Putnam’s Women of World War II – WACS and WAVES

Putnam’s Women of World War II – WACS and WAVES

During these final days of Women’s History Month, the Putnam County Historian’s Office and the Putnam Veterans’ Museum is proud to build on the role of women in the military and remember some late, great female heroes.

Over the years, the Historian’s Office has had the privilege of honoring former Mahopac resident Corp. Gertrude Cassetta (nee Pearson), who trained at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and served in World War II as a cryptographer in the Signal Corps of the Army Air Corps as a WAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps) in England and France.  In a 1994 article in the Courier Trader, Cassetta remembered June 6, 1944, a.k.a. D-Day, “It was a bright sunny day in England.  I awakened to hear the thunderous noise of planes.  The sky was literally darkened with planes going to France.” This was just one of her many memories of serving in Europe during the war. Cassetta gave Putnam County an ever-lasting gift through an oral history that is now housed in the Historian’s Collection (HC802, A16).

The Putnam Veterans’ Museum Photo Archive at the Putnam County Historian’s Office houses an entire photo album of Brewster’s own Rosemary Lally’s experiences with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.  She trained at the U.S. Naval Training School, Women’s Reserve at Hunter College, in the Bronx, N.Y. and served 1 ½ years in Washington, D.C., and achieved rank of Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd class.

Lastly, Dolores Beal Stephens penned a wonderful book in 2003 entitled Those Who Served, Those Who Waited, WWII Experiences as told by the Veterans and Civilians of Brewster/Southeast, NY, (included in the Research Library of the Putnam County Historian’s Office) where she paid tribute to many local WWII veterans including her own sister Joan Ross Beal Peckham, of Brewster, who was likely influenced by their father William Ross Beal who served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and returned to serve as a Captain in the U.S. Army during World War II.  Joan joined the U.S. Naval Reserve (WAVES) and was trained at the Great Lakes Naval Base, served at St. Alban’s Naval Hospital on Long Island, and then at Alameda Naval Hospital in California as a Corpsman. Involved in nursing work, Joan was responsible for taking care of badly burned and maimed sailors.  One of her patients was John “Butch” Santorelli of Brewster, N.Y., whose tank landing ship was struck by a torpedo at Normandy in June 1944.

During Women’s History Month, it is a particular honor to remember these women and their service.

Image captions:

  • U.S. Navy’s John “Butch” Santorelli and Joan Ross Beal, WAVES, of Brewster, N.Y.
  • June 2, 1994 Putnam Courier-Trader article on Gertrude Cassetta
  • WAVES’ song book from the Rosemary Lally Collection of the Putnam Veterans’ Museum
  • WAVES Parade at the U.S. Naval Training School, Women’s Reserve at Hunter College, in the Bronx, N.Y. from the Rosemary Lally Collection of the Putnam Veterans’ Museum
  • WAVES in service in Washington, D.C., from the Rosemary Lally Collection of the Putnam Veterans’ Museum


Harlem New York City’s own Country Haven: Memories of Snowdale Farm

Years before Victor Hugo Green first issued The Green book as a travel guide for African-Americans, Augustus and Mary Moran ran advertisements in The New York Age to invite travelers to vacation at Snowdale Farm in Towners, NY. It offered “all the conveniences of city life, yet having all the pleasures of a mountain resort…” They catered exclusively to African-Americans.
Located off “Dykemans Road” (CR 62), the Morans hosted many city-dwellers from Harlem, lower Westchester and from as far away as Houston, Texas for overnights, long weekends and conferences. They operated year-round and offered farm-to-table meals, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing among other outdoor sports. Eventually the Morans installed a swimming pool and tennis courts and hosted large Decoration Day and 4th of July gatherings with fireworks.

Snowdale advertising as it appeared in The New York Age, July 27, 1929

During the 1920s, Snowdale Farm was among a number of Putnam County hotels offering recreational tourism. The Morans advertised only in metropolitan newspapers and boasted that Snowdale was easily reached by the State Highway from New York City and New York Central trains that ran directly to Brewster.

