⥤⥤ The Turner Farm │Then and Now ⥢⥢
Words: Lydia Webster Brown
Images thanks to the North Haven Historical Society
The Turner Farm property, located at Fish Point on North Haven’s southern shore, bears a long history of human activity. From Native American settlements to a family farm for 200 years to several decades as a summer estate to the now renewed life as a working farm, the land holds many stories.
Fish Point’s earliest inhabitants were the Native American Red Paint people. Archeological digs in the 1970s revealed the earliest dated Native American settlement in Maine, with numerous tools dating back as far as 7,000 years. In addition, archeologists concluded Native Americans were living on the island year round, contrary to the common belief that they only summered in the Penobscot Bay region.
In October of 1784, Samuel and Mary Cushing Thomas came to North Haven from Marshfield, Massachusetts, settled at Fish Point, and began farming. For the 200 years following Samuel and Mary’s arrival, the farm passed through six generations of the Thomas family.
During the latter half of the 19th century, the farm was among the largest and most productive on the island. At the time of the 1850 Agricultural Census, James Thomas, grandson to Samuel and Mary, managed the farm with his wife Sarah and their ten children. According to the census, the farm encompassed 280 acres and the Thomas family kept 1 horse, 10 milk cows, 2 oxen, 18 other cattle, 80 sheep, and 3 swine. The census showed the Thomas farm produced 45 bushels of wheat, 80 bushels of corn, 50 bushels of barley, 150 bushels of potatoes, 8 bushels of peas and beans, 260 pounds of wool, 500 pounds of butter, 1200 pounds of cheese, and 55 tons of hay.
Among the things produced on the Thomas Farm in 1850, the census does not determine what was sent to market. One could speculate that with a large family and significant livestock, the majority of what was produced on the farm, stayed on the farm. Compared to the 71 other North Haven farms on the 1850 census, the Thomas farm was the largest in acreage and kept the greatest number of milk cows, beef cattle, and sheep. In addition, the farm reported the highest cheese production and the largest harvests of wheat, Indian corn, and hay on North Haven.
In 1860, James and Sarah Thomas’s daughter, Clara married Jewett Turner. The couple lived at Clara’s family farm and the property eventually became known as the Turner Farm.
In 1984, William Rice, the sixth generation owner of the farm, sold the property to George and Joyce Moss. Until that transaction, the land had remained in the Thomas and Turner families for 200 years. The Mosses maintained the property as a summer estate and then sold the Turner Farm to Donald Sussman in 2008. Since then, the property has been managed as a working farm.
Agricultural Census, 1850. Courtesy of the North Haven Historical Society.
Thomas and Turner family genealogical files at the North Haven Historical Society