History of Minerva, NY


THE town of Minerva was formed from Schroon on the 7th of March, 1817. A part of Newcomb was taken off in 1828, and in November, 1870, a part of Schroon was annexed. The details of these changes of boundary will be found in the session laws of the years named. Minerva is in the extreme southwest corner of the county; it is bounded north by Newcomb and North Hudson; east by North Hudson and Schroon; south by Warren county, and west by Hamilton county. Its physical formation is peculiar and striking, the whole face of its territory being elevated and bordered in the northeast and east by a mountainous region. The general upland is from twelve hundred to flfteen hundred feet above tide, rises in a succession of lofty valleys, formed by deep, broad and sweeping undulations. In describing the natural features of the town, ten years ago, Mr. Watson said: "Minerva is a rugged and mountainous town, containing about one-third mountain, one-third feasible land, and the residue rough and stony." A large portion of the soil is cold and hard and only moderately productive, but there are quite a number of excellent farms and the industry and frugality of the inhabitants have made the town a reputation for thrift that is not enjoyed by many in more favorable localities.

The Hudson river, rising up near the foot of Mount Marcy in the town of Keene, flows southeasterly across the town of Newcomb and enters the town of Minerva near the northeast corner, where it unites with Indian river; the stream then continues in a southeasterly direction to near the center of the town, where its current receives the Boreas river, which flows from the extreme northeast corner of the town to where it unites with the Hudson; the latter stream then turns southward and crosses the town line at about its center. Many small streams, pure and cold, flow into these larger rivers, lending beauty to the landscape and affording excellent drainage. There are, perhaps, a score of small lakes and ponds in the town, most of them without names, clear and cold and furnishing first-class sporting grounds. Lumbering has for many years been the principal industry of the town and there are still remnants of the orignal forest standing in some of the back districts. There are two post-offices in the town, Olmsteadville and Minerva. There is no direct railroad connection with other sections of the country; but the construction of the Adirondack railroad to North creek, in the northern part of Warren county, gives the inhabitants good transportation facilities.

Settlement began in this town in 1804 and was confined for many years chiefly to the southeastern part along the line of the old road extending from Chester to St. Lawrence county. Ebenezer West, with his sons, Nathan, Ebenezer and John, came in in 1804; they located near the present Minerva post-office at Morse's Corners. But little further is known of the family. William Hill came in about the same time and located on the site of Olmsteadville; he was offered a bonus of either two or four hundred acres of land if he would build a saw-mill and grist-mill. This arrangement was carried out and the first grist-mill built on the Minerva creek, on the side of the bridge opposite the present mill. Mr. Hill had a son Ira who settled at the same place, and another named William, whose throat was cut by an accident with an axe. Thomas Leonard came in probably soon after those already named and located about half a mile from the site of Olmsteadville on the farm now occupied by Thomas Wilson. His large family of sons, among whom were Jonathan, Isaac, David and Thomas, lived in the town, but are now all deceased. Richard Miller settled about this time near the Morse Corners. He had a son Thomas, who removed to Alleghany county, and a daughter who became the wife of William Evans. Abner Talman located in the town before 1810; he was a carpenter, but removed away before 1830. James Cary settled early on the North river, near the Chester line, whither he removed from near the Morse's, where he lived a short time. Philo Hawley settled on the road leading from Minerva to "Hoffman's," on the place now occupied by John Dougherty. He had several Sons who were farmers. Elijah Barnes came to the town of North Hudson (then in Schroon) from New Hampshire in 1802. Six years later he removed to South Schroon. The venerable Thomas S. Barnes now living near Olmsteadville, is a son of Elijah Barnes, and is among the oldest residents of the county. He has had much to do with the growth of Minerva, as will appear. Edward Talbot settled in the town about the year 1811, near the site of Olmsteadville. He was farmer and, like many other early settlers, kept a tavern in early years. The mills at Olmsteadville, after passing through the hands of Mr. White, were bought by Mr. Taibot. He subsequently sold them to T. S. Barnes who rebuilt them about 1840, in their present form. Charles and Edward Talbot, now living in the town, are sons of Edward, and there are many other descendants living in the vicinity. The latter kept about the first store also and was a prominent man in the community. Absalom P. and Asa Morse, brothers, settled in the town at what is commonly known as the Morse Corners, about 1812. The former became a very prominent man; was a successful farmer, a surveyor and for many years acted as land agent here. 0. P. Morse, now a resident of the town, is a son of A. P. Morse. Among others who came into town at an early day was a family named Jones who located in the west part. The sons were named Charles, Elijah, Levi, Daniel and James, all of whom lived in that section. 'William Champney located in the southern part and raised a family all of whom are dead. Jonathan Russell settled early on the site of Olmsteadville; he had sons. who are dead.

