TOWN OF SOUTHEAST
PUTNAM COUNTY, NY
Most of Dutchess and later Putnam County were part of the Philips patent, except
for the eastern portion of Putnam County was the southern part of a strip of
land known as the Oblong 1.75 miles and 20 rods wide adjoining Connecticut.
Here were the Wappinger Indians, a division of the Mohicans. Among them Chief Ninham.
1731 -- the Treaty of Dover provided a temporary settlement of the border in New York State's favor, giving the eastern strip of land known as the Oblong to that state.
1788 -- town of Southeast, Dutchess County, incorporated; within is the Village of Brewster
1812 -- Putnam became a separate county from Dutchess County. It is only 13.6 miles long measured along the Taconic State Parkway.
1860-1933 -- Lobdell's general store on Main Street, Brewster. (It also contained the first Brewster post office.)
1863 -- Alexander F. Lobdell appointed first postmaster of Brewster.
1875 -- the first National Bank, Brewster, founded. Its first president was John Gail Borden, the son of Gail Borden (of condensed milk fame).
1880 -- first Brewster firehouse built on North Main Street.
1882 -- the old town hall burned. The Southeast Town Hall replaced it.
1885-1886 -- new building built for the National Bank, Brewster.
1892 --- Seth B. Howes built an even bigger estate, away from the Sodom Reservoir, on Turkhill Road. The estate was called Morningthorpe.
late 1800s -- the New England House Hotel, located on North Main Street, Brewster, was only one of many hotels in Brewster.
1906 -- construction of Diverting Reservoir.
1934 -- big snow blizzard.
1934 photograph -- of Bob's Diner.
1941 -- a new Brewster firehouse built north of the crossing of Route 6 with the railroad tracks on Railroad Avenue.
1948 -- Brewster celebrated its centennial.
1950s -- the popular Bob's Diner razed. Another diner was built in the same general location.
1980 -- new Brewster High School built.
Southeast, Home of the Circus
Until 1843 nearly all of the menageries and circuses in America were based in Southeast.
The Howes were a prominent circus family in the 1830s. They ran the Howes and Company's Great American Circus.
Nathan Howes (1796-1878) began his circus career at 15 becoming an assistant to a tight rope walker. In 1826 he organized a circus of 13 men and boys. Seth Howes (1813-1901) was a brother of Nathan and was also very active in the circus business.
In 1848 Nathan Howes partnered with P. T. Barnum's Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie.
In Brewster is the home of Seth B. Howes, on Turk Hill Road.
1881 -- the wooden St. Andrews Church on Prospect Avenue built.
1896 photograph -- of circus equestrienne Lilly Deacon Forepaugh of the Adam Forepaugh Circus with her prizewinning horse at Stonehenge, Southeast. (She was married to Adam Forepaugh, Jr., the star animal trainer.) Later she worked for circus proprietor Seth B. Howes.
1901 -- Howes funded the building of a new St. Andrews Church.
1912 -- Lilly Deacon Forepaught donated a water trough to Brewster for its animals. (She was well-known for giving a penny to any child who had done a good deed for an animal.)
During World War I (1914-1918) -- the Forepaugh trough was removed for scrap iron.
1848 -- Walter Brewster, a local architect and builder, purchased 134 acres and constructed passenger and freight depots thus insuring the train would stop on his property. It became known as Brewster's Station. Brewster constructed over 50 homes and businesses and mapped out Main Street for the stagecoaches to nearby Danbury, CT.
1849 -- the Harlem Railroad came to Brewster.
1880 photograph -- shows the crew of No. 5 Brooks model steam engine on
a turntable in Brewster. There was a fleet of seven such engines serving
the New York City and Northern Railroad (Putnam Division).
1881 -- the Putnam Line arrived. The Putnam Line was the fastest route between New York and Boston.
1890s photograph -- shows the Brewster to Danbury, Connecticut and New
England branch of the New Haven Division Railroad.
1894 -- Brewster incorporated as a separate municipality.
1931 -- the Brewster Village Train Station redesigned by Oscar Merritt, architect for the New York Central Railroad.
Tillingham Foster bought a farm on the road to Carmel in 1830. His widow sold the farm in 1844.
The Tilly Foster mine began in 1853. It was on the northeast side of the upper part of the Middle Branch Reservoir. (From downtown Brewster, take Rt. 6 heading west and turn left onto Tilly Foster Road. Then turn left at Old Mine Road. Then follow Mine Lane left and on the left off the road is a huge opening in the ground that is filled with water. You cannot visit the place because it is on private property. You can see the remains of a mount for one of the derricks still standing.)
1864 -- the Tilly Foster Iron Mines takes over.
1879 -- peak of the mine; 300 workers and yielding 7,000 tons of iron ore per month.
It was purchased by Harvey Iron and Steel Company. In 1898 General Thomas Harvey bought the Tilly Foster mine site along with three others.
Another mine nearby was the Croton Magnetic Iron Mine. It was southwest of Brewster, originally on the Theall and McCollum farms. The mine was worked from 1851 to the turn of the century.
1895 -- an avalanche killed 13 workers at the Tilly Foster Mine.
1897 -- The Tilly Foster mine closed after a disastrous collapse.
Tilly Fosters' rocks were full of cracks and fissures. Water percolated through them, carrying dissolved minerals. The result was that many different crystals were formed.
1930 -- St. Paul's Episcopal Chapel, which served the Tilly
Foster Mine workers, finally closed. It was consumed by fire in the
same year. (The church was located on the corner of old Route 6 and
In 1935 John N. Trainer of New York City and "Allview" Brewster started collecting the minerals. Some of the minerals include serpentine and muscovite. And of course there was a lot of magnetite.
300 mining families were living in the settlement of Tilly Foster.
1897 -- the mine filled with water from a spring.
New York City and Its Water Supply
The town of Southeast changed a lot over time when NYC wanted to increase it supplies of fresh water. In 1860 and lasting to 1910 NYC acquired water rights in Putnam County. Fountain and dam at Sodom Dam, Brewster.
At the turn of the Twentieth century the Croton Reservoir System was constructed. Eleven dams and reservoirs were build from 1870 to 1910. Four are located in Southeast.
Gail Borden (1801-1874) signed the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence.
In 1853 he invented a process for condensing milk. He built his first factory at Wassaic, Dutchess County.
1863 -- he opened a condensed milk factory in Brewster along the Croton River, the second such factory to be opened. It was at the juncture of Routes 6 and 22. It was called the New York Condensed Milk Factory and 200 dairy farmers supplied 20,000 gallons of milk to the factory each day.
Borden closes in the 1920s.
1935 -- there was a devastating fire.
Exhibit at the Southeast Museum. 67 Main Street, Brewster, NY, 10509; www.southeastmuseum.org
pamphlet "A Brief History of the Town of Southeast and the Village of Brewster" by the Southeast Museum.
Guy Cheli. 2004. Images of America: Putnam County. Arcadia: Charleston, South Carolina.