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 church
and 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 ofter 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
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 jounalist, philanthropist, and a very active minister. In
the Fonda Section ofhis book, “History of Montgomery
County”, published in 1892 he made the following statement:
“Fonda, indeed, has a very promising prospect in the future”.
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 Schenectadty 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
arhitecture 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 goverened 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 bult 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 it’s history in the
visitations of circuit riders, who preached in small goups.
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 remains standing. The
congregation united with the Fultonville church. Their
building on West Main Street is now occupied by the Zion
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
The earliest efforts in manufacturing were made in 1811,
when Grist Mills were bulit 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
similiar 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 eraly 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 bulit, 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.
The Old Fonda Jail and Sheriff’s Department were
replaced in 1997 by the Ronald E. Emery Public Safety
Facility, now located on Route 5-S in Glen.
HOTEL ROY BURNED
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
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-