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.

1 comment:

  1. Angelica Livingston Gerry was my mother's benefactress. She paid for my mother's education at a private boarding school in Cooperstown, NY.