Friday, December 31, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - Snickerdoodles

My latest attempt using a recipe from the 1911 UP Church Cookbook had a very familiar name to me - Snickerdoodles. Snickerdoodles were one of the first cookies I tried when I got into baking and became a staple in my recipe repertoire. So I was intrigued to find this almost 100 year old version. It's not the Snickerdoodles I remember, though it's close. One puzzling aspect of the recipe was that it is in the Bread and Rolls section of the book, not the Cookies section. Here's the recipe:

Cream together 2 cups sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 eggs, add 1 cup raisins, cut small; 1 cup milk, salt, 2/3 teaspoon soda, 1 1/3 teaspoon cream tartar, 1 qt flour. Drop small spoonfuls on buttered tins, sprinkle thick with mixed sugar and cinnamon; bake. -L.E. Dennis.

The recipe I used over the years did not include the milk or raisins and the cookies could be rolled into balls and put on the baking sheet. These were too sticky to be rolled. And they don't look like the ones I was used to either.

I baked them at 350 for about 8-9 minutes. They turned out ok, though I prefer my regular recipe. I shared them with a group at the church that went Christmas Caroling.

The recipe submitter was Miss Louisa E. Dennis. She was born in 1845 and was baptized into the UP Church as an adult in 1864. In the 1910 census, she was living with her sister Hellen and working as a milliner. By the 1920 census, she was living on her own, her sister having died in 1913. And she was not listed as having any occupation. What happened to her after that I do not know. Nor do I know much more about her background, such as who her parents were. But we have her recipe....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ghosts of Christmases Past

I thought it would be fun to look at my diary from past Christmases but decided I should also look at a few diaries in my possession from the Cecil Russell family to see what they had to say about the holidays.

Cecil's wife, Isabel Irvine Russell, sporadically kept a five year diary for 1941-45 (with no entries at all for 1944 or 45). For Christmas Day 1941, Isabel reported a little snow, but not a lot. In 1942, she reported that Cecil picked up their Christmas tree on the 23rd and that the store was 'real busy' on Christmas Eve. The family finished decorating their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. For Christmas Day, Isabel wrote "A perfect day for Xmas about 1 ]inch] of snow and not cold."

Isabel and Cecil's daughter Marjorie kept a diary in 1946 and 1947 though, like her mother, she did it sporadically. She did report on Christmas Eve in 1946 that she was "busy getting ready for Xmas dinner..." She noted on Christmas Day that she had a "grand time." Her uncle Charles Russell and his wife Hildreth Tuttle Russell came, as did their son Allyn. They feasted on a "good turkey from Millard Russell." In 1947, she noted that her mother had a cold, which, by the day after Christmas, she had passed on to Marjorie.

Isabel kept a series of five-year diaries starting in 1954 and was much more faithful in recording an entry each day. In her attempt to record as much as she could in a small space, she wrote small, making these diaries a real challenge to read (or to distinguish one year's entry from another). Each Christmas Eve she mainly noted that the store was terribly busy with last minute shoppers and that they often didn't sit down to supper until 8 pm or later. She reported for Christmas Day in 1955 and 57 that it was nice and clear and that in 1957 the ground was bare. In contrast, there was record breaking cold in 1958, with the temperature still at 0 at 11 am. The weather was fairly stable in subsequent years until 1963, when Isabel recorded a lot of snow on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day: "Couldn't see any distance at all roads slippery had to drive slow." The next year in contrast saw weather 'just like spring 50 degrees this AM." Christmas 1966 saw "The worst storm for a long time. Wind blew hard all night have 15 to 17 [inches]." Christmas Eve and Day 1968 saw Isabel nursing a cold. She did her stint in the store in spite of her cold and noted that she "stood it ok."

Here's an undated picture of Russell's Store in the snow. Probably from the 40s or 50s. Whether it was during the holidays cannot be determined.

The first time I recorded my holiday activities in a diary was in 1970. By then, I was working for Russell's after school. I noted on Christmas Eve that there was 3 inches of wet snow, which I assume I had to shovel at the store, though I don't specifically say so. I also noted that Russell's "gave me a box of candy and a pair of soxs (sic) for Christmas." Cecil, Isabel and Marjorie were always very good to me. That evening, my sister Diane and I participated in the Christmas Eve service at the UP Church. My family had a tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve, so that same night I reported getting "a very nice telescope, a Bill Cosby record and a shirt." Though the telescope was used primarily to gaze at the moon and stars, that first night we did look at the windows in the house across the way!

And I close with my entire diary entry for Christmas day 40 years ago: "I looked through my telescope quite a lot today. I could see things quite clear. Our dinner was very good but it filled me up quick. It snowed a little but not much. At 7:15 we went up to Howard's and Laura's [my Uncle and Aunt, Howard and Laura LaFever] and saw Grandma and Grandpa [Anna Bell and Ben LaFever]. I played ping-pong and played the piano [I can barely play ping-pong and have no idea how to play a piano beyond 'Chopsticks'!] . Watch[ed] on TV the movie Life with Father. Now bedtime. Goodnite."

And a very Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Prosperous Bovina Farmers

Just over 100 years ago, the Catskill Mountain News of February 25, 1910 reported on a speech by Dr. Powell of Columbia County at a dinner in New York. The paper noted that Dr. Powell "has long been prominently connected with the agricultural interests of the State." Powell had been Director of the Farmer's Institute in the 1890s and served as Treasurer of the New York State Dairymen's Association. His speech included remarks about Bovina and his experience there in the early 1890s while conducting a farm census of the town.

"It has been said that you never know the best qualities of a man until you have put your feet under his table, and in making a dairy census of the town of Bovina several years ago, I met the farmers and their families in their homes and had the most favorable opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with their character, and found in them most excellent qualities.... "

Dr. Powell recalled arriving at the farm of William Black, who also happened to be Bovina's town supervisor. William Thompson Black was born in Beetown, Grant County, Wisconsin in 1861 but grew up in Bovina. He took over the family farm on Coulter Brook Road on the early death of his father, making it one of the leading farms in Bovina. In 1885, Black married Bell J. Irvine, a daughter of Henry and Jeanette (Ainslie) Irvine, of Delhi.

Powell arrived at the Black's around 5 pm on a hot July day. He was invited to stay over and provide Mr. Black with a little instruction on how to use a new milk tester. After about an hour learning about the tester, Black realized that he still needed to milk his herd of 33 cows. Because his hired men were away for the day, he asked his wife Bell to help. Powell felt guilty sitting in the Black's sitting room while Mrs. Black, who he noted did not weigh more than 100 pounds, was milking over a dozen cows. Powell asked her if she was going to milk half of the cows. She replied, 'Oh, yes, I have done that before.' Powell responded 'If you will give me an apron I will help you." He was somewhat surprised when the offer was immediately accepted. He ended up milking a third of the herd - 11 cows.

Powell noted that "After milking was over cake and milk and fruit were served after which Mr. and Mrs. Black provided some good music for nearly an hour, and I shall never forget the excellent type of life which those young people represents in their home and the very delightful evening I spent with them."

The story went out that the man who was taking the census actually knew how to milk a cow, and that he had milked 11 at Supervisor Black's. It likely worked in his favor as he continued his census work.

Powell left Bovina at the end of the census with a very favorable impression of the town and its farmers. He stated in his final report on the census that "I believed that the town of Bovina was the richest town in the United States." He said that he had never seen "so large a number of high producing herds of cows" as he found in Bovina. He noted that Bovina farmers had introduced well bred Jersey bulls and had built up an exceedingly good class of diary cows. He also noted very nutritious pastures and a productive soil.

Powell speculated as to why "this one small isolated town differ[ed] from many sections of the State where the land was more level, more easily worked and with more convenient transportation facilities." He felt it was in the better system of farming. In much of the state, the fertility of the soil has been depleted, "while in Bovina it has been such as has conserved and improved the soil." He noted that the main produce of Bovina farms, namely butter, removed the smallest portion of the elements of soil fertility while the by products, such as skim milk and butter milk, were fed to chickens and pigs.

In a future blog entry, I'll report on the results of the Bovina Cow Census that Dr. Powell was speaking about.

