Sunday, January 22, 2017

His Insulting and Abusive Letter is Received

The owner/editor of the Delaware Gazette (Delhi, NY) in its January 11, 1821 issue wrote the following letter:

We inform James Miller of Bovina, that his insulting and abusive letter is received. In noticing Miller, thus publicly, our readers, no doubt, will be inquisitive to know the cause; we therefore, without hesitation, state the reason, as we believe, of his hostility to the Delaware Gazette. Some time since, we received a communication, no doubt intended to be poetical, which we did not think proper to publish - The communication was called for and delivered to a person living in Bovina, (whether this person or James Miller was the author we are unable to say,) who very politely notified us that we might expect hostility from that quarter, in the withdrawal of their names from our subscription list. Who this James Miller is we do not know nor very much care:- but brim full of "wrath and cabbage," he has, with great labor, in an epistle of some considerable length most outrageously attacked my reputation in regard to the management of the paper. We have neither time nor disposition to notice James Miller farther:- he has perfect liberty to withdraw his name, for we neither think him capable of writing, spelling or judging of a sentence correctly.

The paper noted they did not know who this James Miller was and, to be frank, neither do I. I found three James Millers that probably were living in Bovina around this time. There was James, son of William Miller and Janet Kedsie. Born in 1781, he was married to Grace Archibald and died in 1840. The second and third possibilities were a father and son both named James. James, born in 1775, was married to Isabella Armstrong. He died in 1851. Their son James was born in 1802 and was married to Agnes Coulter. He died in 1878.

If this newspaper could not figure out who this James was, we likely may never figure out either.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January 1917 - 100 Years Ago in "That Thriving Town"

One of the recurring themes in January 1917 in Bovina was the health of J.W. Coulter. 

January 5, 1917
·         The Bovina Center Creamery ice house is being filled.
·         Benj A. Mead received the first hunting license of the year.
·         J.W. Coulter, who has been confined to his home, is now out again.
·         David Draffen is hauling lumber for his farm residence, which he will remodel the coming summer.
·         Mr. and Mrs. Sloan Archibald recently entertained at dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Davidson, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Storie and Miss Jennie E. Miller.
·         Some of those home for the holidays were Clifton Scott from Yale, Mabel Thomson from teaching at Winsted, Connecticut, and Harry Crosier, Mary, Caroline and Marjorie Dickson.
·         Mr. and Mrs. John W. Storie entertained at dinner on December 26, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Johnson and their son George Johnson, from Alberta, Canada; Miss Jean Hume, Mr. and Mrs. Adam Laidlow and family and William J. Storie and wife. After dinner a Christmas tree was provided for the children.

January 12, 1917
·         John Hilson has moved into his new house.
·         So far this year 25 hunting licenses have been issued this year.
·         Mrs. Robert G. Thomson underwent an operation at Oneonta last Friday and is recovering nicely.
·         All those who wish to join the singing school will meet with Rev. Graham at school house Friday evening.
·         A Farm Bureau meeting will be held at the town hall, Bovina Center, Thursday, January 18, to which all are invited.
·         Lucy Fisk, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Fisk, of Lake Delaware, was taken to the Neal hospital at Delhi Monday night and operated upon for an attack of appendicitis.
·         Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Bovina Co-Operative Creamery company A.T. Archibald, J.H. Johnson, Alex Burns, Chauncey McFarland and T.A. Archibald were elected directors.  The officers elected are: Chauncey McFarland, president; Alex Burns, vice president; A.T. Archibald, secretary and treasurer; T.A. Archibald, business manager.

Bovina Citizen Stricken by Paralysis
            J.W. Coulter was stricken with two shocks last week at his home in Bovina Center and as a result his right side is paralyzed and he is unable to speak, but his condition seems lightly improved.  He is 80 years of age.  His nephew, James L. Coulter, of New Wilmington, Penn, arrived Tuesday to assist in caring for him.

