Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 1917 - 100 Years Ago "In That Thriving Town"

Over the next few months, the Bovina column regularly reported on the health of Mrs. Robert G. Thomson. Mrs. Thomson, born Nelle Moore in Andes in 1884, was suffering from uterine cancer. As you will see through the rest of 1917, her health would not improve and she died in December.

July 6, 1917
·         The celebration of the Fourth commenced here Tuesday evening.
·         The R.P. church will hold a social at the Town Hall Friday evening.
·         Charles A. McPherson, on Bramley mountain, has purchased a Saxon six automobile.
·         Hale Elliott has purchased the Robert Hoy house and lot in the upper part of the village. [This is  now the home of Leonard and Ann Cairns.]
·         Robert Hunt and wife and Frank Miller and wife attended a picnic Tuesday at Eugene Storie’s.
·         Frank Kinch and family attended the Kinch family reunion held Wednesday at Oneonta, making  the trip in his new Ford car.

July 13, 1917
·         Thos Hoag had a good horse die Monday morning.
·         Ellsworth Tuttle has a new Ford car and will use it to haul his milk.
·         William S. Gordon has gone to James Mabon’s for the haying season.
·         Mrs. R.G. Thompson has been quite ill the past week but is improving.
·         Miss Bessie Kinch was in the village Tuesday with her new car. It is a Ford.
·         Mrs. Hale Elliott left today to spend a few days with her parents, Supt. And Mrs. L.R. Long, in  New Kingston.
·         John Benjamin spent the Fourth at Kingston and brought back several men to work for the  farmers in haying.
·         Dr. Whitcomb took Miss Freda Muller to New York Monday for medical treatment and perhaps  an operation on the throat for goiter.
·         Fred Govern, the little son of Mr. J.L. and Mrs. Govern, of New York, who are visiting here, fell  out of bed Saturday and cracked his collar bone.

Bovina Library Trustees
            At a meeting held at Firemans hall this week, Thomas Gordon, Andrew T. Doig and Walter G. Coulter, were appointed trustees of the Bovina Library Association.

July 20, 1917
·         H.A. Ayres has a new Ford auto.
·         Rev. Thomas E. Graham drives a new Ford car.
·         Mrs. Dickson, who has been quite ill, is improving.
·         Mrs. William Storie who has been quite ill, is gaining slowly [This is Vera Davidson Storie, who  lived until 1967].
·         J.J.K. Russell is hauling some big stone from Delhi for the cemetery vault.  They were shipped  from Walton.
·        Word has been received that Miss Freda Muller, who went to New York last week, had undergone  a successful operation for goiter. [Freda would live until 1951, dying at the age of 75.]
·         Dr. Latcher, of Oneonta, was here Saturday night to see Mrs. Jane Doig, who is ill at the home of  her son, Milton, up Coulter Brook.  An operation is contemplated on her neck. [Jane would only  survive about another six months, dying in January 1918 at the age of 78.]

July 27, 1917
·         Miss Nellie Miller has been ill from an ulcerated tooth.
·         Frank Dickson, on the Little Delaware, now drives a Ford.
·         Dog owners should hurry up getting their licenses - $10 fine after July 31st.
·         Mrs. Robert G. Thomson is still confined to her bed and shows little improvement.
·         William J. Crosier was taken quite ill Sabbath night but is a little more comfortable at this writing. (Crosier recovered, dying in 1931.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bovina Public Library Celebrates 100 Years...and More

Bovina has had a library in one form or another since at least 1836, when the Bovina Subscription Library was incorporated. Application was made to the New York State Legislature in 1835 to establish the library. It had 44 subscribers and 227 volumes when it was incorporated in April 1936, with a treasury of $20.12. James Douglas was chairman of the library, with Samuel Gordon serving as the “librarian clerk” and Thomas Eliott as treasurer. The trustees included Adam Scott, William Murray, John Miller, John Roe, Thomas McFarland, Jr, James Archibald. How long the library existed I have yet to determine. (Note: as far as I can tell, Samuel Gordon is no relation to Thomas Gordon, who was Bovina's Town Clerk in the early 20th century.)


The first public library in Bovina was created in 1879 when the “Young People’s Christian Association” of the Bovina United Presbyterian Church organized a small library in the church basement, with volumes presented by the church pastor. Additional items were donated by E.T. Gerry and Ferris Jacobs. When the Association folded, the books reverted to the Bovina church. In 1896, Mr. Gerry donated $100 to William Coulter to be used for library purposes. An additional $50 was donated by the noted industrialist Henry Clay Frick of Pittsburg. Frick, with Andrew Carnegie, created what became U.S. Steel. These donations allowed the church trustees to re-establish the library. 