Note: William Black became Delaware County Clerk and moved to Delhi in the late 19th or early 20th century. He also ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate in 1912. He and his wife both died in 1938 and are buried in Delhi.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Road Rage 150 Years Ago

On November 4, 1860, James Briden (also spelled Bryden) and David Hoy got into an altercation when Mr. Hoy passed Mr. Briden without his permission. This could have been as they were riding horses or horse-drawn wagons or horse-drawn sleighs. Regardless of the mode of transportation, it led to an exchange of words that escalated into a lawsuit. This incident reached the ears of the elders of the Bovina United Presbyterian Church - a church of which both Mr. Briden and Mr. Hoy were members - on November 27. At their December 17 meeting, the elders took both men to task for the exchange of words and for going outside of the church session to resolve the issue. Briden was admonished for using "improper language and language which is censurable by Session." Hoy was criticized for going to court and for giving "great publicity to the matters between [Mr. Hoy] and Mr. Briden, in violation of the law of God which required that the matter should have been told first to the Church." Hoy admitted that he shouldn't have taken the issue to court and agreed not to pass Mr. Briden in the future without his permission and to allow Mr. Briden to pass when he asked. Briden agreed to do the same. Because both men apologized for their conduct, the session declared their satisfaction and made a public announcement that the case had been settled.

James Briden likely is that James born in 1802 in Scotland. Married to Mary Burnet, he died in 1870. The David Hoy involved appears to be the one born in 1826. He died in 1913. If there was any future altercation between these two gentlemen, it does not show up in the church session minutes. They either behaved - or kept any disagreements out of the earshot of the elders of the UP Church!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Schoolhouse Fire

In my blog entry for October 30, I reported on a 1923 fire that destroyed the Yankeetown Schoolhouse on Cape Horn Road. This isn't the only time that Bovina lost a school to fire. In fact, over 100 years earlier, a schoolhouse on what is now Pink Street burned.

This school district was established before 1814 and started out life as Stamford District Number 8. The taxable inhabitants for district 8 in 1815 were Samuel Adee, Joshua Carmon, Alexander Dean, John Dean, Robert Dean, George Foster, George Hume, Robert Hume, William Kedzie, David McCune, John McCune, William McCune, Gilbert McNaught, James Seacord, James Storie, Widow Mary Storie, and Zephaniah Wardon.

In 1816 the district resolved that "any damage happening to the School House by Means of any individual ... or those accountable for them shall forthwith make it good." In 1819, the district attempted to make someone "make it good" when the school burned, but it was several months after the fire before they identified a culprit. In fact, when the school burned, probably in January 1819, it first was seen as an accident. This certainly made sense, given that all the heating was done with wood fire.

At a special meeting on February 5, 1819, held at the home of William Seacord, the district decided that there would be no school kept for the remainder of the school quarter. They also decided to build a new school house, to be a frame building 18 by 22. In order to pay for the new building, a tax of $120 was to be levied on district inhabitants. The district held another special meeting less than two weeks later, after some complaints were received that the minutes did not appear to match with what was agreed. Each resolution was reviewed and approved. They also resolved to form a committee to work with John McCune on the site of the new school and the purchase of that site.

The district's regular annual meeting on October 5, 1819 included a resolution to have the trustees call on William Jones to answer to the charge that his son was responsible for burning down the school. Ultimately, there must not have been enough evidence to hold the Jones family accountable for the fire, for when the structure was finally built, the taxpayers paid for it. Did the son of William Jones burn down the school? The answer has been lost to history.

The building of the structure took some time. In late 1819 or sometime in 1820, the district held a special meeting to request an itemized list of every expense for the construction of the new school house. They also requested itemization of the remaining expenses, including $2 for the laying of the hearth and completion of the chimney, 50 cents for a lock for the door and 75 cents for a chair. At the annual meeting in October 1820 (the year the district became Bovina District Number 2), it was noted that work still needed to be done to complete the house. Apparently, this or other issues at this meeting got rather contentious, for it was "Resolved that if any person shall at any future meeting held in this house behave Disorderly he shall at the order of the Chairman Leave the house."

The building that replaced the burnt down school was not the last one built for the district. There appear to have been at least two if not three subsequent structures. The last probably built in the late 1850s, only about 10 years after its predecessor was built.

Here's a picture of the last District 2 school house, dating probably from the 1920s.

Information for this entry came from the minute book for Bovina Common School District Number 2, 1815-1867, courtesy of the Bovina Historical Society. The book had come down through the Storie family and was given by the family of Vera Storie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Pink Street?

Why did the road from Bovina Center that takes you over to South Kortright and beyond become Pink Street? I've recently had two different inquiries concerning how Delaware County Route 5 got this colorful name. Unfortunately, I don't have a definitive answer to this yet.

The story I've heard most concerns the color of the laundry being hung out on the line. Apparently enough of it was pink to lead to that name. Another version a recent correspondent noted was that someone had inadvertently mixed something red in with their whites, turning them all pink. Since the name appears to have existed at least since 1910 and that most wash likely was still done in some manual form, this seems like an unlikely accident. The true answer to this question probably isn't going to be so colorful (pun intended).

I'm starting a research project to find out when the name first came into common usage. Know that may help us determine how the name came into usage. It does not show up on the Gould map from 1856 or the Beers Atlas from 1869 (though neither map labels roads). A review through the town tax rolls might give some clue, but I need to review other sources too. I'm finding that Pink Street is not unique to Bovina, even in Delaware County. There is a Pink Street in the town of Middletown above Kelly Corners. There was a schoolhouse there and at one time it was known as the Pink Street school. Rather confusing, given that there was a Pink Street school in Bovina too.

So stay tuned to find out if I find out how Pink Street got its name.

This postcard of Pink Street dates from the 1920s or 30s. The road was paved in the late 1930s. [Image scanned by the late Alan Davidson and submitted to the Delaware County Genealogy Website at]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bovina Bands

Last night I went to the Andes Hotel to hear Esquela, a local band that includes Bovina native and resident John 'Chico' Finn, as well as other people with Bovina or Delaware County connections (go to their website for more information on the band: Also participating last night was Bovina native Ira McIntosh. The performance was a fundraiser for the Bovina Historical Society.

I enjoyed hearing this 'Bovina Rock' band - it is one of several with Bovina connections. Bovina Records ( features a number of these musicians, including Janet Havens Stewart, Ira and Laurie McIntosh, Future Farmers of America, Pispoure', and College Farm (featuring Andy and Matt Pelletier, the founding fathers of Bovina Rock), as well as Esquela.

And then there's the Bovina Coronet Band. No, you won't find it on the Bovina Records site. It comes from a somewhat earlier time - the 19th century, actually. We don't know much about the band other than it existed. I have not determined when this particular photo (courtesy of the Bovina Historical Society) was taken or who the band members were - though I suspect there are several Coulters. I say that because some of the members bare a striking resemblance to the late Herb Parsons, whose mother was a Coulter.

To raise money, they too held a benefit, as evidenced in this poster. In this case, however, they were the beneficiary. Whether they actually played anything or, as the poster says, were simply in attendance is not clear. Nor do we know how well they did (though a little research in the newspapers from this time might tell us more - it's on my research list).

The Bovina Historical Society seemed to do pretty well from last night's event. The generosity of all those who donated is greatly appreciated. And a big thanks to Chico Finn for offering his time and that of the other members of Esquela to help the society raise funds for Russell's Store.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Memories of Grandma and Grandpa

This will be the first Thanksgiving I've spent in Bovina since 2002. This brought back memories of my Thanksgivings in Bovina when I was a kid. Other than my folks, the people I connect most with Thanksgiving are my grandparents, Ben and Anna Bell LaFever. By the time I was old enough to know them, they were no longer living in Bovina but had relocated to Northern New York. Most Thanksgivings, however, they came to Bovina to celebrate with their three sons and their families.

My grandparents both had strong Bovina roots through their maternal ancestry. In fact, they were third cousins once removed through their Scottish Miller ancestors. My grandmother was born Anna Bell Barnhart in 1893 in Bovina, the daughter of Jeremy Barnhart and Kate Miller. Grandma grew up on Pink Street and attended the one room school there through the eighth grade. She continued to live at home after leaving school. Her father died in 1916. The following year she was married, not to my grandfather, but to James Calhoun.

My grandmother's first marriage was not to last long. James had been drafted right around the time of his wedding and after about 10 days together, he went off to war, never to return. He was killed in action in October 1918. (See my blog entry for November 11 for more information on this ill-fated marriage.) Anna Bell continued to live with her mother (as she had done during her brief marriage) until she bought her own house (two doors from the one in which I grew up). Around 1921, she found herself being courted by a man seven years her junior, Benson LaFever.

