The Great Depression hits Dover

The Clague Cabin was built in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project.

The year 1929 may forever be known as the beginning of one of the darkest eras in American history. Nearly 15,000 banks had failed by 1933, and the unemployment rate was approaching 25%. On the farm front, crop prices were in a downward spiral. The Federal Farm Board was established to try to stabilize farm prices, but surpluses grew and prices continued to fall.

Dover Village, being a primarily agricultural community, was hit particularly hard. The 1930s were marked by uncertainty. Mortgage payments and property assessments became an impossible burden and many farmers were forced to sell their land or lost it through tax sales.  Investors and land speculators purchased hundreds of acres of Dover farm lands, often leaving the land unattended, until better days and higher prices would bring buyers.

The Depositors Savings and Loan Bank, organized during the early 1920s by Doverites, met the same fate of many other banks at this time. It was located in a house at the corner of Dover and Center Ridge Roads.

Federal programs to relieve the situation were active in Dover. Programs like the Works Progress Administration, Public Works Administration and the National Youth Program provided funds to employ workers, and bring needed money into the community. 

Clague Memorial Park received considerable benefit from these programs. The Clague Cabin was built in 1935 by WPA workers, using native stone taken from the quarry at the northeast corner of Bradley Woods. Also, the village was able to purchase approximately 12,000 trees in 1937 to plant in the park.

Dover’s Board of Education was facing dire straits as landowners became delinquent in their taxes. Teachers’ salaries were slashed in 1931 and again the following year. In 1933, the Board recommended shortening the school year by four weeks to save money, but the teachers offered to work two of those weeks without pay.

Vincent Cooley and Mida Weston worked tirelessly on a welfare program conducted in Dover.  Regular gifts of food and supplies from the federal government were delivered to the old town hall, then Mrs. Weston saw to it that they were properly distributed. She visited people all over town and always seemed to have time for everyone. 

Dover did not begin to recover from the effects of the Depression until the start of World War II. Then jobs became plentiful again and people could take care of their families and their community.

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Volume 3, Issue 16, Posted 3:01 PM, 08.09.2011