These pioneers in the town found a rugged wilderness in which to establish their homes; but tne work was begun with energy, and the heavy forests soon succumbed to the ringing axes and the soil that in many places failed to respond luxuriantly to the early farmer's labors, was cultivated where possible to raise the necessary grains and vegetables for the current wants of the community. In such districts the lumber business offered almost the only source of immediate income and hence nearly everybody engaged in it to the extent of their circumstances and surroundings. Saw- mills were built wherever water power was found and the roads were soon covered with teams laden with lumber for distant markets. The lumber interest of this town, outside of what was done for home accommodation, did not begin extensively until about 1840-45, when Thomas S. Barnes cut the first lot of logs for running down to the river, for which purpose he built a stone dam on the creek. This lot comprised six hundred logs, and from that time to the present, every season has seen thousands of valuable logs sent down the streams to the great mills below. The forests of this town were not largely composed of pine; but hemlock and spruce predominated. Of course this method of lumbering is not the one most conducive to the wealth of the town or those engaged in it; the tendency being rather to sweep the territory of its timber in the shortest possible time, without receiving the income that would be realized if the logs were manufactured into lumber where they were cut. The consequence has been the decay of mills and so rapid a consumption of timber that the lumber interest in all its branches is fast declining and must soon give way entirely to agriculture and other occupations.

The iron industry has received some attention in this town and a little ore was taken out some years ago and transported to North creek; but the character of the ore, the distance inland, depression in values, etc., have prevented the profitable development of the industry.

The Minerva Iron Company was a powerful organization formed just before 1870, and began operations for the establishment of a first-class forge with eight fires, about two and a half miles from Olmsteadville. Considerable money was expended, but owing to declining prices for iron, and the other obstacles mentioned, the enterprise was abandoned.

The large quantity of hemlock timber growing in the town led to the establishment at Olmsteadville about the year 1840 of a large tannery by Sanford and Levi Olmstead, from whom the hamlet takes its name. The building was about three hundred feet long and for a number of years a very heavy business was done in the manufacture of leather. The tannery was subsequently transferred to the Finn Brothers and by them to Frazier, Major & Co., of New York. It was burned in 1867.

With the clearing up of the lands incident to the extensive cutting of timber for saw logs has greatly extended the possibilities of agriculture in the town; and already farm owners have exhibited a commendable spirit of progress in the improvement of their methods of farming, their farm buildings and increased acreage cultivated. To this avocation the inhabitants must undoubtedly look for a large share of future advancement; while the wealth of the community will be considerably augmented from year to year, by the anhual concourse of pleasure-seekers and sportsmen, who either halt within the town or pass through it in quest of recreation and renewed health.

With the outbreak of the civil war this town was prompt in upholding the government, promptly filling its quotas under the various calls of the president for troops, and contributing in every way to the Union cause. Further details on this subject will be found in the chapter devoted to military matters.


The town of Minerva has little to boast of in respect to municipal history. There is but one business center that can possibly claim the title of village, which is Olmsteadville. The post-office was established here some forty years ago or more. - Charlotte A. Dornburgh has been in charge of the office since 1880, succeeding Robert Dornburgh. He was preceded by E. M. Barnes.

The mercantile business of the village embraces the store of W. H. Sullivan. On this site there has been a store kept many years, John Bradley being one of the early merchants here. The store building was rebuilt and greatly enlarged in 1871 by Henry Bradley. He was succeeded after a few years by Andrew Johnston, who was there several years. He sold out to Bradley & Sullivan, and Mr. Sullivan purchased his partner's interest after one year. McGuire & Mulhern were in mercantile trade here many years ago. They were succeeded by John Muihern alone, and he sold to E. Butler, who continued trade seven years, and was succeeded May 1st, 1885, by Powers & Shaw (Thomas Powers and Anson B. Shaw). Andrew Johnston, before mentioned, keeps a general store where he bought out Thomas McGuire in 1881. He has been in trade in the place since 1876. A hardware store and tin and sheet iron works were opened in October, 1884. by L. D. Pereau; the firm now carrying it on is Pereau & Warren. The blacksmithing of the place is done by M. Talbot, who has followed the trade here for twenty. four years. Matthew Clifford has been in wagon-making here for twenty years. The Alpine Hotel in Olmsteadville was built about the year 1855, by Henry Bradley, who kept it until 1865, when Patrick Sullivan, the present landlord, took it and has successfully catered to the public since. Dr. Aldrich is the only physician now practicing here; Dr. J. C. Wall died in 1885. The grist-mill and saw-mill here, which have been described, are now owned by Ed. Lavery.

