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Hamden Town


Hamden Town Hall is located at Corner Route 10, DeLancy, NY 13782; phone: 607-746-6660.

Beginnings [1]

Hamden is an interior town, located in the center of Delaware County. It is primarily mountainous upland, broken by the West Branch of the Delaware River, which flows through its center, and numerous north-south hollows, created by the river's many streams and tributaries. A portion of the town was part of the eighteenth century Hardenberg Patent; other sections were contained in various other land grants. Before 1797, when Delaware County was formed, the area that became the town of Hamden was part of Otsego and Ulster Counties. Between 1798 and 1825 the land was part of the towns of Delhi and Walton. On 4 April 1825 parts of Delhi and Walton were combined in the new town of "Hampden," later changed to Hamden. The original name reflects the origin of many of its early settlers from Hampden, Massachusetts. Encompassing fifty-three square miles, Hamden was the seventeenth town in Delaware County.

Permanent settlement began after the Revolution, and Hamden's earliest settler is believed to have been David Harrower, who arrived with his family in 1779. Other settlement-era families include those of Joseph Fisk, Henry Van Waggoner, James Mason, Reuben Ward, Henry and Joseph Edwards, Henry and John Howard, Samuel Robinson, William Cornell, John and Silas Grimes, James and John Howard, Samuel Olmstead, Benajah McCall, Matthias Sweeney, and General Elias Butler. While the first settlers came from Massachusetts and other New England states, in the early nineteenth century Hamden, like much of Delaware County, saw an infusion of immigrants from Scotland, most of them Presbyterians, who played important roles in the development of the town. At the first town meeting, held in March 1826, Jabez Bostwick was elected supervisor.

Lumber, which was floated down the Delaware, was Hamden's first important industry, followed by milling, taking advantage of the easy availability of water power. James Howard is believed to have opened the first inn in 1796 and Matthias Sweeny the first grist mill in 1797. About 1800, the Kingston Turnpike was opened, providing easier travel to the Hudson River and greatly enhancing the town's ability to participate in commerce.

The first blacksmith shop was established ca. 1809-1810 in the hamlet of Hamden, while Samuel Tiffany opened a shoe shop ca. 1810 in DeLancy. Soon those two hamlets were populated with saw mills, grist mills, a woolen mill, a tavern, grocery stores, a cooper, a distillery an ashery, a hat shop, a physician, a hotel, and numerous other businesses.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, agriculture played a leading role in Hamden's economy, particularly dairy, one of the few agricultural pursuits suited to the town's steep, rocky hillsides. Between 1860 and 1890, butter making was the town's most important industry, as it was in many Delaware County towns, and in Hamden it brought great prosperity to the farming community. After the butter industry waned, the shipment of fluid milk to urban areas became an economic staple, made possible by the development of railroad transportation through the county. For western Delaware County it was the O&W, which connected Delhi, DeLancy, and Hamden to the mainline at Walton, thence to Cornwall on the Hudson, and finally south to Weehawken, NJ. There were also a number of successful cooperative creameries that enabled farmers to market their milk products more effectively. Large creameries were located in the hamlets of Hamden and DeLancey, as well as in nearby Delhi, and smaller ones in other locations. Raising sheep and manufacturing wool and yarn were also important, as was bluestone quarrying in the mountains. The town's initial growth was slow but population grew steadily until 1850, when it peaked at 1,919; thereafter, Hamden declined in population, and today the town includes only approximately 1,100 inhabitants.

  1. Kathleen LaFrank, National Register Coordinator, New York State Office of Historic Preservation, Schoolhouse Number 5, Delaware County, New York, nomination document, January 2011, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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