Sunday, March 31, 2013

Another American Tragedy - The Closing of the Bovina Center Co-op Creamery

It was 40 years ago today on March 31, 1973 that the Bovina Center Co-op Creamery closed, after being in existence for 72 years.  This was reported in several local papers.  Here's the article from the front page of the Walton Reporter from April 5, 1973.  [See the blog entry for January 26, 2012 for some photos taken by Mrs. William Elliott on the last day the creamery operated.]

Bovina Center Co-op Closing Is Blow to Town and Farmers

     An era has ended.  After 73 years of operation, the Bovina Center Co-op Dairy is bowing to "progress" and closing its doors.
     It was the last plant in the county to handle exclusively canned milk, this out of an undetermined number over 50 which once operated.  It is known that nearly every village and hamlet in the county once had at least one creamery and some of the larger communities had four or more. 
     A twinge of sadness comes to one's heart when it is realized that anything is becoming extinct, but a special touch of remorse in this case is felt by anyone who grew up hearing the clanging sound of the cans.  The saddest thing of all, though, is that fact that it cannot help but adversely effet the small farmer, who must either convert to expensive bulk equipment or go out of business, if they do not desire to haul their milk to the Dellwood plant at Fraser. 
     It must be noted, of course, that New York State as a whole is declining in influence as a dairy producer, as its market is now controlled by Midwestern prices, a further blow to the little guy.

Had Long History

     The closing of the co-op means that the Town of Bovina, for the first time since its founding over 150 years ago, is now without an industry (other than tourism).  This is a blow to the town and to Bovina Center village which will be hard put to recover for a while. 
     The Bovina Center Co-op was banded together in 1901 by a group of 48 farmers and was, at the time of its demise last Saturday, reported to be the oldest existing co-op in the country, if not the world.  The original farmers had been coming together to make butter for a year or more, but realized need for some sort of organization to benefit them all, hence the co-op.  
     The plant produced exclusively butter until 1906, when a milk sugar-making process was installed.  Shortly thereafter, Bovina became one of the early producers in the United States of powdered milk.  Smaller rollers than one normally would think did the job - they were sometimes no more than two feet in length. 

Operations Change Often

     In 1922, the creamery switched to a drying box and the spray process for the milk and were pioneers at this also.  Skim powder was made until World War II, when they fulfilled a goverment contract (as did many other area plants) to make dried eggs.  
      Early power there, as in all such enterprises, was a team engine, but in 1924 they converted to electricity.  One of those who wired the plant was current county historian Fletcher Davidson (who lives just outside the village and who made a living doing electrical work on area creameris as well as providing much of the historical info herein). 
     The old wooden plant was razed and the present one built, primarily for its wartime contract, in 1942.  The operation of late has been carried out by four people, chief of them being Miss Beatrice Thomson.  Miss Thomson has been at the plant for 25 years and its manager for the last 10. 
     Floyd Aitkens has been a co-op empolyee since the dry milk days of World War II.  Marvin Archibald has been at the plant for about 15 years and Herman Archibald about 10.  

Served Wide Area

     Before the Mar. 31 closing, the co-op at Bovina Center served 43 farmers directly, several of whom may opt to close rather than to adapt to bulk operations or cart their milk all the way to Fraser.  
     One of the producing and hauling farmers is Roscoe Brink, who has been hauling milk everyday from the area of Durham, near the Albany-Greene-Schoharie county border and who serves several other farmers.  He has come to Bovina for a year, since the closing of a similar plant in Blenheim, Schoharie county and will now have to truck to either Worcester or Cobleskill with his load.  
     Most of the Bovina producers will be able to haul their milk to the Dellwood plant, which is the only plant now in the county to handle cans (most of its business comes from the bulk milker but it will accept all can dairies which meet its quality standards).  They will take cans at Fraser only so long as it is profitable for them to do so, but David Jones of the Dellwood operation added that closing of their can operation and deck will not be in the immediate future. 