Any person “living in Bovina or vicinity” was allowed to take out books with an annual payment of 25 cents. Books were allowed out for fourteen days, with a fine of 2 cents a day for each additional day the book was out. During this time, the Gerry family made several generous donations of books and magazines. In 1905, a state library inspector paid a visit to the Bovina library and reported that “the Bovina library was one of the best selected libraries of its size in the State.” At this time, though called the Bovina Public Library, it still was owned by the Trustees of the Bovina UP Church.

Around 1910, J.W. Coulter offered the wing of his building, which had once been a tin shop and hardware store, to be used for the library. When he died in early 1917, he bequeathed the entire building, along with $2,700, to establish a public library. That summer the Bovina Library Association was formed, with Thomas Gordon, Andrew T. Doig and Walter G. Coulter as trustees. On December 27, 1917, the Bovina Public Library was chartered by the New York State Board of Regents.

Over the next three years, the renovations funded by the J.W. Coulter bequest took place. The building’s extension was removed and the main body of the structure was completely redone to serve as a library. During the renovations, the library books were moved to the firehall next door.

The library stayed in this building for just over 50 years. One of the first librarians after the library received its charter was Ida McNair McCune. Other librarians over this period included Aggie Draffen, Celia Coulter and Therese Aitken, In 1956, Dot Russell began her long tenure as the Bovina librarian, working into the 1990s. The library's collection continued to grow through donations and purchases. The Gerry family made further donations to the library.

In 1950, the library reported the following circulation numbers: “Adult fiction, 529; adult nonfiction, 184; adult periodicals, 847; children’s books, 1,082; children’s periodicals, 274; teen-age fiction, 260; teen-age non-fiction, 125; other materials, 101; grand total, 3402.”  
Vera Storie and librarian Dot Russell c. 1965
The library’s next big change came in 1970, when it was moved into its current home in the former District four school house on Maple Avenue, built in 1893. Generous funding from the O’Connor Foundation allowed for major renovations in 1973. An open house and re-dedication of the newly remodeled library took place in June 1974.


The Bovina Public Library continues to receive generous donations. In 2000, the library received a major bequest from the Charles Lichtenberg estate, given in memory of his late wife, Jane Archibald Lichtenberg, a Bovina native.

Jane Archibald Lichtenberg and Charles Lichtenberg in front of her mother's home in Bovina (now the home of Gert Hall).
The bequest made by J.W. Coulter in 1917 was followed more recently by his first cousin twice removed, Celia Coulter, who passed away in 2015. Celia's stint as Bovina's librarian likely is what led her to attend SUNY Albany’s library school, where she received her master’s degree in 1955. 

After the retirement of Dot Russell, Bovina's librarians have included Avis Adams, Marjorie Miller, Mary Pelletier and our current librarian, Annette Robbins.

As the library begins its second century as a New York State chartered institution, it has received $140,776 from the State of New York's public library construction fund for a much needed renovation to its foundation and basement.

On July 15, the library will have a centennial celebration at the library, starting with the dedication of a historic marker at 5, followed by a dessert contest and a picnic. Come and join the celebration.


Friday, June 30, 2017

This Day in Bovina for June

Here are the daily Facebook entries I posted for June:

111 years ago, the Bovina column of the June 1, 1906 Andes Recorder reported that "Mrs. E.G. Gladstone, who has been on the sick list, is improving." This likely was the former Sarah Sloan. She and her husband moved to Colorado in 1909. She died there in 1936 and is buried in Colorado.

186 years ago today, June 2, 1831, an arrest warrant was issued for John Rutherford and John Renwick: "Whereas complaint hath been made before me, John M. Landon, one of the Justices of the peace for [Delaware] county upon the oath of David W. Thomson of Bovina ... that John Rutherford and John Renwick did on the 11th day of May last violently assault and beat him the said David W. Thomson at Bovina … therefore in the name of the people of the State of New York to command you forthwith to apprehend the said John Rutherford & John Renwick of Bovina & bring them before me, to answer unto the said complaint, & further, to be dealt with according to law…"


119 years ago today, on June 3, 1892, the Overseers of several road districts in Bovina requested that Bovina's commissioner of highways purchase a Climax Road machine for the sum of $235, to be paid in installments.

158 years ago today, on June 4, 1859, Alexander Sylvanius Bramley, son of John W. Bramley and Margaret McCune was born. He would die only 21 days later on June 25. John and Margaret had a total of eight children, five of whom made it to adulthood. Alexander was their fifth child. This is his headstone, courtesy of Ed and Dick Davidson. 

Eighty-seven years ago today, on June 5, 1930, Bovina's Village Improvement Society held its monthly meeting at the old Firehouse.  Fourteen members answered the roll call.  “Motion made and carried that V.I.S. take charge of the opening of the new Community Hall. It was moved that the Executive appoint a head com[mittee] to have charge.  A motion was also made and carried that all the money that V.I.S. has on hand, and what is made this year aside from necessary expenses to be used for equipment for Community House. Motion was also made and carried that Executive Committee appoint three committees to look after furnishings lights, curtains, and seating.”

