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Mark Simonson

January 12, 2013

Four attempts made to establish state agricultural school in Delhi

Talk about not taking “no” for an answer. Had area residents of Delhi given up about 100 years ago, there would never have been today’s State University College of Technology at Delhi. The people heard “no” three times from the state about seeking an agricultural school in their community, and very nearly a fourth time, but they never gave up and now have a good reason to celebrate the college’s centennial.

Elizabeth MacDonald can be credited for coming up with the specific idea of an agricultural school for Delhi. Her sister Amelia worked tirelessly to promote the idea. They grew up on the John T. MacDonald farm on Elk Creek Road, and grew troubled around the turn of the 20th century by how many young men and women were leaving the area for the cities. There was widespread concern across the nation that not enough food would be produced for the growing population.

Amelia MacDonald sought support of the leading citizens of Delhi and elsewhere for the agricultural school. Education in high school in Delhi and the region was directing students away from farms. Although Amelia did face some opposition to her mission, she secured a donation for the site of the proposed school. In 1908 she met with trustees of what was a private school at the time, the Delaware Academy. The school was then found on the site of today’s SUNY Delhi campus.

In 1910, two leading citizens, Messrs. S.F. Adee and E.O. Harkness, lobbied for a bill to establish a state agricultural school in Delhi. Other state institutions of this type were being authorized by the state Legislature at the time. The bill was introduced that year. It passed the Assembly and Senate, but was vetoed by the governor.

Delhi had high hopes it might have an inside edge with then Gov. Charles Evans Hughes, because of his earlier connection to the village. Hughes had taught for a year at Delaware Academy while studying law in the office of a local judge.

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