Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries – "Our Pastor, Rev. Robert Laing"

Reverend Robert Laing, the first pastor of what later became the Bovina United Presbyterian Church, is buried in the Associate Presbyterian Church cemetery on Reinertsen Hill Road.  Laing was a native of Scotland, born a few miles from the city of Perth in 1750.  He was the minister for a congregation in Dunse in Southern Scotland for eight years.  He was removed from his charge by the Presbytery; the reason why has not been provided.  In 1795, he came to the United States and was employed as a minister almost as soon as he landed.  Laing had three pastorates in America:  Buffalo, Pennsylvania; South Argyle, New York and finally, Bovina.

Laing’s availability for Bovina came as a result of his being removed as pastor of Argyle.  He was accused of being intoxicated on August 26, 1810 - a charge to which he readily confessed.  After being rebuked by the Presbytery the matter was considered closed, but apparently his congregation disagreed and in January 1811 members requested dissolution of his pastorate, “alleging that his usefulness was at an end.” 

Laing came to Bovina in 1814 and was pastor for nine years.  The congregation was happy to have a pastor, having gone its first five years without one.  The History of the Presbytery of Argyle, published in 1880, noted that after nine years “offence and trouble must needs come, as in Argyle, and on the 8th of May, 1823, he was rebuked and suspended from the ministry by the Presbytery.”  His relationship with the congregation was dissolved a month later.  A year after that, Laing was restored to membership in the Presbytery but he did not attempt to find another pastorate, instead staying in Bovina for the rest of his days.  The specific reasons he was removed as pastor are not provided.  In his autobiography, Laing’s successor, John Graham, noted that eight years from the time Mr. L was ordained among them had scarcely expired, when the Presbytery found it necessary to loose him from his charge and declare the pulpit vacant. More about this unpleasant affair I do not feel at liberty to speak, as I do not deem it would be for general edification to rake up the ashes of those fires which once burned so hot, but which are now happily put out, I trust forever.”

The Bovina pulpit was vacant for nine years, possibly because Laing made it too hard for any prospective candidate.  Graham reported that “young men were afraid of preaching before such a critic as Mr. L. and that he did all that lay in his power to terrify and drive them away.”  When Laing heard that the congregation was ready to call a new minister “he was sure to go . . . and ‘examine the laddie’s quilts’ and then went to certain quarters, where, as he said, he ‘tore them a’ to tatters.’”

This was not Graham’s experience, however.  He said Laing was very accommodating and often would help with the dispensing of communion.  Laing was last able to help with communion around 1835 when he was 85 years old.  He became too infirm to attend services for the last four years of his life, though he was kept apprised of what was going on in Bovina and in the Associate Presbyterian Church in general.  He died on 29th of May, 1839.

His obituary, published by the Associate Synod of North America in its Religious Monitor and Evangelical Repository for June 1839, said that “to say that Mr. Laing was entirely free of vanity, that his own natural temper never involved him in difficulties, or obtained the ascendency over his judgment, or that in a debate he felt not desire to tease and vanquish an opponent, is what none of his friends will maintain.  But though he was not without his faults and failings, yet these, we are disposed to believe, were too often magnified...  A conviction of this, and a sense of his innocence when called upon in Presbytery to face his accusers, tended to rouse his mind and summon all his powers to defend himself ... not only with strong arguments, but with sharp, pointed and poignant sarcasm, so that he caused to lie prostrate before him...the questionable testimony of prejudiced witnesses,... or, to use a favourite phrase of his, ‘he cut them all to pieces.’  He often said that he had been a man of war from his youth, and was determined to die with his face to the enemy; but long before he left this world of troubles, he changed his sentiments, and put on the bowels of forgiveness, patience, meekness, and love.  For these two years past he was never heard to speak a world unfavorable even of those whom he thought had injured him.”

This obituary noted that Laing as a preacher was unusually popular.  He had a “strong, well-regulated voice” and “a dignified appearance.”  It was also said that “He failed not to attract the attention, and gain the affections of the people wherever he was sent to preach.”  The members of the Bovina congregation certainly held him in high regard - he was buried within feet of where he once preached to the enthralled members of the Association Presbyterian Church of Bovina congregation.  This stone, however, was not erected until over 20 years after Laing's death, possibly replacing an earlier one.  In January 1858, the session voted to erect a monument to the memory of Rev. Laing.  The stone was purchased by pastor and moderator, James B. Lee, at the end of 1859 and likely was erected in the spring of 1860.  By the time the stone was erected, the name of the church had changed to the United Presbyterian Church of Bovina.  This is reflected in the inscription on the stone.

