Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stories from Bovina Cemeteries - Epitaphs

The Bovina Cemetery has a number of graves with more than just the name and date of the deceased.  Epitaphs appear to have been particularly popular in the mid to late 19th century.  Unfortunately, some of these are very hard to decipher, but with the aid of the Internet, I have been able to work out many of them.  Below are a few samples from the Bovina Center Cemetery on Coulter Brook (I’ll be looking for and sharing epitaphs from other Bovina cemeteries in future blog entries).

The most popular source of gravestone epitaphs is, as would be expected, the Bible.  Sometimes, the stone cites the Bible verse, but often it did not.  The Bible quotes come from the King James version. 

Fanny Taylor Coulter’s stone has a verse from Matthew:  “Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”  Fanny, the wife of David Coulter, was 77 at her death in 1897.  Helen Anderson Hamilton, the wife of Thomas Hamilton, was 60 at her death in 1868.  Her stone has not one but two Bible verses.  From Revelation:  “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”  From Luke:  “Weep not for me but weep for yourselves.”  When eight year old James K. Miller died in 1860, his grieving parents chose a verse from Job: “The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.” 

The grave of New Kingston resident and Civil War fatality James C. Elliott has not only two bible verses but text from a hymn.  The hymn text is a paraphrase from a hymn written by William Cullen Bryant for Abraham Lincoln’s funeral:

Thy task is done the bond are free
We never saw thy honored grave
Whose proudest moment shall be
The broken fetters of the slave

Since Elliott’s body was never brought home, the family made a change to the hymn.  The second line in the original hymn was “We bear thee to an honored grave.” 

Several other war fatalities include information about their death.  William Henry Stott's stone explains that he was a member of Company E, 3rd NYS Volunteers.  The stone further explained that Stott “fell in battle in defence of his Country at Chula Bridge on the Richmond & Danville Rail Road, Va. May 24th, 1861, aged 22 years 2 mo and 1 day.”

Clark G. Miller (1894-1918) was one of two Bovina fatalities in World War I buried in Bovina.  His stone states that he was “KILLED IN DEFENCE OF PARIS, FRANCE.”  James D. Calhoun (1889-1918) died later the same year.  His stone gives information on his company and simply states “THE SUPREME SACRIFICE.”

Several epitaphs wax poetically.  Jennie Miller was 31 at her death in 1870.  On her headstone is a slight paraphrase of a poem by Lydia H. Sigourney, published in 1842:

She’s gone where no dark sin is cherished
Where no woes nor fears invade
Gone are youth first bud had perished
To a youth that ne’er can fade

Though not consistently, flowery epitaphs often appear on graves of those who died young, such as Jennie Miller.  When James Bryden died in 1899, he was 21.  The poem on his headstone is a standard one for memorial cards and headstones in that era:

A precious one from us has gone,
A voice we loved is stilled.
A place is vacant in our home,
Which never can be filled.
God in his wisdom has recalled,
The boon his love had given;
And though the body slumbers here,
The soul is safe in heaven.

The family of Robbie Laidlaw, who was 14 at his death in 1888, used a hymn written by Margaret Mackay in 1832:

Asleep, in Jesus blessed sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep;
A calm and undisturbed repose,
Unbroken by the last of foes.

Not all epitaphs were on graves of those who died young.  When John R. Thomson died in 1892, age 82, his family put the following on his stone:

Farewell dear Father sweet thy rest
Weary with years and worn with pain
Farewell till in some happy place
We shall behold thy face again.

Into the 20th century, most graves did not have epitaphs, but it’s a tradition that in Bovina cemeteries is making a comeback.  When my cousin John LaFever died in 1995, his family put the following on his headstone:

His courage, his smile,
his enthusiasm for life
brought joy to the hearts
of those who have the
privilege of loving him.

I close with the headstone of someone especially close to me, my dear old Dad.  My mom and dad loved the poem ‘High Flight.’  Written by John Gillespie Magee, a young pilot who was killed in a training accident when only 19, the poem is especially favored by pilots like my dad.  Mom particularly wanted a phrase from that poem, along with an engraving of a small airplane, similar to those that Dad flew.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from 80 Years Ago

In going through some of the Cecil Russell family papers, I found a lot of Christmas cards and thought I'd share a few from the early 1930s.

Here are three cards that were sent to Isabell Russell's mother, Elizabeth Richardson Irvine (1866-1940).   The middle card is from Reverend William Samson.  I do not know who Ida or Clara May were.

This is a card received by Cecil and Isabell Russell at Christmas 1931 from James Leiper Coulter and his wife Hattie Gladstone Coulter, who lived in Pennsylvania.  I've included scans of the inside of the envelope and the back, which has a 1931 Christmas seal on it. 

That same Christmas, Marjorie Russell, then aged 13, received this card from Helen and Marshall Thomson, who were then living on Long Island.  Helen and Marshall later came back to Bovina.

A very Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thomas Miller and William S. Thomson

What do these two Bovina gentlemen have in common?  Not a lot, but they do have this date in common.  William was born on this date.  Fifty years later, Thomas died on this date.  Here are the details:

One hundred and fifty years ago today, William Scott Thomson was born in Bovina, the son of Andrew Thomson and Margaret Isabella Scott.  He spent his whole life in Bovina, marrying Jennie Alice Archibald in January 1890.  They had three children, Andrew Ralph, Archibald Millard and Mozelle Elizabeth.  William was widowed in March 1917 when his wife Jennie died of tuberculosis at the relatively young age of 46 years.  He survived her by 4 years, dying in November 1921 of pneumonia

One hundred years ago today,  Thomas Miller died at the age of 85.  He was born on July 15, 1826 in Roberton, Scotland, the son of William Miller and Isabella Dickson.  He came to Bovina when he was about 5 years old.  In 1851, he married Elizabeth Thompson, the daughter of Andrew and Elizabeth Thompson.  They had two children, Elizabeth Thomson Miller (1854-1885) and William R. Miller (1858-1916).  Thomas was married two more times after being widowed in 1870.  He married Margaret Campbell in 1872.  Margaret died in 1882.  Five years later, Thomas married for a third time, to Jane Elliott in Garrattsville, NY.  Thomas was a farmer in Bovina, on the farm now at the end of Reinertsen Hill Road.

The death notice for Thomas Miller in the Catskill Mountain News of January 5, 1912 noted that Thomas was in robust health until July 1907, when "he suffered a stroke of paralysis and while his strong constitution enabled him to withstand the shock, he never fully recovered."  The obituary noted that in July 1911 "he had a second shock which shattered body and mind." Miller was one of the longest continually serving Elders of the Bovina UP Church, serving 54 years.

This isn't the first time Thomas has been mentioned in this blog.  See the blog entries for May 5 and 17, 2011 concerning a family squabble that involved Miller and his brother in law James Coulter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Part XI

This is the eighth of a series of entries from the script used on April 21, 1955, when citizens of Bovina presented a pageant of the town's history - "Bovina Center, My Home Town."  Though I'm not 100% sure, it appears the script was written by Vera Storie and her brother Fletcher Davidson.  The items in brackets refer to the tableau of local citizens acting out parts of the story.  [Sections I and II are in the May 21 blog entry, sections III and IV are in the June 21 blog entry, section V is in the July 21 entry, section VI is in the August 21 entry, section VII is in the September 21 entry, section VIII is in the October 21 entry and sections IX and X are in the November 21 entry.]  

XI.    Outstanding citizens

Through the years there have been a few names among our ancestors that I have often heard mentioned, names of people who were noted for one thing or another.  I have found the following information about a few of those people who have particularly interested me.

