Friday, April 26, 2013

Years Bring Little Change in the Town of Bovina

Seventy-five years ago, the Walton Reporter published a series of histories of local towns, written by Fred Doherty.  Here's the one that he wrote for Bovina under the title Years Bring Little Change in Town of Bovina (unfortunately, I do not have the precise date, just the year, 1938):

    Most appropriately named of all townships in this county is Bovina.  The name, derived from the Latin word bovinus, pertaining to cattle, was suggested by General Erastus Root, also credited with the naming of the village of Delhi. 
    As the name implies, Bovina, as during the early history of the town, is mainly dependent upon the production of milk.  In late years, another important industry has been developed, the production of cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts.  In accordance with other townships in the county Bovina rates among the leaders in the raising and marketing of cauliflower.
    However, regardless of the growth of the truck gardening industry, the township is still mainly dependent upon the milk industry for maintenance.  With the exception of the occupations named above, the locality has no other means of support.
    What is now included in the Town of Bovina, was a part of the towns of Delhi, Middletown and Stamford until it was set apart by an act going into effect February 25, 1820.  The first town elections were held the following March.
    One of the interesting features of the township was the early division into three trade centers, all of which are still in existence today.

Bovina Center Once Brushland

    Most important today, as it was a century ago, is Bovina Center where most of the stores and the lone creamery of the township are now located.  Originally the mallet was called Bovina Center, the name later being changed to Brushland in honor of the first settler, Alexander Brush, who migrated from Long Island.  The original settler is said to have owned about 400 acres, including the present site of the village.  On the property he erected the first grist mill ad his son-in-law, Cornelius Davis, is said to have constructed the first distillery. 
    As in the early days of the settlement, the church buildings and the largest school in the town are located in Bovina Center.  Other industries of 100 years ago located there included cooper shops, blacksmith shops and general stores.

First Inn at “The Hook”

    Another center of trade was called the Hook.  Located on the Delhi-Andes road in the extreme end of the township, the Hook at the present time consists of only a few residences.  In earlier years the first inn in the town was operated there by James Wetmore.  In 1803 a distillery was also operated there. 
    Still known by its name of a century ago is the Butt End.  According to history it is described as a “post hamlet in the northeastern part of the town.”  History also has it that the name was given by “group of people who lived farther down the river in the days when town meetings were shifted from one locality to another.”

Story of the “Butt End.”

    On one occasion it is said that Thomas Hamilton, who favored holding the next meeting in that section introduced a striking simile into his argument.  He claimed that the north settlement was the larger and alluded to the big ends of logs, with which all of the people were familiar.  In his argument he referred to the portion of the town as the “Butt End.”  Although his proposition was defeated, the name suggested by Mr. Hamilton still exists. 

Tunis Lake Camp

    According to historical data the lake, called a “muddy pond of a few acres” is the only monument to the memory of Teunis, an old Indian who once lived in that locality.  He is supposed to have been the last of his kind to live in that section and has the reputation of having issued friendly warnings to the settlers when malicious tribes were on the warpath.
    An interesting item is that a hundred years ago, as today, there was no liquor license in the township.  This is unusual in view of the fact that in the early days there were several distilleries located in the various parts of the town.  [Note:  this is not true.  There were liquor licenses issued from the town's founding until about 1870.]

Scotch Ancestry.

    A large part of the early population was of Scotch extraction.  And more in Bovina than in any other town in the county, is the noticeable preponderance of names which exist today in living memory of the early settlers.
    The white man’s knowledge of the territory which is now Bovina extends back over the period when Delaware county was first settled before the Revolutionary warm.  At that time, the residents of the town of Harpersfield, the first town in this county to be settled, knew that section as “over the mountain.”
    All parts of the county are steeped in tradition.  In Bovina the story is that there were lead mines known only to the Indians.  It is said that the old Indian who made his home on the shores of what is now Tunis Lake, would take his hammer and after a short absence return with pieces of mineral from which he made his bullets. 

Once Nine Distilleries

    In a town of settlers, for the most part of Scotch extraction it is not unusual that at one time the most important industry aside from dairying, was the distilling of liquors. It is said that the largest distillery was built by David Ballantine.  At that time there were at least eight others in the township.
    For a quarter century before the township was erected, the ashries were listed among the more important industries.  Wheat was also in(sic) important product during the early days.
    It is said that Scottish thrift and piety transmitted traits that did honor to the “old country.”  One writer has it that 100 years ago there was a Bible in every home and that love of country and love of God went hand in hand in the town of Bovina.
    One phase of the early existence of settlers in Bovina, which is reflected in present day life, is the absence of expansive postal facilities.  During the first 30 years of the settlement, advantages of that kind were definitely limited.  Today, in comparison with other towns in the county, Bovina does not have the most complete mail service desirable.  However, in comparison of the days when one member of the community went over the hills to Stamford once a month for the mail, the service is adequate. 