January 19, 1917
·         J.W. Coulter, who suffered a shock two weeks ago, is improving.
·         A number of the friends of the Misses Muller made them a surprise visit Tuesday evening.
·         David F. Hoy, Registrar of Cornell University, and wife have been guests of his sister, Mrs. Douglas Davidson and other relatives.

January 26, 1917
·         J.W. Coulter is not feeling so well this week.
·         Rev. Thoms Graham has been ill with the gripe.
·         The addition to the creamery ice house is being filled.
·         John A. Irvine is ill with pneumonia at this home on Coulter Brook.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Those that left us in 2016.

Bovina saw a number of current and former citizens of our town pass away in 2016, including a mother- and daughter-in law and a former school teacher who was 102.

Dot Wright was 90 at her passing in January in North Bend, Oregon. Born Dorothy Cant in England in 1925, she served in the Women’s Land Army in England during World War II. While in service, she met Claude Wright. They were married in 1947 and operated a dairy farm in Bovina for 25 years. While living in Bovina, Dot was an election inspector. She continued serving as an inspector in Jefferson, NY when Dot and Claude moved there after retiring from farming. Claude died in 1998. Dot moved to Stamford and traveled and visited her grandchildren. She celebrated her 82nd birthday with an Alaskan cruise and was sometimes seen later on on the back of a Harley.

Edward Schneider was born in Bovina in 1914. He graduated from the Oneonta Normal School and was a teacher for a number of years in one-room schoolhouses. He was the last teacher in the Maynard School in Bovina. Ed later studied library science and worked for the Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta, where he met his wife Mellicent. Ed was 102 when he died in August.

Ed Schneider's High School graduation photo, 1932
Mary Behrer died unexpectedly in August when she was 68. Mary worked for a number of years at the Bovina Community Post Office. Mary was survived by her husband John and five children and nine grandchildren. Mary was noted as “the neighborhood mom,” taking in people who needed help.

Gladys Evers Wickswat passed away in early October at the age of 92. She came to Bovina in the 1970s, living on Coulter Brook Road and raising her two children. She worked for many years for LaFever Excavating. Gladys was active in the Bovina Historical Society and St. James Church. She was noted for her culinary skills and her advocacy for animals.

October also saw the passing of Stanley Rome at the age of 88. His obituary noted that “his life was simple and he always made the best of his time.” He loved tinkering, four-wheeling and snowmobiling and spending time with family and friends over good food and drink.

June Reinertsen Burns lived most of her life in Bovina and was the granddaughter of Norewegian immigrants Andrew and Sophia Reinertsen. After graduating from Delaware Academy, June received her associates’ degree in dental health. June married fellow Bovina native Jack Burns in 1961. They were farmers most of their lives, but also spent time traveling and skiing and enjoying their extended family and friends. June also was active in her community. She was the first woman elected as a member of the Bovina Town Board.  June battled her illness, amyloidosis, with great courage. When she realized she was losing the battle, she planned her funeral and insisted that a party be held at the Bovina Community Hall after the service.

June Reinertsen Burns - High School portrait, October 1958, photo by Bob Wyer, courtesy DCHA
Ten days after June’s death, her mother-in-law, Agnes V. Burns died at the age of 98. Agnes grew up on the family farm on Crescent Valley Road, attending the Maynard one-room school. She married Bob Burns in 1934 and would have three children while they raised pure-bred Holstein dairy cattle. After she was widowed, she became a Licensed Practical Nurse. Agnes pursued drawing and painting, as well as sewing and knitting. Agnes lived most of her life in Bovina, but spent a year in Albany for her nursing training and lived in Tehran for nine months with her daughter and family.

