Village Historian
Type: Appointed
Term: annual
Taken from New York State Museum Local Government Historians Guidelines:The work of the Local Government Historian falls into four broad categories. Where the historian places emphasis will largely be a matter of personal interest and inclination as well as reflect the priorities and interests of the historian’s appointing authority.


1. Research and Writing

The first, and primary, responsibility of the Local Government Historian is interpretation of the past. This will involve research and writing on aspects of the history of one’s jurisdiction and may include scholarly monographs and articles as well as writing for a more general public audience in magazines and newspapers. Professor Judith M. Wellman noted:

The best local historians have upheld high standards of gathering and evaluating evidence, making thoughtful and appropriate generalizations, writing well-organized and readable narratives, and sharing their work with others through the most appropriate mediums.

2. Teaching and Public Presentations

The second category of responsibilities also involves the interpretation of the history of his or her community through teaching and public presentations. The Local Government Historian may teach courses in local and regional history, serve as a resource to teachers especially in the fourth and seventh grade local history curriculum, serve as a content consultant to historical agency exhibit planners, speak and lecture to community groups, participate in radio talk shows, and otherwise disseminate knowledge of the history of their locality. In addition, the Local Government Historian may work directly with students and other individuals interested in the community’s past.

3. Historic Preservation

The third category of activity for Local Government Historians is that of historic preservation. This embraces not only preservation of the built environment but also of the manuscripts and records that document a community’s past, and the objects and artifacts that constitute a community’s material culture.

The Local Government Historian is both an advocate for historic preservation and a resource to his or her appointing authority on questions relating to history and preservation. The Local Government Historian may be asked to prepare cultural resource surveys of areas scheduled for development, to identify historic structures and districts and to prepare nominations to the State and National Register of Historic Places, to develop and manage historic marker programs, and to answer questions regarding the historic significance of places and properties within his or her jurisdiction.

In addition, the Local Government Historian promotes and encourages the preservation of historic manuscripts and other records as well as artifacts by recommending appropriate repositories of historical materials, such as local government archives, local public libraries, or historical agency collections.

4. Organization, Advocacy, and Tourism Promotion

The final area of activity for Local Government Historians is that of organizer and advocate. Local Government Historians are often asked by their appointing authorities to support the local Tourism Promotion Agency or TPA. Heritage Tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry and depends for success on an accurate and attractive presentation of history. Successful efforts can have an important positive effect on local and regional economy.

Local Government Historians are also asked to organize and direct the commemoration of historical anniversaries and to participate in other civic or patriotic observations. To this the Local Government Historian must bring energy and knowledge of the past as well as a sense of good taste. Moreover, the Local Government Historian may be asked to act as a fund raiser or grant writer to provide resources for historical programs or to use their knowledge of local government to lobby for or introduce legislative initiatives to promote community

Beverly Guiffre
Phone: 518-853-4322
Duties and Responsibilities of a Village Historian

The Ausman Memorial: Taken from Leader Herald May 5, 2007 Senior Focus Page 14 Ausman Memorial Fountain history revealed by David Freeman, Village Historian. 

The year was 1890. It was this year when Town of Mohawk Justice Hammer J. Ausman passed away at the age of 47. With the passing of his infant child in 1872, Hammer’s only remaining family was that of his wife, Mrs. Anna J. Ausman, and his aged father.

It was on June of 1891 when Mrs. Ausman opted to make out her last will and testament, In said document, she bequeathed to the Village of Fonda the sum of $1,000.00 to be used for the erection of a fountain within the corporate limits of the village.

Once the Ausman Memorial Fountain was completed, a plaque with the names and dates signifying the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Ausman was to be installed.

It would be on Jan, 18, 1892, when the final piece of information for the plaque would be provided. It was on this date when Mrs. Anna J. Ausman would once again join her husband.

With the passing of Mrs. Ausman, the Village of Fonda would soon learn of the money bequeathed to them. Years would go by before Mr. Isaac Rosa, executer of Mrs. Ausman’s will, would be notified of a location for the fountain.

It was during a village board meeting Oct. 19, 1904, when the issue of the Ausman Fountain was brought to the table.

It was in this meeting the following location was chosen: beginning in the southwest corner of Main Street and Broadway, and southerly along the westerly sideline of Broadway, a distance of 62 feet to a point; then at right angles, to sideline easterly, a distance of 51 feet to a point. Said point was the center of a 10-foot square designated for placement of the fountain.

