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The Ossining Story newspaperarticle (DOC)


									This is a reprint of an article written to commemorate the 150 th anniversary of the village of Ossining.

                                  The Ossining Story
      The Village of Ossining is the oldest incorporated village in the county of
Westchester and is situated on the east bank of the Hudson River about thirty miles
north of New York City. In olden days it was described as being located on the Albany
Post Road or Highland Turnpike (now U.S. Route 9), but today it is spoken of as being
on the main line of the New York Central Railroad. It can also be approached by State
highways 9A, 133 and 134.

        Dr. George Jackson Fisher, in J. Thomas Scharf’s History of Westchester County
(1886) wrote of it as follows: “the town lies on the eastern slope of the Hudson, the
rock and land rising more or less abruptly from the river margin, until, at a distance of
half a mile back, it reaches an altitude of three hundred feet; and still farther from the
river the hills are from five hundred to nearly one thousand feet above tide-water…The
prevailing rocks are an imperfect granite and a gneiss varying much in stratification and
solidity. Many boulders are everywhere to be found, some of which are of great size.
Most of them are fragments of out own rock-beds while many are of foreign material,
having found their way here during the drift period, of which they are not the only
remaining evidence. The surface of most of our rocks are well polished and furrowed
by the same agency.
        It is not surprising that the Indians used the same Sinsing or Sint Sinck for this
locality. It has been freely translated as “stone upon stone”, a term which accurately
describes the appearance of the hillsides in the vicinity of Sing Sing Prison. The present
form, Ossining, is derived from the Chippewa word ossin meaning “stone” and its plural
ossinee or ossineen, “stones”, and was adopted locally by the new Town formed from
the northern part of the Town of Mount Pleasant in 1845.

       Dr Clark Wissler, noted anthropologist, said that the Indians living here in the
early part of the seventeenth century were a tribe of the Wappinger Confederacy know
as Sint Sincks. Their territory extended as far north as the Croton River which they
called the Kitchawan. Their village has been described as being near the mouth of the
Kil Brook close to the river which they named the Shattemuc, “river that flows both
ways.” In the natural rock shelters which were their homes have been found stone
implements and arrowheads, practically the only tokens of their existence today.

       The pastoral life of the Indian village was destroyed by the gradual intrusion of
European settlers following the voyage of Henry Hudson who wailed up the great river
in 1609. He was seeking a short route to the Orient but instead he found the stream
which later came to be known as the Hudson River.

     Shortly after this there was a Dutch settlement at the mouth of the river, early
known as Nieuw Amsterdam and later New York. From here came Frederick Philipse

who about 1680 received a patent from the English crown permitting him to buy the
land lying between Spuyten Duyvil Creak (now Harlem River) and Croton River. On
August 24, 1685 he conformed this patent by purchasing from the Indians the land now
included in our village thus making it a part of his great land holdings, which, by the
Royal Charter of 1693, became the Manor of Philipsburg.

        The Albany Book of Patents, v. 90 as quoted in Robert Bolton’s History of the
County of Westchester (1881) describes this purchase of “that tract or parcel of
land…called by the Indians Sint Sinck” by Frederick Philipse from the Indian grantors,
by name Weskenane, Keararham, Mamannane, Crawman, Weunickatnon,
Weremenhore, Wappus and Aquaines. For this purchase the Indians were paid 50 feet
of black wampum, 100 feet of white wampum, 22 kettles, 12 larger kettles, 15 fathom
of trade cloth, 12 guns, 15 shirts, 12 pairs of stockings, 2 ankers of rum, 12 drawing
knives, 6 adz’s, 12 blankets, 12 fathom of stroudwater (trade cloth), 50 pounds of
powder, 30 bars of lead, 20 axes, 15 hoes, 40 knives, 20 stone jugs, 1 iron chain, 2
rolls of tobacco, and 2 pistols.

