Backtracking: The Early Years:

Mark SimonsonShown recently, the tracks of the D&H Railroad are visible along the frozen Schenevus Lake, similar to a look in January 1927 when ice was cut there and stored for use by the railway.

Readers of The Oneonta Star picked up their Jan. 1, 1927, edition with one of several front-page headlines hard to miss — “JOBS FOR ALL PROMISE SEEN FOR NEW YEAR.”

“No one will deny that 1926 has shown the highest total production and consumption of industrial commodities of any year in the history of the United States,” the Associated Press article said. “Excepting the textile industry and parts of the coal industry, it has been a year of high degree of employment, which has been accompanied by the highest peak in real wages because wage income for the country as a whole has slightly increased and cost of living slightly decreased during the year.”

Oneonta was still largely a railroad employer, with some textiles and a first hint at a new higher education opportunity. January saw a good start locally for the nation’s job “promise.”

It was pretty much business as usual at the start of the month, as The Star reported on Jan. 3, “About 30 men will begin work today scraping snow, loose ice and debris from the surface of the ice on Schenevus lake in preparation for cutting to be shipped here and stored in the three D. & H. ice houses here. The entire contract of scraping, cutting, and hauling has been let to T.H. Chapman and Son of Cooperstown.”

Meanwhile in Oneonta, the D&H had some important company visiting the vast rail yards. Star readers of Jan. 19 learned, “Col. J. Tabor Loree, the president and general manager of the D. & H. company, yesterday paid his regular inspection visit to the Oneonta shops, particularly to see how work is progressing on the new yard office, the addition to the round house to be used for heavy machine work, and to look over the new locomotive, No. 1111, a new sister of the Horatio Allen which is now being operated between Oneonta and Mechanicville for preliminary testing and breaking in.

“Col. Loree and his official party thoroughly covered the ground, as usual, and last evening Col. Loree expressed himself to a representative of The Star as pleased with conditions which he found and confident that the improvements made during the past year, involving an investment of over a quarter of a million dollars, would prove beneficial to the company and be appreciated by residents of the city.”

The aforementioned condition of the textile industry appeared true in Oneonta, as The Star of Jan. 4 reported, “It was announced yesterday that the Quality Silk company, one of the city’s largest industries is planning to give up its Market Street plant as soon as possible and move the manufacturing operations performed there to Hickory street, where the knitting mill of the concern is located. The complete plans also provide for the complete removal of the East Street dyeing plant of the company to Hickory street within the next year or so. The plan has been under consideration for some time, and the present slackness of the textile industry was thought to afford a most advantageous opportunity.”

Oneonta had its Normal School at the time, later to become today’s State University College at Oneonta. However, hints at some new company in higher education surfaced in the new year.

Star readers of Jan. 29 also found out, “Numerous citizens of this city are in receipt of invitations to attend a luncheon to be held at Hotel Oneonta Tuesday noon next, at which time speakers will outline the proposed enlargement and development of Hartwick Seminary,” then found a few miles south of Cooperstown. “It is the plan to develop the institution into a college that will comply with all the requirements of the state department of education. The project has been discussed at various Lutheran gatherings for some time and now it is hoped to interest a larger circle of friends of the institution.”

A large “circle” indeed formed, and brought a new Hartwick College to the city about a year later.

On Wednesday, our local life and times in January 1977. 

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday columns address local history 1950 and later. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.

Ask Mark... 

Have you ever had a question about a history-making event or a prominent person in our area and didn't know where to find the answer? Well, we've got an expert who might be able to help you. Historian Mark Simonson has spent many years chronicling major local happenings, and he's ready and willing to dive into The Daily Star archives for answers, which will appear in this newspaper and online at www.thedailystar.com.

Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com

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