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Neversink, NY -- "Old Neversink"


About May and Eugene Cross

This project had its origins in the collection of Eugene Cross and his wife, May Bonnell Cross, both born in Neversink in 1872.  They had permanently left Neversink by 1914; thus their Neversink collection is at a point in time, little colored by subsequent events.  From there, the collection has grown to include published history of Neversink, some genealogy, and material contributed by other generous folks with Neversink ties.  

May Bonnell (some early records call her Mary -- it is possible that Mary was actually her given name but that she decided at some point to call herself May) was born just inside the Town of Fallsburgh, very near to both the Neversink and Liberty town lines, on August 10, 1872.  She was the daughter of Daniel Reynolds Bonnell and his second wife, Sarah Ann Hotchkin Bonnell. The family was economically comfortable, as her father had brought to his marriage to his first wife, Sophia Hardenbergh (who in turn brought with her some of the Hardenbergh wealth and is credited with providing him with a start in the world) a keen business sense.  That was fortunate, because little would be coming from her mother's side, as Sarah Ann Hotchkin had been disinherited by her father, James Francis Hotchkin (who had twelve children by three wives, and thus little to leave a daughter). 

May married, on October 30, 1895, at Neversink, Eugene Cross, son of James G(orton?) Cross and his wife Mary Jane Everett (daughter of Higby Everitt and Sarah Morse).  He was born on March 4, 1872.  The couple had planned to marry at the Bonnell homestead, but the groom had the measles, and marriage at his home in Neversink was necessary.  

The mixed careers of May and Eugene Cross offer an interesting view of rural life in  upstate New York around the turn of the 20th century.

From 1892 to 1905, Eugene taught school in Ulster and Sullivan Counties.  May, presumably, was at home during these years.  From the period 1905 through 1911, the couple kept a store, bowling alley, and "casino" and were engaged in various other businesses in Neversink -- and, briefly, migrated to Oregon.

Circa 1907, Eugene had obtained a land grant and a postmastership in Burns, Oregon, then a new community in the Malheure Valley.  (Neither spoke French, and thus did not know that the name of the valley translates to "bad hour" -- surely a poor omen!).  They sold the store in Neversink, and the family of three took the railroad as far as it went, and continued from there by stagecoach.  

Family tradition is that after a day and a night of stage travel, during which the terrain had become more and more forbidding, May stopped the coach at 3 a.m., and said "Eugene, I don't like it here."  

No other words were needed.  The stage was turned around and the family returned to the railhead. 

Interestingly, here they deviated from the expected pattern for migrants -- instead of returning immediately to Neversink, the family toured the American West by train for several weeks, including stops down the West Coast, and through the South, including New Orleans.  Only after the "grand tour" did the family return to Neversink, where they opened a new store in competition with the one they had just sold.  He had probably sold the store to his brother Charley.  Oddly, there does not appear to have been permanent bad blood.

May, however, continued to have a taste for travel that she was to exercise often in later life.

In 1910, for unknown reasons -- perhaps residual ill-will from the purchaser of the first store -- Eugene decided to become a New York State Conservation Department Game Protector.  He took the Civil Service exam for that position late in 1910 -- he notes traveling to Kingston to take his Civil Service exam in his 1910 diary.  He began working as a Game Protector in 1911 and continued in this role until 1924, when he became a "confidential investigator" for the New York State Conservation Department.  He continued this role until 1931, when he became a confidential criminal investigator for the New York State Attorney General.  

In 1929, he also purchased an insurance agency in Liberty, and renamed it Cross & Brown, since he was in this business with his son-in-law, Edmond B. Brown.

When May bought for the store, she would travel via train to New York City, staying overnight with her cousin, Anna Apple, in New Rochelle.  She made these buying trips twice a year, more or less.  She became involved in the Womens Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) because of living across the street from the saloon in Neversink and observing the deleterious effects of alcohol on the people who visited there -- and the effects on her own family businesses of people being unable to work or pay their debts due to excessive alcohol consumption.  She rose to achieve high office in the WCTU, travelling to Europe on one occasion for a world WCTU convention.  She had travelled to Europe previously; she loved to travel and had no compunction about travelling alone if her husband could not or would not join her.

In her later life, after the family relocated to Liberty, May continued her WCTU involvement, and remained active in the Grange.  After Eugene died, she ran her house on South Main Street as a rooming house, despite degenerative arthritis that made it almost impossible for her to take care of it.  

May Cross died March 22, 1956 in Liberty, of degenerative heart disease.  Eugene died October 22, 1949, also of heart disease, likewise in Liberty. After she died, an autopsy revealed that she had had a burst appendix when she was much younger.  The surgeon who performed the autopsy commented that it was little short of a miracle that she had survived, much less been able to bear two children.

May and Eugene Cross had two children:  

The eldest, Harold J. Cross, born May 22, 1898, died February 23, 1901 in Neversink of diphtheria.  The doctor was enroute from Liberty with diphtheria antitoxin, but his sleigh upset, breaking his leg.  Harold was buried in Velie Cemetery, Neversink.  

Helen May Cross, born February 6, 1902 in Liberty, at the home of her uncle James Bonnell on South Main Street at Mill Street.  She graduated from Barnard College and taught high school in several locales before becoming Principal of Mountaindale High School, in the Town of Fallsburgh, a post she held throughout the Great Depression.  

She married Edmond Brooke Brown,  born October 18, 1896 in Washington, Indiana, the son of William B. Brown and Flora Genevieve Seay.  After service in World War I, he graduated from Columbia University, was a District Sales Manager for the Willys Overland Company until the Depression, and joined his father-in-law in the Cross & Brown Insurance Agency in Liberty.  Helen died in July 1991 in Salisbury, CT of congestive heart failure.  Edmond died November 8, 1985, in Middletown, NY, of Alzheimer's Disease. 

Without the material the Crosses kept about Neversink, this project would not have existed.


The Descendants of Noah Cross and Rachel Osterhout:  Cross - New York State - 1775 - 1975

This genealogy of a family that originated in Ulster County, originally published by the Cross Family Association, is now available for download.

CLICK HERE for more information.


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