Friday, July 3, 2015


The last part of the Bovina History Pageant, held April 18, 2015, was a segment about "newcomers." Unfortunately, when Bill Madon very kindly posted the video of the pageant on you tube at, part of this segment was left out, likely because Aretha Franklin's "Respect" was playing in the background, leading to possible copyright issues. So I'm presenting here, with some minor edits, the text from my script:

Sometime in the 90s, two men from the Hudson Valley separately made their way to Bovina. They found work and in both instances, ended up marrying daughters of prominent Bovina families. It is likely that they were welcomed with some reservation by the established residents of the town. They both had last names that were not the common Scottish or English ones. 

One was Jeremy Barnhart, with Palantine German origins and the other was Sylvan LaFever, with French Huguenot antecedents - they are my great grandfathers. I’m talking about the 1890s. Jeremy came from the Town of Hardenburg and was in his 20s. Sylvan had been orphaned on Christmas Eve 1886 when his father died in a quarry accident near the town of New Paltz. He was likely in his early 20s when he too was attracted to Bovina. Jeremy married Kate Miller in 1890, the daughter of Michael Miller and Sally McCune Miller. The Millers and the McCunes had been in Bovina since early in its history. Sylvan married the daughter of another prominent Bovina family. He married Ellen ‘Ella’ Burns, daughter of Alexander Burns and Nancy Miller Burns, in 1897. The Burns had also come to Bovina as early pioneers. Nancy Miller Burns and Michael Miller were first cousins once removed.
Jeremy Barnhart

Sylvan LaFever holding his grandson Howard. Ben LaFever is to the left and the young boys in the front are Edwin and Sylvan Jr. 
These two marriages brought the Barnharts and the LaFevers into Bovina. Jeremy Barnhart stayed in Bovina, successfully farming on Pink Street until his early death at the age of 49 in 1916. Sylvan LaFever did not succeed at farming in Bovina and after the birth of their first child, Benson, at the home of Ella’s parents, Sylvan moved his family to Norwich to try their luck there. Sylvan never came back to Bovina to live, but the death of his wife Ella in 1908 caused him to send his two sons, Benson and Clarence, back to Bovina to live with his in-laws for a time. Benson ended up settling in Bovina, marrying in 1923 the daughter of Jeremy and Kate Barnhart, Anna Bell. 

The descendants of Sylvan LaFever and Jeremy Barnhart still live in Bovina and the surrounding area today and the names are considered to be Bovina staples.  But it’s important to remember that when Jeremy and Sylvan first came to Bovina, they were viewed as ‘new-comers.’ 

And there have been other newcomers. The early 20th century saw the arrival of a Norwegian couple, Andrew and Sophie Reinertsen. During the depression, several familes from Nebraska with German roots heard about what a great place Bovina was and resettled from the dust bowl. That’s how Menkes, Selhorns and Rabelers came to town. In the 1960s, the first large family in some time settled in Bovina -the Pelletiers, French Canadians with a twist of Irish. They helped keep Bovina’s population in the 1970 census above 500! 

Now mixed with all those Scots were people with other genealogical backgrounds. Bovina continues to have a diverse population from many parts of the globe – Argentina and Brazil are just two of the countries that come to mind. 

Yes, there can be tension between the newbies and the old timers, but the common thread that courses through them and their lives is that, for whatever reason, they love Bovina. We need to remember that and though we may disagree on things, we should always try, as in the words of Aretha Franklin, “show respect, just a little bit.”

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