Agnes Burns, 1942, photo by Bob Wyer, courtesy DCHA
Former Bovina farmer John Renner died in November at the age of 99. John grew up in New Jersey but was a farmer on Coulter Brook Road for 20 years. His wife Marie died in 1995. He was survived by five children, thirteen grandchildren and twenty-two great grandchildren.
John Renner
Another former Bovina resident died in November, Mathilde “Tillie” Rabeler at the age of 96. Mathilde Menke was born in Germany in 1920. The family moved to Brazil in 1924 and came to the United States in 1930. She spent the rest of her childhood in Bovina and married Paul Rabeler, where she and Paul ran the family dairy farm on Bovina Road. Tillie was widowed in 2000.
Tillie Menke Rabeler, photo provided by her son Steve.
November also saw the sudden death of Kokie L. Hunter-Zilla at the age of 44. Kokie was the daughter of Gerald Richard Irving Hunter and Judy Ann Renner. Her obituary noted that she “loved to laugh but mostly loved to make other people laugh…” and was noted for “pulling pranks on her loved ones….”

Margarita Del Lourdes Fornes Lapinel, who was a long-time resident of Manhattan and Bovina, also passed away in November. She was born in Cuba and came to New York City at the age of 16. She married Paul Lapinel in 1951. They would raise seven children. Margarita also pursued a graduate education in Anthropology. She instilled this appreciation of a value of good education in her children. She was survived by her seven children, 22 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren, as well as her sister Carmen Fornes Nute.

Margarita with her husband Paul. Photo courtesy of Dean Lapinel
Bovina native and long-time Bovina resident Mary Shoemaker died on Christmas Day at the age of 68. She was the daughter of John and Erika Weber and grew up on the Weber farm on Crescent Valley Road. She married Neil Shoemaker in 1969. She worked for the FBI as a fingerprint clerk in Washington DC in the late 1960s. She later was a home health aide. Mary was survived by her husband, four daughters, two grandchildren and two brothers. 
Children at the Maynard school in the 1950s, including Mary Weber Showmaker (third from the right).

Saturday, December 31, 2016

On This Day in Bovina for December 2016

Sixty one years ago today, on December 1, 1955, the Bovina Town Board met and approved these claims submitted by the town supervisor, Henry Monroe.

Nine years ago today, the December 2, 2007 issues of the New York Times carried a review of "The Toy Farmer," a children's book written by Bovina native Andrew T. Pelletier.

156 years ago today, on December 3, 1860, John Dean died. Born in County Down, Ireland, he came to Bovina before the 1830s. He married Elizabeth Johnson in 1832 and they would have eight children. They lived in the area of present day Regan Road.

128 years ago today, the Bovina column of the December 4, 1888 Stamford Mirror reported that "J.A. Whittaker, the optician, has been in town for the past week, looking after defective eyes."

135 years ago today, on December 5, 1881, Andrew Chisholm died of heart and kidney disease. A native of Scotland, he was about 80 years old at his death. He had been widowed in 1843. Two of his daughters, Jane and Maggie, were living with him at the time of his passing.

135 years ago today, the December 6, 1881 Stamford Mirror reported in its Bovina column that "James Hoy, of Kansas, formerly of Bovina, is making his friends in this vicinity a visit." This likely is the James Hoy born in 1822. He married Helen Miller in 1847. She died in 1858 after having three children. James went to Iowa after his wife's death and remarried in 1862 to Martha Jones Smith. They had three children in Iowa. James died in Kansas in 1897.

134 years ago today, on December 7, 1882, Thomas Hamilton signed this document as part of his claim concerning an error on the 1880 tax roll which led to an overpayment of $15.39 in taxes.

Eighty-eight years ago, on December 8, 1928, Sloan Archibald died at the age of 80. He was the son of James Archibald and Margaret Sloan. His first wife was Elizabeth E. Russell, by whom he had a son and a daughter. Elizabeth died in 1911. In 1915, he took as his second wife Jennette Ellen Hoy. Sloan lived in my house in Bovina for about a decade and is the one who added the full second story to it. Sloan's widow survived him by 14 years, dying in 1942.

Sixty-four years ago today, on December 9, 1952, a benefit dance was held by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Bovina Fire Department "for Billy Aitkens, who was recently wounded by a shotgun…" The music was furnished by Ernie Russ.

