Monday, November 21, 2011

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Parts IX and X.

This is the seventh 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, section V is in the July 21 entry, section VI is in the August 21 entry, section VII is in the September 21 entry and section VIII is in the October 21 entry.]  

IX.    Teunis

At the foot of Mt. Pisgah, the highest peak not only in Bovina but also in Delaware County, lies Tunis Lake, [*15 – Projection of Tunis Lake] a muddy little pond of a few acres, the only monument to the memory of a friendly old Indian, who was the last of his kind in this vicinity.  The Indian trail in Bovina crossed the town from the section near Tunis Lake by the way of Robert Forrest over to the river past Jack Damgaard’s and up the valley to the Notch beyond Rema Hobbie’s home and on into Stamford.  This was the trail by which in 1792 Elisha Maynard with his two yoke of oxen and cart reached the section where he made his first settlement in town.  [#15A – Teunis, the Indian]  Teunis, this old Indian, lived in a hut on the shore of Tunis Lake.  Apple trees, which he planted, and a heap of stones marked for many years the spot where his hut had once stood.  On several occasions he warned the early white settlers of the dangers of them from the more malicious of his tribesmen. Once when Teunis, after he had built his hut on the shore of the lake on the Doig farm, was being assaulted and beaten by two drunken white men, a Mr. Bassett of Andes came to his rescue and thus won the friendship of Teunis.  Often Teunis with his hammer and sack would go away and after a short absence would return with pieces of rock from which he obtained lead to make bullets.  On one occasion he blindfolded Mr. Bassett and led him through the woods for a short distance to the mine; and upon removing the blindfold and showing Bassett the mine, rich with lead ore, replaced the blindfold and led Bassett back home, promising that before his death he would reveal to Bassett the location of the mine.  However, his secret was buried with him, for he died soon after this before revealing the whereabouts of the mine.  Many years were spent trying to locate the mine but to no avail.  However, the lake is still called Tunis and recalls to our memory the friendly old Indian who more than once saved our ancestors from death. 

X.    Home Life

“Men’s work is from sun to sun, but women’s work is never done.”  So it was with our early settlers.  The woman of the house was always busy even in the evenings as she sat with the family before the open fire, busy spinning thread from flax her husband had grown or weaving woolen cloth to be used for clothes for her family or sewing new clothes or patching old, making them look like new, or perhaps knitting. [*16 – Family before fire]  As we look at some of the handiwork of our great, great grandmothers, we marvel at their beauty, at the fine stitch at the many small tucks, at the wealth of beautiful, intricate embroidery, and at the interesting handmade lace trimming.  In the daylight there were too few hours for the mother of the home; so she was up early about her many duties: washing the clothes, cleaning the house, making the butter, baking the bread, cooking the meals for their large family of thirteen or more, and making candles, the only source of artificial light in those days.  In every home one would see lined up against the wall barrels of flour, kegs of salted fish, large jars of salted meats, barrels of maple sugar, for white sugar was a luxury in those days, and bags of dried corn, apples, and other fruits – all of which was largely due to the efforts of the wife.
The oldest children often hired out to work at neighbors, the daughter at the low wage of 75 cents a week or the son, at $8 a month.

There was no division of distinction among the settlers on account of wealth, for all were poor.  Neighbors would drop in of an evening for a social chat and a drink of whiskey.  Whiskey then seemed a necessity in almost every home.

The young people would often gather at neighbor’s and spend the night singing and playing games.  But more often there would be a neighbor present who would saw off a tune on a fiddle and call off for a square dance. [*17 – Square Dance]  Thus the evening would pass quickly, old and young dancing till the morning hours.  The smaller children often busied themselves cracking nuts which they had gathered, popping corn, or baking apples over the coals in the fireplace.

For recreation, in the late 1800’s, a cooper by the name of Teller, organized a band for the young men. [*17A – Band member]  There were about 20 in the band; they wore attractive uniforms; and, it is said, they learned to play well.  Some of the members whom many will remember were Will Archibald, Will Black, Bob Foreman, Jim Foreman, John Gordon, Ad Laidlaw, George McNair, Al McPherson, Howard, McPherson, Dave Currie, and Alex Myers.

The neighbor men often were found working together, raising a barn, gathering the crops, or threshing; and at such bees there was always an abundance of whiskey.  The women, too, worked together as they played [*17b – Quilting party and song “Seeing Nellie Home”]; for often they gathered at a neighbor’s to tie a quilt or quilt a pieced quilt, they enjoying the visit with one another as much as the work.  In those days it was also quite customary to visit one’s closest friends or relatives, the family all going on the visit and often remaining for a few days.  On one such occasion, an uncle and aunt went to visit their newly married nephew and his wife, taking as a gift a hen and her twelve chickens.  The young wife was taken by surprise, and there were but three pieces of pie for dessert.  She, however, always capable of handling any situation, said to her husband as she served the pie, “I’m sorry, Bill, that you don’t like blackberry pie.”

When anyone died, the neighbors attending the simple service at the burial of the dead, were served cake and wine.

Each day closed as it had begun with family workshop, the father reading from the Bible, praying as old and young knelt by their chairs, and leading the singing, all praising God, if not harmoniously, at least from their hearts.  It was from Scenes like these that our ancestors were inspired to become the strong, God-fearing men and women we know them to have been, scenes that made our country great.

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