Augustus, known as A.J., and his wife Mary were both of African-American lineage and came to Putnam County around 1918 and raised their family at the farm. They suffered hardship in 1924 when their 9-year-old son Elbridge, was kicked in the head by a horse. He died a few days later and The Brewster Standard reported that his Big Elm District school mates served as pallbearers. The Morans other children, Robert and Sue, grew up at Snowdale and the farm remained in the family for another generation.

The Moran’s hosted many notable guests and oftentimes their visits would be published in the society pages of The Age. Some interesting guests include:

  • Dr. E. R. Alexander, a prominent medical specialist at Harlem Hospital who also served on the Medical Committee of the NAACP; he was the only African-American in his graduating class at the University of Vermont School of Medicine and was eventually elected to the New York Academy of Medicine
  • Members of the Entre Nous Bridge Club of White Plains
  • Mrs. Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders, General Secretary and legendary fundraiser, along with committee members of 137th Street YWCA, New York’s first black YWCA branch

    Above: Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders The New York Age, 1/27/1923

  • Rev. William Lloyd Imes, then leader of St. James Presbyterian Church and pioneer in race relations
  • Stafford Neilson, an immigrant chauffeur who became one of the first black officials of the Harlem Unit of the Taxicab System running green and silver model K Checker cabs
  • Rev. & Mrs. Adam Clayton Powell and family; the Reverend was the founder of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and grew it to the largest Protestant congregation in the country; he was also an author, activist and father of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
  • Dr. Eugene Perry Roberts and family; Dr. Roberts was one of New York’s earliest black physicians receiving his M.D. in 1894, appointed as the first black assistant medical examiner in 1898; a founding member of the National Urban League; appointed to the New York City Board of Education in 1917

In the 30s, Snowdale served as the headquarters for the Berkshire Rod and Gun Club. Members included Assemblyman Robert W. Justice, James H. Hubert of the New York Urban League, and Levi Florance of Carmel. By 1934, this group had 60 members and 40 members in its ladies auxiliary.

Above: Stafford Neilson, The New York Age, 1/1/1932

(Note: Unfortunately there aren’t any records or photographs of Snowdale Farm in the Putnam County Historian’s Collection. Research for this article was based on The New York Age archives available through FultonHistory.com)

Football Memories: A Brewster High School Throwback

As we approach Super Bowl LIII this weekend, here’s a throwback from Brewster High School’s football team.

70 years ago the Brewster Bears had a winning season of 5-1-1 and they were crowned County Football Champions.  Some of the great players that year included quarterback Jim Casey, left halfback Doug Ruffles and fullback Doug Scolpino.  This group and team photos are featured in the 1949 yearbook Resumé as part of the Putnam County Historian’s research library.

One of the earliest references to this team coined as the “Brewster Bears” can be found in an article in The Brewster Standard dated October 23, 1931 when the “Bears” clawed, blocked and tackled their way to beat Croton-on-Hudson 44-6. The full article can be found online through the archives available through the Brewster Public Library’s Links.

Thanks to a local estate sale donation by J. Rocco in 2016, the Historian’s Office has a number of BHS yearbooks from 1948-50 and 1952. You can also find assorted copies of Resumé from 1928 -2012 in the Local History collection of Brewster Public Library. Please be sure to keep them, and other local libraries and historical societies in mind if you have any old yearbooks or school photos to digitize or donate.

BHS 1949 Back row—G. Fox, D. Scolpino, G. Vetare, E. Ritchie, E. Farrell, E. Wunner, R. Herdman, D. Ruffles, J. Palmer, F. VanCougnett, H. Salmon, J. Casey, C. Bruno.  Middle row—D. Bruen, Q. Puglsey, J. Sterry, J. Mattioli, E. Schneider, J. Heinchon, N. Prisco, T. Mastrangelo, A. Polverari, D. Stevens, A. Forschner.     Front Row—Coach Opdyke, J. Markel, D. Newcomb, J. Folchetti, D. Smith, G. Foster, E. LaMere, N. Blackwood. 


Happy Birthday Putnam County! Celebrate Putnam County’s History June 12th

CARMEL, NEW YORK, May 10 — Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and County Historian Sarah Johnson, Ph.D., invite the public to celebrate Putnam County’s 206th birthday on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at the Historic Courthouse, 44 Gleneida Avenue, Carmel, NY, from         10 – 11:30 am.  During the annual birthday ceremony, the County Historian will debut highlights from the Historian’s Collection and discuss the importance of contributions of records, letters, photographs, and other ephemera from local families, politicians and organizations.