Joseph Smith, the leader of the Mormans, once resided in this town and worked as a common day laborer.  On the farm of Paul Rabeler there once stood a stone wall which Smith built between the years 1835 and 1840, a wall which perhaps may still be standing there. 

Alexander Brush, who was seeking to improve the pasturage of his farm, obtained some seed of the common white daisy and planted it on his land, thus bringing the first white daisies into this locality.  Today the farmers regarded the daisy as a weed and are, therefore, not very grateful to our second settler for this contribution. 

The McFarland boys, who lived on the George Lingg farm, might today be thought of as capable building engineers.  They planned and performed all the mechanical labor on their barn which, in their day, was considered to be the best barn in Delaware County.  The foundation was made of native stone, cut by hand by the McFarland boys.  In the cupola of the barn they kept a register of all the famous people who came to visit their barn because of its grandeur.  The bar still stands, and no doubt the register is treasured by the family of these two brothers.

The Hastings, Tuttle, and Gerry families are today outstanding for the fact that they are the only families in town that have lived continuously on the land settled by their ancestors.  Dora Hastings Barnhart and her one daughter and her grandchildren are still living on the land settled by the Hastings brothers [*17c-Hastings Farm projected] in 1798.  Log buildings were first erected, and later the present buildings were built, the date 1798 being inscribed on the front of the house recalling the date of the coming of this family to the farm.  The Tuttles boast of the fact that their ancestors built the first frame house in the town, a building which still stands on their farm and is still used as a tenant house.

The Gerry estate, the form Robert J. Livingston estate of 20,000 acres, has been in possession of the Livingston family since 1707, the patent, a part of the Hardenburgh patent, coming from Queen Anne.  The original patent was for land 30 miles wide about 20 miles west of the Hudson River, extending back to the West Branch of the Delaware River.  From time to time sections were sold from this tract of over 500,000 acres of land, of what is today more than half of Delaware County; but it is still the largest piece of land owned by a private family in this county.  At the outlet of the lake on this property stood the first grist mill in the town of Bovina, built in 1796 for General Morgan Lewis of Revolutionary War farm, a son-in-law of Judge Robert Livingston, the son of the original owner.  Later the mill was used for a store.  In 1808 a fulling mill was run on the stream there, and at one time a distillery was also operated there.  When the original mill burned, a new one was built in 1825; but it was taken down in 1881.  The only daughter of General Morgan Lewis, who inherited this estate, became the wife of Robert J. Livingston 2nd.  When this Robert J. Livingston died in 1891, the property was inherited by his only child, his daughter Louisa, who married Elbridge T. Gerry, a famous lawyer, the founder of the Children’s Society, a charity leader, and the grandson of Elbridge Gerry, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  The lake was at first called Fish Lake because of the many native trout and perch to be found in it.  Later the waters became known as Landon’s Lake from Thomas Landon who operated a tavern there and who for years was land agent for the Livingstons.  Today the lake is called Lake Delaware [*18-Projection of Lake Delaware.]  It covers 160 acres and has no surface inlet, but the outlet is a stream of sufficient size to have afforded a valuable water power for the early owners to operate their mills.  Through the years the Gerry children have purchased hundreds of acres of adjoining land and, thus, have added to the estate of their mother Louisa, an estate which was one of the early manors.

[*18a-Project of P. Gerry’s house] Overlooking the lake is the summer mansion of Ex-Senator Peter Gerry, the second home built here by the Livingston family, this one being built in 1853.  It is famous for its pillared verandas, it’s beautiful circular staircase in the main hall, its numerous fireplaces, and its wood paneling.  In 1951 when this house was remodeled and surrendered its iron stoves and candles of pre-Civil War days, workers reported that the framework was of beech, a heavy, difficult-to-work wood that is seldom used in home construction and which was probably out from the lands around the lake. 

At the main entrance of the estate standing at the edge of the pine and hemlock forest is the beautiful church of native stone, [*18b-Projection of Lake church] which Miss Angelica Gerry built in memory of her mother and father.  Dedicated in 1924, the edifice is a monument of the pioneers who cleared the land in this vicinity as the stones used in the construction were field stones similar to those that the early settlers picked from their fields and laid up as stone walls. 

The original Robert J. Livingston was born in 1654 in the little Scottish town of Ancrum, after which Miss Angelica Gerry no doubt named her summer home which was completed in the year 1928.  [*18c-Projection of Angelica Gerry’s home]  This beautiful mansion overlooks the Delaware Valley and is noted not only for its beautiful view but also for its expanse of lawn with its wealth of colorful flowers, shrubs, and trees.  The son of this Robert J. Livingston was at one time a partner of Captain Kidd in a plan to despoil pirate ships operating off the coast of Malabar, but Captain Kidd failed to restrict his activities to pirate vessels and was subsequently hanged for his offense in London.  Livingston emerged unhurt from the experience.  It is also a rather interesting fact to know that Anna Eleanor Roosevelt is a great, great, great, great, great granddaughter of this Robert J. Livingston.

The third Gerry summer home is that of Robert L. Gerry, [*18d-Projection of Robert Gerry’s home] which was burned two years ago and is at present being rebuilt.  It took overlooks the lake. 
All through the years the Gerry family has in countless ways given aid to the town of Bovina and is held in great esteem by the citizens.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Few Bovina News Briefs

During various research projects, I often have need to consult old newspapers. Always on the alert for items about Bovina, I occasionally find unusual little items that cause one to speculate and hunger for more. A few interesting examples:

From the Delaware Republican, June 13, 1886: "There was a great commotion the other day in the Brushland school, when a revolver went off in a boy's hip pocket. The ball lodged in the seat and no harm was done except a hole in the boy's pants."  I have not been able to identify who the armed student was.  The school likely was the District 4 school located across from the Bovina UP Church (now the home of Joe and Connie Dibble).

From the Delaware Republican, August 21, 1886: "Robt. J. Forrest killed 66 wood chucks out of 72 shots in three days with a shot gun on his farm in Bovina. He is either a 'crack' shot or wood chucks are pretty tame in his neighborhood."  Robert Forrest was born in 1824 in Scotland and died in April 1892 in Bovina. 

From the Delaware Republican, September 7, 1889: "A horse, belonging to Douglas Davidson, Bovina, backed a buggy, containing Mrs. John R. Hoy and her son, over a steep bank near Mr. Davidson's wagon house, on Monday of last week. The occupants of the buggy were both thrown out, and Mrs. Hoy received several severe cuts about the mouth."  Douglass Davidson was the father of Fletcher Davidson and lived in the house now occupied by Ed and Bonnie Dennison.  Mrs. John R. Hoy (Isabella Miller Hoy) was Douglass's mother-in-law - actually twice.  He was married to Mary Isabella Hoy in 1878.  She died in 1883.  He married her sister Margaret Jane in 1889, the same year the accident involving his mother-in-law took place.    Douglass died in 1923, Margaret in 1930.  Mrs. Hoy had three sons living in 1889, David, Milton and Wilson.

From the Catskill Mountain News, January 15, 1904: "The other day Robert Thomson of Bovina finished a comfortable smoke and put his pipe in his pocket. Pretty soon his coattails were afire." Unfortunately, there are five Robert Thomson's buried in Bovina's cemetery, all who were alive in 1904, so which Robert this was cannot be determined.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War – To Care for Him Who Shall Have Borne the Battle

In Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent second inaugural speech delivered on March 4, 1865, he talked about the approaching end of the Civil War and what was facing the nation, including the need “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan…”  Twenty two years after the end of the war, the issue of soldier relief shows up in the Town of Bovina records.  The Andes based Fletcher Post Number 221 of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veterans organization, notified the Town of Bovina that it was prepared to provide assistance to veterans and to families of deceased veterans in the town.  Below is the text of the notice, dating from January 10, 1888:

To the Town Clerk of the Town of Bovina: Take Notice that Fletcher Post No 221 GAR have by a resolution adopted at a regular meeting of said Post determined to undertake the relief of indigent and suffering soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the war of the rebellion and their families and the families of those deceased who need assistance in said town of Bovina as provided by Chapter 706 of the session laws of 1887.  The relief committee for the said town of Bovina duly appointed by said Post under said act is Henry Hogaboom, William Richardson and John R. Hoy which said committee shall hold office until their successors are appointed.

