GREENS FARMS GARDEN CLUB
Florence Vose, one of our Founding Charter members and her children Caroline, age 5 and Charles, age 2. ( circa 1910)
Our elected officers at the Brooklawn Country Club, Oct 5, 1955
The Greens Farms Garden Club was founded in 1930. It was the idea of Mrs. Oliver H. Jennings of Greens Farms, a Member of the Westport Garden Club, that there were enough garden-minded women residing in Greens Farms and Southport to organize a garden club. Six members of the Westport Garden Club residing in Greens Farms, Mesdames Oliver H. Jennings, Henry A. Jennings, Alden H. Vose, George Tompkins, Rowe McCune (later Thomas Coggeshall) and Miss Katherine Grout agreed to the idea. Mrs. Oliver Jennings asked if a garden club was organized, would I be interested. Needless to say what my answer was.
At that time, The Westport Garden Club was not taking any members from Greens Farms, and the Fairfield Garden Club was not taking any members from Southport or Greens Farms. That was why Mrs. Jennings felt there was a need for a new club. At that time, another group of women, also residing in Greens Farms, had the same idea calling their club "The Greens Farms Garden Club." This caused the most conflicting situation. It was decided, therefore, to have a joint meeting, which was held at the home of Miss Grout in Greens Farms. After some discussion, it was decided that we would keep the name.
The first meeting of The Greens Farms Garden Club was held at the home of Mrs. Oliver H. Jennings, Greens Farms, on June 10, 1930. Mrs. Henry A. Jennings was elected the first President. The first Flower Show was held at the home of Mrs. Henry A. Jennings the same year.
Unfortunately, we have few records prior to 1933 other than all the 1932 Programs. There were 49 members and 3 associates at that time, Mrs. Rowe McCune (later Mrs. Thomas Coggeshall) was elected President in 1932. During her terms of office, the club presented “The Martha Washington Flower Show” in Mrs. Erwin Jennings’ barn. Mrs. McCune and Mrs. Alden Vose won the blue ribbon for “Mrs. Washington’s Tea Table.”
The Constitution and By-Laws were drawn up in 1933. The residential limits for active membership was the Westport town line on the west and Ellsworth Street, Black Rock on the east. Associate members could be outside the limits. Annual dues were reduced from $6.00 to $5.00 and guest fees were 50 cents. Later on, guests were downgraded to 25 cents.
In 1940, The Christmas Group presented the Club with our handsome gavel. We also won a Chest of Silver for winning the largest number of points for a table setting at Read’s.
In 1941 we held, at the Pequot Yacht Club on Harbor Road in Southport, our big Flower Show and Garden Party “Around the World with Flowers.” Lord Marley, former deputy speaker of the “House of Lords” and Lady Marley were Guests of Honor. Lady Marley cut the red, white, and blue ribbons to open the show. There was a Dutch Flower booth with a thatched roof and an authentic New England Pantry Shelf. Tea was served at small tables under colored umbrellas, while Scot walked about playing his bagpipes. We gave $1,158.00 to The British War Relief. A special award was presented by the National Council of State Clubs, Inc. for the Flower Show.
Also during the war, the emphasis was on our Victory Gardens, as well as on sending Christmas boxes to troops and contributing to the camp and Hospital Committee of the Red Cross. Again, during the Korean War, we rose to the occasion by sending letters and packages to the troops.
One of the Club’s outstanding projects was furnishing a room, in 1943, at the Newington Hospital in Newington, Connecticut, at a cost of over $2,000. The money was raised by selling tickets to a lecture entitled “A Talk on China” and by giving a large bridge party at the Pequot Yacht Club.
While we worked hard, we also had a great deal of fun. One example is the May Pageant in 1945, entitled “Hearts and Flowers” with Mrs. Thomas Coggeshall as mistress of ceremonies, impersonating Mrs. Greens Farms Hokinson with her burlesque of a typical garden club arrangement. There were also many stunning arrangements in lighted shadow boxes, accompanied by musical numbers by our talented club members.
