The Town of Bethany was established in 1813. The Township of Bethany is located in the southeast corner of Genesee County, bordering on Wyoming County. Many of the early pioneers settled in the Township before the War of 1812. Bethany was set off from the Town of Batavia on June 8, 1812. The first town meeting was held on April 8, 1813. The meeting consisted of members of several small communities in the area which included Bethany Center, East Bethany, West Bethany, Little Canada, Linden and Putnam Settlement.
Bethany Center was the first settlement in the town. Town meetings were held there. Several buildings were built in that area including the Methodist Church, a school, stores and taverns. The Methodist Church was only in existence for 12 years, after which it was incorporated into the Bethany Academy. The Academy served many students over the years. The students were boarded with local families. When the Academy closed, the building was converted into the Townhouse. It served as a meeting place for several organizations including the Grange. It now serves as the Town Hall and Town Court. The Volunteer Fire Department, Town Highway Department, Baptist Church and Maple Lawn Cemetery are also located in Bethany Center today.
East Bethany is located in the northeastern section of the town on Route 63. It was the second most important settlement in the town. At the time it boasted a store,
a blacksmith's shop, church and an inn. It is now the location of the Post Office, General Store, the Presbyterian Church, the East Bethany Cemetery and Immaculate Conception Church.
Little Canada, which is located northeast of East Bethany on Black Creek on Route 63, was formerly known as Bennett's Mill. The name change came about as a result of an argument between two women. Apparently, one of the Bennett Women, who lived on the south side of the creek had a disagreement with a woman who lived on the north side. During the argument Mrs. Bennett told the other woman to go back to Canada (the north side) and stay there. Hence, the name change. Little Canada also boasted a Methodist Church, which has congregation of 17 members. There also was a cooper's shop, a large structure which was used as a dance hall and of course the mill.
The area just north of Route 20 bordering Alexander and Bethany is known as West Bethany. This area, at one time, was a thriving community. It supported mills, a store, a blacksmith shop and a Post Office. The Little Tonawanda and the Tonawanda come together here and provided power for grinding feed and flour. There was also a mill which also produced cloth. Now there are farms and some residences in the area. The West Bethany Baptist Church and the West Bethany Cemetery are still active there.
Linden, originally called Gad-Pouch is located in the southwest corner of the Town of Bethany on the Little Tonawanda Creek. Linden achieved considerable notoriety in 1924, when three people were found murdered. No one was ever arrested for these crimes. There has been much speculation over the years and a book was written on the murders.
Putnam Settlement and Francis Road are on the northwest corner of the town. The area, names for the families who settled there, had a Blacksmith Shop. The Putnam Cemetery is one of the oldest in the Town of Bethany.
The Genesee County Home
The County Home, also known as the Poorhouse, was built in 1826. Located on the corners of Linden and Bethany Roads, the brick building was opened in 1827 to house paupers and infirm. In 1828, a new stone building was erected to house lunatics and prisoners.
The County Home was completely self-sufficient, growing crops and animals on the 200 acre farm. Many people in the area were employed there. The Home housed 73 patients at the cost of $0.15 per patient per day in 1890. In 1962, 110-115 patients were housed at the cost of $4.37 per day.
The State furnished evergreen trees in the 1920's which were planted throughout the 200 acre farm. Now, there is a beautiful 200 acre stand of hardwoods which comprise the County Park. In 1974, the County Home had out-grown the facilities and needed to be near services provided in the city. At that time everything was moved to Batavia. The building was vacant for several years. It was eventually sold and converted into a craft and consignment mall. It was recently sold but still serves the same purpose as Rolling Hills Country Mall.
The Genesee County Park
Located on the corner of Bethany Center and Raymond Roads, the Genesee County Park is a popular spot for families and groups through out the year. Part of the acreage from the County Home now comprises the County Park. The evergreens and hardwoods which were planted in the 1920's now make a perfect area for bird watching, hiking and picnicking. The new Interpretive Center opened recently, along with new park offices.