Vote Near Unanimous

     The 43 farmers in attendance at the Friday night meeting voted with only one dissension for closing.  Thirty-three of the group also voted to dissolve the co-op and the board of directors was designated to do as they saw fit along these lines.  Charles McIntosh Sr. is president of the board, which also includes Jack Hilson and Millard Russell Jr. 
     All parties concerned are still wondering what can be done about saving the small farmer, who once was the backbone of the country, but is now being pushed out of existence by financial and other woes.
     It is another American tragedy. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kennedy vs. Lee - Part II - The Bed Was Badly Tumbled

In part one of this story, presented in the March 18 entry for this blog, I reported on the development of a slander case between the two Presbyterian ministers in Bovina:  Rev. Joshua Kennedy (Plaintiff) from the Reformed Presbyterian Church and Rev. James. B. Lee (Defendant) from the United Presbyterian Church. The case finally went to trial in February 1870, starting with testimony as to how the whole slander issue started.  Then the defense brought in some of the more salacious elements of this story, starting with the story of Augusta Hamilton.

Hamilton was the daughter of Parmelia Dorcas Hamilton, who owned the hotel where the Jardine residence is now located.  She was about 20 when Kennedy came to Bovina.  Witnesses reported that Hamilton worked for Kennedy and that she had a bastard child in the fall of 1866.  Rev. Lee had stated that he did not believe the rumor that the child was Kennedy’s, but then Miss Louis Helsinger testified.  She lived in Croton in 1866 at Figgar’s Hotel.  She reported seeing Kennedy there with Augusta Hamilton and that he called her his wife.  He wanted a room for his wife to wash in.  When she came back after showing her the room, Kennedy was tip-toeing up the stairs and asked in which room she had put the lady.  Helsinger saw him go in and said that he remained about an hour.  She was in the room below and "heard a sound as of the putting down of boots."  When they left, she went to the room and found that the pitcher of water and towel she had brought for the lady to wash with had not been used but that “the bed was badly tumbled.”  The wife of the hotel keeper testified along similar lines.  Also testifying about the incident was Helen Dennis.  She had lived in Bovina but was living in Croton in the summer of 1866.  She went to see Kennedy to find out about things in Bovina and saw that he was with Miss Hamilton.  Kennedy called on her later and when Dennis asked if Mrs. Kennedy was with him, he said no but that Miss Hamilton was and that he had been taking her to Unadilla.  He had expected her to stay there, but when he was ready to leave Unadilla, she was ready to come back with him.Given that the incident in Treadwell happened in the summer and she had the child that fall, it would seem that Kennedy was not the father - unless any relationship between Kennedy and Hamilton started early in the year or before.  

At least two women in Bovina also reported being on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior by Kennedy.  Kennedy rented part of the house of Mrs. Elizabeth Thomson in December 1864, occupying the lower story while Mrs. Thomson had the upper one.  While Mrs. Kennedy was away in May 1865, Mrs. Thompson was passing through Kennedy’s part of the house when he came out of a bedroom and put both arms around her waist.  When she raised her arm to strike him, he let go.  Kennedy put his arm around her again when they were riding in a buggy.  She threatened to ‘put him out of the wagon’ if he didn’t behave.  He said she couldn’t do it.  Another widow, Mrs. Mary Huggans, provided board for Kennedy in the summer of 1866, when Mrs. Kennedy was again absent.  She was making his bed when he came in from harnessing his horse, put his hand on Huggans’ shoulder, and said “Mrs. Huggans, as young a woman as you ought to think about getting married.”  She responded “I thought I knew my own business.”  He took her hand, looked into her palm and said “You have a great many crosses in your hand but no lovers.”  Mrs. Huggans also reported that Kennedy said he “had passed himself off as an ‘old bach’ at Saratoga, and that he had exchanged likenesses with young ladies and it was not unusual to do so.”

