This is the fifth 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." 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, section V was in the July 21 entry and section VI was in the August 21 entry.]
Bovina, sometimes called Delaware County’s Garden of Eden, covering one of the largest and most fertile areas in the state, was the pioneer town in the dairying business. No doubt the cold springs to e found in the town were a great help to this industry, and through the years Bovina earned the reputation of producing the finest flavored butter in the United States. In fact, on two occasions Bovina dairies supplied the tables of the presidential mansion at Washington with butter. In 1863 the first full-blooded Jersey stock was brought into town by John Hastings, who lived on the Jack Damgaard farm, and by Andrew Archibald who lived on the Mrs. Thomas Ormiston farm. In 1870 William Rutherford purchased a second herd of thoroughbred Jerseys at $250. a head for $5,000. In 1880 William Ruff purchased this herd, and in later transaction his calves brought him $200 apiece and his cows $350. each; and one of his cows produced 28 ¾ pounds of butter a week. Cattle from this town were considered to be of high quality and were sold into Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and all parts of New York State. In 1891 the Dairyman’s Assoc. took a cow Census in the town of Bovina, similar census ever having been taken. Bovina was selected because of the quantity and quality of its dairy products.
Great flocks of sheep were also raised and pastured by many of the farmers and sheepraising was one of the principal industries since the farmers found a ready home market at good prices for their wool at the Johnsons’ Mill at the Butt End.
For a quarter of a century asheries were numerous in town and was also an important industry. The burning of so much timber when the land was being cleared produced large quantities of ashes, which led to the first commercial industry, the converting of ashes into potash and pearl ash, which were used in the arts and in fertilizer. David Ballantine built one of the first asheries and ran it in connection with a small general store. Eight to ten cents a bushel was paid in trade for ashes delivered at the store, and by this easy means the settlers were able to get needed articles from the stores.
At one time there were six or more distilleries in town, the largest one being built on the Bloemeke farm by David Ballantine, the father of Duncan Ballantine, who was in later years one of the noted citizens of Andes. In 18XX the McFarlands, who lived on the present Rema Hobbie place, brought the first still from Albany to be operated in town. It was drawn by horses and carried on a four-wheeled vehicle, the first horses and the first four-wheeled vehicle to come into town. Before this oxen and sleds were all that the early settlers had used. Although there were so many distilleries in town, no liquor was ever sold outside of town since it was all consumed by Bovina’s own people.
The raising of wheat in the early days was also an important production. Although the land was not adapted to wheat raising, since land rents were payable in wheat, its culture was a necessity. “Other crops were rye, potatoes and flax. The women made shirts for the men and summer clothes from linen which they spun from the flax.
The first grist mill was erected in 1796 on the site of the Walter Coulter Mill at the end of the Bloomville Road. Later a distillery was built there, and still later a fulling mill. In the earliest times grist mills were often several miles from the farms; and when the bread supply had become nearly exhausted, the men would shoulder their grist and walk long distances to a mill to get it ground into flour. [*11-Men with grist over backs.] At first the nearest mill was at Kortright six miles away. The journey by foot there and back in one day was formidable, even dangerous, through lonely roads where the cry of a wolf or other wild animal might smite the ear of the belated traveler, who sometimes found it a flight for his life to get back within the sheltered precincts of his own home.
Another pioneer industry of the town, carried on by Thomas H. Johnson and his brother, the grandfather and great uncle of George Johnson, was a manufacturing of woolen cloth into garments of wearing apparel at their woolen mill, the weaving of cloth at their fulling mill, and the preparation of wool to be woven into cloth in their carding mill. These mills with their mill pond were located to the right of the small stone bridge you cross as you approach George Johnson’s farm, this location having been selected so that they could use for power the water from both the Maynard Brook and the Mountain Brook streams. Merchants and dealers in clothing came from different parts of the state to buy the high grade products of this firm. Besides, the Johnson brothers maintained two delivery wagons on the road selling and taking orders. They also established and operated a saw mill at the same time and later owned and operated a farm over which roamed great flocks of sheep, which yielded enormous quantities of wool for their mill. In later years Thomas H. Johnson, known as Barney Johnson, and his brother John H. built another mill behind Earl Smith’s farm buildings. Here they conducted a woolen mill, a cider mill, a saw mill, a feed mill, and a shingle mill. In their homes the women also card spun, and wove cloth, which they used to make clothing. [*12 – Woman spinning – Spinning Wheel Song]
Many of the early settlers were hunters and trappers; and since thee was much forest land, there was an abundance of deer, bears, wolves, and small game which furnished skins for traffic in the Catskill market. Journeymen crispin [I do not know what this word means - I welcome any suggestions] came around two or three times a year and made boots for the men from cowhide.
In the year 1837 all the goods that were sold in the stores of this town consisted of only three or four wagon loads of supplies drawn semi-annually from Catskill. As horses and wagons were used more and more by the settlers, the stroke of the anvil sounded within the village each day, sunshine or storm as the smithy had much work to do. There were three blacksmith shops, on in the Ernest Russell’s garage, one on the Marshall Thomson garden lot, and one on the site of Arthur Russell’s garage.
A large tannery was owned and operated by a Mr. Lull, the site of the tannery and dam being located along the stream in the village back of Arthur Russell’s garage. The stream furnished the motive power for driving and operating the bark grinding and certain other of the manufacturing processes. Mr. Lull also owned and conducted a fruit tree nursery at the same time and grew apple and other kinds of fruit trees on the farm now owned by Lester Hoy.
Firkins to put butter in were made in the four cooperages in the village, one located in David Currie’s home, one in the old coopershop which was located in the community House lot, one in the shop next to Clark Lay’s home and one in Norris Boggs’ barn.
Boot and shoe shops were also to be found in the village, one on Cecil Russell’s home lot, one in Arthur Russell’s home, and one on the lot through which the creamery road now runs.
There were many other businesses carried on in the village. In Arch Hunter’s home were to be found a meat market, a harness shop, and nursery for apple trees; in MacKenzie’s home was the first telegraph office. Stores did business on the same sites on which Hilson Bros. and Cecil Russell now do business; four other stores were operated, one in the Charles Fuller house, one in the Thomas Garage, one in the Thomas shop, and one in the Lester Hoy house that was recently taken down. A barber shop displayed its red and white striped pole in the creamery road lot and lent a gay bit of color to the town as did the American flag that floated from its flagpole, also situated on the creamery road lot. Hotels were operated on the site of Alex Hilson’s home and Ray Jardine’s home. The present library building was once part of the hardware shop. On the site of John Hilson’s home there was once a drug store, and many years later there was a drug store in the lower part of Milton Liddle’s home. At one time there was even a tailor shop in town, which was located in the little house between the Charlie Fuller house and the MacKenzie home.
As we think of the many types of work by which our ancestors made their living and the many places of business which were maintained in those early days, it seems that instead of progressing we have perhaps learned only to take life easier. [*13 – Miller, Dairyman, Cooper, Shoemaker, Blacksmith; with songs]