Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bovina and Irene

Hurricanes and tropical storms are not that common in the Catskills, so the impact of Hurricane Irene on Bovina and Delaware County is historic.  Though a tropical storm by the time it passed over Bovina, it still packed quite the punch.

What other hurricanes have impacted Bovina?  I recall that Hurricane Agnes caused considerable flooding in Central and Western New York in June 1972, but they are a rare occurrence in the area.  Delaware County and Bovina are no strangers to floods, but they usually are not caused by hurricanes but by simply heavy rain, sometimes combined with snow melt.  The two floods in 1996 and in 2006 were not hurricane related but were none-the-less devastating to the county.

Bovina has gotten through Irene relatively unscathed, though there has been some flooding, power outages, road damage and downed trees.  A heavy rain last October caused Coulter Brook to rise higher than it did on Sunday.  If you have pictures of the flooding in Bovina, please pass them along.  Here are three pictures I took.  The first two are of Coulter Brook near the Bovina Cemetery.  The third picture is the 'ball field' by the library. 

Unfortunately, our neighbors in Fleischmanns, Margaretville, and Arkville have not been so lucky. The scale of the damage there is overwhelming.  And beyond those areas is the devastation in Schoharie and Greene Counties.  The historic Old Blenheim Covered Bridge, the world's longest, was completely destroyed.  There a numerous videos and photographs of the flooding and its aftermath on the Internet.  The Weather Channel has a site specific to the damage in the Catskills at http://www.weather.com/weather/hurricanecentral/article/disaster-in-the-catskills-hurricane-irene_2011-08-28from. There also are a number of videos on You Tube.  This disaster is of historic and epic proportions.

There are a number of efforts to help those impacted by the flooding.  This morning, the Central New York Radio Group stations - WZOZ - WDOS - WSRK - WDLA - WDHI - WTBD (wzozfm.com) will team up with The United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties to take donations from 7 am to noon.  You can tune in to any one of the stations listed above, or wzozfm.com, and click the "LISTEN LIVE" button. Call 607-432-1030 to pledge, or 888-432-1030.  NBT Bank in Hobart is collecting urgently needed supplies, including canned goods, bottled water, diapers, blankets and clothing.

Bovina residents are grateful to have avoided major damage but are grieved by what has happened to our neighbors.  Many are volunteering their services to help in the recovery.  Our sympathies to all who lost their homes and businesses.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Charlie LaFever - A Remembrance of a Bovina Boy

Today would have been my dear ole Dad's 80th birthday, so I thought I'd present a brief biography about Charlie LaFever in pictures (click on each image to see a larger version of it).

Ironically, though he lived in Bovina all his life, he was not born there.  Dad was born in Delhi on August 27, 1931, at the Delhi Hospital, at that time located on Franklin Street.  He was the first member of his family to have been born in a hospital.

This picture was a surprise when I found it - it's the only photograph that I've found of my dad with his great grandfather Burns.  Left to right:  Howard LaFever (his brother); Alex Burns (about aged 84 in this photo); John Burns (Alex's son and the father of Agnes Burns); my dad; and the man holding him is his father Ben LaFever.

This is a first day of school picture dating from 1937. 
This is dad's senior portrait.  He seems kind of somber in this one, as compared to his first day of school picture.  He told me years later that he was tired of school by the time he graduated.  His mother offered to pay for him to go to college, but he declined because he didn't relish more schooling!  The text from the yearbook under his picture:

One of those Bovina boys--industrious--goes out for rifle club--pleasant--D.A.'s Einstein--pretty fair shot--gun or firecrackers.
Slice Rule Club (3); Cross Country (3); Junior Play; Rifle Club (4)

For whatever reason, he did not choose this picture for the yearbook - but I like that grin!

My dad started dating my mom, Leona Edwards, a month or so before he graduated high school.  He wanted to get married but his parents wanted him to be 19 before he did so.  Two days after his 19th birthday, on August 29, 1950, he married my mom at his parents house in Bovina.  In this picture are mom's mom, Dulcy Edwards; my mom; my dad; and dad's parents, Anna Bell and Ben LaFever.  Note the wall of ferns behind everyone.  Anytime we were in the woods where there were ferns, he said the smell reminded him of his wedding day.

Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2000 at a party at Lake Jillienne in Bovina.  Left to right - Patrick Hughes, Ray LaFever, Diane LaFever, Adam Hughes, Leona LaFever, Charlie LaFever, Susan Hughes, Gary Hughes.

