Friday, April 29, 2011

1945 Plane Crash in Bovina

Sixty-six years ago this evening, at 9:00 P.M on April 29, 1945, Robert B. Clark, a young West Point cadet from Holdrege, Nebraska**, took off in an AT-6 Texan trainer from Bolling Field, Washington, DC on a regular training trick to Stewart Field in Newburgh, NY.  The weather conditions were poor as he progressed closer to New York State, with showers and clouds at 3000 feet near Newburgh.  Though the pilot was instructed to report his progress near Allentown, Pennsylvania, no such contact was made.

A little before midnight, Clark apparently realized that he had overshot Newburgh and was trying to get his bearings.  He circled over the Bramley Mountain area of Bovina and flew under the cloud ceiling in order to get some visual sighting.  Shortly after the plane's left wing tip struck a tree and then crashed into the side of Moon Mountain, just east of Bramley Mountain.  Perry Craft and Stanley Crank from Bloomville heard the crash, as did Howard LaFever (my uncle) who was on Bramley Mountain.  Craft and LaFever both contacted the State Police.  Trooper J.F. Taylor from the New York State Police received the call and immediately went to Stanley Cronk's home.  Taylor and Cronk, along with Craft and LaFever, set out in the fog and drizzle to search for the plane.  At 1:50 am on April 30th, LaFever and Taylor, using strong police flashlights and following the odor of airplane fuel, found the first signs of the craft and a few minutes later found the fuselage and the body of the pilot in the cockpit.  Clark had been killed instantly.  LaFever was sent to a near-by phone to call the authorities.  Sargent W.M. Waldron from Troop "C" in Sidney arrived to guard the plane until the Army authorities arrived. 

The army did send soldiers to secure the site.  Nonetheless, a number of Bovina people got souvenirs of the plane, including Dick Davidson and my dad, Charlie LaFever.  Dad was 13 when the crash happened.  He got one of the cylinders from the plane's Pratt Whitney radial engine.  I still have the piece - it weights 43 pounds.  George LaFever recalled hearing that some of the wreck was removed using horses. 

The accident was investigated by the Army.  Investigators noted that the pilot had both radios on and that the throttle was full forward when he crashed.  The altimeter read 2460 feet - Moon Mountain is 2665 feet high. The crash site was heavily wooded, with a debris field about 300 feet long from point of first impact to the final resting place of the cockpit. The investigators determined that pilot error was the main cause of the crash, noting that the he flew closer than 2000 feet laterally and 500 feet vertically to a cloud formation. 

I remember my dad mentioning the crash - the piece he retrieved from the plane was in our back yard for years - but I started actively pursuing this after inquires from Steve Burnett and Chris Ingvordsen.  I checked with some folks who were in Bovina in the 40s, including Ed and Dick Davidson and my uncle, George LaFever.  One of my early challenges was pinpointing the date so I could find something in the newspapers.  I submitted an inquiry to the Delaware County Genealogy listserv and within a half hour, I had a response from Rhonda, who had located the news article on the Old Fulton Postcards website.  She found it in the Binghamton Press.  None of the newspapers available on-line included any mention of Bovina, though they did mention Bramley Mountain.  That may explain why I was not successful in locating the article. Once I had that article, I had the pilot name.  That led me to reports of the crash in the New York Times, Poughkeepsie Journal and Gloversville Morning Herald.  Locally, I found a short article in the Delaware Republican and a more detailed article in Oneonta Daily Star, which accurately included Bovina and Moon Mountain as the site of the crash. I still need to check the Walton Reporter, Stamford Mirror and Catskill Mountain News. I hope one of these may include a photograph of the pilot.  With the date of the crash and some details in hand, I was able to request a copy of the army's investigation of the crash from Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research, a California based organization studying and documenting airplane crash sites throughout the United States. 

Today, in conditions that may have resembled those 66 years ago, I attempted to more accurately locate the crash site.  I met up with my uncle, George LaFever, who pointed out about where he believed the site was.  George was 9 when the crash happened and in the 1960s recalls still being able to see some debris.  Chris Ingvordsen and I went to Don Farley's place off Reagan Road and the three of us set off with a metal detector, altimeter, and GPS to see if we could find any remnant of the crash.  We are pretty sure we were near or at the site, but had no success in finding any debris to confirm this.  But we will try again.  And I continue to seek more information - I'm hoping to do an exhibit at the Bovina Museum this summer that includes the cylinder that my dad recovered years ago, along with more information about the unfortunate victim, Cadet Clark.  So stay tuned for further developments.  And if you remember hearing about this crash and have some details to share, please let me know.

