The Town of Bethel was founded in 1809, and is located in the heart of Sullivan County. It is comprised of many small hamlets. In this brief history I will try to include a little something about each of these hamlets.
In 1910, the old covered bridge, which had been built in 1830, was replaced with an iron bridge. This bridge is located in Mongaup Valley and you might wonder why this is significant to this history. Well, this covered bridge was part of what was called the Newburgh and Cochecton Turnpike. Its replacement, which spans the Mongaup River, is now the connection between the Town of Bethel and the Town of Thompson. It is our present 17B. The new bridge cut the time between Monticello and Mongaup Valley by one third.
In 1928, a man by the name of A.N. Smallwood came to town. He started a community that he called “Mountain Lakes". It was not long before it became known as Smallwood. Mr. Smallwood employed about 100 men during the time of the depression. This was a great economic boost for the area at this time.
The mid 1800’s saw the beginning of the hotel construction. The very first ones were started as wayside inns and most were developed from farmhouses that turned into boarding houses. In the late 1920's, 30's, & 40's smaller farm owners in Bethel were "Taking In" roomies as the hotel business declined.
During the 1960's in Kauneonga Lake, an entire new Community of second homes appeared. This community became known as the White Lake Homes. The residents from this community have become a very important part of the social and economic life of the town. 1969 was a very important year in the life of our town. First, it saw the construction of the Sullivan County International Airport in the northeast section of White Lake, then, one of the most amazing events in history occurred right here in our little town. "Woodstock." Whether you liked it or you didn't, there was no getting around the fact that it was a significant event in the history books. It seemed to define a generation. They made a movie about it and the Town of Bethel was "on the map" forever.
Over the years there has been much controversy surrounding this event. Today, we have concerts & farm markets on the site and visitors from all over the world come to our town year round to visit. There are plans to make a permanent music site in the surrounding land. Construction began in 2002 and was completed in 2006.
In 1984, the town celebrated its 175th anniversary. We had a big parade with floats from various organizations. Followingthe parade was a wonderful celebration attended by hundreds of people. It truly showed the spirit of small town life, bringing together all the members of the community.
The Town of Bethel continues to grow each year. It seemed for quite some time that we were in a steady economic decline. However, over the past several years we seem to have turned the corner. New businesses are springing up and new homes are being built. People are now looking forward to a great future in our beautiful little town.