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Town of Carmel, New York

 by Marilyn Cole Greene
Former Town of Carmel Historian

Settlers began to arrive in this area of Dutchess County about 1739, coming mainly from Massachusetts.  The land, including Carmel, Kent, and Patterson, was part of the Philipse Land Patent, belonging to members of the Philipse family.  Those early settlers who came not owning the land became tenant farmers.  In 1754, the Patent was surveyed and divided between Mary Philipse and her brother Philip.  The eastern section was again surveyed in 1762 and divided into farms of various sizes and leased to the tenants who were on the land at that time.

More settlers moved in and the existing families increased, as did farming and farm-related businesses and services.  By 1775, the population was approximately 6,000 and the area was called Fredericksburgh.

At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Henry Ludington, a farmer and miller living in the northern part of Fredericksburgh, received a commission as a Colonel and mustered the 7th Dutchess County Militia to serve in the cause of freedom.  Men from most of the local families served in this regiment during the war.

Because the Philipses were Tories, after the Revolution they lost all their land in North America.  As a result, tenant farmers on the land were permitted to purchase their farms at the Forfeiture Sales.

In 1778, the year New York State ratified the Constitution, Governor Clinton created the first geographic and political separation of southern Dutchess County into towns.  Frederickstown was born and territorially is now what comprises the towns of Carmel, Kent, and Patterson.  On March 17, 1795, the Town of Carmel was created from Frederickstown, and the first town meeting was in April, 1795.

The year 1812 saw the secession and creation of Putnam County from Dutchess County.  The building of the Putnam County courthouse in the Town of Carmel, the county seat, followed in 1814.  It is one of the oldest courthouses that has been in continuous use in New York State and is still a symbol of Putnam County -- and the Town of Carmel.

Carmel was blessed with three beautiful lakes: Lakes Gleneida and Gilead in the Town of Carmel and in the hamlet of Mahopac, the larger lake of the same name began to be developed in the 1840's as a summer resort.  It became a highly successful "watering place" until the 1940's when more and more people began living in Mahopac year round. The Town of Carmel grew as a business community because it was established as the county seat. It also was the center of commerce.

Two early industries in the area were milling and mining.  The most famous mill was the Red Mill located in the area called Red Mills, now Mahopac Falls.  It was a grist mill and later became the first carding mill in the area.  Grain was milled here for the Revolutionary forces.  The mining of iron ore was a flourishing business in Mahopac during the 19th Century.

The first railroad opened in Mahopac on July 4, 1871. The coming of the railroad aided the resort industry by providing a short two-hour ride from New York City.  A few years later saw the first train from Carmel.  The trains not only provided transportation but allowed the dairy farmers to get their milk to markets much quicker.  The 1950's saw the end of the railroads in Carmel and the beginning of access highways.

Churches have played an important part in Carmel's development too.  The first congregations were Presbyterian and Baptist in Carmel and Mahopac Falls. The town has a variety of churches, many of them beautiful old structures; others are contemporary in design.

Early education was established by the creation of schools throughout the town in the early 1800's.  The one-room schoolhouse was replaced by Central School Districts.  Today two major school systems serve the area: Mahopac Central School District and Carmel Central School District.  The schools are among the largest employers in the town.

Although Carmel became the seat of Putnam County government, the Town of Carmel government is located in Mahopac.  The first Town Hall on McAlpin Avenue served the people until the 1970's.  It is now the Historical Center for the Carmel Historical Society.  The new town hall, also located on McAlpin Avenue, has been in use about 25 years.

Carmel continues to grow and is the most populous of the six towns of Putnam County.  Activities center around churches, schools, and organizations such as Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and Garden Clubs.  Despite its rapid and continued growth, in many ways, Carmel has retained its small-town atmosphere.