Hogaboom, Richardson and Hoy were all war veterans.  The Relief for Indigent Soldiers and Sailors law, passed by the State Legislature in 1887, provided funds for indigent Civil War veterans and their dependents.  The funds were to be provided by the town, drawn on by the commander of the local post of the GAR.  If a town did not have a local post, the nearest post in a neighboring town would do so.  Since Bovina did not have its own post, a committee of people from Bovina was created by the Andes-based Fletcher Post. 

It appears from the available records that at least one Bovina soldier received assistance.  In 1888, the year the law passed, assistance was given to veteran James ‘Jimmie’ McClure.  McClure, a native of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, was admitted to the Delaware County Poorhouse in December 14, 1887.  He was single and his habits were noted as ‘intemperate.’  The cause of his dependence was old age and destitution.  The poor house record noted that he had not received public or private relief earlier.  He was admitted to the poor house as he awaited transportation to a soldier’s home.  That never happened.  At some point the following year, he moved to Bovina and became a charge of the town.  He received a pair of boots, a pair of socks, one shirt and a paper of tobacco, as well as one bottle of Janes Expectorant from the town overseer of the poor.  The town also paid $21 to board McClure for seven weeks.  The overseer was paid $5 for “care in sickness.”  This may have been his final illness.  McClure died in Bovina in November 1888 of heart disease.  His death was reported in the Delaware Gazette:  “Jimmie McClure , the eccentric character so well known here and in this vicinity, died in Bovina last Friday. "  Though not recorded in the account books, McClure’s burial in Bovina likely was paid with some kind of public assistance.  Below is his headstone.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another Bovina Murder Case?

A former colleague stumbled across this November 27, 1849 article in the Troy Daily Budget about a Bovina related murder:

Murder in Delaware County
Correspondence of the Prattsville Advocate
Broomville (sic), Nov. 21, 1849

Dear Sir – I have just heard of the shocking murder of a father by his son, near Bovina Centre on Friday last.  The victim was Mr. Daniel Frazier, a respectable citizen, aged about 70 years.  The son was named Daniel, a robust looking chap, about 35 years old, and of very uneven temper.  It appears that the difficulty arose in regard to the feeding slop to a favorite cow of Mr. F.-the son ordering the father not to feed her.
The father replied that it was his cow, and he purchased the meal and should use it as he thought best.  The son said he would be d—d if he should, and immediately picked up a billet of wood and struck his father over the head, breaking in the skull, and letting out the brains at the first blow.  Not satisfied with this, he inflicted four more heavy blows on his person, left him for dead, fled for parts unknown, and has not yet been arrested.  Mr. F. died on Monday.  These are the facts as related to me this morning.  There are, however, various versions of the transaction afloat. 
There certainly were various versions.  And further research questions whether there was any murder at all and whether it happened in Bovina, whatever the incident.  On November 22, the day after this letter was written, Daniel Frazier was indicted for assault and battery in the Court of Oyer and Terminer in Delhi.  In February, Ebenezer and James Frazier also were indicted for assault, but nothing further happened to them.  In February 1850 the charges against Daniel were dismissed over the objections of the District Attorney, with Daniel agreeing to pay court costs. The DA objected to the dismissal because the "cases were ones of aggravated assault."  Unfortunately, the actual case papers cannot be found, so we do not know who he was accused of assaulting - or why these were described as 'cases' (it might relate to the involvement of Ebenezer and James Frazier). 

There is a Daniel Frazier with a Bovina connection whose age somewhat matches that in the news article, but his father was Andrew, not Daniel.  Andrew emigrated from Scotland in 1805 and was an early pioneer of Delhi.  He was the father of several children, including sons Daniel, Ebenezer, and James.  Daniel was born in Delaware County in 1809.  He was living in Bovina as late as 1848, but by the 1850 census, he was living in Delhi, with his wife Ellen and three children.  I cannot determine where Andrew had a farm - nor can I find anything where the farm owned by Daniel in Bovina was located.  Andrew died in 1853.  Daniel is mentioned in Delhi section of Munsell's History of Delaware County.  He was first married to Ellen Dougal, who died in 1861.  Daniel later married Margaret Merritt, a prominent teacher in the county.  Daniel lived into his 80s, dying in 1895.  He is buried in the Old Presbyterian cemetery near Delhi.  His father is buried in the same cemetery.

It seems likely that the Daniel charged with assault is the same Daniel mentioned in the news article.  And it appears this Daniel is the son of Andrew Frazier.  The fact that Ebenezer and James were also charged around the same time strongly connects them as related to Daniel - and Andrew had three sons with these names.  What led to the 'assault' and the issues involved likely will remain a mystery.  The fact that Daniel was mentioned in Munsell's history in 1880 tell us that by then he was a well regarded citizen of the area. That seems unlikely if he had murdered his father.

While the court records confirm that there was some kind of incident involving Daniel Frazier on or near the date mentioned in the news article, no murder charges were filed and the assault charge was dropped.  And if Daniel's father was involved in the incident, he survived it by over three years.  This article showed up in at least one other newspaper, but the fact that no follow-up article concerning the incident appears in any available newspaper provides further evidence that the original correspondent got his or her facts wrong.  Like a game of gossip, it seems that as the story of the incident on the Frazier farm traveled from Bovina to Bloomville and on towards Prattsville, it was embellished considerably.  So no, it appears that this is not a Bovina murder case - or even a case of murder period. 

Note:  The spelling of the last name varies.  The newspaper had 'Frazier,' as did the court records and some census record, but Munsell's history uses 'Frasier.'  Other sources use 'Fraser.'

Friday, December 2, 2011

Farm Feast on December 3

The Friends of the Bovina Public Library are sponsoring a Farm Feast at the Bovina Community Hall, running from five until eight.  The food that is being provided is mostly locally grown, including beef, pork, chicken and veggies, mostly through Farming Bovina.  Advance tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children under 12.  They will be $15.00 & $7 at the door.   Entertainment will begin at 6:30, featuring Hilt & Stella Kelly, Ira & Lori McIntosh.  Tickets are still available at the library, Russell's Store and the Bovina Post Office.  Call 607-832-4884 for more information. 

  • If you are interested in knowing more about Bovina's Community Hall, built in 1930, look back at my March 19, 2011 blog posting.  
  • The Bovina Public Library's official history goes back almost 95 years, when it was officially established, but it got its start before that through the Bovina United Presbyterian Church.  The first library was in the basement of the church.  It later was moved to a building donated by James and Elizabeth Coulter.  The library moved to its present location, the Bovina District 4 school house, in 1971.  The library will be celebrating its 95th birthday next year, so I'll share more history at that time.  The library's website is at  
  • Farming Bovina is sort of the new kid on the block.  Just created this year, Farming Bovina was formed to aid local farmers achieve sustainability and economic stability. It is a not-for-profit charitable and educational corporation working for the preservation, protection and stewardship of agricultural and cultural resources in and around the Town of Bovina, New York. Check out their website at  
Come on Saturday the 3rd to support your local library and taste what your community farmers have to offer. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries - the Cathels Family

This will be the first in a series of monthly blog entries about people buried in Bovina cemeteries.  This started from a presentation I did on October 29 called "I See Dead People-Stories from Bovina Cemeteries."  The initial entries will be from that presentation, but there are many stories in Bovina's cemeteries.  There are over 2500 people buried in Bovina.  I can’t tell all the stories, but I’ll keep working on them.

