Friday, December 31, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - Snickerdoodles

My latest attempt using a recipe from the 1911 UP Church Cookbook had a very familiar name to me - Snickerdoodles. Snickerdoodles were one of the first cookies I tried when I got into baking and became a staple in my recipe repertoire. So I was intrigued to find this almost 100 year old version. It's not the Snickerdoodles I remember, though it's close. One puzzling aspect of the recipe was that it is in the Bread and Rolls section of the book, not the Cookies section. Here's the recipe:

Cream together 2 cups sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 eggs, add 1 cup raisins, cut small; 1 cup milk, salt, 2/3 teaspoon soda, 1 1/3 teaspoon cream tartar, 1 qt flour. Drop small spoonfuls on buttered tins, sprinkle thick with mixed sugar and cinnamon; bake. -L.E. Dennis.

The recipe I used over the years did not include the milk or raisins and the cookies could be rolled into balls and put on the baking sheet. These were too sticky to be rolled. And they don't look like the ones I was used to either.

I baked them at 350 for about 8-9 minutes. They turned out ok, though I prefer my regular recipe. I shared them with a group at the church that went Christmas Caroling.

The recipe submitter was Miss Louisa E. Dennis. She was born in 1845 and was baptized into the UP Church as an adult in 1864. In the 1910 census, she was living with her sister Hellen and working as a milliner. By the 1920 census, she was living on her own, her sister having died in 1913. And she was not listed as having any occupation. What happened to her after that I do not know. Nor do I know much more about her background, such as who her parents were. But we have her recipe....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ghosts of Christmases Past

I thought it would be fun to look at my diary from past Christmases but decided I should also look at a few diaries in my possession from the Cecil Russell family to see what they had to say about the holidays.

Cecil's wife, Isabel Irvine Russell, sporadically kept a five year diary for 1941-45 (with no entries at all for 1944 or 45). For Christmas Day 1941, Isabel reported a little snow, but not a lot. In 1942, she reported that Cecil picked up their Christmas tree on the 23rd and that the store was 'real busy' on Christmas Eve. The family finished decorating their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. For Christmas Day, Isabel wrote "A perfect day for Xmas about 1 ]inch] of snow and not cold."

Isabel and Cecil's daughter Marjorie kept a diary in 1946 and 1947 though, like her mother, she did it sporadically. She did report on Christmas Eve in 1946 that she was "busy getting ready for Xmas dinner..." She noted on Christmas Day that she had a "grand time." Her uncle Charles Russell and his wife Hildreth Tuttle Russell came, as did their son Allyn. They feasted on a "good turkey from Millard Russell." In 1947, she noted that her mother had a cold, which, by the day after Christmas, she had passed on to Marjorie.

Isabel kept a series of five-year diaries starting in 1954 and was much more faithful in recording an entry each day. In her attempt to record as much as she could in a small space, she wrote small, making these diaries a real challenge to read (or to distinguish one year's entry from another). Each Christmas Eve she mainly noted that the store was terribly busy with last minute shoppers and that they often didn't sit down to supper until 8 pm or later. She reported for Christmas Day in 1955 and 57 that it was nice and clear and that in 1957 the ground was bare. In contrast, there was record breaking cold in 1958, with the temperature still at 0 at 11 am. The weather was fairly stable in subsequent years until 1963, when Isabel recorded a lot of snow on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day: "Couldn't see any distance at all roads slippery had to drive slow." The next year in contrast saw weather 'just like spring 50 degrees this AM." Christmas 1966 saw "The worst storm for a long time. Wind blew hard all night have 15 to 17 [inches]." Christmas Eve and Day 1968 saw Isabel nursing a cold. She did her stint in the store in spite of her cold and noted that she "stood it ok."

Here's an undated picture of Russell's Store in the snow. Probably from the 40s or 50s. Whether it was during the holidays cannot be determined.

The first time I recorded my holiday activities in a diary was in 1970. By then, I was working for Russell's after school. I noted on Christmas Eve that there was 3 inches of wet snow, which I assume I had to shovel at the store, though I don't specifically say so. I also noted that Russell's "gave me a box of candy and a pair of soxs (sic) for Christmas." Cecil, Isabel and Marjorie were always very good to me. That evening, my sister Diane and I participated in the Christmas Eve service at the UP Church. My family had a tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve, so that same night I reported getting "a very nice telescope, a Bill Cosby record and a shirt." Though the telescope was used primarily to gaze at the moon and stars, that first night we did look at the windows in the house across the way!

