(Muscoot River - Mahopac Falls - Carmel - Putnam County)
The outlet of Lake Mahopac, combined with that of Kirk Lake, furnishes a water power unequaled in the county. It was used at a very early date and here were doubtless located "Kirkham's Mills" mentioned in the laying out of roads in 1745. These were probably a small affair and were soon replaced by a much larger and more durable building which lasted more than a century.
This mill, which is remembered by the present generation, was built in 1756. It was built with massive timbers and covered with cedar and from the color which it was painted it was known to all the country round as "Red Mills".
"After Mary Philipse married Roger Morris they built a manor house near the outlet of the two lakes, Mahopac and Kirk. The site is near that of the Old Red Mills. The log house has been gone for many years as such. But over it and around it a new house was built. This composite structure stood here until recently, when a fire came one night and reduced the old historic building to ruins..." 1906
On Erskine's military map they are put down as "Robinson's Mills." Although they were located on Lot 5 of Philipse Patent owned by Roger Morris, yet in the deed given by the commissioners of forfeitures they are mentioned as having "become forfeited by the attainder of Roger Morris and Beverly Robinson"; from which it is probable they were built by these men in partnership and it must have been a very expensive building in its day. Like all the rest of the property of Roger Morris these mills with the land around them were confiscated. On the 16th of May, 1781, Samuel Dodge, John Hathorn and Daniel Graham, commissioners of forfeiture, sold to William Smith "All that certain tract or parcel of land called the Mill Farms, containing 188 acres more or less. Together with all and singular the advantages and privileges heretobefore derived to the mills on the farm by the water issuing out of the two ponds with their outlets and several streams thereof and including the large island in the large pond called Hustins Pond". The price was $2.750. The deed to John Le Clare conveys to him 89 acres, "excepting the waters with their courses as they run from the great pond through this farm for the use of William Smith's saw and grist mills".
Another still larger tract was also sold to William Smith lying between Mahopac and Kirk Lakes. The mills and the lands adjoining were sold by William Smith to Robert Johnston, about 1799.
In the "Country and Poughkeepsie Advertiser", January 9th, 1788, appeared the following advertisement: "William M. Smith No 7 Old Slip, New York, has for sale exceeding cheap, his Capital Mills, now let at $200 per year, with several farms near the same, in Fredericksburg Precinct".
It seems that the original deed to William Smith had been destroyed by fire and on the 28th of March, 1800, the Legislature passed an act for the "Relief of Robert Johnston", by which the abstract on record in the clerk's office of Dutchess county should be held as legal evidence of the existence of the deed. Judge Robert Johnston remained in possession of the mills till the time of his death, when they descended to his son, William H. Johnston, who died in 1823, leaving a will by which he authorized his executors, Ward B. Howard, Abraham Smith and Theodorus Van Wyck to sell his real estate. In accordance with this they conveyed to Cornelius J. Tompkins, May 1st, 1829, one hundred and twenty-two acres of land "together with all the water privileges of the great and little ponds as heretofore belonged to Robert Johnston, deceased". January 1st, 1835, Cornelius Tompkins sold the same to John Haff and Ira Dean for $12.000. October 4th, 1837, they were sold by John Haff and his assignees to Amzi L. Dean and Isaac Lounsbury. Lounsbury bought the share of Amzi Dean in 1840 and he sold the mills to Amzi Slawson March 31st, 1855.
Amzi Slawson kept the mill property till October 1st, 1858, when he sold it to Seeley Slawson and he conveyed it to William and Charles Theill April 28th, 1862.
William Theill sold his share to Charles Theill August 30, 1864 and he conveyed it to George Juengst of New York February 1, 1865. He purchased it for the manufacturing firm of Thomas J. McArthur and others to whom he gave a deed January 2, 1866.
T. J. McArthur and his associates organized the Empire Sewing Machine Company and the premises were sold to this company May 1, 1866. It was intended by this company to establish a large manufactory at this place, an intention which was frustrated by subsequent events and the entire premises and water rights were sold to the Mahopac Manufacturing Company, January 10th, 1869. This company had already established a large manufactory on the Muscoot River, in Westchester County.
In September, 1870, the Board of Water Commissioners of the city of New York took possession of the water privileges and from that time the occupation of the famous "Red Mills", like Othello's, was "gone".
