History of the Town of Minden
What does the Town of Minden have to offer?
The Town of Minden offers a melting pot of different things. Take drive through our many country roads and main highways. In that drive you will encounter the many farms that dot the hills and valleys. Many of these still are run by the generations of the original families who set their homes on the land during our town’s younger years. Stop by a roadside stand. In it , you will see the vegetables, fruits and baked goods offered up for the taking by the locals. Drive by one of the many Amish farms and see the hard work that goes into maintaining the fields, the children at one of their one room schoolhouses outside playing ball. Look up one of our historic and beautiful cemeteries. Cemeteries nicely maintained with trees and narrow roads leading you through a maze of contentment. Old family cemeteries still are maintained and visible from the roads for viewing.
Go for a jaunt up historic Route 80 or Route 163 and see the little white churches with the steeples pointing ever upward. These churches have been here for many years and some are going strong. Look for former one room schoolhouses that still sit along the way. Stop off at the various little hamlets which are tucked into just about every crossroads along your drive.
Stop for a spell in our largest village, Fort Plain. Visit the local shops and the Ft Plain Museum which tells of the town’s importance in the Revolutionary War. Several war forts and fortified homesteads once dotted the trails and hills during the war for independence. Look for huge architectural homes that once housed the founders of many businesses in Minden. Take a notice of the Erie Canal corridor that runs thru the town opposite the mighty Mohawk River. The center of Minden was once the gateway to the west since we have Highways 10 and 163. We had the railroad and the canal, along with the river. These together made Minden a hub of factories and employment, making and shipping goods to all over the country.
Ride your bicycle along the Bike Trail which hugs the Mohawk River and takes you through sights you just will not see in a car. The NYS Thruway cuts through our town, if you venture on that during a trip east or west, take a look at the trees dotted along the guardrails in the fall, when they sport their colorful jackets. Watch for lush fertile cornfields, herds of cows enjoying their time in the sun. Houses, cars, bikers all can be seen from this major roadway. Go up on the hill to visit the award winning Fort Plain Central School , the home of The Hilltoppers!
So, what does the Town of Minden have to offer? All of the above and most important, we have people. It is the people who make the town what it is. Friendly folks who will help their fellow neighbors in times of need. Friendly folks who will say “Hi”, and toss you a charming wave as you pass by. Friendly folks who are one big family and are the ones who keep our town flourishing. We are Mindenites and proud of it. Thank you.
Robert C Carter
Town of Minden Historian
518 993 1023
The Mohawk Indians were the first inhabitants of the area that is now called the Town of Minden. The Mohawk Indians belonged to what the British called the “Five Nations”, or the French called the “Iroquois Nation”. The other tribes of this nation were the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas; the most eastern tribe was that of the Mohawks. The Mohawks controlled the area from Albany westward to the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, and as far north as the St. Lawrence river. The Mohawks and their fellow tribesman would come to play a legitimate role throughout the Mohawk Valley during America’s war for independence.
The first known white settler to settle in the Minden area was that of Jacob Crouse around the year 1720. The earliest white settlers were Palatine Germans farmers who migrated from Schoharie and settled in the area called Dutchtown. These earliest settlers had very few skills and most of their necessities were most likely bought from Schenectady. They were an illiterate people and had no schools, few books, and no newspapers.
This part of the valley that became the Town of Minden was very sparsely inhabited prior to the American Revolution. The first store, which was also used as a trading post, was opened by William Seeber in 1750 near the Sand Hill area. Around this time in the Sand Hill area the first church was erected and called the Reformed Dutch Church of Canajoharie. This church was later burned down in 1780 during the revolution.
In 1772 Tryon County was formed from the western most part of Albany County. This new county was divided into five districts, and Minden fell into what was then called the “Canajoharie District”.
As the American Colonists began to question British rule and the American Revolution began, the Mohawk Valley saw frequent clashes between the loyalists and the patriots. By the time the revolution began, the majority of the people within the Minden area were sympathetic with the Yankees. On June 2, 1775 the Canajoharie District sent representatives to Cherry Valley and met with other Districts of Tryon County to adopt measures to protect the settlers of the county during the Revolution.
|By the year 1781, there were five well established forts within the Town of Minden. The forts included Fort Plain(1779), Fort Planck(1778), Fort Clyde(1779), Fort Willett(1781), and Fort Windecker(1781). All of these forts were within five miles of Fort Plain, one of the main defensive forts of the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution. Fort Planck was located roughly four miles to the southwest of Fort Plain, and Fort Clyde was located a few miles to the southeast in the hamlet of Freybush. Fort Willett was located in the Dutchtown area, and Fort Windecker was farther to the west in the Mindenville area. All five of these forts became places of refuge for area settlers during raids by the Tories and Indians.Many destructive raids throughout the valley occurred during the Revolution. One of the more destructive of these raids occurred in 1780 under the command of Mohawk Indian Chief, Joseph Brant. Joseph Brant led a group of Tories and Indians down the Otsquago creek and into the valley on August 2, 1780. They ravaged the Dutchtown and Freybush sections, and terrified the families of the area into fleeing to Fort Plain.
