History 2019-03-09T11:30:41-05:00

A Town Steeped in History

Jefferson’s American Story

Dating as Old as the Country Itself,

Jefferson was unoccupied by settlers during the American Revolution.   The area was part of the Strasburg Patent which was originally controlled by John Butler.   He was a British Loyalist and as a result lost ownership of the land after the Revolutionary War.    It was probably first surveyed and broken into lots for purchase in 1793. Lower elevation areas of the county had already been heavily settled many decades earlier.  The first residents of Jefferson were generally of English origin as opposed to many other local areas of Schoharie County where Germans were prevalent.  Many of the early families emigrated from Connecticut .  Colonel  Stephen Judd purchased 2000 acres in the area in 1797.   In 1803, the town was created from part of the Town of Blenheim.  Judd successfully lobbied in Albany to have it official named “Jefferson”.    The Jefferson Academy was envisioned in 1812  and the building was completed in 1817. It attracted students from well beyond the town itself and at its peak 152 students attended.    Attendance fell and it went out of business in 1859.  By 1820 the town’s population was nearly 1600 residents many of whom were farmers.    Four Methodist churches were built in the town in West Jefferson (1817), the hamlet itself (1844), the Morseville hamlet (1834) and along the Westkill drainage  (1853).  A Presbyterian Church on the Green burned down and it was replaced by the what is now the Maple Museum in 1837. Baptist churches were developed in South Jefferson in 1833 and East Jefferson in 1837.

Business History

Quite the array of shops lined Main Street back in the day.  There were hardware stores, hotels, bakeries, blacksmiths, general stores and wagon makers as well as a doctor and a local bank and of course an ice cream parlor.

Farming History

Throughout the early history of Jefferson agriculture formed much of the basis of the local economy. Most farms centered on self-sufficiency. Farms often raised a small number of cows, pigs, sheep, and poultry and included a team of horses as work animals. Farmers raised hay, corn, oats, wheat, rye, and buckwheat. Small apple orchards were common with cider produced by the barrel. Surplus butter, wool, and eggs were often sold to supplement their incomes.

Jefferson became known as Butter Town due to the quantity of high quality butter produced locally. In 1896 a very successful creamery was built where the fire station now stands. A second creamery was developed in 1914 near the former Grange Hall. Much of the butter from both creameries was sent to New York City. Eventually the creameries went out of business but the dairy industry continued to be very important into the 1960s. Now few active dairy herds remain in Jefferson. Maple producers were also numerous in the community and a few continue to be profitable businesses. Smaller niche market agricultural entities are scattered throughout the town.