Monday, December 31, 2012

Stories from Bovina’s Cemeteries - Bovina's Oldest Citizen

Helen Blair was born October 27, 1889 in Bovina, the daughter of John Walter Blair and Elizabeth J. Miller (better known as Lib). From all available information, it appears that Helen holds the distinction of being Bovina's oldest person.  At her death, she was less than a month away from her 108th birthday.  There was some longevity in Helen's family.  Her mother, Lib Blair, was 97 at her death in 1965.  It is through her mother that Helen and I are distantly related.  Lib's older sister, Nancy Miller, married Alexander Burns.  Her daughter was my great grandmother Ella Burns LaFever. 

October was an important month in Helen's long life.  Not only was she born in October, she was married to Marshall Thomson, the son of Andrew D. Thomson and Jennie McNaught, on October 2, 1912.  She was widowed on October 14, 1962, less than two weeks after celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary with an open house.   On October 24, 1978, she sold her home in Bovina to Wayne and Marilyn Gallant and moved to a retirement community.  Helen survived her husband by almost 35 years, dying at the Delhi Infirmary on October 4, 1997.  She was a little over three weeks shy of her 108th birthday.

Helen spent most, but not all of her life, in Bovina.  She attended the Oneonta Normal School (predecessor to SUNY Oneonta) and taught during the 1909-10 school year at the Bramley Mountain School, where she had ten pupils.  In 1926, she moved to North Hills, Long Island with her husband where he managed an estate for 20 years.  Upon Marshall's retirement in 1947, they returned to Bovina to live with her mother.   Marshall was 75 at his sudden death in 1962.  Helen remained in Bovina until her late 80s when she sold her home to the Gallants and moved into a retirement home.  She lived for some time at the Hearthstone in Hobart before ultimately going to the Delhi Infirmary.  When Helen turned 100, Grace Roberts told me that she insisted on having shoes with heels for her party.  And I recall watching the Today show while at a conference in Gettysburg in 1993 when Willard Scott wished Helen a happy 104th birthday.

Helen at the 175th Anniversary celebrations at the Bovina UP Church, October 1984.  Helen was just shy of her 95th birthday.  She would live almost 13 years after this photo was taken.

Note:  Visitors to the Bovina Cemetery may be slightly confused to find two Helen Thomson's married to Marshalls.  Helen Schott Thomson (1910-1992) married J. Marshall Thomson (1898-1968).  Their grave is not far from that of Marshall William Thomson and Helen Blair Thomson. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 75 Years Ago

In among some of the Russell Family papers that I received from Marjorie's executor, Ann Morris, were many many holiday cards.  Here's a sample of cards she received in 75 years ago in 1937 - all from people in Bovina.

These first four images are from a card Marjorie received from someone in Bovina, Vera Fletcher Storie (1891-1967).

These next three images are from another Bovina card sent to Marjorie from Marjorie Ormiston (1908-1994).  Miss Ormiston was a teacher of Marjorie's.  She would later marry Ronald Walley. 

These final images show yet another card sent to Marjorie from someone in Bovina.  This card came from Mrs. J.W. McCune.  Mrs. McCune was born Ida McNair in 1871 and lived until 1953.  Her husband was John W. McCune (1866-1942).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Foundations of Bovina - the Dean Farm

Most people in Bovina likely have never heard of the Dean Farm.  That's probably because it left the Dean family in the 1880s and was owned for about 40 years by the Storie family.  Yet as late as 1916, it was still referred to as such on tax rolls because the Dean family were among the early settlers of Bovina.  In fact, the family had several farms along what is now Reagan Road.  For a number of years, the road was known as Dean Road, and the school district on East Bramley Mountain was known as the Dean District.  Reagan Road now dead ends, but it used to continue onto Scutt Mountain Road.  On the 1856 Gould Map, there are three Dean farms.

