Stone” – Tom Maxson, Highlands Preservation, Inc.A review of the unique elements in Putnam County which led our predecessors to construct the impressive and enduring stone chambers that highlight our landscape and remind us of the amazing skill and workmanship that went into the design and building of these structures. As we come to the realization that Putnam County is the “stone chamber capital of the United States,” this distinction presents us with challenges to be good stewards as we try to protect and preserve these remnants of our past, so that we may pass them down to future generations.Tom Maxson is the chairman of Highlands Preservation, Inc., a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to preserving the hidden historic and prehistoric treasures in Putnam County. We conduct surveys of historic and prehistoric sites, and register them with the NYS SHPO organization as inventoried archaeological sites. I serve on the Board of the Kent Historical Society, and previously served as a member of the Kent Comprehensive Plan Committee, making recommendations for the protection and preservation of historic assets within the town. He is also the author of “Mount Nimham: The Ridge of Patriots,” detailing the history of Kent’s highest point which was named for the unsung patriot, Chief Daniel Nimham.
  4. Using Photographs to Preserve Local History: The Haviland Hollow Story, Ron Taylor, Patterson Historical Society

4:50 Teaching Putnam County History workshop – Peter Feinman, Institute of History, Archaeology and Education