The thermometer registered from 2 to 5 degrees below zero 116 years ago today on December 10, 1900.

133 years ago today, the December 11, 1883 issue of the Stamford Mirror reported on several illnesses in Bovina. They noted that "Mrs. John Hastings is quite sick with pneumonia." They noted that Dr. Telford's daughter Gracie also was sick with pneumonia and that the doctor himself was ill. And Rev. Lee's wife was reported as suffering from inflammation of the lungs. Mrs. Hastings, Grace Telford and Mrs. Lee would all recover, though Mrs. Hastings would die of pneumonia in 1889. Grace Telford, who was less than a year old when she became ill, would live until 1953. Mrs. Lee died in 1897. Dr. Telford, however, would not recover and died January 11, 1884.

Ninety nine years ago, the Bovina column of the December 12, 1917 Andes Recorder reported that "Miss Leila Miller, who has spent the past three months with her brother, Earl, in St. Paul and other relatives in Wisconsin and Minnesota, returned to her home…" She was the daughter of John and Bertha Miller. They lived on Pink Street on what later became Suits Us Farm.

134 years ago, on December 13th, 1882, as later reported in the Bovina column of the Stamford Mirror, "James Hastings arrived home from Hamilton College…." This likely is James Blair Hastings, born in 1860, the son of Thomas E. Hastings and Jane Blair.

Eighty-nine years ago today, the December 14, 1927 Stamford Mirror reported that "Bovina Center Has Two Fires." Both fires involved barns owned by the Hilson Brothers in Bovina Center in the area of the creamery. The first fire was big enough to require bringing in a second department from Delhi. It was noted that the lack of wind was fortunately, thus preventing the creamery and feedstore from going up in flames. Here's the full article.

105 years ago today, on December 15, 1911, as announced in the Andes Recorder, "the ladies of the United Presbyterian church" held a masquerade social at the home of Mrs. Estella Oliver…" The paper went on to note that "All unmasked are expected to pay a fine of not more than $5 or less than 25 cents. All are cordially invited."

Eighty-nine years ago today, the December 16, 1927 Catskill Mountain News reported that "Two sites have been offered for the proposed Bovina Community house." One lot was reported as being "opposite the garage…" This likely meant across from what later became Clayt Thomas's garage and is land now owned by Mark Foster. The other option was "land opposite William Archibald's new house…" This is the spot that was chosen. The paper noted that "it is planned to erect a building 36 x 80 of one story construction with basement."

The following noticed appeared in the Andes Recorder, dated 139 years ago today, December 17, 1877:  “All persons are hereby notified not to sell or give any intoxicating liquors to Hiram Scutt.  Mrs. Hiram Scutt" Scutt lived in Andes so his Bovina connection is not strong. And we can’t be sure whether this is the father or son. Hiram Sr was born in Bovina in 1815. The son was born in Andes in 1842. The father died in 1886, the son three years later in 1889.

118 years ago on December 18, 1898, Mrs. Charles F. Smith died at the age of 90.  The Andes Recorder, when reporting her death, noted that "Her maiden name was Christina Lamont and she came to this town over 40 years ago.  She was an excellent woman, a good neighbor; always cheerful and she will be missed in this community as well as in her home.  On Tuesday the funeral was held, the sermon being preached by Rev. Samson, and the interment was in the Bovina cemetery." Christina was the second wife of Charles Smith, marrying him in 1856, a few months after the death of his first wife. Charles survived his wife by 10 years, dying in 1908.

Ninety years ago today, on December 19, 1926, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, "Attorney Lauren Dickson, who came home from Binghamton to spend the holidays was taken to the Delhi hospital and operated upon for appendicitis...  It was a serious case." He would stay in Bovina about three months before returning to his duties in Binghamton. In October 1927 he died suddenly in Binghamton.

