cloud ship

cloud ship
a raft of sun tipped clouds sailed by

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eliot Farmers Union

Like the Agway franchise, Farmers Unions popped up all over Maine, perhaps much of New England. There's still the Paris, Maine Farmers Union and for a time in the 1930s, the ell of our place was the site of the Eliot Farmers Union...a store to sell goods of all kinds from area farms, including the apples and wool from the Staples family who lived in the house and operated the EFU.
It is not hard to imagine that the EFU did a brisk business as Route 236 back then was a railway and depot located on the other side of the field. We have receipts showing that EFU actually took delivery of goods for the railroad. Perhaps when the train sat at the depot, the engineer or conductor was met by one of the Staples with an order of hot food and goods.
In honor of that time, we call this place Union Farm.
The industrious and successful John and Rose Staples lived here, where they ran a huge dairy farm, a quite productive apple orchard, raised sheep and therefore sold wool and lamb. Four children were born in the upstairs bedroom we now occupy. The three Staples cousins who sold us the farm bequeathed many old photos of their family pile, including a fading sepia one of John Staples standing next to two gargantuan oxen he raised from birth. Another depicts a flock of sheep lazing under a copse of densely leafed apple trees. We even have a photo of the house and barn with the Staples family standing in the driveway -- John and Rose, two daughters and two sons (who would build their own houses across the street) -- with a sheep dog and horse. At the edge of the photo is the edge of a second barn, long gone.
All of the doors in this house, with the exception of a formal, never used front door facing Depot Road, face the driveway. One of the Staples cousins remember this side of the house was called the Door Yard. All doors led to the barn and work. In the basement the vestige of a summer hearth crumbles, a testament to all day cooking, no matter the season, that kept the farm functioning.
The attic is partially walled indicating a bunk house at one time, much needed to accommodate the apple harvesters. There are three staircases inside our home, and like the front door, the best staircase, rising from the foyer just off the formal front door, is in pristine condition. The Staples, even in their advanced years, preferred to use the much narrower staircases from the kitchen to master bedroom (better for Rose to pop down the steps at dawn to start breakfast for family and farm hands) and the one from the front parlor to a back bedroom. An ingenious Yankee blueprint emphasizing efficiency that also preserved the fancier bits at the front of the house.
A front porch was added to the driveway side of the house in the 1940s. It's sagging, the screens need replacing but still no better place to perch and gaze over the fields in their various incarnations, from sodden bog, to the brightest, dandelion dotted green before the first cut, to a respendent hay field, then down to stubble before the snow falls.
We recently learned from a neighbor's book about the town, that the original residents of this house -- Sylvester and Clementine Bartlett -- created a diversified portfolio of businesses from this address. It is they who began the orchards. With his brother, Sylvester also operated a meat business and enjoyed much success in shipping. The Bartlett clan owned property all over the area, stemming from the lands surrounding the original garrison atop Rosemary Hill. They were prosperous, they were cunning in reaping the wealth of the valley beneath the Hill.

1 comment:

  1. No FB connection?.....I can only imagine that with an orchard there was some historic brewing done on the farm at one time!