At the May 3, 1905 meeting of the board, the motion was made and carried permitting the clerk to contact Mr. Rosa, execute of the estate, to order and set the fountain as soon as possible.

The following article appeared in the Fonda News section of the Semi-Weekly Recorder Democrat July 4, 1905:

“The Ausman Memorial Fountain recently placed between Hotel Roy and the railroad station is completed and now works satisfactorily. The graceful spray of water seems to make the beholder feel cooler just to gaze at it these hot days while the brimming basin will be a boon to all the thirsty animals.”

The Ausman Memorial Fountain soon added beauty to the railroad square. The beauty and grandeur it brought to the village was soon to be short-lived. It was only a few years after it was erected that it would meet its demise.

It was Jan. 25, 1909, when Fonda was about to lose one of its well-known landmarks. The Hotel Roy, which was situated on the location where Subway sits today, was about to become a memory. It was on this date when the well-known hotel would succumb to fire.

The fire was quickly noticed by a chambermaid and quickly responded to by the fire company. Businesses and factories closed in order to assist in fighting the blaze. Despite the quick response of the villagers, the fire seemed to be quicker as it soon became evident that the thing to do was to turn attention to neighboring buildings in an attempt to save them. As the fire grew more intense to the point of the heat pushing onlookers and volunteers farther back, it was this intense heat that eventually melted the fountain. Fonda not only lost a landmark on that day, but it lost a thing of beauty as well.

During the few years the fountain existed, we were lucky enough that a postcard was made of it. Now, even though the Ausman Memorial Fountain is only a piece of history, the postcard will help keep it alive in our memories today and help us to know of the Ausmans as Anna had wished.

 The Fonda Tavern:

Did you know that before it was the parsonage for the Fonda Reformed church, and then later attached to the church as Cussler Hall, the house was one half of the Fonda Tavern? In 1835, in order to make room for Hotel Roy, they attempted to move the Fonda Tavern, and as a result had to separate it into two separate residences, one that is now a part of the Fonda Reformed Church as Cussler Hall and one that is now a family residence on Court St.

Hotel Roy was a grand hotel, consisting of 3 floors. The front door of the Hotel faced the railroad tracks and the station that used to be located in Fonda so that guests of the Hotel who traveled by train could enter directly into the Hotel.

In 1909 Hotel Roy burned, this was the first of three fires to strike this corner. After the Hotel Roy burned they built the Colonial Hotel and a gas station. The Colonial Hotel was much smaller than the Hotel Roy and didn’t draw as much attention and guests. Once again tragedy struck this corner and the Colonial Hotel burned down as well. It was then replaced by what most of you might remember as Porky’s Bar & Grill. Sadly, that too burned to the ground in the summer of 1999. Let’s hope that this is the last time something on this corner will be destroyed by fire! Currently where the original, and awe-inspiring Hotel Roy once stood is a Subway restaurant and an empty gas station, as well as part of Dollar General. The fire was quickly noticed by a chambermaid and quickly responded to by the fire company. Businesses and factories closed in order to assist in fighting the blaze.

Despite the quick response of the villagers, the fire seemed to be quicker as it soon became evident that the thing to do was to turn attention to neighboring buildings in an attempt to save them. As the fire grew more intense to the point of the heat pushing onlookers and volunteers farther back, it was this intense heat that eventually melted the fountain. Fonda not only lost a landmark on that day, but it lost a thing of beauty as well.

Brief History:

Founder Douw Fonda, considered to be the founder of the village, originally known as Caughnawaga, settled in Fonda in about 1750. The village itself extended from the old stone churchand parsonage to Douw Fonda’s trading post near the river within the circle of the present race track. He also founded the Fonda family – a branch of which is still in possession and residence of the original eighty-four and one half acres willed by Douw to his descendants.

The east end of the village is still to this day often referred to as Caughnawaga. Its name in the Iroquois language is “Kanawake” and means “above the rapids”. One of Douw Fonda’s three sons, Jelles(or Giles), born in 1727 was an extensive landholder and trader in the village and during the Revolutionary War he served as a major in the Tryon County Militia. His home was burned with others during the raid on Caughnawaga. A local heroine, Margaret (Peggy) Wemple, daughter of Douw Fonda, milled flour for Washington’s army and frontier forts. Her home was built in about 1780 and survived the rigors of time until a few years ago when it was torn down and replaced with a modular home. It was located on Putman Avenue.

The Jelles Fonda Horn: Jelles Fonda 1727-1791.

