A new addition to the website this week is another installment of our “old is new series.” We recently scanned a copy of our spring 2005 newsletter, and posted it on our website. The principle article of that edition was a lengthy (epic is a good description) epistle by Charles Jurgensen about the passing of time and owners of a farm in Sergeantsville. It is long enough that we will have to post it in several different segments. It is interesting, especially for those who are looking for a descriptive way in which to tell a younger person what life was like on the farm.
Catalpa Farm —An Epic
By Charles Jurgensen
Story of a family, a farm, a country village and a catalpa tree each confronting life changes and the passing of time.
Part I: In the beginning:
Born in 1878 in Denmark, Christian Jurgensen emigrated to the United States in 1893 at the age of nineteen. His future wife, Maria Stahlgren, was born in Sweden in 1872 and came to America alone in the 1890’s. They met in Goshen, New York where Christian had purchased a farm and Maria was working as a cook for a wealthy family who had a summer home in Goshen. They were married at the home of Maria’s friend Edla Anderson in Brooklyn, NY in 1906. Between the year of their marriage and 1914 their four children were bom. To Christian and Maria Jurgensen, Midland Farm in Goshen,
New York, where they had been living, was not a suitable farm or location to put down their young family’s roots. Its northern location meant a shorter growing season for the crops they wished to plant. In addition, the school was a distance from the farm and there was a racetrack nearby.
Christian’s brother, Emanuel alerted him to a farm in Sergeantsville, New Jersey that was for sale. Christian subsequently visited his brother and decided to buy the farm which he would later name Catalpa after a tree that stood at the farm entrance. It was located in Delaware Township adjacent to
Kingwood where Emanual had settled his family and blacksmith shop. The year was 1913.
All aspects of Catalpa were ideal, particularly location, size, fertility and above all, the proximity of the farm to supporting facilities and services. Catalpa Farm was a level tract of tillable land totaling approximately sixty acres. There were four acres of mature woodland which provided the wood necessary for cooking and heating. Most of the acreage was divided into five fields of approximately ten acres each. An internal lane separated the east and west fields. The five fields permitted the rotation of crops-corn, wheat and oats. One field was in grass which produced hay. Another was pasture for the milk cows. To protect the fertility of the soil my father felt that crop rotation was necessary.
Corn, the principal crop for animal feed, was stored in corn cribs. Hay was stored in the hay loft in the main bam. The grain crops were stored on the second floor of the granary and straw in a building attached to the barn.
During the winter months we restocked the wood house which stood directly behind the farmhouse. When not in use, the farm machinery was kept in a two-story shed which connected the barn to the granary. The farm buildings had been placed to form a farm yard and a barnyard.
Water for the house and animals was carried in buckets from a thirty-foot deep well that was lined with fieldstone. The well had been placed half way between the barn and the house. Pumping was done by all members of the family until a pipe was laid and a one horsepower gasoline engine was installed in the pump house. In dry seasons water had to be hauled from the creamery spring for watering the animals.
The farm animals numbered eleven milk cows, one bull, three pigs raised from shoats, one hundred Rhode Island Red chickens, a team of handsome Pershing horses, a stray dog named Prince and the usual number of cats for control of the mice and rat population.
Milk was brought to the creamery in forty quart milk cans. All members of the family milked the cows twice daily, before and after school. We drank unpasteurized milk that was kept cool and fresh in the pump house.
Vegetables were raised in a garden, canned in quart jars and stored in the basement. Potatoes were kept in burlap sacks, also stored in the basement. After slaughtering, hams were put in brine barrels in the basement of the house until ready for smoking.
The farmhouse was a two-story clapboard building that had been constructed in two stages. The first stage was believed to have been build in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s and the second stage in the mid 1800’s. The style was typical for rural America. The two bedrooms which were located over the living
room were accessed by a closed staircase. A walk-in fireplace serviced both the living room and the lean-to kitchen that had been built on the east side of the house. No heat was available to the second floor bedrooms except that from a grill in the ceiling of the living room.
About 1850 the second section was built. It duplicated the first section with two bedrooms located over the living room. The second floor was accessed by the closed stairway in the original section of the house. The lean-to kitchen was located on the back of the house this time. The basement was of fieldstone. This arrangement had allowed for joint occupancy of the farmhouse over many years.
After a chimney fire damaged the original part of the large house, my father removed four feet of the living room’s east wall. He found the wall of the living room was insulated with a mix of wet clay and straw. This helped verify that the construction of the original part of the house dated back to the turn of the century or earlier. A new kitchen was constructed on the back of the house and a new fireplace was built on the addition to supply heat. The front porch was extended and new porches were added to the east and south sides of the house. The new construction resulted in a comfortable home for Christian and Maria and their four children.
Next installment, Part II: Village Services