Our History

Montgomery has a long-established tradition of respecting its history and protecting its historic resources.  Its rich sense of history is defined by its residents, neighborhoods, institutions, parklands, business community, and community events such as General Montgomery Day that define its unique sense of place today.

The Village of Montgomery has a rich history and many competitive advantages such as an excellent highway system, well-respected educational system, vibrant Downtown Business District, niche industries, historic districts, excellent park system and well-kept residential neighborhoods.  Having an understanding of the Village’s history is important as we plan for its future growth.

Video Link – History of the Village of Montgomery

1700 to 1783

The Colonial Era

The Wallkill Valley began to be settled by Europeans of German, English, Scots, and Irish origin. These settlers established small farms on the fertile lands in the river valley helping to build a strong agricultural economy. As the agricultural economy grew, so too did agricultural-related industries including grist mills, logging mills, blacksmith shops and mercantile stores. Over time, settlers came together to form the first churches, schools and service organizations.

Around 1730, the waterpower of the Wallkill River began to be harnessed for larger industries. About this time, Johannes Mingus established a grist mill on the northern banks of the Wallkill River (across the river from where the Village of Montgomery sits today). In 1744, the mill was purchased by James Ward who constructed a bridge across the Wallkill River to improve access to the mill.

A small settlement grew up on the southern banks of the Wallkill River that became known as Ward’s Bridge.The first streets in Ward’s Bridge (today’s Village of Montgomery) were Bridge Street, Clinton Street (as it ran from Bridge Street to Goodwill Road) and Union Street (leading to Goshen). These roadways also defined early settlement patterns. For example, many of the earliest houses were built along these streets.

Following the Revolutionary War, a company formed by a local group of men and a woman purchased the mill and a 200-acre tract of land that was owned by James Ward. They hired James Clinton, a surveyor from Little Brittain, to create a master plan (that became known as the Clinton Map) for a village. Clinton created a master plan with a rectangular grid street pattern, a village green, a site for an academy and even a common area for a public spring or water supply. The street pattern for the village was integrated into the existing layout of Bridge Street, Clinton Street and Union Street. James Clinton defined the street pattern and named many of the streets that exist in the Village today. Some time after the Clinton Map was created, Ward’s Bridge was renamed Montgomery in honor of General Richard Montgomery, a Revolutionary War hero who died in the Battle of Quebec in 1775.

1784 to 1825

The Early Republic Era

A number of the institutions and architectural styles that define the Village of Montgomery today were established. In 1787, early founders of the village erected a two-story academy building and petitioned the Board of Regents of the University of New York to grant a charter school where science and language could be taught. In 1791, the Academy was incorporated under the N.Y.S. Board of Regents. The Village of Montgomery was formally incorporated as a village in 1810.

In 1818, the original Academy building was replaced with a new two-story Federal style brick building that is home to Village Hall today. In that same year, the Montgomery Fire Department was also established making it one of the first fire departments in New York State. The predominant architectural styles during this period were Federal, Colonial Revival and Gothic Revival. Houses that were constructed during this period can be found throughout the Village’s historic districts. These buildings help to define the Village’s unique sense of place.

Early transportation routes helped to define the Village of Montgomery. Stagecoaches made daily trips on the turnpike with stops in the Village of Montgomery. The construction of the Newburgh and Cochecton Turnpike played an important role in the early growth of the Village. The construction of the turnpike spurred growth in blacksmith shops, stores, taverns and inns that provided services to the traveling public as well as growth in the Village’s population. The turnpikes helped to make the Village of Montgomery an important center of commerce within the surrounding region. As the nation grew, so too did its means of transportation. The D&H canal, which ran from Honesdale Pennsylvania to Kingston, New York, also played a role in the Village’s growth. To save costs in shipping from Wurtsboro to Kingston, many goods from Pennsylvania were picked up in Wurtsboro and transported through the Village of Montgomery on their way to Newburgh.

1826 to 1865

The Romantic Era

This era is defined by the conflict between the political interests in New York City and those interests of the agricultural community in upstate. During this period, a distinctive country style of architecture emerged. Predominant housing styles of this era include Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and Italianate styles. This was a period of steady growth.

Many houses, commercial businesses and institutional buildings were constructed during this time. In 1831, the Neo-classical First Presbyterian Church on the southwest corner of Clinton Street and Wallkill Avenue was constructed. A few years before, in 1823, the Methodist Church on the northeast corner of Clinton Street and Wallkill Avenue was constructed (Wesley Hall). These churches still stand today which contributes to the Village’s rich sense of history.

