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Founder of Seneca Falls

Wilhelmus Mynderse
Oil Painting by Thomas Wentworth, 1827; Seneca Falls Historical Society Collection

Wilhelmus Mynderse was born at Albany, July 11, 1767. Having first visited the area during General Sullivan’s campaign, Wilhelmus would later return. He was the earliest resident proprietor of a large portion of the site of Seneca Falls – owning a one-fifth interest in the Bayard Land Co., then the owners of the land and water power where Seneca Falls village stands and of which company he was resident business agent for thirty years – located here permanently in 1795. Yet, another settler, Job Smith, arrived in 1787 before Mynderse and settled only for a short time. In 1789, came Lawrence VanCleef, the first european settler that settled on the Flats purchasing Smith’s property. But no other single individual had as much to do with the beginning of the settlement here, its subsequent growth to a prosperous village and the location here of early industries as Wilhelmus Mynderse.

The year he came to then Mynderse Mills he erected a grist and a saw mill and a double log house, the latter being located next to where Trinity Church now stands. He lived in one end and kept store in the other. The mill which was put in operation in 1796 stood on the present site of Chamberlain’s mill. In 1807, he erected the red mills on the lower rapids near Rumsey’s. He also erected a fulling mill and other small industries. His various investments proved profitable and he was a man of strict business methods. His was the very first industry here. The entries of his milling and merchandise business date as early as April 20, 1796. The first entry of sales from his grist mill dates
Oct. 22, 1796. In 1801 he was appointed lieutenant -colonel in the military in Cayuga County for the area west of Cayuga Lake and he soon became colonel. In 1802, he was living in Fayette and was elected as the second Town Supervisor that same year. In 1807, he was commissioned brigadier-general in Seneca County.

A historic marker recognizing the first school gifted
to the Village of Seneca Falls by Col. Wilhelmus Mynderse

During his residence here Col. Mynderse lived in four towns as they were successively organized, Romulus (first in Cayuga County), Washington, Junius and Seneca Falls, and held many public offices.

Mr. Mynderse lived to see a flourishing village spring from a forest. He did much to encourage its growth. The village park was his gift to the village and he was a generous patron of the Academy which bears his name – now part of the public school system. He contributed the site and furnished the greater part of the means for building the original building. Today, the park is known as Academy Square Park where a historical marker was erected in 1932 at Cayuga Street attributing Wilhelmus as the founder of Seneca Falls. In addition, Mynderse Street is also named for Wilhelmus and is located at what was the western edge of the settlement known as Mynderse Mills and later became organized as the village in 1831.

Grave of Colonel Wilhelmus Mynderse at Restvale Cemetery

Colonel Wilhelmus Mynderse died Jan. 31, 1838, in the house he built and for years occupied. His wife Jane VanCleef Mynderse died in 1868. They are buried at Restvale Cemetery in Seneca Falls.

From “Historical Souvenir Series No. 17: Seneca Falls, NY and vicinity” [Grip, Syracuse, NY, 1904] p. 52

From” Wilhelmus Mynderse”, Walter Gable, Seneca County Historian;