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The Farm's History

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1754 – Jacob Putnam purchased the farm & sold to Oliver Whiting of the “Wilton Whitings” who owned a large dairy herd of cows.  Oliver Whiting and his family were instrumental in the Construction of the Railroad Line to Boston, Massachusetts to deliver their milk.

1787 – Son Benjamin Putnam inherited the farm & continued to farm it with cows and raised all their own meat and vegetables for the family.

1850 – It is recorded that there were 40 Homesteads covering the hills surrounding the farm.  Many cellar holes can still be found today with the tell tale lilac tree blooming in splendor by what was once the front door with its wide granite steps.

This is also thought to be the year that the beautiful stenciling was done in one of the bedrooms. This stenciling was done by an Itinerant Teacher for his room and board.  It is thought to be one of the few remaining rooms in New England with this type of free hand stenciling.   This was known as “The Poor Man’s Wallpaper” and most of the rooms with this kind of stenciling were covered with wall paper that became the “rage”!

Also living in the area was a Doctor who was a Dartmouth Graduate who was thought to be half Indian.  His house mysteriously burned to the ground.

Another colorful character was the local minister who would walk each day to the farm to get his milk.

1876 – Benjamin Putnam sold the farm to Charles Melindy.  Charles Melindy bought the farm to raise cattle and lumber.  He moved from what is now Hudson, NH.  At the peak of his farming, he had 5 and 6 teams of work horses and several driving horses.  Ethel wanted a pony so badly, but she could never have one because she was a girl & could get “hurt”!   The milk was sold to the big restaurants and fancy families of Boston.  Ice was also sold from the pond up the hill.  Wooden pipes carried water for all the cows and people of this farm. It would flow continually so that it would not freeze up in winter.

 

Now the real history begins,  straight from Ethel Fiske who grew up in the Main House. Ethel Fiske was born & lived in Temple her entire life. Her oral history provided much of the information about the farm on these pages.  She moved to this house as a three year old.  Her “Auntie Helen” was the third child born to the Melindy’s and as an adult weighed in at nearly 300 pounds!  Auntie Helen could not have children.  For this reason she took in Ethel. The belief in those days was that if you had a child in the house, you got pregnant more easily.  Ethel and Auntie Helen both slept in the same bed, with tiny Ethel squished up against her 300 pound Aunt all through each night!!!  Auntie Helen did eventually get her wish of having a baby boy named Charles after seven years of having Ethel!

 

1880 – It is thought that the Main Barn of the farm was built in the early 1880’s.  Dan Berry, the local apple farmer, told of the Prisoners and Indigent people of the County Farm who helped Charles Melindy build this huge barn.  They also provided farm help after the barns were completed. All of the wood was harvested from the property and oxen were used to set the stone foundation.  It was recorded that it cost a whopping $1,200 for windows and hinges!!!

Everything else was made right on the property.  This barn was the biggest on the property, housing the hay that was hand harvested.  The horse drawn hay-wagons would drive into the barn on the third floor and the workers would pitch it down to the second floor…a pretty clever move on Mr. Melindy’s part!  The lower floor of the barn was the pig barn.

A separate but large barn was for the milk cows.  This barn was along the wall on the front drive near the stone well.  This well was covered by the barn so that all the cows would always have fresh water all winter to produce lots of milk!

The third barn was for farm equipment & vehicles.  The farm also housed some chickens, but the bulk of the income came from the cream and milk that Mr. Melindy sold to local families and on to Boston.

1887 – The Hillsborough County Farm was reported to house over time:

Insane

87

Paupers

319

Criminals

32

Children

63

Those in school

35

The teacher was Alice Green.  The Chaplain was the Rev. D. Donovan.

In this year, the two farms jointly produced:

CROPS:

ANIMALS:

140 tons of hay

70 horned cattle

35 acres of hoed crops

8 horses

12 acres of ensilage corn

100 hogs

12 ½ acres of potatoes

100 hens

3 acres sweet corn

 

2 acres cabbages

 

3 acres garden truck vegetables

 

The expenses of the establishments are $20,000 annually!!!!

1910 – Pearl Melindy Woods came to live at the farm. According to Ethel Fiske, “Auntie Pearl”,  had decided she just had to get divorced.  Her husband beat her so badly that she felt she had no choice, despite the huge stigma against a divorced woman during that time.  She came to live with her father and took care of him until the day he died.

She was reputed to be the brilliant child of the family.  Despite this, her job at the farm was doing all the cooking and cleaning for the 10 hired men who worked the farm with her father.

She did the cooking for the men in what is now the Dining Room of our house.  The pantry, which housed her vegetables and meats, is now our Kitchen.  She would serve the men at a long table which was placed in front of the big fireplace in our living room.

