Fredonia Garden Club celebrates 90 years of history and service

“On March 20, several ladies who are much interested in gardens – ancient and modern – met at the home of Mrs. Frank Darling, Forest Place, and organized a garden club.” So begins the minutes of the first meeting of the Fredonia Garden Club in the year 1924.

The object of the club was to promote interest and advance practical knowledge in the culture and care of flowers, shrubs and trees and to stimulate the civic planting of flowers, shrubs and trees. Mrs. Darling chaired the meeting where Mrs. Ernest Eddy became the first president. At this organizational meeting Mrs. Eddy presented a paper on “Ancient Gardens of Bible Times” that was followed by a roundtable discussion of individual gardens. Mrs. Eddy also urged that National Garden Week be observed. Following this up, the club members asked the town merchants to exhibit vegetables, fruits and garden tools in the display windows during that week.

In 1927 the club became a member of the NYS Federation of Garden Clubs. At that time there were only 39 garden clubs in New York state. In 1930 the club became a member of the National Council of Garden Clubs where today there are over 5600 garden clubs with over 178,000 members.

In 1927 the 22 ladies of the club bravely set out to beautify Fredonia. Their efforts and talents were used on the banks of Canadaway Creek along Forest Place, the Main Street bridge and a corner lot where the Fredonia Seed Company stood. In 1929 they cleaned the park fountain, planted flowers and shrubs near the old disposal plant and joined in the fight against billboards in NYS. Two Norway spruce were planted in front of the Barker Library and were replanted after dying during the winter.

The banks near the Liberty Street bridge were planted with 55 varieties of flowers and shrubs in 1934. Repeatedly ruined by vandalism the project was abandoned in 1941.The women offered to beautify the Red Mill property on Norton Place, the minutes reveal, but the owner said, “I don’t want no women working on my property.”

Students were encouraged to plant and maintain their own flower and vegetable gardens. In 1928 Miss Kathleen Barber was the first student to be awarded a prize for the best garden, $2.50 in gold. The project continued for many years. In 1930 the first flower show was held at the Fredonia Grange. In the following years many flower shows have been held at the Methodist Church, Buttrick Hall, the WCA Home and in many individual homes.

In 1935 the club planted the rock garden at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds with members receiving $30 and free passes for their efforts. This continued through 1941 when the women learned that the actual amount allotted was $50. Realizing they were being shortchanged they quit the project.

In 1936 a tree was donated, planted and marked along the lake front of Chautauqua Institution. Aside from gardening, for many years seeds, money and clothing were sent to Lotts Creek Community School in poverty ridden Kentucky.

In 1961 the club collaborated with the Garden and Bird Club to beautify Fredonia. With the cooperation of area merchants, boxes with red and white petunias were planted. This project was taken over by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and later by other service clubs.

Through the years emphasis of the FGG has been on dirt gardening and beautification as well as flower shows and workshops. Today the continuing civic projects of the club include Victorian Christmas decorating, hanging May baskets for residents, maintaining a garden and hanging porch baskets at the WCA Home on Temple Street. Club members also work with the resident ladies in garden crafts and activities.

Seasonal flower arrangements for the Barker Library and Christmas wreaths for the Opera House doors are provided by club members. Members also celebrate National Garden Week and commemorate Arbor Day yearly by planting a tree in a village park.

At one time members helped maintain a handicapped accessible garden in Lake Erie State Park.

FGG yearly provides a monetary prize for a new entrant in the floral department of the Chautauqua County Fair, donates to World Gardening Projects and to the National Conservancy. FGG sponsors programs with guest speakers that are open to all. The next program on the Butchart Gardens of Victoria, B.C. will be presented by District 8 Director Maryann Jumper on September 16 at 2 p.m. at the LoGuidice Center – Erie 2BOCES on Fredonia Stockton Rd., Fredonia.

The current objectives, to stimulate interest in horticulture, develop an appreciation of nature and to preserve wildlife and the environment have been the focus of activities and projects of the FGG. Members not only maintain their individual gardens but also participate in activities, flower schools and shows and projects by their own club and NYS District 8.

Information included in this article was compiled from FGG minutes of past meetings and articles from the Fredonia Censor and the Dunkirk OBSERVER

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