Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bovina Town Picnics - Past & Present, Part I

On Saturday, July 18, Bovina will have a Town Picnic ... and more. Activities will include a town wide lawn sale, a breakfast to benefit the Bovina Fire Department, a lunch to benefit the Bovina Historical Society, a book sale to benefit the Bovina Public Library, a parade with floats and a baseball game featuring the Bovina Dairymen. The evening before, there will be two presentations of "The Brushland Melodrama" at the community hall. A number of Bovina organizations are involved, including the historical society, the library and the fire department, as well as the Bovina UP Church. Lots of stuff happening!

So I saw this as an opportunity to not only promote the picnic but to provide some information about past events. For this entry, I’ll focus on the picnics that took place in the late teens and for most of the 1920s. In a future entry, I will pick up with the events that took place starting in 1956.

The first Bovina town picnic (at least for which I can find any records) was 91 years ago on August 30, 1918, timed to take place after the farmers were done with their haying. Activities included a basket dinner, races for children, and a tug of war between the single and married men. The single and married men also were scheduled for a baseball game, with Lester Hoy serving as captain of the single men and Harry Robinson for the married men. The result of the tug of war was disputed and never resolved, but the married men showed their supremacy on the ball field, beating the single men 16 to 10. The town continued these picnics, often referred to as "Old Home Day," for just over a decade.

The 1919 event included in the parade veterans of the recently ended World War and Camp Fire Girls. The parade formed at the Scott arch bridge (down by the McPherson residence) and marched to the Miller orchard near the U.P.Church. That year, the single men beat the married men in baseball. The 1920 event featured a number of speakers. Assemblyman R. Long made a few remarks on true patriotism and the threat of Bolshevism, while Ernest Bergeman a New York lawyer who spent his summers in Bovina, spoke about the 19th amendment – the woman suffrage amendment – which was about to be ratified. He noted that many women in New York were able to vote in the last elections but failed to do so. He said that it was up to every woman, as well as every man, to vote. The baseball game was between the Delhi-Bloomville team and the Andes team, with Andes coming out on top.

Bovina Old Home Day continued in a similar vein for several years, with parades, picnics, bands, games and speeches. The Delhi Band came to some of these and provided music during the day. Several of the picnics were held on Hoy's flat at the end of Maple Avenue. The 1926 Old Home Day parade was led by Jack Hilson on his flower decked Shetland pony (picture at left, courtesy of his daughter, Christine Hilson Batey), while his brother Alex and sister Louise followed in a flowered decked pony cart. The 1926 event also featured a ladies baseball game between the Bovina Center and Upper Bovina ladies, with having the upper hand (no pun intended).

The tradition of Old Home Day ended after 1928. In a script developed for a program on Bovina History held in 1955, it was noted that "war, automobiles, movies and the radio finally crowded out Old Home Day, much to the sorrow of many." But about a year later, attempts were made to revive it. More on that in a future installment on this blog.

Note: The main source for the above came from the Delaware Express (Delhi) newspaper.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bovina UP Church

The oldest institution in Bovina, the United Presbyterian Church, celebrates its Bicentennial this year. The church was officially founded as the Associate Presbyterian Church of Delhi in October 1809. Its name was changed in 1815 to the Associate Presbyterian Church of the Little Delaware and, when the Town of Bovina was created in 1820, the name changed yet again to the Associate Presbyterian Church of Bovina.

The congregation met in houses, school houses, barns and even taverns until 1815, when its first church building was built at where Reinertsen Hill Road and County Highway 6 meet. There is a cemetery there still - the open space in the lower left corner is where the church building stood. In 1849, the congregation moved into its current building in the hamlet. The building was expanded in 1859 to its current size. That same year, the congregation's name was changed once more to what it is today, the United Presbyterian Church of Bovina. The church was renovated in the late 1880s. This is when the current pews were installed.

The congregation has established a Bicentennial Committee, on which I am serving. On October 10 and 11, the church will be holding its official 200th Birthday celebrations. There will be a program Saturday evening, at which I have been asked to give a talk. The current pastor would like to do some kind of service at the site of the first church building during that weekend. On Sunday, there will be a special service at the current church at which former pastors are specifically being invited to participate. And current and past members of the congregation will be most welcome to attend any and all events.

As part of the Bicentennial observance, I will periodically provide further small articles about the origins and history of this church on this blog. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Railroad into Bovina

I met with Mike Kudish on Sunday to discuss the effort in the late 1890s to bring the railroad into Bovina Center. Mike is an author, railroad historian, forester and retired professor from Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks, now living in the Catskills. He has been exploring the railroads in the Catskills and the Adirondacks for years. We met to discuss one Catskill railroad of particular interest to me -- the Delaware Railroad, which was to have run from Andes to Delhi, with a branch off to Bovina.

The Delaware Railroad Company was established in 1898. Two of its directors were from Bovina - T.E. Hastings and Alexander Hilson. David Murray, in arguing the case for the railroad to the New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners, noted that while Bovina's human population was smaller than earlier in the century, "there are more cows. The object of the [rail]road is to let New York get plenty of good pure milk." The railroad company did not last long, and construction only got as far as constructing some of the railbeds.