As can be seen in the accompanying photograph, courtesy of Ed and Dick Davidson, the top of the stone in large letters says ‘Our Pastor’  As well as providing his name and death date, it notes that he was the "First pastor of the U.P. Church, Bovina, New York" and that he died in his 89th year and the fifty-second of his ministry. At the bottom, partially cut off by the concrete base that obviously was added later is a verse from the King James version of the Bible, 2 Thessalonians 2:5:  "Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you [of] these things?" 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Part XIV

This is the eleventh and final 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, section XII is in the January 21, 2012 entry and section XIII is in the February 21 entry.]  

XIV.  War

Since the first settlers came to the town of Bovina, our country has several times been plunged into a war; and each time our townsmen and women have courageously accepted their duties.

However, all that the Bovina settlers kenw about the Revolutionary War was what they learned either from service before coming to Bovina or from hearsay from some of the settlers who had served their country before coming to Bovina.  But the Civil War!  That was real enough to them.  They followed their boys the day the first ones went away – their husbands, their sons, their sweethearts with flags floating and songs and banners gay to honor them.  All that was in the early days of the war when neither they nor the boys who left could know the sufferings of that war – the nights of waiting in camps – the hunger – the cold – the homesickness – the destruction – and death.  [*23 – Civil War Soldier and Song – Tenting Tonight]  That war, they thought, was to be the last great war.  They prayed for peace and good will toward men – and peace they thought was theirs until a great war - the First World War came upon them.

This war was a different kind of war than those they had known.  Not all the soldiers lay in trenches, and more than soldiers’ uniforms now fill the corners of their chests of memories.  Yes, the joy of service touched the hearts of old and young; and all fingers bent themselves to unaccustomed tasks.  And at last in 1919 when victory came, what joy!  Yet amid the joy there was a pang, for not all of those who bravely set their faces East returned home.  For some, there were the distant poppy-reddened Flanders Fields.  But once again peace settled down upon a tired world, and this time it seemed real, and hopes were bright that it would be a lasting peace.

Then in September, 1939, the world once more heard the heavy tramp of marching feet in Europe, the roar of heavy guns, the frantic whine of diving airplanes, and the fateful crash of bombs striking their targets.  World War II was, in truth, upon them; and on December 7, 1941, the blow fell – Japanese bombers without warning attacked the great American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  On December 8th President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war against Japan, and on December 11th the United States declared war against Germany and Italy.  The Americans once again bent all their efforts towards victory.  Boys and girls, men and women – all gave their time and money towards winning a victory.  The citizens became airplane spotters, shipyard laborers, airplane factory workers, blood donors, farm laborers, scrap metal and paper and rubber collectors.  To release men for actual fighting, young women were recruited in the WACS, WAVES, WAFS, and SPARS.

Finally on October 14, 1945 the United States was again at peace with the world, as World War II, the costliest and most destructive war in history, to an end.  But the post war years have been disappointing.  Even so, they have presented a challenge to all Americans, young and old, to hold high hope of democracy before the peoples of the earth.  Would that the lessons learned upon those battlefields might be eternal, that every passing day might see our understanding and sympathy increase for stranger folk, and our love of country and of our fellowmen grow stronger and deeper.  We could pay no greater tribute than this to all the soldier boys who gave their services in these three destructive wars, approximately 71 of whom were from Bovina in the Civil War, [blank] in the First World War, and [blank] in the Second World War. 

NOTE:  The typed portion of this script ends here.  There are some handwritten notes that help describe how this history pageant ended:
Taps – to gather
Liberty enters
2nd World War people enter from back, let one carry the flag
Taps sound
[illegible] reads scroll of dead
All sing “God Bless America”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies III

A cousin of brothers John and Solomon Coulter (featured last month), Thomas Coulter was born in Bovina in 1844.  He was the son of David Coulter.  He enlisted on August 28, 1862 and joined the same company and regiment as his cousins, the 144th NY Volunteer Infantry, Company E.  For enlisting, he was paid a bounty of $50.  Thomas was a farmer and had blue eyes, brown hair, a fair complexion and was 5 feet 11 inches tall.  In August 1863, he was sick in the hospital, but recovered and mustered out as a private on June 25, 1865 at Hilton Head, SC.  Thomas left Delaware County soon after the war and settled in Montana Territory as a gulch miner.  He died January 16, 1895 in Montana and is buried in the Forestvale Cemetery, Helena, Montana.

