Cudmore: Amsterdam civic leader lamented the loss of trees


A woman who lived most of her life while Amsterdam was a village lamented the loss of many trees after the municipality became more industrialized.

“There was more greenness, more freshness in the village in those old days than there is now,” wrote M. Annie Allen Trapnell in a paper presented to the Century Club.  In 1895 Trapnell had founded the women’s club and remarks from the paper she presented were preserved.

Recorder newspaper columnist Hugh Donlon quoted Trapnell in an article he wrote 42 years ago.  Donlon said other writers of Trapnell’s generation also lamented the loss of Amsterdam’s trees.

City officials, Trapnell said, wanted to make the community “look like their idea of a great city.”  The municipality became a city in 1885.

She wrote, “One alderman in answer to an entreaty to spare the trees said: ‘New York City does not have trees.  There are no trees on Broadway.’  What noble trees were sacrificed by those pitiless vandals!”

The one tree most often remembered by early 20th century writers was an old pine that stood near historic St. Mary’s Church on East Main Street.

Trapnell said the “scraggly, irregular” tree was a “trysting place,” marking the goal of lovers’ walks in old Amsterdam, “And what tales that old tree could have told!  Market Street was handsome then.  Fine trees overshadowed the sidewalks and fronts of the houses.  Many substantial citizens had their residences there.  Enclosed in white picket fences were little green lawns.”

John Sanford’s home was near the foot of Market Street.  This John Sanford was Stephen Sanford’s father.  Stephen was the one who built up the family carpet mills as time went on.

Trapnell wrote, “Stephen Sanford’s mother was often seen at work, planting fresh bulbs or gathering fragrant roses.  In the rear behind the flowers a vegetable garden extended far back to the Chuctanunda Creek.”

Annie Allen Trapnell was the daughter of Beriah Allen.  She was born in 1832 in Blue Corners, a hamlet in West Charlton.  Her family moved to Church Street in Amsterdam when she was a child and Annie was educated at Amsterdam Academy.

The school was on lower Market Street, a building Trapnell described as a “large, ancient white structure, with its fine broad piazza extending across the entire building.”

She became a teacher in Watertown.  In 1868 she was among the first to teach at the Normal School in Potsdam, today a college in the State University of New York system.  She returned home and taught at Amsterdam Academy.

Rev. William Trapnell, rector of St, Ann’s Episcopal Church, took an interest in Annie.  According to a 1945 history of the Century Club, Trapnell waited many “brave and patient years” to wed Annie.  In 1872 Rev. Trapnell left Amsterdam for a parish in Maryland and Annie and he finally married.  She was 40 and he was 60.  He died four months later.

Returning to Amsterdam after a European tour, Annie Trapnell lived at the Allen family home on Church Street.  When she wasn’t traveling, she spent her days supporting community activities in the growing mill town.

In 1908 while on a trip to Hampton, Virginia, Trapnell became seriously ill.  Several of her friends traveled there and were with Annie when she died Nov. 9.

Her body arrived by train in Amsterdam and mourners thronged St. Ann’s Church for the funeral.  The floral bouquets included 250 white roses, a rose for each 1908 member of the Century Club.  She was buried at Green Hill Cemetery.

Trapnell left a $12,000 estate, including bequests to St. Ann’s, Amsterdam Free Library and the Children’s Home.

Categories: Life and Arts

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