Below is a complete history of the Martin Valley Farm from the 18th century, through 1976. We will complete the history soon. We sincerely appreciate Ms. Haskins of Winsted, CT for sending us pictures and a detailed history.
This is where Jeremiah Martin, the son of John and Hannah (Wheeler) Martin, and his wife Nancy (Brown) built the home that was occupied by four generations of the family. Without any doubt James Harper first occupied this land sometime before 1798. The Harper home, probably a cabin, was located on the hill east of the present farm buildings. In 1799, Harper sold to Benjamin Lufkin and when Lufkin moved to Roxbury , his son, John, became the owner. In April 1833 Jeremiah Martin became the owner of lot #99 and here the Martin home was established. In December 1836, lot #95:was purchased from Timothy Walker and a few years later the hill lots were added to this ever-growing farm, making it one of the finest and most productive in the region.
Before coming to this location, Jeremiah and Nancy had lived for a few years on Red Hill and it was here that the four sons of this couple were born. Susan, the firstborn, died when a year old. Next born, Jeremiah, died at the age of six. Jonathan and Nancy were the others. The land here was rocky and not as productive as the fertile valley land. Jeremiah knew that he must make the change, and that he did. His wisdom and tireless efforts as well as those of Nancy were to be enjoyed for three succeeding generations of the family.
Jonathan, the remaining son, married Frances, the daughter of Harvey and Mehitable (Martin) Willard, in April, 1850. They joined his parents in operating the family farm. Jonathan and Frances were the parents of two sons, Freelon and Jerry , and two daughters, Frances and Susan. Frances, the mother , died in 1863 leaving a young family. Thirteen years later, Jeremiah died at the age of 76. Jonathan, for his second marriage, took Josephine Stevens for his wife in 1864. Jonathan Martin was a very prominent man in political as well as civic affairs. He held many town offices, and was elected to the Maine State Legislature and Senate. He was prominent in Masonic affairs. Death came to him at an early age only two years after his father's death. Jerry, now 24, and Freelon, 21, took over the operation of the farm. Susan, the eldest of Jonathan and Frances' children had married Stillman Newel I in 1871. The family group was now made up of Jonathan's widow, his mother, sons Jerry and Freelon and daughter Frances, age 17. Nancy , Jonathan's unmarried sister, who died in 1884, was also there. Julia Willard, the sister of Jonathan's first wife, died in 1863, the same year that her sister died. She was 23 years of age and had lived with the family since her sister's marriage to Jonathan.
In 1879, Jerry married Annie A. Elliot, the daughter of John and Sarah Elliot. They had no children. In 1884, Freelon married Mary, the daughter of Nathan and Jennie (Hutchins) Knapp. They had one daughter, Susan, who never married. Frances married Warren Doolittle in 1887. For the remainder of their lives, Jerry and Freelon carried on the farm in the traditional manner. In 1884 a new, spacious and attractive home was constructed across the highway from the original dwelling. A few years later, under the supervision of Gardiner Roberts of Hanover, a new and larger barn was connected to the new house. Here on this land that their grandfather cleared, Jerry and Freelon and their wives worked long and hard. They departed somewhat from the traditional lines of farming. Raising seed corn for the canning companies was new to the region and they made a success of the idea. The farm, isolated from other tilled land was ideal for that purpose. For many years, they took in summer boarders, a popular enterprise at the time. They constructed a fish pond on the property where trout were propagated. In the cider mill that was first operated by grandfather Jeremiah when the apple trees that the first settlers started bearing fruit, these two brothers toiled many hours a day during the "cider season". Cider, for many years, was a popular beverage and when cured into vinegar was much in demand for preserving foods. For nearly a century this mill produced thousands of barrels of cider. The new home of the family had been built with a huge basement that could be entered from the yard where wood which was used for fuel to heat the home could be stored. Also, racks were built where many barrels of cider could be converted into vinegar.
Custom pressing of apples was a large trade. The farmers brought their fruit to the mill and gave the owners half of the finished product for a fee. The cider mill was unique. The grinding mechanism, all made of wood, was powered by a single horse traveling in a circle pulling a cantilever. The ground apple (pumice) dropped into a leak-proof bin and was shoveled into a wooden press where huge screws, turned by hand, squeezed the layers of pumice separated by layers of oat straw, resulting in a clear stream of cider flowing into an oak stave barrel. In the 1930's the mill ceased to operate and later was torn down. No trace of it remains.
At one time, Jerry and Freelon raised turkeys. A copy of the 1887 Oxford County Democrat reveals that in that year the two brothers raised 100 of the birds. Not only were these men successful farmers, they assumed much more than their share of civic responsibilities. Jerry was a Selectmen for a while, and Freelon was Town Treasurer from 1890 to 1922, a span of 32 years. No other person every held a Rumford town office that long. Freelon's daughter, Susan, was elected to the School Board for a three year term in 1921. The family attended the Universalist church at Rumford Point, where the family was instrumental in its founding many years prior.
The first break in the family circle came when Annie died in 1922. In 1930, Freelon's wife Mary passed away. Jerry died in 1937, and Freelon in 1941. During the years of failing health of Jerry and Freelon, Cathering (Harrington) Mooney and her husband Wilfred, together with their two daughters Sheila and Colleen, became members of the household. Catherine was a registered nurse, and her services to the family were much appreciated following the death of Freelon.
Susan and the Mooney family became fast friends, remaining together until after the deaths of both Wilfred and Catherine. Susan resided with Sheila and her husband, Jack Haskins, first in West Upton, Massachusetts, then Southwick, Massachusetts. [The family then moved to Gorham, New Hampshire, and finally Winsted, Connecticut before her death at age 87 in 1981. ed].
During the declining years of Jerry and Freelon, the farming operations decreased accordingly. After Freelon's death, the property was sold to Martin and Addie (Vail) Colby, who moved there from Upton. Mr. Colby operated a dairy farm on the property for a while and harvested timber from the hillside, sawing it into lumber on the property with the help of Lester Farrington of Andover.
In 1956, the property that is located on the westerly side of the road was sold to a Bukovecas family. They did little farming, as the working members of the family were employed in the paper mills in Rumford.
In 1964, Martin and Addie Colby erected a :'new home on land that was located next to the building where the Martin brothers dried seed corn for many years.
In the 1970's, the Bukovekas family sold the farmland and buildings to a real estate broker, who in turn sold it to Steven and Marjorie Moore who moved to the property from Connecticut. Mr. Moore was an architect and conducts business from his home.
Three generations of the Martin family tilled the land and prospered here on this farm that Jeremiah and Nancy carved from the primeval forest. They were proud people. The home was always well preserved, and the fields almost groomed to perfection. Their lives were typical of the times, now a thing of the past. It was a passing way of life that they lived, like many others. The trout pond has now passed into oblivion, the pasture land has reforested itself to its original state, and the once fertile cropland has become fallow. Fortunately, the present owners of the sturdy and well-preserved residence recognize the importance of preserving the efforts of the generations that preceded them on this cherished land.
History Compiled by Stuart Martin, 1976.
We are working hard to recreate a gentleman's farm experience on this
beautiful piece of property.