Town Land, Waters, and History Are Linked
Do look up, down, and all around for town stories in plain sight
The East Haddam Land Trust and East Haddam Historical Society have collaborated on a series of mini-documentaries that draw the connections between land preservation and local history.
The "Saving Land, Saving History" project comprises three videos on local land preserves (Hammond Mill, Patrell, and Bernstein) and two more profiling the land trust and the historical society.. The videos feature interviews with local historians and conservationists, beautiful new drone and earthbound footage, and historical photo archives.
The North Moodus farm that Max and Issy Simon started in 1935 became one of the largest family-owned egg farms in the state. 55,000 Rhode Island Reds provided eggs that were distributed throughout the region to resorts, restaurants, grocery stores, and bakeries.
Family egg farms fell victim to corporate farming and industrial cage-plant operations starting in the 1960s. Max and Joyce Simon's Joymax Poultry was one of the last family-owned egg providers in the state. Buts its days were numbered. In 2000, spectators, friends, family, and several airplanes buzzing overhead all watched as the poultry farm's huge chicken coop came down in a blazing show of glory.
The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry was founded in 1867 as a way for farmers to improve their lives through better farming methods, to provide farm families with a place for social gatherings, and to lobby Congress and state legislatures on issues important to farmers.
East Haddam's farmers decided to join the burgeoning Grange movement in 1889, establishing East Haddam Grange No. 58, in a meeting at the old Town Hall. John Bigelow Gelston, who had recently returned from a job in New York City to the family's East Haddam farm to help his aging parents, was one of the organizing farmers who formed the local chapter.
Later elected Master of the chapter, he was the first Gelston to play a leadership role in the local Grange. His granddaughter Anita Ballek was the latest, elected in 1954 as the sixth family member to lead Grange #58 as Master. Her memoir describes how the local Grange served farm families and the community for decades, before disbanding in 1995.
Drone shot by Frank DiNardi