..."Just as this company was about to send machinery and begin operations, the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of New York took possession of all water privileges of the two lakes and these premises were taken by the city and thus the manufacturing company was put out of business"...
For several years the city paid an annual rent for the privilege of drawing water from the lakes but under the act of 1879 for enlarging the powers of the commissioners the premises were taken for the use of the city and on June 14, 1881, Hubert O. Thompson, chief of the Department of Public Works, offered for sale at auction the "superstructure wood work and machinery of the Red Mills" and they were purchased by Lewis Baker for $227.
The buildings were torn down and the ponderous beams and timber with the cedar covering, sold in small parcels and the place that had known it for a century and a quarter knew it no more forever. The site of this building was on the north side of the road and on the east side of the outlet of the two lakes. Kirk Lake, which is the "little pond" mentioned in the deed to William Smith, is 591 feet above the sea and covers 101 acres. From Lake Mahopac to the Red Mills there is a fall of 126 feet and from the water flowing over the dam at the mill the locality gained the name of Mahopac Falls. The removal of the dam when the old mill was destroyed has rendered this name no longer significant. In addition to the grist mill, which did a large business for the early times, there were also saw mills and a fulling mill. It is said that the first carding mill in the country was brought here by an Englishman named Ellinworth about 1800. He first set it up in Peekskill where it remained two years and he then brought it up to the Red Mills. Previous to the Revolution it is stated that Col. Roger Morris had a log mansion near the mill, to which he and his wife, as lord and lady of the manor, came, during the summer months, to visit their highland estate and their tenants. The residence of Mrs. Augustus Odell, a short distance west of the old mill site, encloses a portion of the original log house thus occupied by the former owners of all this section of country. The story that Major Andre stopped at this house while being taken to the Robinson House after his capture has no foundation in fact.
William S. Pelletreau, A.M.
History of Putnam County (1886)
The history and tradition that cluster
around Mahopac are interesting. Attractive to the Indian and white man ahke,
it has been the theater of many thrilling
scenes in modern as well as olden times.
It was once the pride of Dutchess
County, but since the division, authorized by the Legislature at Albany, Putnam County has boasted of her charms.
In early times it was simply known as " Big Pond,"
but when the Hughson family became prominent, owning
the whole north side of the lake, it took the name of
"Hughson Pond." When Erskine's military map was
published it was named "Mahopac Pond." "Ma-hopac" is an Indian word meaning "Great Lake." "Big
Pond" seemed to be the most popular name and was
used for many years.
The lake was originally bought by Adolph Philipse
from the. Indians. Later this purchase was attacked, but
the Philipse title was declared valid, and Lake Mahopac
with her surrounding country was known as Philipse
Patent. Here is where the story of the gallant Washington
comes in- He met Mary Philipse in New York City.
She invited him to her country estate, which consisted of
about 40,000 acres, and included Lake Mahopac and her
settings. The young Southern gentleman fell in love
with the country and the lady. By marrying one he
could get the other. It would have been a lucky stroke
for Father George. Just about that time the tea was
dumped overboard in Boston Harbor and soon after
Warren fell at Bunker Hill. The young lady was loyal to the throne beyond the sea, while the young man
refused to pay homage to any king save only the King of
kings, and so they parted; each went their way: Washington to fight for the Declaration of Independence and
Mary Philipse to marry Col. Roger Morris, who had
fought side by side with Washington at Braddock's
defeat and afterward was in the battle on the Plains of
Abraham when the two brave generals, Wolfe and Montcalm, fell.
After the Revolutionary War all the land belonging to
the Tories, Roger Morris and his wife, was sold by the
Commissioners of Forfeiture.
Previous to 1834 the lake was scarcely known to the
outside world. In that year Stephen Monk came from
Connecticut, bought an acre of land adjoining the lake
and erected the first boarding house and hotel at Lake
Mahopac. This afterward became the site of the
famous Gregory House. The father of the boarding
house and hotel business at this watering place was
called "Old Bolivar." He was an interesting old character. He never became rich. He did not understand
the fancy prices and long list of extras, but a good, jolly, old
soul was he. I have talked with some old inhabitants
who knew him well. He was one of the leading local
citizens, liberal and generous, a great lover of music and
children. He died when fifty-six years old, leaving a wife
and seven children. He was laid to rest in the Crane
Huldah Gregory bought the Mahopac Hotel that S.
