The Peterson Farm
The following was written for the New Haven Register on April 20, 1980, by Israel Amitai; it was saved for many years, and recently it was sent to your Historian by George W. Coxeter. It is a fascinating firsthand account of one family’s life on a West Haven farm, and what life was like one hundred years ago. The Peterson Farm was located where the soccer fields are today, on Bull Hill Lane:
“Then (after WWI), I came home. My brother and I had this place now. I had saved a little money up, so I said, ‘Let’s go and buy a half dozen cows and start making milk.’ So we started in the cow business. My father was gone by then. My father had been used to going out plowing for the different ones and he peddled milk in New Haven for three cents a quart. He had six or seven cows here. He milked them and took the milk into town and sold it. He would peddle it with a horse and wagon.
“At times, Fred and I had twenty cows. We milked them and sold the milk to half a dozen farms, Wayside Farm and West Haven Creamery, and we ended up with a fellow from Milford. We never had partners, only my brother and I. A man from Milford, Harry Buchanan, used to come and pick up the milk. We just put it in the cans and he came and picked up the cans and took it down to Milford and peddled it. We started the cow business in those days and I am still at it. Of course, today just for my own use. Just one cow, Betsy. She is a wonder. She has been milking now for eight years and never had a calf. I bought her in 1972 and she has been milking for me right through going on nine years and she never had a calf. Now she is giving three quarts a day. She is a Jersey. She is just like a person. She knows every word I say to her.
“In about 1960 I wrapped up the business. We sold off the whole farm to the town of West Haven in 1968. The whole works. They want it for recreation or something. We had 70 or 80 acres we sold off and now 50 acres belong to West Haven. In order to give me a place to live they gave me life use of this place. I got two acres and two buildings. I have a deed for it. They can’t throw me out of here no matter what I do. The rest of the property they left me for life use.”
Today, the city of West Haven has made out of the Peterson land a community farm, where residents of the city can use small pieces of land, free of charge to grow some of their own produce. There is a nominal fee paid for the work Peterson is putting into the soil, and it is a functional, educational and recreational experience for the citizens of West Haven.
To be continued.