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Farm History

It seems as though it is time to say a little something about Holly Hill Farm, the farm where my shop is and where I spent many summer days as a youth. My great great great grand parents, Thomas F. Richardson and Olivia Richardson nee Alger (daughter of Cyrus Alger who made his fortune in armaments during the war of 1812) purchased approximately 400 acres of land in Cohasset in 1844. They were the first of my ancestors to live in that town. They were both from old Yankee (New England NOT New York) families, maybe more about that another time. They used to own the town beach, and my grandfather would always point that out to me and the fact that we had the right to harvest kelp from the beach in perpetuity. Over the years the land has been whittled down to about 140 acres, 130 of which is woodlot and about 5 of which are currently under cultivation.
Many generations used the land as a vacation spot to get out of Boston in the summer. My grandfather, Richardson White, was the first to attempt to farm it himself. He picked a tough time and place to do so. Born in 1904, he graduated from Harvard with a duel major in Romance language and Fine Art. He was a sculptor and he specialized in equine sculpture. However as the horse found itself replaced by the auto, fewer people were interested in paying artists to sculpt or paint their prize steed. He had to find another way to make a living. He moved to the farm full time and began farming the family’s land and leasing land from neighbors to sell produce in Boston. In 1932 he married my grandmother, Cornelia White nee Hallowell and he tried to make it as a farmer. Of course, this was during the depression, every year was a struggle. In addition to farming he worked as a blacksmith, machinist (building his own tractors from surplus parts and those he manufactured himself), plowing streets in the winter, selling firewood, and even building lobster pots for the local lobstermen. During the war, he cleared land in Wompatuck State Park for an ammo dump. But following the war, what had been a difficult way to make a living became all but impossible with the advent of refrigerated trains and trucks which wiped out local farming. So, I grew up visiting a farm which was not a working farm. My grandfather would sculpt in the mornings and work in the woods or fields in the afternoons. It totally spoiled me for taking any sort of 9-5 job, and I haven’t ever really done that. When he passed away, the farm was passed down to my Uncle, Frank Hallowell White and he and his wife Jean White nee Miner took it over and turned it into the certified organic farm it is today.
Frank had always been involved in education and the farm now also serves as an educational facility where children and adults can learn about nature, the woods, the environment, and all aspects of organic farming. There is and educational coordinator who visits dozens of schools during the school year to help teachers plan curricula and to set up garden plots for the students to learn firsthand about the joys of dirt.
And now, when I arrive at the farm most weekdays in the summer, the barnyard is crowded with cars dropping off their campers, and when I come down on Saturdays there are cars of people arriving early to buy their fresh organic produce from the farmstand. It is wonderful. In the fall the farmstand is hopping until about Thanksgiving, and during the winter it quiets down a bit, but they still have workshops and demonstrations (sometimes even I have been know to run a demo or two). If you are ever in the neighborhood, stop by. If it’s a Saturday morning, I might even be able to show you around myself. I’d like that.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Abigail Yardley permalink
    September 8, 2013 8:18 pm

    Dear Malcolm,
    I met you many years ago when I was riding&caring for a horse at your grandfather’s farm back in the mid ’80s. My name was Abbie Barrett (red haired/tall&skinny). I rode Nanci Sweeney’s horse Rocky.
    My daughter and I visited the farm today and met Deanna who said you still come down and make furniture there. I decided to google you and found your great blog. It’s very interesting to read about your family’s history in Cohasset.
    I have such great memories of daily life at the farm. I was very fortunate your grandfather allowed me to ride there.
    Glad to hear you are doing well.
    Best wishes, Abbie Yardley

  2. Julie A OConnell permalink
    February 25, 2015 4:04 am

    Malcom,

    my name is Julie A OConnell and I am currently going through the “family archives” left to me by my recently deceased mother. In doing so I came across a cabinet card of a young lady with the name Olivia Alger Richardson 5 1/2 years old and the date 1872 written on the back of the card. The photo appears to be done by Warren/ Heald of 289 Washington Street, Boston. I did an internet query on the name Olivia Alger Richardson and it brought me to this page – I didn’t know if this young lady was a relative of yours or not, but the name does not appear to be too common. Please let me know your thoughts on the subject.

    Julie

    • February 25, 2015 7:03 pm

      It almost certainly is the same person. My great grandmother, Olivia Alger Richardson was born in Boston in 1866. I have quite a bit of information about her because her son was my grandfather, and my Grandfather’s sister, Ellen Phelps Cabot, wrote a self published biography which includes several pages on Olivia. If you have any particular questions, i’d be happy to do what i can to answer them. You can email me directly at:

      malcolmwhite@rcn.com

      If you have a scanner, i’d be interested in seeing the picture. Do you know how she is related to you?

      Good luck,
      malcolm

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