In 1936, a small but prominent group of village residents formed a committee to purchase a parcel of land at the corner of N. Main and Maple Streets. The committee was headed by Miss Lilla Wheeler and the goal of the committee was to create a park for the residents of the village. Later that same year, local businessman Charles Vergason and his wife Beatrice, donated the rear half of their property at 9 Maple to the park committee. Mr. Vergason was the president of the Utility Ice Cream plant on Temple Street and a community leader.
Portville had a bad spring flood in March of 1936 and this is a picture of the flooding of the land that would one day become the park. It was shortly after this picture was taken that Miss Wheeler & committee bought the land.
Throughout 1936 and 1937, thousands of hours were spent by volunteers and village workers to create the park. Tons of dirt was hauled to the property for fill. Much of the dirt came from the cutout specifically created to allow the construction of the railroad overpass that crosses over what is now Route #417 exiting Portville to the east (the overpass just before the entrances to Fischer’s Auto and the Rusty Rooster). See, now you know how old that railroad overpass is. 😊
In April of 1938, the Park Committee, via a letter to the village from Miss Wheeler, offered the park to the village with the stipulation that the park be named Pioneers Memorial Park and that the village create a Park Commission to manage and maintain the park in perpetuity. The Village Board accepted the offer and created a Park Commission consisting of one Village Board member and two village taxpayers. The village clerk served as the clerk of the Park Commission but was not a Commission member. W. A. Dusenbury was appointed as Commission Chairman; Miss Wheeler was appointed to be vice-Chairman (that would be “Chairperson” in today’s world 😊). Ed Johnson was the Board Member who served on the Commission. Ed would later go on to serve as village mayor.
The village created a separate fund, initially $750.00 annually, to be used by the Park Commission. The Park Commission had all powers, maintenance duties and operational control of the park maintenance and management. They were even afforded the responsibility of hiring a park superintendent if necessary.
On May 30th, Memorial Day 1938, the Pioneers Memorial Park was officially dedicated following the American Legion Ceremony at Chestnut Hill Cemetery. Miss Wheeler gave a dedication speech and Mayor Hatch publicly accepted the Park and thanked all those involved. The high school band performed for the first time in the new bandstand.