Monday, July 5, 2010

Fair Meade Farm, New Milford Road, Warwick: A History

Within the past year (2009), this well-known farmstead was razed to make way for a supermarket and other businesses on Rt. 94, which links the Township of Warwick, NY with a state border and nearby Vernon, New Jersey. The buildings of this farm once consisted of a large Dutch Colonial style farmhouse, a horse stable and carriage barn, a well house, 2-car garage, 5-car garage, two 2 1/2 story tenant houses, an ice house, a granary, a 4-stall wagon barn, a fieldstone smoke house, a main barn and ell, an attached milk house and two wooden corn silos. The only original structures to the farm that remain are a circa 1880s three story carriage barn and a ground-level roofed well that may have served as a location for milk cooling in a much earlier dairying scenario (a mortarless, hand-laid stone cistern within still holds water).

Less than 50 miles from Manhattan this Orange County dairy farm dates to the early eighteenth century when Thomas Blain purchased the site, cleared it of ash, oak, chestnuts, and other hard and softer woods. The site was in proximity to a local Native American settlement , and what became later hay and corn fields have yielded many flint arrowheads which evidence the site's use as a hunting ground. Legend has it that the site's grave plot of reputedly some 60 graves still extant was once an "Indian burial site." Although there is no record of Thomas Blain's burial on the farm plot, his son John's grave is well-known and there are a number of gravestones of family members from subsequent owners of the farm.

The earliest documented gravestones on the site are those of "John Blain 1816" and "Jain Blain 1817" ; the spelling and inverted "N" s on the crude fieldstone evidence that the family member or workman hired for the purpose of making the grave marker had access to little education a little over a mile outside the Village of Warwick in the early decades of the 19th century. The Village of Warwick, and its outer environs had habitations as early as the late 17th century and by the mid-18th century had a concentration of residences, businesses, and churches along the Waywayanda Creek. A early wagon road which later became New Milford Road (Rt.94 now and as I recall Rt. 40 something earlier) stretched through the 200 hundred plus acre farm of Thomas Blain linking it to the Village of Warwick and points south in New Jersey.

The earliest view of the well-known farmhouse, "the foundation laid in 1730 [ as a penciled in caption states on an early 20th century photo of the front of the house revealing the half-circle driveway that once came to the front porch] ," had it situated on a large plateau that climbed some 12 feet above the surface of the present day road bed. This earlier hill landing was reached by a natural and gradual incline that began about a hundred yards down the one-time dirt road from the direction of the Village of Warwick. The hill came to a flattened height where the front of the farmhouse stood facing it and 50 yards opposite the conveniently situated front doors of the still extant horse and carriage barn.

Given the heights that were necessitated in constructing a fieldstone veranda off the back of farmhouse in the 1950s it is likely that pre-existing natural hill dropped dramatically off the back of the main farmhouse. When the veranda and large barbecue chimney was constructed by Paul Miller a root cellar that could be entered from the interior basement of the house was filled in for the footings of the significant fieldstone and mortar patio structure. The laid stone door lintel from this root cellar remained visible in the basement until the house was razed. This root cellar was cut into the ground ,and one could stand upright in it, according to the late Emma Miller. It was also related that a further justification for filling it in during the patio construction was that the walls were continously crumbling making it necessary to shovel and remove the fallen earth through the series of rooms that made up the spacious cellars of the farmhouse, and the original living spaces of the oldest version of the house.

In the 1930s New Deal road improvements divided the house from the horse stable and carriage barn. The road that came to be in front of the house was excavated and leveled to its current location. The original house had only consisted of a below ground first floor where large, dressed fieldstone blocks evidenced the location of the a large kitchen cooking hearth. A second story was probably first a sleeping loft and later, with the construction of greater pitch to the roof, two rooms divided by a central hall with a fireplace facing south in each. In fact, the sunburst design mantel pieces in these rooms [that are similar to those found in the Pelton Farmhouse on Rt.1], and that are now in the collection of the Warwick Historical Society, were likely from a renovation in the first decade of the 19th century as was the cast iron firebox to the most southerly room which has a relief of a spread winged eagle that was reputedly cast in the Ringwood Ironworks responsible for the great chain once stretched across the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War [links of which can be seen at Museum Village in Monroe, NY].

The Blain family were responsible for these renovations to the farmhouse; it was during Milton Sanford's ownership of the farm, after the Blains had inhabited the property for more than a hundred and fifty years, that the house took on its Dutch Colonial style with a full second story with faux half timber and stucco dormers looking out onto the road, a third story crawlspace attic, a wrap around porch with Doric style columns of mahogany, spindles and balustrade on two sides of the house and a front portico with matching architectural details. The charred remains of the spindles and balustrade removed to the carriage barn where it remained until recently and a charred narrow interior staircase linking the cellar kitchen with the floor above still extant but blocked by a newly constructed faux fireplace in the dining room until the houses razing evidenced a fire sometime after the 1880s Dutch Colonial re-model. The fire was likely during the Raynor's ownership.

