Our History Blog


The Dead Mayors Streets

By Robert Murphy
March 29, 2017

Category: Articles

The origin of Beacon's street names sometimes leads the researcher down dusty, long forgotten paths of local history. Take, for example, Beacon's Dead Mayors Streets ...

In March of 1941, the Beacon city council met to remedy the problem of several streets in Beacon with confusing or duplicating names. These street names dated back before 1913--a time when our yet-to-be-born city was comprised of the villages of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing. In 1941, there still were streets with left over names from that bygone era that now need... Continue reading

Tags: The Dead Mayors

March is Women's History Month: Phebe Doughty, MD.

By Robert Murphy
March 22, 2017

Category: Articles

Phebe Van Vlack Doughty (1873-1967), born and raised in Matteawan (now Beacon), became the first female physician in southern Dutchess County  when she earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1904.  Though medicine ran through the Doughty family's  blood, being a doctor was not Miss Doughty's first choice of a career ...

Major John Henry Doughty, Phebe's father,  had been a surgeon during the Civil War. After the war young Dr. Doughty and his new bride Elizabeth, chose the village of Matteaw... Continue reading

Tags: Miss Doughty and her parents.

"Look Up in the Sky": A Daring Female Aeronaut and Other Stories on High

By Robert Murphy
March 08, 2017

Category: Articles

The study of history need not be earthbound or all about matters of gravity ... our past is full of flighty characters and celestial happenings that have given our ancestors cause to look to the heavens. Beaconites have craned their necks skyward to witness some of the flying, falling and fascinating objects once seen in our skies ...

* One aerial amusement that once entertained our early citizens was when the acrobat came to town. On June 23, 1877, according to the Fishkill Standard newspaper, the acrobat walked across the "Five C... Continue reading

Tags: Dutchess County Fair Advertisement for Louisa Bates and her balloon ascension in 1891
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The Blizzard of 1888: A Reminiscence by Weldon Weston in 1920

By Robert Murphy
March 03, 2017

Category: Articles

Weldon Weston, along with his brother Wilbur, ran a stage line in Fishkill Landing-Matteawan (now Beacon) from the 1870s until the electric streetcars came to the twin villages in 1892. The brothers, originally from New Hampshire, later became the prime movers and investors in what was to be Beacon's greatest enterprise--the Mount Beacon Incline Railway. In February of 1920, after a particularly bad snowstorm in which Beacon streets were nearly impassable, Weston wrote the following recollection for the Beacon Daily Herald newspaper... Continue reading

Eyewitness Account of Passenger Pigeons Here: Philip Hone's Diary for 1835

By Robert Murphy
February 27, 2017

Category: Articles

"The air was filled with them; their undulation was like the long waves of the ocean in a calm, and the fluttering of their wings made a noise like the crackling of fire among dry leaves."

... So wrote Philip Hone in his dIary entry for November 4, 1835, after viewing a sight no one shall ever see again--the massive flights of wild passenger pigeons that once darkened the skies over Beacon. Hone, a one-term mayor of New York City (1826), and an investor/director of the old Matteawan Company (located about wher... Continue reading

Tags: Engraving of Philip Hone and Shooting Passenger Pigeons

"A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson"--a poem written in Beacon in 1827 by William Cullen Bryant.

By Robert Murphy
February 22, 2017

Category: Articles

Ages ago as a student in Beacon High School, I  had to read the poem "Thanatopsis" by poet William Cullen Bryant. How much more palatable that homework assignment would have been for my English class had we known that Bryant, a recognized giant in nineteenth-century American literature, once walked the streets of Beacon and even had written one of his poems here in Fishkill Landing!

Bryant (1794-1878) was a frequent sojourner in our community, spending several summers in a boarding house here while visiting his wealthy friends... Continue reading

Tags: Poet Bryant as an old man

Famous Authoress at Fishkill Landing Sanitarium

By Robert Murphy
February 13, 2017

Category: Articles

When you think about old sanitariums once in Beacon, Craig House Hospital (1915-2000) comes first to mind. But one local sanitarium for nervous disorders, addictions and mental illness dates back even further, to 1870--the Riverview Sanitarium of Fishkill on Hudson. The sanitarium was located on Ferry Street (the building and the street both long gone, victims of Urban Renewal), and over the years had several doctor-owners, all specializing in psychiatry. One such  doctor, William Scollay Whitwell, brought to the sanitarium perhaps the... Continue reading

Tags: Children's author Frances Hodgson Burnett stayed in Beacon in 1902

"The End of the World!"

By Robert Murphy
February 06, 2017

Category: Articles

Naturalist writer John Burroughs of Catskill had an intriguing passage in his book, "Time and Change" (published in 1912) ... Burroughs wrote: "When I was a small boy at school in the in the early forties [1840s], during the Millerite excitement about the approaching  end of all mundane things, I remember, on the day when the momentous event was expected to take place, how the larger school-girls were thrown into a great state of alarm and agitation by a thundercloud that let down a curtain of rain, blotting out the mountain on the oppo... Continue reading

Tags: The fourth image is a cartoon depicting a Millerite climbing into his "safe" place.

Old Tioronda Hat Factory at 555 South Avenue Destroyed by Fire

By Robert Murphy
February 03, 2017

Category: Articles

One of Beacon's oldest hat factories was all but destroyed by an early morning fire on January 31. The old building dated back to 1879, when Lewis Tompkins, the man who was most responsible for Beacon becoming the hat-manufacturing capital of the state, built the Tioronda Hat Factory as an adjunct factory to his Dutchess Hat Works on Lower Main Street in Fishkill Landing. The old factory on South Avenue remained a hat shop until 1948 (it was then known as the "Merrimac Hat Company"), when the Atlas Fibers Company bought the property and bega... Continue reading

Beacon Artist: Ella Ferris Pell

By Robert Murphy
January 31, 2017

Category: Articles

"She is buried in a pauper's grave at Fishkill Rural Cemetery in New York." ... so reads most of the brief biographical summaries you will find online of the life of artist Ella Ferris Pell. How did such an accomplished painter, sculptor, and illustrator--one of the most written about American female artists of the late nineteenth century--come to such an inglorious end?

Ella Pell (1846-1922) spent most of her last years as a resident of Beacon, seemingly well off, living in her own home on South Avenue, and doing paintings of loca... Continue reading

Tags: Image # 4: Illustration in pastels of the book
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Mount Beacon Hiking Trail: "Howard's Path"

By Robert Murphy
January 27, 2017

Category: Articles

One of the best hiking trails on Mount Beacon is unmarked and little used. It is "Howard's Path"--so named after the cabin owner who created it to get to his mountain retreat in the early 1900s. The trail traverses the west face of the mountain, starting near the ancient radio-aerial towers (to the left of the Powerhouse ruins) and running north along the mountain until it comes out by the Mount Beacon Reservoir. 


Along the trail you will see the ruins of some of the cottages once accessed there by Howard's Path. In t... Continue reading

Tags: Cabins along Howard's Path
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The Icy Hudson: A Tale from the Past

By Robert Murphy
January 25, 2017

Category: Articles

“Even in winter, when the frost has bridged the entire river, Newburgh Bay presents a lively scene almost everyday, for ice-boats and skaters are then in great abundance.” –“The Hudson: From Wilderness to the Sea” by Benjamin Lossing, 1866. [Illustration at right also from Lossing’s book.]

A century and more ago the month of January most often brought about a frozen Hudson River, closed to all north-south river traffic an... Continue reading


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