The Govern Brothers Contractors
By Karen Cuccinello
The proprietors of the Govern Bros. were William Henry Stevenson and Eugene Francis Govern, sons of Matthew B. and Margaret Govern. They built or altered many homes, businesses and churches in Stamford and the surrounding area.
William was tricky to research because he was listed as William H. or William S. and occasionally William H.S., so I thought I was dealing with two different Williams. Plus, William had a son named after him. Eugene was also tricky to follow because every Eugene named a son after them. The Governs liked to carry family names through the generations.
Eugene (January 7, 1873 – July 5, 1963) married Josephine McCafferty (1887- 1957) in April 1910. Josephine came from Ireland around 1900 (I found two dates: 1898 and 1907). They had four children: Margaret M., Eugene F. Jr., Thomas W., and James W. Eugene was employed as a carpenter with William Stewart and John Muir before forming a partnership with his brother about 1905. Shortly after getting married Eugene lost two fingers and injured two others on his right hand due to an accident with a buzz planer. This accident curtailed his carpentry and playing clarinet in the Govern Bros. Orchestra. He became the Stamford postmaster in 1935 and retired in 1950.
William (March 7, 1876 – February 10, 1967) married Sarah Johnson (1877 or 78 – 1955), daughter of Cornelius and Mary (McCabe) Johnson of Kortright, on November 4, 1903. They had three sons, William, Raymond and Alfred, who became priests.
Both brothers went to the Stamford Seminary, were involved in community affairs, members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, involved with the development of Catskill Craftsmen Inc., politically were affiliated and involved with the Democratic party and buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Stamford.
The first mention I found, in a newspaper, of a Govern Brothers building was in 1905 when they built a house for Drs. A.W. and L.N. Clark on Roosevelt Avenue. Building and reconstruction jobs (in Stamford unless otherwise stated) that followed were: 1906 – put in a new plate glass front in J. B. Rich’s store; 1907 – house “Cherry Crest” for Avery C. VanDyke at 29 Lake St.; Ivanhurst for Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Smith at 18 Harper St., and added a new piazza to J.D. Lawrence’s residence in Bloomville; 1910 – Eugene’s cottage on West End Avenue (I am quite sure this is 13 West End); 1911 – barn for Mr. Decker of South Gilboa, concrete cow stable (first of its kind in Delaware County) for Hon. James R. Stevenson of Hobart, and bungalow for themselves on Harper Street; 1912 -bungalow for David and Frances Ford on Mt. Maynard, 9 ½ South Delaware Ave. and extensive improvement to the Dewitt Benjamin premises on East Main Street; 1913 – constructed buildings for the Sheffield Farm Slawson-Decker Co.; 1913-14 – Presbyterian church in Hobart; 1914 open air sleeping porch on the second floor of the Kuhn residence and new residence for Eugene Dooley on his farm on the Hobart road; 1916-17 – Country Club clubhouse (that burned in 1939); 1918 – bought a timber lot of the Dr. S.E. Churchill estate by Churchill Lakes and made lumber and sold about 500 cords of stove wood, and erected a cottage on Brooklyn Heights for Dr. Ralph Kipp; 1924 – brick building to replace pharmacy at 119 Main St., the current library at 117 Main St. and South Kortright Catholic Church; 1925 – Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Roxbury (closed 2011), St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Grand Gorge followed by a Catholic Church in Windham; enlarged the observation tower on the top of Mt. Utsayantha and made improvements to both Churchill Hall and the New Rexmere Hotel; 1926 – alterations on the Reeves house recently purchased by Mr O’Connor in Kirkner Park, renovated the former Free Methodist Church at 1312 State Rte. 10 Jefferson to be called the Holy Cross Church and replaced the tower building on Mt. Utsayantha that burned; 1927 – cottage on Beaver street on the S.D. Mase lot and a colonial bungalow for Mrs. Mayham Warren on the lot adjacent to Kendall Place; 1929 – installed six new shower baths, enlarged the dining room, and re-roofed the annex at the Stamford Arms, and alterations to 9 ½ South Delaware; 1930 – repairs to the Lawrence cottage on Roosevelt Avenue, supervised the Boy Scouts in building their cabin in Churchill woods, built a professional shop at the Country club and installed iron fire escapes at both ends of the Rexmere; 1932 – supervised the grading and building of a new road, altered the stairway and put up new partitions in the new hospital (Bathgate); 1934 – completed an extensive repair job on the three-deck front of the former Hamilton House, one of the connected units of The Maselynn and erected two overnight cabins for H. P. Taylor on the Hobart road; 1935 – remodeled the Chichester Store at 66 Main Street for the new owner J. E. Traxler; 1936-37 – built Stamford Central School; 1948- built a church in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia (where one of William’s sons was a priest); 1949 – built Saint Anna’s Catholic Church in Summit that closed in 2009 (they are both in their 70s at this point in time).
As you can see, just about anywhere you look in Stamford you will see the Govern Brothers’ handiwork. They probably were involved in other projects that did not get in the newspaper.
1909 Stamford Mirror-Recorder – Everyone in Stamford and vicinity is acquainted with Street Commissioner Matthew B. Govern and everyone knows that M. B. knows how to keep a good road and the sidewalks clean, too. That is not all, M.B. also has a large family of boys and girls who know something too. Matthew Jr. is a prosperous farmer, residing in Stamford township; Edward J. is a civil engineer employed on the Rochester & Pittsburg R. R.; Eugene is a good contractor and builder and is living with his parents; Joseph is employed as a civil engineer on the D. & E. R. R.; William is a carpenter living in Stamford, and last but not least is Leonard, the youngest of the family, who is studying law with Attorney Dyckman. Of the girls there are Susie and Ida, who conduct a large and fashionable dressmaking establishment in New York city. We doubt if there is a more intelligent family in the state of New York, and Stamford may be proud of Mr. and Mrs. Govern and family.
The photos are from the photo collection at the Stamford Village Library and the photo of Matthew and Margaret is from Jane Marie Govern of Kansas.
Update for a previous article on the last resting place of the Govern priests: Reverend Raymond (Alfred Joseph) Govern died January 2, 1981 in Pinella, FL, age 68. Reverend Raymond F. Govern last resided in Volusia, FL and died October 22, 1992, age 83. Reverend William H., of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, died at the Maria Regina Residence, Brentwood, on April 20, 2005, age 97.Thank you to Brian Darcy of Stamford and CA for help with finding this information.