Monday, December 31, 2012

Stories from Bovina’s Cemeteries - Bovina's Oldest Citizen

Helen Blair was born October 27, 1889 in Bovina, the daughter of John Walter Blair and Elizabeth J. Miller (better known as Lib). From all available information, it appears that Helen holds the distinction of being Bovina's oldest person.  At her death, she was less than a month away from her 108th birthday.  There was some longevity in Helen's family.  Her mother, Lib Blair, was 97 at her death in 1965.  It is through her mother that Helen and I are distantly related.  Lib's older sister, Nancy Miller, married Alexander Burns.  Her daughter was my great grandmother Ella Burns LaFever. 

October was an important month in Helen's long life.  Not only was she born in October, she was married to Marshall Thomson, the son of Andrew D. Thomson and Jennie McNaught, on October 2, 1912.  She was widowed on October 14, 1962, less than two weeks after celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary with an open house.   On October 24, 1978, she sold her home in Bovina to Wayne and Marilyn Gallant and moved to a retirement community.  Helen survived her husband by almost 35 years, dying at the Delhi Infirmary on October 4, 1997.  She was a little over three weeks shy of her 108th birthday.

Helen spent most, but not all of her life, in Bovina.  She attended the Oneonta Normal School (predecessor to SUNY Oneonta) and taught during the 1909-10 school year at the Bramley Mountain School, where she had ten pupils.  In 1926, she moved to North Hills, Long Island with her husband where he managed an estate for 20 years.  Upon Marshall's retirement in 1947, they returned to Bovina to live with her mother.   Marshall was 75 at his sudden death in 1962.  Helen remained in Bovina until her late 80s when she sold her home to the Gallants and moved into a retirement home.  She lived for some time at the Hearthstone in Hobart before ultimately going to the Delhi Infirmary.  When Helen turned 100, Grace Roberts told me that she insisted on having shoes with heels for her party.  And I recall watching the Today show while at a conference in Gettysburg in 1993 when Willard Scott wished Helen a happy 104th birthday.

Helen at the 175th Anniversary celebrations at the Bovina UP Church, October 1984.  Helen was just shy of her 95th birthday.  She would live almost 13 years after this photo was taken.

Note:  Visitors to the Bovina Cemetery may be slightly confused to find two Helen Thomson's married to Marshalls.  Helen Schott Thomson (1910-1992) married J. Marshall Thomson (1898-1968).  Their grave is not far from that of Marshall William Thomson and Helen Blair Thomson. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 75 Years Ago

In among some of the Russell Family papers that I received from Marjorie's executor, Ann Morris, were many many holiday cards.  Here's a sample of cards she received in 75 years ago in 1937 - all from people in Bovina.

These first four images are from a card Marjorie received from someone in Bovina, Vera Fletcher Storie (1891-1967).

These next three images are from another Bovina card sent to Marjorie from Marjorie Ormiston (1908-1994).  Miss Ormiston was a teacher of Marjorie's.  She would later marry Ronald Walley. 

These final images show yet another card sent to Marjorie from someone in Bovina.  This card came from Mrs. J.W. McCune.  Mrs. McCune was born Ida McNair in 1871 and lived until 1953.  Her husband was John W. McCune (1866-1942).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Foundations of Bovina - the Dean Farm

Most people in Bovina likely have never heard of the Dean Farm.  That's probably because it left the Dean family in the 1880s and was owned for about 40 years by the Storie family.  Yet as late as 1916, it was still referred to as such on tax rolls because the Dean family were among the early settlers of Bovina.  In fact, the family had several farms along what is now Reagan Road.  For a number of years, the road was known as Dean Road, and the school district on East Bramley Mountain was known as the Dean District.  Reagan Road now dead ends, but it used to continue onto Scutt Mountain Road.  On the 1856 Gould Map, there are three Dean farms.

The farm of particular interest for this blog entry was the the farm of brothers James P. and Joseph A. Dean, located in lot 72 of Great Lot 41 of the Hardenburgh Patent.  It's about 300 yards from Scutt Mountain Road. The farm was leased by James Dean (1794-1873), the father of James P. and Joseph A., from James Overing, probably before 1820.  James P. purchased the farm from James Overing's heir, Mary, in 1854.  James P. , born in 1821, had been married to Agnes Atkin but she died in childbirth in 1856 giving birth to their only child, David.  David died the next year.  James never remarried, but lived and farmed with his younger brother, Joseph.  Born in 1833, Joseph didn't marry until the late 1860s.  He and his wife Mary had a son named James G.  The brothers farmed together for around twenty years, but by about 1879, they had moved to Stamford and were working as wagon makers.  James P. died in 1887 and is buried in Bovina.