Next came the testimony of a number of people who knew Kennedy in Pennsylvania.  This testimony had been collected previous to the trial and was read in court.  A number of witnesses reported that Kennedy’s “character for chastity was bad.”  Several women from the school that Kennedy created reported incidents.  Samantha French was the daughter of a neighbor of the Kennedys when they were in Pennsylvania.  Kennedy suggested to Mrs. French that she send her to Miss LeConte’s school in Harrisburg and that he would be happy to accompany her.  They went by buggy to Shippensburg then by train to Harrisburg.  She reported that during the buggy ride his conduct was ‘ungentlemanly.’  They arrived at the school at dusk.  When it was time to retire and Miss LeConte and Miss French got up, Kennedy asked if Miss LeConte could leave him and Miss French alone for a few minutes.  French reported that Kennedy tried to kiss her and when she took offense, he said he meant it kindly.  He apologized while closing the blinds and turning down the gas in the parlor, then took hold of her again, suggesting that she should get married instead of attend school.  He pulled her onto his lap and she struggled free and left the parlor.  She was “astonished, angry and excited” as she “considered his intentions towards me dishonorable.”

When Kennedy spoke in his defense, he denied every allegation made against him.  His wife also rose to his defense, as did Augusta Hamilton and her mother.  Augusta specifically denied any wrong-doing at the hotel in Croton.  Yes, she did ask for a room in which to wash and she did so, but both she and Kennedy denied that he went into the room.  A number of witnesses also testified that Kennedy’s ‘character for chastity was good.’ 

The lawyers for Lee and Kennedy summed up their cases.  The judge charged the jury, spending nearly an hour doing so.  The jury got the case at 4 pm on February 5 and an hour later came out with their verdict for Kennedy.  They awarded Kennedy the sum of six cents.  It appears that while the jury agreed that Kennedy had been slandered, there was no real damage to his career.  Kennedy was pastor of the Bovina Reformed Presbyterian church for another 15 years, so certainly his congregation did not hold it against him.  Kennedy’s lawyers had asked for $5,000 plus costs. 

Within a couple of weeks, both ministers held ‘donation parties’ at their homes.  These were often held by ministers to help bring in the dollars they needed to serve as pastors.  Lee’s party brought in $1900.  The newspaper noted that “his parishioners must be not only wealthy but liberal, and hold their pastor in high estimation.”  Kennedy’s party did not bring in quite as much, but he did collect $1400.  Given that the Reformed Presbyterian Church congregation was substantially smaller than that of the United Presbyterian Church, the amount collected is impressive. 

Lee and Kennedy lived in Bovina for another 15 years.  How did they get along?  Unfortunately, there is nothing in subsequent records or newspapers that demonstrates how these two men managed to continue working as ministers in the same town - and in churches almost across the street from each other.

Kennedy left Bovina first, moving back to Pennsylvania in 1885 and living in Greencastle as a retired minister.  He suffered a stroke within a couple of years of returning to Pennsylvania.  He died in October of 1891 at the age of 76 and is buried in Greencastle.  His wife Mary moved to Denver, Colorado to live with her daughter Catherine and her family.  She died there in September 1905.

Lee left Bovina three years after Kennedy, accepting a call as the pastor for the Presbyterian Church in Franklinville, NY in the spring of 1888.  He stayed there until 1904 when age and ill health forced him to step down as pastor.  His wife Jane died in Franklinville in 1897.  Lee was remarried to a woman he met while traveling in Scotland in 1899.  When Lee stepped down as Franklinville’s pastor, he came back to Bovina to spend his remaining years.  He died in July of 1914 at the age of 81 and is buried in Bovina. 

This story was fun to put together, partly because of its sensational nature, but we must remember that Kennedy was found to have been slandered.  The testimony of the people against Kennedy is more sensational, but there were people ready to step up to contradict it. We also have to remember that about the only source for this story is one newspaper, the Bloomville Mirror. I will continue digging to find other perspectives on this case and its aftermath. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kennedy vs. Lee - Part I - Libel of Slander

Reverend James B. Lee, a native of Cadiz, Ohio, came to Bovina in the fall of 1856 as pastor of the Associate Presbyterian Church of Bovina.  Twenty three when he came to Bovina, Lee was the longest serving pastor in the church, staying for 32 years.  In January of 1865, the Reformed Presbyterian Church installed Joshua Kennedy as its pastor.  Born around 1815, Kennedy was a native of Ireland.  He stayed for 20 years, having the distinction of being the longest serving pastor of that church.  Kennedy had lived previously in Pennsylvania and was a pastor there for about 20 years.  During his time in Pennsylvania, he was instrumental in establishing the Fayetteville Academy in 1852 and, like Rev. Lee, spent some of the Civil War as a missionary and chaplain.

