C. Fayette Smith Recalls Holyoke of Earlier Days

by Laurel | October 29th, 2014

01 June 1930

C. Fayette Smith on his Saddle Horse

C. Fayette Smith on his Saddle Horse

Veteran Resident Was Working in City’s First Bank Back in 1867
Knew Well Most Notables of Time
Street, Ranlet, Parsons Chase, Davis, Grover, Bowers, Mosher and Ely all Names Familiar to Him

The men who connect earlier Holyoke with the present is lessening in number year by year and scarcely one of them left is as young and possessed of as good a memory as C. Fayette Smith, whose before-breakfast horseback rides are a marvel to his friends. young mentally and physically, though not so young by the almanac, Mr. Smith let drop the year of his birth the other night and the reporter nearly fell off his chair. it shall remain a secret; first because it was stated without thought of publication and secondly because it is impossible to reconcile it with his activity and mental alertness.

An eight-mile horseback ride is nothing uncommon with him. yet here is a man who was working in Holyoke’s first bank as early as 1867; who later was racing horses on Main Street with such horse-lovers as William A. Chase, former agent of the Holyoke Water Power Company; the late Sumner T. Muller, Dea. Edward Chase, C. A. Corsen and other notables. Main street was then, of course, a dirt road with not even a trolly track upon it. Mr. Smith was to inaugurate the Holyoke horse cars a little later and the course was from the Holyoke House (Hotel Hamilton) to Sargeant Street. Some time later the racing was transferred to Northampton Street where the course was longer, an even mile from Craft’s Tavern to the Col. E. H. Ball place on the southwest corner of what is now Cherry and Northampton Streets.

“Horse racing was about the only sport we had in those days,” remarked Mr. Smith reflectively. There was little baseball although Holyoke was to shine later; no golf, no tennis, no movies, no bowling and the late Congressman William Whiting had not then built the Holyoke Opera House that was to bring famed attractions to Holyoke when Springfield had no place equal to it.

Knew Many “Pioneers”

One has a strange feeling in sitting down and talking to a man who was acquainted and on familiar terms with many of the worthies who were pioneers in the establishment of the young and growing city of the late sixties and early seventies. Some of them were Whiting Street, Fred Street, Charles W. Ranlet, J. C. Parsons, Dea. Edwin Chase, Stuart S. Chase of the Holyoke Water Power Company, James Ketber, Broughton Alvord of South Hadley, Jones Davis, William Grover and Messrs. Bowers and Mosher, who built up Ward 1 after buying the Samuel Ely House and farm. It was “Sam” Ely, those who have dug into early Holyoke history will recall, who threatened would be purchases of his farm with a shotgun and ordered them off his premises.

Mr. Smith’s father, Moseley Smith, operated the old swing ferry that antedated the present bridge to South Hadley Falls. He lived on a farm in Ward 1 and young Smith made his way to the bank down a path and across the tracks not far from where the old wooden depot stood nearby at the foot of Dwight Street. This building was removed, when the present station was built in the early eighties, to Main street where Joseph Jubinville operated a blacksmith shop for years. It was later torn down to make room for a more modern building. W. W. Ward was one of the earlier station agents and the first hack to be operated in the city was driven by “Gabriel” George Gibson. In this earlier days the old Connecticut River railroad was a one-track road and even when it was double tracked the first bridge, a covered wooden affair, was a one-track bridge.

Swamp on Site of Station

Where the present Boston & Maine passenger station stands was in early days a swampy morass where the frogs trilled gaily at eventide and small boys congregated to stone them and probably squash around in the mud and water as boys do in other places today. How many people know that Springdale Park was named by Mr. Smith? They asked me for a subscription to the Springdale trotting park,” said Mr. Smith, “and I said I would give them one if they would let me name it. So I had an arched entrance constructed with the name “Springdale Park” on it.”

And Springdale Park it remains to this day. When Holyoke comes to erecting statues of its men who have honored it, one should be erected of C. Fayette Smith on one sie of the entrance and one of Nathan P. Avery on the other, for Mayor Avery it was who obtained this park at something less than six cents a square foot if memory served the writer right, and was roundly abused for getting it at that figure.

The reference to Dea. Edwin Chase also recalls that his lumber yard, “H. Chase & Sons,” was located where later at Main and Appleton Streets stood the Methodist church. This was still later M. J. Bowler’s blacksmith and painting shop and many a fiery red piece of fire apparatus emerged from Bowler’s establishment. The Third National bank was founded by J. C. Parsons who had got at loggerheads with C. W. Ranlet.

After Col. E. H. Ball was robbed at his Northampton Street Home, Holyoke people became more or less nervous. The report got around that the Hadley Falls bank had been marked as the next objective, as we say today. So they prevailed upon Mr. Smith to sleep in the bank nights, which he did on a counter with a little black and tan dog “Billy” with him each night for quite a time. But the bank was never robbed.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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