The farm of particular interest for this blog entry was the the farm of brothers James P. and Joseph A. Dean, located in lot 72 of Great Lot 41 of the Hardenburgh Patent.  It's about 300 yards from Scutt Mountain Road. The farm was leased by James Dean (1794-1873), the father of James P. and Joseph A., from James Overing, probably before 1820.  James P. purchased the farm from James Overing's heir, Mary, in 1854.  James P. , born in 1821, had been married to Agnes Atkin but she died in childbirth in 1856 giving birth to their only child, David.  David died the next year.  James never remarried, but lived and farmed with his younger brother, Joseph.  Born in 1833, Joseph didn't marry until the late 1860s.  He and his wife Mary had a son named James G.  The brothers farmed together for around twenty years, but by about 1879, they had moved to Stamford and were working as wagon makers.  James P. died in 1887 and is buried in Bovina.

The brothers leased the the farm for three years to Albert Adee.  During the Adee's time at the farm, the tragedy of Emma Monroe’s suicide took place (see my blog entry for July 17, 2012 for more details).

The Dean brothers sold the farm to Samuel Storie probably in March 1883.  Storie was born in Bovina in 1847.  He held the farm until around 1910 when he passed it on to his son Eugene Storie and moved to Bainbridge.  Samuel died in Sidney in 1922 and was buried in Bovina.  Eugene had the farm for less than ten years, giving it up around 1917 and moving to Hobart.  He became the Stamford Town Supervisor in 1949 and served for 10 years.  Eugene was 91 when he died in 1976.

Storie had turned the farm over to Alfred Luckhurst, who, with his wife, Alma and their three children, were the last people to live there. They purchased the farm from Storie in November 1922, about five years after settling there.  On Halloween night 1927, the house and barn burned to the ground while Mr. Luckhurst was away in Bloomville.  As the newspapers reported, “only a little was saved from the first floor.”  Losses included an organ, where there was $400 stashed away, and over 300 pounds of potatoes that were stored in the cellar.  The property was insured by the Bovina Co-operative Insurance Company.  Luckhurst was allowed $500 for the contents of the house.  He got a further $20 for the contents of the silo, $450 for the hay, $117 for the oats and $150 for the 100 bushels of potatoes in his cellar.  Luckhurst was not paid for the loss of the actual farm buildings.  A payment of $2750 was made to E.W. Storie, with another $1250 to an A.M. Lyons.  It is possible that Mr. Storie and Mr. Lyons held the mortgage and thus the payments went directly to them.  Two years after the fire, the property was sold by Alma Luckhurst.  By then, the family had moved to Bloomville.  Alfred died in April 1942 and is buried in Davenport.  Mrs. Luckhurst died in 1965. 

I took a short hike to the site of this farm on December 15, 2012.  The house and barn foundations still exist.  Of particular interest was the discovery behind the house of a root cellar.  It was too tight a space for me to squeeze into but I was able to take some flash pictures to see what was in there.

This appears to be what is left of the barn.

Some kind of watering pool near the barn.

The house foundation.

Another view of the house foundation.

Another view of the foundation - note the 'insets' on each side of the cellar door.

This turned out to be the root cellar, not far from the house.

This was the opening to the cellar.

I couldn't get into the cellar, but was able to stick my camera through the opening for this shot.
If you know of any other old farm foundations in Bovina, please let me know so we can explore them together!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies XII

John Schenk was one of the oldest Civil War soldiers in Delaware County. Born in Germany in 1816, he was living in Andes working as a wagon maker with Henry Rotermund when the war began.  He enlisted in 1861 in the 25th New York Infantry and was discharged after he was shot in the head.  He re-enlisted in the 46th NY Infantry in 1863 and served to the end of the war.  Schenk returned to Andes after the war.  It is not clear if or when he moved to Bovina, but when he died in September 1892, he was buried in the Bovina Cemetery.

John Scott was born in Hamden in 1843 but was living in Bovina by 1860.  He enlisted in the 144th New York Volunteers in September 1864.  At the time of his enlistment, he was 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall, with hazel eyes, black hair and a dark complexion.  He mustered out with his company in June 1865 at Hilton Head, SC.  John moved to California after the war, settling in Salinas in Monterey County to work as a druggist.  He was married but lived as a boarder for many years when his wife was declared insane and institutionalized.  John Scott died in 1920.