The brothers leased the the farm for three years to Albert Adee.  During the Adee's time at the farm, the tragedy of Emma Monroe’s suicide took place (see my blog entry for July 17, 2012 for more details).

The Dean brothers sold the farm to Samuel Storie probably in March 1883.  Storie was born in Bovina in 1847.  He held the farm until around 1910 when he passed it on to his son Eugene Storie and moved to Bainbridge.  Samuel died in Sidney in 1922 and was buried in Bovina.  Eugene had the farm for less than ten years, giving it up around 1917 and moving to Hobart.  He became the Stamford Town Supervisor in 1949 and served for 10 years.  Eugene was 91 when he died in 1976.

Storie had turned the farm over to Alfred Luckhurst, who, with his wife, Alma and their three children, were the last people to live there. They purchased the farm from Storie in November 1922, about five years after settling there.  On Halloween night 1927, the house and barn burned to the ground while Mr. Luckhurst was away in Bloomville.  As the newspapers reported, “only a little was saved from the first floor.”  Losses included an organ, where there was $400 stashed away, and over 300 pounds of potatoes that were stored in the cellar.  The property was insured by the Bovina Co-operative Insurance Company.  Luckhurst was allowed $500 for the contents of the house.  He got a further $20 for the contents of the silo, $450 for the hay, $117 for the oats and $150 for the 100 bushels of potatoes in his cellar.  Luckhurst was not paid for the loss of the actual farm buildings.  A payment of $2750 was made to E.W. Storie, with another $1250 to an A.M. Lyons.  It is possible that Mr. Storie and Mr. Lyons held the mortgage and thus the payments went directly to them.  Two years after the fire, the property was sold by Alma Luckhurst.  By then, the family had moved to Bloomville.  Alfred died in April 1942 and is buried in Davenport.  Mrs. Luckhurst died in 1965. 

I took a short hike to the site of this farm on December 15, 2012.  The house and barn foundations still exist.  Of particular interest was the discovery behind the house of a root cellar.  It was too tight a space for me to squeeze into but I was able to take some flash pictures to see what was in there.

This appears to be what is left of the barn.

Some kind of watering pool near the barn.

The house foundation.

Another view of the house foundation.

Another view of the foundation - note the 'insets' on each side of the cellar door.

This turned out to be the root cellar, not far from the house.

This was the opening to the cellar.

I couldn't get into the cellar, but was able to stick my camera through the opening for this shot.
If you know of any other old farm foundations in Bovina, please let me know so we can explore them together!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies XII

John Schenk was one of the oldest Civil War soldiers in Delaware County. Born in Germany in 1816, he was living in Andes working as a wagon maker with Henry Rotermund when the war began.  He enlisted in 1861 in the 25th New York Infantry and was discharged after he was shot in the head.  He re-enlisted in the 46th NY Infantry in 1863 and served to the end of the war.  Schenk returned to Andes after the war.  It is not clear if or when he moved to Bovina, but when he died in September 1892, he was buried in the Bovina Cemetery.

John Scott was born in Hamden in 1843 but was living in Bovina by 1860.  He enlisted in the 144th New York Volunteers in September 1864.  At the time of his enlistment, he was 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall, with hazel eyes, black hair and a dark complexion.  He mustered out with his company in June 1865 at Hilton Head, SC.  John moved to California after the war, settling in Salinas in Monterey County to work as a druggist.  He was married but lived as a boarder for many years when his wife was declared insane and institutionalized.  John Scott died in 1920.

Thomas M. Scott was born in Bovina in 1842, the son of Thomas and Eliza Scott.  He enlisted in August 1862, joining the 144th New York Volunteers as a private.  At that time, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall and had gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion.  He was employed as a blacksmith.  Promoted to Corporal in April 1863 and later Sergeant in October 1864, he mustered out in June 1865 in Hilton Head, SC.  After the war, he headed west with his wife Sarah, first settling in Wisconsin.  By 1900, he was living in Laird, Nebraska.  He died around 1930 in Nebraska.