And I close with my entire diary entry for Christmas day 40 years ago: "I looked through my telescope quite a lot today. I could see things quite clear. Our dinner was very good but it filled me up quick. It snowed a little but not much. At 7:15 we went up to Howard's and Laura's [my Uncle and Aunt, Howard and Laura LaFever] and saw Grandma and Grandpa [Anna Bell and Ben LaFever]. I played ping-pong and played the piano [I can barely play ping-pong and have no idea how to play a piano beyond 'Chopsticks'!] . Watch[ed] on TV the movie Life with Father. Now bedtime. Goodnite."

And a very Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Prosperous Bovina Farmers

Just over 100 years ago, the Catskill Mountain News of February 25, 1910 reported on a speech by Dr. Powell of Columbia County at a dinner in New York. The paper noted that Dr. Powell "has long been prominently connected with the agricultural interests of the State." Powell had been Director of the Farmer's Institute in the 1890s and served as Treasurer of the New York State Dairymen's Association. His speech included remarks about Bovina and his experience there in the early 1890s while conducting a farm census of the town.

"It has been said that you never know the best qualities of a man until you have put your feet under his table, and in making a dairy census of the town of Bovina several years ago, I met the farmers and their families in their homes and had the most favorable opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with their character, and found in them most excellent qualities.... "

Dr. Powell recalled arriving at the farm of William Black, who also happened to be Bovina's town supervisor. William Thompson Black was born in Beetown, Grant County, Wisconsin in 1861 but grew up in Bovina. He took over the family farm on Coulter Brook Road on the early death of his father, making it one of the leading farms in Bovina. In 1885, Black married Bell J. Irvine, a daughter of Henry and Jeanette (Ainslie) Irvine, of Delhi.

Powell arrived at the Black's around 5 pm on a hot July day. He was invited to stay over and provide Mr. Black with a little instruction on how to use a new milk tester. After about an hour learning about the tester, Black realized that he still needed to milk his herd of 33 cows. Because his hired men were away for the day, he asked his wife Bell to help. Powell felt guilty sitting in the Black's sitting room while Mrs. Black, who he noted did not weigh more than 100 pounds, was milking over a dozen cows. Powell asked her if she was going to milk half of the cows. She replied, 'Oh, yes, I have done that before.' Powell responded 'If you will give me an apron I will help you." He was somewhat surprised when the offer was immediately accepted. He ended up milking a third of the herd - 11 cows.

Powell noted that "After milking was over cake and milk and fruit were served after which Mr. and Mrs. Black provided some good music for nearly an hour, and I shall never forget the excellent type of life which those young people represents in their home and the very delightful evening I spent with them."

The story went out that the man who was taking the census actually knew how to milk a cow, and that he had milked 11 at Supervisor Black's. It likely worked in his favor as he continued his census work.

Powell left Bovina at the end of the census with a very favorable impression of the town and its farmers. He stated in his final report on the census that "I believed that the town of Bovina was the richest town in the United States." He said that he had never seen "so large a number of high producing herds of cows" as he found in Bovina. He noted that Bovina farmers had introduced well bred Jersey bulls and had built up an exceedingly good class of diary cows. He also noted very nutritious pastures and a productive soil.

Powell speculated as to why "this one small isolated town differ[ed] from many sections of the State where the land was more level, more easily worked and with more convenient transportation facilities." He felt it was in the better system of farming. In much of the state, the fertility of the soil has been depleted, "while in Bovina it has been such as has conserved and improved the soil." He noted that the main produce of Bovina farms, namely butter, removed the smallest portion of the elements of soil fertility while the by products, such as skim milk and butter milk, were fed to chickens and pigs.

In a future blog entry, I'll report on the results of the Bovina Cow Census that Dr. Powell was speaking about.

Note: William Black became Delaware County Clerk and moved to Delhi in the late 19th or early 20th century. He also ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate in 1912. He and his wife both died in 1938 and are buried in Delhi.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Road Rage 150 Years Ago

On November 4, 1860, James Briden (also spelled Bryden) and David Hoy got into an altercation when Mr. Hoy passed Mr. Briden without his permission. This could have been as they were riding horses or horse-drawn wagons or horse-drawn sleighs. Regardless of the mode of transportation, it led to an exchange of words that escalated into a lawsuit. This incident reached the ears of the elders of the Bovina United Presbyterian Church - a church of which both Mr. Briden and Mr. Hoy were members - on November 27. At their December 17 meeting, the elders took both men to task for the exchange of words and for going outside of the church session to resolve the issue. Briden was admonished for using "improper language and language which is censurable by Session." Hoy was criticized for going to court and for giving "great publicity to the matters between [Mr. Hoy] and Mr. Briden, in violation of the law of God which required that the matter should have been told first to the Church." Hoy admitted that he shouldn't have taken the issue to court and agreed not to pass Mr. Briden in the future without his permission and to allow Mr. Briden to pass when he asked. Briden agreed to do the same. Because both men apologized for their conduct, the session declared their satisfaction and made a public announcement that the case had been settled.

