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.