Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries - The Disappearance of Frederick McFarland

During the third week of February 1889, Bovina farmer Frederick McFarland was spending a few days in Delhi at the Edgerton House Hotel while serving on a grand jury at the county courthouse.  Frederick was 52 years old, with a wife and two children.  He owned with his wife, the former Phoebe Reynolds, what was her family farm on Cape Horn Road (the farm was known more recently as the old Ganger Farm).  The fact that he stayed in Delhi all week while on jury duty was not at all unusual in the days before automobiles and trains.  He appeared to be handling his duties on the grand jury with no problem.  The District Attorney was considering making him foreman of the jury.  Around mid-week, however, something seemed to change.  One juror smelled liquor on McFarland’s breath on Tuesday evening and saw him throw an empty bottle into the hotel fireplace the next morning.  That same morning, McFarland asked to meet with the Edgerton House proprietor, F.H. Griffis, about his behavior and said “I was full [drunk] last night and raised thunder in your house…”  He was concerned that the jury would find out and that he would get into trouble with them.  He asked Griffis for advice, thinking that maybe he should go home.  McFarland went ahead and attended jury on Wednesday, however, and no one seemed to notice any problems.  That evening, he took a walk with another juror, George Munson.  When Munson asked him if he smoked and would like a cigar, Frederick responded “Yes, I smoke and drink, too.  I got a drink last night and it nearly made me crazy.”  If McFarland hadn’t said this, Munson later noted, he would have noticed nothing strange in McFarland’s demeanor.  And if Frederick did drink, it was not in his room.  The hotel chambermaid, Bridget Mehan, saw that his room was in excellent order and there was no appearance of any liquor. 

McFarland stayed in his hotel room Wednesday night and was seen on Thursday morning.  The last person to see Frederick was a stage driver, Peter Fero, who saw a man on the turnpike that matched McFarland’s description.   After that, McFarland disappeared.  His disappearance was noted on Friday morning when his room was checked and not only was he not in it, but it seemed the room had not been used the previous night.  His friends were worried as soon as they heard the news because Frederick had been suffering a great anxiety over the health of his wife. They started a diligent search that took almost a month. 

Weekly reports appeared not only in the Delhi newspapers but in several newspapers from around the state concerning Frederick’s disappearance.  His family was offering $250 for any information about him, describing him as being of medium size, with light hair, red whiskers and a mustache mixed with gray.  About two weeks after he disappeared, his family got word that a stranger had been found in Cortland that seemed to match Frederick’s description.  Two of his brothers made a trip there only to discover that it was not their missing brother.  One of the brothers, J. Milton,  also made a trip to Kingston when the sheriff there reported a stranger that seemed to match Frederick’s description.  Again, it was not him.
On March 17, James W. Jobson, who had been looking for his friend ever since his disappearance, went along the east bank of the Delaware River, starting downstream from the Kingston Street Bridge in Delhi.  Near the Meeker District school house, below the bridge at Sherwoods, he found his friend’s body.  McFarland was laying facedown with his hat floating on some wood near-by.  Jobson pulled the body out of the water and flagged down a passerby, who happened to be someone from Bovina, asking him to get the coroner.  The coroner took charge of the situation and examined the body.  It was easily recognized as that of Frederick McFarland.  He had no overcoat, but was wearing light gloves and new rubbers on his shoes.  He had $1.53 in his wallet.  Except for a post-mortem injury to his eye, there were no other marks on the body, either before or after his death.  The coroner noted that the body likely did not float very far from where it went into the water.  Though there was not much water in the lungs, the chest cavity contained a considerable quantity as did the stomach. 

A coroner’s inquest was started the next day.  Over several days, the jury heard testimony from a doctor who did the autopsy, from some of the jurymen with whom Frederick was serving when he disappeared, the district attorney, the proprietor of the Edgerton House, the stage driver who was the last person to see him alive and the hotel chambermaid.  The jury came back with a verdict that McFarland “voluntarily drown[ed] himself while temporarily insane into the Delaware River about one mile below the Village of Delhi.” 

McFarland was buried in the Bovina cemetery.  Note that his tombstone reflects the circumstances of his death with the statement 'Died on or near Feb. 21, 1889."  He left his ailing widow, Phoebe, and two young sons, Robert, age 14 and Wilson, age 7.  Phoebe died within a couple of years of her husband, likely of the illness that may have driven Frederick to take his own life.  Their sons both lived into adulthood.  Robert died in 1949 and Wilson in 1966.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Annual Report for 2012

Below is a slightly edited version of the annual report that I am required to submit each year to the town board and to the New York State Historian's Office.


