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Summers past in Amsterdam

Summers past in Amsterdam

Civil War veterans reunions and powerboat meetups dot town's summer history

Amsterdam hosted a reunion of Civil War veterans in the summer of 1886. Company C of the 115th New York Regiment gathered on Brookside Avenue. Also that summer, the Clerical Wheelmen, pastors who had taken up bicycle riding, reached the city. Parishioners from St. Joseph’s Church in Troy also made a pilgrimage to the Auriesville Shrine.

In July 1896, horses raced in Amsterdam with the annual meet of the Amsterdam Fair and Driving Association. The summer of 1900 did not have an “exceedingly hot day,” according to a newspaper account, until July 8.

The first golf course built in the Amsterdam area was the private Antlers Country Club, which opened in 1901 on land in Fort Johnson and Tribes Hill, and today is known as the Rolling Hills Golf Course.

The 13th Brigade Band played at social occasions in 1902, according to Kelly Farquhar and Scott Haefner’s book “Amsterdam.” In August, that band, along with the Maney and McNaughton Orchestra, entertained at the inaugural run of the trolley line to Hagaman. John A. Maney played in the orchestra. Also a photographer, Maney’s photos helped record life in Amsterdam.

Yachts of the American Power Boat association arrived in Amsterdam in 1905 via the Erie Canal, on their way to the Thousand Islands.

Two horses owned by Amsterdam carpet magnate Stephen Sanford, Mohawk II and Molly Brant, won feature races at Saratoga Racetrack in August 1905. Later in the month, Mohawk II went lame, making it necessary to take the horse home to Sanford’s Hurricana stables in Amsterdam.

In 1912, public concerts began in July near Amsterdam’s Market and Main streets. A recreation camp for National Guard soldiers was opened in the summer of 1914 in Tribes Hill; 54 students attended Amsterdam summer school that year.

The first 1918 pilgrimage to Auriesville Shrine took place in August with the faithful coming from Albany and Schenectady.

Ten thousand pilgrims were at Auriesville Shrine in August 1925. Twelve thousand people attended the annual outing of employees of Mohawk Carpet Mills at Jollyland, which would become Mohawk Mills Park in the 1930s.

A reunion of Civil War veterans of the 115th and 153rd New York regiments was held in the summer of 1925 in Amsterdam. The Farm Bureau held a picnic at Edicks grove in the town of Mohawk. A heavy rain storm halted street railway traffic for half an hour in Amsterdam on August 19.

By 1934, the choice was made to build a municipal golf course on 200 acres of farmland on the border between the city and town of Amsterdam off Van Dyke Avenue. Construction was made possible through a $100,000 federal appropriation and $23,000 in city funds. The course opened in 1938 and was named for Mayor Arthur Carter.

If you were among the boys who attended YMCA Camp Agaming on Lake Pleasant in 1938, one of your camp counselors became a movie star. Amsterdam native Isadore Demsky, who became the actor Kirk Douglas, was a counselor at the camp. The Fulton County YMCA still calls one of its summer day programs Camp Agaming.

On summer evenings in the 1940s, the streets of Amsterdam’s West End were sometimes deserted. To supplement food available under wartime rationing, the Italian-American residents tended their vegetable gardens on the fertile flat land south of their homes between the railroad tracks and the Mohawk River.

In the 1940s, John Szkaradek got into Mohawk Mills Park to see the Amsterdam Rugmakers play for free by finding baseballs that had been hit out of the park. Renamed Herbert Shuttleworth Park, the facility is now home to the collegiate baseball team the Amsterdam Mohawks.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 518-346-6657 or [email protected].

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