137 years ago today, on June 6, 1880, as later reported in the Stamford Mirror, "a team of horses belonging to Wm. Archibald, managed to get loose from the sheds where they were tied while the family were attending church, and started for home, but were pursued by quite a large portion of the congregation and soon overtaken."

106 years ago today, the June 7, 1911 Andes Recorder reported in its Bovina column that Andrew T. Doig had "purchased a 'Cadillac' automobile' and broke ground “for the building in which to house it.”

Seventy-eight years ago today, the Bovina column of the June 8, 1939 Delaware Republican reported that "Postmaster and Mrs. Fred Thomson attended the horticultural meeting in Delhi…."

118 years ago today, on June 9, 1895, as later reported in the Andes Recorder's Bovina column, "A number of the boys were up [to Bovina] from Delhi … on their wheels."  In this instance, 'wheels' means 'bicycles.'  The 1890s were the heyday of bicycling in the United States.  It was bicyclists who started the push toward better maintained roadways.

117 years ago today, on June 10, 1900, as later reported in the Delaware Republican, "Wm. T. Miller died of heart trouble at his residence in Bovina...aged about 60.  He leaves a wife who was a sister of John and Thomas Hastings, and one daughter, Mrs. Geo. T. Russell.  Mr. Miller was one of the substantial men of Bovina, and a very worthy citizen. His funeral was held on Tuesday, the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church officiating."

Fifty years ago today, on June 11, 1967, Delhi Tech Professor (and Bovina resident) Gaston Pelletier gave an address at the schools graduation ceremonies that so impressed local Congressman John G. Dow that he it entered into the Congressional Record.

134 years ago today, the June 12, 1883 Stamford Mirror reported that "Dr. Finney [Phinney], of New Kingston, thinks of locating at Bovina." Dr. Phinney did indeed relocate to Bovina, working there until his premature death in 1901 at the age of 51.

Seventy-seven years ago today, the Lake Delaware column of the June 13, 1940 Delaware Republican reported that "Miss Angelica Gerry has opened Ancrum House for the summer and has as her guest Saxham Deury of Newport, R.I."

Ninety eight years ago today, on June 14, 1919, as reported by the Andes Recorder, "Sergeant Donald Lee, a member of the Lightning division, who served over a year in France, arrived home ….having received his discharge."  Lee was born in Bovina in 1896, the son of John Bruce Lee and Lucy A. Hall.  The Lee family lived on Lee Hollow.  Donald was a US Army Sargent during World War I, receiving the Purple Heart.  He lived to see his 99th birthday, dying in Florida in May 1995, and was Bovina’s last surviving World War I veteran. He is buried in Bovina.

137 years ago today, the Bovina column of the June 15, 1880 Stamford Mirror reported that "Sheriff Crawford was in town last Saturday night, laying in wait for an escaped prisoner, but failed to find him." We do not know if he ever succeeded in capturing this escapee.

122 years ago today, on Sunday, June 16, 1895, Bovina saw the end of a weekend of burglaries. It started the evening before when Homer Burgin's home on present day Route 28 was entered.  The following morning, while the William Forrest family was at church, two burglars entered his house and took his gun and a number of other things.  That evening, burglars entered Francis Coulter's house on Coulter Brook. While rummaging through the house, they awoke Mr. Coulter and fled.  Coulter found his pants dropped on the veranda.  It is likely, though not definite, that all these burglaries were done by the same people.  I never found any evidence that the perpetrators were caught.

174 Years ago today, on June 17, 1843, the commissioners of highway of the Town of Bovina received an application to alter a highway from Alexander Storie:  "The undersigned resident of the said town and liable to the assessed for highway labour therein hereby makes application to you the said commissioners to alter the highway in said Town Commencing at the old road on the line between Priscilla Carman and William Jobson and running a northeasterly course through said Jobsons land to the Stamford town line (which said highway will pass through the improved lands of said William Jobson who does not consent to the laying out of the same)." Where this is located I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's the upper Pink Street area.  Alexander Storie had a farm where Tom and Joan Burns now live.  The Carman property may be where the John Thompson farm was located. A few days later, twelve men were brought in to hear the case for and against laying out this highway and agreed that it was necessary to do so.  William Jobson's objections to this action were overruled.

108 years ago today, the Bovina column in the June 18, 1909 issue of the Andes Recorder reported that "Mrs. William A. Gladstone has sold her farm on Coulter Brook, known as the Robert R. Scott farm, to Emile Snyder (sic), of South Kortright, and he is moving onto it this week.  The sale includes the stock and farm machinery, etc.  The price paid was $4,250." This was the farm of Emil Schneider. Schneider died in 1965. He was the father of three sons and a daughter, Lillian, who married Alex Hilson.

