Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Searching for Erastus

I'm starting on a project that could take years, namely researching a gentleman named Erastus Root. Root was not a Bovina resident but is inextricably linked to its history as the person who named the town (see my blog post of November 22, 2009). This interest in Root was piqued after I finished reading Harvest of Dissent: Agrarianism in Nineteenth-Century New York by Thomas Summerhill (I highly recommend this - the focus is on Otsego, Schoharie and Delaware Counties). Root is mentioned a few times in this book in discussions on the politics related to farming. These references to Root and his political activities got me to wondering if maybe he had more to do with the creation of Bovina than just its name. Did he spur the various citizens in Stamford, Middletown and Delhi to break away to create the town? And if he did, why? What was in it for him? Maybe he was looking for another seat on the Delaware County Board of Supervisors. Root may have wanted that seat as part of his effort to ensure that rural areas did not suffer politically from the construction of the Erie Canal. As Summerhill noted in his book, "For Root, universal suffrage and the expansion of the number of elective offices would encourage voters in townships and counties to band together to promote their interests. Only then could rural districts battle canal towns for political power."

My thoughts about Root's involvement with the creation of Bovina are just speculation right now, but it has driven me to start some research. I went to Root's entry in The Encyclopedia of New York State, which gave me some basic information about Root. He was born in Hebron, Connecticut in 1773. He became a lawyer and started his practice in Delhi in the late 18th century. Over the years, he held a number of elected offices, including State Assemblyman, State Senator, and a term as Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1823-24. He served four non-consecutive terms as a Congressman, with his first term in 1803-05 and his last term in 1831-33. Root was Speaker of the Assembly in 1827, 28 and 1830. His last elected office was as State Senator from 1840 to 1844. Root's party affiliation changed, sometimes as the parties evolved, but at least once because he had changed. He was a Democratic-Republican when he first went to Congress and was a Jacksonian Democrat when he served his last term there. When he unsuccessfully ran again in 1838 for another term in the House, he ran as a Whig. Root had broken with the Jacksonian Democrats over concerns about President Jackson's dictatorial tendencies. Late in life, Root supported the anti-renters during the Anti-Rent War of the 1840s.

Root died somewhat unexpectedly in December of 1846. His funeral was a large event in Delhi, though inclement weather kept some people away. The Delaware Gazette in its January 6, 1847 issue reported extensively on Root's death and funeral, though politically the paper had been opposed to Root for several years, probably when he became a Whig. The paper itself noted that "although for some years past we have been politically opposed to him, we have always entertained a kind and grateful remembrance and feeling towards him..."

I'll provide periodic updates as I progress on my research about General Root. We'll see if ultimately I'll have a grateful remembrance and feeling towards him.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm In Bovina

This evening I have officially moved to Bovina (meaning that I and both cats are happily ensconced in my Bovina house). I do have one more day of work in Albany on Monday - I will be officially retired on Tuesday the 28th. My plans for the month of October are to commit to as little as possible! I want a bit of time to get settled down, ride my bike and just enjoy the fall. I do expect to be resuming the blog at a more frequent pace sometime in October. And don't be shy if you need to contact me with questions.

Watch this space for further developments.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Surfing in Bovina

No, there are likely no waves to catch in Bovina, except maybe virtual ones on the Internet. In a posting on April 16, I suggested visiting the Delaware County Genealogy and History web site as a great source for information about Bovina's history. There are some other places to go to for further information about Bovina, past and present:

Power of History - Exploring the Agricultural and Industrial History of Delaware County ( The site is a collection of writings, photos and videos around the history of Delaware County and surrounding towns in the Western Catskills.

Russell's Store - There has been a store operating in this spot in Bovina since probably the 1830s. Owned by Hastings, then Doig, it became Russell's in 1919. The store is now owned by the Bovina Historical Society. Go to for more information.

Town of Bovina - The town's official website is at Contact information for town officials and other information, including town board minutes, are located here.

Bovina Public Library - Visit the library's website at for information on hours and pictures from the past. The Bovina Library is where I set up displays on Bovina history. Pay the library a visit - virtually and when you come to Bovina.

If you know of other appropriate web sites concerning Bovina and the area, pass them along to me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2nd Annual Bovina Farm Day is Sunday

Yep, come to Crescent Valley in Bovina to enjoy the second annual Bovina Farm Day on Sunday, September 5. It's a great chance to see what local farmers are producing. And I'll be there with a display or two and a scanner for anyone who has pictures of Bovina people or places that they would like to share.

For more information on the various activities taking place and for directions, go to

Don't rely on this map for directions - it's a tad old. It dates from 1793 and shows lot 108 in Great Lot 41 of the Hardenburgh Patent. Most of the Bovina Farm Day activities essentially will take place within this lot (and lot 110). This map is from the Cockburn Family Papers at the New York State Library's Manuscripts and Special Collections (my thanks to the library staff for allowing me to take digital photographs of these and the other Great Lot 41 maps that related to Bovina). William Cockburn was a surveyor who did numerous surveys in the Hardenburgh Patent. He surveyed all of the lots in Great Lot 41, which belonged to James DeBrosses. Lot 108 was surveyed for Aaron Buckley. A few months later, 100 acres of the 316 and a half acre lot was split off for Joel Beach. These surveys were done for the first settlers on this land. Today, the Lester and Junior Stewart Farms as well as the old Trimbell Farm are in Lot 108.

So come to Bovina Farm Day on September 5 and you'll be in lot 108 too. Hope to see you there.