The Bert Sears farm on Wall Street, Stedman, 115 years in the Brightman family, has developed into the the county's top turkey farm, from a project started as a sideline 25 years ago.
The farm's first major interest was lumbering, and traces of this industry are still in evidence. A sawmill was bilt on the 111 1/2-acre plot purchased from the Holland Land Company by George A. Brightman, who came here from North Brookfield, Madison County. This first purchase was recorded Dec. 29, 1838.
The interests of the Holland Land Company were bought by three men: John Duer, Morris Robinson and William H. Seward. They went bankrupt in 1838, and at the bankruptcy sale Brightman bought another plot believed to be about 112 acres.
Mr. Brightman was 22 when he arrived here, and he probably brought his wife with him. He built the sawmill a few hundred feet north of the present house, and hauled the lumber by ox team to Barcelona for shipment.
The dam for the first millpond was taken out by the Sears' two weeks ago. However, the mill was moved across the road after a flood one year, and this second dam is still in evidence.
The first house, a log cabin near the site of the present house, burned with the loss of all of Mr. Brightman's tools. Shortly after, about 113 years ago, the main part of the present house was built. In 1886, a side wing was removed, and an extension was added to the rear of the house.
Mrs. Sears remembers a story about Mrs. George Brightman, her grandmother, who carried a 50-pount tub of butter out of the cellar one day when a skunk got into the basement and threatened the family's butter supply.
Of George Brightman's nine children, three were boys: John Y. Brightman, who became a prominent farmer in the Mayville area; ed, the only one old enough to serve in the Civil War; and Otis Brightman, father of Mrs. Bert Sears, who bought the farm from his family in 1875, when he was 23.
Otis is credited with starting a dairy, although general farming had been done before that time. He kept Durham cattle, with his herd numbering about 20 animals at one time. He built several buildings, including part of the present dairy barn. The date, 1879, is marked in the stone of the foundation.
The horse barn and other small building built by Otis Brightman have been taken down, Mrs. Sears says.
Otis had three children with Mrs. Sears, the former Maude Brightman, the only one surviving today. In 1904 she married Bert Sears, of Sherman, and they moved to Wattsburg, Pa., where he worked in a creamery for about 10 years.
They returned in 1920, and Mr. Sears purchased the farm from the surviving Brighmans shortly afterward.
About 25 years ago, Bert Sears bought 10 turkeys for one of this sons, Robert, who was then about 10 years old. The turkey business stayed, and each year they increased the size of their flocks.
They now keep 600 layers, and this year they sold 9,000 eggs for breeding, and 8,000 day-old poults to other breeders. Turkey experts have stated that their White Hollands, carefully selected by Robert each year, have attained a quality matching the best in the country, and they have even sold breeding stock to foreign countries.
This year, they have kept 5,000 turkeys for the fall market, and each year they freeze 14,000 pounds of turkeys for the summer hotel and restaurant trade.
The dairy on the farm has continued, however, under the direction of A. Morelle Sears, Robert's brother. He keeps 40 head of registered and grade Holsteins, and one of the two grandsons has bought two Hereford calves.
The farm now includes 192 acres, including 60 in a woodlot.
An excellent example of a century farm which has increased its success through the years, the Sears farm still bears traces of the activity of its founders. Its trademark, a stone hitching post bearing the date, 1859, is preserved as a reminder of George Brightman, pioneer.