Once famous for fine cheeses and excellent Percheron horses, the Charles G. Leach farm on Leach Road, Town of Ellington, is today an example of pioneer farming in the midst of a fast-changing farm economy.
Mr. Leach, now 76 and retired, has been limited by failing health to care for a cow and a few chickens. However, he remembers riding a $500 horse home from Meadville, Pa., to the farm established by his grandfather 112 years ago.
In 1828, three brothers, descendants of Lawrence and Elizabeth leach, early English setters, came to the Town of Ellington and purchased 412 acres from the Holland Land Company. John had 106 acres on his plot, and Amos and James each had 100.
Their brother, Joseph, was allotted the remaining 106 acres, the same land which comprises the farm owned by his grandson. He had 20 acres of his land at the south end cleared by cutting and burning before his arrival in 1829.
He traveled by one-horse wagon from Cedar Lake, where he had been born. He and his wife brought a few household goods and the old family clock in the wagon, drawing by an old, and probably grey mare.
Joseph built a two-room log house on the cleared land, and shortly after built a 34 by 44 foot barn east of the house. After the birth of their three children, Joseph, Aaron and Alma, in the log house. In 1839 he started building the present Leach farm home.
Through three maple trees, planted by Joseph, the house overlooks a panorama of natural beauty. The house was built with lumber from the farm, and the windows and doors were all made by hand. The doors are of two-inch pine planks, with locks which lock to the right and most of the windows still have the original glass.
Shortly after the house was built, the barn was moved 90 rods closer to it. Trees were cut and peeled, then forced into a frame placed under the barn. Long poles were used for the tongue, and 44 yoke of oxen, lent by neighbors, furnished the motive power to move the barn.
In 1864, an addition enlarged the barn to 34 by 88 feet, and during the period a carriage and tool barn was built. For this, they cut one huge pine tree and sawed it into four 12-foot lengths. One length provided 22,000 shaved shingles for the roof, and the other three were sawed at Ellington into lumber for the barn. The original roof is still used though Mr. Leach says it leaks a little.
During this, the heyday of the farm, 300 trees were tapped to make 200 pounds of maple sugar and 30 gallons syrup, for family use and for sale. Mrs. Joseph Leach made Linen cloth for the family clothes and household linens.
Joseph lived to the age of 80. His son, Aaron, married and had two children, Charles and Hester, all living on the farm for a period. After Joseph's death, Aaron added a larger dairy and continued sugaring.
Aaron's wife, who before her marriage had been a cheese maker in the eastern part of the state for the New York market, decided to start a small cheese factory, and an addition was added to the south part of the house for this purpose.
She made several types of cheeses, curing them for a year, and retailed all in excess of the family's needs. Her products gained a reputation as the finest quality available in the area.
Aaron began buying Percheron horses, strong draft animals originating in Perche, France. For several years he bred and traded in these horses, and some were valued at as much as $1,000. He and Charles once made a purchasing trip to Meadville, and Charles rode home on an animal worth $500.
The main crop o this farm was oats, used for feeding the horses, though other grains and vegetables were grown for the family's own use.
After Aaron's death, Charles and his sister, Hester, remained to operate the farm, enlarging the dairy and shipping milk for about five years. After Hester's death in 1931, Charles Leach began raising sheep and young stock for sale, in addition to operation of a small dairy, some butter making and poultry.
In 1939, his health failed, and he was forced to retire from active work. In 1949 and 1950 the last two horses, which had been raised and used on the farm for 20 years, died.
The old log house was town down several years ago, and the farms originally purchased by the founder's brothers have been sold out of the family. The 106-acre farm, which has in its history raised flax, oats in large quantity and other crops, appears today much as it always has.
Cultivation has been done by oxen and horses, and there are no modern equipment or conservation practices. The house has all modern conveniences, although little as been done to change its outward appearance.