Edgar D. Seacord and William R. Seacord were sons of John and Sarah Seacord.  The younger brother, Edgar, enlisted first, joining the 8th NY Independent Battery in October 1861.  He served his three years and mustered out in October 1864 in Norfolk, Virginia. His older brother, William, had been drafted in September 1863 but was excused because he had a brother in the war.  He enlisted after Edgar finished his three years, joining the 144th NY Volunteers as a private.  He mustered out with his company in June 1865.  Edgar was married twice, first to Anna B. Chisholm, and, after her death in 1867, to Mary Peake.  He died in July 1876, age only 36 years old.  William was living with his wife Sarah and one child in Bovina in the 1870 census, working as a stone mason.  He was widowed in 1873 and remarried in 1877.  By 1910, he was living in Andes with his second wife, Mary.  He died there in 1916 and was buried in the Andes cemetery.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gasoline in Bovina

Matt Pelletier often has weird but intriguing queries about Bovina history (he's the one that got me going on my Indian Rocks fixation).  A couple of weeks ago, he wondered about what brands of gasoline were sold in Bovina, noting that it appears that at least three name brands were sold simultaneously in town.  I told him I'd have to do a bit of research, but as he had pointed out, it seems just looking at photos would answer the question.  And indeed it did.  Though I can't be totally positive on the time frame, it appears that in the 50s and early 60s, someone driving through the hamlet of Bovina Center had a choice of three name brands.  As you came into town off Route 28, your first choice would have been Mobil at Hilson's (known as Mobilgas in the early days).  If Mobil wasn't your brand, a quarter mile further would have brought you to Clayt Thomas's garage, where he sold Cities Services, better known today as Citgo.  And if you didn't want that, you would see within sight of Thomas's garage Russell's Store, where the preferred brand there was Shell.

Photo, probably from the 40s, of Hilson's store.  Photo courtesy of the Hilson Family.
This photo, also from the 40s, shows the gas pump at Thomas's garage (the little girl second from the right is Pat Thomas Parsons Miele).  Photo courtesy of Pat.
Russell's in the 40s.
Russells, probably in the late 70s, photo by Jim Bray.  Note the changed sign - this one had a light inside the sign.  The sign came down sometime in the 1980s (anyone remember when?)
After Hilson's closed, you could still get gas at Gallant's Garage, the successor to Thomas's, and at Russell's.  From photos in the early 80s, the gas pumps at Wayne Gallant's said Citgo.  It's always possible that by then he was getting gas from another source and using the Citgo pumps, but I really don't know how flexible companies were then about using a competitor's pump.

And Russell's didn't always have Shell.  In the early days of the automobile, the store had the Mobil concession - at least for motor oil.  From the picture below, probably from the early 1920s, you can see in the lower right 'Socony Motor Oils.'  Socony was essentially the parent company of Mobil and registered the name 'Mobilgas' as a trademark in 1920. 

What I don't know is when the first automobile gas pump made its appearance in Bovina.  Anyone have any ideas?

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Archibald, Burns and Elliott Families on Flickr

Thanks to Joan Townsend and her cousin, Steven Archibald, I now have 60 pictures of the Archibald, Burns and Elliott Families.  Some of these have been on Flickr since last October.  I added about another 25 images today, so I thought I should alert you to these:  Go to to see these images.

They are predominately from the families of William and George Archibald.  They were the sons of James E. Archibald and Isabella Aitken, both natives of Scotland.  William was born in 1822, his brother George in 1824.  They were the youngest of six children, all born in Bovina.  William married Margaret McDonald, the daughter of Henry McDonald and Margaret Donald, in 1845.  Margaret was born in Scotland in 1823.  They had seven children.  The oldest and youngest died as children, but the other five all grew to adulthood.  William died in 1883 while his wife survived him by over 23 years, dying in 1907.  Both are buried in Bovina.  George married Jane Anderson in 1856.  Jane was born in Scotland in 1835, the daughter of John Anderson.  George and Jane had 11 children, with 9 surviving to adulthood.  Jane died in 1897, George a year later.  Both are buried in Bovina.

One of the grandsons of George Archibald was Marvin Archibald (1911-1987).  In 1942, Marvin married Eleanor Burns (1919-2006).  Included in this set of pictures are pictures from the family of William and Emily Burns, Eleanor's parents.  William Burns was born in 1888, the son of J. Douglas Burns and Margaret Doig.  He married Emily Elliott of New Kingston in 1915.  They had five children, Robert, James, Eleanor, Clarence and Kathryn.

The Elliott pictures come from Emily Elliott Burns' grandparents, William and Eleanor Elliott of New Kingston.  William and Eleanor were the parents of three sons, two of whom died in the Civil War - and in the same month.  See the April 30, 2012 entry in this blog for more information about these two sons, James and Thomas.  Emily Burns was the daughter of William and Eleanor's surviving son, John.

If you have any further information to add about these photos, please do so.