Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Bovina Families" Album now on Flickr

Early in the last decade, I started a project to transcribe a transcription which is loosely called 'Bovina Families.' Some background: Early in the 20th Century, starting around 1914, Bovina native David Fletcher Hoy (1863-1930) created a very large card file to document all of Bovina's families. In the 1980s, David's nephew, Fletcher Davidson (1895-1987), took the files and created a large set of notebooks transcribing the information from the cards. Starting in September 2001, I took on the task of transcribing Fletcher's Davidson transcription, completing the project in February of 2003. I estimated that there were about 12,000 entries when the project was done. This is on the Delaware County Genealogy website at (And note, these families often go beyond just Bovina.)

As a companion to the Bovina Families transcription, I have started a collection on Flickr, unimaginatively called 'Bovina Families.' You can visit it at

The first set of pictures that I have uploaded come from the family of Jack Hilson. His children graciously allowed me access to two albums that had belonged to their grandmother, Helena Strangeway Hilson. The albums date from the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Someone, likely Helena herself, had written names on the portraits in the albums. Helena probably did these later in life, since the notations were done in ball point pen. I scanned the images from these albums and added further information, pulled from the Bovina families transcription and Bovina cemetery information provided by Ed and Dick Davidson. For a few of the pictures, I could find no information that would help confirm who the person was beyond the name. I would welcome any comments identifying the person. And I also will welcome further information and/or if I have a picture mislabeled.

The families represented in the albums, as well as the Strangeways, include Doig, Coulter, Gladstone and Burgin.

I hope to start regularly adding to this Bovina Families album. David Fletcher Hoy's grandson provided to me several years ago scans of a number of portraits from his family. I have similar portraits from my family and have access to some Russell family portraits. And I'm always looking for other such albums to scan so the images can be shared much more widely than they can sitting in an old album. Watch for further announcements on updates to the on-line Bovina Families Album.

And enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Potpourri for Summer

Some odds and ends to pass along, starting with a reminder of some upcoming activities this summer in Bovina:

July 17 is Bovina Day, with a Community wide yard sale, a baseball game with the Bovina Dairymen taking on Roxbury at noon, a historic display on last year's Bicentennial at the UP church, a book and glassware sale at the Bovina Library, and so much more. And don't forget the evening before, July 16th, will be another installment in the Bovina Melodrama, with shows at 7 and 8 at the Community Hall, proceeds to support the Bovina Public Library.

The second annual Bovina Farm Day will be held September 5 up Crescent Valley road. Stay tuned for further details as the summer progresses.

And a couple of updates from previous blog entries:

On May 23, I reported on when and how Bovina became a 'dry' town and had it figured out that it happened in 1883. In reviewing some old newspapers that I discovered on the web, I found that Bovina voted to go dry in February 1881. The brief article, taken from the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle for February 15, 1881:

"Eleven towns in Delaware county have voted 'no license,' viz: Delhi, Stamford, Middletown, Andes, Bovina, Walton, Kortright, Harpersfield, Meredith, Franklin, and Sidney. In Bovina the vote was unanimous."

In my June 9 blog entry "Bridging Bovina," I reported that the bridge at the lower end of the hamlet had a traffic light because repairs were to take place to the bridge. Well, the light is no longer there, so I'm not sure what was being done to the bridge.

I attempted to recreate the pictures I posted in that entry to show how the bridge looked today compared to when it was completed 55 years ago, but there was too much 'vegetation' to allow for a good shot. I will close this entry with two shots I did get, one of the bridge looking toward the hamlet (and the closest I could get to recreating the photo of the bridge in 1955), the other of a chunk of concrete that I believe was part of the demolished old bridge. Click on the images to see a larger view.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Forty Years Ago Today

A brief and somewhat more personal blog entry. Today is the 40th anniversary of the start of my journal. On June 14, 1970, I made my third attempt to keep a daily journal. The third time was the charm, because I've kept it for 14,611 days (though I have to admit that I missed a day in August 1977 and didn't discover the omission for several years).

Personal diaries and journals are a wonderful way for us to look at someone's life from that person's perspective. My grandmother Anna Bell LaFever kept a diary. I've only seen her diary kept from the late 1940s - I've often wondered if she kept one earlier, but it hasn't surfaced yet if she did. My mom, Leona LaFever, started a diary about a year after I did and she kept it until a few months before her death in 2006, with some gaps due to illness. For the year after my dad's passing in 2004, she wrote the entries as if she were writing to my dad. Mom also had a diary from the year she was 17. I remember seeing it as a kid and at some point, mom expressed embarrassment at it and thought she might destroy it. The historian in me was not too happy, but it was her diary - it was hers to do with as she wished. But she did not destroy it. Instead, when I found it after her passing, it had a four page note inserted in it, written the year she turned 60 and obviously intended for her children to find. In the note, she explained the diary and her circumstances at the time. She talked about all the people in the diary, what happened to them, and what happened to her. She noted that whenever she felt a bit blue because she wasn't a young anymore, it took reading just one page of the diary to make her glad that those years were behind her.

When historians do look at diaries, we have to remember that they usually reflect only one perspective, but often that's just what the historian wants and needs. Many diaries can have things that just won't make sense - that's part of the fun and the challenge for historians. I expect some components of my diaries will very much puzzle future readers. I remember an entry during my first ever trip to England in 1973 when I commented that everything was very 'church like.' I suspect substantial portions of my journal will simply bore those same historians. Diaries are kept to chronicle activities, but can be also therapeutic for the writer and often are not written with posterity in mind.

