Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Detour from 100 Years Ago and the Consequences

With the recent detour of Route 10 through Bovina, this item from almost 100 years ago seems apt.  It concerns the consequences of re-routing traffic through Bovina.  This article, actually a report from the Delaware Republican, is from the August 22, 1913 issue of the Catskill Mountain News.

A Bad Collision - Truck Struck Car of Two Walton Men on Their Way Home.

The inconvenience of building the State road between here and Andes makes it necessary for hauling heavy products, feed, etc., over Bramley mountain and passenger traffic for Bovina Center and vicinity also has to go that way.  Last week Thursday John Bryce and George May, of Walton, were coming from Bovina Center over the mountain and were near the top of the rise when the large Gerry truck, heavily loaded began the descent toward them.  The brake on the truck failed to work, the chauffeur had the alternative of sure wreck and possible loss of life to contend with or running into the bank on the left, directly across the course of the Bryce-May car.  It was a case of quick judgment and the Gerry car was headed for the high bank, where it stopped, but as it stopped it tipped over towards and on the Walton car, damaging it to such an extent that it could not be used without extensive repairs.  Beside the heavy load of feed, etc., on the Gerry car there were two women passengers and they received quite a scare.  Messrs.  Bryce and May managed to get out of their car with slight personal injury.  The men were able to right the truck and it went on its way, but the Walton car had to be left and hauled to Delhi next day.  Undoubtedly all damages will be settled without resort to law.  It was a fortunate and unavoidable mishap in that human life was not sacrificed.  - Delhi Republican.

The Catskill Mountain News went on to report that "the gentlemen mentioned above had been to New Kingston and traded cars with William Winter and the car that was smashed was the one that Mr. Winter formerly owned."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"I did for friends and liberty" - The Jailhouse Letter from Edward O'Connor

In my May 12, 2013 blog entry, I reported about the troubled last two years of the life of the Anti-Rent War hero Edward O'Connor.  On May 31, I had a chance to sit down with a descendant of O'Connor, Andy VanBenschoten and his mother.  They have in their possession a letter written in the fall of 1845 from O'Connor to the parents of his then girlfriend (and later wife), Janet Scott.  O'Connor was expecting to be executed shortly for the killing of Undersheriff Osman Steele in August 1845.  O'Connor had been arrested in October, tried and, along with John Van Steenburgh, sentenced to hang for the murder.  He spent several weeks in the jail in Delhi, where he wrote this letter, probably in October or November 1845.  Thanks to Nancy Cannon from SUNY Oneonta for supplying this transcript of the letter.

Accept my kind thanks for your tenderness and parental care over me, had I known that a line from miserable me, would have given you one moment of pleasure, I would heartily have acquiesced, in one moment.  But I was fearful it would only open the wound afresh.  O! could I tell you the bitter anguish of my soul the brain burnings and heart achings I have suffered for you and all I prize most dear.  You will know without mentioning the names for they are heart breaking to me    I have heard last Friday night, she was deranged and a bitter night it was to me, it was under the impulse of the moment of extreme anguish that I wrote in poetry a description of parting with her; the last time I saw her which will ever dwell fresh on my memory, as long as my bosom shall continue to throb; oh! How my brains burns when I think how she, poor innocent girl, will grieve for me; tho I am Innocent of my charge yet I feel guilty for her for I fear she will be looked down on for my sake.  It makes my blood run through my veins with the velocity of lightning and makes every string of my heart vibrate with horror.  O! could I but rove once more in society.  But nothing now but death and the gallows stares me in the face, but there is hope beyond the grave where false witnesses cannot approach and where a jury cannot be biased and where Judge is Justice, mercy, and holiness true and undeviating.  O how sweet the hours I have passed in your house how often they run through my brains but alas! When I look up I see nothing but Locks and bars and through my bars I now behold the trees casting off their yellow foliage which is emblematical of man in the spring of life he flourishes matures and in autumn or fall which is emblematical of death.