Thomas M. Scott was born in Bovina in 1842, the son of Thomas and Eliza Scott.  He enlisted in August 1862, joining the 144th New York Volunteers as a private.  At that time, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall and had gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion.  He was employed as a blacksmith.  Promoted to Corporal in April 1863 and later Sergeant in October 1864, he mustered out in June 1865 in Hilton Head, SC.  After the war, he headed west with his wife Sarah, first settling in Wisconsin.  By 1900, he was living in Laird, Nebraska.  He died around 1930 in Nebraska.

Edgar D. Seacord and William R. Seacord were sons of John and Sarah Seacord.  The younger brother, Edgar, enlisted first, joining the 8th NY Independent Battery in October 1861.  He served his three years and mustered out in October 1864 in Norfolk, Virginia. His older brother, William, had been drafted in September 1863 but was excused because he had a brother in the war.  He enlisted after Edgar finished his three years, joining the 144th NY Volunteers as a private.  He mustered out with his company in June 1865.  Edgar was married twice, first to Anna B. Chisholm, and, after her death in 1867, to Mary Peake.  He died in July 1876, age only 36 years old.  William was living with his wife Sarah and one child in Bovina in the 1870 census, working as a stone mason.  He was widowed in 1873 and remarried in 1877.  By 1910, he was living in Andes with his second wife, Mary.  He died there in 1916 and was buried in the Andes cemetery.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gasoline in Bovina

Matt Pelletier often has weird but intriguing queries about Bovina history (he's the one that got me going on my Indian Rocks fixation).  A couple of weeks ago, he wondered about what brands of gasoline were sold in Bovina, noting that it appears that at least three name brands were sold simultaneously in town.  I told him I'd have to do a bit of research, but as he had pointed out, it seems just looking at photos would answer the question.  And indeed it did.  Though I can't be totally positive on the time frame, it appears that in the 50s and early 60s, someone driving through the hamlet of Bovina Center had a choice of three name brands.  As you came into town off Route 28, your first choice would have been Mobil at Hilson's (known as Mobilgas in the early days).  If Mobil wasn't your brand, a quarter mile further would have brought you to Clayt Thomas's garage, where he sold Cities Services, better known today as Citgo.  And if you didn't want that, you would see within sight of Thomas's garage Russell's Store, where the preferred brand there was Shell.

Photo, probably from the 40s, of Hilson's store.  Photo courtesy of the Hilson Family.
This photo, also from the 40s, shows the gas pump at Thomas's garage (the little girl second from the right is Pat Thomas Parsons Miele).  Photo courtesy of Pat.
Russell's in the 40s.
Russells, probably in the late 70s, photo by Jim Bray.  Note the changed sign - this one had a light inside the sign.  The sign came down sometime in the 1980s (anyone remember when?)
After Hilson's closed, you could still get gas at Gallant's Garage, the successor to Thomas's, and at Russell's.  From photos in the early 80s, the gas pumps at Wayne Gallant's said Citgo.  It's always possible that by then he was getting gas from another source and using the Citgo pumps, but I really don't know how flexible companies were then about using a competitor's pump.

And Russell's didn't always have Shell.  In the early days of the automobile, the store had the Mobil concession - at least for motor oil.  From the picture below, probably from the early 1920s, you can see in the lower right 'Socony Motor Oils.'  Socony was essentially the parent company of Mobil and registered the name 'Mobilgas' as a trademark in 1920. 

What I don't know is when the first automobile gas pump made its appearance in Bovina.  Anyone have any ideas?

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Archibald, Burns and Elliott Families on Flickr

Thanks to Joan Townsend and her cousin, Steven Archibald, I now have 60 pictures of the Archibald, Burns and Elliott Families.  Some of these have been on Flickr since last October.  I added about another 25 images today, so I thought I should alert you to these:  Go to to see these images.

