Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stories from Bovina Cemeteries - 150 years ago this month

On February 18, 1862, Bovina saw the death of two of its citizens.  Jennet Jardine Dickson, widow of Michael Dickson, was 4 months shy of her 90th birthday at her death.  Born in Scotland in 1772, she was married to Michael Dickson.  We don't know much more about her, including who her parents were.  Michael and Janet had at least one child, Isabella Dickson, who married William Miller.  Jennet Dickson is my 4 greats grandmother.

The same day that this elderly Scottish native passed away, Libbie J. McPherson, the daughter of Almiron Fitch McPherson and Cynthia Hoag, died.  The contrast between these two deaths could hardly be greater.  While Jennet passed away full of years, Libbie was a young girl, 5 years and 7 months old.  Within a couple of years of Libbie's death, there's evidence that her father was in the Army working as a laborer, though there is no actual record of any Civil War service.  In the 1865, he was away from home working as a laborer in the army.  About two years after the war, and five years after the loss of their daughter, Fitch's wife Cynthia died at 39 years old.  Cynthia left her husband with one son, William.   Fitch remarried two years later to Julia Ann Fuller, the widow of a neighbor in Bovina.  They had five children.  Fitch died in 1903 in Bovina.  His widow survived him by 30 years, dying in 1933.

Also dying 150 years ago this month was the Rev. John B. Dunn, son of John Dunn and Elizabeth Doig.  He was only 29 years and 10 months old at his death.  He was a pastor in the United Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, NY, but he was buried in Bovina in the old Associate Presbyterian Church cemetery.  His will was probated in Delaware County.

And since it is 'Leap Day,' it seems appropriate to note from the Bovina Cemetery information those folks who were born on Leap Day.  Out of the over 2000 people buried in Bovina, I found only two (though that doesn't mean there weren't others - the information just wasn't available).
  •  Jennie Raitt was the daughter of Thomas Raitt and Jennet Thorburn.  She was born February 29, 1844.  Married to James R.N. Russell, she died in July 1917.  
  • William James Storie, better known as Bill Storie, was born February 29, 1892, the son of John Storie and Jennie Laidlaw.  Married to Vera Davidson, Fletcher's sister, Bill was Bovina's town supervisor for 18 years and was Clerk of the Board of Supervisors for a number of years after that.  He lived on what is now the Behrer residence and passed away in June of 1963. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bovina Historian Annual Report for 2011

Each year, as town historian I am supposed to submit to the town board and the New York State Historian an annual report.  So here it is:


This year saw me off on several research paths.  The Civil War and a 1945 airplane crash were two predominant themes during the year.  The blog continues to be a good tool for sharing the information I find, though I’ve also started a printed version for those who do not have access to the Internet.  I made four appearances on WIOX in Roxbury and gave two presentations during the year. 

Research Themes/Topics

Delaware Valley Railroad – I did several blog entries about the attempt in 1898 to build a railroad that would have connected Andes and Delhi and a spur to Bovina.  The attempt failed, apparently due to lack of money, though whether that lack of funds was caused by economic factors or by someone ‘cooking the books’ is not clear.

Kennedy vs. Lee – early in the year I found a slander case from 1870 that involved the two Presbyterian ministers in Bovina.  I still need to write this one up for the blog.

Old foundations – during the year, I hiked to two old farm foundations.  In February, I hiked with Lynne Resch and Jane Mills to a foundation off Coulter Brook/Seedorf Road that was the McDivitt farm.  In October, again with Lynne Resch, we hiked up to Mount Warren and on the way found a house and barn foundation that I believe was once the Horace and Clara Warren farm.  In the 1990s, Pat Grimes took a group up there and they thought it was the original Maynard farm.  I have determined it was not, though after the Warren’s lost the farm in a foreclosure sale in 1884, a Maynard did become the owner

United States Civil War – 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S. Civil War.  I did monthly blog entries on different aspects of the war, including enlistments, those who died in the war, those who sought exemptions from service, and what happened to the surviving soldiers after the war.  Blog entries will continue into 2012 with biographies of all the soldiers from Bovina that served.