In their early history the two Bovina Presbyterian Churches were at loggerheads.  In 1837, several members of the Associate Presbyterian Church were brought before Session to answer charges of having gone to hear the Reformed Presbyterian minister preach.  By the 1850s and 60s, however, the churches became more cordial to each other and started having joint social events, including a summer picnic.

So it is likely that Reverends Lee and Kennedy started on friendly terms, but about a year and a half after Rev. Kennedy came to Bovina, this started to unravel.  In July of 1866, Lee reported to Robert Sloan of Walton that there were unfavorable reports from a Rev. Woodburn of Kennedy’s behavior while in Pennsylvania, including the fact that Kennedy’s hired girl had a child and that he took liberties with a female pupil in the school he established.  Later that same month, Kennedy went to a hotel in Croton (now Treadwell), accompanied by someone other than his wife, namely Augusta Hamilton.  Over a year later, Lee signed a statement about what he had been told about Kennedy’s behavior by Rev. Woodburn.  The statement, which appears to have been read in the pulpit, is as follows:

“I hereby certify that Rev. J.S. Woodburn did make the following statements to me about Rev. Joshua Kennedy, viz; - ‘Mr. Kennedy’s hired girl had a child while at his house, and he retained her in his service after the child was born. This gave rise to reports and suspicions among those acquainted with Mr. K. Mr. Glenn informed Kennedy of these reports, and urged him to clear up these things.’

“Miss Brown, of Philadelphia, said she rode in a buggy with Mr. Kennedy from Chambersburg, Pa., and he kissed her until she was perfectly disgusted with him.   Miss Brown said to Mr. Kennedy, ‘what would Mrs. Kennedy say if she should see you?’  Mr. Kennedy said, ‘Oh, she don’t care.’  Mr. Kennedy offered to join the U.P Church, if a certain one of our congregation would give him a call.”

“That each and all of the above statements were made by Rev. J.S. Woodburn, I do now certify and set my hand and seal, this 18th day of October, 1867.  J.B. Lee”

In December, Kennedy wrote to Lee after he had spoken with Woodburn about the allegations.  Lee drafted a letter the next day stating that Kennedy was free of scandal, with a couple of edits suggested by Kennedy.  A week later, Lee signed a further statement again stating that there was no evidence to support the allegations.  It also was read to the congregation:

“… I am free to say that I am fully satisfied there is no evidence for any of the reports made in relation to the character of the Rev. Mr. Kennedy, or of his standing in his church; and that I exceedingly regret any connection I have had therewith, and cheerfully and unreservedly say that anything I have said in regard thereto was based upon rumors that are now without evidence to sustain them.  Dec. 12th, 1867.  J.B. Lee”

Though seemingly settled, the story did not go away.  When Kennedy asked for Lee to sign a further statement, he said no and after some conversation, they decided to see Judge Murray in Delhi for his advice.  Murray drew up a document reiterating what Lee had stated and that he had not ‘signed a libel.’  He said this should be the end of it.  Meanwhile, the statement that Lee had signed in December was circulating around, with the words ‘Libel of Slander’ added at the top in Kennedy’s handwriting.  In early 1868, Lee attended a meeting at the Reformed Presbyterian Church at which Kennedy gave his version of events.  When Lee was invited to give his version, he instead asked for a letter from Judge Murray to be read.  This obviously did not settle things, for in May of 1869, the case of Kennedy vs. Lee went to trial in Delhi.  The trial drew large crowds, filling the courtroom to capacity. 

After only a few days, the case had to be adjourned when a juror became ill.  It was nine months before the case reopened, and in that period the complexion of the case changed.  Early in the proceedings, Lee was making the case that he had withdrawn the allegations and stated very clearly that they were false.  By August, it appears that Lee was working to prove the allegations.  It was reported by the Bloomville Mirror in August of 1869 that the Judge had been asked to arrange for the examination of 20 to 30 witnesses from Pennsylvania.  Kennedy served an amended complaint, which the newspaper said ‘virtually amounts to a confession of guilt.’  The paper was not impressed by either minister, suggesting that “the only wish that honest people have in the matter is that the shortcomings of these Reverend gentlemen will be thoroughly sifted.”