Monk had started together with one acre of land.
Another piece of land joining this and a part cf the
old Peter Mabie farm was previously bought by her from
the administrators of the Daniel Baldwin estate. Both
pieces of property were conveyed by her to her son,
Dr. Lewis H. Gregory, January 26, 1853. This was the
beginning of the famous old Gregory House, which in its
day was equaled by few and excelled by none of its kind
anywhere, and did much to make Lake Mahopac so well
known. From the time that these two estates were consolidated and the Gregory House formally opened until it
was burned to the ground, Dr. Gregory was identified
with the progress and development of the hotel business
at Lake Mahopac. While Mr. Monk was the father of
the industry, it was Dr. Gregory who gave it character
and dignity and elevated it to the high grade which his
successors so wisely maintain to-day.
The Gregory House in fashion and splendor rivaled
anything that can be found at Newport or Saratoga. It
was burned to the ground October 2, 1878.
The "Mansion House," built from an old dwelling
house, was burned January 18, 1857. It stood opposite
the Mahopac Hotel.
In 1853 Reuben C. Baldwin built the famous "Baldwin
House" and ran it successfully for ten years. In 1869
it burned and was not rebuilt. The carriage house and
barn are still standing and presumably some one is living
there, for on the outside of the back door over the casement are these words—B-A-R.
Jn 1858, John W. Carpenter came to Mahopac and
built what is known as the Carpenter House. This is a
good summer house and has some fine trees about it.
It is now run by Walter Carpenter.
The old Lake House stood where the Catholic church
now stands. It was bought by the Cole family and bore
theirname until recently, when it was burned to the ground.
Previous to 1849 ^^e natural highway to the lake was
from Peekskill. After the Harlem Railroad was built to
Croton Falls it was from that point. By a special act of
legislature commissioners were appointed to straighten
and improve the highway that ran between Croton Falls
and Lake Mahopac. Over this highway great coaches
from the different hotels at the lake traveled to meet the
Harlem trains. These coaches were drawn by four, six,
eight and even ten horses. Back over the hills and
through the dales they raced. Some of the old inhabitants
tell of the spectacular scene often witnessed when the
Gregory House coach, drawn by ten white horses, endeavored to pass the Baldwin House coach, drawn by
eight black horses. As they reached the far end of that
level stretch just beyond the site of the new town the
real race began. It was the home stretch and the natives
came for rriiles every evening to see it. Side by side they
raced for half a mile, the black team and the white; first
one and then the other ahead, much to the delight of the
passengers. Perhaps Lew Wallace took one of these
flighty rides and thus caught his inspiration for the
chariot race in " Ben-Hur."
In the spring of 1871 a movement was set on foot to
extend the New York City and Northern Railroad to
Carmel. This was brought about by the influential
members of the Lake Mahopac Improvement Company.
The directors of the Harlem Road, at that time a competitive company (and we all wish it were now), hurriedly
called a meeting and planned to build a road from Golden's
Bridge to Lake Mahopac. Articles of incorporation were
speedily executed and the work of construction began at
once. The first train run from New York to Mahopac
was on July 4, 1871. A great celebration was held;
Mahopac was in all of her glory.
The formation of the land companies of Mahopac,
their wild speculations, brief life and death are treated
At the north end of the lake are two old homesteads. Around them some fine old trees are clustering.
About them there is an air of quiet dignity and reserve.
Their beautiful green lawns reach all the way down to
the waters of the lake. One, "Graymanse," is owned by
Mr. Dewitt Smith, of New York City; the other, "Longmead," is owned by Mrs. Nathan K. Averill, also of New
York City. Both of these estates are a part of the old
farm of RobertjHughson, who bought it directly from the
Commissioners of Forfeiture. Up to a comparatively
recent date this old Hughson farm retained the simplicity
of other days. It was sold by the heirs of Hughson to
Stephen Dingee. Benjamin Ballard bought it from
Dingee. Selah Ballard bought it from his brother's heirs
and sold it to Lewis R. Griffin, and he sold 24 acres
of the original tract to William Tilden, who erected a
magnificent stone mansion, the most handsome structure
of its day, not only at Lake Mahopac, but in all Putnam
County. In December, 1900, Mr. Smith bought this
property and at once began very extensive improvements
on it. He has spent more than ^100,000 in this work.
