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A Connection To History: Silo At Botsford Farm Celebrates 100th Birthday

Published: September 3, 2017

Standing tall on the old Botsford family farm property at 26 Mt Nebo Road is a silo that dates back to the early 1900s. The silo, which has withstood hurricanes, as well as numerous harsh winters — and hit a milestone, turning 100 this year — is also a symbol of significant change in farming and life in general here in Newtown.

“The farm down there was innovative and was an important part of agriculture in Newtown. It documents, essentially, the farming techniques of the early 20th Century. At that point silos were becoming an important part of farming in this area,” Town Historian Dan Cruson said from his office at Edmond Town Hall.

Newtown’s farming history has culminated with dairy farming, Mr Cruson noted, and the Botsford farm silo played a key role in the success of dairy farming, which was necessitated by increased use of trains for travel. “That was part of the conversion to the dairy farm,” Mr Cruson said of the silo.

Chuck Botsford, 82, whose family owned the farm for about two centuries, said the silo was used predominately for storage of corn silage, which is grown to feed cattle and other ruminants.

Railroad tracks had the most profound impact on the farming community here, Mr Cruson said. The turn of the century brought with it increased use of railroads, opening up the opportunity to transport grains from the Midwest, and also creating a way to get milk to markets on a regular basis, Mr Cruson explained. Newtown’s landscape was too rocky and field space too small to allow farmers to succeed in production of and sales of grains, Cruson added.

“You just couldn’t compete with the large, massive fields developed in the Midwest,” Mr Cruson said. “Dairy farming was the one area where you could raise sufficient money to keep going.”

In 1939, the Botsford family sold the farm to Harold Mack, who named the property Windover Farm.
Mr Botsford was 4 years old at the time the family sold the farm, but the family stayed in town. He and his father, also named Chuck, rented their old property and operated it as a dairy farm for about ten years, beginning in the early 1950s.

“My dad always liked farming, so we went back over there,” said Mr Botsford, adding that he had taken some agriculture courses in school and also had an interest in farming. He went on to work for the town and continues to live in Newtown to this day.

Mr Botsford said his dad told him at the time the farm was sold in 1939 that it was in the Botsford family dating back 200 years. He added that the silo that stands today is the only silo that has been at the farm.

A Different Silo

Most silos were built from wood, Mr Cruson said, but the Botsford family farm silo is a bit different.

“This one is unusual in that it was made out of tile,” Mr Cruson explained.

Mr Botsford said his dad, 22 years old at the time, transported the heavy materials, including tiles, from the train station via horse and buggy, to build the structure.

“It’s beautiful and it’s wonderful. It’s really quite rare to have a tile silo in this part of the country,” said Clare Harrison who, along with her husband, Peter, purchased the property in 2014 and decided to keep the Windover Farm name. They are the second family removed from the Botsfords to live there, she said.

The farm underwent significant renovation, including the addition of a dairy barn, by Mr Mack, Ms Harrison said. The farm was later taken over by relatives of the Macks, the Graham family, before the Harrisons moved in. After the early 1960s, it was no longer used as a dairy farm, according to Robin Graham, Ms Harrison said.

The Harrisons are enjoying the tile silo, and they have had a lot to do with preserving this landmark and link to history. The silo was in some disrepair at the time the Harrisons purchased the property, and it had racheted nylon bands supporting the bulging base, Ms Harrison said. They liked the silo so much, the couple researched how to have it repaired. They received an estimate of roughly $100,000 to tear it down but, in addition to that being a hefty chunk of change, they really wanted to keep it standing. The couple ultimately hired Franklin Silo Repair from Denver, Penn., run by Ephraim Renno, which restored it during the summer of 2015. Part of the process included replacing the nylon bands with steel hoops and securing the lower portion of the structure with spray concrete, Ms Harrison said.

The silo stands close to a barn on the property with some unique features of its own. Ms Harrison said she is impressed with the ingenuity of the farmer who built the barn into a hill and outcrop of rock, and made the most of the uneven landscape such that the barn has four levels, all of which may be entered from the ground.

This may no longer be a working farm, but the structures, including the century-old silo, serve as a reminder of what once was.

“It’s of no use to us whatsoever, except that we think it’s beautiful and it’s special,” Ms Harrison said.

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