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HOMETOWN HISTORY, March 14, 2014

125 Years Ago
An enthusiastic and crowded meeting of those interested in the Richfield Springs & Oneonta Railroad was held at Laurens Wednesday afternoon. President of the road, A.C. Couch was present and made a statement of the estimated cost of the road completed. The necessary bridges, cost per mile, and the cost of the rolling stock were included. He then proved to the satisfaction of the audience that the road would be a paying one from the start. The need of a road and its value to the Otego valley was vividly shown. After the meeting, twelve men, representing five miles of the road gave the right of way through their property. President Couch was in Oneonta on business yesterday. The new system projected takes in the towns of Earlville, New Berlin, Laurens, Richfield, Oakville and Oneonta and includes about 75 miles of road. It will probably require $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 to complete the system. A prospectus estimates the total tonnage of the road at 187,000 tons and the cash receipts as $410,000 per annum. If 50 percent of the receipts are allowed for running expenses of the road there will be $200,000 in round numbers left, affording a handsome percentage on the amount invested. A grant of $50 per acre is offered for right-of-way.
March 1889

100 Years Ago
In place of the regular mid-week prayer meeting at the First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Arthur H. Brownell gave a highly interesting address on “Billy Sunday,” the world famous evangelist who makes a regular business of saving souls. While in Pittsburgh last summer Dr. Brownell was present at one of Sunday’s services and has made a careful study of his methods. “Billy Sunday is a well-built man of medium height, muscular frame, clear-skinned and bright-eyed. His organization is just as complete as any well-regulated business enterprise, and details are just as carefully looked after. Before he goes to a city to commence a campaign he sends ahead advance agents who organize Sunday’s working forces. Expenses of campaigns are guaranteed by the churches of the city into which he moves. But, in every case, collections taken at meetings more than meet these expenses.” The first step in a city is the erection of a temple, built flat on the ground with planked seating. The temple in Pittsburgh had a seating capacity of 18,000, and all meetings were packed to the doors. In Pittsburgh he had 2,000 lay workers. A band of 12 to 20 men known as the Sunday party take charge of preaching services in small churches, lead special meetings and conduct all sorts of services under Sunday’s direction. Newspaper advertising is used daily to attract the public.
March 1914

80 Years Ago
Traffic was resumed one-way over the Main Street Bridge about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon and before dark two lanes were available for use in the new location of the span nearest the city. The swinging of the city approach upstream nearly 70 feet was made without any material difficulty Monday and yesterday by Carter Harrison, contractor for the new bridge. The bridge as now placed will be used until the new bridge is opened during the summer. The sorting of the steel for the span on the other side of the river was started yesterday and erection will begin today. Work on the new foundation on this bank of the river will now be rushed. That work requires the driving of about 8,000 feet of piling and the pouring of 900 cubic yards of concrete.
March 1934

60 Years Ago
Oneonta’s Jon Crain has achieved the zenith of all great opera singers – The Met. The 27-year-old tenor robusto made an unexpected debut the other night at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City – on only three hours of notice. Mr. Crain sang the lead role of Alfred in the lilting Richard Strauss comic opera Die Fledermaus (The Rat). The New York Times stated: “He has made a fine beginning.” Brian Sullivan was to have sung the role, but reported in as “vocally out of sorts.” A physician advised him not to sing. Sullivan’s alternate Thomas Hayward was out of town and unavailable. Just hours before the curtain was scheduled to go up Crain received a call from Rudolf Bing, the Met general manager, wanting to know if he could sing the role that night. Crain skipped his supper and headed straight downtown for the Met. Mr. Crain, who sang in Oneonta several months ago at a Kiwanis luncheon, got a rave review from the New York Times. “A useful Metropolitan career may be expected,” the Times opined.
March 1954

20 Years Ago
If you use a piece of plastic wrap to cover a bowl of food in your refrigerator, you can crumple it up and throw it in the garbage when you’re done. But, what do you do with a piece of plastic wrap the size of a round hay bale. That is the question many Otsego County farmers face every day. And, it’s not just what to do with one piece of plastic, but with the plastic used to store many bales of hay. Solutions to this problem currently used by area farmers include burying the plastic, hauling it to a landfill, or burning it. Each of those solutions has drawbacks – and some pose significant health risks to present and future generations. New York State has begun looking into providing funding for farmers’ organizations to market the agricultural plastic as a recyclable.
March 1994

10 Years Ago
The United States Colored Troops Institute (USCTI) for local history and family research at Hartwick College was honored on February 28 by the Maryland Legislature with Senate Resolution 432, “in recognition of its contributions to genealogical and historical research, thus enhancing the understanding of African life in America.” An official copy of the resolution was presented to Harry Matthews, associate dean and Director of U.S. Pluralism Programs at Hartwick College. Matthews is also President of the USCTI.
March 2004



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