|The Revolution in America had a great impact on the Mohawk Valley and especially Tryon County. Whole families were wiped out, and mothers were left without their husbands and sons at the end of the war. In Tryon County alone, it was estimated that about only 800 of the more than 2,500 , militia men were left. It was estimated that one-third of them had been killed or made prisoners; one-third had abandoned the county, and the other third had gone over to the enemy. It should be noted that near the end of the Revolution General George Washington in the summer of 1783, after peace was declared, visited Fort Plain on a tour of the frontier posts of New York.On April 2, 1784 Tryon County was renamed Montgomery County in honor of General Richard Montgomery who had died in the war. Fourteen years later, on March 2, 1798, the Town of Minden was formed from the Canajoharie District. The town was made up of all or portions of the patents of Herkimer, Bleeker, Glen and Gunterman Tract, Lovering, Livingston, Otsquago, Van Horn and Windecker. It is believed that the name of Minden derived from a Minden in Germany where many of the settlers had come from. The town of Minden lost part of its original area in 1817 when a part of the Town of Danube was taken off.Major transportation routes led to the early development of the Town of Minden and especially that of the Village of Fort Plain. The area, before the Town of Minden was established, developed economically because of its trade route connections with Coopertown, Otsego Lake and the upper Susquehanna region.
|With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the Town of Minden, but especially Fort Plain benefited economically from this new water route. New merchants began to arrive and settle along the route and at one time the canal docks at Fort Plain were among the busiest in the county. The West Shore Railroad opened in 1883 and allowed the Minden area to further benefit economically from another transportation route. Today, the Mohawk River Barge Canal runs along the towns’ northern border and it sees thousands of recreational boaters a year.The Town of Minden throughout the 19th century maintained steady population growth. In 1830, the town, including the Village of Fort Plain, contained 2,567 people and by 1890 it had a population of 5,198. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town’s population began to decrease and by 1920 it was 4,366. Since 1920 the towns population had remained roughly constant, having 4,474 people in it in 1990.
|The Town of Minden has six hamlets which are Hallsville, Mindenville, Freybush, Fordsbush, Salt Springville, and Brookmans Corners. Hallsville was named after a pack peddler called Robert Hall, who at one time operated four stores, a brewery and a distillery. The Hamlet of Freybush is one of the oldest settlements of the area. The other four hamlets are scattered about the town and are still very rural in character.The Town of Minden has always been an agricultural based community. Dairy farming has been the main part of this agricultural base and continues to be so today. The Town of Minden, like most farming communities in the northeast, has seen a decrease in farming practices and an increase in the amount of vacant agricultural land. Overall, the Town of Minden remains a rural agricultural community.
|The Town of Minden encompasses 32,953.6 acres, and is located on the southwestern border of Montgomery County in the state of New York. The town is bounded on the north by the Mohawk River and on the west by the Town of Canajoharie. Herkimer and Otsego Counties serve as the town’s western and southern borders respectively. The Village of Fort Plain is located in the northeastern corner of the town; with part of the Village in the Town of Canajoharie.Montgomery County is located at the approximate center of New York state. The county is one of the smaller counties in New York state, comprised of 262,009 acres or 409 square miles. Montgomery County is only 22 miles from the state capitol of Albany, and only 180 miles from New York City. The New York State thruway and New York State Barge Canal run of 40 miles through the center of the county from the eastern border to the western border. The Town of Minden which is the most northwestern Town is only 57 miles from the state capitol and 205 miles from New York City.
Historic and Cultural Resources
|The Town of Minden contains some historic, architectural and cultural resources which gives the Town a character all its own. There is a wealth of buildings associated with the Town’s early history and development.Throughout the Town there are several old farmhouses and barns that were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries. One such barn is the Windfall Dutch Barn, which was built in the early 18th century. The barn is a living relic of 18th century farming and is one of only a few of the old Dutch barns still standing today. These old Dutch barns are distinguishable by their square proportions, high steep roofs, and gable-end doors. The Windfall Dutch Barn was restored from 1973-1976 when it was opened to the public. Today, various festivals are held at the Windfall Dutch Barn.In the hamlet of Mindenville there is a section of the original Erie Canal built in 1825 which is still very visible and in good condition. This portion of the canal was later abandoned, and today the New York State Barge Canal located about a half mile away runs adjacent to it.Also located throughout the Town are many other buildings and private residences that have historical, architectural, and cultural significance and are representative of the valuable heritage of the Town.
Town of Minden Census 2000 Demographics (PDF)