Airplane Crash on Bramley Mountain – A question from Steve Burnett and Chris Ingvordsen led to a fascinating and productive research odyssey concerning a plane crash in Bovina at the end of World War II.  The crash actually happened on Moon Mountain, which is off Regan Road and across from Bramley Mountain.  The plane was a military trainer and the pilot a West Point cadet.  The pilot was killed instantly in the crash.  Over the course of several months, I managed to get the federal accident report and the cadet’s student file from the Military Academy at West Point.  I made contact with the pilot’s sister-in-law and several of his classmates.  I have a 44 pound piece of the airplane that my dad recovered from the crash site when he was a teenager.  It was displayed at the Bovina Museum this summer.

Bovina resorts – I received several questions during 2011 about several Bovina resorts, including Red Pine Farms, Suits-Us Farm, Elms Farm and Crescent Valley Farm.  The questions came mostly from people who remember spending their childhood summers in one of these resorts.

Correspondence and research help

•    Layton W. Vick, researching the Brush family, asked me to review some of his on-line genealogical information concerning Alexander Brush, one of the first settlers in Bovina.
•    Bea Sohni, the proprietor of Russells Store, found a picture of a turn of the century (or before) baseball player in a uniform that says Bovina Center.  There was no information as to who the player was.  I circulated it on the internet and around town to see if anyone recognized the man – no luck yet.
•    Jerry Palmer sent two lines of inquiry in 2011:
   -an inquiry concerning a gentleman named William Yeoman, who lived in Bovina in the early to about mid 19th century.
   -he was pursuing information on a Martin Tuttle and his service in the Civil War.  I determined that Martin was not from Bovina.
•    Alan Downie was interested in a house in Bovina owned by John Downie, a shoemaker.  He had seen a blog entry about businesses in Bovina and noted that Downie was his ancestor.  He wanted to know where Downie’s house was located – it is the house now owned by Ken and Barbara Brown.
•    Liz Bennett asked about the Lounsbury farm on Crescent Valley.  She was one of many people who stayed there in the summer.
•    John Burrows sent in an inquiry about William S. Reynolds from Bovina.  Unfortunately, there was little additional information on him.
•    Through the Bovina history Flickr page, I had an inquiry from Rebecca (no last name given) who was hoping to find photographs of the Hobbie family.  I was able to provide some genealogical information, but unfortunately no photographs.
•    Robert M. Shackelton had an inquiry about James R. Shackelton, who was at some point chair of the Delaware County Democratic party.  He died young from TB. 
•    Randy Metz inquired about a James Elliott.  Unfortunately, it turned out that his James was not from Bovina, or even Delaware County.
•    I had several inquiries related to the Gerry estate:
   -Peggy Lozier Arps asked whether or not the Gerry Estate ever had a Lozier Automobile.  Peggy’s grandfather was the CEO and founder of the Lozier Auto Company.
   -Kathy Hamblet asked about her ancestor, Vivian Lionel Bennett, who was a horse trainer at Akunsti and died in a house fire there in 1938.  There was not much I could add beyond the information she had already found in the newspapers.
   -Todd Walker inquired about Edith Dresser Vanderbilt Gerry and particularly where she was buried.
•    Melissa Bonney is researching her Great grandfather, George Lewis, who had a house around Mountain Brook.  The foundation of the house no longer exists, but it does show up in the 1888 painting of the area. 
•    Mike Kudish has been researching the old railroads in Delaware County and published a book this year with maps of the old railroads, including those rail beds that were never completed.  This includes the attempt in 1898 to bring the railroad into Bovina.  Later in the year, he had an inquiry about tanneries in Bovina – and we did find one. 
•    I had several e-mail exchanges with Sue Devine, who is researching the Ashby family.  They mostly lived in Roxbury, but a Zebulon Ashby was living at “The Hook” and ran the hotel there, located where Fisk Antiques now stands.
•    Mark Kennaugh was pursuing whether or not the Hilson family had a feed store in Delhi.  What we determined is that they did have a warehouse on Depot Street in Delhi when the trains were still running there.  It was where they could off load and store feed delivered by train. 
•    Tom Russell had questions about his ancestory, James Russell.
•    Tara Dooley send an inquiry concerning the Liddle family in Bovina, specifically descendants of Thomas Liddle, who was born in Scotland in 1785.
•    Andrew Ebenstein, grandson of Mr. Schumann, asked about an emergency landing strip off Cape Horn Road.  This led to two hikes up to Mount Warren, which is where we believe the landing strip was located.
•    Mike and Karen Mills asked about a woman named Mary Ann Mills, who had property in Stamford and Bovina.  I found some information for her.  She was widowed young.  It appears that her son sold the Bovina land in the 1840s to Malcolm McNaught.
•    Lisa Stanton and Colleen Heavey are working on a grant for the church.  I provided some background information about the church for the grant application. 