He built the most substantial and artistic boat-house at
the lake, laid out a beautiful Italian garden, with a well
in its center. Flowers, trees, riprap wall, beautiful lawns
and winding walks make one think of those old Roman
estates on the shores of Southern Italy.
The old Griffin farm was bought by Isabel Saportas,
July I, 1863. She built a home for herself on it along the
shore, which she occupied for some time. This house is
situated just west of the outlet that flows from Wixsom's
Pond and now joins the property of Mr. Dewitt Smith.
Some time later Mr. Peter B. Sweeney, of New York City,
bought this place and paid ^^47,000 for it. The handsome
trees that grace its lawns, the big broad walks that reach
from the house to shore, the unique fence that encloses
it, the grading and many other similar improvements
were done by Mr. Sweeney. The landscape artist who
planned this work was General Viele, who laid out Central
Park, New York City. The site of the old homestead
is one of the finest at the lake. Both sides of the group
of islands can be seen from its lawns. The old Griffin
family graveyard is just across the road to the north of
Another historic site is the "Kaufman Place" at the
other end of the lake and just south of the Carpenter
House. This is situated on the old Drake farm, and in
Itself was originally a tract of 99 acres. At one time it was
sold by Henry S. Baldwin to Samuel Kaufman, who
spent more than ^150,000 in improvements. Later Mr.
Lowerre, of Yonkers, N. Y., bought the property and
has spent much time and money in beautifying the place.
It possesses an air of dignity and character as it stands
up among tall, stately trees, and adds much to the charm
and beauty round about that portion of the lake shore.
Over the railroad is what is recently known as the
Card property. Mr. Lowerre has bought this fine site and
purposes to erect a villa of summer cottages thereon. It
is truly a magnificent view from the lifted heights of this
villa site, whether it is to the north over the lake and
islands, or to the west, east and south over the rolling
sylvan stretches. Many people sojourn this way looking
for summer homes; finding none, they go elsewhere.
When this plan is realized it will in part supply this demand. There are some large trees and shady groves
gracing the sloping sides of this site as well as other
natural beauties which, when properly used by the landscape artist, will beautify and adorn the proposed little
To the southwest of this site and overlooking the lake
is what is known as the Mt. Hope Cottage. The owner
of this place, F. C. Bivens, lives here. It is of historic
interest. Originally it was a part of the Peter Mabie
farm, and then came into the hands of Mr. Baldwin.
When he sold his property to Mr. Kaufman he reserved
30 acres on the very crown of the hills and built this
present house, expending more than ;^20,ooo in its erection. The old gentleman lived here many years. Later
this property came into the hands of Mrs. F. C. Bivens, the
only surviving member of the old Baldwin family at Lake
Mahopac. There is a curious spring up here throwing
up about loo gallons of pure water per hour. It has done
this for forty years. And still another curio found up
here is a gold, feldspar and quartz mine. It is called the
Crow Hill Mine, and was discovered by Mr. F. C. Bivens
in 1902, who opened the mine and worked it to some
extent, shipping the feldspar to Trenton, N. J., and the
quartz to Still River, Conn., leaving the elusive gold
hidden away in her earthen pots that some adventurous
spirit might sojourn here and buy the whole hillside in
order to get the goose with the golden egg. Ricketts &
Banks, chemist assayers, have given certificates of analysis
for these minerals that have been mined. Gold has been
found in large quantities on the Pacific Coast, but Crow
Hill Mine stands alone along the Atlantic shore as
possessing the precious jewel. There are many fine
places at Lake Mahopac, and some not so fine. It is
impossible to mention all of them. Miss Hoguet, an old
resident of the lake, has a fine cottage setting upon the
crest of some half civilized rocks along the shore. The
Senior homestead is one of the oldest places around the
lake as well as one of the highest. There is a very pretty
little reach of shore line with some homelike cottages
among the trees on the south end of the lake, called
"Virginia Row," because the people who live here all
came from that fine old Southern State that gave us our
Presidents in the early history of the Nation. The Deusenbury cottage is one of the fine homes "just beyond the
turn in the road." At the other end of the lake there are
some old estates, among which is the Welspiel estate,
that came from the Reuben D. Baldwin property. It has
a beautiful water front 750 feet in length and contains
about 13 acres. Some fine trees and rocks make this
property very desirable for those who love rustic things.
