Elisha Putnam was born in May 1765. He was a middle child in the large family of Stephen and Mary Gibbs Putnam of Sutton, Massachusetts. He is said to have been the nephew of Gen. Israel Putnam. The first member this Putnam family settled in Salem, Massachusetts by 1630. A number of same-name individuals were our subject's contemporaries.
Perhaps he followed his later reknowned older brother to New York after the War for Independence. This son of New England also was said to have come to Albany with his brother David in 1790. He was a builder and something of an architect although we have not yet uncovered the sources of those skills. Aged twenty-five in 1790, we seek defining information on his path to Albany. An Elisha Putnam also was involved in the early days of the new city called Lansingburgh.
In December 1792, Elisha married Hester, the daughter of Stephen W. Johnson under the auspices of the Albany Dutch church. However, he was a member and elder of the Albany Presbyterian church. By 1820, his household encompassed nine members as ultimately eleven children had been christened at Albany churches.
In 1797, an Albany newspaper identified him with Philip Hooker his next-door neighbor, as the undertakers and the architects of the new Dutch church also located on Pearl Street. He is said to have been the architect of the Presbyterian and possibly the Episcopal churches as well.
In 1808, he was among those worthies invited to a public funeral in Albany.
His residence at 78 North Pearl Street was included in the first city directory in 1813. At that time, he was listed as a builder. Beginning in 1797, he was involved in a number of city-based real estate transactions.
Over the years, assessment rolls valued his varied (workshop, lots) properties modestly. Beginning in1813, he was identified as the Superintendant of the Albany Water Works. He also has been credited with nail and other metals production and with the building of the Erie Canal.
In 1847, he self-published his lengthy work of spiritual prophesy entitled The crisis, or, Last trumpet an antidote for popular opinion either in church or state.
He was counted for the last time on the Albany census in 1850. At that time he was living alone as his wife had passed in 1835. Elisha Putnam died in Albany in February 1854. He was interred at the Albany Rural Cemetery. This long-lived Yankee had been an important architect of the new Albany for more than fifty of his eighty-nine years.
Sources: The life of Elisha Putnam is CAP biography number 8557. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.
first posted: 4/20/12