Sunday, August 23, 2009

Town Historian Fletcher Davidson

With the arrival in Bovina this coming week of Ed and Dick Davidson, two sons of the late Fletcher Davidson, I thought I'd share some memories about one of my predecessors as Town Historian. Fletcher was a life long resident of the Town of Bovina, born there in 1895 and only leaving to attend college and to serve in France in World War I. A more detailed record of that time in his life can be found on the Delaware County Genealogy website at, where his son Ed has placed a transcription of his father's WWI diary.

Fletcher was married to Lois Ormiston in 1921 and they settled in Bovina to raise their family. I more vividly remember Lois in my younger days, since she was the choir director and church organist when I was a child. Lois had a stroke in the 60s and Fletcher was amazingly clever in creating tools for her so she could continue to be active with the use of only one hand. I seem to recall an article in the newspaper about it.

My more memorable encounters with Fletcher happened in my young adulthood. In 1978, I stumbled on the fact that my dad's mother's mom and his father's grandmother both shared the last name of Miller. I had heard that Fletcher had quite a collection of genealogy files for certain Bovina families. I later learned these were the Bovina Families notes created by his uncle David Hoy in the early 20th century. When Fletcher was in Russell's store one day (where I was working), I asked him about the Millers and whether or not he might have any information that would show my grandparents may have been related. He said he might and we talked about my coming down sometime to see what he had.

The next day (April 26, to be exact - the advantage of having kept a diary) Fletcher came into the store with nine sheets or so of handwritten material in which he provided information on all the Millers. So I eagerly took these home, plugged the names into a genealogical chart and I was on my way as a genealogist. During the next few days, I eagerly explored the cemetery near my house and was thrilled to find the graves of so many of my ancestors. I still have those sheets and that first chart. I date my interest in my family tree and in local history from that encounter. And yes, my grandparents were third cousins once removed. It is through the Millers that I am related to the Davidson family.

My dad recalled what a sharp memory Fletcher had. Dad could point to almost any house in Bovina and ask Fletcher who owned it in the past. He would know and often could recite almost the entire history of ownership. He's been a hard act to follow as historian! I usually know where to find the information, but I always have to go to my sources for anything that detailed.

As Fletcher got older, he spent more time with his sons in California, making occasional visits to Bovina. He started a project to transcribe the entire set of the family history notes that he had inherited from David Hoy. It was this transcript that I in turn transcribed into the computer and is now also on the Delaware County Genealogy site at I now have access to the David Hoy materials and have started the very slow process of verifying my transcription and Fletcher's with that information.

As the personal computer age dawned, Fletcher started entering some of the family history information into his computer, and was doing so until just days before his death in California in 1987. All three of his sons, though none were living in Bovina, continued his legacy. Alan, my dad and I had a number of conversations about Bovina history in 2003. Alan passed away only two weeks after my dad in 2004, but his brothers continue their work in verifying all the burials in the Town of Bovina. Because of their hard work, Bovina has the best documented dead people in the state - and that information is readily available on the Delaware County Genealogy website at (just scroll down a bit to cemeteries and see all the material they've submitted).

Continuing a tradition that started in 1998 and became an annual one in 2005, Ed and Dick come East every summer, stay in my house, and continue their work on the cemeteries - oh yes, and they do visit family and friends! So welcome once again Davidson boys, to the bucolic splendors of your home town.

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