The Cathels Family

Over the span of 13 days in the early fall of 1865, the life of Nancy Bailey Cathels was completely upended.  Her life already had had challenges.  She lost an infant daughter in June 1854 and a 12 year old daughter in 1862.  And from reading the Bovina UP Church session records, it’s obvious that her life with her husband James was not without its bumps.  The events of September and early October 1865, however, had to be the greatest challenge in her life.

Nancy was born in 1825, the daughter of William and Mary Bailey.  Her husband James, the son of James and Isabella Dickson Cathells, was born in Scotland in 1819.  James and Nancy lived on Scutt Mountain Road, about a quarter of a mile or so off Pink Street.

In the early 1860s, James shows up three times in the Bovina UP Church Session minutes.  Each time, he was in some kind of trouble.  In the fall of 1861, he was sued for slander by James Campbell.  The Bovina UP Church session stepped in to arbitrate and after a few months, it was resolved, with Mr. Cathels withdrawing the statement against Mr. Campbell.  Cathels said that he "did not intend to slander or injure him by said statements."  The nature of the slanderous statement was not revealed.

In the fall of October 1862, James again was involved in a case of slander, but this time it also included some fists and liquor, and was related to the Civil War.  James Cathels had claimed service exemption in July 1862 because of the after effects of fracturing his arm two years earlier.  The following month, Alexander Hanford Gill (commonly known as Hanford), son of James Gill, enlisted in the 144th New York Infantry.  On October 6, while at Hamilton’s tavern (where the Jardine’s house is now located), Cathels made some remarks concerning the validity of someone's enlistment papers.  What happened next is not clear, given the differing testimony.  James Gill stated that Cathels specifically claimed that Hanford had forged or back-dated his enlistment papers in order to collect the bounty.  Cathels claimed that he had made a statement that someone had “done a dishonorable act” in enlisting, without saying whether or not he had said who that was.  Whatever was said or how the statement was made, a fight ensued.  Gill claimed that Cathels proceeded to hit him seven or eight times.  He also claimed that Cathels “took up a chair and swore he would split my head.”   Cathels claimed that Gill took him “by the throat” and that he struck back in self defense.  It wasn’t until April 1863 that the case was settled with Mr. Cathels receiving an official rebuke and being restored to membership in the congregation.  [Note:  Alexander Hanford Gill served in the 144th from the time of his enlistment until the end of the war.  There is no evidence that his right to a bounty payment was ever questioned by anyone other than Cathels.]

A year later, Cathels once again found himself before the Bovina UP Church session.  This time, he was in trouble for having signed a license for the sale of liquor.  James fully admitted having done so and in the knowledge of the rules of the church against the sale of liquor.  His membership was suspended.  It is not clear at the time of his death whether or not he had been restored to membership.

In the spring of 1865, James and Nancy Cathels reported to the state census taker that they had eight children, ranging from their eldest son, David, age nineteen, to their youngest son and child, James, age about one and a half.  It was in the early fall of that year that Nancy Bailey Cathels’ world began to unravel.  On September 27, her husband James died.  Within two days of being widowed, Nancy lost her two youngest sons, John Steel, age three and James, who was almost two (though the newspaper indicates that John Steele Cathels died the same day as his father).  Four days later, her youngest daughter Jane died, age five.  Jane was followed in death by her eight year old sister Maggie on October 7.  And three days later, Nancy’s mother, Mary Bailey, died, age 65.  So Nancy’s life was totally changed in just two weeks. These deaths were reported in the local newspapers (except, for some reason, Maggie's).  These are two clips from the Bloomville Mirror, which reported these deaths with no other information.  We cannot determine what took Nancy's husband and children.  Given this unusually large number of deaths in one family, it likely was the same disease.  Any number of illnesses is possible - diphtheria is one strong candidate.

Nancy had little time to mourn.  If a contagious disease is what took her family, some of the other children may have gotten the same illness but managed to survive.  She also may have caught the illness - we just do not know.  Nancy may have started out her widowhood by nursing some or all of her four remaining children, David, Mary, Hanna and William.  It is possible by this time, however, that oldest son David had left Bovina.  When Nancy filed her petition to become administrator of her late  husband’s estate in February 1866, David was living in Patch Grove, Wisconsin.  Whether David left before or after his father's death is not known. 

And during this tragic and challenging time in her life, Nancy had another complication.  She was pregnant.   In May 1866, she gave birth to a son, James John Steele Cathels.  Nancy continued farming at least into the 1880s, raising her surviving children.  In 1880 she was still farming with her son James, now 14 and a hired laborer.

It appears likely that Nancy lost another child before her death.  Her son William disappears from the records after the 1870 census and was not listed when her will was filed (even if not named in a will, estate files usually list all surviving children).  He probably died before 1875, though if buried in Bovina, the grave is not marked.  Nancy survived her husband and the children who died just after him by over 20 years, dying in July of 1888 at the age 63 of Brights disease.

She was survived by her sons David, living in Murray, Iowa, and James J.S., living in Bovina.  Her daughters had married and settled in South Dakota.  Mary B. Hyzer was in Madison, while Hannah Betts was in Franklin.  In her will, written about a month before her death, Nancy bequeathed a number of things to her children, including a "feather bed, pillows, bolster and a full supply of sheets, blankets and quilts to make a good comfortable bed" to her son James.  Her clothing went to her daughters.  Mary also received a yarn carpet that had belonged to Nancy's mother.  David was appointed the executor of the estate.  James, the remaining child in Bovina at his mother's death, left Bovina and by 1900 also was living in Murray, Iowa.

The only reminder in Bovina of the Cathels family is the obelisk in the Bovina Cemetery erected shortly after the tragedy of the fall of 1865 at a cost of $100.  The cemetery monument spells the name as Cathells while all of the records use Cathels, including at least two documents signed by James Cathels.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Parts IX and X.

This is the seventh of a series of entries from the script used on April 21, 1955, when citizens of Bovina presented a pageant of the town's history - "Bovina Center, My Home Town."  Though I'm not 100% sure, it appears the script was written by Vera Storie and her brother Fletcher Davidson.  The items in brackets refer to the tableau of local citizens acting out parts of the story.  [Sections I and II are in the May 21 blog entry, sections III and IV are in the June 21 blog entry, section V is in the July 21 entry, section VI is in the August 21 entry, section VII is in the September 21 entry and section VIII is in the October 21 entry.]  

IX.    Teunis

At the foot of Mt. Pisgah, the highest peak not only in Bovina but also in Delaware County, lies Tunis Lake, [*15 – Projection of Tunis Lake] a muddy little pond of a few acres, the only monument to the memory of a friendly old Indian, who was the last of his kind in this vicinity.  The Indian trail in Bovina crossed the town from the section near Tunis Lake by the way of Robert Forrest over to the river past Jack Damgaard’s and up the valley to the Notch beyond Rema Hobbie’s home and on into Stamford.  This was the trail by which in 1792 Elisha Maynard with his two yoke of oxen and cart reached the section where he made his first settlement in town.  [#15A – Teunis, the Indian]  Teunis, this old Indian, lived in a hut on the shore of Tunis Lake.  Apple trees, which he planted, and a heap of stones marked for many years the spot where his hut had once stood.  On several occasions he warned the early white settlers of the dangers of them from the more malicious of his tribesmen. Once when Teunis, after he had built his hut on the shore of the lake on the Doig farm, was being assaulted and beaten by two drunken white men, a Mr. Bassett of Andes came to his rescue and thus won the friendship of Teunis.  Often Teunis with his hammer and sack would go away and after a short absence would return with pieces of rock from which he obtained lead to make bullets.  On one occasion he blindfolded Mr. Bassett and led him through the woods for a short distance to the mine; and upon removing the blindfold and showing Bassett the mine, rich with lead ore, replaced the blindfold and led Bassett back home, promising that before his death he would reveal to Bassett the location of the mine.  However, his secret was buried with him, for he died soon after this before revealing the whereabouts of the mine.  Many years were spent trying to locate the mine but to no avail.  However, the lake is still called Tunis and recalls to our memory the friendly old Indian who more than once saved our ancestors from death. 

