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1899 firemen’s banquet was special event

Dibbles Dabbles

January 18, 2012
By Billie Dibble - Westfield Historian, 1976-2006 (

First published Jan. 3, 1985:

Hon. S. Fred Nixon was the genial toastmaster at the annual banquet of the Westfield firemen which was held on Friday, Dec. 28, 1899. It brought out people of all classes and all interests in the village. Guests assembled in the parlors in Firemen's Hall for a social hour which lasted until supper was ready and all adjourned to Odd Fellow's Hall where a bountiful banquet was served. Mr. Nixon, who had been a member of the New York State Assembly since 1896 and Speaker since 1899, introduced a number of local men in a program of toasts and responses. S.C. Crandall represented our city fathers. D.K. Falvay toasted "our guests." Rev. J.H. Clemens had good things to say about the fire department and C.J. Wiggins, who had just bought the store at the jog in Main Street, spoke about the volunteer firemen. H.C. Kingsbury, Sr. was assigned the topic, "The Firemen and the City Fathers" while G.F. Dickson toasted "the Ladies." Prof. P.K. Pattison spoke on "The Firemen and the Schools." The company disbanded at a late hour agreeing that the gathering was the best the firemen had ever "got together." The banquet was written up in the Westfield Republican of Jan. 2, 1900 and immediately following it was an article entitled "An Exquisite Floral Design." It told of the artistic taste of Gus Schoenfeld who lived on Academy Street. He had created one of the most exquisite floral designs ever made in Westfield and it was to appear on the desk of Speaker Nixon at the opening of the legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at noon. The piece measured five by seven feet, standing on an easel specially designed for it. It had for its foundation 4,000 bronze galax which were brought from Florida for this purpose. Surmounting these leaves was a wreath of laurel, representing the honors (laurels) won by the speaker. In the center of the wreath was the figure 11, made of yellow immortelles, representing his 11 years service in the legislature. Intertwined in this wreath of laurel were bouquets of American Beauty roses, lilies and orchids, significant of authority, purity and beauty. Under the wreath on top of the galax leaves were three gavels made from yellow immortelles, representing Mr. Nixon's three terms as Speaker. The entire arrangement was framed by a wreath of similax, a most beautiful design in flowers, "embodying in its architecture the ideas that were sought to be exemplified." The cards attached to this magnificent gift bore the names of Fred R. Green, Louis McKinstry, H.F. Glisson, V.A. Kent, O.L. Ingalls, E.M. Kent, J.R. Douglas, E.J. Griswold, H.R. Case, J.A. Maginnies and C.J. Bannister. In the language of flowers, Mr. Schoenfeld's creation must have carried quite a message. Today it is very convenient to be able to telephone an order for flowers and be confident that they will be arranged and delivered from a flower shop located near the person to be honored with the gift. It is difficult to imagine a five by seven foot floral design being created in Westfield and transported across the state to Albany. I suppose it went by train. Someone must have given it very special care en route. Would it have gone in a refrigerated car? We wonder how things were handled 85 years ago. I am sure that Speaker Nixon got the message from the outstanding floral piece that his friends in western New York were proud of him and were standing behind him. What a nice way to greet the Twentieth Century.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of the Patterson Library’s Sherman Collection
The Hon. S. Fred Nixon, who was toastmaster at Westfield’s firemen’s banquet on December 28, 1899. On the second day of the new century Mr. Nixon was honored with “the most exquisite floral piece every created in Westfield.”



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