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NYGenWeb
Putnam County, New York
History of Putnam County
Chapter XXV

NYGenWeb

Chapter XXV
Town of Philipstown, Village of Cold Spring


     William D. Garrison, one of the most prominent representatives of the Garrison family, so long identified with the life and growth of Putnam county, and the present well known manager of the "Grand Union Hotel," in New York city, is descended from Gerret Gerretsen, who came to Staten Island in the "Gilded Beaver," in 1660. Of this original settler little is known except that he was an honest and God fearing man. This is clearly shown by a certificate of character, written in the Dutch language, and now in the possession of Mr. Hartman Van Wagenen, South Bergen, N. J., of which the following is a correct translation:

"We Bergomasters, Schehens, and Councillors of city of Wagennin Declare: by these presents, that there appeared before us, Hendrick Glissen and Jordiz Sparers, citizens of this city, at the request of Gerret Gerretsen and Anna Hermansse, his wife. They have testified and certified, as they do by these presents, that they have good knowledge of the above named Gerret Gerretsen and Anna Hermansse, his wife, as to their life and conversation, and that they have always been considered and esteemed as pious and honest people, and that no complaint of any evil or disorderly conduct has ever reached their ears; on the contrary, they have always led quiet, pious and honest lives, as it becomes pious and honest persons. They especially testify that they govern their family well, and bring up their children in the fear of God, and in all modesty and respectability. As the above named persons have resolved to remove and proceed to the New Netherlands in order to find a greater convenience, they give this attestation, grounded on their knowledge of them, having known them intimately, and having been in continual intercourse with them for many years, living in the same neighborhood.
     " In testimony of the truth, we, the Bergomasters of the city have caused the secret seal of the city to be imprinted on this paper.
     "Done at Wagennin 27th November, 1660.
     "By the ordinance of the same,
      (Seal)
               (Signatures)"

     The first member of the family in Putnam county was Henry Garrison, who came to what is now known as "Garrison's" in the year 1786, purchased land there, and engaged as a farmer. He married a daughter of Jacob Nelson, who was also a granddaughter of Jacob Mandeville, the purchaser of a portion of the Beverly Robinson property, famous as the scene of Arnold's treason. Mr. Mandeville is well known throughout Putnam county as the builder of "Red House," now standing, and recognized as one of the historic buildings of the county. Harry Garrison became in time an important character in Putnam and his name is preserved in many of its documents. He was greatly respected by the people among whom he led an exemplary and straightforward life.
     Hon. John Garrison, father of William D. Garrison, and the only son of Harry Garrison who lived to grow up and marry, was also a man of much prominence. He was born at Garrison in 1795, and died there in 1867. He was Judge of Putnam county, and for two terms represented the county in the State Legislature. He also served as surrogate, sheriff and justice of the peace, holding the latter office for forty consecutive years. In 1829, he established the ferry to West Point which eighteen years later, gave his name to the east landing. After the construction of the Hudson River Road, a station was placed here and the name was changed from Garrison Landing to Garrison Station, being again altered upon the establishment of the Post Office to Garrison's, by which it is at present known.
    Mr. Garrison married Miss Martha Dominick, daughter of James W. Dominick, of New York City. He had nine children, of whom William D. was the eighth.
     William D. was born at Highland Home (so named when the house was built in 1819), Garrison's, September 10th, 1838. Till 1853 he attended the district school, which he left at that time to enter the Greenwich Academy, Conn., then under the direction of Mr. Elisha Howe. After finishing his education at Greenwich Mr. Garrison, in February, 1856, journeyed to Chicago, Ill., where he became clerk in a hardware store, remaining thus employed till obliged by the breaking down of his health to return east. In November, 1859, together with his brother, he started a country store at Garrison's, the firm being known as G. F. & W. D. Garrison. The partnership continued till November, 1862, when Mr. Garrison sold his share of the business, purchasing a farm at Plainfield, N. J., upon which he settled, in 1864, after marrying February 10th, 1863, Mrs. Emma Louise Taylor, widow of Joseph J. Taylor.
     In the spring of 1866, he returned again to his birthplace, and in connection with his brother, opened the "Highland House," one of the best known summer resorts on the Hudson, the firm being as before, G. F. & W. D. Garrison. Under the efficient management of these brothers, the hotel reached a degree of success and popularity hitherto unthought of and they soon attained a reputation as hotel managers, which finally resulted in the calling of Mr. William D. Garrison, in 1873, to the management of the then struggling Grand Union Hotel, in New York city. The following, with slight alteration, is from a New York journal, issued in 1880. Speaking in relation to the Grand Union Hotel, it says:

"The hotel had been opened, a few years previously — to Mr. Garrison's comming — but had not prospered, and the owner was at a loss to know what to do. From the commencement of Mr. Garrison's administration at the Grand Union, the hotel seemed to take new lease of life and prosperity, and the fact that it is to day one of the most popular and successful hotels in the United States is wholly due to his untiring efforts and superior executive ability. In some respects, to quote from a recent article in an exchange, Mr. Garrison is a remarkable man.
      "Aside from all the duties of his position, he is one of the officers of the Hotel Association, of New York, of which he was the organizer; a member of the Seventh Regiment Veteran Corps; a mason in very high standing; and is connected with a number of mutual benefit organizations, prominent among which are the Hotel Men's Mutual Benefit Association of the United States, of which he is now president; U.S. Benevolent Fraternity, of which he is also president of a council; Ancient Order of United Workmen; Knights of Honor; Horticultural Society of New York City; and the American Institute also of New York. He is a member of the following Masonic lodges: Kane Lodge, No. 454, F. & A. M.; Jerusalem Chapter, No. 8, R. A. M.; Adelphic Council, No. 7, R. & S. M.; Coeur de Lion Commandery, No. 23, K. T.; Lodge of Perfection, council; Princes Jerusalem; Chapter Rose Croix; Consistory of New York City, and the Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States of the 33d and last degree. Noted for promptness, he never missed a meeting, lodge, or session, and at the same time is ubiquitous at the Grand Union, keeps everything up to the highest notch of discipline and order, allowing nothing to escape him, and yet ever seemingly at leisure to pause, shake hands and say a few pleasant words.
     "Mr. Garrison, besides being a successful hotel man, is an inventor and takes a deep interest in all matters and things scientific. His method for testing wines and liquors, milk, oils and other things largely used by hotels are original and have met with approval of the most eminent scientists of the day. Mr. Garrison is well informed on all political, local and social questions of the period and employs his leisure hours in reading and study."

     He is yet in possession of his beautiful residence at Garrison's, and is still a member of St. Philips Church in the Highlands there, in the Sabbath School of which he served for many year as superintendent. Harry Garrison was vestryman and warden of this church as was his son, John Garrison. William D., the subject of this sketch, held the same office for many years. There are buried in the churchyard of this church five generations of the Garrison family.
     Like his ancestors in Putnam county, he has done much for its welfare, and has, as the generations did that preceeded him, kept the name which he bears free from stain, and an honor in the community.


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