The men would leave the farm with their pay on Friday night and come back drunk on Sunday night.  She had to clean them up & pile them up to bed in the hired help’s living quarters which is now Ian’s bedroom above our kitchen.

In addition to all of this work, she had to tend the entire Kitchen garden, which used to be where our flower garden and Small Animal Barn is today.

1919 – For many years, Auntie Helen, her husband and Ethel lived in Nashua, NH during the week.  They would take the train to Wilton each weekend and be picked up in a Model T Ford by the Farm Manager, Mr. Ed Thompson.  Finally, they moved full time to stay at the farm.

Auntie Helen was the school teacher at the Red Brick School House in the center of town.  She would live with the minister during the week and come back to the farm on weekend because it was too far to travel during the winter months.

1921 – Ethel remembers her growing up at the house with some of these stories… Her favorite job was to go blueberry picking.  She would earn money by selling her berries at 3 cents a quart!

They did not have electricity on the farm for many years so her job each day was to wash and fill the Kerosene lanterns, which she was never allowed to carry once lighted.  She mostly read during the long days.  Her favorite stories were the plays of Shakespeare himself!  She also did hours of handwork, making her own doll clothes and hats.

She sang in the church choir, where she proudly continues to sing today-making a record of 77 years!  She went to school at the schoolhouse up the road where the Copertino Family lives today.  Her saddest memory is when her doll clothes and all her toys got sold at the big auction in 1936.

Ethel met her husband one winter when he came as a young man to help hand shovel the road below what is now the Outside Course.  They met and married soon after the courtship.  Together, they had 13 children, many of whom still live in Temple today!!

1936 – Charles Melindy, 90 years of age finally was persuaded to sell the farm for the price of $10,000 for 300 acres.  The father of Ted Langdell, the famous auctioneer of our times, was the auctioneer.   The picture of all the Model T Fords was taken on the day of the auction when all the tools, animals and farm equipment were sold.

Mr. Melindy also loved fancy cars which were parked in a Utility Barn were the swing set is now.  These cars were also sold to the public.  Mr. Melindy died soon after.

1937 – Haney was the highest bidder at the auction!  He was not much of a farmer and the Melindy family had proven that it was very hard to make a living as a family farm in those days!

He decided instead to use some of the rich forest land surrounding the farm to produce coffins of all things!  He sold these coffins, again to Boston.  At this time, the farm became much more separate from the town of Temple.  He did all his trading in Wilton and never ventured to Temple, much less over the Temple Mountain to Peterborough!!

During this time, the County Farm was sold to the Beebee Family.  The most vivid memory that Ethel Fiske had of the Beebee Farm was when lightning struck and killed every other cow standing in the stanchions in the big barn on the hill.  A total of 25 cows were killed instantly, leaving their 25 partners still chewing their cud!!!

1963 – Adam and Helen Young purchase the farm from Haney and establish Green Trim Farm.  They completely refurbish the old farm house, making it a lovely home complete with Sail Fish in the living room.  They remodel all the bedrooms and install indoor plumbing and update the electricity.  They also set about completely remodeling the one remaining big barn as a Morgan horse breeding, training and show stable.  The existing stalls in the downstairs barn were all lined with boards covered in electric wire so that the exquisite Morgan show horses did not rub their long, flowing tails.

Brian and Bruce Kullgren, along with their dad, Harold, were the main local people who helped with this massive renovation.  Bruce tells a story of how well he helped when one day he lost the brakes on a big truck, without his license mind you, and crashed the truck down into the field right before the bridge!  The rings and much of the fencing for the paddocks still stand in the same place today!

What was called the Upstairs barn today was added by Mrs. Helen Young.  This barn was for visiting mares to be bred.

The Youngs had a son named Bob who later married Alex Young and had a child called Kris Young.  Yes, this is the famous Kris Young who has worked at the farm for over 25 years!!

1965 – Gene & Bella Martin purchase the farm from the Young’s, paying cash after selling their farm outside of Washington, DC.  They arrive one fair June early morn’ with us three kids, lost of dogs, cats and a van load of fifteen horsed to begin Pretty Penny Farm.

The plan was for Gene to teach school and do a summer music camp for boys.  Bella, along with lots of help from the three kids, was going to ‘farm the farm’.  Raising all of our own meat, milk, fruit and vegetable, we thrived in our new home.  Our ‘cash crop’ was to be the horses and ponies that we were going to bred, foal out, raise, train and show.

