In a new series by Reporter Alissa Silber, The Newtown Bee is tracing the family trees of longtime residents and asking its current generation what makes the town such a special place to call home....Read Full Article
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From Newtown’s humble beginnings in 1705, its population has grown to nearly 29,000 residents, according to the 2016 census.
Many of those who have been born and raised here choose to remain in town and raise their families here as well.
In this series, The Newtown Bee is tracing longtime Newtown residents’ family trees and asking its current generation what makes the town such a special place to call home.
More than a century ago, Stephan Paproski and Justyna Stec emigrated to the United States from the Ukraine looking to get married and start their family.
Justyna worked as a housekeeper for the Clark family, who lived on West Street in Newtown, where she did a variety of household tasks like ironing and cooking, as well as tending to the home’s gardens, while her husband worked milking cows.
They were able to live in the caretaker house on the Clarks’ property and soon welcomed their sons, Sam on September 2, 1916 (who was born in one of the upper rooms of the main house), and Henry on August 25, 1919.
Justyna and Stephan worked diligently for more than a decade, saving money, and eventually were able to buy farmland in Newtown in 1927.
They started Castle Hill Farm that year, working as dairy farmers, and became the second largest supplier of dairy products in Fairfield County.
For 90-plus years, the farm has remained on its original property and has evolved to now specialize in agricultural tourism with its well-known pumpkin patch, corn maze, farm stand, and hayrides.
After being passed down the family line, Castle Hill Farm is now run by Justyna and Stephan’s grandson Steve Paproski, his wife Diana, and their daughters Shannon, 24, and Stephanie, 27.
It just so happens that Stephanie’s husband, Dan Kearns, 30, also comes from a long background of local farmers.
His great-grandparents, Florence and John E. Kearns, originally lived in Danbury and ran a farm on King Street on the border of Connecticut and into New York.
After looking at various locations throughout Newtown — which was predominantly farmland at the time — they wound up selling their Danbury property and moved with their family to Sandy Hook in 1936.
“They loved dairy, and they found a good spot to do dairy here,” Dan said.
Florence and John E. Kearns purchased property on Bennetts Bridge Road and Osborne Hill Road, from Charles Beardsley, and used it to create Kearns Farm.
During its dairy farming years, the family sold milk from its cows to residents of Newtown and surrounding towns, as well as to the local Hood Company.
According to Dan, many family members pitched in to help the farm throughout the years and in its most recent history his great-uncle Ed Kearns primarily ran the farm.
The Kearns Farm may not be an active dairy farm today, but the family continues to enjoy the property, using the fields for hay production.
Castle Hill Farm and Kearns Farm are not only two of the few remaining family-owned farms in Newtown, but they also now have a special connection to each other thanks to the marriage of Stephanie Paproski and Dan Kearns.
Having grown up in Newtown and been set up on a date by mutual friends, Stephanie and Dan agree that the farms may not have been what caused them to meet, but it had almost everything to do with them choosing to be together.
After meeting in high school, the couple was married at Castle Hill Farm on September 12, 2015. They welcomed their daughter Charlotte the following year.
Serendipitously, Charlotte is the fifth generation to live in Newtown on both her mom and dad’s family line.
Reasons To Stay
“I think the biggest factor is that everyone wants to preserve the farm and keep it going,” Steve, the Paproski patriarch, said.
The current Paproski and Kearns generations both agree that sharing the unique experience of having been part of a farm their whole lives has shaped their decision to stay local.
“I spent a lot of time at the Kearns Farm growing up, when they were milking cows,” Dan remembers fondly. “I caught the bus there in the morning and got dropped off there after school. I spent a lot of time there.”
Having been around his family’s farm, and now being involved at Castle Hill Farm, he explained that the lifestyle was a deciding factor in choosing to stay and raise his family in the town he grew up in.
“I think agriculture brought us here and kept us here,” Dan said.
Paproski sisters Shannon and Stephanie agree, saying they feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow up on a farm and hope to give their children the same upbringing.
Ultimately, the center of the farm itself is the family that comprises it. The fact that older generations have stayed local is a major component that has drawn the Paproski and Kearns current generation to remain in Newtown.
“I enjoy being with [my family],” Stephanie said, summing up her reasons for living in town. “I enjoy our farm and want to continue it and build upon what the generations before us have done.”
If your family has lived in Newtown for four or more generations and would like to be featured in this series, contact Alissa Silber at email@example.com or 203-426-3141.