New Paltz Town Records (1677-1932)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, January 20, 1998
Last revised June 27, 2005
Volume: 10 cu. ft.
Provenance: The Huguenot Historical Society recognizes that the New Paltz Town Records are the legal property of the Town of New Paltz. Acting in the capacity of custodian, the Society bears the responsibility for preserving and providing access to the collection to the best of its ability.
Acquisition: The Huguenot Historical Society acquired its holdings of New Paltz Town Records at various times during the 20th century. The bulk of the records appeared to have been collected by past HHS President Kenneth E. Hasbrouck throughout the length of his term, which lasted from the early 1950's to 1994. No direct documentation is readily available for any of these acquisitions.
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of the Huguenot Historical Society.

Historical Note

Founded in 1677 by a small group of French Huguenots, the town of New Paltz in Southern Ulster County, New York survived for the next two hundred years as an "isolated, conservative, tightly-knit farming community." [1] The population grew slowly from 130 in 1703, to 1,263 in 1782, and to 1,958 in 1880, with 453 people residing in the yet-to-be-incorporated village. At this point, the town boasted almost 400 dwelling houses, several brick yards, three churches, two newspapers, two banks, two resort hotels, one institution of higher education, nine school districts, a railroad, trolley, fire department, post office, library, and several clubs and other social and business organizations. A horse racing track, historical society, electric streetlights, and a telephone service were soon to come. Today the town exists as a diverse, progressive college community of over 12,000 permanent residents and almost 8,000 college students, and boasts a vibrant business district and tourism industry. Over 5,000 of the town's inhabitants and students reside within one square mile of the Village of New Paltz, which was incorporated in 1887.

The New Paltz Town Records stored in the archives of the Huguenot Historical Society consist of 19 boxes (10 cubic ft.) of municipal records representing the history of the town chiefly during its first 200 years of existence from the 1670's to the 1880's, prior to the incorporation of the village, which occurred in 1885.

The history of New Paltz begins on September 15, 1677, when twelve men representing approximately 60 Huguenot refugees then living in the neighboring town of Hurley, entered into a contract with the Esopus Indians to purchase an irregularly-shaped 39,683 acre tract of land that was to become the New Paltz Patent. [2] The original boundaries of the patent contained a large part of present-day southeastern Ulster County, including portions of the towns of Esopus, Lloyd, Plattekill, Gardiner, and Shawangunk. In exchange for the land, the Huguenots paid to the Esopus Indians a collection of goods that included domestic supplies, farming tools, clothing and blankets, wine, horses, tobacco, gunpowder, and lead. The terms of the contract also gave the natives the right to hunt on the lands within the Patent. Two weeks later, on September 29, the purchase was officially approved in a royal patent signed by Sir Edmund Andros, Governor of the Province of New York.

From the time of the town's founding to the end of the 18th century, the primary concern of the town's government involved the development of an effective system of managing the land within the patent. During the first 25 years of the settlement, it is believed that the New Paltz inhabitants held and farmed the land in common, and governed the town by a council of elders made up of the twelve founders. In 1703, however, the town's founders and the heirs of those deceased formally declared individual ownership of their respective lots within the patent. According to Peter Lefever, writing in ca. 1830, the purpose of this meeting was to correct an oversight in the original patent that would have given ownership of the entire patent to the sole surviving member of the town's founders. By deeds of conveyance, the surviving founders (often referred to as "patentees") and the heirs of those deceased, confirmed to each of them an interest equal to one-twelfth the lands of the patent. [3]

Twenty-five years later, in 1728, it became evident to the townsmen that they needed a more sophisticated system of land management for the purpose of discouraging encroachment from other towns and individuals whose land holdings bordered the New Paltz lands. The "Contract of 1728" created the institution known as the "Twelve Men" or "Duzine," [4] which held the power to survey and divide the lands, as well as to "act and sett in good order and unity all common affairs Business or things coming before them." The terms of the contract also established an electoral system based on familial connections to the original founders. This system allowed each of the twelve representative families to elect annually one of their number to serve as a member of the Twelve Men. The first elected Twelve Men included Jacob Hasbrouck, Roelof Elting, John LeFevre, Daniel Dubois, Samuel Bevier, Daniel Hasbrouck, John Terpenning, Solomon Hasbrouck, Abraham Deyo, John Ean, Isaac LeFevre and Josiah Elting. This action may have well been spurred by the land act of 1726 entitled 'An act for the Easier Partition of Lands held in Common and promoting the Settleing and Improvement thereof & for Confirming former Divisions of the Settled Townships of the Colony,' even though the act was vetoed later by the English Crown." [5] Ten years after the 1728 meeting, the Twelve Men met again and reconfirmed the ownership of their respective lots in a document known as the "Contract of 1738."

As early as 1709 New Paltz began having problems with neighboring townships concerning the borders of the New Paltz Patent due to the inexact boundary descriptions in the original patent. [6] As the century progressed, these problems gradually came to consume more of the time and efforts of the Twelve Men so that by the end of the eighteenth century, defending the boundaries of the Patent became their sole responsibility. To address these problems, the Twelve Men drafted a contract in 1744 giving them the authority to raise taxes for use in defending the Patent in County Court. The Twelve Men reconfirmed this contract in 1774. Significant cases involving the boundaries of the Patent include the cases of James Alexander vs. Philip Bevier (1750-1753), New Paltz vs. James Alexander (1762-1764), New Paltz vs. Hardenbergh (1773) and several cases between Andres LeFevre and other New Paltz landowners vs. Titus Ketchum of Marbletown (1790-1806), in which New Paltz hired attorney Aaron Burr to argue their case. New Paltz finally won the case in 1804 after a long and difficult trial.

By the second decade in the nineteenth-century, the responsibilities of the Twelve Men were fully absorbed into the town government, which was officially incorporated with the State of New York in 1785. However, the Twelve Men continued to hold elections until 1824, although no other business appears in the minutes at their meetings after 1804.