Collecting images and records

•    Joan Archibald Townsend and her cousin Steve Archibald allowed me to scan her extensive collection of old family photographs. 
•    During Bovina Farm Day in September, several people came forward with pictures for me to scan. 
•    Sue Roberts Riebling, granddaughter of Grace and Dave Roberts, brought to Bovina while visiting her brother Steve pictures from her grandmother’s collection.  She allowed me to scan a number of them and will be bringing more next year.
•    Chuck McIntosh provided a much sought postcard view of Indian Rocks c. 1905 for me to scan.

Speaking engagements

Radio appearances on WIOX – the Future of Our Past, Peg Ellsworth
•    January 8 – to discuss Bovina’s history
•    January 22 – with Doug Kadow to discuss the Delaware Railroad Company
•    February 5 – with Roxbury Historian Anthony Libertore and President of Historical Society of Middletown, Diane Galusha – discussion of Civil War

Radio appearance on WIOX – the Farm Hour
•    On August 22, I appeared with Evelyn Stewart to discuss Farming Bovina

June 8 – Presentation on Bovina maps at the Andes Roundtable

October 29 – “I See Dead People – Stories from Bovina’s Cemeteries” – held at the Bovina library, with proceeds going to the Bovina Historical Society and the Bovina Public Library

Displays, slide shows

In the spring, I put together a display about Bovina schools which is at the Bovina Library.  This was tied to a program in early July to commemorate the closing 50 years ago in June of the last public school in Bovina.  

Bovina History Blog

The blog continues to be one of easiest ways for me to share the history of our town.  As it was pointed out to me this year, however, people without computers or access to the Internet do not get to see these.  Some entries are recycled as articles for the Bovina Community Newsletter, that that is only a fraction of entries.  I have created a printed version of the blog covering 2009 and 2010.  There are two sets in the Bovina Public Library (one for reference and one that can be loaned out) and another set at Russell’s Store.  The printed version for 2011 will be ready in the next month or so.  I also will be giving a set to the Delaware County Historical Association.

I did 88 blog entries this year, up from 66 the year before. 


I did four articles for the community newsletter, put out by the Bovina United Presbyterian Church.

I provided a history of farming in Bovina for the Farming Bovina website at

Bovina History Flickr page -

Flickr is a photo sharing service that has allowed me to share Bovina images and records.  These are the current sets of photos/records that are on-line.  I am working on completing two more sets to cover the images I received from Joan Archibald Townsend.  I hope to have these done in early 2012.

•    Bob Wyer Aerial Photos of Bovina, 1946,
•    Bovina (NY) Postcards
•    Bovina Churches
•    Bovina in Winter
•    Bovina NY Businesses
•    Bovina records 19th century
•    Bovina Schools
•    Bovina United Presbyterian Church Bicentennial
•    Burns Family Portraits
•    David Hoy Collection
•    Miller Family Portraits
•    Strangeway Family Album (thanks to the family of Jack Hilson)

Since starting the Bovina History page on Flickr in 2009, there have been 35,507 views of the 431 images there.

Other activities

Bovina Museum – I staffed the Bovina Museum on selected Saturdays starting in May and went through October, opening about once a month.  Though the traffic through the museum wasn’t heavy, we did get some people who had never visited before and I made some useful contacts. 