Dad's love of tinkering led him to study TV and Radio repair.  He received his certification from the National Radio Institute in "Television and Radio Servicing" on August 19, 1954.  He ran Bovina Video, which provided very basic cable television service to residents of the Bovina Center hamlet.  He sold it to Delhi Telephone in 2000.

Dad had another passion from an early age - aviation.  He soloed when he was 16 and got his license in the late 50's.  He usually flew from Cooperstown-Westfield airport and made regular flights until the late 70s, when the press of business as town supervisor prevented him from flying.

Dad worked for 40 years for LaFever Excavating, founded by his brother Howard.  He retired in 1994, with a party hosted by his nephew and President of LaFever Excavating, John LaFever, on August 21.

Dad got involved with the town of Bovina in the 70s, when he was appointed to the town planning board.  He was elected to the Town Board in 1975 and in 1977, he was elected Town Supervisor.  He would be supervisor for the next 24 years, retiring at the end of 2001.

As Town Supervisor, Dad also served on the County Board of Supervisors.  He was chair of the public works committee for many years and was Vice Chairman of the board later in his term and at his retirement.  He was instrumental in the development of the county's state of the art co-composting facility, which opened in 2005.
Delaware County's Board of Supervisors gives a "hats off" to the ARC Bike-A-Thon by donning the biker's caps of the non-profits 18th annual event held May 4, 1991.  Town Supervisors (left to right) Howard J. Nichols (Stamford), Thomas S. Hynes (Roxbury), Walter Johnson (Sidney), Perry Shelton (Tompkins), Gary L. Manning (Hamden), Lee W. Conklin (Deposit), Raymond M. Christensen (Davenport), F. Gerald Mackin (Hancock), Velma J. Clark (Delhi), Alan L. Rose (Middletown), Frank Bachler (Meredith), William Sunkenberg (Andes), Richard T. Little (Harpersfield), Charles R. LaFever (Bovina,) Donald L. Kerr (Kortright), John F. Thomas (Masonville), Donald Smith (Franklin), William I. Hammond (Walton), Robert A. Homovich (Colchester)

Dad retired as Town Supervisor at the end of 2001.  He was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2002 and after a valiant fight, passed away on January 24, 2004.  This is the last picture of me with my folks, taken at the end of December 2003. The chairs were a Christmas gift that year from my folks' dear neighbor and friends, Brian and Marcia Olenych.

At the time of his passing, Dad was Bovina's town historian.  I was honored to assume the position in the spring of 2004 and have enjoyed it very much, but there are times when a historical question or issue comes up that I really wish I had my dear ole Pa around to help.  

He always will be sorely missed but fondly remembered.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Part VI

This is the fourth 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.  [Sections I and II are in the May 21 blog entry, sections III and IV are in the June 21 blog entry and section V is in the July 21 entry.] 

VI.    The Forming of the Town

The countryside, now known as the town of Bovina, was once included in the townships of Delhi, Middletown, and Stamford.  Having cleared their lands and built their homes, their schools, and their churches, these early settlers then sought to establish their own township; so on February, 1820, an act was passed erecting the town and providng that the first town meeting and election beheld on the first Tuesday of March, 1820.  Therefore, in an inn, kept by John Hastings two miles from the village on land, which is still known as the Hastings Farm, the first town meeting was held.  The name of the town, derived from the Latin word bovinus, meaning “pertaining to cattle”, was suggested by General Erastus Root of Delhi because Bovina was a pioneer in the dairying business.  With the exception of Harpersfield, Bovina is the smallest town in the county, it consisting of 27,300 acres.  The population in 1820 was 1,267; in 1840 it was 1403, the highest peak; from then on it has steadily decreased until today it is less than 1,000. 

The Delaware River rises in Bovina and runs westerly, giving along its course one of the most beautiful and fertile farming valleys in the entire county.  The elevations of this valley are not too abrupt, and from the highest peaks one can see the finest views afforded from any point of observation in the county.

Bovina has from the beginning been one of the richest towns in the county; it has never had a debt of any kind; for many years it never had a pauper within its limits; and the bounty debt of Bovina was all paid in one tax.  In 1827 at one of the town meetings they voted that they would auction off any man who could not financially take care of himself, selling him to the person who would keep him the cheapest; and this they did on one occasion a fellow townsman being paid $2.28 a week for the care of a poor man for one year, this being done instead of sending him to the almshouse.  In 1832 at a town meeting they passed a resolution that the County Poor House in the town of Delhi be abolished; for they could see no use for such an institution.  No application was every made in Bovina for a liquor license of any kind until 1947, although there were six or more distilleries at one time in town.  The distiller paid revenue to the government for the privilege of manufacturing his product, but so far as is known no license was ever exacted of the retailers.  [Note:  The Bovina town clerk files contain a number of such licenses up to the late 1870s.  Bovina went dry around 1880.]