Education Problems

    Education today in the town of Bovina presents a problem.  Part of the students of high school age are transported to the Andes central school  Others go to Delaware Academy and Delhi central school.  Several of the one-room schoolhouses in the township have been closed and the pupils attend the more modern, two-room schoolhouse, maintained in Bovina Center.
    When first organized, the township contained more than 400 children of school age.  At that time the total expense for maintenance of schools for that number of students was $221.87, according to the report of the school commissioners.

A Gody Township [Note: I suspect they meant to say "Godly."]

    In common with the upbringing of the Scotch settlers of the township, the founding of churches was one of the first steps in conjunction with the settlement of the area.  At the present time, as during the early days, two of the three churches are located at Bovina Center.  The third, built by Miss Angelical Gerry, is located at Lake Delaware, near the Hook. 
    An interesting story which is a part of the growth of the United Presbyterian church in Bovina was told by the present pastor, Rev. Harvey McClellan. After a half century of growth, the Bovina church constructed a new edifice in 1849.  The old building was dismantled and given to the United Presbyterian congregation at Delancey. 
    The growth of the churches throughout the past century has kept pace with other developments in the township.  At the present time the residents are served by churches of three denominations, including the Reformed Presbyterian church, the United Presbyterian church, both at Bovina, and St. James Episcopal church at Lake Delaware. 
    Of the three churches, the one at Lake Delaware, erected by Miss Gerry several years ago in honor of the memory of her parents, is undoubtedly one of the outstanding edifices in this section.  Constructed of native stone, the chapel houses many priceless articles.
    And so we find the Bovina of today little changed from that of a century ago.  Residents of the town lead a similar existence, gaining their livelihood from the same practices employed by their forefathers. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Postcards and the Bovina Historical Society Calendar for 2014

I am starting work on a Bovina History calendar for 2014, proceeds to benefit the Bovina Historical Society.  If things move along ok, I hope to have the calendar ready this summer, so you'll be prepared for the new year in good time.

The theme is going to be Bovina postcards.  I have some good postcard images, but am asking for your help in finding some others.  If you have a postcard with a Bovina scene on it and you aren't sure whether or not I've seen it, assume I haven't and get in touch with me.  Sometimes, I might have the image, but your card may be in better shape.  Though I'd like to see any Bovina postcards that are out there, for the calendar, our preference is black and white images. If you don't have a scanner, don't worry, I can arrange to come and scan the card myself or make whatever other arrangements to capture the image.

And below are several images for which I have low resolution scans only.  Some of these came off the Delaware County genealogy web site and were provided by the late Alan Davidson.  They are great images, but I need a higher resolution scan (at least 300 dpi) to make them work for a printed calendar.

Does anyone recognize where this is?
This is now called Silver Lake or Cole's Lake. It's right on Route 28 as you head towards Andes.

There are some very old Bovina postcards which, unfortunately, are of such poor quality that they will not blow up to 8 1/2 by 11. I do hope, however, to include some of these in a set of four on the inside pages of the calendar.  The card below, recently shared by Dan Finn on Facebook, is a wonderful view of Bovina Center that, unfortunately, is very blurry.  He scanned it at a good resolution, so the issue here is not the scanning.  The card is black and white but has been somewhat 'colorized' - basically, leaves and grass have been colored green!  If anyone has a version of this image that is clearer I'd love to see it. 

So start digging through those boxes of treasures and let me know if you have Postcards from Bovina.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Faces of Bovina - the McKenzie Sisters

In August 1972, sisters Janet and Elizabeth McKenzie had their passport pictures taken by Bob Wyer in Delhi.  These certainly were not the first such photos.  The sisters had extensive travel experience throughout their lives. While not life long residents of Bovina, they spent considerable time in the town.  I have many fond memories of these delightful sisters.

Janet and Elizabeth were the daughters of the Reverend Peter McKenzie (1869-1948) and his wife Elizabeth Gordon McKenzie (1874-1950).  They moved with their father several times as he progressed in his career as a minister.  Janet was born in 1898 in Auburn, New York.  Elizabeth was born in Palmyra, New York in six years later.  Janet and Elizabeth had a brother, Gordon, born in 1901 and a younger sister Margaret, born in 1906.  Their father was born in Hawick, Scotland and came to the United States in 1884.  Reverend McKenzie had several pastorates in New York, including Avoca, Naples, Utica, and Schenectady.  Around 1918, he and his family first became familiar with the Catskills, taking a vacation in New Kingston.  In 1925, the McKenzies settled in Stamford when the Reverend became the pastor at the Presbyterian Church there. 

Janet and Elizabeth both became teachers in New Jersey, living in Hackensack and later Newark.  Their father and mother ended up living in Newark also, but they bought a vacation home in Bovina, the house across from Russell’s and now owned by Amy Burns.  Janet and Elizabeth inherited the house upon the death of their parents and spent many summers there in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Their sister, Margaret, and her husband, Ed Coleman, lived kitty corner from Janet and Elizabeth in the house where Joe and Connie Dibble live now.