James Briden likely is that James born in 1802 in Scotland. Married to Mary Burnet, he died in 1870. The David Hoy involved appears to be the one born in 1826. He died in 1913. If there was any future altercation between these two gentlemen, it does not show up in the church session minutes. They either behaved - or kept any disagreements out of the earshot of the elders of the UP Church!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Schoolhouse Fire

In my blog entry for October 30, I reported on a 1923 fire that destroyed the Yankeetown Schoolhouse on Cape Horn Road. This isn't the only time that Bovina lost a school to fire. In fact, over 100 years earlier, a schoolhouse on what is now Pink Street burned.

This school district was established before 1814 and started out life as Stamford District Number 8. The taxable inhabitants for district 8 in 1815 were Samuel Adee, Joshua Carmon, Alexander Dean, John Dean, Robert Dean, George Foster, George Hume, Robert Hume, William Kedzie, David McCune, John McCune, William McCune, Gilbert McNaught, James Seacord, James Storie, Widow Mary Storie, and Zephaniah Wardon.

In 1816 the district resolved that "any damage happening to the School House by Means of any individual ... or those accountable for them shall forthwith make it good." In 1819, the district attempted to make someone "make it good" when the school burned, but it was several months after the fire before they identified a culprit. In fact, when the school burned, probably in January 1819, it first was seen as an accident. This certainly made sense, given that all the heating was done with wood fire.

At a special meeting on February 5, 1819, held at the home of William Seacord, the district decided that there would be no school kept for the remainder of the school quarter. They also decided to build a new school house, to be a frame building 18 by 22. In order to pay for the new building, a tax of $120 was to be levied on district inhabitants. The district held another special meeting less than two weeks later, after some complaints were received that the minutes did not appear to match with what was agreed. Each resolution was reviewed and approved. They also resolved to form a committee to work with John McCune on the site of the new school and the purchase of that site.

The district's regular annual meeting on October 5, 1819 included a resolution to have the trustees call on William Jones to answer to the charge that his son was responsible for burning down the school. Ultimately, there must not have been enough evidence to hold the Jones family accountable for the fire, for when the structure was finally built, the taxpayers paid for it. Did the son of William Jones burn down the school? The answer has been lost to history.

The building of the structure took some time. In late 1819 or sometime in 1820, the district held a special meeting to request an itemized list of every expense for the construction of the new school house. They also requested itemization of the remaining expenses, including $2 for the laying of the hearth and completion of the chimney, 50 cents for a lock for the door and 75 cents for a chair. At the annual meeting in October 1820 (the year the district became Bovina District Number 2), it was noted that work still needed to be done to complete the house. Apparently, this or other issues at this meeting got rather contentious, for it was "Resolved that if any person shall at any future meeting held in this house behave Disorderly he shall at the order of the Chairman Leave the house."

The building that replaced the burnt down school was not the last one built for the district. There appear to have been at least two if not three subsequent structures. The last probably built in the late 1850s, only about 10 years after its predecessor was built.

Here's a picture of the last District 2 school house, dating probably from the 1920s.

Information for this entry came from the minute book for Bovina Common School District Number 2, 1815-1867, courtesy of the Bovina Historical Society. The book had come down through the Storie family and was given by the family of Vera Storie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Pink Street?

Why did the road from Bovina Center that takes you over to South Kortright and beyond become Pink Street? I've recently had two different inquiries concerning how Delaware County Route 5 got this colorful name. Unfortunately, I don't have a definitive answer to this yet.

The story I've heard most concerns the color of the laundry being hung out on the line. Apparently enough of it was pink to lead to that name. Another version a recent correspondent noted was that someone had inadvertently mixed something red in with their whites, turning them all pink. Since the name appears to have existed at least since 1910 and that most wash likely was still done in some manual form, this seems like an unlikely accident. The true answer to this question probably isn't going to be so colorful (pun intended).

I'm starting a research project to find out when the name first came into common usage. Know that may help us determine how the name came into usage. It does not show up on the Gould map from 1856 or the Beers Atlas from 1869 (though neither map labels roads). A review through the town tax rolls might give some clue, but I need to review other sources too. I'm finding that Pink Street is not unique to Bovina, even in Delaware County. There is a Pink Street in the town of Middletown above Kelly Corners. There was a schoolhouse there and at one time it was known as the Pink Street school. Rather confusing, given that there was a Pink Street school in Bovina too.

So stay tuned to find out if I find out how Pink Street got its name.

This postcard of Pink Street dates from the 1920s or 30s. The road was paved in the late 1930s. [Image scanned by the late Alan Davidson and submitted to the Delaware County Genealogy Website at]