Howell Farm is currently closed to the public, and all scheduled programs are canceled until further notice. Hiking, biking, or horseback riding through the farm, its lanes, or on Hunter Road is prohibited.
Because we are a working farm, essential full-time staff will remain on site to ensure that animals, grounds, and crops are cared for without interruption. Our horses, sheep, chickens, barn cat, and farm dog Lucy are all being fed and let in and out on their regular schedule.
Please check our website and Facebook page for updates and announcements, as well as mercercountyparks.org for information about other park closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Miller Family (1860-c1901)
Charles Miller owned the farm for at least 36 years, making few changes to the barn but perhaps adding the cupola and the tracks for handling loose hay. During his ownership the pond, ice house, and corn crib were built.
The period 1870-1890 was a time of agricultural depression and many farms deteriorated. In an oral history interview, Wilmer Hunter recounted that he had heard comments in his youth that Miller had mismanaged the farm. At one time he did not provide enough fodder for his horses for the winter. He eventually lost the farm in a Sheriff's sale in 1896 when he failed to make the payments on his mortgage. At the sale, the farm was purchased by Paul M. Tulane, of Trenton, whose family had held the mortgage since 1888. Tulane had no intention to live on the farm but purchased it in order to protect his investment. At this time the farm began a period of absentee ownership and occupation/operation by tenant farmers.
After the death of Charles, his son Benjamin became operator of the farm. Benjamin apparently had some mental difficulties and the farm may have declined during the three or four years he was responsible for it. Among other things, Benjamin ran afoul of the law for forgery and spent some time in jail in Trenton before being paroled.
The year before the farm was sold out of the family, a neighbor couple, Amos and Rachel Williamson, moved to the farm as caretakers. About 1901 the farm was purchased by blacksmith A.B. Coleman of Titusville as an investment.
While the farm appears to have been prosperous under Charles Miller in the mid-19th century, there seems little doubt that the farm deteriorated in the last years of the century and the opening years of the 20th century.
A.B. Coleman (c1901-1909)
Between 1896 and 1913 the farm went through several changes in ownership and tenant farming. Tenant farming often results in deterioration of farm structures and exhausting of the soil. While some tenants may hope to one day purchase the farm and treat it accordingly, most merely take what they can get from the farm and put little back, wearing out the land and allowing the buildings to deteriorate. However, it was during this time period that the cupola may have been added to the horse barn and the track for handling hay was put into the roof peak of the horse barn. The large hay-handling door was cut into the peak on the south end of the horse barn sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. The diagram above shows the Henry Phillips Barn as it appeared during the period interpreted by Howell Living History Farm.
The first tenant appears to be Charles Miller himself although he may have continued to own some or all of the land. He continued to live on the farm until his death in 1898. After the death of Charles his son, Benjamin, was apparently the tenant or owner. Benjamin had a number of problems, including landing in jail for forgery, and the farm deteriorated. In 1901, local brush maker Amos Williamson and his wife, Rachel, moved to the farm to take care of Benjamin and essentially be caretakers of the property. About this time the farm was purchased as an investment by Titusville blacksmith, A.B. Coleman.
In 1902 the tenant of Coleman was Alfred Rogers. In 1903 Rogers sold his farm equipment and moved his family west. However, they returned in about three months and may have resumed residence on the farm. In 1905 J. Hart Smith who had been living just above Harbourton became the tenant and worked the farm until 1908 when he left to be the supervising farmer at the county poor farm. Edwin Blackwell from Washington's Crossing then came to the farm as tenant and was followed by Wilson T. Leming in 1909.
Leming Family (1909-c1919)
In 1913 Wilson T. Leming family purchased the farm, having farmed the property as a tenant since 1909. This began a new phase of owner/occupant farming and the establishment of the farm as a dairy farm. Wilson Leming owned the farm until 1917 and his son, James, owned it until 1920. During this time prosperity returned to the area and owners began to rebuild farms. Sometimes old structures were torn down and new ones put up, but some older structures were rehabilitated instead. Charles Miller, and the subsequent tenants, apparently left the barn in good enough shape that its new owners decided to rehabilitate it and convert it to dairy operations. It was during this period that the over 200 foot deep well was built on the farm.