The First Baptist Church across from the public square or Fiddler’s Green Park about 1860. The wooden fence protected the park from wandering livestock. The gates were wooden turnstiles.
By Derek M. Otto
Spring has sprung and there’s a lot activity around the village. Buffalo Street is being repaved, the department of public works removed shrubs around the soldier’s monument and the town released its concert in the park series from the upcoming year. So, it got me thinking about Fiddler’s Green Park.
When Christopher Stone came to the area as the first settler in 1807, he settled on Buffalo Street. (A small cabin has been erected to remember his settlement there.) There was small natural green to the south of the settlement, and it was around this green that people erected their first homes.
This included David LeRoy, a renowned fiddler that played and taught the art of music to many early settlers from miles around. Because of this, another early settler, David Stickney, named the area Fiddler’s Green, which was the first name for Springville.
When Stone left the area, he sold his property to Rufus Eaton in 1910. Eaton was 40 years old at the time and had settled other villages and communities in Connecticut and New York State before coming to Springville.
He knew what early villages needed. He donated land for the Springville Academy, cemetery, Congregationalist (Presbyterian) Church (the property is now St. Al’s) and also gave the land that was the green to the community for a public square. Just like the towns that they came from in New England, Fiddler’s Green was an active village square.
Many of the early businesses and churches surrounded the square. The Methodist Church built their first church on the northern boundary of the square in 1825, the newly-formed first Baptist built their church to the west of the Methodists in 1827 at the corner of Church and Buffalo Streets, and eventually the Presbyterians and Universalists would build their churches near the square in the 1840s. It was the center of Springville life.
The current boundary of the park was set when Chapel Street was cut in 1843. In the 1850s, the trustees erected a fence and gate around the park to protect it from roaming livestock in the village. The gates were wooded turnstiles.
During the Civil War in the 1860s, the park was home to Union encampments as they recruited and prepared to fight.
In the 1880s, the 50th anniversary of the Springville Academy and Griffith Institute was held in the park. Several hundred people feted on tables set up in the park. At the time, it was still the only outdoor public gathering place.
So when in 1891, the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) and a committee of village residents erected a monument remembering Springville’s fallen in the Civil War, it was logical to put it in the center of the public square.
David Ingalls, a local bachelor, gave land to the committee headed by HL Hawley and JP Myers. They sold the land and raised enough money to erect the monument. Looking at the monument, you wonder who sacrificed more, David Ingalls or the soldiers by the size of the names on the monument.
In 1988, the Concord Historical Society had discovered several names that were not on the monument. Those names were added to monument and it was rededicated. Almost every village, town and city in New York had a Union Square or soldier’s monument in the 1890s. Interestingly, Springville is one of the few communities that still has a monument and park still intact.
In 1903, a Civil War cannon was added and the park took on its last piece to its contemporary look when a bandstand was added in 1911 (though the bandstand has been replaced a few times). The current bandstand looks most similar to the original one.
In more recent years, the park has shrunk a bit. Parking spots and the expansion of Chapel Street’s width on the north have cut the size of the lawn down.
As you enjoy the nicer weather, don’t forget to stroll through Fiddler’s Green Park and think of the activity of frontiersmen, soldiers and the unique history of our village square.