137 years ago today, a letter to the editor of the Stamford Mirror dated June 19, 1880 was received and published in the paper's next issue: "Brushland, June 19th, 1880. Mr. Mirror:- The author of Bovina items is mistaken about the 'neighbor's dogs.' The only shadow of reality lies in the attack of that barking one who calls himself your correspondent. Truly, N.B.A."

116 years ago, on June 20, 1901, the Bovina 'uptown' cooperative creamery was organized.  As reported in the Andes Recorder, the "creamery will be built on the Andrew T. McFarlane [McFarland] farm," now the Schumann property.  Thirty farmers were to participate.  The trustees elected were Andrew McFarland, George T. Russell and Alexander Burns. The Recorder went on to report that "[t]he contract for the building and apparatus has been let to F.B. Floyd for $4,350 and it is to be ready for business by September 1."  This creamery was organized a couple of months before the Bovina Center Cooperative Creamery was organized.  The uptown creamery building is no more, though the foundation is still identifiable.

Ninety eight years ago today, June 21, 1919, Clifton Irvine arrived home from service in the army in the Great War. The Andes Recorder reported that "He is going back to Seattle, where he was before the war, and Lloyd Irvine and Millard Blair expect to go with him." Clifton and Lloyd were brothers and the brothers of Isabell Irvine Russell (Lloyd was her twin). Millard Blair was the brother of Helen Thompson. Clifton, Lloyd and Millard all settled in Washington State.

153 years ago today, on June 22, 1864, a vote was held in Bovina to pay a bounty of $500 to any man enlisting in the Civil War, to be credited to Bovina.  There were several such votes during the war, each time for a larger amount.  By the end of the war, it was up to $800.  This vote was the closest of the war, passing by only one vote, with 68 for and 67 against.

112 years ago today, on June 23, 1905, William B. Thomson, the sole trustee of Bovina School District Number 1 issued this request to Bovina Town Supervisor John Irvine to pay Mina B. Cooke $25 for teaching at the Maynard School. 

122 years ago today, on June 24, 1895, two Bovina men took a bicycle trip, as later reported by the Andes Recorder: "William Palmer and Charles Thompson made a trip on their wheels (bicycles) to Delhi and Bloomville the first of the week." William Palmer likely was the son of Charles Palmer, born in 1875. I have not identified who Charles Thompson was, since there are several Charles Thompsons and Thomsons (the newspapers tended to use the spellings interchangeably) from which to choose.

122 years ago, on June 25, 1895, Alexander Hilson found that sixty of his eighty chickens, all four or five weeks old, had disappeared. The chicken thieves turned out to be rats. Alexander Hilson (1859-1923) had the farm by the creamery that is now owned by the Livestock Foundation.

Seventy-five years ago today, on June 26, 1942, the Bovina town board passed a resolution choosing the Bovina Community Hall as "an Airplane Observatory for the duration [of the Second World War]." The town agreed to furnish a "telephone and all needed appliances" unless the County agrees cover these expenses.

167 Years ago today, on June 27, 1850, David P. Stewart acknowledged a debt to William Doig of $53.93, dating from 1848, in this document, known as a chattel mortgage.  To cover the debt, he mortgaged several items from his blacksmith shop and components for a wagon being built for him by Herman Roterman, including "one running gear box and three seats of a Two Horse Plesure Wagon.." Stewart was obligated to pay the $53.93 with interest by the 1st of August.  If payment wasn't made, the items mortgaged would become Doig's.  Note that Doig also had the option to redeem the note before the due date of August 1st if he "shall at any time deem himself insecure…" In the days before credit cards, chattel mortgages were way to get a secured loan. 
























166 years ago today, on June 28, 1851, four Bovina men made statements related to their unfitness for military service. Joshua Carman, age 40, had hearing issues and a problem hip joint. Walter Hamilton, age 42, ran the hotel located where Jardines house is now. He reported a knee injury from a few years previous that continued to plague him. Homer Burgin, age 33, was a farmer on present Route 28. He was not specific about his health problems, just stating that he was 'unfit for military duty on account of ill health…' Thomas Seacord, age 39, had a "weak and lame leg." All four statements were sworn before assessor Walter Stott, Jr. Two of these gentlemen, Hamilton and Seacord, would both die six years later in 1857. The other two lasted considerably longer. Carmen was 70 at his death in 1891, while Burgin was 78 when he died in 1897.  


122 years ago today, on June 29, 1895 (as later reported by the Andes Recorder) "Dr. Barnard was in town Saturday extracting teeth without pain." This likely is a gentleman named Homer H. Barnard from Milford in Otsego County. He shows up in several census records as a dentist.