This year the Putnam County Historian’s Office will honor residents and organizations for their outstanding contributions to local history including:

Exemplary Public History in Schools:  Haldane High School History Club

Innovative Interpretation:  Ed Illiano & The Master Gardeners, “Hike Putnam”

Digital History Award:  Putnam History Museum

Preserving Local History: Peter Bruenn – “Putnam County Playhouse”; Dan Birmingham, Heather Reid & Bonnie Groat – Moses Fowler Family Papers 1765-1927

Local History Publication:  Dolores Beal Stephens, “Water for the Troops”

Lifetime Achievement – Local History:  Louise Andres, The Milltown Association

In Memoriam:  Dr. Samuel Ross, Jr., Green Chimneys

Following the ceremony, attendees are invited to join the County Historian and honorees in the lobby of the David D. Bruen County Office Building for the traditional County birthday cake and refreshments.  The public is welcome, no RSVP required. For more information about the event, please contact the Historian’s Office at 845-808-1420 or historian@putnamcountyny.gov


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About The Historian’s Office

The Historian’s Office preserves, interprets, and promotes the history of Putnam County as a local government office.  New York’s Town and Village Historians began serving public history since 1919, in part to document World War I Veterans back into civilian life.  The New York State Legislature authorized the appointment of county historians in 1933.  County Historians are appointed by the Putnam County Executive and confirmed by the Putnam County Legislature.  New York State defines the work of County Historians in four broad categories: research and writing, teaching and public presentations, historic preservation, and organization, advocacy and tourism promotion. To support these efforts, the Putnam County Historian’s Office has been collecting historical records, maps, books, photographs, and periodicals since 1953.  In 1992, the Putnam County Archives was established in the Historian’s Office to preserve, arrange, describe, and make accessible the governmental records of Putnam County.  The Archives and Historian’s Collection are used as a resource for people in Putnam County and elsewhere.  Finding aids are available at www.putnamcountyny.com/countyhistorian and are also linked to OCLC’s Archives Grid.  The Historian’s Office is a consortia member of SENYLRC’s Hudson River Valley Heritage digital initiative www.hrvh.org/putnamcounty and can be found on Facebook at Putnam Historian and historic sites on History Pin.

Help Putnam County Secure Veteran Stories with Vet Scan

Help Putnam County Secure Veteran Stories with Vet Scan – An initiative of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency, Historian’s Office, and the Southeast Museum

Putnam County Veteran’s and their families are invited to participate in a free digital scanning initiative to secure military memories of the past for future generations.
Local families with military memorabilia are invited to make appointments through the County Historian’s Office to have old letters, documents, photographs and assorted military memorabilia scanned and recorded on a memory device such as a USB or burned to a disk, free of charge.

Qualifying materials include:
▪ Photographs ▪ Slides
▪News clippings ▪ Service Records
▪Commemorative Programs and souvenirs, etc…

Don’t lose your loved one’s story of service, participate in Vet Scan today!
An initiative of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency, Historian’s Office, and the Southeast Museum
Thank you for your service and story.
For more information on Vet Scan, please contact the Putnam County Historian’s Office 845-808-1420
email historian@putnamcountyny.gov

You’re Invited to Celebrate Putnam County Day Friday, June 9, 2017, 10:00 a.m.

1917-2017 Commemorating the Centennials:

  • The United States entry into World War I…
  • Women’s Suffrage in New York State…
  • Putnam County comes together…

Please join Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and County Historian Sarah Johnson, Ph.D., to celebrate Putnam County’s 205th birthday and to honor local residents and their outstanding contributions to local history Including:

  • Exemplary Public History: Kelley Howard, former Executive Director, Putnam Valley Historical Society
  • Digital History Award: Southeastern New York Library Resources Council’s Hudson River Valley Heritage
  • Preserving Local History Awards: Brewster Public Library, Brewster Standard Archives, 1869-1982 Mahopac Public Library, The Putnam County Courier, 1849-1930 Alice Curtis Desmond & Hamilton Fish Library’s Livingston-Svirsky Archive
  • Innovative Interpretation and Preservation Award: Scenic Hudson

