FARMERS READY THEIR FIELDS FOR SPRING PLANTING
(Photos by Henry Raymond)
One hundred and three years ago, my grandfather, who lived in Highgate Center, purchased a 360 acre farm on Fairfield Ridge. Three Hundred and Sixty acres seems like a lot of land. Well, those of you who might be familiar with Fairfield Ridge, know differently. Out of the 360 acres, there was, I would estimate, less than 75 acres of it tillable. The rest was rocks, ledge and forest land. In 1939, my dad purchased the farm from him. When I graduated from high school in 1951, my dad asked me if I wanted to farm with him.
I could see myself picking stones, tumbling hay, driving horses, spreading manure, digging potatoes, getting up at 4 a.m., as well as many other unforgettable visions that went through my head in just a matter of seconds. Needless to say, I declined immediately.
My dad sold the farm on November 1, 1952 and decided to try the good life. He along with my mother and younger sister, moved to Winooski to a second floor apartment and he went to work at the Tulatex Factory on Pine Street on the second shift. Needless to say, this was not his bag. In June of 1953, through a Real Estate Man in Colchester, he was made aware that there was a small farm for sale in Fairfax. It had 75 acres and would keep 10 to 12 cows. There were no cows or equipment, just a house, barn and a milk house with cooler. The price of $4500 didn't seem bad. It was a hot sticky day in Winooski and when we drove in the yard here on the Fletcher Road, there was a nice breeze with two large Tamarack Trees in the yard. There wasn't a stone in sight in the meadows, it was on a dirt road, but appeared to be a good road and it was only two miles from the village. Needless to say, in no time at all, we were moving in. I say we, because even though I had a job in Burlington at the time, I decided I would commute with my little 1931 chevy coupe from Fairfax. Thus my commute from Fairfax continued until July 31, 1992 when I retired.
Times have really changed. My dad had 8 cows, a Cub Tractor and equipment to go with it and the 8 cow farm was his paradise. It did however keep him busy full time, but he truly enjoyed it. Since that time, my wife and I have built a house on the farm, my oldest sister, now deceased put a trailer on a lot on the farm after her husband died and a few years ago, my youngest daughter put a doublewide in next door to me. The remaining farm land was sold the Bob and Linda Sweet who have kept it as farm land.
What truly amazes me it the speed with which they complete their tasks today. What took my dad weeks to do, they now do in two days.
Dad would have been hand loading his little manure spreader and spreading the manure with his little cub tractor for several weeks. Shown above, 1 days work and much more manure.
Again, a far cry from the little Cub Tractor - Oh by the way, the little Cub Tractor cost dad $797.00 - Try buying a riding lawn mower for that today.
Just to take you back to 1953, the Fletcher Road was only black topped for about a mile or so. After you passed Mill Hill, the first house on the road was the little white house on the left which was owned by descendants of the King Family. I believe at that time or soon after it was rented to Paul Gilbert. That house and a small barn that was there at the time, I purchased in 1959 for the sum of $1800. The next place up the road was the farm now owned by Claude & Chris Rainville. Prior to that it was owned by Joe & Cecille Rainville. Now Joe & Cecille bought the farm after we moved here. I believe the farm was owned by Laura Miner who was living in what is now the Koch house in the village. I seem to remember Ben Young living there as well as a Rooney Family prior to the time Joe & Cecille bought it. The next house up the road belonged to the Town of Fairfax and was part of the Town Water System, I believe. Sewell Russell lived there when we first moved here and strange as it might seem, even though the garden spot is probably the last place the snow melts on the Fletcher Road, he no doubt had the nicest garden I have ever seen. After his death, Bob and Olive Gates moved there. Sewell died in Waterbury in 1969. I believe the Town of Fairfax sold it to Ronnie & Bev Gates after the death of Bob and Olive. I have received information that Anson Rugg also lived there at one time as well as Lee Minor's grandfather or great grandfather. I will have to check with Lee the next time I see him. The next house up the road was the Donald & Mildred Badger place. There were no other houses until you got to where Jim & Jean Groseclose live. There was an old house there owned by Clem Billado who lived there with his family. Clem had a few mental problems and I remember the first time I picked him up and gave him a ride on the way to the village, he was talking to someone, not me, even though I was the only one in the car with him, and was quite upset with whoever he was talking to. Although kind of unkind of me, I was truly very happy to drop him off at his destination in the village.
I have received information from one of the recipients on my news group list that there used to be a small house located where the Fairfax Town Garage is now and a Civil War Veteran by the name of Gardner Gates lived there. This was before my time here in Fairfax and I have heard the name Gardy Gates, but never knew where he lived and found no record of him in the Fairfax Town Records.
The next place up the road at that time was where Donny Gross lives now. The house was much smaller at the time and I don't believe there was a garage. Bruce and Charlotte (Meunier) Miner lived there at the time. They both worked at Greer's House of Dry Cleaning on Williston Road in Burlington and used to ride to work with me each day. I was working on King Street in Burlington and we all worked the same hours. Monday through Friday and until noon on Saturday.
Next up the road, lived Shorty & Rita Lemoine, where Jim Swain lives now. Just beyond there lived Mrs. Ellsworth, Ralph Ellsworth's mother. The little house she lived in was torn down and Jim and Mary Jane Machia put up a double wide just a little east of the original location of the house.
Right on top of the knoll on the right stood the old brick one room school house, which of course had not been in use since the fall of 1904 when BFA opened. It was being used at the time I moved here by the town to store chloride and later on, I can't remember just when, it was torn down.
The next house on the left was a farm, which the first remembrance I have was owned by Wayne Ayers. The Wayne Ayers farm is often referred to as the Old Corrigan Place. Harland & Ola Tracy owned the next farm on the left and my dad's farm was on the right. We then get to the only farm on the road, still owned by its original owner, the Ralph Ellsworth place which is situated on the corner of the Fletcher & Comette Roads. Now Ralph Ellsworth told me once that just beyond his place on the left headed towards Fletcher, there used to be a brick house. I can't remember the name of of the people that owned it, but it was destroyed by fire.
The next original place left is the Tom & Becky Neopolitano place which was owned by Leroy and Sadie Wells in 1953, then where the Clokeys/Paquin place is it was Jim and Ruth Gabaree. Fred & Catherine Shaw lived in the next house now owned by Clint Paquin and Bill & Peg Cootware lived in the Old Stone House.
The only actual self sustaining dairy farm now located on the Fletcher Road is the Claude & Chris Rainville Farm. Clint Paquin does have a farm and cows up the road, but to the best of my knowledge does not ship any milk. What a change 50 years has made. You will find that farm land has either been converted to developments, businesses, or is rented by local farmers and the small family farm exists no longer.
Henry A. Raymond
May 9, 2003