The home of Major Jelles Fonda, erected in 1790, which he did not live to occupy, stands today on Montgomery Terrace. The Frothingham Free Library came into existence through the generosity of a bequest left by Rev. Washington Frothingham, and remains as an excellent educational repository, with programs for all ages. Rev. Frothingham wrote several books as an author but he was also a journalist, philanthropist, and a very active minister. In the Fonda Section of his book, “History of Montgomery County”, published in 1892 he made the following statement: “Fonda, indeed, has a very promising prospect in the future”.

One of the prominent men of the Old Tryon County.

Indian Trader at Caughnawaga
A captain in the French & Indian War in campaigns against Canada

While the horn contains two dates-1751 and 1756, it probably was not made until after he became a member of St. Patrick’s Lodge of Masons, March 7, 1767. Capt. Fonda and his company of Mohawk Valley men under Sir Wm Johnson during the French & Indian War, assisted in repairing the building and defenses at Lake George, which is recorded on his powder horn.

Many public events have taken place over the years but most consistent of these is the “Fonda Fair”. The first fair was held on the Old Court House grounds in 1844 and is still an annual fall event. Another public event is the “Fonda Speedway”, started in 1953 and is still drawing thousands of fans weekly from all over the country.

When the old Tryon County was formed from Albany County in 1772, the county seat was Johnstown. In 1836, Fonda became the county seat as a result of its geographical location in the center of the county, growth in population and construction of the Utica and Schenectady railroad and the old road to Johnstown was of course not paved and at times was difficult to travel on. Fonda’s Old Court House, built in 1836 and one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the state, was built on the site of the home of the last Colonial Sheriff of Tryon County, who was a Tory and fled to Canada.

Our pioneer settlers were governed by the laws of God, thus the erection of the Old Caughnawaga Dutch Reformed Church in 1763. The church was torn down in 1861 but in 1843 another had been erected at Center and Railroad Streets and moved to the present location in 1868. The Rev. Barent Vrooman was the supply minister 1758-1794.

Prior to 1850 Catholic services were conducted in private homes, and in 1850 St. Patrick’s of Johnstown was established as a mission and later a parish and Catholics in the Fonda area attended this parish until the first Catholic church was built on Main Street in 1875. In 1923 the present church site was purchased and in 1926 a new church was officially opened for services Easter Sunday, April 4 and is currently in use. The Methodist Church has its history in the visitations of circuit riders, who preached in small groups. The church was organized in 1842 and a church was built.
In 1843 due to the many new members a second edifice was built which was destroyed by fire in 1912. In 1913 another building was erected, which was demolished to make way for the new Stewart’s Ice Cream Shoppe. The
congregation united with the Fultonville church.

The Rev. F. D. McGuire was the first resident priest of the Catholic Church, and Rev. R. W. Pierson was the first minister of the Methodist Church The Rev. James Hutchings Handy Brown was the first pastor of the Zion Episcopal Church. Services were not held after 1933, but the Zion church still remains standing on East Main Street.

The Village of Fonda was incorporated in 1850 upon the petition to the Court of Sessions, and the order confirmed at an election held October 4. Only three were against the incorporation and seventy-eight for it. The village included 312 acres. In 1868 the main streets were paved and in 1865 a bridge was built across the Mohawk River. The first bridge constructed in 1811 was carried away by the spring floods as was the second bridge built in 1825. These were toll bridges.

The earliest efforts in manufacturing were made in 1811, when Grist Mills were built along the Cayadutta Creek. Fulling Mills was also started by John and Simon Veeder, Henry Fonda, G. Van Dusen and Myndert Wemple. In the 1890’s a knitting mill was started by John and Robert Own and was operated until it was destroyed by fire. Later on a similar mill was operated but proved unsuccessful. A third attempt was made by James Shananhan and that was a success. Flour and feed mills, paper mills and a successful cheese factory comprised nearly all of the manufacturing. In the early 1900’s the Cayadutta Knitting Co. was taken over by Congressman Lucius Littauer of Gloversville. It then became the Fonda Glove Lining Co., later changed to Fonda Manufacturing Corp. which was destroyed by fire in 1970’s.

The only industry in the village now is Kasson and Keller, manufacturer of aluminum products, located on School Street. The building was originally the old Fonda High School. The first school in Fonda was located in Caughnawaga in the early 1800’s. In 1938 a new school was erected. In 1958 the Fonda-Fultonville Central High School was built and a middle school was added in 1971. In 2002 a new elementary campus was added.

The 1938 Fonda High School was purchased by Montgomery County and still houses several county offices.