Putnam County Day

Friday, June 9, 2017, 10:00 am
Historic Courthouse 44 Gleneida Avenue, Carmel, NY

Join us for the county’s traditional birthday cake to be cut and served in the lobby of the David D. Bruen County Office Building following the ceremony. The public is welcome, no RSVP required. For more information on the event, please contact the Historian’s Office at 845-808-1420 or historian@putnamcountyny.gov
Poster Art: “Sunrise or Sunset Own a Liberty Bond” by Eugenie DeLand, 1917
You’re Invited to Celebrate Putnam County Day

PUTNAM VETERANS MUSEUM HOSTS WORLD WAR II VETERAN, 97, FORMER CARMEL RESIDENT Lt. Richard G. Hopkins, USN Ret. and Daughter Donate Treasures of Storied Military Service


Lt. Richard G. Hopkins, USN Ret. and Daughter Donate Treasures of Storied Military Service

Carmel, NY, November 1, 2016 — Veterans and volunteers at the Putnam Veterans Museum recently hosted some very special guests.  World War II veteran Lt. Richard G. Hopkins, USN Ret., and his daughter Susan Hopkins came to Veterans Memorial Park in Carmel to present the museum with artifacts from his service and Putnam County’s past.

Hopkins, 97, was born on Oak Street in Brewster, and his family moved to Carmel when he was young. Now residing in Westchester, Lt. Hopkins likes to visit the museum that exhibits ship models he donated in honor of his late brother, T/5 Reed Hopkins, member of the 1257 Combat Engineers Battalion, U.S. Army.  Reed, also a Carmel native, died in France during World War II.

The ship models include the USS Decatur and USS Porter, two vessels on which Lt. Hopkins served during his 28 years of active duty with the U.S. Navy and an additional 2 years of service in the Reserves. The museum also displays a model of the USS Dahlgren, yet another model that Lt. Hopkins can detail from bow to stern.  The USS Decatur and USS Dahlgren models were made in Sweden by a master ship model-maker; the USS Porter was made in Eastham, Mass., by a master ship model-maker.

The Hopkins family has deep roots in Putnam County’s history, so deep that they precede the Revolutionary War.  Lt. Richard Hopkins is the sixth-generation descendent of Lt. Solomon Hopkins of the 6th Dutchess County Regiment with the New York Militia during the Revolutionary War.  Solomon’s wife, Elizabeth Crosby, was the sister of Enoch Crosby, the famed Revolutionary War soldier and spy.

Susan Hopkins was pleased to present a framed drawing of the Enoch Crosby house in Brewster to complement the historical display that commemorates the soldier/spy story.   “A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution Enoch Crosby Chapter gave it to me; and when I first saw the display here, I thought it would be perfect to donate it,” said Susan.

“We are so grateful to Lt. Hopkins for his service and the generosity of his family,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “Adding this beautiful drawing of the Enoch Crosby house to our Veterans Memorial Museum is rare a gift. This historic treasure will be appreciated by many visitors for years to come.”

Putnam County residents and veteran-volunteers were on hand that day to host the Hopkins’. They included Jim McCarthy, Michael Tiren, and Jerry Imbo, all U.S. Army veterans.  A representative from the Putnam County Historian’s Office was on hand to record this very special visit.

“I really enjoyed hearing Richard’s fascinating account of being part of the rescue of the USS Kearney (DD-432) off Iceland after it was torpedoed by U-boats,” said Jim McCarthy, “and the stories of his incredible world-wide adventures spanning the China Sea, Casablanca and Barcelona – when as an engineer he actually met and shook hands with Generalissimo Franco while onboard the USS Coral Sea.”

Not all of Lt. Hopkins years were spent at war on the high seas. There was a time when he was stationed at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and for two years he was in charge of the heartrending job of bringing home the war dead.  After 32 years in the service through wars and conflicts, Lt. Hopkins found it was time for a change.  “I was up for Lieutenant Commander and they said I had to do three years more and I said, ‘You can have it!’, said Hopkins with a hearty laugh. “I got a chance to work for IBM up in Fishkill so I took it.”

