Putnam County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 99,710. The county seat is Carmel. Putnam County formed in 1812 from Dutchess County and is named for Israel Putnam, a hero in the French and Indian War and a general in the American Revolutionary War.
Putnam County is included in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is located in the lower Hudson River Valley. Times Square is around a one hour drive and Grand Central Terminal is approximately 1 hour, 20 minute train ride from Putnam County. Putnam County is increasingly considered part of Downstate New York as the New York Metropolitan Area continually increases size.
It is one of the most affluent counties in America, ranked 7th by median household income, and 47th by per-capita income, according to the 2012 American Community Survey and 2000 United States Census, respectively.
In 1609, a Native American people called the Wappinger inhabited the east bank of the Hudson River. They farmed, hunted, and fished throughout their range, often encountering Dutch traders, from whom they obtained goods such as alcohol and firearms.
The colonial Province of New York and the Connecticut Colony negotiated an agreement on November 28, 1683, establishing their border as east of the Hudson River, north to Massachusetts. Dutchess county was then established as one of New York's twelve counties. It included all of today's Putnam County and two towns in the present Columbia county. Until 1713, Dutchess was administered by Ulster county.
In 1691, a group of Dutch traders purchased a tract of land from the Wappingers spanning from Hudson to the Connecticut border. Six years later they sold it to wealthy Dutch-American merchant Adolphus Philipse, who then obtained a Royal sanction for a "Highland Patent" (later to be known as the Philipse Patent) that encompassed most of today's Putnam County. Unknown at that time was a veer in the river's path to the northwest at the Hudson Highlands, resulting in a dispute over a roughly 2 mile wide section of border between northern Westchester and then-Dutchess counties and the Connecticut Colonly that came to be known as "The Oblong".
In 1737, the New York Colonial Assembly designated the Philipse Patent as the South Precinct of Dutchess County, and the Philipses began leasing farms to immigrants from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Long Island and lower Westchester. After Adolph Philipse's death, the Patent was divided in 1754 into nine lots granted to three heirs: Mary Philipse, Philip Philipse, and Susannah Philipse Robinson. During the French and Indian War, many of the Wappingers went to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Putnam was slow to be settled compared to other parts of the Hudson Valley, for two reasons. Firstly, it was privately owned and settlement was limited to tenent farmers willing to pay a portion of their earnings to Phillipse. Secondly, it was mostly hilly and rocky and unattractive to farmers looking for tillable cropland, and therefore was limited to dairy farming and wood cutting. The first non-tenent settlers in the county were along its eastern edge, due to an ambiguous border with Connecticut, which attracted farmers from New England, who presumed that the disputed area was not owned by Phillipse.
An early settler was the Hayt family, which built a farm called The Elm in 1720. Jacob Haviland settled in the Oblong in 1731 in what became known as Haviland Hollow. The first village in the county was Fredericksburg, now the hamlet of Patterson.
During the Revolution, the Philipses stayed loyal to the Crown and were stripped of their lands. The Philipse Patent was sold along with the rest of their holdings. The dispute over The Oblong was resolved in the aftermath of the war, with the heavily settled tract being incorporated as the first of two versions of the Town of Southeast. Also resolved was "The Gore", a lowland area near Fishkill Creek above the Hudson Highlands along the northern border of the Phillipse patent. Being geographically similar to the Livingston and Beekman patents it abutted, The Gore was ceded to Dutchess county.
Due to the increasing population of the Southern Precinct of Dutchess County and the great distance of its communities from its county seat, Poughkeepsie, Putnam was split from Dutchess in 1812 and created its own county. Putnam was also able to function as a separate county because of the easy transportation provided by the Hudson River. Boats transporting goods traveled up the Hudson to ports, mainly at Peekskill, where it was brought out Peekskill Hollow Rd. into Putnam County, or goods were unloaded in Putnam County itself at Cold Spring. Problems arose when the river froze in the winter, which resulted in little food or goods being brought to the county. The Philipstown Turnpike was created in 1815 as a toll road from Cold Spring to Connecticut. The wagons that traveled the road would transport produce from eastern Putnam County and iron ore from the mines. The route of the turnpike can roughly be traced today: Rt 301 from Cold Spring to Farmers Mills Road, to White Pond Road to Pecksville, then Holmes Rd to Patterson, then Quaker Hill Rd to Connecticut. Transportation improved again with the advent of the railroad, namely the Harlem Line, which was built in the 1840s, connecting Putnam by rail to New York City. There were originally four stations on the Harlem line in Putnam County: Brewster, Dykemans, Towners, and Patterson. Today only the Brewster and Patterson stops remain, with a new one added in modern times called Southeast.
Putnam County played an important role in the Civil War. One third of the county's men between the ages of 15 and 55 served in the military at the time of the war. During the post-Civil War years, industry and agriculture suffered losses. Iron, which was produced in the Highland Mountains, could be found elsewhere. Agriculture was also affected greatly. The increasing need for drinking water in New York City led the city to search the Hudson Valley for water. In Putnam County, much of the farmland were flooded to create reservoirs. The abandoning of farms, the creation of reservoirs, and the preservation of the remaining open land resulted in scenic lands that drew large amounts of tourism from New York City.
By the 20th century, improved roads brought vacationers from New York City, which led to creation of the Taconic State Parkway during the Great Depression. This brought more vacationers, which were attracted to the scenic land and the inexpensive hotels, inns, and summer houses. Putnam County's population doubled during the summer months.
After World War II, Putnam County became an exurb of New York City. Rapid development occurred as Putnam County evolved into a bedroom community. However, the protection of Putnam county's reservoirs inherently limited development, as much of the land in the county is close to wetlands or reservoirs. Since World War II, the county has seen the development of the Taconic State Parkway as well as several state routes.