Seventy-nine years ago, on June 30, 1938 (as later reported in the Andes Recorder), "Rev. and Mrs. Peter McKenzie traveled to Newark to see their two daughters sail on a six week trip to Finland." The McKenzies had three daughters, Janet, Elizabeth and Margaret. Which two daughters was not stated in the newspaper, though it probably was Janet and Elizabeth.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Meet the Lady Cowculators" - Bovina Dairying Pioneer Beatrice Thomson

Seventy-five years ago, a Bovina woman was becoming a pioneer in the dairying industry. The newsletter of the American Dairy Herd Improvement Association, in its June 1942 issue, reported on its front page that "Women Fight Too!" The article noted that "There are fighters on the home front too, and none are more intrepid than the women who are stepping in to fill the gaps left by men who have gone to the service." Later in the newsletter was a page devoted to several women in the country who were becoming milk testers. Bovina's own Beatrice Thomson was one of the women featured. A life long resident of Bovina, she grew up on the Thomson farm on Pink Street. She had "recently graduated from the New York Agricultural College where she completed the Dairy-Commercial testing course that trained her in butterfat testing...." Here's the clipping from that newsletter about Bea.

Here's a clipping from the August 6, 1942 Waterville (NY) Times about "girl cowtesters," including Bea:

Bea continued to work at the Bovina creamery, later becoming the plant manager, until its closing in 1973. The Oneonta Daily Star in June 1968 had a short article by Jack Damgaard about the Bovina Center Coop Dairy and noted that "we are unique...in that we have a lady plant manager...." Here she is on the last day at the creamery.
Photo by Betty Elliott
After the closing of the Bovina creamery, Bea worked for Dellwood in Frasers as the bookkeeper, retiring from there in 1983. She died in 1986 at the age of 68 and is buried in the Bovina cemetery. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

June 1917 - 100 Years Ago "In That Thriving Town"


With the U.S. Entry into World War I, Bovina started to see military related activity, including an enlistment and a state military census. 

June 1, 1917
·         Mrs. G.D. Miller is under the doctor’s care.
·         Clark Miller went to Newburg Tuesday to enlist. [This is Clark Lay's uncle. Miller went to France where he died in action in April 1918.]
·         Miss Louise Dennis, who has spent the winter with her brother, John P. Dennis in Virginia, has arrived home.
·         The basement of the U.P. church will be fixed over so as to provide Sabbath School class rooms for the junior department.
·         Clark Gray, of Delhi, who has the contract to build the receiving vault at the Bovina Center cemetery, was here Wednesday to stake out the site.  The vault will be located in the embankment and directly facing the entrance.

June 8, 1917
·         James Archibald has leased and moved into the Methodist parsonage.
·         Herbert Olmstead has moved into the John R. Hoy house in the lower part of the village.
·         Robert G. Thomson has leased the residence of his father, Elliott Thomson, for the summer.
·         Sixty-four registered in Bovina on Tuesday under the selective draft law requiring all between 21 and 31 years to register.
·         Thos Tidd, of Shavertown, is repairing lines and putting the phones on the Bovina Center Telephone Co. lines in working order.
·         Mrs. H.A. Ayres fell Monday evening as she was getting out of John McCune’s auto and sustained numerous bruises about the head.

June 15, 1917
·         Dr. Norris B. Whitcomb returned Monday from New York.
·         Mrs. Thomas Gordon has been ill the past week with an ulcerated tooth.
·         Miss Grove, missionary from Egypt, spoke at the U.P. church on Sabbath evening.
·         The State military census of men and women between 16 and 21 is being taken by volunteers at Firemen’s hall.
·         Herman S. Russell and family, of Keldron, South Dakota, are visiting his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Russell, in upper Bovina. [Herman was a brother of Cecil H. Russell.]
·         John McCune went to Binghamton on Saturday, taking Mrs. Raymond McNair to her home there by auto. His mother-in-law, Mrs. E.F. McNair, returned home with him.

Fire Discovered in Time
            The house of William T. Forrest in southern Bovina, caught fire Saturday around the kitchen stove pipe, where it passed thru the roof.  The family were away from home and the hired man had started the fire to get his dinner. He discovered the blaze in time to put it out with practically no damage.

June 22, 1917
·         Miss Freda Muller, who has been ill for several weeks, is improving slowly.
·         An auxillary of the Red Cross has been organized here and has about 75 members.
·         Marshall McNaught has purchased a Saxton roadster which he expects to convert into a truck.
·         For the month of May patrons of the Bovina Center Co-Operative Creamery received 56 cents per pound for butter fat or $2.58 per hundred for 4.6 milk.
·         Mrs. Thos E. Graham and little son who have been with her people at Pittsburg, arrived home Thursday last.  She was accompanied home by her cousin.
·         Frank Gowanlock was taken suddenly ill about 1 o’clock Saturday morning and for a time his condition was considered serious, but his condition is somewhat improved at present. [Frank would live a little over six months after this, dying New Year's Day 1918.]

