The Little Church of Irishtown
The peaceful Adirondacks hold a little shrine
That early settlers near old Irishtown put up;
Almighty Tamarack, a dark-green row of pine,
Still guard the gem set in the valley’s cup.
It dreams of bright-eyed children who in throngs
Oft knelt before its tabernacled Lord,
And of the soulful prayers and joyous songs
That rose from Christian hearts in sweet accord.
It now looks on the silent tombs of those
Who worshiped in its gray walls long ago;
The rue, the mullein and the briar rose,
With lavish beauty cover every row.
Alas, the sanctuary lamp burns nevermore,
The saints have fled, the organ, too, is mute;
No one to preach the gospel’s blessed lore,
And only night owls round its windows hoot.
The memory often haunts me in my dreams;
The roof is sagging and the bell is down,
The cross is gone and yet a halo seems
To wreathe the crumbling little church of Irishtown.
History of the Town: The Town of Minerva was first established by Act of the Legislature on March 17, 1817. Previously it had been part of the Town of Schroon, and prior to 1804, a part of the Town of Crown Point. Until 1800 the entire town was wilderness.
Minerva was first settled immediately after 1800. Many of the early settlers, such as the West, Jones and Morse families, came from Vermont, part of the general Western migration.
The population grew slowly — to 276 by 1820, to 368 by 1830, and 455 by 1840. Settlers were now coming from cities. Some were new immigrants, from England and Ireland primarily.
From 1840 to 1860, the population grew rapidly, mostly because of the influx of the immigrants who came from Ireland, often by way of New York City and Boston. Many of the new settlers bought land which had been recently timbered by loggers, who moved on to the west. The Irish had large families, and by 1865 the population was about 1100 (1082), and majority of them Irish.
Irish were predominately Democrats, due mainly to their years in New York and Boston, Minerva politics was controlled by the Democrat party for well over 100 years. The vast majority of all Town Officers during the period from 1860 to 1970 were of Irish ancestry.
Because of the Irish background, Minerva’s school colors were emerald green and white, and the school’s teams are known as the “Fighting Irish”.
Until 1900 most residents were self-sustaining farmers. The population remained stable until 1900, ranging between 900 and 1100. It then began to steadily decline, as the subsistence farms were abandoned, reach a low of 505 in 1940.
The influx of mining, during and after the Second World War, brought a spurt of growth, the population reaching nearly 700 by 1950. The population has leveled off since 1950, and is now 758, a drop 781 in 1980.
Minerva is primarily mountainous and almost entirely forested. The Hudson River form the southwesterly boundary of the Town, with 15 miles of its course being in Minerva or forming its boundary. About 15 miles of the Boreas River, the entire lower half, is within the town. These 30 miles of river are essentially wild and unsettled being surrounded by State Land, which makes up 64.5% of all the land in the town.
Almost all of the settled portion of the Town is in the southeasterly corner. This settled area is about 10% of the Town and was at one time entirely cleared. It has now mostly grown back to forest, including any old cellar holes and abandoned roads. The cleared portion was once about 10,000 acres. Less than 1000 acres are now occupied or cleared.
About 10% of the Town is timberland owned and managed by Finch & Pruyn Co. This land is almost all leased to private hunting clubs, to pay the taxes, but is still selectively logged. Hundreds of truckloads of logs pass through Minerva every day, including many from the Finch lands.