Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Historic family farms

In a recent article about the sale of the oldest continuously-operated family-owned farm in the U.S. being put up for sale, there was mention of a competing claim (the oldest family-owned business in North America) by a plantation. Let's compare histories:

Tuttle Family Farm, Dover, New Hampshire, est. 1635

John Tuttle's ship from England wrecked off the Maine coast, so he used a small land grant from King Charles I to start a farm nearby in 1632. The farm was passed down from father to son, with the 6th-generation represented by Joseph Tuttle (1st image). William Penn Tuttle (9th generation), increased the original 20-acre parcel to about 200 acres, and began a thriving wholesale business. Hugh Tuttle (10th generation), who was profiled in 1971 by Life magazine (5th image, hauling produce to his roadside store, known as Tuttle's Red Barn) as the last of a dying breed, developed irrigation ponds. Current owners, Will Tuttle (2nd image) and his sister Lucy, have run the farm for the last 40 years after changing its business model, but have discouraged their children from becoming the 12th generation because of the difficulty - physical and financial - of keeping the family farm in business. Will Tuttle says he has no regrets about the end of a legacy. "I'm not a museum curator, I'm a farmer."

Shirley Plantation, Charles City, Virginia, est. 1613
Shirley Plantation was also established through a grant from the Crown, only 6 years after the establishment of Jamestown, the 1st permanent English settlement in the American colonies. It was in 1638 that the family succession began when a 450-acre portion of the land was granted to Edward Hill. It passed from him to Edward Hill II, then III, then IV, who left no heirs. The plantation reverted to Eward Hill III's youngest daughter, whose husband John Carter built the "Great House" (3rd image, as it appeared after the Civil War, and 4th image, as it looks today). The house has been occupied by 8 generations of the Hill Carter family since 1738, and the working plantation is currently owned, operated, and lived in by direct descendants of Edward Hill I. Shirley Plantation was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971 and is open for tours.

It seems like a tie that will end with the transfer of the $3.35 million Tuttle property to new owners...

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