In addition to the Twelve Men, New Paltz established a governing body of town officers to handle the administrative affairs of the town. Although the relationship between the town's officers and the Twelve Men remains somewhat of a mystery, it is known that inhabitants frequently served as both "Duzine" members and town officers. The town meetings appeared to serve as the forum for both groups, as is evidenced by the minute books containing two sets of minutes and election results for each group.

The number of positions and duties of these town officers expanded over time. The town was mandated by "An Act to Divide the Southern Part of the County of Ulster into Precincts, etc." (1743), to elect one supervisor, two assessors, one (tax) collector, one constable, and one overseer of the poor, [7] although some of these offices had been in place in New Paltz since at least as early as 1710. [8] By the end of the 18th century, the size of the town's government had increased to almost 50 officers, including several assessors, fence viewers, highway commissioners and overseers, and animal keepers (also called "pounders" or "pound masters") in addition to the standard offices of supervisor, constable, clerk, overseer of the poor, and collector. Also, by "An Act to settle Courts of Justice" passed on Nov. 1, 1682, it was established "That in Every Towne in and throughout this province there be one Court held monthly for the hearing and determining of small causes and Cases of debt and trespasse to the value of forty Shillings or under Which Cause and Cases Shall be heard tried and determined by three persons to be Commissienated for that purpose without a Jury." [9] The first three such commissioners in New Paltz were Abraham Hasbrouck, Jean Hasbrouck, and Louis Bevier.[10]

The duties of the early town officers were to represent the town at the county level, to build and maintain public roads, and to regulate the town's poor population, livestock, and fences. Town officials also transferred moneys from the Board of Supervisors of Ulster County to the settlers who killed wolves or helped clear lands for road construction. In addition to these issues, they levied taxes, organized a church in 1683 (and constructed a stone church building in 1717), hired a succession of schoolmasters beginning in 1689, and periodically assessed the real and personal estates of the town's inhabitants.

The town and its government continued to grow and become more organized in the 19th century in response to its steady increase in population. The major change in the town government involved its expansion into regulating activities other than elections, land and highway management, and livestock regulation, although the government did grow more sophisticated in handling these matters. In the 19th century, the town government also became active in areas such as schools and education, the regulation of local businesses and alcohol consumption, the manumission of slaves, recordkeeping and fiscal management, and railroads. The development of a number of these departments is discussed throughout the Series Descriptions.

Collection Description

The New Paltz Town Records provide valuable if scattered documentation about most aspects of government in New Paltz from the time of its founding in 1677 through to the late 19th century. The overall informational content within the records covers a wide variety of topics, including economic activity; farming and business pursuits; matters of real and personal property; taxation; elections and politics; court and legal activity; schools and education, slavery, poverty; roads and bridges; military pursuits; and the regulation of livestock. The records document the gradual expansion of town government into various sectors of community life during the 18th and 19th centuries. Records from both centuries relate chiefly to financial, legal, and administrative activities of the town, but records from the 19th century provide added documentation of other aspects of community life, such as education and alcohol regulation. Further, the abundance of names and personal information about past inhabitants of New Paltz within this collection make it an excellent resource for genealogists, historic homeowners, local and professional historians, archivists, curators, students, and other researchers of numerous disciplines.

The collection is organized into nine series: Town Meeting and Election Records; Tax and Property Records; Financial Records; Court Records; Highway Department Records; School System Records; Military Records; Board of Excise Records; and Miscellaneous Records. Within series, the records are typically arranged chronologically. However, records within folders are often sorted by size, occasionally disrupting the strict chronological order of the records.

The physical condition of the records within the collection varies greatly. In general, most of the records dating before 1830 show evidence of damage from folding, tearing, fraying, rolling, scotch tape, yellowing, and fading, while the records after 1830 are generally in much better condition. Throughout the entirety of the collection, records stored in bound volumes show much less damage than loose documents. However, tax assessment rolls from 1802, 1813-1844 that were sewn together with thread and then rolled are in particularly poor condition. The military discharge records are approaching embrittlement and appear to show signs of minor fire damage. Several documents from the school commissioners' records and the Kettleborough School Records are in particularly poor condition, showing major damage from tearing and folding. The majority of the records in the collection are handwritten, although printed forms and other records are present as well. The legibility of the handwritten records varies greatly, although very few records in the collection are completely unreadable.

For the purpose of description, the records in the collection can be roughly divided into two periods: records before 1820, and records from the 1820's to the 1880's. The documentation is least comprehensive for the periods from 1677-1738, and 1790-1820, with most series containing significant gaps during these years. Records post-dating the 1880's are stored in this collection only when located in bound volumes together with earlier records and do not constitute a significant portion of the collection. The best sources for locating town government records dating from the 1880's to the present are the New Paltz Town Clerk's office and the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library.

Records in the collection predating 1820 chiefly fall within four series: Town Meeting and Election Records, Tax and Property Records, Financial Records, and Court Records. In combination, these series provide the most comprehensive resource for researching the early history of the town, particularly in regard to its economic, electoral, and land-related activities. However, references to other topics such as livestock regulation and fence building, road and bridge construction, and regulating the town's poor population are in evidence as well. Of particular note in relation to these subjects are several texts of acts passed chiefly by the state assembly that were copied into the records of meetings and elections. [11]

Among the early records are several important documents relating to the town's efforts to manage its landholdings. One item of specific interest is the Esopus-Huguenot Land Agreement from 1677, which documents the sale of the land to the Huguenots by the Esopus Indians. Written in Dutch, this document contains the signatures and signatory marks of both parties, the terms of the sale, and the list of goods that the Huguenots paid for the land. Another early document, the "New Paltz Patent," signifies the official support given to the Huguenots by Royal Governor Edmund Andros for the purchase of the land. Another item of interest is a tax assessment roll from 1798, which provides brief but detailed information on each household in the town, including structural information about buildings, as well as statistics about population and tax status. Also among the early records are several contracts, agreements, and surveys made throughout the 18th century, and record books containing resolutions, election returns, and minutes of the Twelve Men. The remaining early records largely consist of receipts concerning taxes, boundary disputes, and other financial and legal activities of the town. Some of these early documents are written in French and Dutch.

