by Albert S. Callan, Village Historian, 11/25/1988
The history of the Village of Chatham dates back to the early 1700’s when the community was settled by Yankee emigrants from Connecticut. Because of the ample water supply provided by the Stein Kill Creek which flowed nearby, the place became attractive to settlers who found its rocky banks provided many mill sites. The Chatham Turnpike Road was incorporated on April 18, 1804, and a Canaan to Chatham Road was opened in 1808.
William Thomas, one of the earlier settlers, owned the greatest part of the village and opened the first business, a tavern, built on the site of the present 1811 Inn on Central Square. Captain Thomas Groat followed and for a time the place was called Groat’s Corners. Peter Groat established a stage line and opened a post office in the community’s tavern. William Thomas built a store almost opposite his inn on the site now occupied by Central Interiors on Central Square.
Chatham Four Corners, as the community was known by the mid-1800’s, was now a bustling hub of railroading centered on the New York Central’s Harlem Division, whose trackage was extended northward from New York City, arriving at its northern terminus in 1852.
The village was incorporated in 1869, and a petition to the courts noted the place had 1,355 residents. On March 8, 1869, an election was ordered on the question of incorporation, and 284 votes were cast, and only 86 were opposed. Chatham was the proposed name, but, as Old Chatham was then called Chatham, the title became Chatham Village. The village’s first election was held in April 1869, and the governing officers named were a Village President, five Trustees, a Clerk, a Board of Assessors, a Pound Master, a Police Justice, a Health Officer and two police constables.