Friday, August 31, 2012

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries – A Bovina Artist

UPDATE - October 17, 2013 - A suspicion that I had for some time was confirmed this August when I verified that James A. Thomson was not the artist of these two paintings.  The fact that he never pursued a career as an artist was a strong clue.  Another was that nothing was mentioned in his obituary.  The final kicker was finding an old label on top of one of the paintings with the name Jack Elliott.  Mea culpa.

The Thomson connection comes from the fact that the painting of Johnson's Mill was done for James' parents, Andrew and Anna Thomson.  He inherited the painting and passed it on down to his daughter Ina, who bequeathed it to the Bovina Historical Society.  

Unfortunately, the information on Jack is rather sparse.  He was born in May 1850 and came to the United States from Scotland in the 1880s.  It does not appear that he is related to the Elliotts who settled in this area earlier in the century.  Jack settled in Bloomville and it was there that he died in September 1914 of heart failure.  The Andes Recorder reported his death in a brief notice: "Jack Elliott, a painter, died at Bloomville, September 6, from heart failure.  He was a native of Scotland; a man of middle age.  On coming to this country he spent some time in Bovina and painted numerous landscape pictures and portraits, and was a good artist."

We have identified two other paintings of his, one now owned by Pat Miele, the other held by the Delaware County Historical Association.  Since he painted 'numerous' pictures and portraits, I would love to find more of these. I have some feelers out but other thoughts are welcome.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fourth Annual Bovina Farm Day

The Fourth Annual Bovina Farm Day will be Sunday, September 2 from 10 to 5 on Crescent Valley Road in Bovina.  To commemorate this, let's go back to this little tidbit from the September 11, 1886 Delaware Republican:

A farmers' picnic was held at Brushland on Thursday.  Grand preparations for a good time were made and enjoyed, the Delhi Cornet Band was in attendance, and the farmers of this most thrifty and prosperous town enjoyed one of the well-earned holidays which they do not allow themselves half often enough.
The publishers went on to thank the organizers for an invitation to the event and to apologize that other engagements prevented them from attending.  Let's hope that business engagements won't prevent you from attending and celebrate the hard working farmers in our area. I will be there with a couple of picture displays and my scanner, so if you have pictures of Bovina people or places you want to share, please bring them!

Bovina Farm Day sign at County Highway 6 and Route 28.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Who is Sally Hadley and Why Are They Saying Those Terrible Things About Her?

On the 22nd of August 1842, Sally Hadley, under oath to John Erkson Jr, a justice of the peace for Bovina, said she was “pregnant of a child and that likely to be born a bastard and to become chargeable to [Delaware County] and that Hugh Gemel of the Town of Stamford is the father of the said child.” Hugh Gemel was arrested the next day and the case was set for August 30, held at the John Seacord hotel in Bovina (where the Lil Hilson house now stands).

The reason that anyone cared was not just an issue of morals. The main issue that made this a legal case was that a child born out of wedlock became the responsibility of the taxpayers. Efforts were made to identify the father of the child - if this could be confirmed, the father became financially responsible.

Not much is known about Sally beyond this case. She was born in 1822, the daughter of Elizabeth Hadley and a resident of Bovina. Sally claimed that she became involved with Hugh Gemel while living with his family for a five-week period in the winter of 1842. The Gemel farm was on Rose's Brook in Stamford, about four miles away from where Sally lived in Bovina. Sally was there to do house work and milk the cows. She said that Hugh “had connection with her five times." In one instance, Sally said that he came up to where she was milking the cows and asked her if she would not pick out some young fellow. She told him she did not know, where upon he took hold of her arms and she went over onto the barn floor. Sally admitted that she did not resist his advances.  In her testimony, Sally claimed that “Mr. Gemel was the only man that ever had connection with her.’

Sally's testimony was not taken at face value. When she was asked about the nature of an oath to tell the truth, it was obvious that she did not understand the concept of perjury and that she could be punished, not only in this world but "in the next world." A number of people were brought in who testified that Sally Hadley’s “reputation for truth and veracity is bad generally” and that they “would not believe her as much as a great many others under oath.” Witnesses testifying against Sally included several members of the Gemel family and some of her neighbors.

