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.'

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