       All the land in this section remained in the possession of the Philipse family until
the later part of the Revolutionary War. Then, the last Lord of the Manor, Colonel
Frederick Philipse, being loyal to England, his lands were seized by the new State of
New York in 1779. They were sold by Commissioners of Forfeiture in 1785, with the
exception of Sparta Cemetery, mostly to the tenant farmers of the Manor who had
supported the American cause.

        Around 1760 a small settlement, consisting mainly of English families, started in
what is today the southern part of our village. It was named Sparta and soon became
a thriving community with a church, stores, taverns, a brickyard and silver mine. Good
docking facilities were attractive for the river sloops, which were one of the principal
means of transportation. From this early period dates the Garrison house, also known
as Jug Tavern, situated at the corner of Revolutionary Road and Rockledge Avenue.

       The old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow served this section until the Presbyterian
Church was established in Sparta in 1763. Sparta Cemetery was started soon after that
date and about 1768 a church building was erected on adjoining property. This
cemetery, located on Albany Post Road to the south of our village, is perhaps Ossining’s
most historic spot. Still owned by the First Presbyterian Church it is today administered
by the Ossining Historical Society. In it are buried many of the original settlers and
Revolutionary soldiers. One of the headstones has a hole in it said to have been caused
by a shot from the British sloop-of-War, “Vulture,” in September 1780. As the cemetery
was located on the farm of Arnold Hunt it is not surprising that the are thirty members
of the Boorman and Kemeys families.            Dr. Mordecai Hale, a surgeon in the
Revolutionary War, Edmund Marsh Blunt, Arthur of nautical manuals, Caleb Roscoe,
editor and publisher of the Westchester Herald, and the much traveled eccentric known
as the Leather Man.

       Just a little to the north of Sparta and probably started about the same time
(early 1760’s) was the hamlet of Sing Sing, named for the old Indian village. As at
Sparta the dock area was most important because of the extensive river traffic, and
over the years it had many names reflecting changes in ownership. Some such were
Greenfield, or Orser’s Landing, also Mount Pleasant and Hunter’s Landing in later days.

      Throughout the period of the Revolutionary War this area suffered harassment
from both sides, but there was no large military engagement locally.

       Following the breakup of the manor of Philipsburg in 1785 both Sparta and Sing
Sing increased in population. In Sing Sing a Baptist church was established in 1786 and
formally organized in 1790, while the Presbyterian church moved from Sparta to larger
quarters in Sing Sing about 1800. Cheaper rates for wharfage at Sing Sing attracted
the sloop captains, who began to moor their vessels there rather than at Sparta. This
was the beginning of the decline of the village of Sparta.

       The farmers of the countryside brought their produce to Sing Sing to ship it to
market in New York. And the village became a boat-building-center. Among the names
of the famous boat-builders were Moses Stanton, Captain Isaac Smith, and Thomas
Collyer. Mr. Collyer designed and built a large number of sloops, clippers and later
steamer boats including the outstanding Hudson River steamboat, the “Daniel Drew.”

       Around the beginning of the nineteenth century books were printed here and
also the first newspaper in Westchester County, The Mount Pleasant Register, was
being published in 1797. This has been verified by the minutes of the Westchester
County Medical Society which ordered a notice of the May, 1797. This has been verified
by the minutes of the Westchester County Medical Society which ordered a notice of the
May, 1797 meeting inserted in that newspaper. However, the earliest locally printed
paper of which a copy exists is The Mount Pleasant Courier, Vol. 1, No. 1 (June 19,

      The year 1797 saw also the establishment of a post office in this village to which
was given the name Mount Pleasant. Its name was not changed to Sing Sing until

       There were many hotels and taverns here then. Perhaps best known was the
Union Hotel owned at one time by Enoch Crosby Jr., son of the man said to have been
the inspiration for the hero of J. Fennimore Cooper’s “The Spy”. Others were Ward’s
Tavern in Pleasant Square, the American and St. Cloud Hotels, and, in Sparta the Jug
Tavern and Washington Inn. The site of the Union Hotel is now marked by a New York
State highway marked on the southwest corner of Church Street and South Highland
Avenue. Across the street carefully encased in a stone framework at the entrance of

the Ossining Junior-Senior High School is a red milestone, showing the distance from
New York, which once stood in front of the Union Hotel.