So when the case reopened in February 1870, the effort on the part of the defense was to substantiate the allegations, though the testimony started with more witnesses about the statement by Lee being altered by Kennedy to include ‘Libel of Slander’ at the heading.  Then came the story of Augusta Hamilton.

Part two of this story will appear on March 24 in this blog.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bovina in the Civil War - Soldier Biographies XV

Alexander White was born in Scotland in May 1843 and emigrated to the United States a decade later.  Enlisting in September 1862 , he was paid a bounty of $150 for doing so.  He was a drummer in the 144th New York Volunteers.  Alexander had a 30 day furlough from May 28, 1865 and was discharged in July 1865.  After the war, he settled in Arena where he died in 1914.

Jonathan White was born in Delaware County in 1836 and was living with his brother in law, William Rutherford during the war.  Enlisting in August 1862 in the 144th New York Volunteers as a private, he mustered out with his company in June 1865.  He was living in Hobart in 1890 and was in Kortright by 1900.  Jonathan died in Kortright in 1915.

Robert White was born in Scotland in 1837.  At the time of his enlistment in October 1861 in Bovina, Robert's profession was blacksmithing.   Joining the 8th New York Battery, he was discharged within a year due to illness.  He left Delaware County, settling first in Iroquois County, Illinois, then later in Phillips County, Colorado, where he died in 1913. His widow Julia died in 1926.  They are buried in the Holyoke Cemetery, Colorado.

James Wright is another Bovina connected soldier for whom we have little information beyond his service.  He was born in Walton in 1842 and was a boarder with William Gladstone in 1865.  He enlisted in the the 144th in September 1864 and then transferred only a couple of weeks later to the 1st New York Engineers.  He was discharged on July 3, 1865 at Hilton Head, SC. Wright was 5 feet 8 inches tall with dark eyes, hair and complexion.  No  information about Wright after the war could be found.

Charles Wycof was born in 1846 in Delaware County.  He was paid $140 bounty money from the town of Bovina to enlist.  Charles enlisted in December 1861 in the 72nd New York Excelsior Regiment as a private.  He was discharged within three months due to a disability.  One source states he re-enlisted the next year in the 144th New York Volunteers, but no evidence of such service has been located.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Up the Bovine Valley from Delhi-Andes Road and other views

The Delaware County Historical Association (where I work as the archivist for two days a week) has an extensive collection of postcards from Delaware County.  I recently scanned the cards from Bovina and want to pass along some samples.  

I'm looking for some help identifying this first view (mislabeled 'Bovine Valley').  From the image and caption, I suspect it's what is now County Route 6 looking towards the Bovina Center hamlet in the area of Route 28, but I'm not recognizing the house.  Any ideas?

This view below is somewhat familiar, but not this particular photograph. It predates the 1920s and was taken on the hill behind what is now Tim McIntosh's house. 

It's the first clear view I have found of the Seacord Hotel, which stood where the Lil Hilson and Mark and Julie Schneider houses now stand. It was in this hotel on October 1, 1844 that the various Anti-Rent organizations in Delaware County gathered for what was called the Delaware County Equal Rights Convention.  The party nominated candidates for the Assembly and passed two significant resolutions related to land issues in the county:

Resolved: That the Feudal tenure as it exists between Landlord and Tenant in the State of New York, is anti-democratic, opposed to the interests of an institution governed by a free and independent people.

Resolved: That the present system of land ownership as it exists at the present time, is a stigma upon the sons of our illustrious forefathers.

The hotel was demolished around 1920.  Below is another copy of this image with an arrow marking the Seacord Hotel.

And finally, in the postcards at DCHA was this homemade card with a series of eight Bovina stickers showing various views.  They likely date from the 1920s.  Views include the now gone Scott's Bridge by McPhersons and the demolished Bovina Reformed Presbyterian Church, as well as the original Bovina Center Coop Creamery buildings.