Saturday, March 7, 2015

Annual Report for 2014

This is the annual report that I am required to submit each year to the town board and to the New York State Historian's Office.

Overview of Some Goals from Last Year’s Report
·   History of Bovina book – I had hoped to complete this publication in 2014 but it still needs more work.
·   2015 Bovina History Calendar – working with the historical society, we took a somewhat different approach with the calendar this year. The 2015 calendar featured studies by the late Hugh Lee. Hugh was still well enough in early 2014 to help us pick out the studies for the calendar.
·   A fundraising trip to Scotland took place in the fall of 2014 as a fundraiser for the Bovina UP Church. Some of the trip’s focus was the Scottish borders, from where many of the early settlers of Bovina came. 
·   I had some success in researching Bovina Physicians, enough to write three blog entries about them. I also did an entry on Bovina place names and found, through, when particular post offices were established, when their names changed (Bovina Center went from Brushland in 1849 to Bovina Centre in 1889) and when they were closed. Ancestry also provided information on pretty much all the postmasters in the town. My research on Johnson’s Woolen Mill goes more slowly. I’m still trying to determine when and how the mill buildings came down – were they demolished, allowed to collapse or was there some disaster like a fire.

Social Media
The Bovina NY History Blog celebrated its fifth anniversary in April. Through the end of 2014, I have posted 57 entries on the blog ( I’ve settled to doing on an average four entries a month. 

In January, I started a new blog project – the 1868 diary of Walter Coulter (1843-1919).  Coulter spent his childhood and early adulthood in Bovina, though he spent most of his life in Walton.  The Delaware County Historical Association has his 1868 diary, when he was living in Bovina. The diary was featured in an article in the Walton Reporter about how Bovina resident, Samantha Misa, broke the coded sections of the diary. Entries appeared each day on the anniversary of the entry, running through the end of 1868. There is no diary for 1869 and by 1870 he was no longer living in Bovina, so there will be no more entries in this blog.

Started in 2013, I continue to post daily entries on the Bovina NY History Facebook page, finding some event that happened on that particular day. The entries are compiled each month for the blog.

I continue writing articles for the Walton Reporter once a month on the history of Bovina:
-January 15, 2014 - Horses Running Away Appears to be the Rage
-February 20, 2014 - Kennedy vs. Lee, Part I
-March 20, 2014 - Kennedy vs. Lee, Part II
-April 16, 2014 - Scott bridge
-May 21, 2014 - Memorial Day
-June 18, 2014 - The Disappearance of Frederick McFarland
-July 16, 2014 - Bovina Town Picnics
-August 13, 2014 - Bovina's Diphtheria Epidemic
-September 17, 2014 - Bovina and School District Centralization
-October 15, 2014 - Bovina Businesses in the 19th Century
-November 11, 2014 - Bovina Farms
-December 17, 2014 - Bovina and the Scottish Borders

I wrote three articles for the community newsletter produced by the Bovina United Presbyterian Church.

Bovina History Calendar
This year’s calendar for the Bovina Historical Society went a slightly different direction. I suggested that we do a calendar of works by Hugh Lee. Donna Bray and I met with Hugh in January to choose the studies for the calendar. We were sorry that the calendar was not printed until after Hugh’s passing in May, but were glad that Hugh was able to help choose the items for the calendar. For the first time, the calendar was produced in color and was ready for Bovina Day in July.

Bovina Historical Society
I serve as an ex-officio member of the historical society’s board. I staffed the society’s museum twice this summer, on July 19 and August 23. I created two display panels featuring ‘Families of Bovina’ to share at the museum. I expect to continue expanding this display as more people come forward with pictures.

Collecting and sharing images and records
Since starting the Bovina History page on Flickr in 2009, there have been around 219,000 views of the 800 images there. 

Scotland Trip
On October 30, a group of twelve people went on a six day trip to Scotland. The group included five people from Bovina: yours truly, Peg and Jim Hilson, Pat Parsons Miele and Jean Parson Merenberg. I arranged this trip as a fund raiser for the Bovina United Presbyterian Church through Celtic Tours in Albany. I chose the church and Scotland because of the church’s Scottish roots. The trip included three days spent in the Scottish Borders, from where many of Bovina’s early settlers came. One highlight of the trip was a visit to the Hawick Heritage Hub, the archives for the Scottish Borders region. The archivist brought out several documents, including some with such old Bovina names as Glendenning, Ormiston and Hilson. The trip went very well – I may consider organizing another such trip in 2016. (I wrote in more detail about the trip on the Bovina NY History Blog and in an article for the Walton Reporter.)

