As Oneontans turned over their calendars to January 1908, the new month and new year marked the end of the talk of Oneonta becoming a city, and the beginning of the fast track to formal approval of the changeover from a village.
Friday nights were often meeting nights for public officials in 1907 and 1908. On that last Friday night in 1907, Dec. 27, the first public meeting of citizens for the change of the charter from a village to a city was held at the YMCA building on Broad Street.
Through the autumn months of 1907, readers of The Oneonta Star had the opportunity to look over the lengthy changes in the proposed city charter. A dedicated committee had worked during the summer to come up with such a document. Being only a draft, flaws were found in wording and content, and meetings of the charter committee made changes. By late December, a finished product was ready for public review and discussion.
About 100 citizens showed up on Dec. 27 to participate in the initial discussion of becoming a city. Village President W.W. Capron presided and read a report of the charter committee, fully explaining its position in regard to the proposed city government.
The Hon. Abraham L. Kellogg was the first to speak, and his wording likely sounded something like this: "Mr. President, I offer a resolution to the effect that the people of Oneonta desire a city charter on the lines prepared by the committee, and that the board of trustees and our representatives in the Senate and Assembly take such action as may be necessary to procure such charter."
Oneonta couldn't become a city just by vote of the village trustees. The resolution needed approval by the state Legislature and governor for the village to become the 46th city in New York.
For that night, after plenty of discussion, Kellogg's resolution was tabled until more citizens could participate. The next meeting was set for Jan. 10, 1908.
In the meantime, the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce met on Wednesday, Jan. 8, regarding the charter changes. "With 34 affirmatives votes, and none in opposition," reported The Oneonta Star on Jan. 9, "the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce "¦ passed a resolution declaring it the sentiment of the body that the new charter "¦ be approved."
The Jan. 10 public meeting at the YMCA was once again well-attended. After about 90 minutes of discussion, citizens in attendance got to vote on the change to a city. The vote stood at 112 in favor, 10 against. On the motion of Willard E. Yager, the resolution to change the charter from village to city was adopted.
A few final changes were made in the charter, and then the village trustees handed over the new charter to the state legislative members in our area, Assemblyman Charles Smith of Oneonta and Sen. Seth Heacock of Ilion.
The Oneonta Herald of Jan. 30 reported that the new charter had been introduced in Albany during the week, having been read to both legislative bodies. It was then referred to a committee on cities. Public hearings were required.
While the process for becoming a city went quickly and nearly unopposed in Oneonta, citizens were hoping for fast approval, in time to elect new city officials in March. However, the seemingly smooth flight hit some major turbulence in Albany.
We'll look further into that matter in the next few weeks.
On Monday: A mess was discovered in the late 1980s while replacing the Gas Avenue bridge.
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 e-mail him at email@example.com.