125 years ago today, on December 20, 1891, as later reported in the Delaware Gazette under the headline "Another Accident," "Dickson Thomson, of Bovina, was driving last Sunday when the team of Mr. Hamilton Russell collided with his and Mr. Thomson was thrown from his wagon. He sustained a broken shoulder and other serious injuries."

Ninety-five years ago today, on December 21, 1921, Violet Hewitt, the little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Hewitt, of Margaretville, died in Kingston following an operation for appendicitis. Her remains were brought to Bovina for burial.

202 years ago today, on December 22, 1814, James Gladstone was born, the son of Robert Gladstone and Ann Ray. He was born in Scotland and likely came to Bovina with his parents. He appears to have lived most of his adult life in Andes, but at his death in 1885, he was buried in Bovina in the Associate Presbyterian Church cemetery.

105 years ago today, on December 23, 1911, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, "William B. Smith was injured in a runaway accident...while going down the mountain to South Kortright." A breaking of his wagon's brace frightened the horses. Smith and his wife were thrown from the wagon. Mrs. Smith was unscathed but Mr. Smith broke his leg at the knee joint. The paper noted that "Dixon Thomson, who was returning from South Kortright, fortunately came along soon after the accident and took the unfortunate man home." Smith lived in the area of Pink Street.

Seventy-five years ago today, a letter dated December 24, 1941 was sent to Bovina Town Clerk David Currie reporting on monies paid to the Town Supervisor for the year from various county accounts.

105 years ago today, on December 25, 1911, two elders of the Bovina United Presbyterian Church were buried. Elders Joshua Blish and Thomas Miller were 77 and 85 respectively at their deaths. Blish had been an elder for 25 years, Miller for a record breaking 54 years.

134 years ago today, the December 26, 1882 Stamford Mirror reported in its Bovina column that "Dr. Dickson is moving his stock of drugs and medicines from the basement to the main floor of his store." His store is now the Brushland Eating House.

135 years ago today, the Bovina column in the December 27, 1881 Stamford Mirror reported that "Wm. Richardson has sold his premises (the Henry McDonald place) to Alexander Hoy." This property would later become my house. The same paper also reported that "Dr. Dickson has moved his drugs and medicines to the basement of his new building." This is now the Brushland Eating House.

Ninety-eight years ago today, on December 28, 1918, as later reported in the Andes Recorder's Bovina column, "the team of Mrs. Rockafeller, driven by her son Floyd, ran away Saturday.  The lad had them hitched to a bob when they started and he was dragged some distance behind the bob before he could disengage his hands from the lines.  The team then ran to James Bramley’s and after circling around among Bramley’s cows, which were being watered, ran on a knoll and were caught.  No damage was done."

152 years ago today, on December 29, 1864, several voters in the Town of Bovina submitted this petition requesting a special town meeting "for the purpose of determining by vote to pay a Bounty not [to] exceed Eight hundred dollars to each volunteer that shall be credited to the said town o the last call of the President for 300,000 men."

116 years ago today, the December 30, 1910 Bovina column in the Andes Recorder reported that "Mrs. Charlotte Miller continues in very poor health." Charlotte was the wife of David William Miller. Born in 1860, she was the daughter of Robert Gow and Beatrice Graham. She married David Miller in 1887 and was widowed in 1892, left with a two year old son. Charlotte died about a month after this item appeared in the paper on January 24, 1911.

125 years ago today, on December 31, 1891, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, "a large party of young people had a dance in Strangeway's Hall on New Year's eve, Music by Sutherland Bros. and Jas. Amos."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmases in Bovina's Past

When one thinks of Christmas in Bovina, the usual thought probably starts with snow (though our more recent Christmases often have been green) and then goes back to the traditions of celebrating since the first settlers came.

Bovina’s early settlers, however, likely did not do much celebrating. Celebrations of Christmas before the Civil War were scattered and appear not to have been very common. Not all areas of the country felt it appropriate. During the colonial period, some groups did not celebrate at all. The Puritans at one point outlawed it and even when that law was repealed celebrations in New England were discouraged into the 19th century. This contrasted with the south, where the English tradition of Christmas celebrations were more common.

