Step back in time features news items from The Daily Star 25 and 50 years ago.

25 years ago

Dec. 27, 1986

Over the years, Oneonta's residents have benefitted from a host of donations to the city for such various gifts as parks, pools and flagpoles.

The most recent gift to the city totaled $180,000 and will provide a new fire truck, new ambulance, and $10,000 to the city's police department to spend as it wishes. Without the anonymous donation the fire truck and ambulance would have been paid for by the taxpayers.

The added bonus of the police department gift may be used to solve one of the city's recent problems _ combating the student behavior connected to the increased alcohol purchase age _ through educational programs and/or police training. However, no decision has been made on how the funds actually will be spent.

Last year the city had the opportunity to gain half the cost of an ice skating rink through an anonymous donation. That idea fell through when the state refused to fund the second half. But the donation now may be used to build a new pool in Neahwa Park to replace the rundown Briggs Pool.

City organizations have also gained from the generosity of its citizens. Recently, a court decision cleared the way for three organizations _ Hartwick College, Fox Memorial Hospital and the Oneonta YMCA _ to receive $1.3 million which was originally bequeathed in 1976 from the estate of Jessie Smith Dewar.

The tradition of donations dates back to the early 1900s, when both of Oneonta's large parks were given to the city. Dr. and Mrs. Lewis Moore of Morris donated Neahwa Park, and George I. Wilber of Wilber Bank donated Wilber Park upon his death in 1922. Wilber also willed a major interest in the Oneonta water system to the city. Oneonta later purchased the remaining minority interest in the water system.

Another park was donated to the city in 1917 by Henry Huntington, vice president of the South Pacific Railroad. Huntington donated the land for Huntington Park, a home for the Huntington Library, a $200,000 trust fund for maintenance of the land and buildings, as well as numerous books and paintings.

Reuben L. Fox, who amassed a fortune through several commercial ventures and was also involved in state politics, provided the city with $10,000 for a hospital in memory of his wife, Aurelia Osborn Fox, who died in 1899. Fox died in 1909 and left a major portion of his estate to the hospital. His total contributions totaled about $230,000.

One of Oneonta's largest benefactors was Jessie Smith Dewar, who gained her wealth from IBM stock. Mrs. Dewar, who made many of her gifts anonymously, kept the city supplied with ambulances and underwrote deficits for Fox Hospital. She also donated funds to Hartwick College, several of the city's churches and the YMCA.

The city continued to benefit from the generosity of Mrs. Dewar after her death through the Dewar Foundation. Gifts have included two ambulances, an overhaul of a city fire truck, and equipment for the city police department. In addition, $250,000 was contributed toward construction of the Public Safety Building.

Ruston R. Henderson, member of the foundation's board of directors, said the foundation has always been supportive of local organizations because the board members grew up here.

Both city pools are the result of gifts to the city. In 1968, Roscoe Briggs donated money to construct Briggs Pool in Neahwa Park. His son, Duncan Briggs, contributed $250,000 for the reconstruction of the Wilber Park Pool, which was completed in 1983.

50 years ago

Dec. 27, 1961

The Otsego County Development Corporation took a hitch in its collective belt Tuesday and set about collecting $50,000 for its drive to bring industry into the county.

Phil Bresee is chairman of a fund drive committee named at yesterday's meeting to map plans for the $50,000 push which begins immediately.

At the close of the session in the Rex Restaurant it was announced that nearly $5,000 had already been pledged from among the 39 members present.

Mr. Bresee said a drive for new members would run concurrently with a public subscription campaign.

Corporation officials pointed out that donations sent in before the year's end could be utilized by donors in framing their 1961 tax picture.

Last week it was announced that the Development Corporation would launch a drive for $30,000. The figure was upped to the $50,000 total during yesterday's meeting when the urgent need for funds was described.

Officials of the Development Corporation explained the unit's commitment to the Newton Electrophysical Corp., which has purchased a building on Market Street and plans to begin the manufacture of electronics equipment in February.

In addition, it was explained that the Development Corporation went into debt in its attempt to bring a paper manufacturer to Oneonta.

Wells had to be driven and other expensive work and study undertaken in the unsuccessful effort to entice the paper firm here.

Elton Hall, president of the Delaware Development Corporation, said yesterday that the group is "working with other industrial prospects" and went on to say the work entails considerable expenditure.

He also said the Development Corporation is a countywide organization and that the membership campaign would extend throughout the county.

Richard Bookhout, Clifford Harrer and Ronald E. Rowley are serving on the fund drive committee with Mr. Bresee.

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