Tonight is the organizational meeting of the Town of Bovina. All towns in New York are required to hold such a meeting at which certain appointments are made (including that of the town historian). The town board, made up of the supervisor and four town council persons, meets monthly.
Things were different in the 19th century. Towns usually held only one meeting a year and did not have a town board as we know it today. Bovina held annual town meetings for almost 80 years. They were held in March until 1840, when they changed to February. At the annual meetings, town officials were elected and resolutions passed. Resolutions covered a range of issues. At the annual meeting held Tuesday, March 6, 1827, for instance, it was voted that “John Johnston, a town pauper, be sold to the person that will keep him the cheapest.” He was sold was sold to John Bennet for one year at the rate of nine shillings and six pense per week. The following year, he was sold to Robert Johnston, who was “allowed one dollar per week" for his support. Whether or not Robert was a relative is not clear.
During Bovina’s early years, the town justices, supervisor and clerk would meet as a board when there were issues to be resolved between Annual Meetings. Occasionally, issues were deemed important enough to hold an extra meeting to get a public vote. At a special meeting on April 5, 1821, the following items were resolved:
• that hogs are not to run at large unless yoked according to law said yoke to be four inches above and below the neck;
• that rams shall not be permitted to run at large from the first day of September until the fifteenth day of November following under the penalty of twelve dollars and fifty cents per head;
• that the collector have ... three percent for collecting the Taxes of the town;
• that the town raise by tax Ten Dollars for Compensating the Clerk of said Town for his services in the years 1820 and 1821;
• the vote taken at the annual Town Meeting of paying John Seacord the Collector Thirty Seven Dollars and fifty cents be rescinded.
Bovina’s last annual meeting was held on February 8, 1898 at Strangeway’s Hall. On February 14, 1899, Bovina started holding Biennial meetings. These meetings were essentially held to vote for town officers. The town board was meeting regularly by then. In 1903, the time of the Biennial meeting was moved to November to coincide with Election Day. The Biennial meetings ended in 1921.