The Cheshire Historical Society
Hitchcock Phillips House, 43 Church Drive, Cheshire, Connecticut 06410 USA
Ives Farm, Cheshire Street
"CHESHIRE as an agricultural community
has long been known for its productive soil, and beautiful scenery."
from PROGRAM OF THE CHESHIRE TERCENTENARY CELEBRATION 1935 (available at the Cheshire Public Library)
From the same publication - pps. 34-36 [Photos taken February 2007]:
AGRICULTURE in Cheshire evidently was born about 1676 to 1680. Before permanent settlement was made sundry planters in Wallingford obtained "liberty of Ye Town" to exchange with cash or otherwise, their near home outlands for other lands they deemed more suitable for cultivation. Quoting from early history they would go in parties of eight with proper arms into the wilderness (that is Cheshire which came to be known as West Farms.)
Carmody Farms, Peck Lane
Finding a suitable spot for their purpose they would plant corn, cut hay, fell timber and do other farm work. The earliest of these expeditions evidently came across north of the Mt. Carmel Sleeping Giant Hills then known as Blue Hills to South Cheshire and Brooksvale.
West Johnson Avenue property - farm fields (turtle nesting site - photo on below)
This region was appropriately called "Ye Fresh Meadows" bordering on the New Haven Bounds. As the lowlands along the water courses were the most fertile and easiest tilled these summer excursions pushed farther North into the valley of Happiness Brook, now known as Ten Mile River, Honeypot and Broad Swamp Brooks, and some of the planters with full grown sons commenced to settle in what they deemed the most suitable spots for farming. For nearly one hundred years our hardy ancestors,bearing such names as Hull, Ives, Hitchcock, Brooks, and Atwater, gradually spread their settlements from the valleys that I have mentioned but went back to Wallingford to Church and to transact business. In these days every home was a complete farm unit with a few chickens, sheep, cows, pigs, oxen for power, and horses to ride or drive. The women carded the wool and flax for clothes, and if by chance the year proved fruitful, the provision page for 1698 quotes the following prices for surpluses, flax a shilling a pound, wheat 5 shillings per bushel, rye 3 shillings 6 pence per bushel, Indian corn 2 shillings 6 pence per bushel, pork 5 pence, beef 2 pence per pound.
Arisco Farms, Marion Road
Fences being made entirely of rails and stone walls, were only about cultivated fields. The cattle roamed at will through the highways and unemployed lands which were known as commons, thus necessitating the branding of the animals so that the owners might claim them. Mention is made that when the town was finally incorporated and change its name from West Farms, Wallingford, to Cheshire nearly all the inhabitants were farmers but owing to the exigencies of the Revolutionary War there was such a scarcity of farm work animals and man power that until the turn of the century, little mention is made of exportable surpluses.
Arisco Farms, Farming on Marion Road
Town affairs had to be run on a very economical basis and I am glad to say this has been a great help to Cheshire farms to this day. Even in 1810 potatoes were selling for 17 cents per bushel, turnips for 16 cents and apples 16 cents, butter 15 cents per pound, corn 84 cents per bushel, buckwheat 75 cents and rye 1.02 per bushel.
Arisco Farms, Marion Road
McKinnley Tree Farm, Marion Road
After the war of 1812 prices rose temporarily as they have done after all wars.
Farming on Marion Road
At the close of the War of 1812 mention is made of Indian corn being raised quite extensively in Cheshire. It was kiln dried by Squire Andrew Hull of Cheshire Street and others carried to the mill of Ephraim Hough of Cheshire Street and Nathan Galard of Brooksvale. From these mills the farmers carted their own crops of meal and perhaps their neighbors, in hogsheads to New Haven for shipment to the West Indies. I find it mentioned many times in my great grandfather's account book which he kept between 17389 and 1817 items which ran like these: Carting a load of hogshead of meal to New Haven for Ephraim Hough, bringing back a load of plaster Paris, round trip $1.80. In 1825, the North Hampton Canal was dug through Cheshire and proved to more of a boom to the mining in the town than to agriculture although some mention is made of transporting corn and cider. The first settlers planted a few trees about their homes; these flourished as Cheshire soil in a red sandstone hardpan is especially adpated to fruit growing, so naturally these small orchards were extended, but in the middle of the 19th century the market for fresh fruit being limited to home use, cider mills sprang up in all parts of the town.
View coming north on Peck Lane
View of Horse Farm on Peck Lane - former Krampitz Farm
Kurtz Farms greenhouses on Peck Lane - photos above
Kurt Weiss greenhouses on West Johnson Road - above photos
Pasqualoni Farms on East Johnson Avenue - photos above
With the growth of nearby industrial cities, the growing of vegetables as well as fruit growing was encouraged and fairs came into being. During wartime, several of these fairs were held in A.E. Smith's carpenter shop and in 1879 the Cheshire Farmer's Club was organized. CS Gillette was the first president and E.A. Atwater, secretary with about 150 members. Exhibitions of farm products were held each year in October on EP Atwater's lot and spring sales of live stock were held near the Town Hall until about 1900. In 1886 the club exhibited a large cornucopia float at the old Meriden state fair and received first prize. The late Edgar Beadle and M. C. Doolittle were instrumental in its decoration which was a gorgeous array of the largest fruits and vegetables. It received such favorable newspaper comment that a Boston fair asked them to reproduce it there but the expense of transportation was too great.
Papandrea Farmland - West Johnson Avenue
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Cheshire agriculture has broadened and become more specialized, being split into four distinct lines: fruit growing on the highlands, vegetable growing on the lowlands, poultry raising and milk production well scattered over the town. Cheshire has several herds of pedigreed cattle that have won national reputation and pens of poultry that have been highly scored in national shows.
Pelz Farms, Cheshire Street
According to the latest census figures the town has a poultry population of over thirty thousand laying hens.
The dairy industry has not changed as fast in the last thirty-five years, the number of cattle ranging between a thousand and fifteen hundred head.
Vegetable growing in Cheshire has progressed rapidly in recent years until it now covers more than two thousand acres and needs more than passing comment. Large sections of lowland on which our ancestors raised Indian corn are now gardened on a strictly scientific basis by our more recent Americans and as two or more crops per year are produced on the same ground the tonnage is simply enormous.
Ives Farm, Cheshire Street
Fruit growing commercially has superseded the old home orchards and according to the last census there are about twenty-two thousand apple and seven thousand peach trees in town.
In conclusion one might say that Cheshire agriculture is just a cross section of all New England but I think we are justified in thinking we are a bit above the average when we find that only our mother town Wallingford surpasses us in poultry raising and fruit growing in New Haven County.
- Mark Bishop, 1935
Events and meetings are held at the Hitchcock-Phillips House, 43 Church Drive
Cheshire, CT unless noted otherwise.
Call 203-272-2574 or e-mail for more information.
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