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The Bullard Farm Orchard and Cider Mill

by Martha DeWolf
April 6, 2013

Henry Bullard noted in his journal on May 17th 1848 that a building was raised on the farm in Holliston.  He did not specify what the building was for, but on May 30th, 1848, three days later, Henry noted that he “moved cider mill & c.”   

 

Horsepower; from the Ames Plow Company Catalog. The Ames Company had factories in Worcester and Ayer, Massachusetts; the company had stores in Boston's Quincy Market Hall as well as in New York City.

As was his habit when writing in his diary, Henry does not indicate where the cider mill was moved from or where it was moved to but it is almost certain that the mill was moved into the “new building” that had been raised on May 17th. 
 
The cider mill is the portion of the machine that grinds the apples into a pulp; the press is the part that extracts the juice from the resulting pulp. The grinder that Henry Bullard moved into the mill building in 1848 was an expensive new model and the screws for the press were made of steel.  The wooden press itself was likely moved from the original cider mill building belonging to Henry’s grandfather, also named Henry (#2) (1749-1821).  The old wooden screw which remains at the farm today could, theoretically, be the screw from that late 18th century press, although the actual age of the press or the screw cannot be determined without scientific analysis of the wood.

Henry Bullard’s great-grandfather, also named Henry (#1) (1723-1799), had worked the first Bullard cider mill on the farm.  During his lifetime (the eighteenth century), he most likely capitalized on the large market for cider and apple brandy, then common libations. His son - again named Henry (#2) also made cider for sale on the farm but by 1825, when Titus Bullard ran the farm, the Temperance crusade had dampened the market for cider quite a bit.  In addition, the winter of 1833-34, had been extremely severe and had killed or badly damaged many New England orchards. It appears that instead, Titus made more of his income with his skill as a blacksmith and with his wood lathe; although as a younger man he probably learned to make cider with his own father, Henry (#2).
 
Titus’ son Henry (#3) had purchased and read a copy of Andrew J. Downing’s The Fruit and Fruit Trees of America which was published in 1845, in which Mr. Downing pointed out the advantages of growing fruit for uses other than cider.  Henry took Mr. Downing’s advice and invested in new varieties of apple and other fruit trees with which he replanted and expanded the orchard.

Until the 20th century in New England, apples were fall fruits, readily available only from September to December.  A few varieties matured early, the so-called “summer apples”.  These began maturing in late July.  They did not keep well in storage and did not respond well to shipping.  They were used for immediate consumption on the farm, providing a welcome variation in diet.  “Sweet Bough”, “Early Harvest”, “Summer Sweet”, and “Summer Rambo” were some of the more widely spread varieties in the early part of the nineteenth century.  Many of the summer apples matured yellow rather than red and most had what would now be considered, poor shape.

After WWII, with the introduction of planes carrying cargo throughout the world, fruits grown in the southern hemisphere became readily available, so apples from Chile, New Zealand and Australia have become available in the northern hemisphere’s spring and summer.  Almost all modern commercial apples have been selected, or bred, for a standard apple shape and color as well as to withstand long periods of refrigeration and transport.

In the nineteenth century and earlier, orchards growing fruit with which to make cider consisted mainly of seed-grown trees with fruit of variable size, shape, coloration, ripening time and flavor.  Most farms, however, had a small number of trees, propagated by grafting, that bore fruit selected for culinary qualities, or varieties for eating out of hand.
 
Henry’s primary source of income from the orchards was fruit for the table, for cooking and for winter storage.   The fruit from Henry’s orchard was sold largely in Boston, Holliston and Medway although Henry sold goods wherever he could find a market.  During the 1840’s he anticipated the market advantages that the railroad would bring and expanded his orchard accordingly.  It is also apparent from the revival of the Bullard Cider Mill that Henry had canvassed the neighborhood and satisfied himself there was enough demand for cider to justify putting up a new mill on the farm.  He ground fruit from a variety of outside sources (mostly his neighbors) as well as from select trees in his own orchard.

Without refrigeration or pasteurization, cider quickly becomes mildly intoxicating and when clarified, becomes quite definitely alcoholic.  However, cider vinegar and clarified or refined cider were often prescribed by one’s family physician as an invigorating tonic.  
The Bullard's were known locally for both the cider press and the ice they cut from beyond the farm, below the bridge/dam on the Bogastow Brook and stored year-round next to the cider house, under the carriage house in the ice cellar.  It was layered and packed with sawdust to keep it well insulated against the summer heat. Family tradition has identified a small, spring fed pond on the property as the location of the “ice pond” but ice was almost certainly cut, as Henry describes in his diary, from the pond below the bridge on the original road around the farm, where there was a dam below the bridge over Bogastow Brook.  The ice pond identified as such in the 20th and early 21st century, is much too small to provide the amount of ice that was needed on the farm, not only for keeping cider cool but for preserving food, and particularly for keeping milk and butter cool in the dairy room.

The mechanism that Henry bought to drive the grinder was a large treadle called a Horsepower, and it became an essential piece of farm machinery.   The Horsepower drove the saw mill and lathe as well as the threshing machine and the apple grinder in the cider mill building.  Although the cider press itself was man-powered, the grinder was horse-powered.  Overhead, in the cellar of the cider mill, were wooden drums which, when connected with leather belts to the Horsepower, drove the fruit grinder.  The same design would be adapted later, in other places, to steam power but the grinder that Henry used was always animal powered.
   
During the 1850’s, the Bullard family began to prosper.  The railroad had come to Holliston in 1840 and Henry had not only invested his own money in local railroad stock but invested his mother’s money as well.  He had also anticipated the market advantages the railroad would bring and had expanded his orchard.  Prior to the coming of the railroad in order to sell his produce in the city, it had taken Henry six hours by wagon (in good weather) to reach Quincy Market, twenty-five miles away.  He often left Holliston the night before, in order to reach the market in Boston early in the morning.  
Before the railroad came to Holliston, during harvest time he had seldom taken more than two loads of farm produce a week to the market in Boston.  By the end of the decade, the ease of transporting his produce by railroad from the center of town allowed Henry to conveniently sell his fruit at Quincy Market in Boston every day, if he had the merchandise.    
© Copyright 2013 Martha L. DeWolf

 

Posted in Local Lore, Neighborhood.

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