The History of Pumpkin Vine Family Farm in Somerville, Maine
One Farm, Six Generations
Since its inception, this has been a family farm. For six generations, it was passed from parent to child, drawing the family together through necessity and love.
Lydia Brown & Sebra Crooker
In 1808, when Sebra and Lydia Crooker made the trip via ox cart to their 500 acre land-grant, they brought with them their one year old son. With only the hand tools of pioneers, they carved a farm in the forest and raised the food, shelter and clothing necessary to provide for their growing family.
Julia Crooker & Ephraim Kennedy
1829 – 1891
When their daughter Julia married Ephraim Kennedy in 1829, the young couple built a home and barn on a parcel of her parents’ land. Like the first generation, Julia and Ephraim were homesteaders, focused on subsistence crops, but a town was slowly growing around them.
Calista Chadwick & Francis Kennedy
1860 – 1916
By the time their son Francis Kennedy joined the farm in 1860, better transportation had opened up market opportunities, and Ephraim and Francis worked together to clear land for a flock of dual-purpose sheep, bred for meat, wool, and hardiness. The growing textile industry increased the demand for wool, but after the Civil War, the fortunes of Maine’s farmers began to decline. Peaking in 1880 at 64,000, Maine’s farms then began a gradual decline.
Although Francis’ wife Calista died early, Francis was helped by his children, particularly his daughter Edith, who inherited the farm when her brother died.
Edith Kennedy & William Hewett
1892 – 1946
Poultry & Dairy
Returning to Somerville in 1895 with her husband William Hewett, Edith brought a determination and knowledge that was to stand them in good stead in the tough years ahead: by 1900 the town of Somerville had gone bankrupt. Luckily, William had persuaded Francis to get out out of the declining sheep industry and into poultry and dairy. Eggs and cream, as perishable products, had a more protected market from western competition, and the farm was to grow with increasing assistance from government research and development.
Jane Nutting & Lloyd Hewett
1918 – 1958
Like his father William, Lloyd Hewett was to see tough years on the farm, as he endured the Great Depression beside his wife Jane Nutting. However, the dairy continued to provide a steady income; not only did it support William’s farm, but the neighboring farm that Lloyd bought in 1915. Although they relied on credit, like the rest of the town, they survived, as a family and a farm, thanks in no small part to Jane (known as Jenny) and her famously amicable personality.
Shirley Brown & Don Hewett
1936 – 1986
However, the hard years were not forgotten. In 1939, when Lloyd and Jane’s son Don Hewett graduated from high school, he made two commitments: to stay on the farm, and never to buy on credit. Although he continued the dairy business much as his father had, Don was to see more technological changes than all the previous generations: in 1946, the farm was joined to the electrical grid, and in 1952 he bought his first tractor, a model B John Deere. In one generation he had seen farm power change forever. The young oxen he trained as boy were considered old-fashioned even then; by the 1960s, horses would be as well.
Luckily for Don – and the farm – he had Shirley at this side, and she had always wanted to farm. Although small farmers were becoming a dying breed, Don & Shirley continued to milk cows until the dairy buyout of 1986. Until the age of 86, Don continued to hay his fields, tending to the land his forefathers had so carefully developed. Sadly, on February 28, 2015, at the age of 92, Don Hewett passed away. We shall miss him terribly, and we shall tend the land more carefully in his remembrance.