The town of Galen was formed from Junius, Seneca County, February 14, 1812. It included what is now the town of Savannah. On April 11, 1823, Galen became part of Wayne County. In November 1824, Savannah was set off. Galen is composed of nearly 35,300 acres of rich, sandy, gravely loam and black muck. The eastern section of the town is hilly and the western is more level. The Clyde River flows through the southern part of the town.
Galen comprises Township No. 27 of the new Military Tract. It was reserved for physicians and surgeons of the New York regiments in the Revolutionary War. It was named in honor of Galen, a celebrated Greek physician.
The first settler in Galen was Laomi Beadle, who settled in the hamlet of Marengo in 1800. Here he built the first log house, planted the first orchard and built the first sawmill.
The glass industry was the most important early industry in the town of Galen. William S. Dezeng and his brother-in-law, James Rees, founded the first glass factory in 1828 on the south side of the Erie Canal in the village of Clyde. This factory was for the manufacture of window glass only. The company was continued until 1864 under several names. In 1864, the bottle works was started and was then combined with the glassworks. The bottle and glassworks operation
continued, again under several different owners until 1895. At this time, the manufacture of window glass was discontinued, and the firm was incorporated as the Clyde Glass Works. By 1915, with the coming of machinery to do the work of the glass blowers and the fact that the plant was not easily accessible to the railroad, the Clyde Glass Works closed its doors. Many efforts were made to revive the business, but to no avail.
Another interesting fact about the town of Galen is that it was the location of one of the four World War II Prisoner of War Camps in Wayne County. In addition to the village of Clyde in the town of Galen, Prisoner of War Camps were located in the towns of Arcadia, Marion and Sodus. The camp in Clyde was located in the old high school building on the corner of Caroline and Lock Streets. This building became home to 50 Italian prisoners in the fall of 1943. The following summer, the Italians were relocated and replaced by 116 German prisoners. By March 1946, all the Prisoner of War Camps in Wayne County had closed.
Today the town of Galen is a rural community with a population of over 4,400.
* Smith-Ely Mansion, 39 West Genesee Street, Clyde
– Built in the 1850s, this house was enlarged in the late 1870s as a Victorian Italianate villa and enlarged again in 1908-10 as Colonial Revival.
Galen Mill Museum, Sodus Street, Clyde
– A former working grain mill, this museum offers a wide range of exhibits including artifacts from the old glassworks factory. Open Saturday and Sunday in July and August, 2 pm – 4 pm, or by appointment. (315) 923-7430
* United States Post Office, South Park Street, Clyde
– Built in 1941 in the Georgian or colonial vein.
(* Listed on New York State and National Registers of Historical Places)