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April 9, 2004

Hundreds of young elm trees were beginning to grow in Perry's Courthouse Park in the mid-downtown area when this picture postcard was made. The photo probably was shot by Barney Enright, an early day photographer here, northwest from the top of the Foucart building, on the east side of the square. (Photo from the collection of Fred G. Beers)

Council minutes reveal interesting phraseology in early-day decision to beautify Perry

With the pretty safe perspective of more than a century for reflection, it is interesting to review the syntax and phraseology used by our early-day City Council members in authorizing Mr. Will T. Little to make our Courthouse Park a thing of restful beauty. In the Council's official minutes of 1897-1904, he was lauded (and rightfully so) for converting the Park's five-acre tract from a dusty, barren eyesore into a virtual oasis, simply by planting elm tree seedlings and nursing them to maturity.

The Council's intentions were appropriate. It makes me realize that even today we really should be doing something to call to the attention of young people and new residents the fact of Mr. Little's one-man campaign. Those trees we see today in the Courthouse Park probably were not planted by Mr. Little, but his efforts 'way back then have inspired many generations to perpetuate and expand his dream— to have a lush park in the heart of downtown Perry. Of course, he also planted elm seedlings in schoolyards and other public places around the county and he deserves recognition for that, too.

Nor is it the intent of this column to ridicule what the City Council of that day did (in the late 1890s.) I'm glad they recognized him and I regret that we have not found some way of honoring his pioneering efforts in a new land— our part of the Cherokee Outlet.

Here's what the Council minutes of Sept. 19, 1898, had to say: "Will T. Little was present and addressed the Council on (the) matter of planting trees in the seven parks of the City. On motion, Mayor (Richard E.) Wade appointed Councilmen Fields, Larsh, Ellis and Bulaum (?) as committee to confer with Mr. Little in regard to the matter. On motion, a phone was ordered installed in the Mayor's office on north side of (illegible.)" The minutes were signed by E.E. Gibbens, city clerk. Thus was the tree-planting venture launched in Perry and Noble County. We'll have some more about early-day Council meetings in a future column.