Dr. Kudish has explored a number of areas along the planned route and has found evidence of some of these beds. In March, he explored some of the Bovina section along with Bovina residents Steve Roberts and Paul and Becky Manning. The route essentially came down from present day Route 28 and mostly on the right side of County Route 6 (as you head into Bovina). If the purpose of the railroad was to help bring milk to New York City, it would seem that it would have ended up in the vicinity of the Bovina Center Co-op Creamery. The route explored by Dr. Kudish shows it to have fallen somewhat short of this - and maybe a bit too high up in the hills. Any evidence of a railroad bed ends barely into the hamlet. Since the Bovina Center Creamery was not established until 1902, and it appears that no railroad work happened after the turn of the century, it is possible that a different placement was planned for the creamery. But this is just speculation at the moment.

My hats off to Mike for his work in tracking down the existing railroad bed. We hope to do some further hiking in the late summer or early fall to see where the Bovina Branch connected to the main Andes/Delhi line.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heaven on Main Street

I'm sitting at Bovina's popular weekend cafe, Heaven on Main Street, located right about in the center of the Bovina Center Hamlet. I am waiting to meet with Mike Kudish, who has been researching the attempt to bring a railroad into Bovina in 1898. I'll report more on that after we meet.

Heaven on Main Street, owned and operated by Josh Allen and Taylor Foster, is in an old storefront that over the years has seen a store, post office and pharmacy, though during my childhood, it was closed. The building was rehabbed and open as a cafe in the mid 1990s.

Josh and Taylor were the underwriters of the Bovina History calendar I helped produce for 2008. We're working toward another one in 2010, so stay tuned.

Well, Mike had arrived and has been tempted by the goodies here. So we'll have a treat while discussing railroads. That's all for now.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

At the Bovina Library

A brief post written on the computer at the Bovina Public Library, where librarian Marjorie Miller and I have been discussing the topic for my next historian's talk at the library. Crimes/law and order and 19th Century medicine are two possibilities, but I have to do some homework first.

Bovina's library is located in what was the last schoolhouse built and to close in Bovina. The district 4 schoolhouse, located on Maple Avenue in the hamlet of Bovina Center, was built around 1893 because the building currently in use was too small. Technically, it's a two room schoolhouse. It included grades 1-8 but as the size of Bovina's population fell, they started sending children to the larger schools in Andes, Delhi or South Kortright at a younger age. When the school closed in June 1961, there were 4 grades - 1-4 (and only one of the two rooms was in use by then). My sisters both got to go, but I just missed out, since I didn't start school until the fall of 1961. The building sat vacant for a few years until around 1971 the Bovina Library was moved into the building. Bovina has a great library, especially for a town of its size. The librarian just noted as I was writing this blog that they get almost 300 unique visitors a month. So if you live in Bovina, use it. If not, at least drop in and say hello to Marjorie.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Anna Boggs Hobbie Lounsbury (1922-2009)

I just heard this evening that my dad's first cousin (thus my first cousin once removed) Anna Lounsbury passed away today. She was 87. Anna spent pretty much her whole life in Bovina, much of it as a farmer's wife (my mom used to always buy her eggs from Anna). Though Anna's eyes and ears were failing in later life, her memory kept on ticking - she was a great source of information about Bovina. Just this past Monday, the new pastor in Bovina visited her and Anna gave her an album of pictures from the church's 175 birthday celebrations (the church's bi-centennial is this year).

Anna was the daughter of Jim Boggs and Edith Barnhart (my great-aunt). Anna was only 8 when her mother died in childbirth. She and her two younger sisters were raised in part by their aunt (and my grandmother), Anna Bell LaFever. Anna married Glenn Hobbie and, after his death in 1970, she married Harold Lounsbury, who died in 1982.

I'm grateful for the time Anna gave in telling me about some of the Bovina schools. She worked hard to preserve the Bovina District #1 School (known as the Maynard School). And she wasn't shy about letting me know when I had made a mistake. One awful one was when I mislabeled her father on the 2008 calendar. She wasn't upset or angry about it, but did want me to know that I had switched two names. I appreciated having the correct information.

Anna also was instrumental in launching the Barnhart Family Reunions, held every July in Bovina. I'm hoping we can keep the tradition going. It seems it's what she would have wanted.

Getting Pictures Up on Flickr

I'm starting work this weekend in preparation for putting some of the Bovina history images I've collected over the past few years up on Flickr. I attended an archives conference last month in Charleston, WV and went to a presentation on how archival institutions are using Flickr. There are a number of institutions utilizing this as a way to get images out to the public. Flickr has the advantage of allowing people to comment on the image. The Library of Congress is doing this and what they are finding is that people often can provide more information about an image or point out that an image is mislabeled. I thought this would be a great way to be able to share with a lot more people all the images I've collected in my five years as town historian while getting some useful feedback, particularly for those mystery images I have.

As an archivist, I've known for some time that the actual scanning of the photos is the easy part. It's getting down all the information about the image (known as meta data) that takes time - who provided it, what the picture is about, when it was taken, size, etc. I'm in pretty good shape in that regard, but also needed when you put an image on Flickr are keywords or tags so that people can find an image on a particular topic. I'm starting by creating a thesaurus or keyword index so that the terms I use are consistent. I'll need to sort out some issues, though. Do I use the term "Bovina United Presbyterian Church" or can I say "Bovina U.P. Church?" I'll likely use the full name, but there will be other quandaries that I'll have to get sorted out. It's easier to do it before you put the images on the web.

When I actually have some images on-line, I'll let everyone know. I hope it will be sometime this month.