Precontact History of Philmont
Chronicled by Charles R. Nichols, a lifelong Philmont resident with a passion for history—Korean War veteran, Vice President of the Hudson City Savings Institution, sportsman, avid antique car and truck collector—generously compiled the historical information that follows.
I certainly qualify by age, if not by talent. To quote an old Irish truism, “Now then, let’s begin at the beginning!”Charles R. Nichols, 1930 – 2013
Welcome to Philmont. The beginning of Philmont is hard to pin down. The signs that welcome visitors at two entrances of the Village proclaim ‘Established in 1892’.
Certainly the Village was Incorporated in 1892, but people were living in this area well before then. From the Indigenous People who inhabited the area at the time of Henry Hudson’s 1609 visit and before, through many conflicts (the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, etc.), there were people in the village area, and evidence of their military service is documented.
Records show that people were here when the great patents were granted in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
The Ellis history of 1878 mentions that George P. Philip first used waterpower to power his mill by building a dam in 1845, creating a 36 acre reservoir. To ensure adequate water in the dry season, a 56 acre ‘Upper Reservoir’ was created a mile or two upstream. It was, of course, the availability of falling water—dropping a vertical distance from the level of Barton’s Mill to Agawamuck Creek (not to be confused with High Falls)—that first enticed manufacturers to the hamlet. The extent of the fall, and the ability to create diverter dams to distribute the water needed for powering the mills, eventually caused a goodly number of these enterprises to be constructed.
The requirements to house, feed, and supply other wants of the workers built up the village. The Harlem Railroad started in 1852. Opening the Post Office in 1858 also helped growth. The Civil War created a mini-boom in the mill village.
All things considered, the provable date of 1892 is probably the best one to use. There is no doubt, however, that the use of High Falls on the sign is an appropriate symbol of what really created Philmont.