X.    Home Life

“Men’s work is from sun to sun, but women’s work is never done.”  So it was with our early settlers.  The woman of the house was always busy even in the evenings as she sat with the family before the open fire, busy spinning thread from flax her husband had grown or weaving woolen cloth to be used for clothes for her family or sewing new clothes or patching old, making them look like new, or perhaps knitting. [*16 – Family before fire]  As we look at some of the handiwork of our great, great grandmothers, we marvel at their beauty, at the fine stitch at the many small tucks, at the wealth of beautiful, intricate embroidery, and at the interesting handmade lace trimming.  In the daylight there were too few hours for the mother of the home; so she was up early about her many duties: washing the clothes, cleaning the house, making the butter, baking the bread, cooking the meals for their large family of thirteen or more, and making candles, the only source of artificial light in those days.  In every home one would see lined up against the wall barrels of flour, kegs of salted fish, large jars of salted meats, barrels of maple sugar, for white sugar was a luxury in those days, and bags of dried corn, apples, and other fruits – all of which was largely due to the efforts of the wife.
The oldest children often hired out to work at neighbors, the daughter at the low wage of 75 cents a week or the son, at $8 a month.

There was no division of distinction among the settlers on account of wealth, for all were poor.  Neighbors would drop in of an evening for a social chat and a drink of whiskey.  Whiskey then seemed a necessity in almost every home.

The young people would often gather at neighbor’s and spend the night singing and playing games.  But more often there would be a neighbor present who would saw off a tune on a fiddle and call off for a square dance. [*17 – Square Dance]  Thus the evening would pass quickly, old and young dancing till the morning hours.  The smaller children often busied themselves cracking nuts which they had gathered, popping corn, or baking apples over the coals in the fireplace.

For recreation, in the late 1800’s, a cooper by the name of Teller, organized a band for the young men. [*17A – Band member]  There were about 20 in the band; they wore attractive uniforms; and, it is said, they learned to play well.  Some of the members whom many will remember were Will Archibald, Will Black, Bob Foreman, Jim Foreman, John Gordon, Ad Laidlaw, George McNair, Al McPherson, Howard, McPherson, Dave Currie, and Alex Myers.

The neighbor men often were found working together, raising a barn, gathering the crops, or threshing; and at such bees there was always an abundance of whiskey.  The women, too, worked together as they played [*17b – Quilting party and song “Seeing Nellie Home”]; for often they gathered at a neighbor’s to tie a quilt or quilt a pieced quilt, they enjoying the visit with one another as much as the work.  In those days it was also quite customary to visit one’s closest friends or relatives, the family all going on the visit and often remaining for a few days.  On one such occasion, an uncle and aunt went to visit their newly married nephew and his wife, taking as a gift a hen and her twelve chickens.  The young wife was taken by surprise, and there were but three pieces of pie for dessert.  She, however, always capable of handling any situation, said to her husband as she served the pie, “I’m sorry, Bill, that you don’t like blackberry pie.”

When anyone died, the neighbors attending the simple service at the burial of the dead, were served cake and wine.

Each day closed as it had begun with family workshop, the father reading from the Bible, praying as old and young knelt by their chairs, and leading the singing, all praising God, if not harmoniously, at least from their hearts.  It was from Scenes like these that our ancestors were inspired to become the strong, God-fearing men and women we know them to have been, scenes that made our country great.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From 1939 - Bovina Center Couple Celebrate 60th Anniversary

Alexander R. and Isabella Laing Myers celebrated their 60th anniversary 72 years ago today.  Here's the article about the celebration from the November 24, 1939 Catskill Mountain News. 

Bovina Center Couple Celebrate 60th Anniversary

More than 150 folks of Bovina Center and vicinity packed the United Presbyterian church parlors there Friday night to help Mr. and Mrs. A.R. Myers celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

Mr. and Mrs. Myers were born and brought up in Andes.  Their early married life was spent in that village but for the past 45 years they have been residents of Bovina where, until three years ago, when he had trouble with his eyes, Mr. Myers followed the trade of a house painter.

Mrs. Myers has daily contact with scores of Bovina folks through her duties as "central" at the Bovina Center telephone exchange.

When the phone service was started in Bovina Center, there was but one instrument in the community and only one wire to the outside worked, a line to New Kingston.  Several farmers had phones, however.  When a call came in from outside for one of the local residents, Mrs. Myers would dispatch a messenger she kept for the purpose to call the wanted one to the phone.

Mrs. Myers was born in the village of Andes June 8, 1861, a daughter of John and Margaret Laing.  After residing in Andes for 14 years Mr. and Mrs. Myers lived in Margaretville one year and then moved to Bovina Center.

Mr. Myers is a son of Frank and Betty Myers who lived in Canada Hollow, town of Andes.  He received his formal education in a school in the Hollow.  He will be 84 Jan. 22.

The Myers were married in a house next door to the church where Friday's celebration was held.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. James Lee, Nov. 19, 1879.  Attending the wedding was Mrs. Lee, Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Miller and their three-month old son, Frank Miller.  The couple's honeymoon consisted of a trip to Andes.  The journey, by horse and wagon, required three hours.

Mr. and Mrs. Myers had five children, only two of whom are living.  They are Jack Myers and Mrs. Anna Thompson, both of Endicott. 

Mr. Myers was Alexander R. Myers.  His wife was Isabella Laing Myers.  As noted in the article, Mrs. Myers was Bovina's telephone operator for many years.  Here's an article from the July 26, 1940 Walton Reporter about Mrs. Myers (click on the image for a larger version - you may need to right click after the image opens, then click view image in order to be able to zoom in on the text):

Mr. and Mrs. Myers lived to celebrate 67 years together.  A.R. Myers died in 1947 - Isabella died in 1951.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - Bovina’s Old Soldiers

Seems appropriate on the day after Veteran's Day, a holiday which did not exist until over 50 years after the Civil War ended, to remember those Bovina soldiers who survived the Civil War.  Many of them returned to the life they were living before the war, though not without challenges.  A number of them suffered from life long after-effects of the war.  In a special census of Civil War veterans, conducted in 1890, John P. Dennis reported suffering  from rupture and a disabled left hip.  Henry Hogaboom suffered a ‘general disability’ that ‘is not overcome.’  Albert McPherson stated that he became deaf from his war service.  Berry Shaw Miller reported that he had ‘neurology and rheumatism’ and that he was deaf in one ear.  His brother Gilbert 'Gib' Miller suffered from chronic diarrhea.

A number of Bovina soldiers left New York State after the war.  John Coulter left sometime in the 1860s and by 1870 was living in Cross Creek, Colorado, working as a lawyer.  He married a widow, Anne Gaffney, and adopted her two children.  When Coulter died on January 1, 1919, in Boulder, he was a judge. 

