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The Village of New Paltz

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New Paltz History

 
New Paltz was founded in 1677 by French Huguenots who had taken refuge in Mannheim, Germany, for a few years before coming to America. Mannheim was, at that time, capital of the area called the Rhenish Palatinate or, in German, the Rhein Pfalz.

The people of Mannheim leave out the "f" in the name Pfalz, pronouncing it "Paltz." Records of the New Paltz Reformed Church, which was formed in 1683, show the name of the settlement was first expressed not in German, nor in English, but in French: Nouveau Palatinat.

The community was governed by a kind of corporation called the Duzine, referring to the twelve partners who acquired the royal patent. That form of government continued well past the time of the American Revolution, by special action of the New York State legislature.

The 33,000 or so acres of the patent, stretching all the way to the Hudson River and augmented soon by the other patents on the south, were eventually divided among those twelve partners, their relatives, and a few friends into large plots--part wilderness, and part farm. The farms were grouped principally around the heights west and east of the Wallkill River.The commerical center serving this agricultural base was located on the east shore of the Wallkill River, in the area where the first settlers had huddled, on the street now known as Huguenot Street. There, the church, schools, blacksmith, seamstresses,and stores flourished for the benefit of farmers who required things like seed, tools, worship, education, clothing, and food not available on all farms, including alcoholic beverages. Many of the buildings still stand today, a museum community.

Population slowly spread from the Wallkill up along the street now known as North Front Street and then along what is now Chestnut Street, and, in the nineteenth century, along what is now Main Street. The secession of the Town of Lloyd and parts of Shawangunk, Esopus, and Gardiner, between 1843 and 1853, reduced New Paltz to its present size. In 1887, the Village of New Paltz was incorporated within a town of the same name.

Higher education has been one of the main concerns of the community since the 1830's, centering first on North Front Street, then moving late in the nineteenth century to the area of Plattekill Avenue and Manheim Boulevard (notice the French spelling), where the State University College of New York at New Paltz now stands.

New Paltz farmers looked early on to surrounding communities and even to New York City for markets. Establishment of the Wallkill Valley Railroad in 1870 gave a great boost to that concern. After fifty years or so, the motor car began to replace the train, and finally, in the early 1950's, the opening of the New York State Thruway brought this community even more fully into the network of business we know in the late twentiety century.

The names of those Duzine members (Bevier, Deyo, Crispell, DuBois, Hasbrouck, LeFevre) still persist, but they have long shared the limelight with names less French: all the varied pronunciations we in America know well.

One of the most famous people associated with New Paltz is Sojourner Truth.


Click here for a list of Mayors and Presidents, 1887-2007


Click here for a list of Trustees, 1887-2009


Last Updated Monday, May 11 2009 @ 03:15 PM EDT|26,640 Hits