In last year’s report, I had several goals noted down, and managed to carry out most of them.  A major accomplishment this year was getting the Bovina World War II Honor Roll reinstalled at the Bovina Community Hall.  I continued pursuing leads concerning the 1945 plane crash in Bovina and  researched and wrote on Bovina and the Civil War on my blog. Though Bovina did not yet exist when the War of 1812 started, I did identify some Bovina veterans of the conflict to commemorate the Bicentennial of that conflict.  Work continued to identify old farm foundations to ensure they are documented.

Research Themes/Topics

I’ve started identifying old house and barn foundations around Bovina.  In April, Marie Burns and Colleen Heavey took me up to the old house and barn foundation above Marie’s farm.  This likely was the original site of the house and barn, but at some point before the 20th century, new buildings were constructed closer to the road going up to Marie’s and the original buildings demolished.  In December, I explored a farm foundation, including a house, barn and root cellar, about 300 yards from Scutt Mountain Road.  It was the old Dean Farm.  In 2011, I had identified old farm foundations off Coulter Brook Road and off Cape Horn.  I’ve had several suggestions of other foundations to visit. 

I continued each month to present biographies of Bovina’s Civil War soldiers on my blog.  The series will conclude in March 2013.

Two more expeditions on Moon Mountain have yet to turn up evidence of the plane that crashed in the Bramley Mountain area in April 1945, but help from Ray Kearns, whose grandfather owned the farm near the crash site, gives me hope that we may yet find something. 

In April, the 1940 Federal Census came out.  I did an extensive review of the Bovina pages and did a blog entry about some of the information I found.

Bovina Cemeteries

Ed and Dick Davidson continue their work to document all the burials in the Town of Bovina.  During their September visit, they photographed and marked the position of all the stones in the Reformed Presbyterian Church cemetery.  And they have uploaded all the gravestone photographs they have taken onto the Find-a-Grave website.  Late in the year I was able to purchase on sale a gravestone cleaning solution recommended by the Association for Gravestone Studies and used by such organizations as Arlington National Cemetery.  The solution is biodegradable and, more importantly, will not cause damage to the stones.  I expect to start using it in the spring to clean stones that are particularly difficult to read.

Bovina Honor Roll

I achieved a major goal this year in having the World War II Bovina Honor Roll reinstalled in the Community Hall.  The honor roll had been stored for many years in the basement of the Bovina Museum.  The Bovina Historical Society, custodians of the roll, agreed to have it moved and the Bovina Town Board agreed to have it put up in the community hall.  Jim and Tom Hoy very generously covered the costs of having it reinstalled.  Dick Brannen took on the project and on November 3, an unveiling ceremony was held at the community hall, with two of the surviving veterans from the roll, Stanley ‘Stub’ Hewitt and Gordon Rabeler doing the honors.  The Daily Star (Oneonta) covered the event in its ‘Brighter Side’ feature.  It also was covered by the Delaware County Times.  The publicity has helped me to find out the status of more of the veterans on the roll, including the fact that three more are still alive, bringing the total as of this writing to six. 

Bovina History Blog-

The blog continues to be one of easiest ways for me to share the history of our town.  A printed set will be created for the Bovina Public Library (one for reference and one that can be loaned out) and another set at Russell’s Store.  A set also will go to the Delaware County Historical Association.


I did two articles for the community newsletter, put out by the Bovina United Presbyterian Church.  I also wrote a short article for the New York Archives Magazine about a possible murder that took place in the Cabin Hill area and involved some Bovina people as witnesses. 

Bovina History Calendar

After being in hiatus for several years, I was able to work with the Bovina Historical Society to produce a history calendar for 2013, proceeds going to the society.  There was a glitch with the printing, delaying its release until early December.  As well as some mail order requests, the calendar is being sold at Russell's, Two Old Tarts and the Bovina Public Library. 

Collecting and sharing images and records

I continue to seek out images to scan and share.  I did a second set of scans of photographs from the collection of Joan Archibald Townsend and her cousin Steve Archibald in May.  Later that same month, Stephen Pelletier sent me a set of negatives for photographs he took on November 25, 1978 at Russell’s Store for a photography class at Syracuse University.  These formed the basis of a blog entry in November. 

In my work at the Delaware County Historical Association, I have been able to find a number of images related to Bovina in the Bob Wyer collection.  Wyer was active in Delhi and the surrounding area from the late 1930s to 1979 and photographed some Bovina scenes and many people.  I have started a series on the blog called “Faces of Bovina” which will use passport and chauffeur license photos to highlight some of these people. 

