As we mark the traditional beginning of the holiday season with Thanksgiving celebrations this week, we at “The Freeman’s Journal” and “Hometown Oneonta” are thankful to be part of the life of Otsego County. But, as thankful as we are for the many bountiful aspects of life here, like many others, we are always mindful that suffering and need are still more plentiful in our region than in many other places. As Otsego County residents pause to give thanks this week, we ask that you consider sponsoring a family in need.
For the past 101 years, we have joined The Salvation Army to help make Christmas enjoyable for area families through the Angel Tree Program. We are proud to help our neighbors provide this assistance to others less fortunate.
Over 150 years ago, in 1867, Susan Fenimore Cooper—the visionary daughter of our illustrious James Fenimore Cooper—founded the Thanksgiving Hospital, the first such hospital in the Village of Cooperstown and, so it’s told, in the state. Dedicated to the “weak and suffering among the population of Otsego County and the adjoining counties,” it had 16 beds. At the time Cooperstown was a small rural community with 1,600 people.
Established in appreciation of the end of the Civil War, the Thanksgiving Hospital was guided for three decades by Miss Cooper, working closely with Dr. Wilson T. Bassett, an Otsego County-born son of a veterinary surgeon who had emigrated from England in 1815. When Bassett began his medical practice in the 1840s, in Mount Vision, there were 60 physicians in Otsego County, six of them in Cooperstown.
Film festivals have been around for a century, and now, in the 21st, they have come into their own. They are meeting places for filmmakers and audiences who are interested in the world in its variety, different approaches to life and in film as an art form, a medium and a tool of social expression. Global digitalization has given film festivals an exceptional tool for crossing the communication channels from the most distant places and, with multiple languages, films now present a rich diversity of voices, aiding communication in an increasingly polarized world.
As Supervisor of the Town of Montgomery I can say firsthand that I have been proud to call Brian Miller my New York State Assembly representative. While I know many of the folks reading this letter may be voting for Brian Miller for the first time, rest assured he will represent you well. He works hard, he listens and he has been a fierce advocate for issues that have been very important for the residents I represent. The 101st district is one of the longest in the State of New York. It is a two- to three-hour drive to many parts of the district. Brian Miller did his very best to make sure all of us felt represented even with this geographical challenge. I look forward to continuing to work with Assemblyman Miller and I know that he will continue to work diligently to improve the quality of life in any community he represents.
Brian Maher Supervisor, Town of Montgomery, Orange County
In 1959 Louis C. Jones, a celebrated folklorist who was at the time director of the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, published “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” a compendium of stories about ghosts who roamed New York State and beyond. “It is a great privilege to live in a town which the dead have not deserted,” he writes. “Walk the streets of Cooperstown…on a moonlight night and [you will see] a village where the enchantment of death is a warm and friendly quality.”
River Street is a pretty good start. At its juncture with Main, under a giant pine tree, stands Pomeroy Place, where Ann Cooper Pomeroy came back long after her death in 1870. Just up the hill is Greencrest, where the portrait of Jane Storrs Cooper Worthington (1843-1863) has once again been removed from the main staircase. While its occasional removal in the past has scared up a great deal of physical commotion in the house, now at last the house is quiet.
The Swart-Wilcox House, the oldest in Oneonta, is looking for a 19th-century English barn to replace the original one destroyed by fire in 1968.
Upstate New York is rural. Its towns, villages, and cities are spread out and difficult to reach. There are fields and forests and lakes. For most of its over-200-year history agriculture has been, and still might be, the main industry. Upstate New York is beautiful, bucolic, serene, clear, compelling. Rolling hills encircle cool lakes; fields interrupt clumps of forest. Farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings reveal their uses by their shapes and locations. Barns, in fact, are the distinctive feature of our part of the state. Early farms had multiple crops and livestock—wheat, oats, rye; sheep, cows, pigs, chickens—which called for multiple buildings: horse barns, ox barns, hay barns, chicken houses, workshops, corn cribs, granaries, wagon sheds, and the like. The farms resembled villages.
This Saturday, October 15, the world will recognize, as it does every year, the importance of the contributions of rural women and girls, including indigenous women, who live and work in remote and rural, often poverty-stricken, communities of the world. These strong women and girls play a key role in enhancing agricultural development, managing natural resources, adopting climate-resilient agricultural approaches, and planning against malnutrition and food insecurity.
The International Day of Rural Women was officially proclaimed by a resolution adopted by the United Nations in December 2007. The day celebrates and honors the role, often stereotyped but extremely substantial, of rural women who continue to face historic discrimination in many areas, including land and livestock ownership, equal pay, participation in meaningful decision-making, and access to resources such as credit and markets. This U.N. proclamation was the outgrowth of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, 12 years previously, wherein the idea of celebrating and supporting women was put forth. The date, October 15, was determined because, since 1945, World Food Day has been celebrated on October 16 and it seemed entirely relevant to honor rural women for their contributions to agriculture, food production, and food safety around the same time.
On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden proclaimed October 11 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. At the same time, he acknowledged Columbus Day as a federal holiday that would continue to recognize the contributions of Italian-Americans. This exercise was, in part, designed to placate a growing constituency in a widening “cancel culture” that opposes a celebration for a man who was nothing short of beastly to the indigenous populations that he and his Spanish patrons conquered and enslaved. Certainly, it would be more appropriate, and more civilized, to celebrate the victims rather than the victors.