These aspersions on Sally's character little influenced the town justices of the peace.  On August 31, they issued their decision, stating "that the said Hugh Gemel is the father of the said child."  They ordered that Gemel had to pay to the county superintendents of the poor or the overseers of the poor for the town "fifty two and a half cents weekly and every week for the support of the said child..."  They also determined that "the said Sally Hadley, being in indigent circumstances" be paid six dollars for her sustenance and during her confinement and recovery.  Gemel also had to pay the costs of bringing him to answer these charges - fifteen dollars and fifty nine cents.

Given the string of witnesses who came and testified against Sally, the verdict is somewhat of a surprise, but their testimony was not specific to Sally's situation at the Gemel farm.  Sally's testimony simply may have carried more weight.  It also is possible that the records are not complete and not every document related to it survived to the 21st century - there could be a missing element here.  A more cynical take on the verdict is that the overseers of the poor were trying to save the taxpayers of the town and county money.  Since the Gemel family was fairly prosperous, the overseers decided to accept Sally's story and make Gemel support the child.

Hugh Gemel continued to farm and was active in the Town of Stamford after this case, serving at different times as Highway Commissioner, Collector, Constable, and School Inspector. Hugh died in 1878 at the age of 74.  We know less about Sally's life after the decision was announced.  The 1850 census for Bovina does show Sally Hadley living with Elizabeth Hadley and a child, John Hadley, who was seven. John likely is the illegitimate child that was born to Sally.  After the 1850 census, Sally and her child disappear from the records.  We do not know what happened to her or her son, nor do we know if Gemel made the required payments.  We likely will never know, but can hope that Sally and her son got some justice and support. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The August 31, 1880 Stamford Mirror in its Bovina column, reported the following:

Wm. Richardson was down by the brook below his house one evening last week, and saw what he supposed was an owl, in a tree, near by.  So he went to Thomas Miller and asked him for his gun - saying that there was the biggest owl over there that he ever saw in his life, and that it would kill all his hens around the place.  The gun was given to him and he went and blazed away, and knocked one of R.F. Thomson's turkey's out of the tree.
I've been trying to work out the geography of this incident and I think it happened in the Coulter Brook area.  The brook probably was the Little Delaware.  Robert F. Thomson (1829-1917) lived on Coulter Brook road.  William Richardson (1828-1917), who was Isabell Irvine Russell's grandfather and a Civil War veteran, may have been living in my house at the head of Coulter Brook Road.  Thomas Miller (1826-1911) lived on what is now Reinertsen Hill Road.

Whether any compensation was provided for Thomson's turkey is not known, but it appears someone had an impromptu turkey dinner.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies VIII

John McArthur is another Bovina Civil War soldier who did not spend all that much time in Bovina and left the area after the war.  He was born in Rennsselaer County in 1825.  He came to Delaware County in 1830.  In 1853, he was married to Jane Sloan in Bovina.  She died a year later, a few days after giving birth to a daughter, and is buried in Bovina.  In 1855, John and his one year old daughter Elizabeth Jane were living with Andrew and Elizabeth Thomson in Bovina.  On August 1862, he enlisted in the 144th as a 1st lieutenant.  He received a bounty from Bovina of $100 for enlisting.  He was not in service very long.  He was dismissed 'by order of examining board' on February 7, 1863.  Three months later, he married as his second wife Mary Elliott Barlow.   Like a number of soldiers, he left Delaware County after the war, settling first in Grant County Wisconsin in 1866 and then in 1869 he came to Poweshiek County, Iowa.  John died in Belle Plaine, Iowa in 1885.