Born January 3, 1841, John P. Dennis, son of Thomas and Louisa Dennis, lived in Bovina when he enlisted on August 21, 1862.  He was paid $100 bounty.  He mustered out of the 144th NY Volunteers on June 25, 1865.  Dennis farmed in Bovina after the war.  In 1890, he reported as a disability a rupture and bad left hip.  Between 1900 and 1910, he and his wife Mary moved to Charles City County, Virginia.  The both appear in the 1920 census but by the 1930 census, Mary was widowed.  Exactly when and where John died I have not yet determined.

William Dennis
may be the brother of John (there is conflicting information about his parents, so I'm not totally sure).  He was born in Bovina in 1836 and married Lydia Betts in December 1861.  When he enlisted August 24, 1864, joining the 144th New York Volunteers as a private, he was working as a miller.  He mustered out with his company on June 25,1865 at Hilton Head, S.C.  He moved several times after the war.  In 1870, he was a farmer in Colchester, with his wife and five children.  By 1890, he was in Delhi, when he reported in a special military census that he suffered from diarrhea and piles, an effect of his service.  He appears on the 1900 census in Walton.  William moved yet again and by 1910, he and his wife Lydia were living in Bergen County, NJ with two of their children.  They do not appear in the 1920 census, so it is possible that William and his wife were deceased by or before 1920. 

Walter Dickson
was a blacksmith, born in 1834 in Bovina.  At his enlistment in Middletown on August 26, 1862, he was described as being 5 feet 6 inches tall, with light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair.  He mustered into the 144th NY Volunteers, Company G.  Mustering in as a sergeant, he was promoted to first sergeant in January 1864 and was a second lieutenant at the end of that year.  Walter mustered out with the company at Hilton Head, SC on June 25, 1865.  Dickson left Delaware County and was an early settler at Garner, Iowa, where he was the town's first blacksmith and, later, a farmer.  He died in 1892 in Crossville, Tennessee.

James R. Douglass was born in October 1822.  In August 1864, at the rather advanced age of 42, he enlisted into the 144th New York Volunteer Infantry as a private.  He mustered out with the company on June 25, 1865 at Hilton Head, SC.  James was married twice, first to Nancy Scott, then to Mary McCune.  He died at the age of 50 in 1873 and is buried in the Bovina Cemetery.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Investors in the Delaware Railroad Company

In my June 8, 2011 blog entry about the Delaware Railroad Company, where I shared some documents Tom Hilson had unearthed about the railroad, I promised to provide a list of people buying shares in the company and purchasing the right of way for the railroad.  Here are the lists. 

There were two different documents listing shareholders, pretty much duplicates of each other. 

Shareholders for the Delaware Railroad Company.

We, the undersigned, hereby subscribe hereto our respective names, post office addresses and the number of shares of capital stock, at the par value of one hundred dollars ($100.00) each, which we respectively agree to take in the Delaware Railroad Company, a corporation organized under the Laws of the State of New York, with a capital stock of Two hundred thousand Dollars ($200,000.00) consisting of two thousand shares and we hereby severally agree to pay for said stock at such times as the Board of Directors of each Company may by resolution require after the completion of said railroad to Bovina Center, and not before.  [The number after each name and address is the number of shares purchased.]

F.R. Coulter            Bovina Center        1
B.S. Miller            Bovina Center        1
D. Dickson            Bovina Center        1
J.W. Coulter            Lake Delaware        2
J.A. Irvine            Lake Delaware        1
James Russell            Bovina Center        1
W.L.C. Samson            Bovina Center        2
L. Phinney            Bovina Center        1
James & Margaret Chisholm    Bovina            1
A.T. Strangeway            Bovina            1
Charles R. Lee            Bovina            1
J.R. Hoy            Bovina            1
Mrs. D. Lyle Thomson        Bovina            1
J.M. Miller            Bovina            1
M. Miller            Bovina            1               
Albert McPherson        Bovina            1
D.J. Miller            Bovina            1
Johnson Bros            Bovina            1
Thomas Hoy            Bovina            1
W.A. Doig            Bovina            1
Robert W. Scott            Bovina            1
J.H. Blair            Bovina            1
W.L. White            Bovina            1   
W.F. Black            Bovina            1
J.W. Storie            Bovina            1
M.A. Doig            Bovina            1
J.E. Hastings            Bovina            1
Mrs. E.A. Hewitt        Bovina            1
W.J. Archibald            Bovina            1
John W. Elliott            Bovina            $10 dollars
Thomas J. Liddle        Bovina            $5 dollars
R. Archibald            Bovina            $5
R.G. Foreman            Bovina            $5
J.E. Knapp            Bovina            $10