Ben was born in Bovina in 1900, but unlike Anna Bell, he did not spend his entire childhood there. Grandpa's father, Sylvan LaFever, had his roots in Ulster County (as did my grandmother's father). He came to Bovina to work as a hired hand and married into the well established Burns family. Sylvan tried farming in Bovina, but he soon failed, likely a victim of the economic downturn around the turn of the century. The failure happened right around the time of the birth of his first son, Ben. Because Sylvan had lost the farm, Grandpa was born on the Burns farm up Crescent Valley. His family left Bovina not long after his birth, living in Norwich and then near Oneida Lake. In 1908, his mother, Ella Burns LaFever died, likely in childbirth. Grandpa and his brother Clarence were sent to live with their Bovina relations. Grandpa spent several years off and on in Bovina into adulthood.

In 1921, he was working for Wilford Barnhart, brother of Anna Bell Calhoun. This probably is how Grandpa met Grandma and started dating. In May 1923, they were quietly married in the living room of her home, with only a few family members and friends attending. They moved to their farm about a mile from where I grew up in the late 1920s. They had four children, Howard (who passed away in 2005), David (who died at 18 months), Charles (my dad), and George (my one surviving uncle).

I usually saw my grandparents two or three times a year. They would come for Thanksgiving and Christmas and we would usually go up to Massena once a year to see them (they were very successful strawberry farmers). By the time I knew my grandmother, she was in a wheel chair, the effect of her rheumatoid arthritis. Getting her in and out of any house was a bit of a production, but she always took it with good humor. She managed to do a lot in that wheelchair. I don't really remember thinking of her as an invalid. She made beds, fixed meals, and cleaned house, all from that chair, And if you needed a little swat in the rear or a cuff on the ear, she could easily deliver that too. We have a home movie clip that shows her taking a rather hyper little Ray and making him sit down for a photograph!

Thanksgiving 1971 was memorable for all the snow we got - around 20 inches. I had to shovel at my parents and at Russell's Store, where I worked. And I had to shovel a special path so my Grandma could get to their car. It had to be wide enough for her chair and for the people on each side to move it along. At one point, we debated putting skis on the chair! I burned the calories that Thanksgiving.

During Thanksgiving 1974, my grandparents stayed with my Uncle George up on Mountain Brook in Bovina. One of the first drives I made as a licensed driver was to drop in on them. My sister Diane came along and took this picture - the only picture of just me with my grandparents. It's one of my favorites - it has an 'American Gothic' feel.

One of my most vivid and precious memories of my grandparents and their trips to visit at Thanksgiving happened in 1977 and, again, at my Uncle George's. Dad had just been elected Town Supervisor of Bovina. He didn't think his parents had given much thought to his election, but when Dad bent over to greet his mother in her wheel chair, she put out her arms and bursting with pride said 'Hello there Mr. Supervisor.' I was pleased to see that it had indeed been 'on their radar.'

This Thanksgiving was to be their last in Bovina. My grandmother's health prevented any further trips. She passed away in March of 1980 and Grandpa died two years later in 1982. The Thanksgiving smells and tastes always evoke images of my dear old grandparents - Grandma's yummy rolls (which I bake each year) and Gramps sitting with his knife and fork in hand waiting for his piece of pie. Gone but not forgotten.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bovina, the Almost Deathless

The January 23, 1903 issue of the Catskill Mountain News reported that Bovina was "a good place to live but a poor one to die in." This article originated from L.B. Gleason, the journal clerk of the State Senate, who wrote to the New York Sun. He had seen in a local paper, probably the Delaware Republican, the list of deaths in Bovina for 1902. What struck him was the age of the 11 people from Bovina who died. The oldest person was 92 (Marie A. Storie) and the youngest two were Margaret James and Frank R. Coulter (both 62). William D. Thompson was 90 and Margaret Thompson was 84.

Gleason went on to note that the "Town of Bovina is as remarkable in other matters as in the longevity of its inhabitants. Founded, not like Rome, on seven hills, but upon thirteen, it is especially adapted for dairying purposes, and was selected by the State Dairymen's Association as the proper place to take a 'cow census,' by which it appears that the average production of butter for the whole town was 241.8 pounds per cow, while in one herd of twelve cows the average was 365 pounds."

It was noted that 'a license to sell liquor has never been granted in the town.' This is not totally true - Bovina was granting licenses from the 1820s through the 1870s. Bovina did not go dry until around 1880. The article also stated some other facts, such as
  • the town had only one pauper in the county house;
  • Bovina's population in 1900 was 932, of which 248 voted in the 1900 Presidential election (McKinley received 132 of these votes).
Gleason concluded that Bovina was the acknowledged "garden spot of the world, where the average at death in 1902 was a trifle over 65" and that it "is truly an ideal place in which to live, and a difficult place to die in."

It wasn't just in the New York Sun and Catskill Mountain News that this praise of Bovina made its appearance. It later showed up in at least two other papers - the January 25, 1903 Richmond (Virginia) Dispatch and the February 1, 1903 issue of The Ranch from Seattle, Washington. It appeared in both papers under the title "Bovina, the Almost Deathless." Bovina's reputation for longevity had gone nationwide.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

James Calhoun and the Great War

November 11 started out as Armistice Day, marking the day that the first World War ended in 1918. There were several Bovina boys who served in the Great War. One of them was James Calhoun. James was born in 1889 in Andes but grew up just over the border in Bovina. On November 14, 1917, he was married in Bovina to Anna Bell Barnhart. That same day, James received his official draft notice. So after only 9 days together, James left his new wife and was shipped off to Fort Dix, New Jersey. After a couple of weeks, he was shipped further south to Camp Greene in Charlotte, North Carolina. In late March, he came home to Bovina for a 30 hour furlough. In early April, he was shipped off to France.

On October 13, 1918, James was killed in action during the Battle of the Argonne. His wife did not find out until a day after her first wedding anniversary - and four days after the Armistice. Below is the telegram she received notifying her of her husband's death. She later was told that the death date in the telegram of October 14 was wrong and that he died a day earlier.

Anna Bell received several letters with further details concerning James's death. One she received in January 1919 reported information provided by James's Captain:

It happened on October 13 near the town of Cunel. The first battalion was about to attack but there were some German machine guns concealed in the underbrush at the right and it was necessary to clear them out before the advance could be made - so Sergeant Calhoun volunteered to accompany Lieutenant Williams and arrived with hand grenades they bravely started to clear the way for their comrades, and it was while doing this courageous thing that the same shell brought them both instant death.

Anna Bell was widowed for four and a half years. In May 1923, she was married in Bovina Center to Benson LaFever. They had four sons, including my dad, Charlie LaFever.

Grandma had saved all the letters she received from her first husband, along with some of the letters she sent to James while he was still in the United States. We also have many of her photographs. This poignant picture of my grandmother has always been a favorite of mine. I think it was taken after James's death and shows her with what probably was the flag that was on James's coffin. Grandma always remembered and honored the sacrifice her husband made - and we also remember and honor the sacrifice she made in the Great War.

Monday, November 8, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - Blackberry Cake

Ok, I'm in a baking rut with this cookbook, but I find that easier. I'll attempt a main course soon. In the meantime, I tried another cake.

Blackberry Cake

One cup sugar, 1 egg, butter, size of egg; 2 cups flour, 1 cup canned or fresh blackberries, a little salt, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon cloves and nutmeg. Bake in layers - Mrs. J.M. Miller.

I used canned blackberries, including the liquid. Butter the size of an egg was about 4 tablespoons. I went easy on the cloves, with only 1/4 teaspoon, and left out the nutmeg because, well, I didn't have any! And I added one critical item that I think was missing - baking soda.

It took two attempts. My first try was ok but the seeds were noticeable while the berries were not. I made a mistake by mixing the berries with everything else. So for my second attempt, I put in everything including the blackberry liquid, but not the berries themselves. I had to carefully fold them into the batter before baking. With the second attempt, you could at least recognize and taste the berries. That was an improvement, but while edible, I wasn't bowled over by this. Sometime, I'll try fresh blackberries - but I'll then need to add more liquid to make it so the berries can be folded into the batter.

The contributor of this recipe was my great great aunt, Bertha Anderson Miller. She was born in 1857 and married John McCune Miller in 1886. She was widowed in 1920 and died in 1938. The Millers lived on what later became Suits-Us Farm on Pink Street.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Status of Bovina History Calendar - Mea Culpa

Sorry to report that once again there will not be a Bovina History Calendar for the coming year. As I mentioned in a November 29, 2009 posting, much of it is done, but it needs some final design work and we need to line up printer. These final steps did not happen. This was partly due to my situation in rather suddenly retiring from my full time job and moving down to Bovina. There also were circumstances simply beyond my control. I have met with the Bovina Historical Society and we are developing a plan to ensure that in 2012, there will be a calendar. My being full time in Bovina will help considerably.