It is hard not to agree with that line of thinking, but to do so ignores the genesis of the modern Columbus Day recognition. It is not a celebration of Columbus the man, but rather a celebration of Columbus the Italian, and ultimately the celebration of Italian-Americans.
September is pretty much behind us, with its very warm and, at other times, quite chilly days and nights, and some torrential rains. It’s been like most of the Septembers around here, only the temperature fluctuations this year have been more drastic, and the thunderstorms have been more ferocious, felling trees and scattering branches and scaring children and dogs.
And now, as we run smack into the pumpkins and foliage and the eventual Jack Frost of October, we barrel right into the beginning of the great season of The Hunt. On the very first day of the coming month the seasons for coyote (until March 26), ruffed grouse (until February 28), pheasant (until February 28), bear (until December 20) and deer (until January 1), among others, open. All but deer may be shot with guns, but for the deer it’s a bit more complicated. The bow season runs from October 1 – November 18, the crossbow from November 5 – 18, the muzzleloader from December 12 – 20 and December 26 – January 1, the shotgun from November 19 – December 11, and the late bowhunting alongside the muzzleloaders from December 12 – 20 and December 26 – January 1. There are kids’ weekends, too.
A little over a year ago The Freeman’s Journal put forth an editorial on the subject of electric vehicle chargers, which were at the time pretty scarce within the Village and, in fact, even outside the Village. The reason we explored the local availability of these chargers was, of course, that our tiny historic Village has been, and is, the destination of myriad urban baseball, sports, scenic and music explorers whose mode of transportation to Cooperstown is increasingly an electric or hybrid vehicle. We know this because there are signs of them throughout the Village, many of them silently sitting with silently draining batteries in the parking lots of the hotels, museums and baseball parks.
Last weekend, along with everyone who happened to venture out-of-doors the evenings of Friday and Saturday, we witnessed the September full moon — one of the most spectacular events on the lunar calendar. Called the Harvest Moon, as it appears the closest to the autumnal equinox, which falls on September 22, it is the moon that, before electricity, provided farmers with three days of extended daylight hours by which to harvest their crops. According to Native American tradition, it’s a time for giving thanks and acknowledging one’s accomplishments.
In some years, if that appearance is closer to the autumnal equinox, the Harvest Moon occurs in October, in which case the September full moon is called the Corn Moon. Corn, as it is known in North America, or maize, as it is known in other parts of the world, is a cereal grain first grown by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico, around 10,000 years ago.
Labor Day. The end of an exceptional summer in Cooperstown. Dare we say exceptional? Yes we can, despite the ominous glooms of COVID and recent blooms of algae.
Our Main Street businesses are still here. They may not have had their best summer, and they may still be sadly short-handed, but they are proudly displaying their wares and energetically inviting shoppers into their establishments. The Hall of Fame reopened its doors for Induction Weekend, welcoming pre-COVID crowds for a celebratory salute to the national pastime. Baseball fans swarmed the streets, and the Village was clean within hours. Doubleday Field is refurbished and Dreams Park is back. Our Village is alive.
Recently, we at The Freeman’s Journal have become aware that some of our readers, and others who may not be our readers, still have questions about the toxic algae blooms that of late have been creeping up on us from the depths and edges of our beloved Otsego Lake. So here goes an effort to get it right.
According to NOAA, whose satellites, along with those of the EPA, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, are picking up images of them, these blooms have been found in 2,300 lakes in the contiguous U.S., and in another 5,000 bodies of water in Alaska.
The algae, often — but not strictly — of a blue-green color, is cyanobacteria, which grows naturally in fresh water, though it also also been spotted, although less frequently, in brackish and salt water. The bacteria can also be red, neon or brown, and when it dies it exudes a rotten smell. When the water is warm, stagnant and nutrient-rich, as it presently is here, the algae can burst into blooms, which is what we are seeing along the shores of the Lake. The blooms can, and do, produce a toxin, called cyanotoxin, which can enter the mouth, nose and eyes, or be inhaled with water vapor. They can also keep blooming into the early fall, until the temperature drops.
When one looks about and takes in the bustling commercial activity of Otsego County during the busy tourist season and anticipates the impending return of the thousands of college students who keep things humming through the “off-season,” one feels confident that Otsego County has a healthy, perhaps even vibrant, economy. And while that may be true, beneath the shiny veneer of commercial success lies a dark reality.
Otsego County, like many of its neighbors, has a poverty problem. According to statistics published by Opportunities for Otsego, Inc., a community action agency actively fighting a local “War on Poverty” since 1966, the poverty rate in Otsego County stood at 13.3 percent as of the census of 2020. Of families with a female head of household and children present, a jaw-dropping 39 percent live in poverty. And in a measurement known as the ALICE threshold, which measures households that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, 29.2 percent of all Otsego County households live below that threshold.
A few months ago the New York State House and Senate voted to approve the shutdown of the puppy-mill-to-New York pipeline, ending the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores across the state. The bills await the governor’s signature. They have taken an inordinately long time to reach Hochul, having been first introduced in March, 2019.
Among the relentless fighters for this shutdown is our own Stacie Haynes, Executive Director of the Susquehanna SPCA.
As Board President of the New York State Animal Protection Federation as well, Haynes was instrumental in the passage in June of the Companion Animal Care Standards Act for Shelters and Rescues, which raises the standards of care for animals in shelters and rescues and ensures the licensing of all organizations caring for homeless animals.