They are predominately from the families of William and George Archibald.  They were the sons of James E. Archibald and Isabella Aitken, both natives of Scotland.  William was born in 1822, his brother George in 1824.  They were the youngest of six children, all born in Bovina.  William married Margaret McDonald, the daughter of Henry McDonald and Margaret Donald, in 1845.  Margaret was born in Scotland in 1823.  They had seven children.  The oldest and youngest died as children, but the other five all grew to adulthood.  William died in 1883 while his wife survived him by over 23 years, dying in 1907.  Both are buried in Bovina.  George married Jane Anderson in 1856.  Jane was born in Scotland in 1835, the daughter of John Anderson.  George and Jane had 11 children, with 9 surviving to adulthood.  Jane died in 1897, George a year later.  Both are buried in Bovina.

One of the grandsons of George Archibald was Marvin Archibald (1911-1987).  In 1942, Marvin married Eleanor Burns (1919-2006).  Included in this set of pictures are pictures from the family of William and Emily Burns, Eleanor's parents.  William Burns was born in 1888, the son of J. Douglas Burns and Margaret Doig.  He married Emily Elliott of New Kingston in 1915.  They had five children, Robert, James, Eleanor, Clarence and Kathryn.

The Elliott pictures come from Emily Elliott Burns' grandparents, William and Eleanor Elliott of New Kingston.  William and Eleanor were the parents of three sons, two of whom died in the Civil War - and in the same month.  See the April 30, 2012 entry in this blog for more information about these two sons, James and Thomas.  Emily Burns was the daughter of William and Eleanor's surviving son, John.

If you have any further information to add about these photos, please do so.    

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries - The American Revolution

Shirley Houck at the Delaware County Clerk's office is trying to create a list of the Revolutionary War soldiers from Delaware County, looking at Federal pension records, among other sources, and has asked for help from the town historians in the county.  So this got me checking what information I had.

What kind of lead did Bovina take during the American Revolution? Given that there were no Europeans living in Bovina before the 1790s, the answer is 'none.'  But as settlers came to Bovina, among them certainly were veterans of the revolution.  Unfortunately, we do not have a good listing of all of them.  The fact that Bovina was founded almost 40 years after the end of the war may explain why there is so little information.   

One of the few sources of information come from Bovina cemeteries.  Bovina has three Revolutionary War veterans buried (or at least memorialized) in its cemeteries:

  • Samuel  Ludington is buried in the Brush Cemetery next to the library, but he spent only the last 2-3 years of his life in Delaware County.  He does not show up in any Bovina records, primarily because there was no Bovina at the time of his death.  The records in which he does appear relate mostly to Connecticut.  He was born in Branford, Connecticut in 1744 and married Ruth Galpin in 1766 in Woodbury.  He served in the Connecticut Eighth Regiment during the revolution.  When he came to Bovina is not clear, but it was quite late in his life - a Samuel Ludington shows up in the 1810 census in Connecticut.  Samuel and his wife likely came to Bovina to live with their son Henry in their old age.  Samuel died in 1814.  Ruth Ludington survived her husband by over 16 years, dying in 1831.  Henry died in 1842 and is buried near his parents.  
Photo from Find A Grave, submitted by Richard Singleton

