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Fort Plain Street Fair once tradition

Saturday, June 22, 2013
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From 1898 to 1924, the Fort Plain Street Fair was a big event each September.

County historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar recalls: “They had high divers, concerts, rides, baseball games, and store vendors would set up booths on the streets. They had thousands of people coming.”

The event was not held during World War I.

Farquhar’s book, “Montgomery County,” contains a picture showing her great-great-grandparents, Henry and Angelina (Smith) Baum, at the Fort Plain Street Fair in 1909. They are seated in an automobile, a newfangled contraption back then, in front of a painted country scene with an unidentified couple.

Fort Plain is a village within the towns of Minden and Canajoharie. Minden was created in 1798 by dividing the town of Canajoharie.

The village of Fort Plain prospered with the building of the Erie Canal and the West Shore Railroad in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A limestone aqueduct carried the canal over the Otsquago Creek in Fort Plain. The aqueduct was destroyed during floods in 1981.

One of the first newspapers in the county was The Watchtower, which began publication in Fort Plain in 1827. A toll bridge was constructed over the Mohawk River, linking Fort Plain and Nelliston. Tolls were lifted after 1857.

The Clock Building at Canal and Mohawk streets, built in 1832, was originally a hotel called Montgomery Hall. The Fritcher Opera House was on River Street. Built in 1878, the building and the Union Hotel next door burned in 1911.

The Clinton Liberal Institute relocated from Clinton to Fort Plain in 1879. The school had military instruction and 200 students in its heyday, including submarine inventor Simon Lake. The institute was destroyed by fire in 1900.

A.J. Sneck operated an electrical goods shop at Canal and River streets in Fort Plain. An electrician who worked for Sneck, Julius Failing, brought electricity to Fort Plain and Nelliston. In the first half of the 20th century, streets and sidewalks were paved and a storm sewer system was installed.

Golf course opened in ’38

Opening day was July 19, 1938 at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course on Van Dyke Avenue. The first foursome consisted of golf stars Gene Sarazen and Tom Creavy, joined by Frank Hartig, the first pro at the new course, and John Lord, pro at the private Antlers course, now known as Rolling Hills. The caddies were Earl Hartig, Moe Iannuzzi, Earl Gode and Harry Gode. A Scottish band led the group down the first fairway. The team of Lord and Creavy beat Sarazen and Hartig that day.

Mayor Arthur Carter was instrumental in advocating for the golf course and the facility is named in his honor. Construction was made possible through a $100,000 federal appropriation under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The city of Amsterdam appropriated $23,000. As many as 175 public employees worked on the project. About $16,000 was paid for the property used for the 200-acre golf course. The properties purchased were owned by people named Carmichael, Gutowski, Bull and Sweeney.

Baseball tickets

At least some of the tickets from the 1939 season of the Amsterdam Rugmakers baseball team in the Canadian-American League were printed on a circular piece of paper that looked like a baseball. Admission was 40 cents, and the scorecard, purchased separately, cost five cents.

Herbert Shuttleworth II, who went on to head Mohawk Carpets and Mohasco, is listed as president of the Rugmakers and Eddie Sawyer as manager in 1939. The team played at Mohawk Mills Park, which was renamed in honor of Shuttleworth in 1997. Shuttleworth Park today is home to the Amsterdam Mohawks in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or bobcudmore@yahoo.com.

 
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