June 29, 1917
·         Sheriff Austin was in town Tuesday
·         Fred Bramly has traded his Dodge car for a Cadillac.
·         Jenny Heller, the little daughter of Charles Heller got a fish hook in her finger and Dr. Whitcomb had to be called to cut it out.
·         The total registration of the state military census in Bovina was 395 between the ages of 16 and 51, or 105 less than the state authorities said resided in the town between those ages.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Faces of Bovina - The Adventures of Allan Johnston.


On January 22, 1944, Allan Johnston posed for this photograph by Bob Wyer. The timing of the photograph is interesting, given it was taken only two months after he had successfully escaped from German-occupied France.

Johnston was the son of T. George and Marjorie Johnston of Bovina. He had joined the Army Air Corps in July 1940. He spent over a year and a half in Panama then returned in March 1942 to the United States. He was appointed an aviation cadet and completed navigation training in Texas. In May 1943 he went to England and served as a navigator on a B-17. It was on his fifth mission that his adventures began, later reported in the local newspapers. He had noted that his first mission was boring and that “Nothing happened, No ground fire, no enemy planes, no nothin’. We got to our target, dropped our bombs and came home.” 

Shot down on the fifth mission, he was reported missing. The Catskill Mountain News noted that he had been missing since September 6. After two anxious months, the Binghamton Press reported in November that “…Second Lieut. Allan G. Johnston broke a long silence Monday when he cabled his parents Mr. and Mrs. T. George Johnston of Bovina, that he had returned to his U.S. Army Eight Air Force base in England.”

On his return, some of his story was reported in the local newspapers. On his last mission, his plane was heading back after dropping its bombs when the crew realized that they were short of gas. They decided to leave the bombing formation to take the shortest distance back to base. This proved to be the start of their troubles. They found themselves under constant attack by 15 to 20 fighter planes. This went on for an hour and a half.  Over occupied France, two engines were shot out and the gas ran out. Lt. Johnston was injured in the left arm. The bombardier had the worse injuries but managed to fire his machine guns at the plane that caused their injuries, shooting it down.

The crew bailed out at around 8000 feet. Johnston decided to wait on pulling his ripcord until absolutely necessary, figuring that if he came down slowly he would be easy to spot by the Germans. They did see him, but because he opened his parachute about 1000 feet above the ground they didn’t have time to figure out exactly where he had landed. He ended up in the tree tops and was noted by a German pilot, who waved at him. Johnston waved back and waited until dark to leave the woods. He later said that the only 30 minutes he would never want to live through again were those 30 minutes stuck in the treetops.

At this point, the story as published in the newspapers ends. Because it was war-time, Johnston could not tell of his adventures getting back to England. He did share the story with his family. In a conversation with his sister, Helen Johnston, I got the rest of the story.

The ill-fated fifth mission was over Stuttgart. When the pilot realized that they didn’t have enough fuel, he told them to bail out. Allan landed in a tree with shrapnel wounds in both wrists and his ankle. When he came down from the tree a little French girl took him to another tree and told him to go up in it. He did and belted himself into the tree in case he fell asleep or passed out. The reason he was directed to that specific tree was because of its dense foliage. A German patrol came under the tree and they even took a cigarette break there. A bit later the girl’s father came and took Allan to his barn. They put him under a large pile of hay in a spot where there were holes designed to prevent spontaneous combustion. This allowed Allan to breathe. He saw when the German patrol came to the house. They then came to the barn and went up on the hay mound right above him. He could hear the bayonets being poked into the hay, but he was far enough down that they didn’t find him. After a day or so in the hay, he was taken into the house.

The underground disguised Allan as a Frenchman and provided him with French papers. He was taught not to respond to any sounds, since his papers said he was deaf and dumb.

Allan likely had landed in Northern France, so he had a long journey to the Spanish boarder. He was guided south all the way to the border. In some areas, German troop trains had an extra car or two at the end that the French could take. Allan at least once took his journey on one of these trains. He had a guide that took him up through the Pyrenees. At the top, the guide told him he was at the Spanish border and that he was to go into a specific village and go to the U.S. Embassy. Allan asked if the guide could go with him but he said no, he was too busy taking other escapees.

The night before Thanksgiving, his family got the word that Allan was ‘back on duty.’ No other details were provided but they knew he was safe. When the family got the word they had been told that the Germans said he was a P.O.W.

Allan was home not long after. The reason for the photograph was not to just get a photo of Johnston in uniform. This was one of three pictures taken when he married Gertrude Truesdell. Here's a picture of them together:


Allan was not sent back into service overseas. Sending him back to Europe was too great a risk. If he was shot down again and captured by the Germans, because he had already been reported as a POW by the Germans, he wouldn’t be protected under the Geneva convention but instead considered to be a spy. He was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi as a navigator trainer. He was honorably discharged at the end of the war.

