Village Historian begins countdown to Stillwater Bicentennial celebration

horse drawn sleigh moves through snow
A horse drawn carriage moves downs the streets of Stillwater during the village’s early history. The village will celebrate its 200th birthday in 2016.

Countdown to the Stillwater Bicentennial is on!

Though still nearly three years off, Historian Linda Sanders told village Trustees at their monthly board meeting Tuesday night (May 21) that plans are already underway for a birthday celebration on April 16, 2016 when the municipality will turn 200 years old.

As a prelude to that day, Sanders spent about 15 minutes giving Trustees a short history lesson on what life was like in Stillwater in 1816, and some of the laws that were on the books then.

“Imagine life on the hill in 1816 when everyone rose early to the alarm clock of the blacksmith’s hammer,” she said. “Lumbering carts and wagons road in from the farm bringing produce or grain for the mill or to get an early start for Troy with loads of butter and cheese and other farm commodities for the trade there. They would perhaps stop at the tavern to get a stimulating drink of rum or bitters to offset the discomfort of the long ride on a cold morning.”

The church, Sander added, was the center of social life with dances, card playing and other activities. Occasionally a dancing bear was lead through town by its trainer and everyone ran to the tavern to see it perform. Money was scarce at the time, and the barter system was used to buy and sell goods. There were also public hangings until they ended in 1827.

Then there were the laws of the time … run your swine on the village streets and face a penalty of $2, or your horses and pay $5 out of pocket.

You could also be fined $1 for playing ball in the streets or for being absent from a village meeting without a reasonable excuse.

“Do you do that Mr. Mayor?” she asked Ernest Martin.

“No, but we can,” he responded with a laugh.

Sanders said from now until the Bicentennial she will be back at village hall to give more history lessons and she asked Trustees to “save the date” in 2016.

“We hope to have a nice ta-da, and, God willing, I will be here to help plan it,” Sanders said.

Village Trustees also heard the following reports/updates at the May meeting:

  • Trustee John Basile updated Trustees on the village water and sewer projects. There is one step left to the water project before it can be “closed out” with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said, that is to get bids for installing fencing around the field locations and a new alarm/notification system. He said he expects the project to come in about $600,000 under original projections. He also said he expects the sewer project to be completed by mid-June with one section of pipe needed to be lined from the pump station going south, and some manholes left to be sealed.
  • Trustee Ellen Vomacka reported that the village sidewalk construction project near Stillwater Central School resumed around May 20 and she has been told by the contractors it will be completed in 20 days. The project began last fall and stopped during the winter months. She and Trustees also discussed vandalism to the fencing at Major Dickenson Avenue Park and the need for new benches to replace some in serious disrepair. The village may look into installing surveillance cameras at the park and post signage warning vandals of penalties for their actions.
  • Trustee Judy Wood-Shaw reported that 25 people attended the village’s monthly Senior Time program in April. Senator Kathy Marchione was the special lunch guest and she personally visited with residents. She also handed out informative literature as to senior options and needs regarding safety, health insurance and heat saving tips. The Senior Time Program will celebrate its first birthday on May 31 when it is held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Stillwater Area Community Center. This will be the last program for the summer until it resumes the last Friday in September.
  • The Fire Department responded to three alarms in April involving 15 firefighters. Twenty-six firefighters also attended four drills during the month.
    Department of Public Works crews were busy cleaning and pressure walking sidewalks this spring, getting the parks and playgrounds ready for warm weather use, installing water meters, and working on clogged lines and value repairs at the pump stations.
  • The Village Board voted in favor of purchasing a new liner for the village ice rink and two new hockey goals and nets for use on the ice. Trustees also renewed the contract for maintaining the village website for another year with the webmaster. In addition, Trustees discussed roads in need of paving this summer and prioritized their order of repair based on the funds that will be available. There will be more discussion on this matter in June when the village knows what fund balance is left over from the 2012-2013 budget.
  • Mark your calendars : The second annual Stillwater Community Picnic wll be held on Saturday, August 3, 2-10 p.m., at the American Legion pavilion. It will included a chicken barbecue, clam steam, hot dogs, hamburgers, live music, games and more. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.