The first mill was opened on January 27, 1821, on the shore of Livingston’s Lake; the office, situated in Thomas Landon’s mill house, was called Fish Lake Office.  The Bovina Post Office was established in April of the same year, John Hastings being the first postmaster.  It was not until October, 1831, twenty years later, that the Bovina Center Post Office was established on the lot now occupied by the library [now the Bovina Museum], the same year in which the name of the village was changed from Bovina Center to Brushland.  At first the settlers had to go over the hill by trail to Stamford for their mail.  Once a month some one in the neighborhood would go and bring all the mail to the community and upon returning, when within one mile of the village, he would blow a horn every few minutes to let the people know that the mail was coming. [*10-Mailman]

Previous to 1820 there was no resident physician, but in 1822 Dr. Leal settled on the side of the mountain between Bovina and Stamford and took care of both communities.  The last full time physician to serve this community was Dr. Whitcomb, who came to Bovina in 1915 and left in 1919 to go as a missionary to Egypt.  Since then the doctors in the adjoining towns have cared for the residents of Bovina.

The people of this town were divided into three groups:  those of the Hook; those of the Butt End; and those of Brushland.  The Hook was so called because of the shape of the road there.  The Butt End was larger than the village or the Hook and on one occasion wanted the town meeting in that part of town.  Thomas Hamilton, who favored this northeast part, used in his argument a striking simile, alluding to the big end of the log, with which they were all familiar, saying that the northeastern end, the larger end of town, was the butt end.  This homely simile was ridiculed by the faction which the argument had defeated; but the name Butt End has always stuck to that northeast section of town.  In the Hook, at that time, one inn, one distillery, and one store did business; in the village, one barbershop, one grist mill, two cooper shops, two blacksmith shops, the largest school, one hotel, one hardware shop, one drug store, and three general stores were operated; and in the Butt End the people boasted of one store, one sawmill, one hop house, on distillery, one blacksmith shop, one shoemaker shop, and one grist mill, woolen mill and cider mill.  The first general store at the Butt End was located in the present home of George Johnson, Billy Archibald being the store keeper.  The blacksmith shop stood at the turn by James Crosier’s home on the small corner of land located between the Mountain Brook and the Maynard Brook roads.  The smithy was John Johnson, the grandfather of James Crosier from who Jim perhaps inherited his inclination toward dentistry since this smithy kept in his shop a pair of forceps and a chair and on many an occasion pulled the teeth for the various residents of that northeast part of town.  The Foreman, Currie, Archibald and other boys of that part of town, always watching for a chance to have a little fun and play a joke on someone, were a constant source of trouble, especially to the Center boys, who seemed to like the girls who lived up there.  On one evening when a young man was about to start for his home, he found that his wagon had disappeared.  In the morning as the Center folks were about to eat their breakfasts a rather bedraggled-looking young man walked into town leading his horse behind him.  If there were time, much could be told about the early times in that very busy section of Bovina, but at least anyone can spend an interesting afternoon at the Butt End visiting the small stone arch bridge below George Johnson’s home, the old stone house on the Maynard road, and the McFarland barn so famous in the past.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pictures from Fifty-eight Years Ago this Morning in Bovina

Citizens in Bovina woke up on August 14, 1953 to a major clean-up job.  The night before, the town was hit by a flash flood. The storm wiped out five bridges on Bramley Mountain and inundated Clayton Thomas's garage in Bovina Center. Bob Hall had just brought his car into Thomas's garage when the water hit. He spent 45 minutes perched on top of his car before it was safe to get down. An unoccupied house owned by Lester Hoy was moved completely off its foundation.  It would have moved even further had its progress not been stayed by a tree.  The damage from the flood was estimated to cost around $200,000 (equal to about $1.5 million in today's dollars). At the time of the flood, Bovina native Walter (Watt) Coulter noted that the last such flood to hit Bovina happened in 1894.

