Minerva – Irishtown

A History of Irishtown, Town of Minerva including Hamlets of Irishtown, Minerva, Olmstedville

By Noelle S. Donahue, Town Historian Minerva Historical Society 1986-1999

In order to give a history of Irishtown, I first need to give you a brief resume of the Town of Minerva.  The Totten and Crossfield Purchase was bought in 1771 from the Mohawk Indians for 1,135 pounds and covered over one million acres.  In 1786 patents on this land were granted to Totten and Crossfield Associates, Francis Dominick had his land (12,600 acres) surveyed and made a settlement in what later became known as Minerva. 

From the Stafford Gazeteer of 1813: “The settlement called Dominick was first begun about 1800 and contains a few families who have one sawmill, a grain mill and a school house in which are held the meetings for worship.  The state road from Chester to Canton lies through this settlement.”  At that time the settlement was known as Dominick.    

Ebenezer West and five sons came to Dominick in 1800, settling near the crossroads of what now would be known as 28N, 14th Road and Shed Road.  The West holdings were called “The West Side”.  William Hill settled in what is now known as Olmstedville, and built a sawmill and gristmill.  This settlement was called the “Four Corners”. 

Absalom P. Morse became Supervisor in 1817 when Minerva was named a Town by the State Legislator and he named the town “Minerva” after the Greek goddess of wisdom.  The West Side became known as Minerva:  The Four Corners was named Olmstedville after the Olmsteds who started the tannery:  The section of town taken over from Schroon Lake was called Leonardsville:  The northeastern section of town where the O’Neils, Donnellys, Doughertys, and Kellys who bought their land directly from the Dominick heirs and was called Irishtown.  A.P. Morse acted as their agent in 1823. 

In 1848 St. Mary’s Church was built in Irishtown with the cemetery surrounding it.  A larger St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was built in Olmstedville in 1871 and St Mary’s (in Irishtown) has been periodically repaired and a Memorial Mass is held there every May and sometimes a baptism or wedding is held there in Irishtown. 

Irishtown School:  In 1847 the Town Board authorized $14 for a school to be built in District #4.  It was made of logs.  School was held 4 months of the year.  In 1860 a school was built to replace the log school, and was situated just east of the church and cemetery. 

In 1878, 38 children ranging in age from 5 to 19 attended the Irishtown school.  In 1800 to 1900 Irishtown teacher’s salaries ranged from $70 to $106.  In 1931 a Central District was formed in Minerva and all students went to a larger school in Olmstedville.  The Irishtown school was closed.

The Minerva Historical Society has acquired the Irishtown school and is in the process of restoring it as it is the only one room school left in the town.

The Irishtown families suffered during the periodic epidemics which took the lives of so many children.  In 1861, three children of Patrick Lynn died during the month of June.  In 1882 there was a diphtheria epidemic.  John Dougherty’s children; Willie, 8 months; Nellie, 7 years; Sadie, 6 years; and David, 11 years; all died within 3 months.  In the David Lynch family a child died in October, November and December.  Mary Ann O’Neil, age 11 and Esther O’Neil, age 9, died within days of each other.  Gillilands lost one child.  Laheys lost three daughters in July.  Three year old John Ratigan died April 15th.  The William Brannon family lost three infants.  Between 1864 and 1882, the McKenna family lost five of their nine girls.  In the McInerney family three children died and then their mother in 1892.  The father, Patrick McInerney, died of consumption in 1893 and the four children left in the family were cared for by aunts and uncles.  Their grave markers can be seen in the Irishtown Cemetery. 

Some of the surnames of people who settled in Irishtown and are the ancestors of people living in Minerva today are:

O’Neills, Kelly, Shevlin, Dougherty, Maguire, O’Donnell, Ward, McIntyre, Butler, Ryan, Lynch, McCardle, LaRose, Wamsley, Donnelly, Wilson, Brannon, Farrelly, Byrnes and Mea. 

The main occupations in Irishtown were farming and lumbering.  In 1864 the iron mines were open.  Walter O’Connor was boss and he and his wife took in boarders.  At one time there was a marble quarry at Dan Lynch’s place above the Byrnes place.  A headstone from that quarry is in the Irishtown cemetery.  The quarry was spoiled by dynamiting.  There was also said to be a silver mine located somewhere in the territory above the Burns’ place.  Dan Lynch had a claim filed on it.  Billy Burns, it was reported, put in a thousand dollars to start the mines and lost it.  It was reported that in Indian from Schroon Lake would be gone a couple of days and return with silver to make bullets.  No one knew where he got the silver but one can imagine the speculation.  Walter O’Connor and Patrick Sullivan filed a claim on a garnet mine near the O’Connor place.  There were said to be thousands of tons of garnet but not with the cutting power that pocket garnet has.  The garnet looked as if it had been burned.  At Dan O’Neill’s garnet was drawn away for about a year.  Another garnet mine was at Mike Clifford’s and ore was drawn from there for a short time. 

Daniel Lynch owned and operated a shingle mill located near the head of Minerva Creek about three miles beyond the Burns place.  Two dams were built – one at the mill and another, the Wesley Dam, about a mile above.  The purpose of the latter dam was to hold water until they were ready to drive logs.  John Dougherty owned a lumber mill located at the little brook north of the Eastman place.  Soft wood was the only kind used unless possibly a special order for hardwood came in.  John Dougherty also at one time owned a sawmill and had a dam just below where the present dam is at Pacetta.  Water-powered saws for cutting stove wood were used in different streams in the area.

The area on the west side of Minerva Creek was known as Roseville.  At the time that the iron mines were being worked there were many Frenchmen in the area engaged in cutting hardwood timber to use in the mine.  There was a post office there at the time called the Roseville Post Office.  Olmsteadville also had a post office and Peter Dougherty went to Glens Falls twice a week to get mail.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many people took in summer boarders.  Only a few people live year round in Irishtown today.  There are, however, many summer or vacation homes in this beautiful area of the Adirondacks.