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.