On this sunny fall day, Lt. Hopkins donated his display case of service medals, ribbons and awards which include two World War II campaign medals, the World War II Victory medal, combat action ribbons and an impressive number of good conduct medals.  The case will be prominently exhibited along with his service portrait, his brother’s portrait and the beloved ship models – a special and collective display of sacrifice.

Before leaving the museum, Lt. Hopkins stopped to admire another special exhibit.

“That’s the New York!” he exclaimed, pointing to the ship model of the USS New York LPD-21. This post-9-11 United States Navy warship’s bow was forged from the steel of the World Trade Center and its official motto is “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never Forget.”

Lt. Hopkins smiled and commended the veteran volunteers saying, “That’s good that you got that model!”

The Putnam County Veteran Memorial Park is located at 201 Gipsy Trail Road in Carmel. The Putnam Veterans’ Museum is open on Wednesdays from 10 am – 1 pm and is administered by the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency.


Putnam County Makes History Accessible Online Treasures of Putnam’s past to be published online with Hudson River Valley Heritage

Putnam County Makes History Accessible Online

Treasures of Putnam’s past to be published online with Hudson River Valley Heritage

April 13, 2016, CARMEL, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and County Historian Sarah Johnson, Ph.D., have announced the County’s participation in the New York State regional scanning initiative called Hudson River Valley Heritage or HRVH (http://www.hrvh.org), sponsored by the Southeastern New York Library Resources Council (SENYLRC) to bring images and records that document Putnam County’s history online and make them easily accessible and free to the public at www.hrvh.org/putnamcountyny.

“This collaboration is an exciting step in developing a digital library that celebrates the County’s commercial, agricultural, recreational and cultural history,” says Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, “It is a virtual way to open the doors of the County Archives and share some unique treasures of Putnam’s past.”

Johnson says that the increased demand for digital resources underscored the need for the Historian’s Office to digitize, “We are contributing scans and metadata of our amazing heritage by making primary source material more accessible online to all researchers–from genealogists to educators and students.”

Initial contributions of local business and architecture images were made to the site by volunteers of the Patterson Historical Society and its president Ron Taylor. Recent additions from the Historian’s Office and Archives include images of the factory workers of the Borden Condensed Milk factory in Brewster, gorgeous tourist photos from the late 1800s of Lake Mahopac hotels, pictures of the “Old Put” New York railroad line, snapshots of the Oscawana Lake community in Putnam Valley and images from the 1895 Aqueduct  Commission’s Construction of Croton Watershed reservoirs, channels and dams.

The County’s collection will continue to grow with unique exhibits showcasing content from the Archives that will include naturalization records from the 1800s, World War I commemorative articles, and samples of the extensive map collection that help define present-day land boundaries, just to name a few.

In 2016, the HRVH membership will expand to the Consortia level and the Historian’s Office will work with local historical societies and museums throughout the County. “Our goal is to work our way around the county, helping all cultural organizations to work on their collections and management procedures so they are ready to digitize and post their incredible collections of documents, photographs, and artifacts.”

The Kent Historical Society will help debut Putnam County’s HRVH digital initiative when they host County Historian, Sarah Johnson, Ph.D., on Monday, April 25th, at 7 pm at Town Hall, 25 Sybil’s Crossing, Kent Lakes, NY, where she will deliver a presentation on the importance of digitizing historical collections and encourage volunteers and the public to contribute.  “I want to encourage residents to go through their own personal archives in attics and basements that pertain to Putnam’s history and see what they can contribute to this important project,” says Johnson. “You’d be amazed by what people dig up and can add to the story and legacy of Putnam County.”

Johnson will also talk at the Patterson Historical Society’s meeting on Wednesday, May 18th from 7-9 pm at Patterson Library, 1167 Route 311, Patterson, NY 12563 on the topic “Exploring Local History: How to Research & Be a Part of Recording History.”

SENYLRC is a member of the Empire State Library Network whose mission is to bring together open access digital collections from libraries, museums and archives from all over the state. They serve as a gateway to hundreds of distinct digital collections that celebrate the Hudson Valley and reflect New York State’s long history.

Many Hudson Valley institutions have joined in this effort, though to date; Putnam County has not had the representation it richly deserves.

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For more information, contact the Historian’s Office at 845-808-1420 or email sarah.johnson@putnamcountyny.gov

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