The farm eventually passed to F.C. Raynor [?] who opened a grocery in the nearby village. Here he sold and delivered milk produced and bottled at the farm as well as other food staples [ see the doors of one of his early delivery wagons on this blog]. Ironically, Paul Miller's brother-in-law , Aaron Hasbrouck grew up on the farm as a ward of the Raynors. His bedroom was located in what would become the new kitchen of the house in later years. In the 1970s a visiting Raynor family member, who had long since moved away from the area, related that he accidently fired a 30/30rifle shell through the door of the room when he inhabited it; there seemed to be no signs of such a mishap and the doors had all likely been replaced in a remodel after that.

The future owner of the property, Paul Miller, grew up on a farm rented by his father and mother, Peter and Elizabeth Paffenroth Miller, on what was known for many years as the Parks Farm and is now the site of Pennings Orchards. The small farmhouse that remains at the beginning of the climb up Moe Mountain, as it was called, housed the elder Miller's thirteen children [Elizabeth Miller died in childbirth in 1936]. Paul, who was the first child and born in 1913, grew up literally in the shadows of that large dairy farm that he eventually would own after renting the Sanford Farm from 1938-1947, and before that he worked with his father-in-law Phillip Kiel on his farm in Little York from the time of his marriage to Emma Kiel in 1936 raising the first of his own herd of Holstein dairy cows.

In 1943, Fair Meade Farm was bought by Brooklynite Otto Nagel from the Raynors. Nagel, like others from the city found farms to purchase and run in nearby Orange County during the Second World War. Although the rationale for these purchases can never be fully verified some reputedly used farm ownership as a means to avoid the draft as farmers received a dispensation from military service as agriculture was a necessity both in peace and war. Nagel hired the Raynor's foreman to run the dairy for him.

In 1947, Paul Miller, partnering with his father-in-law, Philip Kiel, now a retired dairy farmer, purchased the farm from Nagel for 50,000 dollars. Kiel would eventually set up a produce stand ( constructed from a World War II surplus qounset hut purchased) on some of the farmland that would later become the site of Stan Meduski's Supermarket, Lloyd's, and, finally, Shop-Rite. Quickly, Miller set to work modernizing the farm. His wife Emma started the equivalent of one of today's bed and breakfasts offering home-made meals and lodging in the spacious 9 room house to tourists. According to legend, Tex Ridder and band members once stayed at the house on their way through the state.

Produce, meat, and dairy were all produced on the farm. The fieldstone walls that once divided the farm into small fields from a time of horse drawn implements were buried during Miller's tenure, and the farm fields were opened up for modern tractors and machinery. A cement block milkhouse with stainless steel fixtures and bulk tank were created and a glass pipe milking system installed in the large barn that dated from the mid-19th century. A modern barn cleaner was installed into the brick and concrete floor of the cow barn and an addition was built onto the earliest barn structure ground floor.

This early barn structure became the site for the young stock of Miller's purebred Holstein herd that eventually grew to 76 milking cows,but their were also numerous young stock housed on the farm and on the Ott Farm (located on the site of the present Old Brook Estates), leased for the purpose. The earliest barn structure of the Miller farm, which was attached to the later 19th century main barn and a roofed structure built by Miller off that main barn for the purpose of allowing the barn cleaner to empty manure to an awaiting manure spreader parked below, was likely built in the 18th century. This early date is evidenced by =the beams and large planks visible in the hay mow and exterior. Some of these were 24 inches wide or more. Seemingly, many of the original exterior boards were still in place when the enirety of the barns was recently razed.

In 1964, the year after paying off the entirety of his mortgage on the farm, and being a leading Orange County farmer and member of the New York State Dairymens' League, Paul Miller passed away at age 51. According to family legend, Paul Miller was posthumously awarded "Farmer of the Century" at the Warwick Centennial celebration in 1967. The dairy went to his son who continued the business until 1971. What remains of the farm remains in the ownership of Paul Miller, Jr. and Robert Schmick [ son of the late Cheryl [Miller] Schmick, 1944-2004 ] sometimes leased out to tenant farmers for hay and corn crops. Less than one third of the original farm remains having been sold for commercial development over the past 63 years.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

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  2. Did you happen to know the owner of lloyd's shopping center?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I worked at Lloyd's in high school.

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  4. Hi Bob! Jessica has an extensive family tree due next week along with an interesting narrative about her family.. what a great place to start! Thanks so much for having this available to us. Hope all is well. We look forward to seeing you guys this Summer!

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