Correspondence and research help
·I’m continuing correspondence with Vicki Evans concerning the Indian Tunis.
·Frederick Doolittle from Lansing Michigan inquired about his ancestor, William Doolittle. William owned a distillery in town. I did find some information about him in early town records, including a permit he received for the distillery in 1827.
·Kristin Scott inquired about her father, a son of George Lewis. I got her in touch with other people researching the family.
·Sohail Zandi, the new owner of the Main Street Bovina building has inquired about the building’s history. He decided, after reviewing my blog, to give a historical name to his restaurant, calling it the Brushland Eating House.
·Roz Foster inquired into the history of her house in Bovina Center, purchased from Ken and Barbara Brown.
·The Deacon at the Saint James Church at Lake Delaware was in contact concerning the history of the church. I attended the church’s centennial celebrations in July and in 2015 will be helping the church with records storage issues and get some of their historic photographs scanned.
·Keren Beasley from Bristol, England inquired about the Rev. Robert Laing. Laing was the first pastor of the Association (now United) Presbyterian Church. She made me aware of something I had not realized before – that when Laing came to the United States, he left behind in Scotland an infant son, Benjamin. Benjamin later also became a minister. I hope to do a blog entry about this son.
·Sharon Froedden from the Chazen Companies contacted me for information on the John and Margaret Hilson property on Coulter Brook Road as part of an environmental site assessment.
·Axel Estable was in touch with me concerning life in the area in the 1840’s for a project he was doing for the Farmer’s Museum as part of their planning for living history characters.
·Karen Kettleson was interested in Thomas Lewis and Margaret Renwick, who left Bovina and settled in Iowa. They were related to the Burns.
·Two descendants of Bovina pioneer Alexander Brush contacted me this year seeking information. Doraine Pratt from Clifton Park and Carol Brush-Vaughan from the Buffalo area. Doraine visited in August and Carol in September to visit the grave, see Brush’s house (now the home of Tim and Tamara McIntosh) and visit Brushland Eating House.
·Joe DeSalvo was hoping to find pictures of a structure that was once on his property. So far, I’ve had no luck finding any. This is always a challenge. Our ancestors usually were not into taking photographs. This is particularly notable in the properties outside the Bovina hamlet.
·The current owners of what was known as the Briscoe farm on Bramley, Warren and Rochelle Simonson, were in contact, hoping to find pictures. I was able to find some pictures sent to me by a descendant of a former tenant on the farm.
·Tom Bakke was interested in a photo of his five great grandfather Robert Steele’s grave. The photo is available on FindAGrave, thanks to the efforts of Ed and Dick Davidson.
·An archivist from Clear Creek County, Colorado asked about John Coulter. Christine Bradley was researching the creation of the town of Georgetown in Colorado and found that John Coulter was a prime mover behind its creation. Coulter grew up in Bovina and was a Civil War veteran. He left Bovina not long after the war and settled in Colorado where he was an attorney and later a judge. Christine wondered if the structure he came up with for Georgetown was modeled on the Town of Bovina. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It appears he looked to the structure of New England towns.
·I was asked to write a brief history of the Bovina Public Library for the brochure at the library’s Farm Feast in November.

Association of Public Historians of New York State
I’m the Association’s Region 4 coordinator, responsible for organizing a fall regional meeting each year. This year’s meeting took place in Prattsville and focused on the issues the town has faced since the devastation of Hurricane Irene. At the spring meeting, I reprised my presentation on how local government historians can effectively use social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc) to share the history of their communities. I also was invited to speak to the APHNYS Region 9 members at their fall meeting on the topic.

Plans for 2015
The ever present book on the history of the Town of Bovina remains a goal. Some other commitments over the winter of 2015, the time of year I can best devote to this project, may likely prevent me attaining this goal, but I continue to hope and push it forward.

In April, I will be hosting/presenting a Bovina history pageant, commemorating the 60th anniversary of a similar pageant done at the community hall. Proceeds will go to the Bovina Historical Society and I hope to get a number of community members to participate in different parts of the program.

In researching Lizzie Coulter, a Bovina resident who was sent to Virginia in 1868 to teach for the Freedman’s Bureau, I encountered the name of George Graham. He grew up in Bovina, fought in the Civil War, and became involved in the Bureau, running their office in Southern Virginia. Graham could very easily be seen as a carpetbagger. I’ve discovered that the records of the office he ran for the Freedman’s Bureau are at the National Archives. I’ve also discovered some other interesting items about Graham’s life in the south (he ended up settling in West Virginia). I hope to find out more about him in the coming year.

James L. Coulter and George Gladstone built a number of homes in Bovina in the late 19th century – I want to more definitively identify the houses these gentlemen built.

Respectfully submitted,

C. Raymond LaFever
Town Historian, Town of Bovina

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