When everything has been said, the history of Lake
Mahopac, from the time when the Indian used to push
his log-hollowed canoe out on its waters until now, when
the steam and motor launches churn its waters, is interesting and charming to the extreme. Big real estate
movements, wild dreams, the ebb and flow of its popularity as a summer place all go to make the place worthy
of mention along the side of other famous resorts. The
personnel of the men who have journeyed here, lived here
and then gone elsewhere adds to the interest. Always
romantic and sentimental, yet there are substantial possibilities at the place which if rightly used and developed
would make Lake Mahopac known everywhere as a
fashionable watering place second to none in all the land.
After Mary Philipse married Roger Morris they built a manor house near the outlet of the two lakes, Mahopac and Kirk. The site is near that of the Old Red Mills. The log house has been gone for many years as such. But over it and around it a new house was built. This composite structure stood here until recently, when a fire came one night and reduced the old historic building to ruins.
The oldest inhabitants roundabout here say that the
prisoner, Major Andre, and his guard stopped here one
night when they were returning to West Point after Andre
had been taken at Tarrytown. The history of Putnam
County denies this fact—on what authority it does not
state. The following are the historical data and one can
draw his own conclusions:
Major Andre had been taken from North Castle to
lower Salem. While at the latter place the party received
orders from Washington to take the prisoner to West
Point. There were two roads which led from lower Salem
to West Point. One was known as the "North Road,"
the other as the "South Road." Washington sent special
orders "not to take the South Road," because the British
were pushing rapidly up the river in their efforts to
recapture Andre, "but to take the North Road." This
North Road passes directly by Lake Mahopac and the old
Roger Morris Manor House, and it was the only house
of its kind along that road for miles. The journey from
lower Salem to West Point is two days. This house was
on the way, and since there is a strong tradition about
here to the effect that Andre and his party did stay here
over night, and since the history of Putnam County states
that he did not not stop here without showing any evidence
or argument, the writer beheves that the historical data
is of such a character and of sufficient strength to corroborate the tradition. Therefore, these old ruins among the
trees at Mahopac Falls are interesting because over the
spot where they now lie this young and unfortunate
British officer passed one of the nights shortly before he
was sent into eternity.
Old Red Mills
The site of this mill is at Mahopac Falls where the outlets of Lake Mahopac and
Kirk Lake join. This is doubtless the
same site where " Kirkham Mills" were
located, mentioned when the roads were
laid out in 1745.
Red Mills were built in 1756, about fourteen years after
John Crane built his house at the north end of the lake.
The timbers used in the structure were cedar, and because
of the red and pink colors of this wood they became
known as Red Mills.
They were built jointly by Roger Morris and Beverly
Robinson on that part of the Philip's patent known as
They were sold in 1781 by the Commissioners of
Forfeiture to William Smith. The deed given to Mr.
Smith included the right of the water courses from Kirk
Lake and Lake Mahopac. In the County journal and
Poughkeepsie Advertiser, January 9, 1788, appeared this
notice: "William M. Smith, No. 7 Old Slip, New York,
has for sale exceeding cheap his Capital Mills now let at
^200 per year with several farms near the same in
Fredericksburg Precinct." About ten years later the
property was bought by Robert Johnson, who left it to
his son, William H. Johnson. Subsequently it changed
hands many times and finally was bought, January 2,
1866, by Thomas
J. McArthur for the "Empire Sewing
Machine Company." The plans of this company were
not realized and they sold the mills to the Mahopac
Manufacturing Company, January 10, 1869. Just as this
company was about to send machinery and begin operations, the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of
New York took possession of all water privileges of the
two lakes, and these premises were taken by the city, and
thus the manufacturing company was put out of business.
On June 14, 1881, H. O. Thompson, chief of the Department of Public Works of New York City, offered for sale
at public auction the "superstructure, woodwork and
machinery of the Red Mills," and they were bought by
Lewis Baker for ^27. They were at once torn down,
the great beams and timbers were sawed and hewn and
sold in small pieces as souvenirs to those who remembered
the old Red Mills and loved them because they had
ground the corn and done the work for the sons and
daughters of these parts for three generations.
Nature Studies and Historic Sketches
Rev. Ulysses Grant Warren