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March 24, 2012

Useful advice for farmers came to the area in 1912

It is practically a rite of autumn for high school students, or college students looking to transfer to a different college.

That is the college fair, as many institutions of higher learning set up tables and a representative from each place is on hand to speak with prospective students about what their institution has to offer.

Although it was held in the spring, Oneonta had a truly unique college fair of its own in April 1912. The site was at the D&H Railroad depot, today's Stella Luna Ristorante. What was called a "Farm Train" pulled into Oneonta on Wednesday, April 3.

This train was coordinated with the D&H by what was then called the State Agricultural College at Ithaca, part of Cornell University. It arrived at 1:30 p.m., consisting of several cars, used for display spaces. The baggage car, for example was transformed into a cow stable.

Passenger cars were exhibit spaces for the college's school of domestic science, or for insect specimens, charts and photograph displays, or useful information on feeds for poultry farmers.

A crowd at the station was waiting for the farm train, and according to The Oneonta Star was "speedily surrounded by a crowd interested in the exhibits, hearing the lectures and witnessing the demonstrations."

Once the daylight hours ended, an evening meeting with four lecturers from the Farm Train took place at 8 p.m. at the Municipal Building, today's 242 Main St.

Prior to the lectures, the Oneonta High School orchestra "rendered a short musical programme" while the audience was gathering. Mayor Frank D. Blodgett opened the evening thanking both the State Agricultural College and the D&H Railroad for making this train possible and for visiting the city.

According to The Star, the meeting "was attended by a crowd that overtaxed the seating capacity of the hall."

"A conspicuous feature of the evening addresses was the fact that the speakers did not arbitrarily give rules but rather threw out suggestions calculated to arouse thought and suggest the most approved methods. In fact the underlying the idea in all the talks and addresses of the day was assistance to self help and aids to working out problems by ones self."

In closing, it was a Professor Tuck who said he hoped the visit would result in developing closer relations between the people and the college. The train left Oneonta that evening and was set for similar displays in the next few days in Cooperstown, Worcester and Cherry Valley.

This wasn't the last Oneonta would hear from the State Agricultural College at Ithaca in 1912.

The Star reported on Monday, Dec. 30, that the "agricultural extension school arranged for the residents of this section opens this morning, at 9 o'clock at Municipal hall, and will continue daily until Friday afternoon."

Attendance was reported as "fair" from area farmers, as "all expressed attention and desire to absorb all knowledge brought up.

Discussions were held, thus affording the men an opportunity to have cleared any phase not quite clear to them." Topics such as "clean milk," incubation and tree growth were among the topics offered during the week.

Four professors from Ithaca came to Oneonta for this first farm school.

The State Agricultural College at Ithaca was staring to get some competition from new schools in our region, specializing in agriculture. Morrisville started a college in 1908, followed by Delhi in 1913 and Cobleskill in 1916. These three later became part of the State University of New York system in 1948.

On Monday: News from a busy month of March 1982.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at

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