Festivalgoers mark Smyrna’s 160 years of history in Otisco Township


By Cory Smith • Last Updated 9:44 am on Monday, August 05, 2013

Lana Heintzelman, 5, of Smyrna, waits patiently as Smyrna Social Club member Joana Johnson paints her face during the “160 Years of Smyrna” celebration on Saturday. — Daily News/Cory Smith

 

SMYRNA — Marian Wrung hasn’t lived in Smyrna for a number of years now, but she will always call it home.

That’s why, when she, her two daughters and granddaughter visited the small community during the “160-Years of Smyrna” celebration Saturday, it was a step back in time.

“I lived in a green house just down the road,” said Wrung, who now lives in Sheridan. “It’s neat to come back. There’s lots of good memories.”

Wrung’s daughter, Christine Ulmer of Shepherd, said the trip back to the place where she grew up and went to school was an experience she was glad to share with her family.

“It was a good place to grow up,” Ulmer said. “We had a little two-room country school, I only graduated with four students in my class. It’s always like going home when we visit here. You can remember riding to the mill pond with memories of swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. You had a lot of freedom living in Smyrna.”

 

George Ranger, of Orleans, left, and Don Rush, of Gowen, admire a 1911 Ford Model-T during the classic car, bike and tractor show at Otisco Township Hall during the “160 Years of Smyrna” celebration on Saturday. — Daily News/Cory Smith

 

The community may be small, located in the heart of Otisco Township, but its history spans back as far as the nearby cities of Belding and Greenville.

When the community was first settled 160 years ago, it wasn’t even called Smyrna. A man by the name of G. W. Dickson named the village Mount Vernon, after the Virginia home of President George Washington. Settled between the Flat River and Seely Creek, it soon grabbed the attention of other settlers with mills, a general store, tavern and blacksmith shop soon popping up.

Seven years earlier, another gentlemen by the name of Dr. Wilbur Fisher had already established a nearby post office, and seeking a unique name, landed on Smyrna. Over time, residents grew accustomed to both names for the village, but 160 years later, it ended up being Smyrna that stuck for the small community.

It’s that unique history that had current residents and others who returned from as far as Florida, come together to celebrate the community’s history on Saturday during the festival.

The celebration was hosted by the Smyrna Social Group, an organization that operates out of Maccabee Hall on Whites Bridge Road and whose roots date back to 1902.

Smyrna resident Joe Borek spent time cooking up burgers and hot dogs for festivalgoers Saturday during the “160 Years of Smyrna” celebration on Saturday. — Daily News/Cory Smith

 

Smyrna Social Group Trustee Maryann Reeves said the festival went very well with a modest attendance as the festival occurred during both the Belding Gus Macker and Kent County Fair in Lowell on Saturday.

“Things have gone very well,” Reeves said. “We had a couple who have been married 65 years who met upstairs in this very building. To see them come back to where they met in this community, that is special.”

Reeves said between the classic car show, farmers market and hamburger and hot dog luncheon, it seemed most visitors enjoyed the festival.

“We’ve had people asking us to do this again next year, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” she said.

 

Husband and wife Tim and Lynn Austin check out a row of tractors at the classic car, bike and tractor show at Otisco Township Hall during the “160 Years of Smyrna” celebration on Saturday. — Daily News/Cory Smith

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