Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hamden or Delancey - Where did the old Bovina Church go?

Historians can be wrong. They try very hard to have all of their facts in a row, but sometimes mistakes happen. It's very possible that the recent history I wrote for the Bovina U.P. Church has an error. The error revolves around what happened to the old Associate Presbyterian Church of Bovina building when the congregation moved into its new structure in 1849. My history states that it was moved to Hamden and that the building still exists behind the Hamden Presbyterian Church, used as its community center. But it is more likely that it was moved to Delancey to become the Delancey United Presbyterian Church. That building burned down in 1896, to be replaced by the current structure.

At the time I was working on the history, I had some confusion and debate about whether the Bovina building went to Hamden or Delancey. Part of this confusion is the confusion people sometimes have about these two locations, which are both hamlets in the Town of Hamden. I ultimately assumed the building went to the hamlet of Hamden for several reasons:

-The community center for the Hamden Presbyterian Church does appear to fit the footprint of the old Bovina church.

-The autobiography of Bovina Pastor Reverend John Graham, who was instrumental in establishing the Associate Presbyterian congregation in the Town of Hamden, specifically said the building for that congregation was NEAR Delancey, not in it. If it was the Delancey church, why didn't he say Delancey?

-The congregation Graham established was called the Associate Presbyterian Church of Hamden - so I assumed that meant the hamlet, not the whole township.

Well, I should have done a bit more digging. I think part of me simply wanted to be able to say that something of the original Bovina church still existed - so I may have ignored information that I shouldn't have. A phone conversation with local historian Dorothy Kubik has forced me to review my sources. She is pursuing this mystery after seeing references in the local newspapers about the Bovina church moving to Hamden. She is pretty convinced that it was Delancey, not Hamden, and had several facts to back up her case. So checking some of those and other sources I had, here's what I found:

-A history of the Delancey U.P. Church by Louise Little, available on the Delaware County Genealogy website (, states that the congregation's original building burned in 1896. That would explain why the current structure does not at all resemble the description of the old Bovina church. This history also mentions the role of Reverend Graham in establishing the congregation - another important clue.

-Munsell's 1880 history of Delaware County says that the Delancey United Presbyterian Church was created in 1849 as the Associate Presbyterian Church of Lansingville (the former name for Delancey). This church was created by combining the Associate Presbyterian congregations of Hamden and Delhi, both of which had just been created a few months before with the help of Reverend Graham. It was the Hamden Associate congregation he established that he said used the timbers of the old Bovina church.

-Munsell's history goes on to explain that the Hamden Presbyterian church was created in 1855. This would be two years after Graham had resigned as pastor in Bovina due to ill health, and about three years after the Bovina church timbers were said to have been moved over the snow to build a new church. The fact that the Hamden Church was never known as the Associate or United Presbyterian Church but simply as the Hamden Presbyterian Church is another telling fact in favor of Delancey.

-The 1886 Manual for the Bovina UP Church, which includes a history of the congregation, has in a footnote that the old church's frame was moved to Delancey to serve as the Delancey U.P. Church.

-Checking maps confirmed that the Delancey U.P. Church's location fits more closely with Graham's description that places it on the east side of the river. The Hamden church, by contrast, is on the west side.

Dorothy and I are going to try and find old newspapers from 1896 to see if the report of the fire that destroyed the Delancey church provides any further information as to whether or not the old Bovina church timbers were used in its construction. Unfortunately, the one source we don't have are original records from the 1840s and 50s from Hamden, Delancey or Bovina that specifically state when and to where the old Bovina church timbers went. This certainly has added to the on-going confusion.

This cannot excuse the fact, however, that I very likely got the wrong end of the stick on this one. There was plenty of evidence in existence to indicate it was Delancey and not Hamden that got the old Bovina church timbers. I hate to admit I was wrong, but I want the history I present to be accurate. Stay tuned for further developments.


  1. The 1876 Manual of the Bovina UP Church states that "in 1849 a new church edifice was erected" but doesn't mention what happened to the existing timber from the old church. However, the 125th anniversary history does say "The old church building was given to the U.P. Congregation of Delancey. It was dismantled and moved thither in 1852 to become the house of worship of that congregation."

    In addition to the 1886 Manual and Munsell's, information was gathered for the 125th Anniversary from the 1898 "Centennial History of Delaware County, New York" edited by David Murray and published by William Clark, "History of Delaware County" by Jay Gould and the 1933 "A Short History of Delaware Presbytery" by Rev. Alvin W. Stewart.

    Perhaps there might be additional info in one of these publications.

    Jeanne Raitt Flye

  2. Ray I recently visited Del Co. and spent a bit of time in the bovina/ new kingston area. I was very disappointed to have missed the bicenntenial afair. My gr. gr. gr. grantfather and mother, James and Grace archibald Miller are buried in the old U.P. cem. I am convinced that you and I are kin. I suspect that my James and your Thomas Miller were closly related. At present I'm trying to locate the family of Andrew Miller and I need some one to poke around the new U.P. bovina cem. for headstone info. Can you hook me up with someone who would be willing to help? the plot is that of Andrew and his family ( 05-15-01,02,03, etc. John Miller