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Fultonville History

-by Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar, Montgomery County Historian/RMO - Nov, 2006

Every community has its own unique history and the Village of Fultonville is no exception. Seated in the heart of Montgomery County on the south bank of the Mohawk River, this community’s origins began much earlier than its date of incorporation.

In 1750, John Evart Van Epps purchased 900 acres of marshland in the area that became known as Van Epps’ Swamp. Although its future as the town’s business center was years down the line, early on this area was overshadowed by Voorheesville, later known as the Glen hamlet.

John Starin opened one of the first taverns around 1810. However, the construction of the Erie Canal catapulted the community’s growth. By the time the waterway began operations in 1825, area officials had streets laid out and a variety of businesses opened doors including a flourmill, distillery, mercantile, saw mill, blacksmith shop, and potashery. Along Main Street was a flurry of activity with the construction of homes, most of which were built by Maynard Starin and Thomas Robinson. The canal’s enlargement in the 1830s brought more businesses to this prospering community.

On August 9, 1848, the community, now known as Fultonville, in honor of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton, incorporated as a Village. That same year, residents purchased land from Garret Yates for the purpose of establishing a public cemetery. Burial plots were sold at auction. A private cemetery, set up by Barney Gardinier about one-half mile from the center of the village, passed into the hands of Maple Avenue Cemetery Association when that organization formed in 1873.

Life in Fultonville thrived, as this was a major transportation center exporting freight, specifically lumber, from the Adirondacks, as well as from Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville. A variety of manufacturers continued operations in Fultonville for a long time, including a furniture company, Wemple & Yates Foundry, a broom-making company, and a manufacturer from Vermont that eased the burdens of some homemakers. White Mop Wringer began producing wooden mop wringers in 1893 turning to production of the steel fashioned wringers by the 1920s.

By 1903, Fultonville’s chief industry was the Wiles’ Furniture Company, employing some 40 men. Located in the Wiles’ Block on the south side of the Erie Canal at the corner of Main and Canal Streets, the company got its start in Fultonville before 1861 with Peter Wiles at the helm. Peter’s son William joined his father in the venture of furniture making and undertaking – quite a diversity in business. As the twentieth century approached, the company’s products expanded to making brass and iron bedsteads. Destroyed by fire in 1900, the area residents became principal stockholders and rebuilt the Wiles Manufacturing Company, only to have it destroyed once again three years later.

John H. Starin, son of the above tavern keeper, after leaving his native village in search of greater opportunity, made a name for himself in New York City as a shipping magnate with both railroad and steamboat lines. Formerly a postmaster and druggist in Fultonville, Starin is credited with establishing the Staten Island Ferry and a steamboat line to New Haven, Connecticut. Upon his return to Fultonville in 1874, he purchased 600 acres at the easterly end of the village for his palatial estate, high on a hill overlooking the Mohawk River. Starin generously bestowed his wealth upon his native village in many ways. Among them establishing a silk mill, the Fultonville National Bank built in 1883, a library, a sewing school, and a dance/banquet hall in the upper floor of the Donaldson Block.

Two newspapers were published in Fultonville -- The Montgomery County Republican, which started out in 1840 as the Montgomery County Whig, and The Mohawk Valley American that started in 1856 and operated in Fultonville until it was consolidated with The Fonda Sentinel to become The Mohawk Valley Democrat published in Fonda.

Where school-age children in Fultonville previously attended either the one-room schoolhouse districts or the Union Free School, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were educated in the consolidated Fonda-Fultonville School that was centralized 1953-54. The Union Free School, on Union Street, was constructed in 1884. The building burned in January 1923 on the first day the students returned from Christmas vacation. A second edifice was put up, only to be razed less than half a century later. Today, a park occupies the site of the school and an historic marker, erected by the Fultonville High School alumni, commemorates the educational instruction many received there.

Village residents received religious instruction at three different churches. The Fultonville Reformed Church organized in 1838 with a white frame structure built the following year. When that building was destroyed by fire in 1852, a second structure was dedicated in 1856. The Methodist Church on Montgomery Street organized in 1854. Before the end of the nineteenth century, the third congregation, the Calvary Baptist Church, organized in 1892. The congregation constructed their house of worship on Main Street. The building was transferred to the ownership of the Pilgrim Holiness church with the dissolution of the Calvary Baptists in the 1930s.

After traffic on the Erie Canal dwindled, so did some of Fultonville’s business, however, it was construction of the New York State Thruway through the heart of the village’s business section that tremendously affected growth. Close to 40 structures were moved or demolished, in the early 1950s, in preparation for the state’s “superhighway,” drastically altering the community’s landscape.

Despite losing two major industries in the last few years, White Mop Wringer and Capital Vial, there have been some businesses recently opening doors in Fultonville. Riverside Drive continues to see traffic due to the Thruway interchange and the nearby Fonda Speedway/Fairgrounds. A franchise of the Dunkin’ Donuts chain greets visitors as they get off the Thruway and with new businesses starting up in the Glen Industrial Park, Fultonville’s future looks bright.

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