1889 Bovina and the surrounding towns saw a very contentious race for the State Assembly involving Andes' James Ballantine and Bovina's Isaac Maynard. In the September 17, 2019 entry in this blog is the more complete story of the contest. The main issue of interest to Bovina was an unsigned letter written to and published by the Delaware Standard (Walton) in September 1889 concerning this election, representing Mr. Ballantine as "drunken and licentious." There were other complications with this election and the local caucuses, but in the end, Ballantine was triumphant and won by a slim margin.
Ballantine did not drop his lawsuit against the editor of the Delaware Standard, however. He felt the need to defend himself against charges of being a drunk. There were several delays in getting the trial started. By the time the case had come to trial, Ballantine was already out of office, having only served one year in the State Assembly.
W.H. Howie, publisher of the Delaware Standard, was arrested in May 1891, at which time bond was posted for him. When it came time to appear, he was unable to do so due to injuries sustained in a fall. He finally gave his deposition in June and provided a list of several instances over a 10 year period in which Ballantine was drunk or behaving licentiously. One instance took place in Bovina in the fall of 1884, when during a political meeting he “did drink intoxicating liquors and did become intoxicated and upon said occasion was so intoxicated as to require assistance from others.”
Howie also testified about the Bovina caucus meeting in September 1889. He claimed that before the meeting, Ballantine “did expend large sums of money for the purpose of bribing voters to support him….” He also promised “Frank R. Coulter that he would purchase his….dairy of butter if he would support him….” Howie also claimed that Ballantine promised to secure an appointment to office for a relative of David Coulter and James Ward and for the son of James Mabon.
Howie’s testimony did not carry any weight with the jury. On September 24, 1891, the jury found for Ballantine and awarded him $500. Howie did end up paying the $500, with help from a number of people, but Ballantine wasn’t done with suits. During the trial, it was finally revealed who wrote the ‘Political Corruption in Bovina’ letter to the Howie’s newspaper – Archibald B. Phyfe. Phyfe was a Bovina farmer and an ardent champion of the temperance movement. Ballantine almost immediately filed suit against Phyfe, seeking $5,000 in damages.
Ballantine gave his deposition in January 1892, covering much of the same issues as with his suit against Howie. Phyfe was arrested on January 14, 1892 and placed under bond to answer the suit. The case did not conclude for over a year. When it did, Phyfe did not appear in court, so Ballantine was awarded $4,000. It appears that Phyfe did ultimately come up with the funds, but the court records and newspapers provided no further information after the verdict.
Ballantine was elected to the New York State Senate in 1895, but only served a few months before his unexpected death in Andes in May 1896. Phfye continued to live in Bovina, taking over the family farm. He lived with his sister and two daughters, having been widowed in 1885. His sister died in 1928 when overcome in their home by coal gas. Archibald was also overcome by the gas but managed to survive. See this blog for February 4, 2011 for more information about this incident. Archibald died in 1934.