      The Sing Sing Fire Department was organized May 4, 1812 by the formation of
Washington Engine Company, No. 1, a name said to have been derived from the picture
of General George Washington on the hand engine which had been purchased in New
York. This volunteer group, the oldest in Westchester County, today is known as
Washington Hook and Ladder Co. No. 2.

       On April 2, 1813, the Village of Sing Sing was incorporated by Act of the
Legislature of the State of New York. It was the first village in Westchester County to
become incorporated.

       The Mount Pleasant State Prison, today known as Sing Sing Prison, was built
here, according to Bolton’s history “owing to its exhaustless bodies of marble, its
healthy situation, and its accessibility of water”. Construction was begun on May 14,
1825 when Captain Elam Lynds, former Agent of Auburn Prison, came here with one
hundred convicts.

       The so-called Sing Sing marble from the prison quarry and other privately owned
quarries, was used in the construction of a number of buildings in the village. Among
those still standing are Calvary Baptist Church (1834-1836), the oldest church structure
in Ossining which is marked for demolition in the proposed urban renewal plan,
Highland Court Apartments, the main part of the Printex Corporation building, the
former Madden home on Lincoln Place and the old cell block of the prison.

       The first religious meeting at the Camp Woods was held by the Methodists in
1831, and three years later the Mount Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Camp-Meeting
Society was incorporated. Throughout the early part of the nineteenth century many
thousands came to the meetings in the old locust grove from as far away as New York.
Such a revival is pictured in one of the Currier and Ives lithographs. Annual meetings
are still held here. In 1833 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was established, its building
consecrated in 1836. Seeking larger quarters this congregation erected a new church in
the Torbank section in 1960.

       During the later 1830s the first Croton Aqueduct was built to bring water to New
York. Where it passed through the village of Sing Sing it was found necessary to erect
a great stone arch to span the valley formed by Kil Brook. This arch (1836-1840) is the
upper span of the Double Arch, the lower arch of which carries Broadway across Kil
Brook. Many of the workers on the Aqueduct established homes in Sing Sing, and, as
some were of the Roman Catholic faith, services for that denomination were soon being
conducted. The first Roman Catholic Church building, St. Augustine’s, was started
about 1856 and consecrated in 1858.

       There were at one time a number of private schools here. For boys, Mount
Pleasant Academy was the oldest, started in 1814 and operating over one hundred
years. Now its memory is recalled by Academy Place and the old library, which is Mr.
W. Arthur Slater’s office. Others were Holbrook Military School whose name has
lingered on in Holbrook Road, and St. John’s Military Academy Mountain Institute and
changed to a boy’s school about 1845. Today the site of the old building is occupied by
St. Ann’s Parochial School. For girls there was the Mount Pleasant Female Seminary in
the 1820s and 1830s operated at first by Miss Delavan and later by Miss Maria Prine,
the Misses Tisdale Boarding School, Mrs. Ten Eyck’s School and the Ossining School for
Girls started in 1867 by Miss Sarah Van Vleck which continued in existence til about
1930. Its site is now occupied by Fuller Garden Apartment, named for its last principal,
Miss Clara C. Fuller.

      In 1845 the Town of Ossining was formed from the northern part of the Town of
Mount Pleasant. The following year its name was shortened to Ossining.

       The Hudson River Railroad extended its tracks as far north as Peekskill in 1849
thus affording Sing Sing with the means of transporting passengers and freight at rates
more reasonable than by boat. From this time on river traffic declined and the
waterfront of the village became less important. Industrial plants superseded the
residence of former days. Among these was the Brandreth factory started in 1837 and
renamed the Allcock Manufacturing Company in 1848, which is still in business.

