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A LOOK BACK: The Fourth of July

Farmers-Bank-1930s-patriotic-bunting

The Farmers Bank at the corner of Main and Mechanic Streets decorated in all its patriotic glory  is a fitting picture for the Fourth.  The bank was built in 1883; the clock was added in 1929.   The Farmers Bank was bought out by M & T Bank in the 1950s.  The building was razed in 1973 when the new branch was built.

By Derek M. Otto

By the time that Concord and the Springville area had enough of a population to have a large celebration for the Fourth of July, the declaration was almost 50 years old. The earliest known Fourth of July celebration occurred in 1819, at the four corners east of the village of Springville. Still called Liberty Corners by some, it’s the intersection of Routes 240 and 39.

According to Briggs, Original History of the Town of Concord, the celebration was quite the event. “Officers would be chosen, a procession formed orations by prominent pioneers and recitation of the Declaration of Independence occurred before the liberty pole would be raised and the flag unfurled.”  Guns were fired off and drums and fifes played in celebration.

Briggs tells of an even more interesting event— a variety of the areas residents would be given titles after other military and civic heroes of the day.  The average pioneer from Concord would be given the title “General Knox” or “Governor Smith” for the day.  It was quite an honor in the community.  Interestingly enough, these names would stick with the people for many years after the fact.  Briggs tells of “Governor Smith” and a friend going to the tavern on Townsend Hill and embiding in several drinks.  There happened to be an Indian in the tavern and he joined them.  After a few more drinks, the Indian asked if he was the real Governor Smith of New York State.  The “Governor” replied, “No not New York, just Dutch Hollow.”

For many years, the celebrations would continue like this with the liberty pole being moved to Main Street.  Local newspapers reported that, in 1872, the Republicans raised a liberty pole on the corner of what is now Mill and Pearl Streets. Not without the diversity issues of today,  that same night,  the Ku Klux Klan tore the pole down.  Amazingly, our country endured and the celebrations would get more elaborate.

The celebration in 1910 must have been one of Springville’s finest.   The committee in charge announced that donations from residents were “very liberal” that year and the all planned activities could go forward.  The events included bands arriving in town by train starting as early as 6:30 a.m.  In that year, the celebrated Bradford Italian Band was the main feature, led by Prof. Alexander Roumaldi.  Other bands that came to town were from Arcade, Collins Center, and East Otto.   The day started with athletic activities on Main Street at 9 a.m., and then the first of two balloon ascensions and parachute drop by Prof. Peter C. Haines at South Central Avenue.

The day included a ball game between Springville and Collins Center, a huge parade in which everyone was invited to join in, the traditional patriotic exercises at Godard Hall, horse and motorcycle races at Dygert’s Driving Park in the afternoon.

The second of Prof. Haines’ parachute drops concluded before the first-ever automobile parade in Springville.  The parade route was a zig-zag through the entire village at the time.  It started at the Dygert’s Driving Park, continued down Myrtle Avenue to Main Street and the followed Main to Waverly to Albro down Woodward to Buffalo Street, then turned and went to Franklin Street to Park Street to Cochran and down Main Street to Pearl Street.  It must have been a dusty affair; all the streets were still dirt at that time.

The Bradford Italian Band closed out the day with a concert in Fiddler’s Green Park before a huge firework display was lit off by the water works pond.   

By 1916 and 1917, most of the events were held at the Dygert’s Driving Park with many horse races going on and even a tournament lacrosse game between teams from Salamanca. Many of the surrounding towns had said that they were not having fireworks that year. It is unknown if it was a war concern or a fire issue.

In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, festivities would be held at Cascade Park.  In one story during the Fourth Community Picnic at the park, a greased pig competition was held.  The winner would take the pig, a $50 value.

With the completion of the Community Ball Park on Buffalo Road, the festivities moved there with ball games and fireworks in the 1950s through the 1970s.

There was a lull in Springville’s Fouth Celebrations for a number of years with residents having to go to other communities to see fireworks.   

About 20 years ago, the village and town decided to renew the annual Fourth of July softball game and fireworks.  The celebration of the United States Declaration Independence will continue in Springville at Community Park with Gene Hilts playing at 5 p.m., refreshments available and fireworks at dusk.

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