None of my calendars at home or at my other workplaces show that April 27 is Arbor Day. Dates can vary from year to year, but in general the modern-era day is observed in April. In our area in 1927, Arbor Day was observed on Friday, May 6. A number of springtime tree planting projects from that year are still around today, all in the interest of re-forestation.
Seen today along county Route 9 in the town of Oneonta, near the Oneonta Country Club, there is a wooded park area that provides access to Otego Creek. Until not long ago and still seen on some maps, this site was called Hemstreet Park. The origin of this park dates back to April 1927.
Mrs. Florence Hemstreet was a member of the Oneonta Woman's Club and was giving a report to the club on Tuesday, April 26, that caught everyone by surprise. The club had a forestry committee, which Mrs. Hemstreet had chaired for four years. She presented a plot of some seven acres on the western side of the Otego Creek, to be known as the Woman's Club Park. At some point it was renamed in Hemstreet's honor.
As reported in the April 27 edition of The Oneonta Star, "The announcement was received with hearty cheers for the enthusiastic chairman of the committee, who has devoted practically all her time for the past three weeks since the land was acquired in preparing it for presentation to the club." Somehow she managed to keep the project a secret as several people went to work at clearing brush and dead trees on the site and planting some 7,000 small trees, furnished by the state of New York.
Driving along state Route 23 today in the town of Pharsalia, Chenango County, one will see a state historic marker featuring a game refuge, said to be the first such area acquired by New York in 1926.
It was reported on Monday, May 2, 1927, that about 2,000 of this tract of 4,500 acres of abandoned farmland would become a "demonstration forest," with about 500,000 trees to be planted during the season.
Arthur S. Hopkins, assistant superintendent of State Forests said, "The area is essentially a rolling upland with a few steep slopes or deep ravines. There is excellent cover for food for game birds and animals; also excellent trout waters in a network of brooks which comprise the headwaters of the Canasawacta creek."
Oneonta High School students had a half-day of school on Friday, May 6. In observation of Arbor Day, the Oneonta Rotary Club brought several students out to upper East Street to plant about 10,000 spruce and pine seedlings.
"The planting this year will be on the Gifford farm, located on the westerly side of East street near the school house a short distance from the city line," the Star reported. The schoolhouse referred to is the former District No. 4 school, also known as the Yager Hollow School. This planting was to protect the city's watershed. Another group of students had planted seedlings here four years earlier.
John D. Clarke, a U.S. Congressman, was a speaker at a Men's Club dinner of St. James' Episcopal Church in Oneonta on Wednesday, May 4.
Clarke was a resident of Arbor Hill, a residence in Fraser, near Delhi.
Clarke was the author of the Clarke-McNary bill, for the application of reforestation across the country.
Clarke truly believed in his theories of reforestation, beginning with his own planting of numerous rows of spruces surrounding Arbor Hill.
Clarke spoke of how 20 million trees had been planted in the state during 1926, but there was plenty of room for improvement on those numbers, as "this number could be planted on the idle acres of Delaware county alone."
On Monday: Oneonta was visited many times by movie stars in the 1940s and '50s.
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 email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www. thedailystar.com/marksimonson.