When I look through my prison bars and see the yellow leaf
It seems an emblem of my days and fills my heart with grief
But lovely spring will come again and cheer the forest glade
Lovers will meet and tell the tales beneath the cooling shade
O! parents dear I little thought that this would be my lot
I fear I’ll die a shamefull death and be my man forgot
But should I meet so hard a fate my foes I do forgive them
Will raise triumphant from the grave we’ll meet again in heaven
I ask you when you are home enjoying liberty
That when you kneel before you god there cast a thought on me
And we’ll praise the Lord, whose breath commanded us to be
And worthy be that saviour who died to make us free

You must excuse me for mistakes and bad composition

For you must be aware of the state of my mind   it is all over in the same moment of time.  Give my compliments to Catherine and Thomas both are near to me sister and brother but O I must be parted from them forever, not forever I hope to meet you all in heaven, where all will be joy and Peace.  But my life is now in jeopardy calculated to cut me off in the mourning of life from all the ties of that that connect me to society and thereby nips as it were in the bud all my future prospects and anticipations and call me to bid adieu the things of time and sense.  Leaving our remaining solace behind that its appointed all men once to die and after that the judgement. That I have got to pass the trying scene and but once I must endeavor to compose myself.

I want you dear parents if I dare talk the name, to not forget me. Forget as it were that we were even bound by any ties except humanity for I do not want to bring down any one to tears and sorrow on my account.  O could I have the heart of pleasure of approaching Your humble house once more   then I should endeavor to pay the debts of gratitude I owe, but Alas! Where am I and what awaits  Oh! my heart breaks at the thought I have to lay down my pen to clear away the melting tears that’s streaming down my burning cheek while my heart is respondent only to softer emotions.

O my mind runs wild, I fear I have already wearied your patience; and if I have wrote aught amiss, do forgive me, for I have no evil intention;
I ever remain you affectionate and near friend forever.

Keep these lines remember me
I did for friends and liberty

No room for mirthfull trifling here
For worldly hopes or worldly fear
       My life so soon is gone
If now the Judge is at the door
And all mankind must stand before
       The inexorable throne.

Edward O’Connor

Note: the last six lines of this letter are from a poem, And am I only born to die? by Charles Wesley which appeared in a Methodist Episcopal hymnal, listed as a funeral hymn, and published in 1821.

At the end of November, O'Connor and Van Steenburgh's sentences were commuted to life in prison.  Within hours, they were taken to Sing Sing to serve out these sentences.  They spent a bit over a year in prison - they were pardoned by the newly elected governor in January 1847.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 1913 - 100 Years Ago in "That Thriving Town"

The 'state road' was still being repaired/resurfaced.  John and Helena Hilson, who were married on July 2, returned from their honeymoon and several reports appeared about the activities of former residents.  

July 4, 1913

A.T. Archibald has had his residence re-shingled. [Archibald lived in the Mountain Brook area of Bovina.]

Alex Myers has completed the job of painting the fence along the State road.

The steam shovel on the Andes and Delhi State road is now located just below T.C. Strangeway’s. [This is about where Bread Fellows is located.]

George Gladstone is having an embankment wall built along part of the front of his lot to keep back the road. [Gladstone appears to have lived in what is now the vacant lot across from the Virga residence.]

Monday morning Thomas Gordon, Gilbert D. Miller, Frank Gowanlock and James G. Seath left to attend the reunion on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Word has been received here that a son of James A. Gow is ill with small pox at their home at Springfield Center Otsego county.  The young man was stricken soon after returning home from college.  The family moved from Bovina last spring.  [It is not clear which son this is.  Gows had twin boys, Millard and Willard.  Whichever son, he survived this bout of small pox and lived into adulthood.]

Jardine Hafele, son of Charles Hafele of this town, who in April graduated from the Veterinary College at Toronto, Canada, and who has since been with his parents here, has returned to Canada and has purchased the practice of a veterinary at Dutton. [Jardine was born in 1889 and had a younger brother Gaylie.  He was married in Canada in 1915 and appears to have settled in Canada.]