  • Jesse Purdy (1748-1840) is believed to be buried in the main Bovina Cemetery. Shirley found two court records from 1826 and 1827 in which Purdy filed a claim for a pension based on his service  He said he enlisted in Dutchess County in 1777 and was discharged in 1780, but had lost the discharge paper.  By 1826, he was 76 years old.  In the application, Purdy noted that he was old and infirm and so was his wife Deborah. He also noted that he had about 40 acres of land but never had a title to it.  In an amended filing from 1827, he said that until just before he filed his claim, that he "had sufficient bodily ability to labor" and that through "the kindness of the widow of General Richard Montgomery" he was allowed to occupy "a small piece of land belonging to her."  For the past three years, however, he claimed that old age and a rupture had made it almost impossible for him to support himself and that he "has now no means of subsistence save the charity of his country."  Purdy was placed on the pension rolls in 1828, receiving $96 a year.  The total sum received was $594.57.  Purdy was in his 90s at his death.  I note that he 'likely' is buried in Bovina, but I'm not 100% sure.  His name is included on a much newer stone of the Hogoboom family.   Elizabeth Hogoboom was Purdy's granddaughter. 
Photo courtesy of Ed and Richard Davidson
  • James Vandenburgh (1758-1840) is also buried in the Brush cemetery, and like his fellow veteran Samuel Ludington, appears to have spent only a brief time in Bovina.  He grew up in Dutchess County and enlisted in the Town of Beekman in Dutchess County in April 1776, joining the company of Captain Durling.  He re-enlisted in 1777 and again in 1779. When he filed his pension claim in 1831, he was living in Austerlitz in Columbia County.  When he came to Bovina is not clear, but it appears he came late in life to live with his son Clarence or Clarion.  
Photography taken by Stephen Pelletier, November 1978
There are likely other American Revolution veterans with Bovina connections.  I'll be working on that to help Shirley and for a future blog entry. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photos of Bovina Houses in the late 20th Century

I have scanned a lot of pictures over the past couple of years of Bovina in the late 20th Century.  I've decided to share a series of images taken of buildings in Bovina on the Bovina History Flickr page.  As time allows I will add information to more clearly identify the photos, though many of you will easily recognize them.  If you have any comments to make on these, please do so.  There are four sets of images.  Three of the sets are photographs held by the Bovina Historical Society and were all taken at different points during the effort, ultimately successful, to put the Bovina Center hamlet on the National Register of Historic Places:

Bovina Center, 1984:
Bovina Center, 1990:
Bovina Center, 1999:

The dates for these images is somewhat of a guess.  If you think a particular picture dates from a different year, please let me know.

The fourth set is from a series of photos taken in March 1989 for a historic resources reconnaissance survey conducted for the Delaware County Historical Association.  The survey was conducted to document all pre-1940 buildings in the county.  This set covers most of the houses and barns outside of Bovina Center.  The hamlet of Bovina Center was not included because of the aforementioned survey.

Bovina, 1989:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Russell's Store, Thanksgiving 1978

During the Thanksgiving break in 1978 from his studies at Syracuse University, Bovina native Steve Pelletier carried out a homework assignment for his photojournalism course.  His choice was to photograph a long established Bovina institution, Russell's store. He took about 100 pictures.  Fortunately, he held on to the negatives after completing the assignment.  In May of this year, he sent the negatives along to me so I could scan them.  I was thrilled to see these, both for the history of Bovina and for my personal history.  I worked at Russell's from 1968 to the late summer of 1978, when I moved to Washington, DC.  These photographs show what the store looked like just after I had worked there, so they brought back a flood of memories.  Thanks to the Winston cigaratte calendar that Russells used for years, we can date these photographs to Saturday, November 25, 1978.  Here are 25 of the photographs for you to enjoy. 

Exterior shots

I think this is Jay Renner coming out of the store.

Interior Views
Inside the backroom.
Another view of the interior - this is where they kept the Jello
This is the account register - Russells allowed customer to buy on credit.

The dry cleaning - people brought in cleaning and it was picked up and delivered twice a week from a cleaner in Margaretville.

Canned goods behind the main counter.

This was a coal burning stove.

Cecil's radio.

The front window display.

General view of the interior, looking toward the back.

The candy case.

The center aisle.

Another view of the candy case.

Behind the desk.
Isabell and Marjorie

Marjorie at her desk.
Marjorie taking an order.
Marjorie behind the counter.  You can just see the calendar that was behind the counter and can see the number '25.'  That's how I determined the date the photos were taken. 

Isabell removing her boots.  This was how I always remembered her doing this.  This picture really struck a chord with me.

Isabell waiting on a customer.
Another shot of Isabell behind the counter.

Marjorie and her mother Isabell packing a box for a customer.
I cannot thank Steve enough for sharing these wonderful 'snapshots' of Bovina's history.