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The Official Website for the Town of Pawling, New York

Historical Archives

Pawling’s history is much older than many realize. While we have no evidence of permanent settlements, we do know of two Native American burial grounds within the town. The many stone tools found in the town prove a significant presence. The fact that these stone tools were made from stones not found locally shows that vibrant trade existed as well.

In 1697 Henry Beekman received the second largest land patent in New York from King William III which included the towns of Pawling, Dover, Union Vale and part of LaGrange. While settlers rented farms from Henry Beekman in the western portion of his patent, few settled in the east. To make the area more attractive, in 1703 Beekman lowered the rent required to farm the land. When Henry Beekman passed away, control of the Beekman patent transferred to his children. Catherine Beekman had married (and survived) Cornelius Exveen; Johannes “John” Rutsen and Albert Pauling, and was known as the Widow Pauling.Catherine made many visits to the region to collect rent and speak to the tenants. In honor of her visits the resident chose to name the area “Pawling”.

The borders between the colonies of New York and Connecticut were in dispute until 1731 when the Treaty of Dover was signed. Connecticut earned a pan handle along Long Island Sound which encompassed Stamford and Greenwich. New York earned a 1.8 mile wide strip of land from Rye to Massachusetts known as “The Oblong”. As this land was not part of the Patents it could be purchased. Nathan Birdsall and Benjamin Ferris were two Quakers who were the first to settle in the Oblong and soon others followed. The first Oblong Meeting House was built in 1742 and a second larger one built in 1764. In 1767 these Quakers decided it was inconsistent for a God loving people to hold ownership over another and began the first unified action abolishing slavery in the colonies.

In 1765 William Prendergast learned the 4 pounds 12 shillings he paid as rent for his 200 acres was more than Frederick Philipse III paid for the entire manor. He gathered other tenant farmers and marched on New York City to demand their leases be transferred into simple titles. Governor Moore heard their claims, but sent the 28th Grenadiers to arrest the leaders of “Prendergast’s Army”. Prendergast was arrested for treason and his “Trial of the 18th Century” was held in Poughkeepsie. The jury of gentried land owners found him guilty and he was sentenced to death. Mehitabel, his wife, rode non-stop to see governor Moore and was able to gain a stay of execution and an offer to transport a letter of pardon to the King. She rode to Poughkeepsie in time to prevent an attempted jail break by Prendergast’s followers, handed the Sheriff the stay of execution, and collapse as she had gone 160 miles and four days without sleep. Six months later the pardon was received.

In the fall of 1778 Alexander Hamilton informed John Kane and his wife Sybil that General George Washington wished to use their home as his headquarters. Washington spent 2 1/2 months in Pawling. The Oblong meeting House was commandeered as a hospital. While there, the trial of General Philip Schuyler, commander of Fort Ticonderoga, for dereliction of duty and desertion was held. He had ordered the fort abandoned as far superior British forces were approaching. The trial lasted three days and Schuyler was completely exonerated. Those British troops were defeated in Saratoga, the turning point of the American Revolution, which brought the French on to the side of independence. “The Great Barbeque” was held in October of 1778 celebrating the one year anniversary of this defeat. Among the officers present were Major Generals Gates, Greene, McDougall, Baron Steuben, Baron DeKalb, Brigadier Generals Nixon, Parsons, Smallwood, Knox, Hand, Patterson, and Wayne.

The Town of Pawling was incorporated in 1788 and included Dover Plains until 1807 when it became its own incorporated town. In 1812 the Mattewan Manufacturing Company dammed the outflow of Whaley Pond to better control the water flow to its mills in Beacon. Whaley Lake would become, and still is, a popular vacation spot. Albert Akin was born on Quaker Hill in 1803. He became a very successful merchant in New York City. In his late twenties he became seriously ill and came home to Pawling to die. He would live to be 100. The quiet country life was a little too quiet for Akin. He raised $100,000 to extend the New York and Harlem Railroad from Croton Falls to Dover Plains. The first train pulled into Pawling on New Year’s Eve 1848. By 1860 Pawling would become a terminal station, having trains originate and terminate in Pawling. At its height Pawling boasted 5 tracks, an engine house, turntable, and a wye.

Pawling played an important part in the Civil War. In addition to the many residents who answered the call, John Lorimer Worden captained the ironclad “U.S.S. Monitor” at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Worden was born in Ossining in 1818, grew up in Swartoutville (Hopewell Junction). He joined the Navy in 1843. In 1844 he married Olivia Toffey of Quaker Hill. In April of 1861, he received orders to carry secret dispatches regarding the reinforcement of Fort Pickens at Pensacola. During his return journey, Worden was arrested near Montgomery, Alabama, and was held prisoner for about seven months. He returned to Pawling to recuperate where he received his next command, an entirely new ship, the USS Monitor.

At the battle of Hampton Roads, The Monitor met the CSA Virginia, an ironclad which had spent the previous day sinking two ship blockading Hampton Roads. The two ironclads exchanged cannon fire for four hours without inflicting serious damage on either ship. A lucky shot landed in front of the Monitor’s pilot house spraying gunpowder in Wordn’s face, temporarily blinding him. The Monitor pulled back to change command. Seeing the Monitor “retreating” the Virginia declared victory and began to return to port. The Montior returned to the battle to see the Virginia “retreating” and they declared victory. Worden would become Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy. He is buried in the Pawling Rural Cemetery.

In 1907 Dr. Frederick Luther Gamage opened the Pawling School for Boys in the Dutcher House. John B. Dutcher offered the property to Gamage after he missed out on purchasing the property in Millbrook which would become Miss Bennett’s School for Girls. In four years the school would outgrow the Dutcher House and John Dutcher would step in again and offer farmland to the east. George Bywater Cluett provided the money for the main building on campus. In 1942 so many of the faculty enlisted that the school was forced to close. Thomas Dewey and Lowell Thomas contacted the Army Air Corps to offer the campus for their use. They first hosted a cryptology school, but then changed to a convalescent hospital on the property and that of Lakeside Park. Dr. Howard Rusk began to practice rehabilitation medicine treatment. This is also the location of the first use of animal therapy in the United States. When the war ended the army left and Alfred University wished to purchase the campus. Thomas and Dewey did not wish Pawling to become a “College Town”. They persuaded the Trinity School in Manhattan to purchase the campus, forming Trinity-Pawling.

In the 1930s William F. Carey, Commissioner of NYC’s Department of Sanitation, with the help of Mayor La Guardia, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, used proceeds of Sanitation Department vs. NYC Police Department ball games played at Yankee Stadium to purchase land in Pawling in Dutchess County, and set up what was to become known as “Sanita Hills Camp”. The bungalows were retired 9th Avenue el train cars. The Commissioner had dozens retrofitted in NYC before hauling them upstate. Santia Hills were three camps in one; one for families, one for men, and one for women. An investigation was launched into just how the Dept. of Sanitation was able to buy 1,100 acres of land and who authorized the requisition of city train cars, the use of materials, supplies, and city labor to build this resort. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ordered the department to get rid of the camp. It was donated to the Boy Scouts of America, which used it until the 1970’s.

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Robert P. Reilly

T. 845-855-5040

160 Charles Colman Blvd.
Pawling, NY 12564

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