New Paltz was founded in 1677 by Calvinists who had taken refuge in what is now Mannheim, Germany for a few years before coming to America. Mannheim was then capital of the area known as the Rheinpfalz or Rhenish Palatine. The French name of the town was Nouveau Palatinat, as given in the founding record of the local Reformed Church in 1683.
New Paltz was dominated for over 150 years by the 12 partners and their heirs, referred to as the Twelve Men or the Duzine--who had acquired the royal patent of over 33,000 acres, which stretched all the way from the Shawangunk Mountains to the Hudson River. More land was added, and eventually it was formally divided among the twelve partners, their relatives and some friends. Farms were primarily found east and west of the Wallkill River, which was called the Palse River at first.
The twelve patentees were Louis DuBois and his sons Abraham and Isaac, Christian Deyo and his son Pierre, Simon and Andries LeFevre (brothers), Jean and Abraham Hasbrouck (brothers), Antoine Crispell, Louis Bevier, and Hugo Frere. Other families, with names like Elting, Schoonmaker, Terwilliger, Ean, and Schlecht, were part of the community from its earliest days. They built wooden homes that were later replaced by sturdy, stone structures. For 200 years after they first settled, New Paltz remained an isolated, small farming community. Farming, particularily of apples, is still one of New Paltz's largest businesses.
The community was clustered on the east shore of the Wallkill River, which is today known as Huguenot Street. Many of the seventh century stone buildings still stand today and have been designated a National Historical Landmark, often referred to as "the oldest street in American in continuous state of habitation."
The population slowly crept from the Wallkill up what is now Main Street and beyond. Areas which are now parts of the Towns of Lloyd, Shawangunk, Esopus and Gardiner split off from the Town of New Paltz between 1843 and 1853. The Village of New Paltz was incorporated in 1887.
Higher education has always been of utmost importance, especially since 1833 when the New Paltz Academy was started and slowly metamorphosed into the State University of New York, College at New Paltz.
The Walkill Valley Railroad was built in 1870 to help farmers get their crops to market faster. In the 1920's, the motor car started replacing the train and in the early 1950's, the New York State Thruway was built and brought New Paltz, as Exit 18, fully in touch with the world.