History And Activities Of The Boonville Historical Club
The 15 women who met at the Schuyler Street home of Mrs. Lincoln (Seibella Faber) Perry on November 11, 1900, were probably uncomfortable in their corsets and high-necked shirtwaists with long, flowing skirts. And, because a lady never went out without a fancy hat atop her upswept hairdo, there was likely a variety of feathered and flowered headgear present at that gathering.
Women had not yet won the right to vote and only one in 13 homes had a telephone when these ladies met to form the Boonville Historical Club. They did so because they wanted to extend their knowledge of literature and history. Mrs. N. B. Felshaw, the newly elected president, suggested that the club invest in the Bay View Course of World History. Vice-president Mrs. J. R. Phillips thought this was a great idea, since the seven-year-old Erwin Library would be a wonderful source of extra information. Mrs. H. R. Tubbs, the secretary, suggested that in order to cover expenses, assessments of one cent per bimonthly meeting, plus a dollar per year, would be necessary. In the early years, the reputation of the club was such that many ladies were seeking membership. Amendments were made to include the first 25, then 30, with a “long waiting list.” Currently we have 20 active members and six associate members.
According to the club’s constitution, its purpose is “mutual and civic improvement, study of history, and topics of general interest.” Women in the Adirondack Central School District are eligible for membership, and dues are now $5 per year for members, $2.50 for associates.
Ladies of the club meet the first Monday of each month from October through June, except in January or when the meeting date falls on a legal holiday or school is not in session. Programs cover a wide variety of subjects and are sometimes open to the public. The annual dinner meeting is held at a local restaurant in June, when election of officers, who serve two seasons, takes place.
Some of the highlights of the Boonville Historical Club’s history include the following:
- In 1915, the club became a part of the Northern New York Federation of Women’s Clubs.
- On July 18, 1916, twenty-four ladies and their gentlemen friends and husbands, who paid the sixty cents round-trip fare, left Boonville on the 10:00 a.m. train for the customary picnic at Trenton Falls. After a feast of boiled chicken and all the trimmings, many enjoyed a walk through the gorge. Four daring members arrived by automobile in time for dinner, having encountered no mishaps en route. The group returned on the evening train to Boonville, once again grateful to the gentlemen friends for hosting the club’s annual picnic.
- The ladies of the club gathered 34 large cartons of hand-sewn clothing and toys for those less fortunate in 1918.
- In 1925, we sponsored events to fund construction of two bathhouses at the municipal pool, formerly a repair basin for canal boats.
- During the Depression years, the club continued to meet, and its welfare works were more arduous than usual.
- The club’s 40th anniversary was celebrated with a special luncheon, honoring members who assisted with the installation of markers along the Black River Canal. The group later adjourned to Lock 71, for the dedication of that marker.
- World War II cast a shadow on the area, but the ladies continued to meet, despite the lack of sugar in their teacups. Instead of concentrating on landscapes, members were advised to plant a
- In the 1970s, the club, along with the Erwin Library Board, was instrumental in converting the Pratt House into the Dodge-Pratt-Northam Art and Community Center.
- The club also supported the repair or purchase of a circulating pump for the Erwin Park fountain.
- The club helped save the bell that once rang over the former Boonville High School. It was mounted on a platform and in the 1990s presented to the K-5 Adirondack Central School.
- On October 2, 2000, the Boonville Historical Club celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special dinner meeting at the Hulbert House.
- On July 4, 2003, we dedicated a memorial marker in front of Erwin Library for nationally acclaimed, Boonville-born author, Walter D. Edmonds.
- In May 2005, the club formed the Committee to Preserve the 97th Monument at Gettysburg. The group raised over $5,000, about half of which went toward repairs of a Gettysburg Battlefield monument. Soldiers of Boonville’s own 97th New York State Volunteer Infantry distinguished themselves during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, and the original 1890 memorial was damaged and deteriorated. Additional funds went toward an endowment for perpetual care of the monument. The club also erected a memorial to the 97th in Erwin Park, where the volunteers had trained. A rededication/dedication program was held there on June 3, 2006.
- Each year, the club presents a monetary history award to a graduating senior at Adirondack Central High School and gives certificates and prizes to fourth-grade girls who show an interest in local history.
- In the past, holiday donations were collected for a local adult home and a nursing home activities fund. Members occasionally contribute to various community fund-raising efforts, such as the Boonville covered bridge, Erwin Park picnic tables, the feed-the-reindeer project, and the Boonville Black River Canal Museum.
- Each May, we sponsor artwork and poetry by local students, which is submitted and judged at the Northern NY Federation of Women’s Clubs annual spring meeting.
- To date, the club has presented its Outstanding Citizen Award to five area women: Jeanette Nellenback, Peggy Nuspliger, Vivian Brucker, Evelyn Wagoner, and Kathy Lansing.
- Under the leadership of President Daphne Larrabee, a memorial park bench was installed on the lawn of Erwin Library in the spring of 2008, purchased with funds given in memory of former member Josephine Vella.
- In the fall of 2008, members completed a quilt coverlet depicting various historical buildings throughout the village of Boonville.
- The club donated funds to help with recent construction of the Boonville Black River Canal Museum, and since its completion, members have volunteered to serve as guides for the past two seasons.
- At our first meeting of the season in October 2009, members voted to Adopt A Platoon of the 10th Mountain Division, soldiers stationed at Fort Drum, about 50 miles north of Boonville.
- We annually endorse a worthy local applicant as a candidate for the Nettie M. Hewitt Scholarship Fund.
Many things have changed since those ladies in flowing garb met over a century ago to form the Boonville Historical Club; but members continue attempts to preserve local history, and this weblog is the group’s latest project.