Also housed in the collection is the Register of Slaves (1799-1825), which exists as the largest single resource on slavery located in the Society's archives, and perhaps in the region. Kept by the town clerk as a requirement of the New York State Manumission Act of 1799, the book contains records of the births of children born to slaves within the town. Another important document relating to slavery is located within Account Book #1 housed in the Financial Records. This book contains a document entitled the "Register of Poor Persons at Present Relieved by the Overseers of the Poor." dating from 1805 to 1827. This register includes detailed and personal information about the town's poor population and the town's regulatory policies and activities. Many of the "paupers" listed in this document were African-Americans who may have been freed slaves.

Records from the 1820's to the 1880's show two major differences in comparison with the earlier records. First, the records documenting subjects and activities discussed in the earlier records become more standardized and comprehensive. Second, the scope and content of the records from this later period grows to encompass activities beyond the electoral, financial, and legal business of the town into the areas of schools and education, alcohol regulation, and military recruitment (chiefly during the Civil War). Also, the town's interest in other subjects such as recordkeeping and railroads are also peripherally evident in the records.

Beginning in the 1830's, the court and legal records show evidence of criminal cases and financial disputes, whereas in earlier periods the main issues involved disputes over land. The election records grow more sophisticated and voluminous. Additional records include voter registration records, election inspection reports, and oaths of office, all of which are absent in the earlier records. The tax and financial records after 1820 also are more consistent and in the earlier period, providing standard types of information in accordance with preset forms and practices. Further, the practice of periodically auditing the town's financial records resulted in town officials keeping detailed account books and more written receipts. Of particular importance to researchers is the fact that records relating to all other town departments in the 19th century can also be found in receipts and account books housed with the Financial Records.

There is also greater documentation of construction and maintenance of roads and bridges located in the paperwork kept by the Highway Department, which compiled surveys, construction reports and estimates, tax lists for road districts, and kept minutes of the Commissioners' meetings. In addition, road warrants from 1870 to 1880 list the names of residents who were called by the Commissioners to work on the roads in their respective districts. Records kept by the Overseers of the Poor during the 19th century include judicial orders, correspondence, agreements, and receipts, provide an account of the town's activities regarding persons that could not provide for themselves financially. These records provide information regarding expenses paid for the care of the town's poor population. There are also two agreements from 1841 containing detailed descriptions of the construction of a building, which may have served as a poorhouse. Records kept by the Board of Excise, such as liquor licenses and meeting minutes, relate solely to the regulation of alcohol consumption.

One series that is particularly rich in content is the School System Records. Although the town had been active in the area of public education as early as 1696, it wasn't until the 1820's that the primary school system became an official function of town government. Reports, minutes, account books, receipts, attendance registers, and other records kept by the School Superintendent, Board of Commissioners, and two school districts (Kettleborough and Middletown ) chiefly provide information about the financial and administrative activities of the town's public school system. These records contain information about the establishment and alteration of school district boundaries, payments made to teachers and for school books, the construction and repair of school buildings; and taxes. Basic information about families and each district's population can also be gleaned from the School District Records.

The major weaknesses of the collection occur mostly in the form of gaps that occur in virtually every series. Most noticeably, the lack of court dockets for any years except 1835-1837 and 1872-1873 poses a major problem for researchers attempting to reconstruct court and criminal activity within the town. This problem is further compounded by the lack of consistent documentation of the work of the town constables, which is only occasionally mentioned in the Financial Records. Furthermore, the town meeting minutes are generally very brief and not descriptive in nature, and there are several years in which there are no minutes or election returns at all.

Although the New Paltz Town Records encompass the most comprehensive documentation of life in New Paltz during the 17th through the 19th centuries, other related records are scattered throughout collections of institutional records and personal and family papers located in the Society's archives. A list of such collections is available upon request. Other repositories containing significant collections of records relating to New Paltz history within their holdings include the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz, the Ulster County Historical Society in Marbletown, and the Senate House Historic Site and Ulster County Records Center, both of which are located in Kingston.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Town Meeting and Election Records (1712-1902) 1.75 cu. ft.

The bulk of this series provides documentation about the election process in New Paltz during the 18th and 19th centuries. The series can be described in terms of three main groupings: town meeting minutes and election returns from 1712-1902, election records and occasional town meeting minutes from 1821-1880, and voter registration records from 1831-1880.

The records from 1712-1824 consist of four bound volumes and occasional loose documents that provide a valuable but fragmented account of the town meetings and elections for both the town's regular officers and the Twelve Men. The minutes of the meetings of the regular town officials mainly discuss the town's efforts to raise money for the construction, examination, and maintenance of roads, bridges and fences; the support of the town's poor population; and the regulation of livestock. These books also contain the records of the Twelve Men. The minutes of their meetings largely concern the election and appointment of representatives; efforts made to survey land within the New Paltz Patent; and the defense of the town's boundaries against encroachment from other towns and settlers. Consistent throughout the minutes kept by the Twelve Men are accounts of money for the purpose of paying the fees of attorneys, sheriffs and jurors involved in the court proceedings. From 1812 to 1824, however, the meetings of the Twelve Men focus solely on elections. There are a few significant gaps in the election records from the 18th century. For example, the records include election results of the Twelve Men from 1738 to 1824, but not from 1739 to 1744 and 1746 to 1749.

Beginning in 1821 the records documenting the elections grow more voluminous and sophisticated. A book entitled "Record of Elections" contains local returns for state and national elections as well as for elections of local officers. The book also contains statements by election inspectors, results of voter referendums, and a list of delegates chosen to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1867. Another record book covers election results, brief minutes of town meetings, and records relating to highway maintenance from 1817-1902. Loose papers from 1830 to 1880 provide added information about the election process and results. These loose papers include certificates of canvas, oaths of office, certificates of appointment and resignation, tally sheets, and lists of elected officers. Also housed in this series are town census records from 1845 (Districts 1 and 2), and Voter Registration Records, which are comprised of lists of voters by district (1831-1870), affidavits of unregistered voters (1864, 1867-1868), and registers of electors (1867-1868).

Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4.5 cu. ft.

This series consists of all records relating to the town's management of its landed property. Records include deeds, agreements, contracts, petitions, and other legal documents; survey maps and reports, and tax assessment rolls. Of particular interest within this series are the early documents relating to the town's acquisition and title to the land. These documents include the much quoted Esopus-Huguenot Land Agreement, also known as the "Indian Deed" and the New Paltz Patent signed by Governor Edmund Andros, and other land contracts from 1703, 1738, 1744, 1774, and 1787. Also included in this series are numerous surveys and divisions of the New Paltz Patent that were made by the Twelve Men. The records describe in great detail the changing boundaries of the twelve respective lots throughout the eighteenth century. Surveys of the Patent documented in this series occurred in 1738, 1745, 1749, 1762 and 1772. In this series were three bound volumes of New Paltz Patent Field Survey Reports (1793-1829) relating to the division of lots within the patent. These three volumes were returned to the Ulster County Archives.

The maps show the surveys and divisions of the New Paltz Patent and surrounding areas conducted by surveyors hired by the Twelve Men. These maps were used by the Twelve Men to divide the lands between new landowners and to defend the Patent boundaries in County Court. Maps include surveys of the Patent and its boundaries, estate surveys of Solomon and Lewis Dubois (1734); and of Noah Eltinge and Nathaniel Lefevre (1754). Other maps include "The South Bounds of the New Paltz Patent" (1752); two property survey maps of New Paltz dating from 1760 and 1765; and a 1797 map of the western part of the John Evans Patent. These latter two maps are located in the Archives Flat Files.

The rest of this series is made up of tax assessment rolls, which span almost the entire 19th century, from 1798 to 1884, although records are missing from the following years: 1799-1801, 1803-1812, 1840, 1863, 1870, 1872-1873, 1875-1876, 1878-1880, and 1883. The tax assessment rolls provide varying degrees of information about the real and personal estate of the town's inhabitants. Some types of information, such as the name of the property owner, and the valuation of real and personal estate were recorded consistently throughout the records, while other types of information were recorded more haphazardly. The most comprehensive information about each homeowner's holdings can be found in 1798, when the assessors recorded information about location, dimensions of the dwelling houses, outhouses, and windows; and the building materials used to construct the dwelling houses; as well as total valuations of the estates. Other information reported occasionally in the records include brief descriptions of land, assessments of land quality, land acreage, the number of residents living on the property, and the names of renters. Beginning in the 1860's, entries were added relating to taxes paid for military support, and for each dog owned by the property owner. Also present in various years are brief narrative entries for new property owners within the town, although such entries were not recorded on a yearly basis.

Series 3: Financial Records (1683-1909) 1 cu. ft.

The financial records consist of account books, receipts, bills, and miscellaneous accounts documenting the financial activities of every department within the town government, including the supervisor, town clerk, justice of the peace, tax collector, assessor, constable, overseers of the poor, highway department, public school system, and election districts.

Three account books kept by town officers during the nineteenth century provide the most comprehensive sources of information about the town during this period. The first account book documents the financial activities of two separate departments during two separate time periods. The first section contains a "Register of Poor Persons at Present Relieved by the Overseers of the Poor" from 1805 to 1827. This register includes the name of the individual in receipt of town money; the reason for their relief (extreme old or young age, "insanity," illness, blindness, etc.); amount payment and supplies or services purchased, whether they be for food, lodging, transportation, or medical attendance; and date of transaction. This document also provides a good source of information for the study of African-Americans and orphaned children who received attention or assistance from the Overseers of the Poor. Following this listing is a scattered series of balance sheets providing brief financial and descriptive accounts of the work of the Overseers of the Poor on a yearly basis.

The second section of this account book contains minutes and other records of the Board of Auditors of the town of New Paltz, who held the responsibility for reviewing all of the town's yearly expenditures. Comprised of the town clerk, the Justice of the Peace, and other town officials, this Board systematically inspected the financial records for each department. For each department, the records give the name of the department head, and the total amount of expenditures made by that department within a given year. The records for the first several years of this Board (1832-1839) are loosely constructed and somewhat scattered. The records from 1840 to 1909 are much more organized and comprehensive.

The second and third account books in this series, (1829-1855 and 1877-1899, respectively) were kept by the town supervisor and contain information about the income and expenditures of the town. The collection of moneys from taxes and licenses provided the bulk of the income for the town, while the expenses were much more varied, consisting of the expenditures of every department within the town.

The absence of account books from 1678-1805, and 1856-1876 necessitates the use of the loose financial papers, here organized together under the heading of Receipts and Accounts. In general, the Receipts and Accounts are much more detailed than the account books, which provide contain more summative records the town's financial activities. The loose financial records from the early period (1683-1800) are fairly scattered, and do not provide a comprehensive account of the town's financial activities during this period. They chiefly document issues of land management and division, specifically relating to the town's efforts to conduct surveys of the town's boundaries, and to record deeds and other legal documents. Other records from this early period relate to quit rent paid to the British Royal Governor, school and road expenses, and election inspections. Other records containing information about the early financial activities of the town can be found in the Court Records, Town Meeting and Election Records, and Tax and Property Records.

A gap exists in the financial records between 1800 and 1828, although fragmented information about the town's finances can be inferred from the study of the other series in this collection. From 1829 to 1872, the financial activities of the town are represented more fully. The records document payments made by the Overseers of the Poor to provide food, lodging and medical attendance to the subjects under their care as well as to transport them to the County Poorhouse and pay for burial expenses when necessary. The records contain information about the installation of a town clock in 1839 and the Highway Department's expenditures regarding the examination, construction, and maintenance of the bridges and roads within the town. The receipts and accounts from this period also relate to the work of the Justice of the Peace and the Constable, documenting activities such as issuing and serving warrants and subpoenas; feeding, lodging, and transporting prisoners; and swearing in juries. In relation to school districts, the records document expenses paid for holding meetings of the school superintendents, inspecting schoolteachers, and planning, constructing and maintaining school buildings. Other records provide information about the town's activities in announcing, staffing, and inspecting of elections; recording minutes of meetings and town transactions, and auditing the town's financial records. And lastly, there are receipts throughout the series for payments made to townsmen for killing predatory animals such as foxes and muskrats; and payments reimbursing landowners whose sheep were killed by wild dogs.