Allan and his wife moved to Michigan where he went to college on the GI Bill. He ended up working for Lincoln-Continental. In the 70s, Allan survived another major crisis when he became serious ill with a brain aneurysm, spending three months in a coma. He recovered and was put to work dealing with computers. Allan died in Michigan in October 1990 at the age of 70.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This Day in Bovina for May

174 years ago today, on May 1, 1843, a meeting of the Commissioners of Excise for Bovina was held, granting licenses to "retail strong and spirituous liquors" to Peter Jennings, a tavern keeper and Alexander Burns, a grocer. 


106 years ago today, on May 2, 1911, school trustees were elected in Bovina. Some of the trustees elected, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, were "Center district, Fred Bramley; Miller district, Christopher Gladstone; Lake Delaware, H.C. Hogaboom; Coulter district, Chas A. Tuttle; Biggar Hollow, Adam Biggar; Coulter Brook, John A. Irvine."

127 years ago today, the May 3, 1890 Delaware Republican reported in its Bovina Center column that "petty thieving has been commenced again. J.H. Dean had a bag of oats stolen last Saturday night and S.G. Bramley lost about 20 chickens and a quantity of grain."

Sixty-four years ago today, on May 4, 1953, the Bovina Library reported on a number of books given to its collection. This is the report as published in the Catskill Mountain News. 


Fifty-two years ago today, on May 5, 1965, as later reported in the Delaware Republican-Express, "Eleven members of the Bovina Home Demonstration Unit met Wednesday forenoon at the Bovina Center Community Hall for the second meeting on 'Meal Planning for Moderns' Mrs. Harold Lounsbury and Mrs. Robert Burns [sisters Mary and Agnes Burns] taught the project, they asked each member to bring a dish to pass, which would take only 20 minutes to prepare, from state to finish. It was interesting to see how many people depend on rice for a quick to prepare dish. A very good meal was enjoyed immensely by all. The leaders illustrated by flannel-graph, charts, etc., that food does make a difference, you are what you eat. The next meeting will be on program planning. Officers serving the Unit for the coming year will be Mrs. Harold Lounsbury as chairman, Mrs. Mildred Reinertsen as vice chairman, Mrs. Leonard Cairns as treasurer, and Mrs. Vincent Trimbell as secretary."

131 years ago today, the May 6, 1886 issue of the Andes Recorder in its Bovina column reported that "Thomas H. Johnson has added to his extensive machinery a new loom of an improved pattern, which is probably the best one in the county.  He and his sons are capable of doing a large amount of work with the machinery at their command. They not only make all kinds of woolen cloth, but grind feed, saw lumber, etc." This would have been for Johnson's Woolen Mill, which was located near the Mountain Brook area.

120 years ago today, on May 7, 1897, an auction of 65 cows was held in Hobart. The cows came from two Bovina farms, those of Thomas Hoy and A.F. Maynard. Here's the ad for the action that appeared in the Delaware Gazette.


Ninety-one years ago today, on May 8, 1926, the town clerk certified that a resolution was adopted authorizing the issuance of a Certificate of Indebtness to allow for the purchase of a stone raking machine. 

115 years ago today, the Bovina column in the May 9, 1902 Andes Recorder reported that "Three butcher carts now come round with meat – Perry Shaw, of Bloomville, William McDivitt, of Andes, and Ward Coulter, of this place."

122 years ago today, the Bovina column of the May 10, 1895 Andes Recorder reported that "Maple syrup is selling at seventy-five cents a can, and not very plenty at that." The same column also reported that "Bovina has secured no speaker for Decoration Day as yet.  Are our soldier dead to go unremembered this year?  Surely we can stop our toil long enough to remember the fallen heroes with the flowers of nature."

137 years ago today, the Stamford Mirror's Bovina column for May 11, 1880 reported that "Mrs. David Miller Sr., is seriously ill." This was the former Isabella Turnbull, the second wife of David Miller (1795-1883). She survived this illness, dying in May 1883.

Seventy-seven years ago today, on May 12, 1940, as later reported in the Delaware Republican's Bovina column reported that "Mr. and Mrs. Sylvan LaFever of Florida were here and attended Church." This likely was Sylvan's last visit to Bovina for a month later on June 10, he died in Patterson, New Jersey. Sylvan was my great grandfather.

Fifty-two years ago today, the May 13, 1965 Delaware Republican-Express reported in its Bovina column that "Herbert Parsons is now working with David Hoy at the Concord Hotel near Liberty. They expected to be through there by Memorial Day."

128 years ago today, the May 14, 1889 Stamford Mirror reported in its Bovina column that "The family of John W. Bramley has been quarantined the past week, but Mr. B. thought this was 'free America,' and went to Delhi regardless of the Board of Health. There is some talk of enforcing the law."