July 11, 1913

The barn on the Stephen Russell farm is being altered and improvements made. [This is the barn on Russell Hill, the farm known as the Lester McPherson farm and now owned by Nick Thompson.]

Mr. and Mrs. John Hilson arrived home …from their wedding trip Tuesday, having spent most of it at Lake George.

The Veterans who went to Gettysburg arrived home Friday evening.  Altho the heat was excessive all were well cared for.

July 18, 1913

The steam shovel on the Andes and Delhi state road is now in the large cut on the Burgin place.

Mr. and Mrs.  Gilbert D. Miller left this week for Cleveland, Ohio, to spend at least a fortnight visiting at the home of Thomas Downie, a former resident of Bovina.

John D. Scouller and Miss Doris Louthan were married at Los Angeles, California, July 10.  Mr. Scouller is a grandson of the late Rev. Kennedy, of Bovina, and a son of Mrs. Kittie Kennedy Scouller. [Rev. Kennedy was the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church from 1865 to 1885.]

July 25, 1913

Many farmers have finished haying this week.

For the month of June the patrons of the Bovina Center Co-Operative Creamery received 36 ½ cents per pound for butter fat.

Lauren Thomson, formerly of Bovina, who for five months has been traveling in Europe with a college chum, is visiting this section.

The town traction engine went off the bank Wednesday below Robert G. Foreman’s at the Stone House.  After some difficulty it was gotten back onto the road with a little damage done.

Surveryers are going over the Bovina State road again.  It is stated that the purpose is to ascertain if the contractor removed the number of yards of dirt claimed, etc.  With the original survey costing $900 a mile, this will bring the amount to over $1,000 a mile for the survey.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries - Old Jock Hilson

117 years ago today, John Hilson, sometimes known as 'Old Jock,' died in Bovina at the age of 69.  His last illness started out as nothing more than a bad foot.  The Andes Recorder reported on May 29 1896 that "John Hilson is laid up with a sore foot at this writing."  A couple of weeks later, the paper reported that what seemed like a minor ailment had become more serious:  "John Hilson, whom we recently mentioned as being laid up with a sore foot, is now seriously afflicted.  His trouble started from paring a corn to[o] close, and his blood being in bad condition, inflammation set in and then gangrene followed.  Drs Phinney, Gates and Wight were here Monday in consultation. His great toe was amputated Wednesday, but grave fears are entertained as to the final result."  Within a week, the doctors were back to perform another amputation.  At first, this appeared to do the trick.  In its June 26, 1896 issue, the paper said that "John Hilson is to all appearances improving slowly."  A week later, the Recorder reported the situation was about the same, but within a couple of days of that report appearing, Hilson died.  His death and a brief obituary appeared in the July 10, 1896 Andes Recorder:

Another of our oldest citizens has crossed the river.  John Hilson died on Sabbath, July 5.  He was born in Scotland, May 25, 1827, and came to America in 1850.  After coming here he worked at his trade – a plasterer for four years.  In 1854 he was married to Hannah S. Hamilton, who with one son survives him.  He then farmed it until 1867, when he opened a store in Bovina Centre, where did a large business, until he retired in 1889.  He was succeeded by his son, Alexander, who soon afterwards took John W. Blair into partnership, but is now in business alone.  Soon after he retired from business he visited this old home in Scotland and had talked of crossing the ocean again this summer.  He had held several town and county offices, among them County Superintendent of the Poor.  His pastor, Rev. W.L.C. Samson, officiated at the funeral which was held at one o’clock Tuesday.

While the Hilson family had to deal with this loss, Alexander's infant son was ill with whooping cough.  On the afternoon of his grandfather's funeral, he died, age about two months.  He was buried two days later.

The November 27 Andes Recorder reported that "A fine monument has been erected to the memory of the late John Hilson.  Dauley and Wright, of Oneonta, furnished it."