Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bovina's First Automobile

Since discovering the weekly Bovina column from the Andes Recorder, I was hoping to find a reference to the first person in Bovina to own an automobile.  I have found that person.  The October 16, 1908 Andes Recorder reported that "Russell McFarland, the watch repairer, is the first Bovina man to purchase an automobile.  He has a runabout, which he received Wednesday (October 14)."  The car was a new Maxwell Runabout and was purchased from Burr Hubbell in Margaretville.  Hubbell traveled to Kingston to pick up the car for McFarland.  From the Hubbell collection at the Delaware County Historical Association, we can see that McFarland paid $750 for the car on October 5.  The next day, Hubbell paid the Central Automobile Company $730 for the car.  A day later, Hubbell also had to pay another $8.27 to have the car shipped to Kingston.  He doesn't appear to have charged McFarland for that, but on October 16, McFarland paid $27 for motor oil.
Hubbell cash book, with the entry for McFarland's purchase of his Maxwell highlighted.  From collections of the Delaware County Historical Association.
Yours truly sitting in a 1907 Maxwell owned by the Hubbell family.  Photo was taken by Burr Hubbell.  It was Burr's great great uncle and namesake who sold the 1908 Maxwell to McFarland.
Russell McFarland was born Thomas Russell McFarland in March 1845, the son of Andrew Thomson McFarland and Jane Russell.  He spent his whole life in Bovina. Russell never married and with his bachelor brother Richard occupied the McFarland family farm on Bovina Road near Cape Horn Road*.  He died in January of 1915.  The Catskill Mountain News, reporting his death subtitled his obituary "Well-known genius passes away...." His obituary in the Delaware Republican noted that he "spent considerable ... time in watch and clock repairing, and he had a well equipped workshop in his house, some of the tools having been made by himself."  It went on to note that Russell was a "violinist of high order and he could play the kettle drum as well as a professional."
Grave of T. Russell McFarland, photo by Ed and Dick Davidson
At his death, he still owned the car.  In his will, he bequeathed a Maxwell automobile to his nephew Chauncey McFarland's wife Lulu.  Its value in 1915 was set at $100.  His probate file included a three-page list of his various tools, valued around $1500.  He also had a bicycle and a telescope worth $50 (and purchased for $120).

*This property later became the Lingg farm and is currently owned by the Schumann family.  Latitude - Longitude: 42.278916,-74.711915

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