For the Bovina Honor Roll project (see above), I sought out as many images of the veterans on the roll that I could find.  Several family members were helpful in finding images. 

Flickr is a photo sharing service that has allowed me to share Bovina images and records.  I added images over the course of the year to the Bovina NY History page: .  There are now 604 images. I created four new sets of photos of houses and barns in Bovina:

-There were three sets of photos taken in the 80s and 90s of Bovina Center as part of the effort to get the hamlet put on the National Register of Historic Places:  Bovina Center mid 1980s (these are mostly from color slides); Bovina Center 1990; Bovina Center 1999
-In 1989, the Delaware County Historical Association started a survey of houses and barns in Delaware County.  For Bovina, they specifically excluded the hamlet because of the work being done for the National Register.  This set focused on structures outside of the hamlet.

I used Flickr to post 60 of the above mentioned images that Joan Archibald Townsend and her cousin Steven Archibald allowed me to scan.    

Since starting the Bovina History page on Flickr in 2009, there have been 63,195 views of the 605 images there.  People often respond with more information or questions.  Scott Desimon on Reagan Road was pleased to find a photograph of his farm in the 1980s.

Other activities

My thanks to Andy Woss, who took me on a tour of the old Gerry Estate, including visits to the family cemetery, the site of Angelica Gerry’s home Ancrum and to the Aknusti home. 

I managed one successful group hike to Indian Rocks in April.  I had hoped to do a hike up over where Reinertsen Hill Road used to run but that never got off the ground.  It’s on my to-do list for 2013.

Correspondence and research help

Genealogical inquiries
o    John Fitzpatrick from Long Island contacted me with questions about the Van Buren family.  I got him in touch with Gary Robson, whose mother Peg was a Van Buren.
o    An inquiry concerning the Stoddard/Stoddart family came from Leroy Stout.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information for the specific line he was seeking. 
o    Lauren Mallory from Pittsburgh contacted me about the family of Henry Wooden/Woodin. 
o    A question from Ann Lamb concerning the Glendenning family came through a blog entry from 2009.
o    The county historian Gabrielle Pierce had an inquiry about the Maynard family.

Building and property related inquiries
o    Holly Anderson had an inquiry in 2011about the barn on her property on New Road.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any information that dates when the barn was built but was able to provide her with photographs of the barn taken during a survey in the late 1980s by the Delaware County Historical Association. 
o    Nicholas Thompson on Russell Hill wants to verify when his barn was built.
o    Lynne Resch is interested in collecting more information about her property on Reinertsen Hill Road, the old Conklin place.  I was able to trace the deeds back to the first owner in 1804, John Thomson. 
o    Related to above, Gwen and John Deyensroth were interested in the history of the Barn on Lynn’s property.  I was able to provide information about how the main barn was built from the remains of the Bovina Methodist Church, demolished in 1926.
o    A number of inquiries concerning a stone structure at the start of Mountain Brook Road came from Diane Galusha and through Facebook.  The building was once used as a sap house as well as a residence and is on the old George Johnson farm.  It is now in an advanced state of decay – the roof had been damaged by a strong wind several years ago.

o    Wayne McFarland inquired about ancestors buried in the Bovina Cemetery.
o    Sandra Barr requested a photograph of the gravestones of David Ballentine and his wife Anna Grant.  They are buried in the Bovina Reformed Presbyterian Church cemetery. 
o    Marianne Greenfield wanted to find the grave of Edward O’Connor to photograph it for Find-a-Grave (see the section below on Bovina Cemeteries concerning Find-a-Grave). 
Resorts and summer camps

Summer resorts
o    I received two inquiries this year from people who had stayed at the Elms Farm on Coulter Brook Road – Pat Zarcone and Christopher Hunt.  Ms. Zarcone was able to send me some photos of their time at Elms Farm in the 70s.
o    Joan Kaye Wishkoff contacted me concerning the camp at Tunis Lake.  Her parents owned it from the early 50s to the early 60s.  I expect to have further communication with her over the next few months as she shares more information about the camp. 

Image requsts
o    John Hilson is seeking a photograph of the Strangeway Home that used to stand on Route 28.  Other than a long distance aerial photo, I have yet to find any photos of the house.
o    I supplied to Mark Foster several old pictures of his house in the Bovina Center hamlet.

