New Lisbon Holds First School Fair
Postmaster Chester A. Miller Tells of
Historical Background of
Town in Address
New Lisbon, Oct. 24---”I challenge the educators present to join hands with the people of this area to produce men equal to those of 100 year ago.” Postmaster Chester A. Miller of Oneonta said in his address here today which was one of the many features of the first annual fair of school district one, town of New Lisbon.
Mr. Miller's challenge came at the conclusion of an address in which he pointed out the historical background of the town, the stability of its population and the self reliance and industry of its inhabitants.
Fully 300 attended the fair, which had all the earmarks of a county agricultural exposition with exhibits of livestock, fruit, flowers,and the like. Much credit is due Miss Lucinda Johnson, teacher of the school, and Miss Marion Brooks, student teacher of Oneonta Normal school, who planned the fair as a unit teaching project. Fine cooperation was extended them by Dr. C. B. Cornell, head of the extension department of Hartwick college, Oneonta, and Miss Evelyn Hodgdon, supervisor of rural teaching of the Oneonta Normal school, who acted as judges.
The fair was worthy of a much larger community, and was complete, even to an eight page catalog and premium booklet. The exhibition was divided into departments of which each had a superintendent.
During the morning, exhibits of vegetables were judged, followed by the judging of pet stock by Dr. F. I. Reed of Morris.
Four “High School: horse from the Troop C State Police rough riding team at Sidney gave an exhibition of their skill as part of the program.
Several floats prepared by the school children were featured in the parade. The children also presented a play, “Little Black Sambo.”
James Hall of Cooperstown, former county treasurer and former supervisor of the town of New Lisbon, was heard in several Scotch songs. Kenneth Cook of Morris gave an exhibition of magic and Daniel Mather of Burlington exhibited his antiques.
Mr. Miller in his address mentioned that the valley was first known as the Chaumont valley, taking its name from the Frenchman who received the grant of land from the governor of Pennsylvania. The first three white settlers, whose descendants still reside in the township, were Increase Thurston, Ebenezear Knapp and Benjamin Lull. These three settled the section in 1773, but were driven out during the border warfare.
Settlers returned in 1775 and in 1810, Mr. Miller said, the population had climbed from practically nothing to 982. It kept increasing until 1830 when it reached its highest peak, 2,232. From then until 1875 it declined to 1,526, and today not more than eight or nine hundred reside in the town.
Mr. Miller showed how the community was self sustaining, industrious, and self reliant, since it was practically cut off from the outside world in the early days. Most necessities were raised in the community and the remainder secured by barter with neighboring communities.
Saying that “the town probably bred as good men as we have today,” Mr. Miller pointed out that in both the town of Morris and New Lisbon in 1875, not one single person was on relief and there were only two illiterates in New Lisbon.
The postmaster called attention to the fact that in 1875, records showed very diversified farming and farm products, while today the trend is toward dairying alone. He suggested that this was not the best situation, since the town's most prosperous period came from 1825 to 1875 when crops were diversified. During that period, he said, practically all the houses in town were built and family fortunes established.
Citing the stability of the population, Mr. Miller mentioned that in sight of the place from which he was speaking he could see a farmhouse which the Perry family had occupied for seven generations and was still occupying.
As an example of the population's stability, he pointed out that in the entire county of Otsego in 1875, 70 per cent of the families were born in the county, 15 per cent in other parts of New York state and only five per cent outside the state. This stability of population does not exist today, he said.
Transcribed from a scrapbook article from the Mary Boice Gale Collection.