Wolcott Historical Society News - April 2010
By Florence Goodman
This month's edition begins the first in a series of articles about the farms that were found throughout Wolcott over the last century. I hope that by writing these farm articles my readers might share some information that they have, such as old pictures and family history of these farms. My goal is to have a huge display showing locations, pictures, artifacts, and information about "The Old Farms of Wolcott" in the Historical Society's booth at this year's Lion's Fair.
Farming was a way of life for most of the early settlers of Wolcott, but it was not an easy task. All one has to do is look at the old stone walls that border so many properties around town and you quickly realize that those rocks were dug from the thin rocky soil in the process of tilling the land. This land was far from ideal for growing crops, thus many farmers raised cattle, dairy cows, chickens, ducks, and pigs mainly to feed their families. Those local farmers who tried growing crops to sell at farmers' markets found that their crops matured weeks later than those grown in Southington, Cheshire, and Meriden because of our higher elevations. Most of these farmers had full-time jobs in Waterbury or other surrounding towns; thus farm work was done at dawn and dusk by family members in addition to going to their regular jobs or attending school.
In 1868, our town was divided into six districts, each containing a one-room schoolhouse. These districts were the North East, North, West, South West, South, and the Wolcott Center districts. I will use these geographic districts to help locate the farms that I discuss each month. The original landowners may not be the same as the farmers I will mention, but they may be relatives of these 20th Century owners or just newcomers to our area.
I will begin with the North East District that bordered Bristol and Southington. On the 1868 map, some families living in this area were Beecher, Norton, Wiard, Pond, Smith, Atwood, and Bronson. The Rufus Norton Farm was located on the northern section of Beecher Road and Long Swamp Road. This farm was in existence for over 70 years. Rufus was killed in the 1930's by one of his bulls. His wife kept the farm going by working as a school bus driver.
Further down the road was the Edgar Norton Farm, but he was no relation to Rufus Norton. Edgar was a blueberry farmer, but he also had a motorized vehicle that he used to transport milk to several dairy farms in Waterbury, as well as to Homewood's Happy Hollow Farm, Harrison Farm, and Todd Farm in Wolcott. The Edgar Norton Farm consisted of over 100 acres of land.
At the end of Beecher Road, you came upon Pikiell Brothers Dairy Farm. Harry was born in 1908 and lived in Wolcott most of his life. He and several of his brothers ran the dairy farm as well as a well-drilling company. They kept about 50 to 60 head of milking cows on the farm. The farm consisted of about 320 acres of land. Harry was well known for his skill as a foxhunter. He raised hunting dogs and was a founding member of the Bristol Fish and Game Club.
In the mid 1970s, Rockwell Construction Company purchased the Pikiell farmland in the hopes of building a racetrack in town. Town residents voted down the racetrack proposal on January 12, 1974. The Company then tried to build condos on the property, but that was also voted down.
Colonial Bank foreclosed on the land and it was finally sold to the Bristol Fish and Game Club. They also purchased another 150 acres of land from Norton's farm. Today they have over 890 acres of land in Bristol, Southington, and Wolcott with about 600+ acres in Wolcott alone. All of their property is in a land trust and can never be used for anything but open space. Our town is fortunate to have this beautiful piece of property preserved for the future thanks to the members of the Bristol Fish and Game Club.
(Information for this article was taken from interviews with Allison and Jackie Pikiell, Clarence Atwood, Jim Stryker and a video of Dick Homewood from 2001.)
Our Schoolhouse Museum is open by appointment only during the winter months. Anyone interested in visiting the Museum, please call Loretta Leonard at 203-879-4310 or Flo Goodman 203-879-9818.
Milk bottles from the Pikiell Brothers dairy that was located on Beecher Road in Wolcott.
Fox hunters at the Bristol Fish and Game Club in 1958 (left to right: unknown, Ed Kraus, Harry Pikiell, Wayne (Lorenzo) Peck, unknown, Timmy Gromisheck).
The original Bristol Fish and Game Clubhouse was built in 1947. In 1965, they built the top section that you see in this picture.
The barn at Norton's farm.
To view past installments of the Wolcott Historical Society News, click here.