Bovina Roll of Honor – During World War II, Bovina created a roll of honor of any Bovina related soldier in service.  The roll stood for a number of years by the old library, now the Bovina Museum.  It was moved into the basement of the museum many years ago to protect it from the elements.  Chris Ingvordsen, who is a BHS Board member, and I moved it to the old fire house to get it out of a dampish basement.  I started exploring where and how the roll could be re-established in a public display.  Former Bovina residents and brothers Jim and Tom Hoy are very interested in the project and would like to contribute to the cost of doing this.  I started exploring this but surgery over the summer delayed this.  I will be moving to get this done in 2012.  Right now, we are considering the Community Hall as a place to display it. 

Hikes – I led three ‘official’ hikes to Indian Rocks – April 16, May 22 and December 27. 

Plans for 2012

Much of 2012 will be spent continuing projects started in 2011, including establishing a permanent home for the Bovina Roll of Honor, pursuing leads concerning the 1945 plane crash in Bovina and continued research and writing on Bovina and the Civil War.  Though Bovina did not yet exist when the War of 1812 started, I will be doing some research on Bovina soldiers who fought in that conflict to commemorate the Bicentennial of that conflict.  I’m also interested in identifying other old farm foundations to ensure they are documented. 

Respectfully submitted,

C. Raymond LaFever
Town Historian, Town of Bovina
February 12, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Part XIII

This is the tenth 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, 2011 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, section VIII is in the October 21 entry, sections IX and X are in the November 21 entry, section XI is in the December 21 entry and section XII is in the January 21, 2012 entry.] 

XIII.  Dates Not Easily Forgotten

April, 1857, stands out in local history as the date of one of the heaviest snowfalls in this section.  On the 13th and 14th three and one-half feet of snow fell.  This settled a bit until the 19th when three and a half feet more fell.  It was damp, heavy snow with no wind and no drifting.  The fences all being obliterated, the countryside looked like a smooth white sheet.  Roads were impassable for many days.  Hundreds of buildings were crushed from the excessive weight of the snow; and some stock perished from hunger and from the falling buildings.  The roof of the barn of Mrs. Mary Snooks at the Hook broke down, killing four cows.

The blizzard of 1888 also did very well as snowstorms go.  Families were snowbound in the outlying districts of the town for days since roads were not broke out for some time.  Over the mountain from the present Raymond Rabeler home a doctor was needed.  The road used at that time passed up over the hill between the two Rabeler farms, but it was drifted full.  Therefore, Mr. Winter made his way over the hill by foot through the fields to the George Archibald home; and Emily Archibald’s father, then an 18-year old lad, rode a horse to the village for the doctor.  This took hours as the roads were deep with snow.  The following day the Mountain Brook farmers and their sons worked all day tearing down fences and shoveling snow to make a way over the meadow for the doctor and his horse and sleigh to get to Mr. Winter’s sick wife.  This is but one example of the hardships experienced during the blizzards of those early years. 
1894 is also a date marked in the calendars of many minds, if only from hearsay.  One of the most destructive floods experienced by Bovinaites occurred in the month of June.  During a heavy thunderstorm a heavy cloudburst poured tons of water down upon the town, causing both the Pink Street stream and the Coulter Brook stream to overflow their banks and to flood the lands lying between them, the waters roaring through the valley with such force that they not only flooded cellars and lawns and gardens but also carried with them everything that stood in their course.  Hilson’s bridge, the Hook Bridge, the Cemetery Bridge and other small bridges were ripped out; roads were flooded and rutted; chicken houses, pig pens, and other small buildings were carried away.  Chickens, pigs, calves, and cows dotted the waters as they rushed along.  Many farmers were unable to milk their cows for a day or so because the cows, to save themselves, had gone to the higher grounds across the swollen streams and could not be reached.  However, in a few days the town was back to normal, some animals and some buildings having been found along the sides of the streams.  Once again the staunch Scotchmen had proved themselves capable of coping with any emergency. 
Thursday evening, August 20th, 1953, however, is a date we of this generation can talk about; for once again Dame Nature showed her bad humor toward the residents of Bovina.  Following a sudden cloudburst, a flash flood ripped through the village, ruining crops, gardens and lawns and causing damage ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.  The heavy rain, beginning at about 8:30 pm was accompanied by blackened skies, thunder and lightning.  It pelted Bramley Mountain the hardest; and the brooks, normally small trickles of water, swelled rapidly, then overflowed as tons of water cascaded down the slopes toward the village.  The two-story house, at one time the town hall, which was owned by Lester Hoy, was lifted by the flood and carried nearly 30 feet from its foundation.  The Thomas Garage was flooded, the water ripping out its concrete floor, many cellars were flooded, a part of the Hilson Bros. feed plant was flooded causing a loss of a large amount of stock, the McPherson farm and some of their buildings were flooded, some bridges were washed out, and roads were rutted and washed.  In fact, Friday morning the town was a sorry looking mess, but the people lost no time in starting the cleaning up job.  Perhaps after all of the bridges and roads have been rebuilt, the citizens will then be inspired to complete the job by beautifying this little hamlet snuggling down among the foothills of the Catskills.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bovina Fire Department