Photojournalist, Bob Wyer, was on the scene the night of the flood and the next morning to document the clean-up.  Here are some of the photos he took of that event, courtesy of the Delaware County Historical Association (click on each image to see a larger version of it):

House along Brush's Brook the evening of the flood.  The house was moved completely off its foundation (see next photograph) and had to be demolished.  Note the high level of water in Brush's Brook.

The morning after.
Bridge at the lower end of the hamlet.  Note the logs propped up on the bridge.  This bridge was demolished two years later.

Cleaning up the damage by the bridge at Brush's Brook, looking 'downtown.'

Another view of the hamlet at Brush's Brook, looking 'uptown.'

Clayton Thomas pointing out the damage in his garage.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - Honoring the Dead

There are twenty eight Civil War soldiers buried or memorialized in Bovina (see the May 12, 2011 blog entry concerning Bovina's Civil War dead).  Thanks to Ed and Dick Davidson, most of these stones have been photographed.  Here are a few samples:

John Sinclair Burns was Bovina's first Civil War fatality, dying of typhoid fever at Fairfax Seminary on April 4, 1863.  Unlike most of his comrades from Bovina who fell in the war, his body was brought back home for burial. Included on his stone are these words: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
William Stott's headstone is one of two in this style in Bovina - note the military cap (called a Kepi) sitting on a Bible on top of the stone.  Stott was killed in action on May 14, 1864 in Chula Bridge, Virginia.  This stone is a memorial stone, as Stott's body was not recovered. 
 Solomon Coulter's is the other Civil War headstone in Bovina in this style.  Coulter died of typhoid on September 23, 1864 at Hilton Head, South Carolina.  The records are not clear as to whether or not his body was brought home.  One record says he was buried at Hilton Head, SC, while another says his body was removed and re-interred here. 
Robert Dysart was another victim of typhoid, dying October 14, 1863 on Folly Island, SC.  He is buried in Beaufort, SC, as noted on his memorial stone. 

William Gillie was yet another victim of typhoid, dying at Carver Hospital, VA.  He was buried near the hospital where he died.  When his father died 10 years later, his headstone included a memorial to his fallen son, though it does not mention his son's Civil War service.
Samuel Stott was one of the first veterans of the war from Bovina to die, surviving his service by only five years.  During the war, he was wounded at Stoney Creek and was a prisoner of war for five months when he was exchanged.  At his death, he wasn't yet 25 years old.  We do not know the cause of his death, but it could have been the effects of his wound and imprisonment.
Martin Reynolds was older than the average Civil War soldier.  He was 36 when he enlisted and 70 at his death in 1892. 
John R. Hoy, like his Civil War comrade Martin Reynolds, was 70 at his death in 1901.  Hoy's stone does not reflect his service in the 144th New York Volunteer Infantry. 
William Richardson was the grandfather of Isabell Irvine Russell, wife of Cecil Russell.  A naturalized native of Scotland, he was almost 90 at his death in 1917. 
Gilbert D. Miller was Bovina's last surviving Civil War soldier, surviving his service in the 144th by over 65 years.  One reminder of his service in the war was Chronic Diarrhea.  Miller was active in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Civil War veterans organization.  He died at age 87 from the effects of a fall sustained a few days earlier.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Happened to Jane McDonald Post Stafford?

Ok, the question you might have is "Who is Jane McDonald Post Stafford?"Jane showed up in several blog entries in late 2009 and early 2010 as the woman from Bovina accused of murdering her father.  John McDonald, who lived near Cabin Hill, just over the line from Bovina, died in the winter of 1819.  His daughter Jane, along with her brother Cornelius, was arrested in April 1821 after a coroner's inquest determined the death was not accidental. The siblings accused each other of the crime. In July, Cornelius admitted that he lied about his sister murdering their father and she was released. Cornelius was not convicted of murder but was convicted of perjury.

At the time of the murder, Jane was the wife of Robert Post and had an infant son, also named Robert.  At some point in the 1820s, she apparently was widowed.  Around the same time as her brother went to prison, Barber Stafford also went to the same prison for theft.  It appears that Jane and Barber met at some point, maybe during visits to her brother (though if my brother had tried to finger me for murder, I wonder if I would have really felt like visiting him).  It's also possible they knew each other before he went to prison.  However they met, Jane and Barber were married and had a son, also named Barber, around 1830.  They may also have had a daughter. 

