Town Historian

Town Historian

New York State’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law requires every county and municipality to have an appointed historian to document, preserve, interpret, and share the history of their communities.  State leaders made this commitment over 100 years ago to ensure public access to quality educational experiences enriched by cultural heritage resources.  There are almost 1,600 local government historians in New York State.

The Town historian's role is to assist in researching official town records related to the history of the town and to educate the public about these records.  Mr. Ketzer is available for these purposes but is not authorized to perform historical or genealogical research for individuals in his capacity as historian.

Access to historic records must first be obtained through the Town Clerk, who is the designated records management officer for non-police records and registrar for the Town.

History of the Town

There are many wonderful resources available for anyone interested in Bethlehem’s rich history.   A sampling of these is listed below.   The works of Mr. Ketzer’s immediate predecessor Susan E. Leath are still in print and available in stores, while others can be found used online, or in print and digital formats through the Bethlehem Historical Association or the Bethlehem Public Library.

  • Bethlehem People and Places by Susan E. Leath (Troy Book Makers, 2019) – Explores our town's unique history through 33 short, illustrated articles.
  • Historic Tales of Bethlehem, New York by Susan E. Leath (The History Press, 2016) – Contains a wide range of short essays highlighting our local history.
  • Bethlehem by Susan E. Leath (Arcadia Publishing, 2011) – Illustrates the history of our town with over 200 historic images dating from the 1880s to 1960.
  • Bethlehem Revisited – A Bicentennial Story 1793-1993 by the Bethlehem History Committee (Lane Press of Albany, NY, Inc., 1993) – Known to some as the “Bethlehem Bible,” this well-organized book was assembled by an appointed committee of the Bicentennial Commission of the Town of Bethlehem just before the age of the Internet.
  • More Times Remembered by Allison Bennett (Newsgraphics of Delmar, Inc., 1987) – A companion to Ms. Bennett’s earlier collection of articles documenting many historic homes, places and faces in Bethlehem.
  • Times Remembered by Allison Bennett (Newsgraphics of Delmar, Inc., 1984) – A good resource to explore a historic sampling of Bethlehem’s early built environment through a historian’s eyes.
  • Records of the People of the Town of Bethlehem by the Bethlehem Historical Association (Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1982) – A compendium of early town records including family cemeteries, transportation infrastructure and church registries.
Town History Books

Past Historians

  • 2023-Present: William Ketzer
  • 2007-2022: Susan E. Leath
  • 2005-2007: Raymond C. Houghton, Ph.D.
  • 1991-2005: Joseph A. Allgaier
  • 1990: Valerie Restifo Thompson
  • 1984-87: James E. Morgan
  • 1979-83: Thomas E. Mulligan
  • 1977-78: Lois Dillon (Mrs. Edward)
  • 1974-76: Thomas E. Mulligan
  • 1966-74: Allison Bennett (Mrs. William D.)
  • 1945-65: Ruth A. Dickinson (Mrs. Paul)
  • 1926:  Anna Holler Washburn (Mrs. Lucius H.)
  • 1921:  Mrs. Harriet C. D. Wiltsie


The historical website pages have been made available through a grant from the New York State Education Department, State Archives, and the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund grant for historical records which provided funds for personnel and creation of this section on the town’s website.