During the Romantic Era, there were modest improvements in transportation. This would change following the Civil War due to proactive measures by Village business leaders.

1866 to 1920

The National Era

Following the Civil War, the nation went through a period of industrialization and with it came the predominance of the railroad as the primary transportation mode for industry and passengers. In 1866, Montgomery businessmen came together to form the Montgomery & Goshen Railroad. It opened in 1867 and ran 10.2 miles from Montgomery to Goshen. The creation of the railroad ensured the Village’s place as a center for commerce for the surrounding region. Passengers could take the train from Montgomery to Goshen. From there they could transfer to the Erie Railroad that would then take them into New York City. Rail service also opened up the opportunity for area dairy farmers to ship their milk to New York City rather than solely producing cheese and butter. The construction of the railroad spurred growth in the dairy industry (within the Wallkill Valley) that in turn spurred growth in the Village’s business community through the sale of goods and services to area dairy farmers.

The railroad had several sidings within the Village that directly served feed stores that sold grain to area dairy farmers. The importance of the Village as a center for the agricultural industry is further reflected in the establishment of the Grange on Wallkill Avenue in 1900. Shortly after it opened, the Montgomery & Goshen railroad was extended to provide service from Montgomery to Kingston. It was renamed the Wallkill Valley Railroad and provided service from Kingston to Goshen by 1872.Completion of the Wallkill Valley Railroad also created growth in a new industry – tourism.

“But to a greater benefit of Montgomery, the railroad allowed the city people to reach the Wallkill Valley more easily. The whole valley became a summer resort, and every farmer’s wife, a boarding house keeper” (Emma C. Locke – A Short History of Montgomery, NY).

Industry also played an important role in the growth of the Village. In 1880, Crabtree & Patchett established the Worsted Yarn mill on Factory Street along the banks of the Wallkill River. The mill harnessed the power of the Wallkill River and was a major industry in the Village well into 20th Century. Many of the Italianate commercial buildings in the Downtown Business District were constructed during this time. Dominant architectural styles constructed in the Village during the National Era were Queen Ann,

In 1905, the National Bank of Montgomery opened in the Mead Building on Clinton Street – adding finance as an important industry in the Village. This was still a period of time when most people walked to stores, churches or to work. As a result, neighborhoods were densely developed and in close proximity to these local institutions or businesses. This pattern of growth began to change during the Modern Era.

1921 to 1944

The Modern Era

The Modern Era was a period of time that marked the growing dominance of the automobile and gradual decline of the railroad as the primary form of passenger transportation. Improvements to State roadways during this period of time ensured that the Village continued to have excellent transportation access to the surrounding region. The former Newburgh & Cochecton Turnpike became State Highway Route 17K. State Highway Route 211 was also constructed linking the Village of Montgomery to the City of Middletown. These improvements helped to ensure that the Village remained an important place of commerce within the region. Many of the homes constructed during this time reflected the prototypical Colonial Revival and Craftsman style houses. These homes were built on larger lots as people became less dependent on walking due to the invention of the automobile. After World War II, suburban development (characterized by single-family houses on large lots) became more common.

1945 to Present

The Post WWII Era

Following WWII, the Village’s population grew dramatically. In 1960, the population was 1,312 persons. Today, the population is 4,238 persons. The housing styles after WWII differ from previous eras in its form and style. Post WWII, suburban ranch style housing was developed on larger lots and multi-family housing became more common in the Village. However, recent trends in housing (such as new-urbanism) would better respect the traditional residential development pattern that exists within the Village’s Historic Districts. Today, the Village has retained its place as a residential, educational, industrial and commercial center. Montgomery Elementary School is located on Union Street in the heart of the community. The former Worsted Yarn Mill on Factory Street, rebuilt in 1891-2 after a fire destroyed the 1813 cotton mill, produced yarn until 2019 when City Winery purchased the building, restored and converted it into an events and music venue, restaurant and functioning winery. Chambers Tractor & Supplies sells tractors & equipment to the surrounding farming community – although horse farms, nurseries and vegetable farms have largely replaced dairy farming. Today, there are a variety of banks, restaurants, personal service establishments, shops and bed & breakfasts in the Downtown Business District. The Village’s historic districts, Chamber Music Series, General Montgomery Day, St. Pat’s Ramble Parade and museums attract visitors from throughout the Hudson Valley and the surrounding region.

Looking for more Village history?
Be sure to visit the Village of Montgomery Museum.

142 Clinton St, Montgomery, NY 12549

https://www.villageofmontgomery.org/village-history/village-museum.html (845) 457-7576

Sat: 1 - 4 pm, Weekdays by appointment