This month I'd like to continue my recollections of Topsmead employees. We got to know the farm employees well as each summer we lived in a house that was built in 1934 for Dad and was connected to the 3-car garage. Since my mother's death in 2001, the house has been used as the office for Topsmead State Forest.
After purchasing the Buell farm in 1927, Miss Chase always had a farm manager who lived across the driveway from us in the white Buell Farmhouse. You are probably familiar with it because it sits directly across from the parking lot we all use today.
The first farm manager was Wade Grant who worked from 1928 to 1931. He was followed by Paul Schnierer who managed the farm from 1931 to 1951. His wife, Emma, oversaw the dairy and managed the books for the farm. During this time, the maid and cook occupied the front section of the farmhouse in two rooms on the first and second floors, separated from the rest of the house. This is the section facing what we now call Chase Road. They used the front door to access their rooms. Paul and Emma Schinerer occupied the rest of the farmhouse and used the door facing the driveway to access their living quarters.
The Schinerer's were followed by George Taft, his wife Lois, and their 5 children. This is when the Buell cottage, which had been rented to the Abrahamson family since 1941, became the maid's cottage as the Taft family needed the entire farmhouse for their use. In 1955 Bernard Stairs became the next and last farm manager until Miss Edith's death. His family included his wife Norma and their 5 children. Mr. Stairs also became the first manager of Topsmead State Forest.
The farm could never be left unattended. All the workers received every other Sunday off so that there was always someone at the farm to handle the chores such as milking the cows and feeding the animals. Early on there were two men whose main job was to care for the horses: Thomas Ketchem in 1928 and Paul Gay from 1931 to 1946.
Some of the workers who I knew the longest included Decimo Simoncelli (1925-1965) who maintained the main house gardens and landscaping. Alec Derouin originally started in 1920 as a butler for the family at 42 Church St., then in 1934, became the full-time gardener at Underhill until his death in 1966. My father told me about George Wilson who was hired by the family in 1917, and then became Miss Edith's first chauffeur, handyman, and gardener at Topsmead when it was only a cabin before the main house was built. He served in that role until his death in 1927.
There were many more employees who kept Topsmead functioning throughout the years. Unlike the Topsmead we know today, Topsmead in Miss Edith's time was filled with people and personalities that made my summers richer and more interesting.
11/4/2022 09:59:20 pm
What fun to learn about the staffing of the farm and understand where they all lived.
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These conversations were conducted between Bob Orintas and Jenny Riggs.