Flower arranging classes that over the years were conducted by Mrs. Arthur O. Jennings helped to make our Flower Shows both beautiful and successful, including "Hands Across the Sea” in 1948 at the Pequot Yacht Club. The chairman was Mrs. Erwin S. Jennings. As a result, we sent $500 to CARE.
A landmark year for us was 1950 when we celebrated our Twentieth Anniversary at the Hunt Club with a skit “Saturday with Mrs. Greens Farms,” which benefited the Connecticut Children’s Aid Society. We sold so many tickets that it was embarrassing because of the overcrowding. The chairman was Mrs. Leslie T. Willard. In 1955, we marked our twenty-fifth anniversary with a progressive luncheon, which featured flower arrangements in each house. Our thirtieth was observed at the Annual Meeting with Mrs. Henry A. Jennings, our First President, cutting the birthday cake. Mrs. William D. Powell, Historian, read a humorous account of the activities of the Club in its early years. We again presented the skit “Saturday with Mrs. Greens Farms” on our fortieth anniversary in May 1970, at the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. This time, it was for members only.
We presented flower shows between 1953 and the present time. Some of them included the Flower Show and House Tour “Then and Now” in May 1953 with Mrs. Arthur O. Jennings as chairman and Mrs. Christopher P. Weidman and Mrs. Stellan C. Wollmar as Co-chairman. In June 1956, we presented “Before the Wedding Day” with Mrs. Stellan C. Wollmar as chairman and Mrs. Christopher L. Weidemann as co-chairman. Another, “The Miracle of Spring,” which was held on May 23, 1957, at Trinity Parish House was awarded the State Federation’s Certificate of Merit, the chairman having been Mrs. John L. Peters and Co-chairman Mrs. Timothy A. Fallon.
The dramatic Flower Show and House Tour, “The Wedding March,” in June 1960 won both the Certificate of Achievement and the National Council Blue Ribbon. Mrs. E. Taylor Warren was chairman and Mrs. Leslie T. Willard, co-chairman. In May 1963, we held a flower show entitled “Colonial Days Revisited” at Trinity Parish House with Mrs. John Finneran as chairman. The Certificate of Achievement again was won in June 1967 by a flower show entitled “Museum Magic,” given at the Greens Farms Academy, then known as the Kathleen Laycock Country Day School, with Mrs. Walter E. North as chairman, and also by one entitled “Cry with Color” which benefited our Youth Projects. The chairman was Mrs. George B. Seeberg and assistant chairman Mrs. Ned O. Henry. This show was given jointly with the Greenfield Hill Garden Club on October 12, 1972, at the First Church Congregational in Fairfield. In preparation, a Chrysanthemum Show was held the previous fall at the Pequot Yacht Club and was chaired by Mrs. Ned O. Henry.
Before 1945, conservation played such a subordinate role that it was under the direction of the Horticulture Chairman. In fact, Connecticut had no conservation laws whatsoever. But something dramatic happened when a dynamic speaker from Rhode Island told us about a Conservation Workshop there to which we later sent two delegates, whose influence in Hartford resulted in Governor Baldwin’s signing of the first Connecticut Conservation Bill.
In 1949, we took an important step in conservation when we joined the Westport Garden Club, the Garden Department of the Westport Woman’s Club, and the Sasqua Garden Club in forming the Roadside Conservation Association, the object being to beautify Westport by planting trees along town roads. To date, we have planted well over 3,000 trees. Sasqua later dropped out. In 1956, the flour clubs received the Award of Civic Achievement from the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut. Emphasis on civic affairs continued during these years with the inauguration of the project to beautify the grounds of the Cerebral Palsy Center in Bridgeport. It was initiated by Mrs. John Finneran and was carried on for many years by Mrs. John S. Dawson, Chairman. For this effort, the club was awarded the Federation’s Certificate of Merit for Garden Therapy in 1960 and 1966.
