History Corner: Farms, Farms, and More Farms...
Welcome to the world of farms in Orange. Field View Farm deserves top billing as the oldest working farm in the United States. Having begun as a dairy in 1639, Field View continues to provide Orange with a vista of farming with its cows, grazing on the hillside and its pure, white barns adjacent to a large, colonial home. Land was, in the early days of colonization, held by Native Americans and without extensive research, boundaries of tribes at that time is a bit hazy. What we do know is that in 1648, the Mohawks, who had been quiet for some time, attacked the Milford Paugussetts and one of the Mohawk braves was tied to a stake in the marsh. Young Thomas Hine found him, took him home for food and eventually helped the brave return home.
The grateful Mohawk elders believed that the Great Spirit would give the family prosperity and the story goes that they gave the Hine’s the property on which the farm exists today. Grandmother Jessie remembers that cans of milk were put in large tanks filled with blocks of ice cut from ponds on the farm in the winter and stored in the ice house. In those early days, George Hine bought his animals from Vermont dealing in both oxen and cows bringing them to Orange by the carload and selling them at auction both in Orange and in Newtown. Today the farm offers locally grown produce and boasts and ice cream shop made, with you guessed, freshly made ice cream. Be sure to say hi to Greg and family.
Fairlea Farm was a showpiece in the 19th century when Wilson H. Lee decided to buy a farm in Orange. It seems Mr. Lee was looking for a place to spend the summer having a thriving publishing business in New Haven. He saw it, liked it and bought it in 1902 from the Nettleton Family who owned it as far back as 1850. Its location stretched from Orange Center Road easterly to Indian River, to the Post Road on the south and north to Old Tavern Road.
The Nettleton Farm had been in operation with 100 acres and a carpenter for its owner, but with Mr. Lee’s offer, he couldn’t refuse and Fairlea Farm came into being. Within the next 20 years, Lee bought more land extending past Lambert Road, going as far as Woodruff Road in Milford. By 1923, the farm encompassed 632 acres. Some summer home, eh? The number of animals varies through the years with Ayrshire cows among Jerseys. It is said that the milk from the Ayrshire cow is closest to mother’s milk and best for babies and young children. The milk is known as acidophilus and is said to have been the milk put on board ship when President Hebert Hoover sailed to Europe. President Hoover, finding out that the milk came from Fairlea Farm sent Mr. Lee a letter complimenting him on “such great milk.”
A name you will recognize, not as a farm of today but, as Spring Brook Common on Indian River Road. Once owned by the Buckholz family, this farm, throughout much of the 20th century, was operated as a dairy farm. In the mid 1960s, while operated as a dairy-farm triplet calves were born to one of the cows, an occurrence happening one in every 2, 500 births. The history of the farm dates back to 1886 when Joseph Buckholz bought the Lambert Farm, 85 acres between Lambert Road and Racebrook Road, south of Old Tavern to the Post Road. Two of the brothers, Otto and Ernest ran the farm and Otto’s son Ray raised and sold vegetables well into the 1980s. Some of our readers might remember him as a bus driver who we found out started his bus career in 1912 with a horse-drawn wagon. Ernest, born in 1897 operated the farm until his death in 1978 when his wife and one of his sisters continued to live in the homestead on Lambert Road. The house was deconstructed and supposedly was rebuilt in Rhode Island. I have never been able to verify that information.
Treat, an old North Milford/Orange name. The land has gone through many transformations over time since the first generation who owned the land in the 1700s, but today, you can see the white barn buildings and homestead as you travel down Old Tavern Road. History says it was most likely a dairy farm as were so many of the farms in our town. The cows, after milking were driven down Old Tavern Road or Treat Lane, then dirt roads to a meadow for grazing. The cows at the Treat farm were Jersey and Holstein with more milk from the Holstein, but more butter fat from the Jerseys so good for the cream.
The Treat Farm, is a working farm once more with vegetables and flowers for sale just before the bend in the road where you can see land that once was the dairy farm. Pumpkins are no stranger and if you are daring, ask Jeff about the corn maze in the fall and by my sources, it’s great.
If you hear the clippety-clop of horses’ hooves down Orange Center Road, you will soon see the beautiful team from Maple View Farm. Established in 1812 by Benjamin Clark this farm in its transformed way still is run by the Clark family, Patti and Bryan Clark. As a dairy farm, it also produced corn, hay, potatoes and eggs when the production of milk ceased in 1955. Unlike Fairlea Farm, the milk from this farm was sold in bulk to companies that pasteurized it and bottled it for sale.
Farmland was not always contiguous so the cows were moved down Orange Center Road to the pasture which is now the Orange Fair Grounds and hay was cut from the area known as High Plains and Pine Tree Drives. In 1812, a portion of the farm, closest to the road was sold to the proprietors of The Academy for a meeting house and school. Come say hi to the horses but don’t feed them. Parties are held at the farm today with rides around town with their beautiful team.
Ledgers are always fun to read and we have The Farmers Record and Account book from 1921 with some interesting facts put down in pencil for what is now history.
In 1921, the owner of this ledger bought a horse from Buckholz for $125.00. Sold 32 barrels of corn to F. H. Woodruff & Sons, to E.B. Clark 26 barrels of corn. On the page with hay sold, the word “tons” is crossed out and it looks like lbs. and with a number like 2200 to Buckholz, I can’t imagine it was 2200 bales...just my thought.
Now to eggs: Again, 1921. January 187, February 382, March, 892, April 914, May 674 and he stopped writing in the totals. But in December of that year I counted 21 eggs and that was it. I can tell you that this farmer’s customers were Orange farmers with the names E.B. Clark (Everett), F.H. Woodruff, Charles Buckholz, A.S. Crosby who owned an ice house on Old Tavern Road. His purchase was hay which was surely for the ice he cut out of the pond which was located behind the Firelight Shopping Center.