Other inquiries
•    Tom Sawyer from Clear Lake, Iowa, inquired into names on a Bovina store ledger from the 1830s now held by the county historian.  I have digital images of the pages and found a couple of references to names he was seeking.
•    Linnell Trimbell contacted me through the blog asking about Strangeway’s store.
•    Roger Heinemann contacted the Davidson brothers asking for information on Erma Hafele. 
•    Lori Glavin requested photographs of her farm on Pink Street.  She also has requested historical information about the property.  Across from the Glavins is Marty and Mary Ann Feinstein, who had similar questions about the property.  It was all part of the Barnhart farm at one time.
•    I provided for Chris Ingvordsen some information about Lulu Pauley, who used to own his house.  She was a poet – I have found one book of her poetry, Gateside Lyrics.  Miss Pauley died in 1950.
•    Shirley Houck from the County Clerk’s office is collecting information on the county’s Revolutionary War soldiers.  I had information on three buried in Bovina and may have identified a fourth soldier. 
•    Joe Doria was interested in the location of a house he used to visit up on Mountain Brook.  My Uncle George was able to help me track this down.

Plans for 2013

•    I will be continuing with the Bovina NY History blog and uploading photographs on the Bovina NY History Flickr page. 

•    The Historical Society and I are talking about a Bovina History Calendar for 2014. 

•    I will continue seeking out and documenting old farm foundations for the Foundations of Bovina project.  As well as photographing these, I need to measure these sites and note their location using a GPS.

•    I am hoping to prepare for publication a History of Bovina book that I’ve been working on for about a decade. 

•    I would like to start an Oral History project to collect recorded interviews from people in Bovina.  I need to scope out this project to figure out costs and logistics.  It would be a great project in which to involve local students. 

•    I want to make a push to identify Bovina related home movies to get them digitized – and maybe have a Bovina Film Festival.  I will continue to collect Bovina related images too. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

When Whiskey Was Good and Cheap and Other News Items from 100 Years Ago

The February 7, 1913 issue of the Catskill Mountain News reported on the delivery of new equipment to the Bovina Center Coop Creamery:

A new boiler for the Dry Milk Plant at Bovina Center was unloaded from Delaware and Northern at Andes on to a truck Tuesday and Wednesday was hauled to Bovina. The boiler weighed six tons and three teams were used. At the head of Delaware avenue [today's Route 28] the front axle of the truck broke but was fixed by the use of iron plates and the trip was made without further trouble.
A week later, the paper had this little tidbit on the front page of its February 14, 1913:

When Whiskey Was Good and Cheap.
Sixty and more years ago in the town of Bovina, practically every family kept liquor in the house to use when the new baby arrived or at the raising of a building frame, or other very special occasions. Drunkenness was by no means common although there were at one time three whiskey stills in town. A bushel of rye would buy two gallons of whiskey at the distillery. While this kind of beverage usually tends to pauperism, that class "was so scarce that when one did apply to the town for assistance it was the custom once to let the indigent person to whoever would bid tho least price for care and maintenance. At one town meeting it was voted to abolish the county poorhouse at Delhi.
On the same front page was a report about the start of the delayed ice harvesting season.  "The ice harvest that a little more than two weeks ago seemed a remote possibility, is now in full swing and thousands of tons are being gathered all through this section."  The article went on to report a tragedy on Lake Delaware on the Gerry Estate.

Several horses went through the thin ice of the early week and men who were engaged in the ice harvest went through in thin places and got wet. Tuesday afternoon a pair of fine horses belonging to Commodore Elbridge T. Gerry of New York city, valued at several hundred dollars, were drowned in the Gerry lake. One of the men who cares for the estate escaped death by a narrow margin. It was thought the ice on the lake, was safe and so it was decided to cross. The team broke through, however, and before the animals could be rescued they succumbed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies XIV

Daniel, John B., and Robert Tompkins were the nephews of Robert Post of Bovina.  In the 1865 census, they were enumerated with their uncle while in the service, though the Tompkins family was from Roxbury.  The three nephews likely were brothers, the sons of William and Lydia (Post) Tompkins.  Daniel and Robert enlisted the same day, August 19, 1861, Daniel in the 3rd NY Calvalry, Robert in the 20th New York Volunteers.  Robert joined his brother's outfit a year later.  Their younger brother John enlisted in August 1864 as a substitute for Charles E. Loomis.  He was wounded twice - in September 1864 then again in October 1864.  At some point he was absent without leave but he was mustered out in July in New York City.  The information on all three brothers after the war is somewhat confusing.  There is no definitive information for John's life after he mustered out.  It seems that Robert at some point moved to Pennsylvania and in 1915 was admitted to a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Hampton, VA.  Daniel late in life also went to a home for disabled veterans, this one in Ohio.  He died in 1922 and his body was sent to Union Grove, NY for burial.