141 years ago today, on May 15, 1876, Isaac Atkin died. His death was later reported in the Delaware Gazette under the title "Sudden Death in Bovina." The paper noted that "Atkins, after working on his farm…until near night, started to go for the cows, and was shortly after found by his son, dead in the road." Isaac was a life long resident of Bovina.

Sixty-eight years ago today, on May 16, 1949, Bob Wyer took this photograph of the Bovina Fire Department's new truck, sold by R.H. Lewis. The photo was taken at the Bovina Center Creamery. 

127 years ago today, the Bovina column of the May 17, 1890 Delaware Republican reported that "Our milliners have returned from the city with a large stock of head-gear, and now they are busy day and night rigging out the ladies with that mysterious ornament which adorns their top-knots. If a woman's bonnet is not a thing of beauty, it is a mysterious thing."

137 years ago today, the May 18, 1880 Stamford Mirror reported that " Charlie Carman, the artist from Andes, was in town yesterday, taking views of some of the public buildings and residences of Brushland and vicinity." Though I can't be sure, this likely was being done for the Munsell History of Delaware County. Here's one of the images likely done by Mr. Carman. 

112 years ago today, the Bovina column of the May 19, 1905 Andes Recorder reported that "William McDivitt whose illness we mentioned last week, continues very low and does not improve." He had a shock, which was a term for a stroke or heart attack. McDivitt did not recover and died on July 29, 1905 at the age of 73, survived by his wife, the former Elizabeth Kipp, and five children.

Ninety-six years ago today, the May 20, 1921 Andes Recorder reported in its Bovina column that "In order to provide more room for the choir at the United Presbyterian church the pulpit will be extended further into the body of the church and the front and probably the second row of pews removed."

157 years ago today, on May 21, 1860, Janet Rutherford died at the age of 80. Born in Scotland, Janet was the daughter of Walter and Isabella Thomson. She married James Rutherford in 1808 in Bovina. They would have eight children, six of whom would survive her. Janet was widowed in 1870. She is buried in Bovina.

121 years ago today, the Bovina column in the May 22, 1896 Andes Recorder reported that "Slight showers have brightened up vegetation this week, but much more rain is still needed."

108 years ago today, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, "Bovina was startled Sabbath morning, May 23, [1909] when the news spread that William A. Gladstone, who resided on the Robert R. Scott farm on Coulter Brook, had died suddenly that morning a few minutes after loading his milk." Mr. Elmer Close, who was with Mr. Gladstone, reported that he and Gladstone had loaded his milk and sat down on the milk platform to talk for a few minutes. Gladstone suddenly stopped in mid-sentence, put his hand to his head, fell over and died. The paper noted that "Just what caused his death is hard to tell but it seems probably that it was acute indigestion which caused heart failure.  For some time, it is stated, his stomach had not been perfect and the previous night after eating two bananas, remarked to his wife that he guessed he shouldn’t have eaten them.  He, however, slept well and Sabbath morning ate a hearty breakfast and was apparently in his usual health." Gladstone was only 31 years old at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife of three and a half years, Elizabeth Armstrong, and his parents, George and Helen (Strangeway) Gladstone.

Eighty-two years ago today, the May 24, 1935 Delaware Express reported that "Dr. Whitcomb Dies in Egypt." The articled noted that "Dr. Norris B. Whitcomb, 47, a beloved physician who was formerly located in Bovina Center and for the past sixteen years a medical missionary at Assuit, Egypt, died last week, death, according to report being due to blood poisoning." He was survived by his mother, sister, wife and two children.

Seventy-eight years ago today, the May 25, 1939 issue of the Delaware Republican published this photograph by R.R. DeGelleke of Jack Hilson in his High School shop class. 


Fifty-two years ago today, on May 26, 1963, the family of Charlie LaFever paid a visit to his parents, Ben and Anna Bell LaFever near Massena, New York. This photo was taken of Charlie, Leona and their three kids with his mother Anna Bell. 


Seventy-nine years ago today, the Bovina column in the May 27, 1938 Andes Recorder reported that "A daily vacation school is being planned at Bovina Center during the summer."

102 years ago today, the May 28, 1915 Catskill Mountain News carried this item under the title "Bovina Center to Celebrate:" "There was a meeting of public spirited men in Bovina Center during the past week, in the interest of a ball team, a tennis club, and a Fourth of July celebration."

134 years ago today, the May 29, 1883 Stamford Mirror Bovina column reported that: "Miss McMurray has resigned her place as teacher in our village school, and Miss Mary Woodburn takes her place."

115 years ago today, on May 30, 1902, the Bovina column of the Andes Recorder reported that "Truant officer, B.S. Miller has been visiting the schools this week."

Eighty seven years ago today, the May 31, 1930 Delaware Express reported in its Bovina column that "Our teacher, Miss Gordon, is driving a new car."