       By 1854 the Sing Sing Free School District No. 1 was established. Before this
time there had been several small public schools, one in Sparta, another in Water Street
and one on Spring Street opposite St. Paul’s Place. The Broadway School was opened
in 1859, which today serves as the administration building of the school system. There
are also five elementary schools and one Junior-Senior High School today all operating
at near capacity levels.

       Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War a company of local men was organized
under Captain Franklin J. Davis. Known informally as the Sing Sing Tigers this company
was incorporated into the Seventeenth Regiment of the New York volunteers as
Company F. It was action in both battles of Bull Run, Antietam and Chancellorsville.
The company had enlisted for two years only, so at the end of that time, it returned
home and received a grand welcome on May 21, 1863. Captain Davis had resigned
from the infantry in the summer of 1861 and joined a cavalry regiment, Scott’s Nine
Hundred, which was comprised of many from this area under the command of General
James B. Swain of Scarborough. Others joined the Zouaves and still others the naval

        The next decades were ones of growth for our village. Because of a number of
large fires in the business section, one of which damaged the Corporate Rooms (village
offices) and destroyed all of the municipal records, there was much rebuilding of stores

and office buildings. Many of the large brick structures in Main Street around the
corner of Spring Street and at the head of Central Avenue date from the 1870’s.

        A gas manufacturing company was chartered here in 1855, and electricity was
first installed in 1889. In 1887 due to an epidemic of typhoid fever, which swept
through the village, the Ossining Board of Water Commissioners was organized. In
1886 a dispensary was started which later formed the basis for the Ossining Hospital.
Located for a time in a building on Orchard (now James) Street, and from 1906 to 1956
in a structure on Spring Street erected through the generosity of the Potter family,
today our hospital facilities are supplied by the Phelps Memorial Hospital in North
Tarrytown, which serves this entire area.

        The Ossining Public Library was established as part of the public school system in
1889. At first installed in Park School and later in different locations it finally achieved
its present home in 1914.

       A telephone central office was started here in 1882.

       It was also a time for the building of new churches. Trinity Episcopal Church,
which started in 1868, brought the old Presbyterian Church, used it jointly with the
Presbyterians until their new building was ready in 1870, and later replaced it with the
present stone structure dedicated in 1892. The First Baptist Church replaced an earlier
frame building with a brick one dedicated in 1874, and the Methodist congregation
outgrowing their old edifice on Spring Street finally consecrated the new stone building
on South Highland Avenue in 1889. The North Sing Sing Methodist Church dedicated in
1870 became St. Matthew’s Church on January 11, 1905. Sing Sing Union Chapel in the
Campwoods section was dedicated in 1887, and in 1929 it became the Ossining Heights
Methodist Church. The Star of Bethlehem Church organized at the centennial
observance of the First Baptist Church in 1890 started its own building in 1892. And in
1891 the Congregation Sons of Israel was organized. It met in a building on Hunter
Street from 1902 to 1922 when its Waller Avenue synagogue was erected which served
until 1960 when a new synagogue was dedicated on Pleasantville Road.

       Throughout the last part of the nineteenth century there were in existence a
number of industrial firms here. These include the Arcade File Works, Blakeslee’s
Monitor Iron Works, Hall Improved Self-feeding Cotton-Gin Manufacturing Company,
also sash and blind factories, and bottling works. At the same time the convicts at Sing
Sing Prison were engaged in a shoe factory, laundry and stove foundry, whose products
were sold on the open market. This competition with prison labor and the confusion of
the name of the village with that of the prison caused the inhabitants to consider
changing the name of the village. After some discussion this was done and the village
of Sing Sing became the Village of Ossining March 25, 2001.