In 1866, John's first cousin, Thomas, headed west, along with Thomas J. Liddle, another Bovina Civil War vet. They traveled by train as far as Omaha and then took a boat on the Missouri river for Fort Benton, Montana.  Coulter settled in Lewis and Clark County in Montana and in 1870 was a gulch miner.  What ultimately happened to him is not known, but he was named in his aunt Mary McGibbon’s will in 1889 and shows up on the 1890 Military census, still in Montana.

Thomas Liddle, after two years of ranching, mining and carrying mail in Montana, set out for Puget Sound, but ended up settling in Walla Walla, Washington. Hiring out to a pack train, he went back to Montana and then returned to Walla Walla, the round trip occupying one month.  In 1872, he settled in Colfax in Whitman County, Washington, where he remained for at least 50 years.

Some veterans stayed in Delaware County, though not necessarily in Bovina.  John D. Ferguson learned the carpenter trade until moving to Delhi in 1881, where he was in the mercantile business.  His firm changed names several times as partners came and left: Ferguson and Groat, Ferguson and Churchill, and Ferguson and Thomson.  He retired in 1916 from the business.  His obituary reported that Mr. Ferguson “was eminently successful, his foundation principles being integrity, courtesy and square dealing with all.”  Ferguson was active in the England Post, GAR and was at the time of his death serving as Commander. 

James S. Adee was promoted several times during his war service, first to the rank of Sergeant, then to Orderly, or First Sergeant, and finally to First Lieutenant, the rank he held at the time of his discharge.   He returned to Bovina after the war.  The year after the end of the war, he bought his fathers farm.  He moved to Kortright in 1880, taking over the farm of his father-in-law and later purchased a farm about four and one-half miles from Delhi.  Adee was noted in the Biographical Review as “a strong Republican and is a member of England Post, No.142, Grand Army of the Republic.”  He died in 1899, having been widowed for 8 years.

The aforementioned Miller Brothers answered the call for soldiers in 1864 and both enlisted in the 144th.  The brothers were honorably discharged on the 18th of July, 1865.  Berry never fully recovered from the ill effects of the exposures and privations of the Civil War, though he did survive the war by over 40 years, dying in1906.  Berry’s brother, Gib, was Bovina’s last surviving old soldier, dying 70 years after the war started.  He was 87 when he died in Oneonta in 1931 from the effects of a fall a few days earlier.  Delaware County's last Civil War soldier died in 1941 and the nation's last surviving soldier from the conflict died in 1956

This picture came from the Cecil Russell family collection.  It dates from May 1910 and is a veterans gathering in Andes.  The names that have been identified:  Left to right: 1. James Elliott, 2. Unknown, 3. Matthew Lambert, 4. Unknown, 5. Unknown, 6. James G. Seath, 7. Thomas Gordon (father of Margaret Gordon, who taught Social Studies in Delhi for many years), 8. Alex White, 9. William Richardson (grandfather of Isabell Irvine Russell), 10. Andrew Anderson, 11. William Reside, 12. Simeon Goodman, 13. Gilbert D. Miller, 14. Joseph Hughes. Thank you to Tim Duerden and Rachel Thrasher for helping to identify more of the names.

The stories of these and other Civil War soldiers with Bovina connections will be a monthly feature of this blog starting in 2012.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bovina Rowdies Rebuked

In the course of reviewing on-line newspapers from over 100 years ago, I stumbled upon this poem that I will simply present. It comes from the Bloomville Mirror from 1860, likely February or March. Some of the type is hard to read, so I had to guess some of the words.  The newspaper 'disguised' Brushland by removing one letter! I hope further research will at some point explain what this is all about.

Bovina Rowdies Rebuked

Ye men of morals hear my ditty!
One night as I passed Bru-hland City,
I saw the devils let lone to play,
For them I had to clear the way.

They order'd out both old and young,
The air with their swollen voices rung,
Like demons from the ?? below.
To the church gate that all did go.

The last that came, I wondering saw,
Carried old clothes and sheaves of straw;
This leg on then it was their plan,
Of the clothes and straw to make a man.

It was their object during the night,
Upon this man to vent their spite;
The most like human form I saw,
Was this same man composed of straw.

They then commenced their infernal gale,
The image was hoisted on a rail;
Their designs for to complete,
The rode it up and down the street.

At length they heard a groaning sound!
The demons started all around!
Who is it that groans so loud?
Or did that voice come from the clouds?

With trembling knees, o'ercome with fear,
A ghost in them did then appear;
Struck with horror, and confounded,
As if with pestilence surrounded.

The ghost then spoke to them and said,
I am John Armer*, from the dead;
And I am sent to end the strife.
Is this the mob that took my life?

Twas composed of such a hellish crew,
As now appears here in my view.
A pause ensued mute with fright;
Poor Johnny vanished from their sight.

Then with cautious steal by tread.
Shocked by their visit from the dead,
The spirit sad, disheartened them,
The demons staggard to their den.


*Allusion is here made to a man by the name of John Armer, who was milled to death in Brushland some years ago.  [Note-I have yet to figure out who John Armer was.]

Monday, October 31, 2011

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries - Prepare to Die and Follow Me

Seems appropriate on Halloween to start a new monthly feature of this blog, telling stories from Bovina’s cemeteries.  This stems from a presentation I did on October 29 called "I See Dead People-Stories from Bovina Cemeteries" (it was supposed to be a walking tour, but the weird late October weather put the kibosh on that!).  See the September 23, 2011 blog entry for information about that presentation - and the fact that thanks to Ed and Dick Davidson I can tell these stories in the first place.

Some of the stories are simply based on who the people were.  Buried in the cemetery are pretty much all the owners of what is now Russell’s Store, including Thomas Hastings, who owned it from at least the 1870s to 1893, A.T. Doig, who bought it from Hastings and sold it to Cecil Russell in 1919, and, of course, the Russell family themselves – Cecil, his wife Isabell Irvine Russell, and their daughter Marjorie, who owned the store until her death on New Year’s Day 2000.

Some of the stories grow from the graves and monuments themselves.  The first installment in November will be the Cathels family.  My interest in that story began simply from noting that several members of the family died within two weeks of each other.  There are some other such stories – the Stott family lost two children just as the Civil War started – and would later lose a son in the conflict (see the blog entry for April 12, 2011 about the Stotts).

Then there are the interesting stones themselves, a sample of which are below.

Solomon Coulter (above) and William Stott (below).  Two fatalities in the Civil War.  These stones are similar but not identical.  These are memorial stones - Coulter was buried in South Carolina; Stott's body was never recovered.

Mary Baillie (above) and her husband William below.  Note that the last name is spelled differently on these stones.
There are a number of these stones with a lamb on top  - these are found on the graves of children.  This is Thomas Lee Bryden, who died at age 11.

Hugh Clark (1774-1839) in the Associate Presbyterian Church Cemetery.  One of the older headstones in Bovina.
These three stones use a weeping willow.  This is 16 year old Thomas Archibald (1840-1856).

Betsey Cairns Thompson (1809-1846) from the Associate Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
Catherine Shaw Raitt (1788-1854)
And there are interesting epitaphs.  My ancestor, Francis Coulter (1771-1846) has on his stone "There the wicked cease from trembling and there the weary be at rest."  The quote is a slight paraphrase from John Wesley.  I close this entry with a poetic epitaph from the grave of Francis' son David Coulter (1813-1877).  The epitaph is a standard one used often on tombstones from this period.   

Remember me as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so you will be
Prepare to die and follow me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Bovina Center, My Home Town" - Part VIII.