There are two other post-offices in the town. Minerva is located a little more than two miles from Olmsteadville, towards the center of the town. There is no business transacted here except a small store connected with the post-office. David Jones is postmaster. He was preceded by O. P. Morse and his father for about thirty years, the office then being located at the Morse Corners. Considerable trade was formerly carried on at the latter point. William and Richard Evans were early merchants there and were followed by Elmer Dunlap. Wilber Bissell keeps the Dunlap House here. The other post-office is Boreas River, in the northeastern part. Mrs. Nelson Labier is postmistress. There is no settlement of any consequence here.

Churches.- Mr. T. S. Barnes built the Methodist Church at Olmsteadville about the year 1848. For many years previous to that date the pioneer Methodist preachers who worked in the cause of religion all through this region, and who have been mentioned in the history of Westport, Schroon and other towns, preached in this town in school-houses and private houses. Services have been held in this church, but not with regularity. Rev. Mr. Jenkins now serves the people in connection with those at Pottersville and North Chester in Warren county. The Baptist Church near the Minerva post-office was erected about the same time that the Methodist was built. Services have been held since, some of the time regularly, but generally once in two weeks. The society is now served by Rev. Mr. Hill, who also preaches in the church at "The Gore." The society is weak in numbers. The old Catholic Church was. built about the year 1850, and the present handsome edifice about ten years since. There are about one hundred families in the church, of which Father J. B. Le Grand is in charge. He succeeded Father E. Blanchard and he Father Pellitier.

The first town meeting in this town was held on the first of April, 1817, at which the following officers were elected: Supervisor, Absalom P. Morse; town clerk, John Shaw, jr.; assessors, Nathan West, William Hill and John Shaw; overseer of the poor, Richard Miller and Alfred White; commissioners of highways, James Cary, Alfred White and Samuel Baker; constable and collector, Elijah Jones; commissioners of schools, James Cary, Alfred White and Samuel Bacon; inspectors of schools, Absalom P. Morse, William Hill and Samuel Baker; fence viewers, Richard Miller, William Hill and Samuel Baker pound keeper, Jonathan Leonard; overseer of highways, "first beat," Nathan West; "second beat," Solomon Williams; "third beat," A. P. Morse.

Reference to the early records informs us that at a special meeting held in 1817, $8.90 was raised to pay for the care of the poor at the time of the division of the town. - Much of the work of the town officers for several years after the town was organized was devoted to laying out and improving roads; this is the case in all new towns. In i8i8 the following were elected justices:

A. P. Morse, John Shaw and Ithamar West, The first year's town accounts amounted to $28.27. In 1821 it was voted that $10 be paid for killing a wolf; $5 for a bear and $2 for a fox.

Following is a list of the supervisors of the town from its formation to the present time, with the years of their service: 1818-19, Absalom P. Morse; 1820-21, Ithamar West; 182 2-23, A. P. Morse; 1824, Harlow Baker; 1825, A. P. Morse; 1826, Harlow Baker; 1827-28, A. P. Morse; 1829, Elias E. D. Wood; 1830-31, Eleazer E. Palmer; 1832, Edward Talbot; 1833, E. E. Palmer; 1834-35, Edward Talbot; 1836-37, David Gates; 183 8-39, Edward Talbot; 1840, Ithamar West; 1841, A. P. Morse; 1842, Wm. Evans; 1843 to 1847 inclusive, Edward Talbot; 1848, James F. Doyne; 1849, Warren Hill; 1850, Anson West; 1851, Edward Talbot; 1852 to 1854 inclusive, J. R. Boughton; 1855, Thomas Miller; 1856, -------; 1857, Homer A. Fenn; 1858, Alanson West; 1859-60, Wm. Long; 1861-62, Charles McIntyre; 1863- 64, Thomas McGuire; 1865 to 1872 inclusive, Henry Bradley; 1873-74, Thomas Powers; 1875-76, John Dougherty; 1877-78. Henry Bradley; 1879, Wesley Barnes; 1880, Henry Bradley; 1881-82, Wesley Barnes; 1883-84, Edward Butler, jr. ; 1885, Thomas Powers.

The present town officers are: Supervisor, Thomas Powers; town clerk, John Mulhern; collector, Edward M. Talbot; assessor, Wm. Kellogg; commissioner of highways, Robert Gilliland; justice of the peace, David Wilson; overseer of the poor, John Ryan; auditors, Matthew Clifford, Robert Wilson, John Dougherty; inspectors of election, Charles McGinn, James McGowen, John Mea; commissioner of excise, John C. Wall; constables, Edward Ryan, jr., J. H. Mitchell, Peter Lindsay, Ed. M. Talbot; game constables, Frederick Loveland; sealer of weights and measures Peter Lindsay.

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