       With a steadily increasing population and growth of industry and commercial
ventures there has come into existence a number of religious bodies. These include the
First Church of Christ Scientist organized in 1906 which first held services in its own
church in 1937, the Ossining Gospel Assembly whose building was dedicated in 1914,
St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church consecrated in 1930 and Calvary Baptist Church
started in 1960 which purchased the old St. Paul’s Church building. And, out in the
unincorporated part of the township the Catholic Foreign Mission Society started its
work at Maryknoll in 1912 which today is headquarters for the worldwide activities of
the Maryknoll Fathers and the Maryknoll Sisters.

        Ossining has well over one hundred organizations of all types, civic, fraternal,
patriotic and philanthropic. A very few of these are here described briefly. In 1895 the
Christ Child Day Nursery was established for the benefit of working mothers. Today
this has become the Ossining Children’s Center. The District Nursing Association, now
called the Visiting Nurse Association, was started in 1905. The Ossining Historical
Society, which maintains a museum in the Washington School, was founded in 1931.
In 1946 the Golden Age Club No. 1 for senior citizens, the first of its kind in the country
was started by the Ossining Recreation Commission. The Ossining Chamber of
Commerce started about the same time is today a flourishing enterprise, which looks
after the public welfare while protecting the interests of the local businessmen.

       In times of national crisis the citizens of our community have demonstrated their
loyalty by enlisting in the various branches of the armed services. There were several
with the National Guard in the Spanish-American War. The period of World War I saw
a large number of men from this village under arms, and many were killed in the line of
duty. The home front underwent the necessary deprivations of a limited food supply
and restricted use of combustible fuel. Red Cross and civilian defense units were
activated, and women took positions in the industrial field. At the end of the war in
1918 there was universal rejoicing, and the village resumed its normal pursuits. But, in
World War II and, again in 1950, when its regiment of the National Guard took an
active part in the Korean police action, this village proved itself ready, willing, and able.

        There have been a number of celebrated persons who have made their home in
Ossining. These include Captain Elijah Hunter, Revolutionary spy, a founder of the First
Baptist Church and the man for whom Hunter Street is named, Hon. John T. Hoffman,
Governor of the State of New York, and his father, Dr. Adrian K. Hoffman, a physician,
Dr. George Jackson Fisher, doctor and historian, Frederick and Alfred Agate, both
artists, D. Ogden Mills, California financier, General Robert Anderson, commander at
Fort Sumter at the outbreak of the Civil War, V. Everit Macy, first Commissioner of
Public Welfare in Westchester County, Lieutenant Edmond C. Genet, first American
killed in World War I, Major-General Aaron Ward, representative in Congress for several
terms, James Speyer, banker, Irving S. Cobb, humorist, Frank Vanderlip, banker and
financial editor, and, from the entertainment world, Blanche Bates, Jeanne Eagels, and
Major Edward Bowes.

       Among points of interest we may mention the home of Lieutenant Colonel
Charles J. Saunders in Brayton Park. In earlier days this was named “Chelsea” and was
the residence of Benjamin Moore, son of the author of “The Night Before Christmas”.
However, it was not bought by the Moore family until long after the famous poem was

        On Havell Street stands the house once owned by Robert Havell, Jr. who was the
engraver of the plates for John James Audubon’s Bird of America. He lived here from
about 1841 to 1857, and during that time painted several scenes of the Hudson Valley
in this vicinity. One of these is now in the Museum of the Ossining Historical Society.

       And in Scarborough, on the Albany Post Road just south of Scarborough Road is
a state highway marker indicating the site of the birthplace of Rear Admiral John L.
Worden who won fame as the commander of the ironclad Monitor in its battle with the
Merrimac during the Civil War.

      In 1913 the centennial of the Village of Ossining was observed with appropriate
ceremonies. Shortly thereafter a new Municipal Building was erected to house the ever
growing administrative office of the town and village.

       Now, fifty years later, we are celebrating again the courage and stamina of those
individuals who worked for the incorporation of their village.

       This information was printed in the a document that celebrated the 150th
anniversary of the Village of Ossining. It is reprinted here with permission from the


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