As the farm grew with more horses, chickens, our family Guernsey Cow “Tiny”, our Hereford beef cattle, sheep, pigs, hay crop and vegetables, we needed more and more help.  The outbuildings were created to provide housing to some of the wards of the state and other folks who needed a place to belong.  Miles of fencing was built, land was cleared, gardens were tended and the farm flourished under the careful eye and hard work of Gene and Bella.

The County Farm tradition was continued minus the harshness of yesteryear.  Many people’s lives were changed forever as a result of their stay here at Pretty Penny Farm.

1967 – Gene & Bella get the great idea to start the Timberdoodle Club as a way to preserve the farm and keep the land open.  By purchasing and leasing part of the adjoining Whitcomb Farm, they added 400 acres of land to the original 400 acres bought from the Youngs.  Today, the Timberdoodle Club has been bought by Randy Martin who runs it with his terrific wife, Colleen Casey Martin.

Colleen rode at Pony Farm when she was a young girl and then came back after college as the Riding Director.  One day she looked over the ring fence as she was teaching her class and thought, “My, Boo’s brother is good looking and nice, too!  Randy, on the other side of the fence, must have thought the same thing because shortly thereafter he proposed.  Colleen said “I Do” and they were off to a wonderful life together!!

Timberdoodle has thrived under their care and the land is more beautiful than ever.  Trout ponds, natural bird habitat and lovely mountain views are sprinkled throughout the land. A wonderful Clays Course boasts some hard shooting and is the site of many hours of friendly competition among shooters of all ages.

1971 – Boo and her two best friends, Mollie Messimer & Mary Lombard begin the first year of Pony Farm, a summer camp named after Boo’s favorite book, Pony Farm by Paul Brown.

With eight little girls, between the ages of 8 and 10, off we went on a wild adventure that continues on today.

Kitty Gilliatt

Suki Pisarro

Catherine Short

Lainey Claflin

Eve Corning

Polly Merrill

Caroline Sharp

Kerry Milliken

Why the families ever trusted us…none of us had ever babysat or taught a riding lesson!!

1974 – Gene & Bella begin to think that this is a lot of farm to run as their kids go off to college.  They explore options of selling it to Sturbridge Village as a Yankee Living Farm.  Right before the deal goes through; they ask Gene & Boo (daughter) Robinson, who are living in New Jersey with Gene serving as an Episcopal minister at Christ Church, Ridgewood, is they would like to buy the farm.

After much thought and careful planning, the deal was struck and the moving vans came northward.  With bunk beds for camp, all sorts of friends to carry the furniture from the second hand shops in NJ, and a head full of dreams, the Sign of the Dove Farm & Retreat Center officially opens its doors for Church groups and riding lessons.

1989 – Boo and her two best friends, Peggy Viglione & Skipper Skelly decide to begin Horse Power, a therapeutic riding program to serve the needs of people with emotional & learning challenges.

Incorporation took place with the following Founders:

The Rev. James Haddix

Jan Sanders

Marj Kittredge

Peg Viglione

Barbara Cochrane

Violet Hobbs

with

Mac & Boo McDaniel and Gene & Bella Martin looking on with great hopes for the future.

2001 – Boo and the Horse Power Board of Directors & Staff open the first class ever of The Horse Power Instructor Training School with one student…Ritu Esborn.

Original Faculty included:

Jody Albertini

Carrie Keesee

Nancy Cook

Terri Dickey

Susanna Haseman

Chris Korben

Kris Young

With lots of other guest speakers!!  It was a huge success as a pilot program & the decision was made to continue on!

2003 – Horse Power’s Instructor Training School receives NARHA’s nationally

APPROVED TRAINING COURSE Certification as one of three Therapeutic Horsemanship riding centers in the United States & the only school offering training in Equine Facilitated Mental Health & Learning.

2009 – Horse Power celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a large party of over 100 people in attendance.  The only original Founding Board Member in attendance was Barbara Cochrane, who received an award for her services as the Treasurer for a total of 12 years for Horse Power.

The Mission and History Walls were unveiled; the Star Ring was dedicated with the Veteran’s from the Victory Farm and Chris Nolte, Farm Manager, for their efforts building the new ring with wood from the Ice Storm of 2008; a slideshow to music created by Melissa Thompson was shown for the occasion; Student Demos were given and testimonials were given by many Horse Power well wishers.

Awards were given to Tali Parker as the Most Improved Horse Power Rider; to Sophie Shulman for Spirit of Pony Farm; Don Hart as Most Valuable Horse Power Volunteer for his dedication as Board President and head of the Horse Power Driving Program; Lorna Young for her exceptional instruction for challenged riders; and to Caroline Twining for her donation to Horse Power from her 13th birthday party.

Gene & Bella Martin and Marjorie Kittredge were applauded for their great efforts to get Horse Power started.  A Good Time was had by all!!