Century Farms

  10 MARCH 1951

Neate Farm

Other types of businesses often grow from a farm, but one case of a farm growing as a sideline to another business is the Neate family farm, near Levant on the Gerry Road.

According to Mrs. Sigurd Johnson, the former Ruby Neate, her grandfather, Reuben Neate, at the age of 26, came to this section in the fall of 1837 from Vermont, probably on horseback.

He purchased the first section of the farm, a three-acre plot on the bank of Cassadaga Creek at Levant, from Samuel A. Brown in 1845.  Here he opened his famous brickyard which supplied hand-molded bricks for many of the Jamestown area's early buildings.

The farm which later became the family's mode of living, had its small beginnings there, where Mrs. Neate kept a few cattle, chickens and a garden to board workers at the brickyard.  The farm was expanded as Mr. Neate bought and cleared 89 acres along the creek, purchased in 1857, and 101 acres of timber land across the present Levant-Gerry Road in 1866.

The original house was located across the road and to the west of the present house.  The old house and barns were constructed with wood pegs, instead of nails.

During those early days, Indians traveling up Cassadage Creek used to camp in the woods on what is now the Neate farm.  Mrs.  Neate, the former Lucy Hall, worked as a maid for the Prendergast family, founders of Jamestown, and remembered leading their cow across what is now the business section of Main Street.

 In 1867, the present house on the farm was started, and completed the following year.  Built of brick made in the family brickyard, it has three stories, 30 rooms, and has a mansard -type roof on which the original slate has been replaced by shingles.

The house cost $12,000 at that day's low prices.  It was rumored that the third floor was added at the insistence of the workers, faced with a job shortage, who convinced Mr. Neate that the building looked squat in its original form.

The last job for the brickyard was in 1881, when it made the brick for the old Sherman House, on the site of the present Hotel Governor Fenton.  After that, machine-made brick forced the closing of the yard, and the Neate family settled down as full-time farmers.

Ruben Neate's son, Menzo Neate, was born in 1863 and married Feb. 16, 1883.  After his father's death Fe. 20, 1902, he bought out the share of his two sisters, and continued to operate the farm.  Always devoted to dairying, the farm kept up to 33 head of cattle.

Solomon Willett, husband of the late Carrie Neate Willett, began to operate the farm in 1937.  Menzo Neate died Dec. 31, 1941, and in 1945 the farm, with rooms int he house, was rented to Floyd Burt, who has been operating the farm with his son, Robert.  They have kept herds of up to 40 mixed cattle on the farm.

Mrs. Willett, who followed in her father's footsteps by serving several years as supervisor for the Town of Ellicott, died June 18 last year.  The Burt family now is leaving the farm, which all livestock and machinery being sold today.

At present disposition of the farm is in the hands of two surviving sisters.  Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Sarah Halliday, 514 Weeks Street; and a sister-in-law, Mrs. Nathan M. Neate.  No decision has been reached as to the future of the century old farm, according to Mrs. Johnson.