This is the sixth of a series of entries from the script used on April 21, 1955, when citizens of Bovina presented a pageant of the town's history - "Bovina Center, My Home Town."  Though I'm not 100% sure, it appears the script was written by Vera Storie and her brother Fletcher Davidson.  The items in brackets refer to the tableau of local citizens acting out parts of the story.  [Sections I and II are in the May 21 blog entry, sections III and IV are in the June 21 blog entry, section V is in the July 21 entry, section VI is in the August 21 entry and section VII is in the September 21 entry.] 

VIII.    The Anti-Rent Trouble

Tracts of land in Delaware County were either given by grant or were purchased; and then the owners induced the settlers either to buy or to lease parts of this land from them.  Some owners sold their lands to the settlers and made terms of payment such that they could be met.  Others gave the settlers leases of their farms, granting the first five years’ use of the land without rent, and then requiring the payment of half of the permanent rent for the second five years, and then after that requiring the payment of full rent.  In this way in New York State a few families, intricately intermarried, controlled the destiny of 300,000 people and ruled in almost kingly splendor over 2,000,000 acres of land.  A large part of Delaware County was held under lease; and the evils of the lease-hold system bore heavily upon the farmers since much of the land was rough, rocky and difficult of cultivation.  Farms were often unproductive, and settlers found they had a serious task to provide for their families and to make payments at the same time on their land.  They, therefore, eagerly lent an ear to suggestions of relief; and in October 1844, this group met for the first time in Bovina at the hotel of John Seacord, the hotel located on the present site of Alex Hilson’s home.  In imitation of their friends of Albany, Rennselaer, and Columbia Counties they formed an organization, which joined in disguised and armed bands of so-called Indians in warpaint and calico whenever it was necessary to resist an eviction.  And they used their tin dinner horns to signal from farm to farm to bring to each eviction the jeering crowd of masked anti-renters [*Anti-renters].  Often too they would harass the landlord’s hirelings and sympathizers and engage in many pranks, an example of which occurred when some young roistering blades caught Timothy Corbin, stripped this dandy to his ruffled shirt, applied a bucket of tar and Dam Kelly’s best featherbed, and sent him homeward on his two mile walk in the frosty morning.  However, the more serious object of these bands was, of course, to prevent the service of legal papers pertaining to the collection of rent and to interfere in the case of sales of property undertaken by officers of the law for the payment of back rent.  Most of the persons engaged in these Indian bands were hot-blooded, reckless young men who were led into unlawful proceedings without due consideration.  Therefore, in 1845 the legislature passed a law, making it unlawful for any person to appear in disguise; and armed as well as disguised, the person could be punished by imprisonment and fined.  The fatal termination of these proceedings came in the summer of 1845.

Farmer Moses Earl lived on a leased farm in the town of Andes, three miles from the village, which carried a rent of $32 a year.  The rent had not been paid for two years, and the agent was determined to collect it by sheriff’s sale.  Under-Sheriff Steele and Constable Edgerton appeared on horseback to conduct the sale.  About 200 disguised Indians were present and to hinder the sale, arranged themselves around the cattle to be sold.  A pail of liquor, brought fro the house, was passed to each of the members of the Indian band; and the excitement reached a high pitch.  As the officers of the law made ready to force the sale, an order was given by one of the disguised chiefs, “Shoot the horses! Shoot the horses!”  A volley followed which wounded the horses upon which Steel and Edgerton rode.  As Steele in return fired, almost instantly another order was given, “Shot him; shoot him.”  Another volley followed; and three balls struck Steele, one of these wounds being fatal, causing his death five or six hours later.  Intense excitement followed.  Rewards were offered for the capture of the persons supposed to have been concerned in this regrettable affair.  The hunt for murderers began, and Indians and witnesses fled.  Indian dresses were burned or hidden in secret places; such as in the cookie jar.  Men hid in the woods, in the haymows, and in far off places.  Every house was ransacked in search of disguises, the only evidence needed to prove that someone in the house had been present at the murder.  The men skulking in the woods didn’t dare to go home.  Suspects let their crops rot in the fields.  And homes were torn to pieces in the search; and often innocent people, sometimes old, were harmed.  The governor declared the county in a state of insurrection and sent 300 troops to Delhi to maintain peace and to guard those who had been captured, many of whom were not even at the sale.  Gradually hunger, the weary life of the hunted, and the betrayal of acquaintances drove the men in from their hiding places into the hands of their enemies.

A court convened in August for those who were brought before it; and 84 persons were, for the most part, unjustly convicted or confessed their guilt and were sentenced.  Innocent or not, VanSteenburgh and O’Connor were found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hung on November 27th.  In neither case, however, was it proved that the prisoner had fired any shot.  O’Connor was a young resident of Bovina and lived on the Millard Russell farm.  James Coulter, a Bovina farmer, took an active part in the anti-rent war and was on the spot when Steele was shot.  Coulter Brook was named after the James Coulter family.  As the date of the hanging of O’Connor and VanSteenburgh drew near, Governor Wright commuted their sentences to life imprisonment; and they were taken to Sing Sing Prison.  All the other prisoners had been transported to Clinton State Prison in the Adirondacks where they remained in confinement until the winter of 1845.  When these anti-renter were on their way to the Clinton Prison, streets and windows in every town through which they passed were crowded with curious people, seeking to get a glimpse of these anti-renters.  Many women wept; and others shouted in a frenzy, “Down with the rent!”  At Albany, too, people swarmed about to get a look at these men.  Finally, after wearing chains for a week they, weary and jaded, reached Clinton Prison where days of hard, unending labor, laying walls, digging excavations, and mining iron faced them.  After the excitement of the times had cooled, and Young had been elected the new governor of the state, at the request of 12,000 petitioners, he pardoned all of the anti-renters, who had suffered many hardships and insults both at the Delhi jail and the Clinton Prison.  They were, indeed, glad to return to their families.  Not long after, Edward O’Connor married his sweetheart Janet Scott; but the anxieties through which she had passed during his imprisonment had ruined her health and she soon died.  O’Connor then left for the unsettled wilds of Michigan where he died of fever.  He was hailed as a martyr and has come down in history as the champion of the Free Soil.

The result of the anti-rent agitation was that new laws were enacted, which cured some of the evils of the lease-hold system.  The tenants were able to buy, at easy prices, the soil of the land they had tilled and occupied.  But this affair created bitter feeling and animosities in the town of Bovina that took years to remove.  Business men, in sympathy with the landlords, were boycotted and, thus, driven from town.  Horace Greeley’s paper, in sympathy with anti-renters, was read by almost everybody in Bovina.  It was jestingly said once that Bovina people read only the Bible and the Tribune.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plane Crash on Moon Mountain - Update

In my blog entries of April 29, May 30 and June 1, I reported on research I have been doing concerning the crash of a military training aircraft on Moon Mountain in the Bramley Mountain region of Bovina in April 1945.  On September 25 and October 14, I made two more trips up to the site where we think the crash happened.  The September 25th trek included Don Farley, who owns the land where the site is located; Chris Ingvordsen, who is making a film about the accident and my research into it; and Steve Burnett, who started this whole thing rolling by asking about it back in April.  Along with the four of us were two people who saw the site not long after the accident - my Uncle George LaFever and his friend Ray Kearns.  Ray's grandfather was the owner of the property at the time of the crash.  Thanks to Don and his 'mule' we were able to drive them up to the site.  Ray was able to pinpoint roughly where the fuselage came to rest.  With this key bit of new information, along with George's description of where he could still see the debris field in 1963, we now think we can identify the line of the debris field. 

Chris, Steve, George (half hidden), Ray and Don on Moon Mountain
Ray, George and Steve

Chris and Ray
Shortly after the September trek, Ray Kearns expressed concern as to whether or not that was the right cave.  On a trek I made with Chris on October 14, we agree that the cave may not be the right one.  The elevation of the cave is too high by about 200 feet.  We worked our way back down from the cave site, noting an area of rock ledges as a promising place for a future trek.  There was brief excitement when we found some metal, but turns out it was a collapsed metal tree stand, used for hunting.  

