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.