Another diary puzzle can be caused simply by penmanship. Mom's teenage diary is a challenge because she tried to write so much in a small space. Some entries spill over into the margins and you have to turn the book every which way in order to read it. My problem is that I simply have awful handwriting - sometimes I can't read things I've written. Though I tried to be careful with my penmanship in my journal, often printing my entries, I wasn't always successful. Since 1988, I've kept the journal electronically - I type better than I write.

Ok, so what did that first entry say? You asked for it: "It was cold this morning - 38 degrees. After the paper route, I slept. Mom and Dad went flying and I went to the Community baseball game. Our team won but I didn't help with the victory. We went to the ice cream store after Mom and Dad got home. Tommorrow (sic) is the last full day of school. I have tests."

Some explanations: That's not minus 38 - I used (and still do use) dashes a lot. The paper route I had was to deliver the Binghamton Sunday Press to about 20 people in the hamlet. I left about another 15 papers at the Bovina creamery for outlying farmers to pick up when they delivered their milk. I was an early bird, usually out of the house to make the deliveries (by bike in the summer and, sometimes, by sled in the winter). The flying refers to my Dad, who flew single engine planes out of Cooperstown/Westfield airport. The ice cream store likely was in Delhi. And that misspelling of tomorrow is a trait that still plagues me occasionally (or ocassionally, as I sometimes spell it!).

There are a number of diaries on the web from people with Bovina connections. And there are other diaries in and around Bovina. In future blog postings, I'll talk about some of these. But for now, I just marvel that I know exactly what I was doing 40 years ago today.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bridging Bovina

As I write this, the 55 year old bridge on County Route 6 at the lower end of Bovina Center is undergoing repairs. This bridge was built to replace a more picturesque bridge that had become unsafe and unsuitable for modern vehicular traffic. There has been a bridge at this end of the hamlet since at least 1873, when the first documented bridge there was built. Unfortunately, within three years, it collapsed. The replacement stone arch bridge lasted over 80 years, but the change from horse drawn vehicles to trucks and automobiles made the bridge very challenging to cross - it was easy to scrape your car on the sides of the bridge. Click on the image to the right to see a larger version of this picture from the 1930s, courtesy of Christine Hilson Batey.

In March 1954, the Bovina Town Board passed a resolution in requesting that a new bridge be built:

"Resolved: Whereas the bridge at Bovina Center has been deemed unsafe for travel,
"Whereas, two school buses, one carrying 52 children and the other 25 children, are forced to unload the children and said children must walk across said bridge on their way to school in the morning and on their return at night,
"Whereas, this is the main outlet of said Town – all milk being hauled in trucks from community and all grain and supplies hauled in comes over this bridge,
"Whereas, the Post Office at Bovina Center is reached by a mail car using this bridge,
"Whereas, the bridge in use was built in the 1870's and very little repair work has been done since then,
"Whereas, signs stating, “Proceed at your own risk” has been posted at the approaches to the bridge,
"We, the undersigned members of the Town Board of the Town of Bovina, do recommend that a new bridge be built as soon as possible."

Construction began in September 1954. On the left is a photo taken on September 15, 1954 - the old bridge can be seen in the background. Click on the image to see a larger version (photo by Bob Wyer, courtesy of the Delaware County Historical Association).

The Delaware Republican Express reported in its July 7, 1955 issue that "The new bridge almost completed down by Frank McPherson's was open to traffic last week and is sure getting a work out." To the right is a photo from the Jack Hilson family of the newly completed span (click the image to see the larger version - you'll see in the background a shot of the old bridge).

Much to the disappointment of many, including Stella McPherson, who lived across the street, the old bridge was demolished on July 26, 1955 by the same company that built the new one. Stella had marvelous flowers in her yard and did the arrangements for the church for years. I think she would have done some lovely displays on that old bridge. Click on the image to the right, courtesy of the family of Jack Hilson, to see a photo of the demolition.

A piece of the old bridge still exists at the Bovina Historical Society's Museum. Click on this image to see a photo taken by Bob Wyer in the late 1950s of this piece. (Photo courtesy of the Delaware County Historical Association).

The repairs on the current bridge are bringing a rather unusual element to Bovina - a traffic light. Click on this image I took on June 5 heading towards Route 28. The bridge is where the orange cones are laid out.

The need for a new bridge at this spot in 1955 can be well understood. The old bridge, while lovely, was treacherous and a challenge for drivers. The new bridge is much safer to navigate. But I'm sorry that the old bridge couldn't have stayed around. It would have been an interesting relic of Bovina's past and an interesting curiosity.

Friday, June 4, 2010

DCHA's History Happening Day - June 5

A quick note that I'll be at the Delaware County Historical Association's History Happening Day tomorrow (June 5) in Delhi with a display about Bovina for the Bovina Historical Society. Stop by and say hello.

DCHA's History Happening Day will be a day of workshops and demonstrations of weaving, spinning, quilting, woodworking, and blacksmithing. There will be 4-H animals and handcrafts & locally produced arts for sale! From 3 - 5pm there will be a Square Dance with Hilt Kelly and His Sidekicks.

Admission: $4.00 adults, $1.50 children under 12. Lunch available. (Admission includes visit to all the buildings on the site.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Saving Your Electronic Records

This is a slightly unusual post for this blog, but part of my work in saving and sharing Bovina's history is to make sure your history is not being lost to posterity. It's personal photo albums and other files that I'm finding so many great tidbits to share about Bovina's past. I hate to see the history that we are all collecting today through our photos and videos lost to my successors as town historian.

A colleague of mine, Bonnie Weddle, who blogs as L'Archivista (, has suggested this new website from the Library of Congress as a good source for the lay person to go to for help in saving their digital treasures: Check it out. Don't let your stories be lost to future generations.