Bovina has had some kind of fire department at least since 1915, when the Bovina Center Fire Department was created.  In 1949, the Bovina Fire District came into being and shortly after that, the Bovina Fire Department as we now know it was formed.  I will be doing future blog entries about the early department and the current one, but I'm doing this entry specifically to highlight an exhibit at the Delaware County Historical Association, which formally opens this Friday (February 17) from 4 - 6. The Weird, The Odd and The Wonderful: Historic Objects and Curios from the Museum highlights a number of items from the DCHA collections.  In the exhibit is an item close to me - my dad's fireman's uniform.  The uniform dates from 1963 and was purchased through Stewart's Department Store in Delhi.

I suspect the entire department got these uniforms around the same time.  And they got public exposure that same year.  On July 6, 1963, the Bovina Fire Department participated in a parade at the Delaware County Firemen's Convention parade in Sidney.  This photograph was published in the Oneonta Star on July 8.

The men carrying the banner are Carl Schneider and Jack Burns.  The man behind the banner is Fire Chief Floyd Aitkens.  The left row of marchers are [unknown], Bob Burns, Ernie Russell, [unknown], John Robson, Herb Parsons (maybe) and [unknown].  The right row are Lester Stewart (partially hidden by Floyd Aitkens), Charlie LaFever (my dad), Cliff Hall, Bob Hall, Ronnie Russell, Roy 'Doc' Hadley and Jack Damgaard.  Any additions or corrections most welcome.  I especially want help on the ones I marked [unknown].  Click on the image to get a larger version.

So come to DCHA on Friday from 4-6 for a wine and cheese reception opening this exhibit.  Items on display, as well as my dad's uniform, will include: a 1950s Electro cardiogram, a stuffed albino woodchuck, a sheriff's billy club, a 1880s jeweler's lathe, a coffin, and a 1755 fire pump. The exhibit will be open during DCHA's regular hours until May 11th. Admission is free.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies II

Samuel Bouton was born in Roxbury in 1830, the son of Nathaniel Bouton and Elizabeth Corbin.  His service in the war appears to have been relatively brief.  He enlisted in Company H of the 8th Pennsylvania Battery in Scranton in May 1861 and was discharged less than three months later at the end of July 1861.  He was in Bovina in 1863 when he was registered for the draft but saw no subsequent service.  Married to Ann Gillie in Andes in 1864, the couple lived in Lake Delaware, where he died in 1912.  Samuel is buried in Bovina.