James McClure
was born in 1814 in Scotland.  He enlisted in Hamden in the 101st NY Volunteers in December 1861, deserting in April 1862 in Washington DC.  He then re-enlisted in Cortlandville in July 1862 in the 157th, where he was paid $50.  Such desertion and later re-enlistment was a fairly common occurrence - and soldiers generally were not punished if they re-enlisted.  After his re-enlistment, James stayed on to the end of the war, mustering out with his company on July 10, 1865 at Charleston, SC.  It is not clear when he came to Bovina, but it was where he was living when he died in November 1888.  In December of 1887, McClure had been admitted to the Delaware County Poorhouse.  He was noted as being 'intemperate' and that he was in the poorhouse because he was old and destitute.  At some point in 1888, he was moved to Bovina and was being supported by the town when he died.  The Delaware Gazette reported that "'Jimmie' McClure, the eccentric character so well known here and in this vicinity, died in Bovina last Friday.  Mr. McClure formerly served in the British army, and was a soldier in the Mexican war and also in the war of the rebellion.  He was a pensioner for services in the Mexican war.  Although he had been in so much war he was never wounded."

James McNair was born in Delaware County in 1835 (though other sources say he was born in Canada).  He enlisted in the 8th NY Battery as a private in August 1861.  He re-enlisted at the end of his service and mustered out in Norfolk, Virginia in June 1865.  He was paid a bounty of $350.  In the 1865 census, he was enumerated with his brother-in-law, Walter Doig in Bovina. This appears to be his only Bovina connection.  In 1870, he was living in Andes with his wife Martha and son James.  By 1880, he had moved to Adair County in Iowa and was farming.  He lived there the rest of his life, dying in 1903.

Albert McPherson was born in Bovina in 1840, but at some point in his childhood and early adulthood he lived in Stamford.  He enlisted in August 1862 in the 144th New York Volunteers.  At the time of his enlistment, he was 5 feet 10 inches tall, with light complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  He mustered out with his company in Hilton Head, SC on June 25, 1865.  In 1880, he was living in Bovina with his wife Drusilla and two sons.  He reported in 1890 that he was totally deaf, caused by his service in the war.  By 1910, he was a widower, living with his daughter, Ada Lester, in Queens.  He died in February 1917 on Long Island and is buried in Hobart.

Ezekiel McPherson
was born in Bovina in 1835.  He joined the 144th New York volunteers in August 1862 as a corporal.  At his discharge on June 25, 1865, he was an orderly sergeant.  He married Isabella McDonald in 1868 and they settled in Hobart.  Ezekiel died in December 1906 in Stamford and is buried in South Kortright.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Visitors to Bovina in 1880

In the summer of 1880, the publishers of the Stamford Mirror took a trip around their subscriber area.  They noted that "having a desire to know where and how some of the Mirror subscribers live, we drifted from our moorings the other day and with a horse and carriage, started out for pleasure and in the search of the 'almightly dollar' - which, by the way, is an almighty scarce article."  They wrote about their journey in the August 3 and 10, 1880 issues of the Mirror.  In Part I, they traveled to Harpersfield then into Otsego County to visit friends and relatives before coming back to Delaware County via Davenport.  In part II, they trace their journey from Meredith to Franklin to Delhi then to Bovina.  From Bovina, they carried on to Bloomville.  After their stay there, they headed home, "well pleased with a trip among the hills of Delaware County." 

Their visit to Bovina was not as pleasant as they had hoped, however:

From Delhi we wended our way into the town of Bovina, where some of the best butter in New York State is made.  While riding along enjoying the scenery, pure air, and thinking of the many excellent features of Bovina that could be noted down in our diary, we unexpected ran into a toll-gate.  On looking around we perceived a sign containing the rates of toll, and one sentence we shall never forget.  It read as follows: "For every score of sheep or hogs, six cents."  Upon asking the blue-eyed female attendant how much our assessment amounted to, we felt fairly enraged and insulted by receiving the answer, "Six Cents."  We remonstrated at such treatment, telling her we were neither sheep, hogs, or a score of anything but a single genuine American printer, in search of cents - but not nonsense.  Feeling as if we had passed through a very cents-itive ordeal, we concluded to get out of a town where people were classed as sheep and hogs.