One attribute that Janet had that was memorable to me from an early age was that she had one leg shorter than the other - significantly shorter.  Janet had a special shoe to make up the difference.  She never seemed self conscious about it - it certainly never stopped her from her career or from her travels.  And she had a great sense of humor about it.

Sometime in the early 70s, when I was a teenager, I took a phone call from Janet - she was calling to ask my Dad to come down and look at her television (Dad did TV repair).  When I asked what the trouble was, she paused a bit then said that when the telephone rang the TV would turn on - and usually at very high volume!  I wondered if maybe she was nipping at the sherry or something, so I went down to see what she was talking about.  Sure enough, if the phone rang the television turned on or changed channels.  It turns out the problem was the remote control.  It was one of the first remote controlled televisions I ever saw.  In the early days, such remotes used a tone to turn on the TV and change the channels.  The telephone had just the right tone to mimic the remote.  The solution was to live with it and when out of the house, unplug the TV.  Both sisters found the whole situation quite amusing.

As noted earlier, Janet and Elizabeth traveled extensively.  Several records related to their travel were found on  Reverend McKenzie and his wife and daughters Janet and Elizabeth made a trip to England in 1934, returning home in August on the Majestic.  The Andes Recorder reported in its July 8, 1938 issue that "Rev. and Mrs. Peter McKenzie went to Newark, last Thursday to see their two daughters sail on a trip covering six weeks in Finland." [I'm assuming the daughters were Janet and Elizabeth, though it's possible one of the daughters instead was Margaret.]  In July 1941, Janet and Elizabeth traveled to Guatemala.  Janet and her father made a trip to Scotland in 1947.  In 1952, the sisters flew to Ireland.  Three years later, Janet went to England, returning on the Queen Elizabeth in April 1955.  I am sure there were many other trips not documented through  Later in life, I recalled them spending at least one winter in Costa Rica.

It has been 40 years since I took my first ever overseas trip - a week in England in April 1973.  For a graduation present, the sisters, knowing I had just been there, gave me an old travel book about England that I still treasure.  Their traveling has inspired me to make a number of subsequent trips.  Here's what they wrote inside that book:

Janet and Elizabeth made their last winter trip together in the winter of 1978, visiting friends in Mississippi.  When they came back to Bovina in the spring, Elizabeth was ill and passed away that summer.  Janet stayed in Bovina for a few years then settled in a retirement community in Florida to be near her brother Gordon.  Janet died in 1987 (on my birthday, as it so happens). 

Janet got one last joke in after her death.  My mother was working at the Bovina Post Office in 1987.  When she came in one day to work, Pat Parsons (now Pat Miele), the post master, pointed out something in the safe.  Mom found a large envelope addressed to Janet.  When Mom pointed out that Janet had just passed away, Pat explained that the envelope contained – Janet!  More precisely, Janet’s ashes.  She would have gotten a big chuckle out of it all.

Note:  This is one in a continuing series called "Faces of Bovina," using photographs of people from Bovina taken by Delhi photographer Bob Wyer.  Thanks to the Delaware County Historical Association for allowing the use of these images.

Please share your stories about Janet and Elizabeth in the comments section of this blog.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries - John Sinclair Burns

150 years ago today, on April 4, 1863, Sinclair Burns became Bovina's first fatality in the Civil War.   Born in Bovina on August 29, 1841, Sinclair was the son of John and Nancy Burns.  He enlisted on his 21st birthday to serve for three years in the 144th infantry, mustering into Company E on September 27, 1862 as a private.  The Town of Bovina paid him a bounty of $150 for enlisting.  At the time of his enlistment, he listed his occupation as farmer.  He had gray eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion and was six feet in height.

This is the Muster Roll Abstract for Sinclair Burns, obtained through and held by the New York State Archives.  The Muster Roll Abstracts were created in 1893, using existing military records.

There are no authenticated photographs of Sinclair Burns.  This photograph was in the Burns family collection and could be Sinclair.  Photograph courtesy of Jack Burns.
A little over six months after he was mustered in, Sinclair died of typhoid at the Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Virginia. His remains were sent back to Bovina for burial.  Sinclair was survived by his parents and a number of siblings.  Fourteen years later, his mother Nancy died and was buried near her son.  Sinclair's father, John, survived his son by 33 years, dying in 1896.  The last of his siblings to pass away appears to have been his younger brother Alexander.  Alex died in 1939, having survived his brother by 66 years.  It is through Alexander Burns that I am related to John Sinclair.  Alex's daughter Ella married my great grandfather, Sylvan LaFever.  So Sinclair is my great great great uncle (though my genealogy software notes him as my 2nd great grand uncle).