**The original entry said Norton, Kansas, but I have since learned this was not correct, so I updated this on the blog.  See the May 30 entry for further information about Cadet Clark.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Census Figures for Bovina

Recently released census numbers show that Bovina's population dropped slightly in the 2010 census to 633, down from 664 in 2000.  The fact that Bovina still is above 600 is noteworthy.  Bovina's population dropped below 600 in 1960 and stayed there until 2000. 

The year the town of Bovina was created in 1820 was also a census year.  Bovina's population was double (plus one) today's figure - 1267.  The town's population reached a peak of 1403 in 1840.  It started to drop in 1850 and dropped steadily through the 19th and into the 20th century.  The biggest single drop happened in 1870 when the town's population was down 17% from 1860.  That year, Bovina had just over 1000 people at 1022.  By 1890, the number had dropped below 1000 and never went above that figure again.  Bovina's population was at its lowest in 1970, when 506 people were counted.  In 2000, the number of people in Bovina went above 600, hitting 664.  This was a 20% increase over 1990.

Here's the census numbers for each federal census since 1820:

1820    1,267
1830    1,348
1840    1,403
1850    1,316
1860    1,242
1870    1,022
1880    1,020
1890    926
1900    932
1910    912
1920    858
1930    771
1940    806
1950    711
1960    594
1970    506
1980    562
1990    550
2000    664
2010    633

Thursday, April 21, 2011

56 Years Ago Today

The Delaware Republican Express in its April 28, 1955 issue reported that "The Bovina Community Hall was filled to capacity last Thursday evening, April 21, when friends and neighbors assembled with residents of the town itself to see 'Bovina Center, My Home Town,' portrayed by members of the Bovina Center Recreational Club.  Presented by pantomime, narrative and the projection of colored slides on a movie screen, the story was unfolded."

Vera Storie and her brother Fletcher Davidson were the promoters of this pageant and likely wrote the script. [NOTE added January 17, 2015: further research has disclosed that the script likely was written by Jane Hilson (1891-1967), not Vera or Fletcher, though they may have contributed.] Vera played the role of a grandmother, Rachel Scott, telling her granddaughter (played by Vera's real granddaughter, Judy Vandenbord) the story of Bovina while local residents donned costumes and acted out scenes from the story.  Music was provided by Mrs. Fletcher Davidson, Mrs. Marian Spear and Mrs. Richard Crosley.  Partway into the show, the Community Hall was plunged into darkness.  The audience did a group sing for a while, but when it was realized that the power was not coming back on any time soon, a fire department jeep was driven to the front of the community hall.  The headlights were focused onto the stage and the pageant resumed.

In my Bovina town files are the notes from the presentation, including the participants, so here's a rough list of the people who participated (in no particular order):

Bill Inman, Norton Forest, Margaret Hilson, Leonard Cairns, Dick Roberts, Emily Archibald, Christine Hilson, Ruth Anne McPherson, Janet Hoy, Marilyn Hall, Mary Vandenbord, Anne Cairns, Marianne Hilson, Jimmy Hilson, Jim Hilson, Barbara Boggs, Bobby Boggs, Gladys Lay, Richard Jardine, Beulah Decker, Mrs. Reinertsen (probably Sophie Reinertsen, but they also could mean Millie Reinertsen), Mrs. Oelsner, Marie Reinertsen, Ron Russell, Dave Russell, June Reinertsen, Ruth Monroe, Jane Hilson, Helena Hilson, Mary Jardine

And here's how the program broke down:

I - My Home Town - To My Children - Rachel Scott
II - The First Settlers
III - The First Settler of the Present Village
IV - Early Education
V - The Churches
VI - The Forming of the Town
VII - Industries
VIII - The Anti-Rent Trouble
IX - Teunis
X - Home Life
XI - Outstanding Citizens
XII - Some Accomplishments of Later Years
XIII - Dates Not Easily Forgotten
XIV - War

The program ended with a salute to soldiers of the Second World War and the audience singing "God Bless America."

Over the next year on the 21st of each month, I will post on this blog sections of the script that was used for the program.

A final note:  Unfortunately, my parents were among the absentees for this pageant.  They woke up early that morning and made a mad dash to the Delhi Hospital.  They got a flat tire just as they arrived and a few minutes later, while my dad was changing the tire,  my mom gave birth - to me, as it so happens.  Sort of explains my absence too.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Historian's Picnic at Indian Rocks

We've had some lovely days in April for a hike to Indian Rocks (such as when I took the picture to the left - April 9 to be exact).  Unfortunately, today wasn't one of those nice April days, BUT the rain and worst of the wind held off long enough for 22 hearty souls to make the trek.  Here's who joined the hike:

Lisa and Jason Stanton with Jack and Alex (aka Daniel Boone)
Amy Burns and Libby Lamport
Colleen Heavey with Allison and Carley
Monica Liddle with Sylvia and Andrew
Julie Hilson and Mark Schneider with Hans and Gretel
Peter and Rebecca Manning with Finnegan
Jillienne Craver
Heleena Hilson
and yours truly

Jason was noting that I appeared to be related to most of the hikers, including Lisa, Colleen and Amy, who are third cousins, and my first cousin once removed, Jillienne.  Through the Coulters, I'm related to Julie Hilson.  It's possible I'm related to Monica, though I need to sort that one out.  The Mannings appear, however, to be not related to me at all.

It was a cloudy and breezy day, but off we set and in about 40 minutes were were there.  There were a few people who had never been there.  Our youngest participant, was Finnegan Manning, while our oldest was yours truly.  We all clambered to the top to eat and enjoy the views.  On our trip back, we took a slight detour to see the other impressive rock formation that is to the left and above Indian Rocks.  We all got back before 1 and just as the first drops of rain began.

Yes, we will do this again when there is better weather.  But I was impressed with the number who did come.  Thanks all!  And thanks to Chuck McIntosh and Hope Schumejda for allowing us to hike on their land. 
Here's the intrepid group of hikers meeting at Russells' Store to head out to Indian Rocks.  The next shot is of the whole group (minus Allison and Heleena) at Indian Rocks and is courtesy of Lisa Stanton and a conveniently positioned tree stump.  And below are other pictures from today's hike.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - What Was Bovina Doing When the War Started

The American Civil War officially started 150 years ago today, April 12, 1861, when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.  Though there was telegraph, it probably was a day or so before people in Bovina heard that their country was at war (the Bloomville Mirror reported that war had started in its April 16 issue).  What was going on in Bovina in early April 1861? 

A number of families were mourning the death of young children.  Thomas and Ellen Forrest lost their two-year old son Walter on April 2.  That same day, the family of Walter and Mary Stott lost their 3 ½ year old son James George.  In the previous month, both the Forrests and Stotts had lost children, with the deaths of Elizabeth Forrest and Robert Alex Stott.  And on April 5, the Stotts lost their 13 month old son, Samuel. Walter and Mary Stott were not strangers to losing children.  Two sons died in the 1840s and in May 1864, they would lose another son when William Stott was killed in action in the war that had not yet started when his younger brothers died in 1861.  And in 1866, they lost yet another son when John died, aged 11.

The Forrests and the Stotts were not the only families in Bovina to suffer the loss of children in April 1861.  The minister for the Bovina United Presbyterian Church, Rev. J.B. Lee, lost his 13 month old son on April 17. That day, Lee attended the session meeting of the Bovina UP Church. No mention of the war (nor the loss of Reverend Lee's son)  is made in the minutes of this meeting, nor that of the meetings around this date.  Instead, they reflect a couple of cases concerning the use of intoxicating liquor - a practice forbidden in the church.

On April 15th, the Elders had planned to take up the case of Robert Archibald, who had been charged with the use of liquor, but Archibald did not appear so the case was put off.  The case was not presented and discussed until April 29 when, after much discussion, Archibald agreed to abstain from further use of liquor.  On April 17,William Bailey was admitted to membership with the proviso that he “refrain from the common use of intoxicating drinks.”  Then the session discussed the case of Mr. James Gray.  Gray had admitted to using liquor to treat a case of dysentery.  He used it “very reluctantly and only after repeated solicitations and advice.”   He claimed that this “revived an appetite [in] him so as to be unable to resist the temptation thrown in his path.”  He said he was sorry and “would hereafter be more firm in resisting any advice given to take as a medicine.”  In spite of the illness and death of his son, not only did Reverend Lee attend these meetings, but two days after the death of his son, he conducted two adult baptisms, that of Ellen Sophia Graham and Julia Ann Hoy.

While three families were in mourning for their lost children and the Bovina UP Church was tending to its usual business, the town’s fence viewers were witnessing an agreement between Henry Bramley and Ebenezer Hobbie concerning responsibility for a fence between their properties.  Hobbie agreed to build the fence and Bramley to supply the land upon which the fence would sit.  The agreement was signed April 22, 1861, ten days after the start of the war.

On the actual day the war started, James McFaddon was paid $43 as a teacher in the joint Bovina/Delhi School District number 6, located on Lee Hollow.  This is the receipt he signed acknowledging that he had been paid.  It is signed by two trustees of the district, James Oliver and John F. Graham, and by Mr. McFaddon, acknowledging receipt.

As with many other towns in the United States, the war that started the day James McFaddon was paid for teaching in a school on Lee Hollow would have its impact on Bovina.  Over 80 Bovina men would serve, with 11 dying in the conflict (among the dead would be the son of Bovina/Delhi District 6 trustee, James Oliver). Just as life was going on when the war started, it would continue to go on while the United States experienced the bloodiest conflict in its history.  But Bovina, and the nation, would never be the same. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

In the News: Eighty Five Years Ago This Week

The Bovina Correspondent for the Stamford Mirror was busy in early April 1926, reporting on events in the town from around April 8 and 9.  The April 14 issue had three front page items about Bovina:

Bovina Children in Fine Pageant - Large Audience Sees Lecture Course; Home Talent Number
     The home talent number of the Lecture Course given last Friday evening [April 9] at Hillis Hall was well received by a large audience. Part I consisted of a pageant entitled "Toyland." given by the children of the village. Some-fifteen songs were beautifully sung by the children and a number of pretty folk dances were given. The performance was greatly enhanced by the attractive costumes worn by the young performers. Part II was a one act play entitled "A Necktie Hero," which also called forth warm approval from those present.

Gale at Bovina Center
     It is reported that the recent wind storm reached the velocity of a gale in this vicinity and did some little damage. The stack at the creamery was partly demolished and the brick chimney on the Leon Van "Dusen home was blown down, crashing through the roof and breaking the rafters. There was some danger of fire from flying sparks, but Mr. Van Dusen was able to reach the roof with wet sacks by climbing to a porch roof from an upstairs window, a ladder being quite useless on account of the high wind.
     In spite of an all day rain on April 8th the farm sale of William Archibald was largely attended and good prices prevailed. Mr. Archibald expects to move into the village very soon. 

Queer Malady at Bovina Center
      A number of children in the community are suffering from a form of stomach and bowel disorder which seems to be an annual occurence. The origin of the malady is not clearly understood, though it is believed by some to be caused by the condition of the drinking water at this season. However, as it is quite severe in many cases and also very prevalent throughout the county. It would seem to be a problem for our county health organization to investigate.

And while all this was happening, the Methodist Church in Bovina, built in 1849, was being demolished.  The Catskill Mountain New reported this in its April 30 issue:

The Methodist Episcopal church at Bovina Center, which was torn down two weeks ago, was built in 1849 and cost only $1397.50. It was built of native pine and hemlock and would have stood another 77 years. D. C. Worden will reconstruct it for a barn on the Ormiston farm. Several years ago the Methodist denomination found no further use for a church in a field where there are two Presbyterian churches, and accordingly gave up the work.
The church was located on the lot now occupied by the house of Gertrude Hall.  The house was built by William Archibald - the same William Archibald who had the April 8 farm sale reported in the Stamford Mirror.  And the Ormiston farm was on Reinertsen Hill Road.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - Those Who Served - The Roster

I promised in a previous blog entry to list Bovina men who served in the Civil War.  The list of 81 names below includes soldiers who claimed Bovina as a residence during the war, as well as veterans who came to Bovina later.  It also includes all 29 Civil War soldiers and veterans buried in Bovina. I expect that as I continue my research on the Civil War that this list will change.  In 2012, I plan to start a regular series of small biographies of each of these soldiers.