Series 4: Court Records (1750-1873) 0.25 cu. ft.

This series contains two court docket books kept by the Justices of the Peace at New Paltz, and receipts, bills, witness statements, attorney's opinions, subpoenas, testimonies and other loose documents relating to court and legal matters of the town. Both of the court docket books contain records of cases involving defaulted debt payments, allegations of trespassing, and occasional assaults, and thefts of livestock. The first docket book, kept by Solomon E. Elting from 1835 to 1837, contains only brief information about each case, while the second book kept by William Briggs from 1872-1873 contains full reports of each case, including complaints, testimonies, judgements, and costs. In most cases, Elting's docket book from the 1830's contains merely the names of the litigants, record of judgement rendered, and costs involved. Descriptions about the complaints or specific information about the cases are provided only occasionally. Both docket books contain name indexes to the litigants.

Another docket book, kept by Town Justice Peter LeFever from 1792-1814, is located in the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library. This book contains records of cases heard by LeFever in regard to disputes over land, trespassing suits, debts, petty thefts, working on Sabbath Day, and other minor disputes. Many cases specifically relate to complaints filed by doctors, schoolteachers, and merchants trying to collect on payments owed to them.

The Miscellaneous Court Records include receipts and bills, witness statements, attorney's opinions, subpoenas, survey maps, testimonies, and other documents chiefly relating to boundary disputes involving the New Paltz Patent. The majority of these cases discuss the disagreements over New Paltz' northern border next to the town of Marbletown from 1750 to 1812. Lawyers for the cases include Aaron Burr, Lucas Elmendorf, David Benson and John Addison. Several letters dating from 1806-1812 relate to efforts by Elmendorf to recover his overdue attorney's fees from the town. The records from 1814 to 1867 include a scattered array of court documents relating to indictments for criminal acts and disputes over defaulted rent and debt payments.

Series 5: Highway Department Records (1824-1880) 0.25 cu. ft.

Historical Note: 
The New Paltz Highway Department traces its official origins back to 1743, when "An Act to Divide the Southern Part of the County of Ulster into Precincts, etc." allowed the town to elect one commissioner of highways to manage the roads within its boundaries. Prior to this act, and beginning in 1701, the ultimate responsibility for all roads within Ulster County had rested with the three elected justices of the peace, who appointed the commissioners and surveyors for each township. Two notable commissioners from this period, Abraham Hasbrouck and Joseph Hasbrouck, both hailed from New Paltz. The town's election records show that surveyors (also called overseers) were also regularly elected as early as 1763. Major public highways were constructed in 1738 and 1765; the latter project required "inhabitants within the area living as far back as three miles from the Hudson to maintain the road after it had been built." [12]

By the late 18th century, road construction and maintenance was a common topic of business of the town's government, who entered the texts of two State Assembly acts in 1773 and 1784 relating to the construction, regulation and repair of roads. In 1770 and 1773 the State Legislature took measures to overhaul state's highway system, and in 1792 required each town to elect 3 commissioners and "as many overseers as there were road districts in the town." After 1795, the combination of the continued organization of the town's highway department and the emergence of private turnpike companies - such as the New Paltz Turnpike Road Company, formed in 1831 - greatly expanded the quality of roads in the town.

There are no records in the Highway Department Records relating directly to the New Paltz Turnpike Road Company.

Series Description:
This series consists of records kept by the Commissioners of Highways and the Town Court relating to the assessment, construction, and maintenance of roads and bridges within the town from 1824 to 1880, although information regarding roads during the 18th century can be found in the town meeting record books that are kept in the Town Meeting and Election Records. Records in this series include petitions and complaints filed by town residents in regard to road work; road surveys, assessments and estimates; construction reports; tax lists for road districts; and scattered entries minutes of the Commissioners' meetings. There are also road warrants from 1870 to 1880 containing names of residents who were called by the Commissioners to work on the roads in their respective districts. These warrants list the number of days spent assessing and making repairs to the roads, as well as commuting costs and fines levied against residents who refused to work. Other records relating to Highway maintenance can be found in the Series 1: Town Meeting and Election Records.

Series 6: School System Records (1797, 1813-1932) 1 cu. ft.

Historical Note:
According to LeFevre, the history of education in New Paltz can be traced back to 1689, under the direction of Huguenot schoolmasters Jean Cottin and Jean Tebanin, who were hired by the New Paltz Reformed Church. [13] The most telling document relating to their work is a letter of recommendation written in 1700 by church officials on behalf of Tebanin, claiming that he, "having lived with us during the space of four years for schoolmaster and for the instruction of our children, has always done the duty of a good and true Christian." This document is housed with the collection of New Paltz Reformed Church Records located in the Society's Archives. Among other schoolmasters mentioned by LeFevre is Joseph Coddington who, in addition to serving as town clerk intermittently during the 1770's and 1780's, also apparently taught school at New Paltz during the latter part of the 18th century. [14]

Other early records relating to education stored in the Archives include a receipt for lectures given by Jean Cottin in 1696, and numerous ciphering books kept by students during the 18th century. Other than these records, however, there is very little in the way of documentation of education in New Paltz until 1813. In 1812, the New York State Legislature passed "An Act for the Establishment of Common Schools," which required towns to elect three commissioners on a yearly basis to manage the affairs of the schools within each town. They were also charged with creating districts within the towns and altering the boundaries of each district as necessary. The Superintendent was charged with the responsibilities of apportioning moneys to each school district according to Commissioners' recommendations and for visiting the schools to inspect their teachers and facilities. He also had a voice in the districting process.