Jane and Barber moved around. They were in Roxbury in 1840, Gilboa in 1850 and back in Roxbury in 1860. By 1867, Jane was on her own, possibly widowed and destitute. In July 1867, the Overseers of the Poor for the town of Bovina ruled that her son from her first marriage, Robert Post, was to provide care for her. This is the whole document below (click on the image for a larger version), with a transcript:

We the undersigned overseers of the poor of the town of Bovina in the County of Delaware do certify that Jane Stafford is a poor person, old incompetent so as to be unable to work to maintain herself – that she has a son residing in said town by the name of Robert Post who is of sufficient ability to support his mother and the only relative of sufficient means residing in said county to support or to contribute to her support and who has heretofore supported his mother in his family which has been done in a manner suitable to his circumstances and condition in life and according to the ability and circumstances of the said Robert Post and which is hereby approved by us – and we do further order and direct the said Robert Post to support and maintain his said mother in his family furnishing her with the same board and nourishment as he and his family have and to keep her in all respects in the manner he has heretofore.

Dated at Bovina this 20th day of July 1867.

Alexander Kinmouth and John Murray, Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Bovina

So poor Jane did not have the happiest life. She was accused of murdering her father, was widowed with a young child, and then marries a convicted felon for her second husband.  She was to have further stress in  1845 when her son from her second marriage was arrested and convicted in the shooting of Sheriff Osman Steele during the Anti-Rent War (he was later released due to his extreme youth - he was around 15).  Near the end of her life, she finds herself destitute and has to get the town to make her son carry out his filial duty to her. We don't know exactly when Jane died, but it likely was before 1870. She is buried in the Nichols Cemetery on Cape Horn.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bovina Resorts

It's summertime - time for many people to find ways to escape the heat.  Folks from the New York City area were particularly anxious to get away for the temperature and noise of the city.  One place that over the decades has been and continues to be a popular destination for this urban climate refugees is Bovina.  During my childhood, there were several places that offered farm vacations.  Here's a brief summary of some of them:

  • Red Pine Farm was run by George and Wanda Lingg up on Bovina road (what is now the Schumann farm).  In 1964, the rate, according to their ad in the New York Times, was $45 a week, with children under 12 costing $30.  They boasted an 80 head dairy farm, a 50 x 50 pool, and farm animals, including ponies and donkeys.  Emma Rosenthal and Andy Griggs have shared pictures and memories of their stays at Red Pine Farm at http://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2006/08/11/my-travels-with-charley-boston-or-bust-part-v/.  Also note that a number of other people shared their memories in the comments field. Linggs sold the property in the late 1960s to TV star Bob Denver. 
  • Crescent Valley Farm was a 275 acre dairy farm run by George and Anna Trimbell and their sons.  Located on Crescent Valley Road, their rates were $55 to $35 per week.  Their New York Times ad from 1966 offered "good home cooking and baking" with historical places nearby.  The ad also noted that "We have three sons." 
  • Elms Farm was on Coulter Brook (where Isabell Irvine Russell spent her childhood).  Cliff and Gert Hall ran this as a vacation farm in the 60s and 70s.  Joan Townsend recalled working there and that Gert's sister Millie Reinertsen did a lot of the cooking.  
  • Suits-Us Farm on Pink Street was owned and run as a resort by the family of Alex and Elisabeth Sellhorn Rabeler from 1956 until 2005.  In their New York Times ad from 1966, they noted that the farm had a heated filtered pool, tennis court, horseback riding and "cookouts followed by moonlit hayrides."  Their ad also said "Families only."  Felicia (Bunny) Campbell has a blog which includes photos and memories of Suits-Us Farm over the year.  Go to http://www.bunnybrowse.com/memories-suits-us.htm to see her pictures.  And thanks to Bunny for sharing.  And if you're on Facebook, there is a Suits Us Farm group that you can join.
  • Ferris and Wilhemina Sellhorn Todd ran a vacation farm on Pink Street called Buena Vista for 11 years in the 1960s and early 1970s.  Joan Archibald Townsend recalled working there in her teens and remembered what a great cook Mrs. Todd was.  Mrs. Todd's sister was the Elisabeth Rabeler who, with her husband Alex, ran Suits-Us Farm.
  • Burn-Lou Century farm was run by Harold Lounsbury and his first wife, Mary Burns Lounsbury and later for a time with his second wife, Anna Boggs Hobbie Lounsbury.  The farm had been in the Burns family for over 100 years. 
I have further research to do on these resorts and on some others, including one run by Mr. and Mrs. Lorenz Bloemeke and another on Russell Hill.  And I'm always looking for pictures and ephemera from these resorts.

Here's a brochure from Suits-Us: