This is the second of a series of entries from the script used on April 21, 1955, when citizens of Bovina presented a pageant of the town's history - "Bovina Center, My Home Town." Though I'm not 100% sure, it appears the script was written by Vera Storie and her brother Fletcher Davidson. The items in brackets refer to the tableau of local citizens acting out parts of the story. [The first two sections are in the May 21 blog entry.]
III. The First Settler of the Present Village
In 1794, just four years after Elisha Maynard had chosen for his homeland in what is today the town of Bovina, a second energetic and progressive young man, Alexander Brush, came from Long Island and settled in that part of the same town, which is today known as the village. He built himself the home which is at present owned and occupied by Lester Hoy [now Tim McIntosh] and purchased himself about 400 acres of land which included the present site of the village, parts of which he later sold to new settlers Alexander Brush, like Elisha Maynard, had a large family of nine children, all of whom were also given Bible names. In 1796 he erected the first large grist mill in town on the site of the Dennis Grist Mill, more lately known as the site of the Walter Coulter Saw Mill. His son-in-law is said to have constructed the first distillery in town, where Parmenter’s house now stands.
In the early years when Methodism was in its infancy, Alexander Brush was the mainstay of the Methodist Society in Bovina and preached for the Methodists, either in his own home or in that of a neighbor. When he later became blind, his wife would read to him from the Bible, and he would then preach from the text to the people. When he became old and too feeble to stand, he sat in an easy rocking chair as he preached. [*5-Brush and wife] A year or two before his death he partially recovered his sight and declared that if he could but live a couple of years longer, he would see a Methodist church erected in town; but he did not live to see one of his greatest desires gratified. He died in 1840 and was buried in the cemetery located in the central part of the village of Bovina Center. The next year in 1841 the name of the village was changed from Bovina Center to Brushland in honor of Alexander Brush and was so called until the year 1889.
IV. Early Education
In importance to these Scotch settlers, learning walked hand in hand with religion. Therefore, one of their first accomplishments was the making possible of an education for their children. The first school was established in 1808, and all the children from five to fifteen were legally compelled to attend to study the Bible, arithmetic, writing, spelling and English. In 1820 when the town was organized, there were in town 400 children of school age; and the total expense for the maintenance of school for one year for that number of students was $221.87. The wages of the teacher in those days was about $10 or $12 a month and board, since the teachers “boarded around”, spending about a week at each of the families in the district.
The first schoolhouse in town stood where the United Presbyterian Church now stands and was later moved to the site of the William Elliott home. It was a frame building with slab benches and writing desks around the sides of the room and heated by an open fire. [*6-School and pupils and teacher with song] In 1855 there were twelve schools in town, the last school district to be organized being the Coulter Brook District. In 1833 a log schoolhouse was built on Coulter Brook with a round chimney, Thomas Liddle, a very fat man, standing on the top of the building while the chimney was built around him, he climbing up on the stones as they built them up higher and higher until they finally took him out at the top. The present school building in the village was built in 1893.
Through the years many of the town’s children pursued higher education, some of whom became famous. To illustrate, I might mention the following few sons of Bovina: William Murray, a Supreme Court Justice; David Murray, a college professor who was appointed to take charge of the organization of education in Japan; Isaac H. Maynard, an Assistant Secretary in the United States Treasury; John Lee, a noted minister; John Black, a pioneer missionary in Canada; James Black, a minister; Andrew Archibald, a minister; David Hoy, a Registrar of Cornell University; William Clark, an editor of the Delaware Express for many years; William Ormiston, one of the finest physicians in this section for years; Ed. C. Dean, one of Delhi’s most successful business men; and James Foreman, one of Delaware County’s outstanding politicians.
Perhaps the outstanding teacher of those early days was the Scotchman Thomas Gordon, one of the most successful and best known public school teachers in the county. All those whom he taught can be identified by their beautiful handwriting, a distinguishing mark of each and every one of them. He was one of Bovina’s richest citizens, not because of wealth he had hoarded but because of his ability to give – to give of himself and of his homely counsel. In the hour of his adopted country’s need he volunteered to fight for her freedom, and in after years he freely gave to his townsmen hours of his time with no thought of recompense. If a deed was to be drawn, a will to be written, a business venture to be undertaken, the man who carried out such a project without the kindly, shrewd advice of this wise Scotchman was indeed a reckless citizen.