An outstanding and long-continued effort was the Youth Project, which started in 1959 at the Burr Farms School. We made a sanctuary of an adjacent swamp and pond where we had a dam built. We also made maps identifying the trees and cut paths through the woods. For this endeavor, we received a Sears Award of $150, followed by several other Sears Awards. Mrs. Donn Byrne (Bunny) was the first chairman followed by Mesdames, Timothy A. Fallon, John S. Dawson, Arthur L. Foster, Jr., and others. In 1974, our club and the Burr Farms P.T.A. decided that the latter would take over the Burr Farms Project with the club providing only moral support and some possible financial assistance, such as donating $75 to help build the bridge for their nature walk.
Another civic contribution was made in April and May 1966, when eleven of our members gave six talks demonstrations on all phases of garden club work at the Y.W.C.A. in Bridgeport for their Homemaker Series.
In 1966, the club received a bequest of $1,250 from the late John Schoolcraft, whose wife, the late Dorothy Daggett Schoolcraft, had been a member of the club. The income is to be used for the purchase of books on gardening subjects for the Pequot Library or for public lectures. We have put this to good use.
The Greens Farms Garden Club contributed to the national celebration of “Earth Day” on April 22, 1970, by placing exhibitions and posters at the Burr Farms School and at the Greens Farms Academy, as well as giving a radio talk on pollution. For this, we received a $100 Sears Award. During the following winter, the son of one of our members wrote a letter to the local newspaper deploring the shameful condition of Sasco Creek. Our Conservation Chairman, Mrs. William H. Vilas, felt the same way and proposed that the club start a project that would develop an awareness of our responsibility to the environment.
That summer, during July and August, our Sasco Creek Ecology program for children for ages seven through twelve who lived in Westport or Fairfield, was initiated. The climax each week was a ride down the creek, studying the marsh grasses and wildlife along the way and ending at Southport Beach. This program was repeated each summer through 1974 and won the top award in the Connecticut State’s Environmental Improvement Program’s contest, consisting of a grant of $200 (unclear) a bronze plaque.
In 1971, the Committee was headed by Mrs. William H. Vilas, Conservation Chairman. In 1972, Mrs. Walter Perry III was Chairman with Mrs. John B. Macaulay, Co-chairman. In 1973 and 1974, Mrs. N. Bruce Bagger was Chairman. In 1976, we contributed $4,100 to the Ecology Scholarship Fund and also made a contribution to the American Land Trust to help preserve open space and to encourage gifts of land for this purpose.
Horticulture, which always plays an important part in the work of the club, received an unusual amount of attention in the 1960s, when we held three Horticulture Shows, the first having taken place on June 1961, at the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. Entitled “Iris Time,” it was an Iris Show with a lecture and judging. The Chairman was Mrs. L. Walker Willson. A Rose Show with a Lecture and Judging was held at Trinity Church, Southport, in June 1962. Mrs. Willson was again chairman, as she was also of the Daffodil Show, held at Trinity Church in May 1965. In July 1975, we staged a Horticulture Show for club members with Mrs. David W. P. Jewitt as Chairman.
At the annual meeting on October 8, 1974, our three Charter Members, Mrs. William D. Powell, Mrs. Thomas Coggeshall, and Miss Katherine Grout were awarded life memberships in the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut and they were again honored at the annual meeting of the federation on October 16 of that year. Mrs. Coggeshall died on June 27, 1977. Mrs. Powell in 1977 contributed $1,000 the interest from which we will provide for future Life Memberships in the state federation.
For some time, a committee made up for our club members has been working on the Atrium, which was designed by Mrs. Eloise A. Hay, at Earthplace in Westport. Work had been halted, however, because of plumbing problems, which meant that the entire Atrium had to be dug up. Our board voted in October 1977 to donate the $463 needed for the repair of the Atrium at Earthplace. The interest in the Atrium inspired us to have a flower show for the benefit of the museums in Connecticut. The Flower Show, “A Garden of Knowledge” with an Executive Committee of Mesdames Maurice T. Corrigan, Ned O. Henry, David We. P. Jewitt, Walter E. North, and George B. Seeburg, was an open show. It was held on June 10, 1978. As a result, we were able to contribute $4,900 to Earthplace in Westport. Our club was awarded the Certificate of Flower Show Achievement and also the Flower Show Citation for Special and Educational Exhibits by the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut.