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.