Thanks to Don for providing the transport and to George and Ray for making the trek to the crash site in September.  And thanks to Chris for his continuing interest. Stay tuned for further developments.

Note:  1) This entry was mostly written right after the September trek and I thought I had posted it that day.  I only discovered this week that it never made it on-line, so I updated it a bit before posting to reflect the second trek.  2) In studying old and new maps of the Moon Mountain area, it appears that the town lines have shifted a bit over time.  The peak of Moon Mountain, once in Delhi, now appears to be in Kortright.  It also means that at least some parts of the crash site that were considered to be in Bovina in 1945 are probably now part of Delhi.  Not a big deal, but interesting to see how the lines have shifted.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - The First Enlistments

So who was the first soldier from Bovina to enlist in the Civil War?  One of the earliest Bovina enlistees for whom we have documentation is William Stott, son of Walter and Mary Stott of Bovina. He enlisted on August 19, 1861, joining Company F of the 3rd New York Calvary.  William became one of the eleven Bovina boys who died in the war, dying in action in May 1864.  Joining the 3rd Calvary the same day were were brothers Robert P.  and Daniel D. Tompkins, nephews of Robert Post of Bovina.  The brothers were from Roxbury but were living with their uncle (or at least claiming their residence there) at the war’s end.  It is not clear how long they actually lived in Bovina, but they are listed among Bovina's Civil War soldiers.
In October 1861, four Bovina men would join the 8th Independent Battery.  Robert White joined on October 2, but would be discharged for disability less than a year later.  Three men joined the battery on October 11.  Darius Hadley, like White, also would be discharged for disability in February 1863.  His disability arose from wounds received in battle the previous May.  James K. Mills joined the same day as Hadley, but unlike Hadley and White, would serve the entire war in the battery, mustering out June 30, 1865.  Edgar Seacord served his three years and mustered out October 28, 1864 in Norfolk, Virginia. 

The last enlistment from Bovina in the war’s first year appears to be Charles Wycof.  On December 12, 1861, he enlisted in the 72nd Infantry Regiment, company L.  He transferred twice within the regiment and was discharged for disability on May 1862.  From here, the record gets confusing.  Some sources state he re-enlisted in the 144th, but there is no record of such service.  There is a receipt dated November 15, 1863 for a bounty payment of $140 from the Town of Bovina made to Wycoff.  Was this a long delayed payment for his 1861 enlistment or for the re-enlistment?  The document doesn’t provide that information.

There were some Bovina soldiers who enlisted even earlier, though at the time of their enlistment, they were not Bovina residents.  Edward Kennedy, who lived in Lake Delaware in 1890, enlisted in New York City on April 27, 1861.  He started in the Fourth New York Volunteers, mustered out in May 1863, then appears to have re-enlisted in December of that year in the 16th Artillery.  Kennedy deserted in February of 1865, though he later was able to collect a pension.  Samuel Bouton, who was born in Roxbury, enlisted on May 16, 1861 in the 8th Pennsylvania Infantry for three months.  By 1863, he shows up in Bovina's list of draft registrants, but he appears to have had no further service beyond the three months with the 8th Pennsylvania.  He married Mary Ann Gillie in Andes in 1864 and they settled in Lake Delaware, where he died in 1912.  He was buried in Bovina. James W. Clark’s Bovina connection came late in life.  Born in Hamden, he was living in Delhi with his wife and children when he enlisted in the 72nd Infantry on June 4, 1861.  Clark mustered out three years later.  He lived in Delhi after the war but by the 1880 census was living in Downsville.  In 1900, he was living in Bovina in 1900 with his son-in-law and daughter.  Clark died in Bovina in 1902 and is buried there. James McNair is another Civil War soldier with a tenuous connection to Bovina.  His Bovina connection appears to be solely that he was enumerated with his uncle, Walter Doig in the 1865 census.  He enlisted December 20, 1861 in the 8th Independent Battery.  He re-enlisted after his three year stint ended and mustered out with the battery on June 30, 1865. 

As the Civil War dragged on, more and more Bovina soldiers would enlist.  The last enlistments from Bovina took place in September 1864. One of those was William R. Seacord.  He was drafted in 1863 but was excused because his brother Edgar, one of Bovina's 1861 enlistees, was serving.  Edgar was discharged in October 1864.  About a month before, apparently learning that his brother was to be discharged, William enlisted in the 144th.  He was mustered out nine months later.  At the war's end, over 60 Bovina boys had served in the war. 

Note:  On November 6, I will be doing a presentation at the Delaware County Historical Association’s annual meeting about finding Delaware County’s Civil War soldiers – “Rally Round the Flag, Boys! Finding Delaware County's Civil War Soldiers.”  The event starts at 1 pm with the Annual Meeting, Pot Luck Lunch and Award of Merit presentation. To attend the Pot Luck Lunch, please bring a side dish or desert to pass. Ham and turkey will be provided. My presentation starts at 2:45pm.  You are welcome to simply come at that time for the presentation.  Admission is free.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bovina Submerged?

Tim Mallery recently shared with me this news clipping from the June 26, 1936 Binghamton Press and it contained quite a surprise. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were a lot of surveys and discussions about where best to create reservoirs to supply water to the ever increasing population in New York City. I only found one brief reference in the early 20th century to Bovina ever being considered for submersion. Tim's find, however, put the debate still going on in the 1930s and 40s. The map from 1936 shows a number of smaller reservoirs being considered to feed into the larger reservoir.  One option was to dam up the Little Delaware, which would have flooded Bovina Center and Lake Delaware (aka the Hook).

The Little Delaware still was being considered as a reservoir in the spring of 1948. The April 30, 1948 issue of the Catskill Mountain News carried an article from the Walton Reporter: "It is reported that New York city geologists have been in the Little Delaware valley the past week, looking over the soil and rock formations and that this summer New York city will again make a survey of the valley as a possible location for an additional reservoir." The damming of the Little Delaware never happened, but I've more research to do concerning how far along this idea went - and why it ultimately did not happen. So be looking for further developments.  And thanks to Tim Mallery for passing this discovery on to me. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bovina and Prohibition

A quick blog entry commemorating the Ken Burns/Kim Novick Film 'Prohibition.'  As noted in tonight's film, the first serious effort to impose the prohibition of the sale of alcohol was in the 1840s.  In the spring of 1846, all 856 New York towns voted whether or not to ban the sale of alcohol - over 80% of them voted "no license," meaning that the sale of alcohol would be illegal.  Bovina's vote on May 19, 1846 was to ban the sale, with 85 votes for no license against only 25 for license. 

This temperance effort did not last long.  Liquor dealers in 1847 won approval from the state legislature for a second vote.  More than half of the towns that voted 'dry' in 1846 opted to go 'wet' a year later.  Bovina's 1847 vote, though much closer than in the previous year, was still for 'no-license.'  Here's the inspector of elections statement at the end of a series of tally sheets showing that Bovina voted no license in a close tally - 83 for no license, 72 to allow the sale of alcohol (with one blank ballot). 
The state legislature later that year repealed the option law, reinstating state regulation of the sale of alcohol and taking the choice away from the towns and cities.  By January 1848, Bovina was again issuing licenses to retail 'strong and spirituous liquors,' such as this one below to Alexander Kinmouth.
Note:  In my May 10, 2010 blog entry about Bovina and the sale of alcohol, I reported on the 1847 vote, but I had the year wrong.  I had it as 1841, not 1847.