It has been some time since the last calendar and I am sorry for this. Here's hoping that there will be a 2012 Bovina History Calendar.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Help the Bovina Historical Society

A local government historian can't do it all alone. He or she has to have partners who have similar goals of preserving a community's history. In Bovina, I have the Bovina Historical Society. Founded in 1974 (I was a charter member), the society works tirelessly to save Bovina's history.

The BHS is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Old Fire Hall, the Bovina Museum, and Russell’s Store. The society is committed to the preservation of these buildings, historical Bovina artifacts and the colorful and rich history of Bovina, NY.

With the aid of the Mark Project and the O’Connor Foundation, the society continues to restore and renovate Russell’s Store, but more needs to be done. Russell's Store is not only a historic building. Through the efforts of Bea Sohni, the proprietor, it is a viable business that is an important hub in Bovina. With winter coming, the heating bill she faces makes it extremely difficult to get by. There are a couple of ways you can help the society make Russell's Store more energy efficient.

John Finn, and his band, Esquela have offered to play a Bovina Historical Society Benefit on Saturday evening, November 27 at the Andes Hotel at 9pm. A suggested donation of $10.00 is requested at the door, but please be as generous as possible. All proceeds will go directly to the Russell’s Store Renovation project. The Bovina Historical Society is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.

If you can't come to the Andes Hotel on the 27th, a donation to the BHS would be most welcome. You can send a check to Box 97, Bovina Center, NY 13740. Some of you may be receiving a mailing soon about this benefit.

And in the spring, I will be working in tandem with the BHS to collect more images of Bovina, still and moving. Stay tuned for further details. And help the society save Bovina history and the important community hub that is Russell's Store.

Cecil Russell in his store, late 60s or early 70s.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bovina Goes to the Polls

It's election time. 150 years ago was the historic 1860 Presidential election, in which Abraham Lincoln, in a four way race, was elected President. His election precipitated the succession of southern states from the union. In Bovina, only two of the four candidates running nationally received votes. Abraham Lincoln received 179 votes, while Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas received 60 votes. 100 years later, the Republican candidate again carried Bovina. When John F. Kennedy was elected President by a close margin, he received only 65 votes in Bovina, to 238 for Richard Nixon.

But this year is a gubernatorial election year. When Bovina was created in 1820, governors served two year terms, so the elections were more frequent. In Bovina's first year, the choices for governor were Daniel D. Tompkins and Dewitt Clinton. They both were of the Democratic-Republican Party, but of two different factions. Tompkins was a Bucktail while Clinton was a Clintonian. In a close election in Bovina and statewide, Clinton was elected. He carried Bovina by one vote, 37 to 36. Clinton carried Bovina each subsequent time he ran. In 1824, running as the People's party candidate, he got 93 votes, to 43 votes for Democratic-Republican candidate Samuel Young.

When the Whig party came into being in the late 1830s, Bovina regularly voted for Whig candidates. The first time was the 1838 election for governor, when William Seward was elected. In Bovina, he received 131 votes to 87 for William Marcy, the Democratic candidate. The one exception to the Whig trend was in 1848, when the Democratic Barnburner candidate, John Dix, received 204 votes in Bovina, while the Democratic Hunker candidate got only 6 votes and the Whig (Hamilton Fish) received only 13 votes. Fish won statewide. Bovina was back in the Whig column in 1850, when Washington Hunt, running as a Whig and Anti-rent candidate, received 194 votes, to only 30 for the Democratic candidate, Horatio Seymour.

Bovina went firmly into the Republican column in the 1850s when that party came into being. In 1856, the Republican candidate for governor, John King, received 174 votes in Bovina, while Erastus Brooks, the Know Nothing candidate, received 59 votes and Amasa Parker, the Democrat, only 19 votes. Throughout the rest of the 19th century and for the entire 20th century, whether for President, Governor, or for other statewide or national offices, Bovina leaned strongly Republican. Even in years when the Democrats made strong showings nationwide, Bovina generally went with the GOP. When Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 in a landslide against Alf Landon, Landon received 319 votes in Bovina to only 79 for Roosevelt. One exception to that trend was in 1996 when, in a three way Presidential race, Bill Clinton carried Bovina.

The trend has started to change in the 21st century. In the 2006 Gubernatorial race, Elliot Spitzer carried Bovina by about 40 votes. In the 2008 Presidential election, John McCain edged out Barack Obama in Bovina, but by only five votes.

Whatever your political affiliation, be sure to take your part in history today - VOTE!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Night, 1923

On the morning of November 1, 1923, the seven pupils at the Yankeetown School District trudged their way up Cape Horn Road to find that during the night their schoolhouse had burned down - maybe a kid's dream.

The Yankeetown School District was Bovina Common School District number 9. It was created in the 1830s. The schoolhouse likely was built around the same time but by the 1850s, it was reported that the building was in poor condition. At some point, it probably was replaced or rebuilt. The student population for district 9 hit its peak in the 1850s with 42 pupils. It began dropping steadily so that by the start of the 20th century only about 10 students were enrolled. In 1909, district 9 began sending its students to the Maynard District (district 1), which was about two miles away from the Yankeetown school building. In 1918, the district reopened its school, but after a couple of years was once again sending their students elsewhere.

In 1923, the distrct made one last attempt to run a school, only to have the building burn down on Halloween night. Was it just a coincidence that it happened that night, or was it a Halloween prank that went awry? The reason for the fire was never discussed in the local press. The Catskill Mountain News reported:

Last Thursday morning the schoolhouse at Yankeetown, Bovina, was destroyed by fire of unknown origin. The blaze was discovered about 12:30 by Mrs. Eli Felton, the roof and windows already being gone when discovered. Nothing was saved from the building. The loss was covered by Insurance. It is expected that steps will soon be taken to replace the burned structure.

The district held a box social on November 13 for the benefit of the school. Students finished the school year in the McCumber home on Cape Horn. The district operated a school for one more school year (likely at McCumber's) then again contracted out to District 1 for subsequent years. A replacement school was never built, though the district officially existed until 1967, when the remaining Bovina Common School districts were merged with the Delhi Central School District. And whether it was a poorly extinguished stove, a disgruntled student, a Halloween prankster or something supernatural that led to the destruction of the Yankeetown School will never be known.

This picture was provided by the late Anna Hobbie Lounsbury. She was told that it is a picture of the Yankeetown Schoolhouse. It is believed to be the only photograph in existence of this Bovina school.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gladstones and Biggars Clash with the Bovina A.P. Church

On July 10, 1834, Thomas Gladstone, the son of Robert Gladstone and Ann Ray was married to Margaret Biggar, daughter of Robert Biggar and Margaret Kyle. Part of the wedding celebration included dancing at the home of the groom's father, Robert Gladstone. The people involved with this celebration, including both fathers of the couple, found themselves in hot water with the elders of the Bovina Associate Presbyterian Church Session. This clash led to people choosing dancing over membership in the church.

The Associate Presbyterian Church had held that dancing was "contrary to the principles of our Church and the solemn obligation Christians come under both at Baptism and at the Lord’s Table." It was considered to be a violation of the seventh commandment concerning adultery and was seen as corrupting the morals of youth and exposing them to temptation. In April 1834, it was noted by the Bovina session that several families belonging to the Congregation held dances the previous winter and "enticed young people to join with them in their folly." The Elders made it very clear that anyone found encouraging dancing would be dealt with according to the rules of the church.

So when word reached elders within days of the Gladstone/Biggar wedding that there had been dancing, two elders were appointed to converse with Robert Gladstone about this. Gladstone dutifully came to the September 11 session meeting but instead of professing sin and requesting forgiveness, as was usual in most cases, he clashed with the moderator, Reverend John Graham. He "spoke in a very unbecoming and insulting manner" to the reverend. Graham tried to explain to Gladstone why allowing dancing at his son's wedding was sinful and to show him passages of scripture and the statement in the church's book of discipline concerning dancing. Gladstone became angry and, exclaiming "superstition, superstition,' stormed out of the meeting. The elders decided they better talk to everyone involved with the dancing at the wedding.

Twelve people were summoned to the October 25 session meeting to answer to the charge of dancing. Several members of the Gladstone family came, including Robert and his wife Ann, their son Thomas, and their new daughter-in-law, Margaret. Several of the guests came, including Archibald Elliott and his wife, Walter Oliver, Thomas Scott and Betsy Turnbull. Also attending was the bride's father, Robert Biggar. When each person was asked whether he or she "preferred church privileges to dancing," all answered that they would not give up dancing. Biggar handed in a paper entitled "A Scriptural Warrant for Dancing." The session read it and considered that it contained "perversions of scripture." The elders agreed that these persons and others who felt the same about dancing would be kept back from communion in the church.

Dancing at the Gladstone wedding was again discussed at the session's next meeting on December 2, 1834. The elders interviewed the fathers of the couple, as well as the groom's brother Walter (who had married Isabella Biggar, another of Robert's daughters). Robert Biggar again tried to prove from scripture that "dancing was a duty and promise unto the church." Since the church made avoidance of dancing a term of communion, Biggar and Walter Gladstone, along with John Murray, asked to have their names taken off the church rolls and to have their church certificates returned to them. The request was denied. Without these certificates, the people making the request could not join another church.

Biggar continued to battle the Bovina A.P. Church. He wrote a letter critical of Reverend Graham and the elders, claiming that he was unjustly denied church privileges. He wanted to take communion but would not agree that dancing was wrong. The session said that neither he nor any of the other members under censure for dancing could be admitted to communion.

It is unfortunate at this point that there is over a year long gap in the session minutes - the elders either did not meet or did not keep minutes for any meetings that were held. Future minutes make no further reference to this specific case, though the Bovina AP Church and its successor, the Bovina United Presbyterian Church, continued to rail against 'promiscuous dancing' for pretty much the rest of the 19th century.

It appears that most of the people involved with this wedding who lost their membership in the Bovina Associate Presbyterian Church did not get it back, though whether that was by their choice is not clear. Reverend Graham, in his autobiography, noted that "some ten heads of families along with their children left us, and united with another denomination" over the issue of dancing. He likely was recalling this specific instance, among others.

In an 1866 list of present and past members, Robert Gladstone is listed as a past member, along with his year of death (he died in 1858, age 80). His two sons (Thomas and Walter) and their wives are listed as removed, as is the father of brides, Robert Biggar. Biggar died in 1867, age 84. Walter Gladstone died in Andes when he was only 51 in 1861. His wife was 55 when she died eight years later. The couple whose wedding started all the controversy were married for almost 52 years. Thomas Gladstone was 77 when he died in Andes in 1886. His wife Margaret survived him by 6 years, dying in 1892.

PS - A little side note: Robert Biggar's great granddaughter Jennie lived in my house in the 1930s for a brief spell as a lodger when she lost her own home in a sheriff's sale. She died in the house in my back bedroom in 1938.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - French Rolls follow-up

On October 9, I tried my first recipe from the 1911 Bovina cookbook. As I noted in the blog, I wanted some feedback from my friend (and former colleague) Pamela Cooley, who has a lot of experience working with historical recipes. She attempted to put a response in the comments field, but apparently it was too long, so I've made it a blog entry follow-up. Here's her response to my questions about the recipe:

"Despite your confusion, it appears from the look of your final product and comments from your family, that your (baking) instincts served you very well. Those rolls look beautiful! So as you requested, I’ll use the rest of my Comment to explain my thoughts about Ms. Scott's recipe.

"About the yeast: What Eva Belle was referring to when she listed 1/2 cup of yeast was what is called “starter” today. It is the yeasty flour and liquid mixture saved from the last batch of bread to start the next batch. And the type of bread made with starter is now usually called “sourdough bread.” I bet that Eva’s rolls, made with her starter, would have had a “sour” taste that yours lacked.

"That you dissolved a package of dry yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water was spot on, although another time if you wanted to make fewer rolls, you might try dissolving the dry yeast in a couple of tablespoons of warm water instead.

"About how wet the dough was for the first rise: This is fine, and typical of some bread recipes.

"About the amount of flour you eventually used: For 2 1/2 cups of liquid, I would expect that 6+ cups of flour is about right. Many early bread recipes leave the final measurement of flour up to the baker (i.e. “add enough flour to knead”). This is because of inconsistencies in the make up of different flours, the humidity on bread baking day, and other vagaries.

"About scalding the milk: You are right about not needing to scald the milk because milk is now pasteurized. If I understand correctly, something in raw milk (I’m not quite sure what) had a tendency to kill the yeast, and that “something” was killed in turn by the scalding. But, in this recipe, there was another advantage to using the scalded milk: it would have melted the butter and kept the temperature of the mixture warmer so the yeast would have worked more quickly.

"About the shape of a French Roll: I bet a different shape wouldn’t have made your rolls any tastier than they already were, but traditional French Rolls are shaped in a longish oval, scored on top lengthwise with a sharp blade, and placed on a sheet to bake so that they don’t touch each other and get crusty all round."

Thank you so much Pamela for your feedback.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - Applesauce Cake

Tonight's baking attempt from the 1911 cookbook was a simple one - an Applesauce cake. Here's the recipe:

Apple Sauce Cake

One and a half cup cold apple sauce, without sugar; 2 teaspoons soda, mixed with sauce; 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup butter, melted; 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 cup raisins, 2 cups flour, pinch salt. - H.L.A.

I mixed everything in the order given and baked at 350 degrees for 40 minutes in two 9-inch round pans. The applesauce was home made, using apples from my sister and brother-in-law's back yard. My only ingredient substitution was brown sugar for white sugar (and for all I know, brown sugar may have been meant, though by 1900, brown sugar was considered inferior to white sugar). And instead of mixing by hand, I used an electric mixture (though mixing by hand would not have been much more of an effort). The layers came out small, so one pan might have sufficed. And I do want to try it as a loaf. The taste - not bad, but I'm not a big fan of cloves. I think it will be great with a little whipped cream (and maybe reduce the cloves a bit).

This is a pretty standard recipe for applesauce cake. I found almost the identical recipe, submitted by Mary Inman, for the 1975 Bovina Historical Society cookbook. The only addition was a tablespoon of molasses.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to figure out who H.L.A is. Some people who submitted recipes only gave their initials. So the contributor appears to be lost to history, though her recipe is not.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bovina Pioneers - Francis and Nancy Coulter

I will be starting a regular series in this blog highlighting some of the early families in Bovina. I'm starting with the Coulters, from whom I'm descended. Francis and Nancy Coulter are my five great grandparents and are ancestors of such Bovina families as Boggs, Burgins, Burns, Doigs, Gladstones, Hilsons, Millers, Monroes, Ormistons, Parsons, Roberts, and Russells.

Coulter was a major name in the Town of Bovina since the early 1800s. The road on which the founding Coulter ancestor lived still is known as Coulter Brook and there are many Coulter descendants, including those with the Coulter name, in Delaware County and throughout the United States. This makes it all the more ironic that Francis Coulter, ancestor of many of Bovina’s older families, was not born a Coulter. When Francis was christened 3 September 1771 in Roberton, Scotland , he was christened Francis Coltherd, the son of Walter Coltherd and Elizabeth Rae. Francis married Nancy Glendenning, daughter of James Glendenning and Isabel Hendry.

Francis and his family came to the United States around 1798. Francis and Nancy were in Albany a year or so, then headed to Stamford for a couple of more before settling in Bovina. At the time he settled in Bovina, it was still part of the town of Delhi. He settled on lot 56 of Great Lot 40 of the Hardenburgh Patent in 1805. It was 156 acres. He never owned it, but rented it from Louisa Livingston. His rent was 28 3/4 bushels of grain. The farm eventually came to be owned by his son David in 1858.

The Coulters had nine children. They all lived to adulthood and most stayed in Bovina except their daughter Ellen, who moved to Horseheads with her husband John Ormiston and their son William, who married his cousin Isabella Glendenning and moved to Janesville, Wisconsin in 1848 and where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Nancy Glendenning Coulter died on 6 March 1843. Her husband Francis died three years later on 6 June 1846 in Bovina, Delaware Co, NY. Both are buried in the old United Presbyterian churchyard in Bovina. They are buried near their daughter Elizabeth and three of their grandchildren, children of their son James.

A fuller version of this story can be found at the Delaware County Genealogy website at

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - French Rolls

I took my first stab today at trying a recipe from the 1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook, choosing to make 'French Rolls.' (See my July 15, 2010 posting for further information about this cookbook.) Here's the whole recipe:

Scald two cups milk, add three tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup yeast and 2 cups flour. Beat thoroughly, cover and let rise. Cut down and add enough flour to knead. Let rise again, put out on floured board, roll out and shape. Let rise in pans and bake in a hot oven fifteen minutes.

