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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
Elm Park, for a quarter of a century or longer, known as the Public Square, and in which the new one hundred thousand dollar court house is now under construction, was for many years sadly neglected and a wilderness of black locust trees and sprouts in which the cattle and hogs roamed unmolested until the spring of 1877. At this time Dr. Jacob W. Greene, a local dentist of Chillicothe, with his spirit of progress, conceived the idea of making the square a beautiful park. For the purpose of assisting the doctor in the work the citizens subscribed sixty dollars. Permission was then granted by the county court to cut one-half of the locust trees. This having been accomplished the Doctor again appeared before this august body and pleaded guilty to removing the wrong half of the locust trees, confessing his blunder in a way that convulsed the court with laughter, after which the doctor was told to make a general cleanup of the remaining shrubs and underbrush. This he did and sold the trees for fence posts and wood, realizing fifteen dollars from the sale. The doctor then had a park fund of seventy-five dollars. Uncle Ben Smith was employed to go to the west bottoms along Grand river and bring in enough soft maple and elm saplings to plant the park, the trees to be set one rod apart each way. Three-fourths of the trees set out were maples, which in later years were cut out.
At the time of removing the old locust trees and underbrush, some opposition was met with on account of leaving the square so barren and even the county court was severely censured. The planting of the elms and maples was mostly done by Doctor Greene and Hiram F. Woodford, assisted by Scipie Davis, a colored man. The doctor says Mr. Woodford staked off the ground and he and "Sip" dug the holes and set them out, the former "chouncing" the earth about the roots of the young trees.
On the 21st of April, 1877, after the planting was finished, Doctor Greene and his two assistants joined hands about a small forked tree, and here made a solemn vow to stand for and protect the trees they had planted as long as they or any of them should live. That forked tree, large enough for a saw-log now (January 15, 1913), stands just east of the present band stand.
In the spring of 1912, when the court house agitation was at its height and the new structure was to be erected in the park, thus destroying many of the trees and naturally the symmetry of this favorite resort, Doctor Greene, on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the planting of the trees, decorated with flowers the last resting places of his colaborers, H. F. Woodford, Benjamin Smith and Scipie Davis. This he did in memory of their good work and in moral protest against what he denounced as "wicked folly and destruction of the beautiful park for the purpose of erecting a court house just where it ought not to be."
For ten years after the trees were planted Doctor Greene was made park commissioner, the late Dr. R. Barney, Sr., succeeding him and acting in this capacity until his death more than a decade ago. Only a few of the original friends of the park enterprise are now living, but the Doctor says that he and the few remaining ones can sorrow and weep for them all because of the partial destruction of the stately old trees which have been removed to make room for the magnificent new court house now under construction.