There were over twenty school districts established by the 1820's, the boundaries of which went through many alterations before they were finally consolidated into nine districts in 1856. Of these nine districts, only four were completely located in New Paltz: New Paltz Village (also called "Old Paltz"), Butterville, Middletown , and Ohioville. The remaining five districts were held jointly with the neighboring towns of Esopus, Rosendale, Gardiner, Lloyd, and Plattekill. These districts are listed: Gahow, Jenkinstown, Kettleborough, A. D.B. Elting, Libertyville , Dashville, and Springtown. This series only includes the records of two of these nine school districts: Middletown, and Kettleborough. Each school district maintained a board of elected trustees, tax collector, and librarian.

In the History of New Paltz and Its Old Families, LeFevre gives an historical account of a public school at New Paltz that operated from 1812 to 1874, but apparently the records of this particular school were lost. This school was most likely located in the district known as the "Old Paltz" or "New Paltz Village" district. [15]

The School System Records retain no materials relating to higher education in New Paltz.

Series Description:
The School System Records consist of reports, minutes, account books, receipts, attendance registers, and other records kept by various primary schools and administrative bodies within the New Paltz Public School System during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The bulk of the material within the series falls between 1830 and 1870, although there are several gaps in this period as well. Documentation prior to 1820 is virtually nonexistent. Divided into three sub-series, the School Superintendent and Commissioners' Records; the Kettleborough School District Records, and the Middletown School District Records, the series as a whole represents a valuable, if scattered written record of the administrative and financial activities of the town's school system.

In both the Superintendent and Commissioners' Records and the records of the two school districts, documentation of the town's scholastic financial activities are found in a variety of different documents, including reports, account books, minutes, certificates of apportionment, receipts, and tax lists. At both levels, the discussion of finances center on the payment of teachers' salaries, the purchase of school books, the maintenance and construction of schoolhouses, and tuition payments for indigent children. Within each sub-series, the account books, minutes, and reports contain the most comprehensive sources of financial information, although receipts, tax lists, and other records relating to the school system's income and expenses are also evident.

The Superintendent and Commissioners' Records provide information about the broader financial and administrative activities of all of the town's schools, while the school district records give more specific information about the operation and maintenance at the district and schoolhouse levels. There is much duplication between the Superintendent's and Commissioners' Records and the School District Records, and both provide information about the three major areas of administrative activity relating to the town's schools: financial management, districting, and taxation. However, the records kept by the Kettleborough and Middletown School Districts do include information about individual students and families, providing statistical records about attendance, family size, and tax status, whereas the Superintendent's and Commissioners' Records only include general statistical information in regard to finances, population, and attendance.

Another subject that is well documented in the series relates to the establishment and alteration of boundaries of the various school districts within the town. Specifically, the Commissioners' Records contain detailed descriptions of the property holdings and boundaries of each district, which were constantly under examination and revision throughout 19th century. This subject incurred a number of heated debates within the town since each district received funding in proportion to the number of children residing in the district. The debates were only exacerbated by the fact that districting also affected the school tax rates within the town. Relative to this matter, the records contain statements, arguments, and occasional litigation papers relating to the efforts of the Commissioners, the Superintendent, and District Trustees to set the boundaries of each school district.

In addition, the minutes of the Middletown School District document their efforts to fund, plan, and construct a schoolhouse in the 1850's and the Kettleborough School District Records include deeds and contracts relating the schoolhouse property. There are also several inventories of books used in the classroom among Kettleborough's minutes and reports, although few other records in the series provide information about daily life in the classroom. Researchers interested in the lives and work of students or teachers should consult ciphering books, letters, report cards, and other documents located in several collections of personal and family papers stored in the Society's archives. A list of such collections can be made available upon request.

Series 7: Military Records (1853, 1862-1866) 0.25 cu. ft.

This series includes applications and certificates of military discharges and exemptions, and enrollment lists chiefly from the Civil War period. The certificates of discharge provide brief but detailed information about each soldier's military service (company and regiment, as well as the reasons for and location of discharge) in addition to information about their home life, such as birth place, age, occupation, and descriptions of physical appearance. The enrollment lists contain information about each enrollee's payment and eligibility status, age, skin color, occupation, married status, place of birth, former military service, and other miscellaneous information such as medical condition, member of local organizations such as the fire company or brass band. The enrollment lists from 1862 and 1864, however, contain limited information about age, residence, and "class" (probably academic). The applications and certificates of military exemption list each applicant's reason for exemption, which usually relate to either a medical condition or non-resident status. Researchers interested in further study of local military issues may want to consult institutional records and personal and family papers stored in the Society's archives. A list of such collections can be made available upon request.

Series 8: Board of Excise Records (1830-1872) 0.5 cu. ft.

The records kept by the Board of Excise relate solely to the regulation of the sale of alcoholic beverages within the town. The large majority of this series consists of liquor licenses, in the form of bonds, which stipulated the conditions that the tavern and grocery owners must follow in order to maintain their establishment. These conditions required that the license holders "not suffer it to be disorderly, or suffer any cock-fighting, gaming, or playing with cards or dice, or keep any Billiard table, or other gaming table within the tavern by him kept, or in any out-house, yard or garden belonging thereunto, then this obligation to be void, otherwise of force." There are no licenses for the following years: 1840-1845, 1853, 1855-1856, 1859, and 1862-1870.

This series also includes the minutes of the annual meetings of the Board of Excise from 1830 to 1853. The minutes provide lists of all license holders within the town and the fees paid for their licenses. There is also a set of minutes for a meeting held on Oct. 7, 1872. At this meeting, the Board passed a resolution to prosecute town resident Hiram Atkins for selling liquor without a license. Also in this series are two small record books dating from 1855 and 1856 that were kept by tavern owner Easton Van Wagenen listing all sales of liquor made for each year. Each entry lists the name of purchaser; the price, quantity and type of liquor purchased; and the purpose for which the alcohol was to be used.

Series 9: Miscellaneous Town Records (1815-1892) 0.25 cu. ft.

Also housed in the collection are several folders containing items that do not neatly fit into any of the other series. Records kept by the Animal Keeper (also called "pounder" or "pound master") and the Fence Viewers document the town's efforts to regulating the livestock of its inhabitants. These records include descriptions of livestock, as well as the marks administered to the animal by the owner for the purpose of identification. These marks typically involved incisions made to the animals' ears, although there is also evidence of the use of branding irons. The records of the Fence Viewers chiefly consist of fence examinations and payments to inhabitants whose livestock were killed by wild dogs.

Other records concerning the work of the Fence Viewers and Animal Keepers can be found in the Town Meeting Records and Election Records series, particularly during the 18th century, and the Financial Records series. The earliest discussion of fence and livestock regulation is located in the minutes from a town meeting held in 1712. A more comprehensive account dating from 1767-1836 is located in a bound volume containing town meeting minutes and election returns from 1770-1796. These 18th century records regarding the town's livestock and fences were kept in part to comply with several acts of the New York State Legislature. One of these was "An Act to prevent Damages by Swine in the County of Orange and some parts of Ulster County" passed Dec. 24, 1759. Another act entitled "An Act for regulating Fences for the Several Cities and Counties within this Colony of New York" passed Nov. 20, 1750, is cited in the town's meeting records in 1773. This act gave the Fence Viewers authority "to judge of the sufficiency, strength, and height of all fences" and to appraise the true and real value of all damages done by impounded livestock in any enclosed lands within the district. And in 1770, New Paltz enacted orders that required the town's inhabitants to keep their sheep within enclosures and stipulated that runaway sheep would be impounded at the expense of their owners.

Another folder in this series houses records kept by the Overseers of the Poor for the town from 1820-1882, although election records show that the town had elected overseers of the poor since 1763. In the early years of the settlement, the poor were given relief by the local church, as is evidenced by records kept from 1698-1712. Copies of these records are located in the New Paltz Reformed Church Records stored in the Society's Archives. Also stored in the Society's Archives are two wills of early schoolmaster Jean Tebanin from 1719 and 1731, which also provide information about the town's attitudes and efforts to provide for the town's poor population. By the mid-18th century, the Overseers of the Poor were formally established within the town's government. "An Act for the relief of the Poor in the Counties of Ulster and Orange" passed Dec. 31, 1768 gave the overseers of the poor the power to bound out both male and female children to landowners within the town as apprentices and to compel adults "who have no visible way of gaining an honest Livelihood" to work for the town. The records in this series, which include judicial orders, correspondence, agreements, and receipts, provide an account of the town's activities regarding persons that could not provide for themselves financially during the 19th century. These records show the work of the Overseers of the Poor to use town money to pay for food, lodging, clothing, transportation, medical attendance, and other services for the town's poor population. Also in this folder are two agreements from 1841 containing detailed descriptions of the construction of a building, which may have served as a poorhouse. Another collection in the Society's Archives, the Articles of Agreement of Thomas Merrit (1827), contains two agreements between Merrit and the Ulster County Board of Supervisors that stipulate the use of his lands in New Paltz for the construction of the County's first poorhouse.

One of the most important items in the collection, the Register of Slaves (1799-1825), is also housed this series. This register was kept by the town clerk as a requirement of the New York State Manumission Act of 1799, which set forth the mechanics for the gradual abolition of slavery in the state. In keeping the register, the town clerk recorded the births of children born to slaves owned by the town's inhabitants. Each entry includes the owner's name, the slave's name, sex, and date of birth. In addition, located in the final pages of the book is an entry entitled the "Record of Disbandments," which list the dates that the slave owners freed, or "abandoned" individual slave children in accordance with the 1799 act. The Register of Slaves is the largest single resource on slavery located in the Society's archives. However, additional records documenting slavery can be found in other collections, most notably in collections of family papers containing wills, estate inventories, account books and other financial records. The Society's Newspaper Collection also contains advertisements for the sale of slaves, and notices regarding runaway slaves.

Other records in the series include a census list from 1821, inventories of town records compiled in 1799 and 1839, vital records (births, marriages, and deaths) from 1847, and records of the Railroad Commission, which conducted examinations of the vouchers of the Wallkill Valley Railroad (1869-1872).

Box and Folder List

Box 1: Town Meeting Minutes and Election Records (1712-1824) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 1: Town Meeting and Election Records (1712-1880) 1.75 cu. ft.

Town Meeting Minutes and Election Records:
(1712-1766 scattered) Minutes and Election Returns
(1770-1796) Minutes and Election Returns
(1797-1816) Minutes and Election Returns
(1751-1824) Minutes and Election Returns

Box 2: Election Records and Miscellaneous Town Meeting Records (1821-1880) 1 cu. ft.
Series 1: Town Meeting and Election Records (1712-1880) 1.75 cu. ft.

Election Records:
(1817-1902) Record Book of Elections, Town Meetings, and Highway Business
(1821-1868) Record Book of Elections
(1830-1841 and undated)
(1842-1874) - ten folders
(1875-1880 scattered, and undated)

Miscellaneous Town Meeting Records (1839-1875 scattered)

Box 3: Voter Registration Records (1831-1880) 0.5 cu. ft.
Series 1: Town Meeting and Election Records (1712-1880) 1.75 cu. ft.

Voter Registration Records:
(1831-1870 with gaps) - eight folders

Box 4: Census Records (1845)
Series 1: Town Meeting and Election Records (1712-1880) 1.75 cu. ft.

New York State Census Register Books, Town of New Paltz , Election Districts 1 and 2 (1845) - 2 bound volumes

Box 5: Tax and Property Records, Loose Items (1708-1797) - oversize - 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4 cu. ft.

Agreements, Surveys, Petitions, etc. (1708-1781 and undated)

Esopus-Huguenot Land Agreement, original and photocopies (1677)

Contracts, Agreements, and Survey Maps (1677-1797) - oversize

Box 6: Tax and Property Records, Bound Volumes (1738-1829) 0.5 cu. ft.
Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4 cu. ft.

Field Survey Reports (1793-1824)

Proceedings of the Twelve Men (1738-1772)

Box 7: Tax Assessment Records (1798, 1802) - oversize - 0.5 cu. ft.
Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4 cu. ft.

Contains two bound volumes and one transcription with index for 1798 assessment.

Box 8: Tax Assessment Records (1813-1853) 1 cu. ft.
Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4 cu. ft.

Includes 14 folders containing bound tax assessment rolls.

Box 9: Tax Assessment Records (1854-1877) - oversize - .5 cu. ft.
Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4 cu. ft.

Includes five bound volumes and 14 folders containing bound tax assessment rolls.

Box 10: Tax Assessment Records (1881-1884) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 2: Tax and Property Records (1677-1884) 4 cu. ft.

Includes three folders containing bound tax assessment rolls.

Box 11: Financial Records (1683-1909) 1 cu. ft.
Series 3: Financial Records (1683-1909) 1 cu. ft.

Account Books:
#1 Overseers of the Poor, Board of Auditors (1805-1909)
#2 Town Supervisor (1829-1857)
#3 Town Supervisor (1877-1899)

Receipts and Accounts (1683-1882 with gaps and undated) - 13 folders

Box 12: Court Records (1750-1873) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 4: Court Records (1750-1873) 0.25 cu. ft.

Court Docket Books (1833-1835, 1872-1873)

Miscellaneous Court and Legal Records:
(1790-1867, scattered after 1814)

Box 13: Highway Department Records (1824-1880) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 5: Highway Department Records (1824-1880) 0.25 cu. ft.

Highway Department Records:
(1850-1874 and undated)
(1870-1880, scattered) Road Warrants

Box 14: School Superintendent and Commissioner's Records (1797, 1815-1908) 0.5 cu. ft.
Series 6: School System Records (1797, 1813-1932) 1 cu. ft.

Certificates of Apportionment (1857-1888)
Commissioners' Record Book (1831-1908)
Commissioner's Records, loose (1814-1867)
Superintendent's Account Book (1857-1868)
Superintendent's Reports (1844-1858)     
Miscellaneous School Records (1797-1900 scattered)

Box 15: Kettleborough School District Records (1827-1932) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 6: School System Records (1797, 1813-1932) 1 cu. ft.

Minutes and Reports (1827-1927)

Miscellaneous Records (1835-1932 and undated)

Box 16: Middletown School District Records (1813-1913) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 6: School System Records (1797, 1813-1932) 1 cu. ft.

Account Book (1842-1903)
Attendance Register (1842-1858)
Minutes and Reports (1813-1842)
Minutes and Reports (1853-1913)

Box 17: Military Records (1853, 1862-1866) 0.25 cu. ft.
Series 7: Military Records (1853, 1862-1866) 0.25 cu. ft.

Discharges (1862-1866)

Enrollment Records (1853, 1862-1866)

Exemptions (1862-1865)

Box 18: Board of Excise Records (1830-1872) 0.5 cu. ft.
Series 8: Board of Excise Records (1830-1872) 0.5 cu. ft.

Annual Meeting Minutes (1830-1853, 1872)

Record Books of Liquor Sales, Easton Van Wagenen (1855-1856)

Liquor Licenses (1830-1872 with gaps)

Box 19: Miscellaneous Town Records (1815-1892) 0.5 cu. ft.
Series 9: Miscellaneous Town Records (1815-1892) 0.5 cu. ft.

Animal Keeper's /Fence Viewers' Records (1805-1878)
Inventories of New Paltz Town Records (1799, 1839)
Overseers' of the Poor Records (1820-1882)
Railroad Commission's Records (1869-1872)
Slave Register (1799-1827)
Vital Records (1847)


[1] The History of Ulster County: with and Emphasis upon the last 100 years, 1883-1983. Ulster County Historians (1984): p. 208.

[2] In addition to Lowies Du Booys, the New Paltz patentees included Christian de Yoo, Abraham haesbroecq, Anderie Lefeber, Jan Broecq, Piere Doyo, Lowis Biverie, Anthony Crespel, Abraham DuBooys, Hugo Freer, Isaack Du Booys and Symon Lefeber. As noted by Ralph Lefevre in his book the History of New Paltz and its Old Families, Fort Orange Press, Albany (1909): p. 19, at least seven of these patentees resided at Hurley, New York. The 20th century spellings of the family names will be used hereafter in order to avoid confusion arising from the large variety of spellings of the names found in the papers.

[3] Untitled document, ca. 1830. LeFevre Family Papers: "The Bontecoe LeFevres" (1703-1905). Special Collections, Huguenot Historical Society Library and Archives.

[4] The term "Duzine" as a synonym for the Twelve Men occurs frequently in written histories about New Paltz but is not found anywhere in the old records.

[5] Marks, Alfred. Evolution of a Town: A Documentary History of New Paltz 1677-1825. Unpublished exhibit. New Paltz Town Hall (1999).

[6] Hasbrouck, p. 7-8.

[7] The Colonial Laws of New York from the Year 1664 to the Revolution, 4 vols. James B. Lyon, State Printer, Albany (1894): pp. 320-321.

[8] Minutes of the Board of Supervisors of Ulster County 1710/1 to 1730/1. Transcriptions of Early County Records on New York State. The New York State Historical Records Survey Project, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Work Projects Administration. Albany , NY (1939).

[9] Colonial Laws of New York, p. 125.

[10] LeFevre, p. 21.

[11] The texts of many of these laws are also given in The Colonial Laws of New York.

[12] Records of the Road Commissioners of Ulster County 1722-1795, 2 vols. Transcriptions of Early County Records of New York State. Prepared by the New York State Historical Records Survey Project, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Work Projects Administration. Albany, NY (1940): vol. I, p. xii.

[13] LeFevre, pp. 25-26.

[14] Ibid., 216

[15] Ibid., Appendix: pp. 161-164.