In 1892 the New Court House was built due to the noise of the railroad right near the 1836 Old Court House. In 1965 the New County Office Building was built on Broadway.

When the county seat was moved from Johnstown to Fonda in 1836, the Johnstown Herald newspaper was brought down also. The name was later changed to the Fonda Sentinel in 1843 under new ownership. in 1855 William S. Hawley established the American Star in Canajoharie and five weeks later it was removed to Fonda where it was printed on the second floor of the Reformed Church Parsonage. The paper was acquired by Charles B. Freeman and the name was changed to the Mohawk Valley American. This paper was later consolidated with the Fonda Sentinel and was renamed the Mohawk Valley Democrat.

William B. Wemple, Sr. purchased the “Democrat” as it was commonly called, May 1, 1912 and on his death in 1924 the paper was under the management of his son William Barent Wemple, Jr. In 1956 the paper was purchased by Chester Gizarra who later sold it to Lee Publications, April 19, 1988. It became defunct a few years later.

Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, 26 Jan 1909

Fonda Landmark Destroyed – Night Porter Injured While Escaping

FONDA, Jan 26 — The most disastrous fire that has visited this village since 1899 was discovered about 2 p.m. yesterday in Hotel Roy. The fire was first discovered by Miss Agnes Miller, an employee of the hotel, and before she could give the alarm, the entire building was filled with smoke. The fire is thought to have originated in the laundry, which was located in the cellar of the hotel.

The Fire department was called out and shortly afterwards word was sent to Fultonville for assistance, and the firemen from that village – were soon on hand to give their help. The firemen worked faithfully, but all their work only seemed to help the blaze, and at 1 o’clock the entire structure was a roaring furnace. When it was seen that the hotel could not be saved, streams of water were turned on the buildings on the opposite side of the street and they prevented the fire from spreading.

Shortly after the fire was discovered, John McMaster, who was the night porter in the hotel, and who was asleep in his room on the third story, on the west side of the hotel, was awakened and being unable to enter the all, opened the window and hung by his hands on the window ledge for several minutes, when the bricks became so warm that he lost his hold and fell to a roof below. He received a bad gash across his forehead, a badly burned arm and a broken hip. He was taken to Amsterdam hospital on the 4:52 train. Hotel Roy was erected by John V. Borst in 1836, and was one of the old land marks of the village. In 1892 Wells and Ward Streeter of Gloversville purchased the hotel of the late Jacob Snell and have since conducted the same. The building was destroyed and the loss is estimated at about $40,000 with an insurance of $25,000.

Population figures for the Village

1851 875
1915 1,120
1920 1,208
1925 1,232
1930 1,170
1990 1,007
2000 810
2009 795
2016 795

Mayors of the Village of Fonda

Stephen Sammons 1858
Stephen Sammons 1867
G. C. Simpson 1869
Douw A. Fonda 1870
John D. Berry 1871
R. H. Cushney 1871
D. Fonda 1872
F. E. Jansen 1873
Robert Wemple 1891
Jacob Snell 1900-02
F. S. Fritcher 1904
W. A. Smith 1905-06
Elmer Folmsbee 1907
Edgar Leonhardt 1909-10
I. A. Rose 1911
Harry MacNeil 1912-13
Floyd Burtch 1914-15
James Conroy 1916-17
Harry MacNeil 1918
E. V. Ausman 1919
Edgar Leonhardt 1920-22
John Wyman 1923-24
Harry MacNeil 1927-28
John Veeder 1929-35
James T. Bergen 1935-49
Ernest Laramay 1949-52
E. Merwyn Lotridge 1952-65
Stephen D. Compani 1966-92
Daniel W. Reich 1992-2000
John R. Wiltey 2000-2001
Rodney G. Simonds 2001-2008
Kimberly A. Flander 2008-2012
William “Bill” Peeler 2012-

Caughnawaga Cemetery:

The Village of Fonda owns 7.38 acres of land on the north side of Main Street, on appropriately named Cemetery Street.
The cemetery began as a privately owned organization property. Unable to continue to operate, the organization donated the cemetery to the Village in 1855. There are some Revolutionary War veterans buried here along with many early settlers/
A list of those who have been interred is posted below. It is incomplete, and was compiled in the 1950’s by visual inspection taken at that time.

The contents of the document are exactly as on file in the Village Office, and may not be 100% accurate.

Many grave markers are broken and fallen over and continue to deteriorate.


Village Historian
Beverly Guiffre
32 Railroad Street
Fonda, NY 12068
Phone: 518-853-4322




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