Given that New York and Bovina were between New England and the South, traditions for celebrating likely varied. Though many of Bovina’s early settlers came from Scotland, there were settlers who may have been impacted by their New England heritage. And a number of the early Scots settlers would have had religious beliefs that started through John Calvin, who was a big influence on the Puritans. So it is likely that before the Civil War Christmas was not celebrated in any significant way.

And while religious beliefs may have driven this, a simpler explanation may simply be the lack of funds and time. To some, it was simply another day to do the chores and whatever else was needed to ensure they would make it to another spring.

It seems that people in urban areas did more with the holiday. In an article from the Cooperstown based Freeman’s Journal from January 1830, information about Santa Claus is provided, noting that “Many of our country readers are unacquainted with a custom which generally prevails in this city.”

In reviewing what Bovina records I could on the subject, it is often conspicuous by its absence. While absence doesn’t necessarily mean the holiday was ignored, it seems likely that it probably wasn’t much more than a date on the calendar. The Bovina UP Church Session minutes in the 19th century make no mention of Christmas at all. The church’s session its regular meeting on December 25, 1886 with no mention of the holiday.

During Bovina resident William Richardson’s time in the 144th Regiment of the New York Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, he observed three Christmases away from home. Two of these are documented in his diary. He was in St. Augustine, Florida for Christmas in 1863. He noted, somewhat detachedly, that “there is no work going on today they are all holding Christmas.” Whether he was ‘holding Christmas’ too is not clear, but it appears likely he did not, indicating that it was not something he did when in Bovina. His Christmas in 1864 came while the 144th was recovering from a major battle in South Carolina. His diary entry makes no mention of the holiday, though he notes that several went “went to the Catholic Church.”

Walter Coulter’s diary for December 25, 1868, when he still was living in Bovina (he settled a couple of years later in Walton), makes some mention of Christmas, noting that it “has passed off very quietly around here.” That day, he did chores and drew logs out of the woods. No reference was made to any kind of family gathering.

Alexander Storie kept a diary from the 1870s into the late 1890s. His mention of the holiday is inconsistent. He recorded on Christmas day in 1874 that the boys (likely meaning some of his sons) “went to the festival at Brushland in the evening.” I am assuming the festival was somehow related to the holiday (by 1870, Christmas had become a federal holiday).

His 1881 diary does not mention Christmas on December 25th at all and provides no other hints that it was anything other than an ordinary day, but two days earlier, he mentioned someone in his house, Kate, going to a “Christmas tree” in Brushland. A Christmas tree was a term used for some time into the 20th century, denoting a community Christmas party. Newspapers started reporting these almost annual Christmas programs in Bovina (and other communities). Usually held at a church, school or at Strangeway’s Hall, these programs were geared toward the children. They would include an actual tree, presents and ‘exercises’ by the children. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of the presents were supplied by the Gerry family. Variations of these programs continued into the 20th century.

This Christmas pageant dates from the late 1950s at the Bovina Community Hall. The photo was taken by John Robson.

In a rudimentary diary I kept briefly in 1966, I recorded going to a Christmas tree on December 22:

There were other kinds of celebrations of Christmas in Bovina in the 20th century. This is an ad from the 1944 Catskill Mountain news. The Melody Boys were a noted local band that included the well known fiddler and square dance caller Hilt Kelly, who was 18 at the time of this particular dance:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 1916 - 100 Years Ago in "That Thriving Town"

From the Andes Recorder

New cars were being delivered and the new Hilson home was getting painted 100 years ago this month in Bovina.

December 1, 1916
Hon Peter Gerry was in this place Monday.
Tracy Sherman has purchased a span of black horses.
Alex and Frank Myers are painting on John Hilson’s new house.
A new Globe has been added to the equipment of the Bovina Center school.
Brundage Erkson, a former resident of Bovina, died November 18 at the County Farm.
Solomon Menaker, who purchased the Hewitt farm in upper Bovina three or four years ago and throwed it up several months ago and moved to the Center, ha shipped his household goods to New York.