This recipe presented several challenges. My main confusion was over the 1/2 cup of yeast. I ended up dissolving a package in 1/2 cup of warm water. It made the dough too wet (see the picture below). I let it go ahead and raise, and it did raise some, but I had to more than triple the flour to be able to handle it after the first raising. I wonder if the recipe should have read 1/2 cake of yeast. No time for the raising was given, so I assumed the dough needed to double in bulk after each raising. And I wasn't sure how the rolls should have been shaped, so I just did them as dinner rolls.

I used some modern substitutions, including bread flour and skim milk instead of whole milk. I did not scald the milk - I understand that is a holdover from pre-pasteurization days. And I used a Kitchen Aide mixer to knead the dough. With no temperature, I had to go with my own experience. I baked the rolls at 375 degrees. They took about 25 minutes to bake, so I suspect the oven wasn't hot enough and that 400 would have made more sense.

I have a friend and former colleague from the New York State Archives, Pamela Cooley, who is an expert at historical recipes - she's already tried some of the recipes from this cookbook. I'll be touching base with her for any thoughts she may have about this.

But when all is said and done, the rolls turned out just fine and were served at a dinner I made for my sister and brother-in-law. And the verdict from them is that they are very good.

This recipe was submitted by Eva B. Maynard. Eva was Eva Belle Scott. She was born in 1879 and married William H. Maynard in 1899. Eva joined the UP Church in 1890 was a member for 23 years when she transferred her membership elsewhere, probably because she left the area. Eva died in 1961.

More recipes from Bovina's past are coming, so get your appetites ready for further culinary treats.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Brief History of Bovina Churches

As I continue to get settled full time in Bovina, I wanted to be sure to keep entries up with this blog. In checking to see what I had already written, I found this article I wrote last year for the Bovina UP Church Community newsletter that was never posted to the blog. So here it is now.

The oldest institution in the Town of Bovina, the United Presbyterian Church, started life as the Associate Presbyterian Church of Delhi. The families of Isaac Atkin, Walter Doig, John Elliott and William McGibbon submitted a request to the Presbytery for a pastor on February 5, 1807. That fall the Reverend Alexander Bullions from Cambridge, NY was appointed to preach at what is now Delhi for two Sundays. The congregation was officially organized in 1809 but it did not have a regular pastor until 1814, when Robert Laing accepted the call. In 1815, the name of the congregation became the Associate Presbyterian Church of the Little Delaware and after the creation of the Town of Bovina in 1820, it became the Associate Presbyterian Church of Bovina.

The first regular church building for the congregation was built at what is now Reinertsen Hill road. The cemetery for the church still exists. The open area of the cemetery with no tombstones is the likely site of the church. In 1849, the congregation built a larger church in the hamlet of Bovina Center, then called Brushland. It was expanded in 1859 to hold between 600 and 700 people. That same year, it gained its final name change, when the Associate Presbyterians nationwide joined with another Presbyterian group to become the United Presbyterian Church of North America.

The Associate Presbyterians were not the only denomination in Bovina for very long. Another Presbyterian group and the Methodists were established not many years later. The Reformed Presbyterian, also known as the Covenanter Church, was created informally around 1814. Also known as the Cameronians, they held that Christians ought not to take any part in a government that was not conducted on religious principles. Because the United States Constitution had no mention of God, the Covenanters never voted or held elective office, though they were law-abiding citizens. In 1825, the congregation built a meeting house near the Butt End - the graveyard of the church still exists. The congregation built a new church in Bovina Center in the 1860s, where the playground and firehouse now exist.

The congregation was never as large as the United Presbyterian congregation. In 1865, the membership was at 40, with about 90 people regularly attending services. The numbers dropped as the new century dawned. The congregation was relatively inactive by the early 1920s, though services were still taking place on occasion and the church still had a membership roll. In September 1942, a meeting was held at Fred Henderson’s at which the congregation of 18 met and voted to sell the church property. The land and buildings were sold to J. Russell Boggs in October 1943. The church building was torn down that same month. Cecil Russell was the only one of the elders from the Reformed Presbyterian Church who officially joined the United Presbyterian Church, later becoming an elder of that church, too.

In the early days, Bovina’s two Presbyterian churches reflected some of the bitter divisions in the Church of Scotland. These bodies had separate organizations and maintained a rigidly distinct system of worship. In June 1837, the Associated Presbyterian Church session reported a “complaint was given in against Walter Doig, William Forrest, William Murray, and John Dunn for having gone to hear the Reformed Presbyterians.” In later years, these differences were put aside and the two congregations became more cooperative.

When Bovina’s two Presbyterian congregations had their differences, they also had differences with the Methodists. Methodism in Bovina was of long standing, though for many years, there was no organized congregation. They met in any available dwelling, schoolhouse or barn. The main name in Bovina Methodism in its early years was Alexander Brush, Bovina’s early settler. For years services were held in his house. He was blind, so his wife would read to him a passage of Scripture, from which he would then preach.

The Methodists finally built a church in 1849 on land given to them by Brush for that purpose. The building, located across from where the community hall is now, cost $1,397.50 to build. The trustees at the time of the building’s completion were James Seacord, Thomas W. Dennis, Sylvenus Bramley, Alphonso Lee and Edward McKenzie. The dedication took place August 22nd, 1849, though not without incident. The pastor of the Bovina Associate Presbyterian Church, Reverend John Graham, received a notice about the dedication and made his feelings known in no uncertain terms from his pulpit. He condemned the consecrating of churches as “heathenish and popish in its origin.” In his autobiography, he proudly noted that “some diseases need strong medicine at the beginning to prevent them spreading and injuring the whole system; and which, if used in time, prevents much trouble and perplexity afterward.”

The Andes and Bovina Methodist congregations comprised one charge until April 1871 when they were divided, each with its own pastor. In 1865, membership was at 50; by 1875 it was 63, with usual attendance of about 100. A parsonage, now the home of Chuck McIntosh, was purchased for $2,000 in 1871 and in 1877 the church was repaired and beautified on the inside, with a capacity to seat three hundred. As the new century dawned, however, the membership numbers for the Bovina Methodist church fell and in 1916, the church began sharing its pastor with the Andes congregation again. The last trustees of the church, John Blair, Charles Hafele and David C. Worden, sold the church building and parsonage in November 1921. William Archibald bought the church intending to tear it down and build a house, but it remained standing for almost five years. Jack Hilson remembered roller-skating in the church building and Celia Coulter recalls her sister Ruth having played basketball there. The church finally was torn down in April of 1926.

The last church created in Bovina was St. James, the Episcopal Church located at Lake Delaware by the Gerry estate. It started with Mabel Gerry holding a series of missionary meetings in the area in 1913. In the spring of 1914, a small house in "The Hook" was leased and prepared for use as a house of worship. In the early 1920s, Miss Angelica Gerry secured the services of the Boston church architect, Ralph Adams Cram, to design the present Saint James' Church. Work was begun in the spring of 1922, with the laying of the cornerstone on Saint James' Day, July 25th, 1922. On Christmas Day, 1923, the first service was held in the new Church building. It was consecrated the following year. The spire was added at the instigation of Miss Gerry. St. James is the only other active congregation in the Town of Bovina today.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

It's October 1 and it looks like we may have another flood for the history books - at least for the local history books. Coulter Brook has come out of its banks in spots and my cellar is flooded. Today's flooding has led to closure of all county roads. I took a wander through the hamlet, from the bridge on Coulter Brook Road by the cemetery to the bridge at the other end of the hamlet by McPerson's. The little babbling brook is now a roaring river. Chuck McIntosh, who recalled the 1953 flood, thought the water levels were at least at the same level.

I took some pictures during my wanderings. The two pictures show Coulter Brook. The top photo was taken September 25, the bottom one on October 1. The video includes a video of Coulter Brook from about a year ago and a shot taken just a day before the flooding, as well as several shots of the October 1st flood itself.

Bovina's had a number of such events over the years. Take a look at my April 26, 2009 post about the 1953 Bovina flood and my June 22, 2009 post concerning a flood during the First World War.

In 1996 Bovina saw two different flooding events. The town wasn't hit as hard as some areas near by. The flood on January 19 hit Walton and Margaretville particularly hard. Another flood hit November 9, 1996. My dad noted that both events had the same numerals - ie 1/19/1996 and 11/9/1996. In both floods, Delaware County was declared a disaster area.

By this evening, the water is definitely receding from the October 1, 2010 Bovina flood - at Coulter Brook and in my cellar. It's time to get things dried out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Searching for Erastus

I'm starting on a project that could take years, namely researching a gentleman named Erastus Root. Root was not a Bovina resident but is inextricably linked to its history as the person who named the town (see my blog post of November 22, 2009). This interest in Root was piqued after I finished reading Harvest of Dissent: Agrarianism in Nineteenth-Century New York by Thomas Summerhill (I highly recommend this - the focus is on Otsego, Schoharie and Delaware Counties). Root is mentioned a few times in this book in discussions on the politics related to farming. These references to Root and his political activities got me to wondering if maybe he had more to do with the creation of Bovina than just its name. Did he spur the various citizens in Stamford, Middletown and Delhi to break away to create the town? And if he did, why? What was in it for him? Maybe he was looking for another seat on the Delaware County Board of Supervisors. Root may have wanted that seat as part of his effort to ensure that rural areas did not suffer politically from the construction of the Erie Canal. As Summerhill noted in his book, "For Root, universal suffrage and the expansion of the number of elective offices would encourage voters in townships and counties to band together to promote their interests. Only then could rural districts battle canal towns for political power."

My thoughts about Root's involvement with the creation of Bovina are just speculation right now, but it has driven me to start some research. I went to Root's entry in The Encyclopedia of New York State, which gave me some basic information about Root. He was born in Hebron, Connecticut in 1773. He became a lawyer and started his practice in Delhi in the late 18th century. Over the years, he held a number of elected offices, including State Assemblyman, State Senator, and a term as Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1823-24. He served four non-consecutive terms as a Congressman, with his first term in 1803-05 and his last term in 1831-33. Root was Speaker of the Assembly in 1827, 28 and 1830. His last elected office was as State Senator from 1840 to 1844. Root's party affiliation changed, sometimes as the parties evolved, but at least once because he had changed. He was a Democratic-Republican when he first went to Congress and was a Jacksonian Democrat when he served his last term there. When he unsuccessfully ran again in 1838 for another term in the House, he ran as a Whig. Root had broken with the Jacksonian Democrats over concerns about President Jackson's dictatorial tendencies. Late in life, Root supported the anti-renters during the Anti-Rent War of the 1840s.

Root died somewhat unexpectedly in December of 1846. His funeral was a large event in Delhi, though inclement weather kept some people away. The Delaware Gazette in its January 6, 1847 issue reported extensively on Root's death and funeral, though politically the paper had been opposed to Root for several years, probably when he became a Whig. The paper itself noted that "although for some years past we have been politically opposed to him, we have always entertained a kind and grateful remembrance and feeling towards him..."

I'll provide periodic updates as I progress on my research about General Root. We'll see if ultimately I'll have a grateful remembrance and feeling towards him.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm In Bovina

This evening I have officially moved to Bovina (meaning that I and both cats are happily ensconced in my Bovina house). I do have one more day of work in Albany on Monday - I will be officially retired on Tuesday the 28th. My plans for the month of October are to commit to as little as possible! I want a bit of time to get settled down, ride my bike and just enjoy the fall. I do expect to be resuming the blog at a more frequent pace sometime in October. And don't be shy if you need to contact me with questions.

Watch this space for further developments.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Surfing in Bovina

No, there are likely no waves to catch in Bovina, except maybe virtual ones on the Internet. In a posting on April 16, I suggested visiting the Delaware County Genealogy and History web site as a great source for information about Bovina's history. There are some other places to go to for further information about Bovina, past and present:

Power of History - Exploring the Agricultural and Industrial History of Delaware County ( The site is a collection of writings, photos and videos around the history of Delaware County and surrounding towns in the Western Catskills.

Russell's Store - There has been a store operating in this spot in Bovina since probably the 1830s. Owned by Hastings, then Doig, it became Russell's in 1919. The store is now owned by the Bovina Historical Society. Go to for more information.

Town of Bovina - The town's official website is at Contact information for town officials and other information, including town board minutes, are located here.

Bovina Public Library - Visit the library's website at for information on hours and pictures from the past. The Bovina Library is where I set up displays on Bovina history. Pay the library a visit - virtually and when you come to Bovina.

If you know of other appropriate web sites concerning Bovina and the area, pass them along to me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2nd Annual Bovina Farm Day is Sunday

Yep, come to Crescent Valley in Bovina to enjoy the second annual Bovina Farm Day on Sunday, September 5. It's a great chance to see what local farmers are producing. And I'll be there with a display or two and a scanner for anyone who has pictures of Bovina people or places that they would like to share.

For more information on the various activities taking place and for directions, go to

Don't rely on this map for directions - it's a tad old. It dates from 1793 and shows lot 108 in Great Lot 41 of the Hardenburgh Patent. Most of the Bovina Farm Day activities essentially will take place within this lot (and lot 110). This map is from the Cockburn Family Papers at the New York State Library's Manuscripts and Special Collections (my thanks to the library staff for allowing me to take digital photographs of these and the other Great Lot 41 maps that related to Bovina). William Cockburn was a surveyor who did numerous surveys in the Hardenburgh Patent. He surveyed all of the lots in Great Lot 41, which belonged to James DeBrosses. Lot 108 was surveyed for Aaron Buckley. A few months later, 100 acres of the 316 and a half acre lot was split off for Joel Beach. These surveys were done for the first settlers on this land. Today, the Lester and Junior Stewart Farms as well as the old Trimbell Farm are in Lot 108.

So come to Bovina Farm Day on September 5 and you'll be in lot 108 too. Hope to see you there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Interesting Game at Bovina Center

On Saturday, August 21, the Bovina Dairymen will be playing 'matches' in the birthplace of baseball - Cooperstown (go to the Delaware County Vintage Base Ball site at for more information). So this seemed an appropriate time to bring up the story of matches over 100 years ago between teams from Bovina and Margaretville.

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown has arranged the scanning of the Catskill Mountain News from 1902 to 1937 and put them on the web. Go to to see these for yourself. You can search the content, which is how I found this article. Thanks to the historical society for this great resource!

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The May 29, 1903 of the Catskill Mountain News had a front page article about "an interesting game at Bovina Centre." Though the Margaretville Team came out on top, the paper reported that "Good Playing Shown by Both Teams."

"That Margaretville has baseball 'timber' 'goes without saying.' Saturday our aggregation of ball tossers went over the hills to Bovina Centre, and to the tune of 11 to 9 took into camp the locals of that burg, a team which has practically played together for seasons past, and which has had the benefit of several games already this spring. Of course the game from start to finish was closely contested, but a succession of hits in the eighth and ninth, combined with Pitcher Jenkins' exceptionally good work, also in those innings, conclusively settled the question in favor of the visitors.

"First inning - Margaretville went to the bat and it looked like a bombardment. The first ball over the plate Jenkins lined far out in left field, which had all the earmarks of being a safe one, but proved to the contrary; Gladstone reached first on error and scored on Lasher's three-bagger, Allaben hit safe and the former scored, Countryman sacrificed, Allaben went to third and scored on Kelly's single, Reed filed out. Three scores.

"For Bovina W. Thomson reached first, scoring on A. Thomson's long drive; McPherson, Alexander and Hastings went out in one, two, three order. One Score."

The second inning was scoreless. Margaretville did not score in the third, but Bovina was different:

"H. Thompson was safe on first bag, McPherson was put out, Alexander singled, Hastings' hit cleared the bases, Phinney was the second victim, Myers got a life but was left at first by L. Thomson's out. Two scores.

"Fourth inning - Reed singled, Shand and Brophy out, Jenkins' hit scored Reed, and Gladstone closed the inning. One score.

"Jackson, W. Thompson and A. Thompson could not deliver the goods and Bovina again took to the field. No scores.

"Fifth inning - Lasher did not make safe connections and was out at first, Allaben made first easy, Countryman sacrificed, Kelly hit hard, which looked good for at least two bases, but Bovina's second bag tender on a hair-raising play pulled it down. No scores.

"McPherson went to first, was advanced by Alexander's hit, Hastings' hit filled the corners, Phinney first out, Myers singled, L. Thompson second out, Jackson scored Alexander, W. Thomson third out. Two scores."

Bovina scored one run in the sixth inning. The seventh inning was the most active, with Margaretville scoring four runs and Bovina three. In the eighth inning, Margaretville scored two more runs. Unfortunately, Bovina began to falter: "Hastings' and Phinney's club had holes in it...and L. Thomson, like Phinney, unfortunately used Hastings bat." Bovina did not score again, while Margaretville scored one run in the 9th. The article concluded that "Frank Kittle umpired the game most satisfactorily and was highly complimented by the Bovina team."

