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Column for 9.21.11
The thing about letting someone borrow a book is that you probably won’t get it back. This is something I know to be true.
Take, for example, “Images of America - Around Boonville,” a book by Harney J. Corwin, published by Arcadia Publishing in 2009. The first person I let borrow the book never returned it. So I bought another and was stupid enough to let someone else borrow that copy.
The book, in case you haven’t read it, is 128 pages and packed with pictures, many of them supplied by Boonville’s Ed Fynmore and Larry Myers, and from the author’s own collection.
Ten things I learned from “Around Boonville” include the following:
1. The Hulbert House, a landmark since the early 1800s, was built by Ephraim Owen using local limestone. However, the Hulbert House hasn’t always been the Hulbert House. An 1860s picture in “Around Boonville” shows the building with a sign - right where today’s sign is - that calls labels it “Hulbert’s Hotel.” Note the apostrophe and S.
2. At the beginning of the 20th Century, “Boonville had at least eight groceries, two meat markets, and two bakeries.”
3. Handmade cigars where once made in Boonville by one Thomas B. Mitchell.
4. In 1911, according to a report in the Boonville Herald, there were “nearly 50 cars” in Boonville. Back then most cars were driven only in the summer and put up on blocks for the winter.
5. The unpaved streets of Boonville were dusty, of course, and a sprinkler wagon was used to hold down that dust. The first street to get paved was Main Street in 1912. Bricks were used.
6. The first train locomotive to arrive in Boonville was the “John Butterfield.” Although the book doesn’t give any information about Mr. John Butterfield, my guess is that it honors John Butterfield of Utica who started the Overland Express Company, which later joined with Wells Fargo to form American Express. Butterfield was the first president of American Express and the corporate offices were in Utica. Although it no long hauls freight, American Express continues to this day as a financial and credit card operation.
7. An adventurous gentleman by the name of George Oliver Capron left Boonville in 1883 and toured the country in Wild West shows, including Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show. Capron was a trick shot, horse rider and stage performer. He eventually stopped touring and returned to Boonville, where he worked as a stonemason in the summer and made snowshoes in the winter.
George Capron, of WBRV, told me that George Oliver Capron was his grandfather.
“He made 18 different models of snowshoes,” his grandson said, “and we still have some of the snowshoes...He was quite a character. He used to do one man fiddle shows around the area.”
8. A Swiss immigrant by the name of David Karlen managed local cheese factories, “including one on Summit Street that specialized in Limburger.” I don’t know if David Karlen is related to Father Donald Karlen, former pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica and St. Joseph’s in Boonville, but when I next talk with Father Karlen, I’ll ask.
9. President Chester Arthur, promoter P.T. Barnum, writer Mark Twain, actor Tom Thumb and actor Edmund Booth all had at least one thing in common. They got shaves from Fred Pfeifle, a barber who came to Boonville from Utica in 1865. His barbershop was in the Union Block. His barbering career lasted 40 years.
10. Samuel Karlen was Boonville’s first automobile dealer and in 1913 was selling cars produced by the Overland Motor Company. When I talk with Father Karlen, I’ll also ask if this is another of his ancestors.
If you let someone borrow your copy of “Around Boonville,” you can replace it by buying another copy for $21.99 at the Oneida County Historical Society, 1608 Genesee St., Utica. I know this because I bought mine there. All three copies.