TRIBES HILL - Residents and visitors of Tribes Hill gathered Saturday to celebrate the hamlet's 300th anniversary and raise money to improve the community's park.
"I want this park open to the whole community," Tribes Hill Youth Commission member Jason Butler said. "I want to find something for everyone to do here."
The community park, on Mohawk Drive, was founded in the spring of 1969 by an appointed committee. The committee purchased the seven acres of land for $301.
Above, Carol Jordan draws a chalk caricature of Kim Dingman and her granddaughter Sidney Bain at the Tribes Hill 300th anniversary bash at the community park on Saturday.
(Photo by Casey Croucher/The Leader-Herald)
Butler attended the 40th anniversary of the park in 2009, which is when his interest in updating it began.
"I thought the park was a little run down; it needed a little pep to it," he said.
Butler said his focus is on the park. He said the Youth Commission has raised about $20,000 in four years for the project and members hope to raise more.
"$10,000 went towards the new basketball court," he said. "We spent another $3,000 on playground equipment that's still in boxes. The next step is to build a walking track around the park which is exactly half a mile long."
To raise money for the track and other park necessities, Butler came up with the idea of a 300th anniversary celebration. At Saturday's event, the Youth Commission sold $50 engraved granite bricks from Cherry Valley Memorials so that residents could dedicate bricks for the entrance of the park's track.
"My goal was to sell 100 bricks today," he said Saturday afternoon. "I thought it was an aggressive goal, but we've already sold about 80 bricks and it's still early."
In January, the town of Mohawk and the Tribes Hill Youth Commission will start doing research for a grant to have the track paved.
The celebration also included about 30 vendors, a car show, a petting zoo, food and music from The County Line Rebels.
"It will be functional gravel and stone-dust track," he said.
According to Butler, about 600 people attended Saturday's celebration.
"Considering there's only 400 households in Tribes Hill, I'd say that's a pretty good turnout," he said.
Patricia Schwartz, Tribes Hill's "unofficial historian," helped create the park in 1969. She said Saturday's celebration was a wonderful way to recognize history and fundraise for the future.
Schwartz said before there was a park, the Tribes Hill baseball teams would have to ask a farmer for a piece of land to play on, they would get accustomed to practicing on that land and then the next year that farmer would refuse to them use the land again.
"I decided to go searching for land," Schwartz said. "It had to be in the hamlet itself so that children and people could walk to it or ride their bikes to it."
She said after many hours of searching with the Youth Commission, she found wooded land for the park. The youth commission then signed a 99-year lease with the town of Mohawk. According to the agreement, if the Youth Commission doesn't keep the park in decent shape, the town will take over the land.
"Now they're working on [the park] all these years later," she said. "This is a really great celebration, and the Youth Commission is doing a really great job. Jason Butler put this all together today, and it's just wonderful."
Schwartz, who has written an unpublished book about the history of Tribes Hill, talked a little about how the hamlet was settled. She said in July 1713, 2,000 acres of land, which is now the town of Mohawk, was granted to brothers Hendrick and John Hanson from a deed created by chiefs and sachems of the Mohawk tribe.
About 30 percent of Tribes Hill is in the town of Amsterdam, while most of it is in the town of Mohawk.
The brothers made a deal with the Mohawks, but the English crown made the land grant. The patent for Tribes Hill was one of the earliest in the eastern Mohawk Valley, and it was the first in what is now Montgomery County. The Hansons were the first settlers of Tribes Hill.
"It's just great seeing people here celebrating the history of this area while helping out for a great cause," Schwartz said.
Butler, a lifelong resident, said Tribes Hill will always be his home.
"I have a little saying: 'born here, raised here, die here,' he said. "I've travelled all over the country, but home is home. That's why I started this project for the community and to make my home even better than it already is."
Casey Croucher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.