In a game the following June, Bovina came to Margaretville and came out on top, beating Margaretville 15-13. The Catskill Mountain News noted that "The home team followed error by error - the whole game was full of them - though interspersed with sudden flashes of brilliancy in the field by both teams." The game started off with a shut out for Bovina while Margaretville scored four runs. But Bovina recovered to score three runs in the second inning and six of its runs in the fourth inning. "In the seventh Margaretville furnished some excitement by tieing the score but it was no use and Bovina returned home victorious."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bovina Farm Day 2010

In a little less than one month, the second annual Bovina Farm Day will be held up Crescent Valley. It'll happen on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend - September 5 to be specific. I will be there again this year with a display and my scanner - I'm always looking for pictures of Bovina farms, people, events - well, anything related to Bovina.

Go to for more information on Bovina Farm Day. I've been asked to write up a brief history of the farms up Crescent Valley. I will share that at my display booth on Bovina Farm Day - and share it on my blog shortly after.

Hope to see many of you on the 5th!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Who Was Buying What 178 years ago Today

As I noted in an earlier blog entry, it is likely that my blogging is going to suffer while I transition full time to Bovina. But I want to celebrate the fact that tonight I have Internet in my house in Bovina (as well as a new washing machine). So I looked through pages from a Bovina store ledger that the county historian allowed me to photograph earlier this month to see who bought what on July 30 in 1832 (the volume, unfortunately, has many missing pages while others were pasted over by news paper, so I was lucky to find July 30). The source of this ledger is not clear - we do not know who the store owner was or where in Bovina the store was located.

Here's what some folks bought 178 years ago today:

We'll start with my ancestor, Francis Coulter, who bought 5 quarts of Whiskey and a pound of tobacco for what looks like $1.72. He wasn't the only person buying liquor. Included on the list for July 30 as having bought whiskey were John Thomson (1/2 gallon), Walter Scott (2 gallons), John Winters (1 quart) and Alexander Brush (1 gallon). Another ancestor of mine, William Miller, was more abstentious, buying a pound each of tea and coffee, along with an item that I can't read, for $1.31. July 30 seemed to be a thirsty day. Most of the purchases were for coffee, tea and whiskey, though Isaac Atkins did buy a gallon of molasses for $1.50. On July 31, the purchases were very similar, including repeat purchases of whiskey from Francis Coulter (another 5 quarts) and Alexander Brush (another gallon). David Thomson bought 2 gallons, along with 2 darning needles for $1.77. John Secord bought a teapot and blue thread while Thomas Sloan bought 4 pounds of sugar and a pitchfork for a $1.81. Frederick Purdy spent $1.36 for 4 pounds of nails.

When I get more settled in Bovina in the fall, I want to do a more thorough review of this incomplete ledger book to look at the buying patterns. Going by just these last two days of July in 1832, one definitely gets the impression that there was a lot of drinking going on (over half the purchases were for whiskey). But did Francis Coulter really down 5 quarts in a day, necessitating the purchase of another five the next? He did get in trouble with the Bovina Associate Presbyterian Church session twice in the 1830s for intoxication, but it is possible that he had some help in consuming the whiskey. It was haying season, so there were hired hands to think about. In the 1830s, whiskey and other such beverages were the preferred choice to water.

So I'll make further reports as I analyze and hopefully transcribe this ledger and post it on the web.

So good night from Bovina!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Special Announcement

Hello eager readers! A somewhat personal announcement that will impact this blog - mainly positively. I am going to be taking the early retirement incentive and retiring from my current job at the New York State Archives in September. I will be moving to Bovina full time, probably in October. It will be exciting being able to spend more time on local history and working on my house.

It is possible that blog entries over the next few months may be a bit more sporadic as I go through wrapping up my current job, selling my house and getting settled full time in Bovina. I'll keep you posted. Once I'm settled in Bovina, I'll be able to do more frequent entries - at least that's the plan!

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bovina Melodramas: Virtue's Reward!

I'm writing this at the Bovina Community Hall awaiting the premiere of the third in a seemingly never ending series of stories about Bovina written by an Anonymous Lady of Bovina. This one is set in 1890 and includes Paris Hilson, a woman of dubious character, Brawney LaFever, our hero, Sneezy Jeepers, our villian. The Jeepers family have appeared in all three melodramas - he has brothers Snidely and Sneaky. I've been told the family was quite large and lived in a hollow (or holler). So the stores may continue. These events are a fund raiser for the Bovina Public Library.

So it starts: Pansy Flowers and her daughter Aster mother and daughter are upset about Sneezy Jeepers wanting their rent to be paid. Pansy paints watercolors of Bovina heifers. Sneezy has just showed up. He was going to reveal his real name but he sneezed too much. So he's demanding the rent and if not rent, Pansy will have to marry Jeepers. Sneezy has revealed his adopted deaf mute child. Pansy has refused to marry Sneezy so she and her daughter are praying. In steps Rev. Doright Huggable of the Bovina UP Church - Pansy and Aster are thrilled to see him. Unfortunately, he has not succeeded in collecting enough money for the rent, but they will always make sure that they have the finest Bovina Milk, Butter and Ground Chuck. Paris Hilson has arrived, looking for the Reverend. She's hot to trot for the Reverend. But she's a singer, dancer, actor and entertainer. Gasps galore! She's revealed horrible news about Sneezy Jeepers' plans for his deaf mute child. She knows this because Jeepers did the same thing to her. And now arrive Brawney LaFever and the Handsome Stranger with a Beard. Well, Paris has a LaFever for Brawney LaFever! After trying to get the Handsome Stranger to speak, unsuccessfully, back comes Jeepers demanding the rent or marriage. Jeepers reveals Paris Hilson as disreputable, but Brawney has only eyes for Paris. And the Handsome Stranger turns out to be Pansy's husband! Paris gives Jeepers the rent and tells him to scram. But when he tried to take the deaf mute to 'boarding school' (gasps) everyone steps in to stop this travesty. The great Bovina Creamery flood of 1888? Everyone thought Pansy's son Crocus died in this flood. Well, gasp, the deaf mute is the missing son, dressed as a girl by Jeepers. Handsome Stranger clobbers Jeepers. Brawney clobbers him. The reverend condemns him. And the audience throws stuff at him. And Sneezy's name turns out to be 'Snodgrass' ('Snodgrass?'). But he can be saved by the goodness in Bovina. 'One of the most glorious spots on God's green earth.' Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham. And Sneezy is cured of all his evilness! Applause. The End.

Ok, this will look all very confusing - and Bovina history took a few steps back tonight ('I've got a LaFever for Brawney LaFever?' Geesh!). But what fun! So I post it as written.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Week in Bovina, Part II

A short update concerning my week in Bovina. I spent two days in Delhi doing research on various Bovina topics. I have found which farm was the farm of Reverend John Graham (it's about a half-mile from my house). The Delaware County Historical Association let me photograph the Cora Livingston Barton rent book that is in their collection. Today, I met the new Delaware County Historian, Gabrielle Pierce, where she allowed me to photograph a Bovina store ledger from the early 1830s and the 1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook. I found some interesting recipes that are going to form the basis of a few blog postings.

One that really puzzled me was 'Railroad Yeast.' Here it is in full:

"Seven medium sized potatoes, boiled; 3 tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon salt. Mash potatoes very fine; stir all together, then pour 1 qt. boiling water on, stir until all is smooth, then add one pt. cold water; when cool, put in one yeast cake."

I need to figure out what you do next, since this was the whole recipe. I assume you put it right into a bread recipe, but who knows?

One other thing about the cookbook - no temperatures are given. There are two recipes for maple mousse and a recipe for Snickerdoodles that is a bit difference from the one I use (it includes raisins).

I hope to try some of these recipes, but not while the weather is so hot. Cold food will be best for now!

Don't forget Bovina Day on Saturday, the 17th, with the 2nd annual Brushland Melodrama the evening before.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Week in Bovina

For the first time since 2005, I'm spending a full week in Bovina. I've got some stuff to deal with concerning my house and also hope to simply relax and get out on my bike a bit. I'm also taking time to do some research on Bovina history. This week, I'm going to verify where Bovina Pastor John Graham's farm was located and look for deeds related to stores in Bovina.

My week in Bovina will end with Bovina Day, sponsored by the Bovina Historical Society. Bovina Day will include a town wide yard sale from 9 to 3 and a vintage baseball game, with the Bovina Dairymen taking on Roxbury. The Bovina UP Church will be open where I will be showing a small slide show of pictures and videos from the Bicentennial Celebration last October. Russell's Store will be open and the Bovina Library will have its annual book sale. And the evening before will be two presentations of yet another Bovina Melodrama, in aid of the library.

So come and celebrate Bovina - and be sure to stop by the church and say hello.