18,000 Gallons of Milk

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    • #1932

      I was doing some research on a related topic today and stumbled across a surprising number in the “Agricultural Schedule” of the 1870 census.  The Van Cortlandt Farm boasted annual production of 18,000 gallons of milk!  It also listed 135 pounds of wool, 275 tons of hay, 150 bushels of rye, 800 bushels of “Indian Corn” but no wheat.  48 milk cows were listed in addition to 23 “other cattle.”

      Augustus Van Cortlandt is listed on the census as a “farmer,” but I wonder how much farming he actually did.  The Van Cortlandt household does not list any farmhands.   Just after the Van Cortlandt household’s listing in the census is the listing for Joel Conklin, who is described as a farmer.  And after that household, there is a listing for John Van Tassel, who is described as the “Foreman on farm.”  So, it appears there were a couple of families working today’s park grounds for the Van Cortlandts.

      Much of the labor seems to have been supplied by immigrants (place of birth is the last column):

      All of the servants in the Van Cortlandt House were also immigrants–all Irish:

      The census noted that none of the above servants ever attended school and only one could read.  Given the place of birth for most of these people, perhaps it is not surprising that the schedule also listed annual produce of 400 bushels of “Irish potatoes.”

      Another thing I found surprising.  The agricultural schedule also lists 22 milk cows and 2500 bushels of “Irish potatoes” grown at Mount Saint Vincent Academy.


    • #1933

      The Historic House Trust of New York City produced a “Cultural Landscape Survey” of Van Cortlandt Park in 2003 and included this image:

      I’ll have to see if I can find a better copy and if anyone can explain the perspective of the photo.  It is worth noting that Van Cortlandt wasn’t the only large farm in the area at that time.  Just to the north of today’s Van Cortlandt Park was Boss Tweed’s “Valley Farm,” which stretched along Tibbetts Brook from Highland Ave (today’s McLean Ave) to beyond Yonkers Ave.  The NYPL has a map of that one.

    • #1934

      Thanks, Nick. Good to know that my Irish kinsmen were growing their potatoes along with all those crops — and had plenty of milk. And I had no idea that Boss Tweed had a farm up there — including what is now Tibbetts Brook Park, I gather.

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