Known more familiarly as Sinclair, John Sinclair Burns, was Bovina's first Civil War casualty.  He was born in Bovina on August 29, 1841, the son of John and Nancy Burns.  On his 21st birthday, he enlisted for three years in Company E of the 144th NY Volunteer Infantry.  The following spring, on April 4, 1863, Sinclair died at the Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Virginia of typhoid fever.  His remains were sent back to Bovina for burial.
Andrew Chisholm was one of the many victims of typhoid fever in the Civil War.  Born November 1, 1839, Andrew was the son of Andrew Chisholm.  He enlisted in Company E of the 144th Infantry on August 19, 1862 in Bovina and was paid a bounty of $150. A little over a year later, on October 19, 1863, Andrew died at Folly Island, South Carolina.  He was buried on Folly Island, though there is also a memorial stone in the Bovina Cemetery.

James Clark was from Delhi, and appears to have spent most of his life there, but was living in Bovina at the time of his death.  Born in 1830, he enlisted in the first year of the war, joining company I of the NY 72nd Infantry.  He mustered out in June 1864 and settled in Delhi for some time.  By 1890 he was living in Downsville.  In the 1900 census, he was listed as widowed and living in Bovina.  He died in Bovina in 1902 and was buried in the Bovina Cemetery.

Brothers John and Solomon Coulter, sons of James and Nancy Coulter, enlisted in the 144th New York Infantry in August 1862.  John was quite successful, as a soldier and after his military service.  Born on April 19, 1842, he enlisted on August 15, 1862 and was paid a bounty of $150.  At the time of his enlistment, he was described as six feet tall with blue eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion.  John enlisted as a Sergeant and was promoted several times, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant before he was discharged on July 12, 1865.  After the war, John headed west, settling in Georgetown, Colorado.  In 1874, he married Annie Gaffney Leggett, a widow, and adopted her two children.  His career was quite successful, becoming a lawyer and a justice of the peace and, later, mayor of Georgetown.  John also served one term in the state legislature.  He moved to Moffat County, Colorado in 1900, continuing his legal practice.  In 1915, he moved to Boulder and retired from the law.  On New Year's Day, 1919, John Coulter died of heart disease and senile dementia at the age of 78.  He was buried in Boulder.

John's younger brother Solomon was not so lucky.  Enlisting a week after his brother, Solomon also was paid a bounty of $150.  He was a couple of inches shorter than his brother but also had blue eyes, black hair and a fair complexion.  A little over two years after enlisting he became yet another victim of typhoid fever, dying on September 23, 1864, in South Carolina at the age of 20.  There is conflicting information as to whether he was buried at Hilton Head, SC, where he died, or back in Bovina, where there is a memorial stone.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thomas Strangeway and Jennie Doig

One hundred and thirty-five years ago today (February 7, 1877), the home of Walter Doig was the scene of a wedding when his daughter Jennie married Thomas Strangeway.  Thomas, the son of Christopher Strangeway and Margaret Thompson, was born in Bovina November 26, 1852.  Jennie, whose full name was Margaret Jane, was born on the 20th of May 1854, also in Bovina, the daughter of Walter Andrew Doig and Margaret G. Armstrong.  The Doig home and farm was located near Teunis Lake.  Here's the notice from the February 20, 1877 Stamford Mirror:


Thomas and Jennie settled in Bovina on the family farm, off what is now Route 28 near Bread Fellows.  They had three daughters, Margaret Bell, Jennie E., and Nettie Helen.  Nettie Helen, better known as Helena, married John Hamilton Hilson in 1913.  Thomas and Jennie were married for 55 years when Thomas passed away on July 21, 1932.  Thomas had had a stroke in April of 1929.  By July, he was out and about again, according to the local newspapers, but had a relapse in August.  This first stroke must not have been too severe, for he was still serving as President of the Bovina Cooperative Fire Insurance Company a year later.  Jennie survived her husband by less than four years, dying on May 26, 1936 of heart disease.  Both are buried in the Bovina Cemetery.

This certificate of the marriage was graciously loaned to me by the family of Jack Hilson.  Signed by the minister, it was about 15 by 30 inches. Unfortunately, the photographs are badly faded.   Below are the photos with some enhancement.

And here is a picture of Thomas and Jennie with their three daughters.  It comes from the album of their daughter Helena Strangeway Hilson and dates from around 1890.