December 8, 1916
Congressman Peter G. Gerry was in town this week.
Mrs. Gideon Miller is suffering from an attack of quinsey.
The Victors will play basket ball in the Town Hall this winter.
Rev. Thomas E. Graham will hold singing school this winter.
A certain young lady in this village had a Thanksgiving dinner and was serenaded.
William T. Forrest in southern Bovina, has purchased a Ford car to be delivered next spring.

December 15, 1916
The village school will hold Christmas exercises in the Town Hall on the 22d.
William Rogers, of Lake Delaware, has gone to New York to spend the holidays.
Clarence Sherman and family have moved from Oneonta to the rooms in lower part of the old Strangeway store building.
George Russell is having a furnace and bath installed in what is known as the Chisholm house.  The place is occupied by Rev. Thomas E. Graham.

Busy Farm at Walton
Robert G. Foreman, who for a number of years has occupied the “Stone House” Thomson farm in upper Bovina, has purchased the 170-acre farm of John K. Kilpatrick on West Brook, Walton, and takes possession the first of January. The farm has been in the possession of the Kilpatrick family for over a century.

December 22, 1916
The tax collector next.
The V.I.S. [Village Improvement Society] will hold a parcel social at the town hall on December 29.
A Christmas tree and exercises will be held at the town hall Friday evening.
Rev. J.A. Mahaffey sustained an injury to his side Saturday by a fall on the sidewalk.

December 29, 1916
Fred Bramley has purchased a new Dodge automobile.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Duke of Bovina and Butter for Camelot

From February 7 through April 22, 1944 the syndicated comic strip “Oaky Doaks” ran a story concerning the lack of butter in Camelot and the attempts to purchase it from the Duke of Bovina. The connection of butter and Bovina does not seem like a coincidence. Whoever wrote this script must have heard about the fame that Bovina butter once had, but I have yet to track down the source. Oaky Doaks was nationally syndicated. distributed by the Associated Press and illustrated by Ralph Fuller and scripted by William McCleery. The strip ran from 1935 to 1961. The main character, Oaky Doaks, was a well-meaning farm boy who had fashioned a suit of armor from the tin roof of a shed. Riding his father’s plow horse, Nellie, they had a series of adventures.

Here are the first three strips in the story line concerning butter and the Duke of Bovina (I apologize that the second strip is somewhat hard to read).

The story starts with King Arthur, while having hotcakes at breakfast, discovering that there is no butter in the kingdom, causing the king to say “Egad! Another Crisis!” The next strip first brings up the Duke of Bovina as the supplier of butter in the city. The duke is noted as having “a whole swarm” of cows. The king summons the duke to explain the lack of butter. The duke, when told to kneel before his king instead sits down on the floor and explains that he needs money so he’s doubling the price. The king is furious, charging that the duke is blackmailing the kingdom. It is suggested that the King summon Lady Merry Darey of South Jersey to see if she’ll make a better offer. While waiting for Lady Merry, the duke is put up in the castle, refusing to sleep on the bed, curling up on a table instead.

Oaky Doaks is sent out of Camelot to meet Lady Merry’s coach. Lady Merry is attracted to Doaks. When she arrives in Camelot and meets the king she kisses him too. He explains the situation and that he will sign a contract with either the Duke of Bovina or with Lady Merry to supply butter for Camelot. Lady Merry is thrilled to hear that the Duke is a ruthless man and wants to meet him. When he comes in Lady Merry is immediately smittened and shortly after are betrothed. The king is upset, seeing the engagement as combining against him. While talking about this with the Duke and Lady Merry a brick comes through the window. They see a large crowd demanding “We Want Butter!” The king tells the duke that the crowd will be upset if they find out that he is responsible for the butter famine. The duke, in fear of his life, flees back to Bovina, leaving an upset Lady Merry behind. The king tries to get terms for Lady Merry’s butter but she refuses, not wanting to put the duke out of business.

