Putnam County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York, in the lower Hudson River Valley. Putnam County formed in 1812, when it detached from Dutchess County. As of the 2010 census, the population was 99,710. It is part of the New York City Metropolitan Area. The county seat is the hamlet of Carmel. Putnam County was named in honor of Israel Putnam, a hero in the French and Indian War and a general in the American Revolutionary War. 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.
When New York Colony established its twelve counties in 1683, the present Putnam County was part of Dutchess County. Dutchess County also included two towns in the present Columbia County. Until 1713, Dutchess County was administered by Ulster County.
In 1609, a group of Native Americans called the Wappingers inhabited the east bank of the Hudson River. They cultivated, hunted, and fished for shellfish in the rich land of the Hudson Valley. They often encountered Dutch traders, from whom they obtained goods such as alcohol and firearms.
In 1691, a group of Dutch traders purchased an area of land that is now known as Putnam County from the Wappingers. Six years later the traders sold it to wealthy Dutch-American merchant Adolph Philipse, who then obtained a royal patent for land extending all the way from the Hudson to the Connecticut border—an area to be known as the Philipse Patent.
In 1737, the 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. The problem with the Connecticut border is that the colony of New York claimed roughly 20 miles east of the Hudson River, but the river veers slightly to the west in the Highlands. Thus, the eastern roughly 2 miles of the county (and parts of Dutchess and Westchester counties) were in "The Oblong", the narrow band thought by some to be in Connecticut.
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. The border dispute was solved after the Revolution, and the heavily settled oblong was incorporated as the first of two versions of the Town of Southeast, named thus as it was the southeasternmost town in Dutchess County.
Another early part of the county to be settled was "The Gore", which was the ambiguous northern border of the Phillipse patent, between it and the Livingston and Beekman patents now in Dutchess County. Thus, the settlement known as Ludingtonville came about without the consent of the Phillipse family.
Due to the increasing population of Dutchess County and the great distance from its county seat, Poughkeepsie, Putnam detached 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 became 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. The county has also seen three county executives; David D. Bruen 1979-1986, Peter C. Alexanderson, 1987–1990 and Robert J. Bondi, 1991–present.