There are several documents of people contributing to the purchase of the right of way for the railroad.  There were a lot of names, so I have alphabetized them to make them easier to peruse:

We the undersigned, for value received, do severally agree to pay to the Delaware Railroad Company, a corporation duly organized, the sums set opposite our respective names, for the purpose of purchasing the right of way for the said Railroad Company; the sum to be paid on the completion of said railroad to Bovina Centre, and not before.  [Addresses are Bovina or Bovina Center, unless otherwise indicated.]

Amos, Walter        $25.00    Andes
Anderson, A.        $5.00
Armstrong, F.C.        $50.00
Armstrong, W.W.        $5.00
Bailey, Jacob        $5.00
Barnhart, J.T.        $25.00
Bergman, Mina        $25.00
Biggar, John        $25.00    Andes
Biggar, W.        $25.00
Bramlee, G.        $50.00
Bramley, Fred        $5.00
Brisbane, Wm. H.    $5.00     Lake Delaware
Bryden, Alex        $5.00     Lake Delaware
Case, E.H.        $5.00
Coulter, H.M.        $5.00     Margaretville
Coulter, J.H.        $5.00
Coulter, Francis    $25.00
Currie, D.G.        $5.00
Dennis, John P.        $5.00
Draffen, D.B.        $5.00
Dumond, W.J.        $5.00
Erkson    , Claude    $5.00
Fiere, Robert        $5.00
Finkle, D.H.        $5.00
Foreman, H.        $25.00
Forrest, W.T.        $25.00
Gladstone, Geo        $50.00
Graham, F.W.        $5.00     Lake Delaware
Hastings, Elmer E.    $25.00
Hastings, M. T.        $5.00
Hastings, W.E.        $5.00
Hobbie, John S.        $50.00
Jackson, Robert        $5.00
Jardine, A.        $5.00
Johnson, W.        $5.00
Johnston, A.A.        $25.00
Johnston, Fred        $25.00
Laidlaw, H.        $5.00
Liddle, William M.    $5.00
Mason, Wm. T.        $5.00    Lake Delaware
Maynard, W.H.        $5.00
McCune, D.        $2.00
McCune, John        $5.00
McDivitt, W.        $5.00
McFarland, Andrew    $25.00
McLee(?),W.G.        $5.00
McNair, Geo. R.        $10.00
McNair, Peter        $5.00
McNee, Wm. F.        $5.00     Lake Delaware
McPherson, A.F.        $5.00
Miller, G.D.        $10.00
Miller, Gideon        $5.00
Miller, Wm. T.        $5.00
Monroe, James        $25.00
Myers, A.R.        $5.00
Oliver, John        $5.00
Ormiston, T.        $25.00
Phyfe, A.B.        $5.00
Rait, Mrs. J.        $25.00    Andes
Reynolds, Orrin        $25.00
Russell, R.H.        $25.00
Sanford(?), Charley    $25.00
Seacord, A.C.        $5.00
Seacord, S.R.        $25.00
Sloan, Leonard        $5.00
Smith, Amasa J.     $5.00
Smith, Richard        $5.00
Thompson, W.D.        $5.00
Thomson, A.G.        $50.00
Thomson, D.L.         $25.00
Thomson, Dixon        $50.00
Thomson, Elliott    $10.00
Thomson, James A.    $5.00
Thomson, L.        $5.00
Thomson, M & L        $50.00
Thomson, Robert A.    $10.00
Thomson, Robt. E.    $5.00
Thomson, Wm. S.        $50.00
Tuttle, C.A.          $25.00
Washburn, E.S.        $5.00
Whitson, John A.     $25.00    Andes
Wight, Jas. R.        $25.00    Andes
Worden, D.C.        $25.00

These documents show that there was a lot of support for the railroad in Bovina, though everyone was cautious enough to not put any money on the table until the railroad was actually built.  As discussed in previous blog entries, railroad construction was started but never completed, much to the disappointment of many people.