Robert Tuttle was Bovina's only Civil War veteran to serve in the Navy.  He was born on Cabin Hill in October 1833.  When he entered service in 1863 in the Navy it was as a 1st Assistant Surgeon.  He left service at the end of the war and settled in the Town of Rockland in Sullivan County, working as a physician.  In 1875, he married Emma Bush Parksville.  Dr. Tuttle died in 1910 and is buried in Roscoe.

Charles A. and James Warren were the sons of Horace and Clarissa Warren.  Charles was born in Ulster County in 1835.  He enlisted in August 1862, joining the 144th New York Volunteers as a private.  Discharged after one year because of a disability, he re-enlisted a year later.  During the Battle of Deveaux Neck in South Carolina he was wounded when a bullet struck him under the ear and came out near the eye.  He mustered out with his company in June 1865.  Settling in Fallsburgh, Sullivan County, NY, he died there in 1882.  His brother James, also known as DeWitt Warren, was born in Stamford in 1838.  Enlisting the same time and into the same regiment as his brother, he mustered out with his company on June 1865.  Married to Jane Aitken of Bovina, he lived in Bovina after the war, then moved to Kortright.  He spent the last 25 years of his life in Delhi, where he died in March 1917. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Another Cathels Family Tragedy

In November 2011, I reported on the tragedy that descended on the family of James Cathels, Jr. in the fall of 1865.  James, four of his children and his mother in law died within about 10 days of each other.  James left behind a pregnant wife and four children. And he and his wife Nancy had lost two other children before 1865.

About a year and a half before this tragedy, the Cathels had another family death in somewhat unusual circumstances - unusual enough to trigger a coroner's inquest.  James father, James Cathels, Sr., was a widower and in February 1864 was living with Peter Dysart.  Dysart had a farm on Russell Hill (the former Lester McPherson farm).  At the age of 72, James Sr. was doing some farm work there, probably to cover his board.

He got up the morning of February 5, 1864 and commented to Peter that his boots pinched his feet.  While using a last to stretch his boots, James inquired of Peter about a caucus meeting held the previous evening in the hamlet.  The exact nature of the caucus meeting is not clear, but given that the town's annual meeting was February 9, this likely was some kind of caucus meeting to nominate candidates for town office.  Whatever it was about, Peter filled him in what had happened.  James then pulled on his boots and headed out to the barn.  Five minutes later, Dysart headed out to feed the animals.  As he started to throw hay down from the hayloft onto the feeding room floor below, he saw Cathels lying there, motionless. Dysart ran around the barn to get in at the lower level and unsuccessfully tried to rouse Cathels.  While he was pretty sure Cathels was dead, he ran over to his neighbor, Stephen Russell, to have him confirm this.   Russell concurred, noting that he could not get a pulse.  They contacted the coroner and sent word to James Jr. at his farm on Scutt Mountain Road about what had happened.

A jury was convened in the Dysart house that same day to examine the body and hear evidence.  The jury included James Douglas, Michael Miller, John Fife (Phyfe), Michael Dixon, Robert F. Scott, Roman Palmer, Robert C. Scott, James Gill, James Thompson, William Lull, Robert H. Sloan, and Richard Smith.  After examining Cathels' body and hearing the testimony of Peter Dysart and Stephen Russell, their verdict was that "James Cathels came to his death by falling on the feeding floor of the cow stable and striking his head on a pole in said stable dislocating one of the upper several vertebrae of the neck causing compression of the spinal morrow which would cause death."

Several of the people connected with this case were, to varying degrees, affected by the U.S. Civil War, completing its third year.   James Cathels, Jr. must have been a little uncomfortable to see James Gill on the jury.  James Jr. had gotten into a brawl with Gill at the Hamilton Hotel in Brushland in October 1862 over a comment Cathels made about Gill's son's Civil War enlistment (see the November 30, 2011 blog entry for more about this incident).  Also on the jury was Roman Palmer, who had only recently moved to Bovina to open a cooperage.  Palmer would enlist later that year and died in battle in December 1864.  Peter Dysart, the owner of the barn where this accident took place, had lost his son Robert in the war the previous October.  William Lull's son Andrew had enlisted in 1862 and would survive the war (as did Gill's son Alexander).  Michael Miller's two brothers, Gilbert and Berry S. Miller, enlisted around the same time as Roman Palmer.  Unlike Palmer, the brothers would survive the war.   

So even while a Civil War was raging, the routines of life - and death - went on back home.