Thursday, June 22, 2017

CROTON DISCOVERED, A LOOK BACK WITH THE LATE ELISE SASSO

Welcome to Everything Croton, a collection of all things Croton--our history, our homes, our issues, our businesses, our schools--in short, EVERYTHING CROTON.

While cleaning out some old files, I came across this article written by the late Elise Sasso for the now defunct village community forums at North County News. It was part of her CROTON DISCOVERED series. For those who don’t know, Elise was a life-long Croton resident and sister of the late village historian Joyce Finnerty. She also loved writing about the village and was a dear friend who is still very much missed. 

CROTON DISCOVERED - Life along the Croton River by Elise Sasso May 2008

Before the first Croton Dam the valley supported many farms, one of the names we still see today is Tompkins. If you travel east on Rt. 129 you will see Tompkins Garage on the left. John Tompkins purchased land from Pierre Van Cortlandt; by 1820 the Tompkins family owned more than 1,500 acres. The abandonment of the farm concluded a chapter in river history dating back to 1751.

Construction of the first Croton Aqueduct and Croton Dam got started in 1837. Westchester was made up of farms in little villages of four or five hundred people each. Farms that had been in the same family for generations were not given over without a fight. Some refused to leave the land and continued to farm while work started on the project. In 1838 New York City was given the right by the State to make settlements and take Westchester lands and erect fences to protect workers from being injured by straying cattle or embattled farmers.

The Croton begins by flowing out of White Pond near the Connecticut border, the river meandered through today’s North Salem, Bedford, Somers, Yorktown, Cortlandt and New Castle then on out to the Hudson. The Croton River was more than a dividing line in the Revolutionary war; it was an active route of commerce, serving mills and farms well inland from the Hudson. The waters were filled with native species of fish and could be counted on to run year-round. The Croton River, however had a history of rapidly changing from a bucolic trade route into a raging tempest, whether from rain or rapid snowmelt, the river periodically destroyed everything in its path.

In January 1841, a massive storm dumped 18 inches of snow followed by three days worth of rain locally. In one of the Croton River’s many tempestuous episodes, it rose 15 feet above the spillway and washed most of the dam away. The flood took both lives and livestock. The sediments that were deposited at Teller’s Point closed the river to commercial traffic forever.

Many bridges were built over the Croton, some still stand and others are long gone. There was The Wire Mill Bridge which was a covered bridge that once connected the central Croton Valley with the east side of Hunter’s Brook and northern Yorktown. A picture dated 1905, shows the water just inches below the deck, then eventually collapsing into the rising water. In its place we have Hunter Brook Bridge.

In 1807, New York State created the Croton Turnpike Company, in 1809, a new bridge carried Albany Post Road traffic across the river. That bridge was later rebuilt in 1830 by local Quaker preacher William Purdy, he named it Quaker Bridge but in 1841 that bridge was swept away by the flood and was replaced again in 1847. Finally, a new Quaker Bridge was built in 1894 by the Phoenix Bridge Company of New York in the Pratt truss style. It is one of Westchester’s earliest surviving bridges. 


High Bridge, another wooden covered bridge, was opened in 1842 well above the waters of the Croton River to carry traffic on the Albany Post Road. It was condemned in 1879 and finally collapsed into the river.

Note: I am not an Historian but I love Croton history, these postings should not be used as research I am simply posting information from other peoples research. There are many books written on the building of both the Old and the New Croton Dams and Aqueducts, They can be seen at the Croton Historical Society.

Reference: The Croton Dams and Aqueducts by, Christopher R. Tompkins, The History of the New Croton Dam, by Mary Josephine D’Alvia, Images of America-Croton on Hudson

You can go online through the village website to the Historical Society and see photographs of the building of the New
Croton Dam. http://www.crotononhudson-ny.gov/Public_Documents/CrotonHudsonNY_WebDocs/HistoricalSociety/archives/NCD/NCDindex.html

EDITOR'S NOTE: YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY ELISE SASSO'S "THE MYSTERY OF THE LARKIN PLACE SKELETON"  http://everythingcroton.blogspot.com/2011/08/from-croton-historical-society-archives.html

1 comment:

  1. Wow, it is so easy to take it for granted what our predecessors built. The stories behind our accomplishments should makes me pause in wonder and awe. And boy, that 1841 pre-industrial era storm sounded like it packed quite a wallop!

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