The mob continues to throw bricks, demanding butter. The king wants to go out and read them the riot act but Oaky Doaks suggests he better go instead. Doaks announces to the crowd that the king is sending him to the Duke of Bovina “to butter – I mean better relations – and get butter!” He asks if the crowd supports him and one protester says “If ye bring back the butter!!”

So Oaky heads to Bovina, welcomed by the sign “You are entering the province of Bovina, Land of Milk and HONEYS! Let us Whip Your Cream.” While stopping for lunch, he is threatened from a voice in the bushes. He gets out his sword and slashes through the bushes, cutting the dress of a milkmaid. She promptly draws a pitchfork and tells him to put up his hands. Doaks explains his mission to get butter from the Duke of Bovina. The woman says he better run or the duke will wring his neck. Doaks says his duty is to get butter, even to the death. Several other milkmaids come out with pitchforks. The women explain that they are Milkmaid’s Local 42 and that they have orders to kill any men on the Duke of Bovina’s property because they are a disturbing influence on the milkmaids. When he tells them they are so pretty they all blush.

Doaks is escorted by the milkmaids to the Duke of Bovina, riding their cows. They arrive at the duke’s, where Doaks discovers he lives in a barn. The duke recognizes Doaks, who then explains that he is there about the butter. The duke cannot read the contract that Doaks brings, nor can he sign it. Instead, he says Doaks can supply entertainment that is needed to keep the milkmaids contented, so he’s put into a ring with a bull. The milkmaids can’t watch because they don’t want to see Doaks get killed. The bull knocks Doaks out of the ring and onto the waiting milkmaids. Doaks goes back in the ring and throws the bull into a tree. The cows break down the fence of the ring and form a line to protect the bull.

The milkmaids are very impressed by Doaks and want to go back to Camelot with him so they can tell folks “how brave an’ kind yo’ are.” The duke accuses Doaks of trying to take away his milkmaids. Doaks says he’ll do that unless the duke signs the “contract to supply the kingdom with good, cheap butter.” The duke signs with an ‘x.’

Meanwhile, Doaks horse Nellie has come back to Camelot and finds Lady Merry, “brokenhearted by the Duke’s desertion.” Lady Merry asks the horse if she has seen the duke and she shakes her head no. Lady Merry thinks the duke may be dead. She realizes it’s a way to get to Bovina, so she rides away on the horse.

In the meantime, the Duke of Bovina goes into production to supply King Arthur’s kingdom with butter. He admits that he’s unhappy that he ran away from Lady Merry, giving her the idea that he loved his cows more than her. Doaks agrees to help, but when he calls for his horse Nellie, she appears with Lady Merry riding. Lady Merry and the Duke rush into each other’s arms.

The March 29 panel is the last time we see the Duke of Bovina, but the butter story isn’t quite done. As Doaks rides Nellie back to Camelot with the butter contract, an evil spell has hit Camelot. It’s a plague of bad tempers cast by a coven of witches. Doaks gets lost in the woods and encounters a witch. He’s taken to the conclave of witches where he encounters Hazel, their Queen. She is spreading the awful malady Grouchitis, but is excited when it is announced that Doaks has with him a pound of butter. The witches are excited to have butter but he refuses to give it to them, explaining that it is promised to the king. He won’t say where he’s hidden it so he’s put to the stake and the fire is lit. Doaks promises to tell them where the butter is if they put out the fire, but on condition that they lift the spell. The Queen disagrees but the witches break the spell anyway. When Doaks is convinced they have lifted the spell, he tells them the butter is hidden in one of the witches’ hats. Doaks comes back to King Arthur, explaining why he no longer has the butter, but has the contract and has gotten the spell lifted. The king is happy that he used it to lift the spell and plans to make Doaks a Knight, except it is explained that Doaks is already a knight. So instead he is invited to accompany the king on “a Royal Binge!”