The list below includes the name, regiment and birth and death dates, if known.  If the soldier was in more than one regiment, only the first one will show here.  For soldiers who died in the war, I have included the cause of death. 
  • James S. Adee - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1836-1899
  • John G. Aitkin - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1833-1913
  • Andrew Anderson - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1838- 1929
  • Adam C. Biggar - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1840- 1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • Samuel O. Blair - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1831-1890
  • Samuel Bouton - Pennsylvania Vol;  1830-1912
  • John Sinclair Burns - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1841-1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • Andrew G. Chisholm - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1840-1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • James Clark - 72nd NY Vol, Co G;  1830-1902
  • John A. Coulter - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1842-1919
  • Solomon G. Coulter - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1844-1864; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • Thomas H. Coulter - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1844-
  • Hiram Couse - 1st NH Calvary;  1837-
  • John P. Dennis - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1841-
  • William C. Dennis - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1837-
  • Walter Dickson - 144th NY Vol, Co G;  1834-
  • James R. Douglass - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1822-1873
  • Robert Dysart - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1837-1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • David S. Elliott - 3rd NY Cavalry, Co D;  1844- ; Missing in action/Andersonville Prison
  • James C. Elliott - 144th NY Vol, Co G;  1841-1864; Killed in action
  • John A. Elliott - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1842-
  • Thomas Elliott - 90 Reg NY Co B;  1840-1864; Died of wounds
  • John D. Ferguson - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1845- 1920
  • Robert P. Ferguson - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1842-1881
  • Alexander H. Gill - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1839-1899
  • William T. Gillie - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1844-1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • Thomas Gordon - 79th NY Vol, Co E;  1845-1921
  • Francis Gowanlock - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1843-1918
  • George W. Graham - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1845-
  • Darius Hadley - 8th Ind Battery;  1836- 1904
  • Robert Halsted - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1840-1874
  • Henry Hogaboom - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1836-1921
  • John R. Hoy - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1831-1901
  • Edward Kennedy - 4th NY Inf, Co G;  1838-
  • Louis Knapp - 144th NY Vol, Co D;  1830-
  • James Boswean Lee – Army Chaplin;  1833-1914
  • Thomas A. Lee - 3rd NY Cavalry, Co E;  1845-
  • Thomas H. Lee - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1843-1891
  • Thomas J. Liddle - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1841-
  • Andrew B. Lull - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1843-1895
  • John McArthur - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1824-
  • James McClure - 157th NY Vol, Co K;  1814-1888
  • James McNair - 8th Ind Battery;  1835-
  • Albert McPherson - 144th NY Vol, Co C;  1840-1917
  • Ezekiel W. McPherson - 144th NY Vol, Co H;  1835-1906
  • Berry S. Miller - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1837-1906
  • Francis W. Miller - 1st NY Calvary;  1847-1864; Died of disease
  • Gilbert D. Miller - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1843-1931
  • James K. Mills - 8th Ind Battery;  1843-1903
  • James Murphy - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1844-1929
  • Patrick G. Murphy - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1841-
  • Adolphus E. Murray - 143rd NY Vol, Co H;  1841-
  • Henry S. Murray - 8th Ind Battery;  1836-1905
  • John Jr. Murray - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1839-1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • David Nicholl - Battery E Light Artillery Reg, Penn;  1841-1929
  • James S. Oliver - 8th Ind Battery;  1842-1864; Died in war
  • Roman Palmer - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1840-1864; Killed in action
  • Charles W. Redding - 144th NY Vol, Co G;  1839-
  • John W. Reynolds - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1842-1863; Died of Typhoid Fever
  • Martin Reynolds - 185th NY Vol, Co D;  1822- 1892
  • William Richardson - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1835- 1917
  • John Schenk - 46th NY Vol, Co D;  1809/05/15- 1892/09/12
  • John B. Scott - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1843-
  • Thomas M. Scott - 144th NY Vol, Co C;  1842-
  • Edgar D. Seacord - 8th Ind Battery;  1836- 1876
  • William R. Seacord - 144 NY Vol, Co E;  1836- 1916
  • William Storie - 16th NY Heavy Artillery;  1844-1864; Died of disease
  • Samuel A. Stott - 3rd NY Cavalry, Co D;  1845-1870
  • William H. Stott - 3rd NY Cavalry, Co F;  1842-1864; Killed in action
  • William G. Thomson - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1842-1906
  • Daniel D. Tompkins - 3rd NY Cavalry, Co E;  1840-
  • John B. Tompkins – regiment unknown;  1846-
  • Robert P. Tompkins - 3rd NY Cavalry, Co E;  1842-
  • Robert P. Tuttle - Navy;  1833-1910
  • Charles A. Warren - 144th NY Vol;  1835-
  • James D. Warren - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1841-
  • Alexander White - 144th NY Vol, Co E;  1836-
  • Johanathen White - 144th NY Vol, Co D;  1836- 1915
  • Robert White - 8th Ind Battery;  1837-
  • James Wright - 1st NY Engineers, Co I;  1842-
  • Charles Wycof - 144th NY Vol;  1846-