The Williamsons - Hillside Farm

This document is excerpted from an article written by Lois (McWhorter) Kilmer,
granddaughter of
Harvey & Georgiana, for the book Argyle, My Argyle
published by the Argyle Historical Society

(their permission to quote from the article is gratefully acknowledged)



Harvey Williamson was born in Argyle on June 9, 1862, the son of James and Jane E. (Black) Williamson.  His parents lived on a farm that had been previously owned  by Williamson families. After his mother and father's deaths, Harvey bought the 105-acre farm from the other heirs on March 12, 1890.  This was called "Hillside Farm" and rightly so!


On October 26, 1893, Harvey and Georgiana were married.  Georgiana was born July 13, 1878, the daughter of William (1850-1915)  and Mary Ann Powell (1855-1940)  Williamson.  William and Mary Ann married January 30, 1872 and had four children - Jennie E., Georgiana Powell, Harry Webster and Almon David.


Harvey and Georgiana had 12 children .  William James Williamson, the oldest living son, and his wife Rachel bought the farm from his mother, Georgiana on August 31, 1943 and lived there for over forty years with their five daughters before selling it on May 18, 1984 to a non-family couple.  This made five generations and 174 years that "Hillside farm" was in the Williamson family.


As well as operating the farm with his son's help, Harvey taught school. During the nice weather he rode his old fashioned bike with the big front wheel and the small back one to the school house at the head of Cossayuna Lake.  Many townfolks recall this same bike being ridden by his son, John C., in the Argyle Fourth of July parade and in late years Johnny's son, Ronnie rode it in the parade.


Back in the olden days, the Williamson farm was self-sufficient, having chickens for meat and eggs, cows for milk and beef and pigs for pork and garbage disposal.  From the pigs they would make their own sausage, fry out their own lard, make head cheese and smoke the bacon and hams.  Another type of meat they had was corned beef.   Chunks of fresh beef would be put in a large earthen-ware crock and covered with a brine and left to cure for many weeks in the cellar.


Their were several fields of fruit trees grown, including assorted kinds of apples, pears, plums and crabapples. .  They pressed their own cider and sold the surplus, and  raised and sold various berries.  Crops raised  were hay, corn, rye, oats, buckwheat and potatoes.  What was not used for the family was taken by horse drawn wagon to East Greenwich and shipped to Maine for seed potatoes.  The grains were taken to the grist mill to be ground into feed for the animals,  but some were ground fine for making breads at home.


Horse-drawn wagons carried the milk  that was not used for drinking, baking and butter, to the creamery where it was sold or made into cheese.  In the spring, maple trees were tapped and the sap was boiled down to make maple syrup, maple sugar and maple snow cream.


Although horses played a major role in the rural living, a seven passenger Overland car, one of the first in the area,  was owned by the Williamson's.  Later on this was replaced by a seven passenger Nash.  It was  said that it was quite a sight to see their car pull up to the West Hebron Church on Sundays and see their big family emerge. Saturday afternoons during the summer, the family would load into the car and go to Comstock Prison to see the weekly baseball games played by the inmates.  Of course, the car was not used during the winter but replaced by the old faithful teams of horses with cutters, sleighs or wagons.


The children walked to attend the Goose Island School, which was only three tenths of a mile down the road.  They would go home for lunch unless it was a very stormy day.


 In 1916,  an Edison electrical plant, one of the first in the area, was purchased for $500 and installed in the cellar to generate electricity for the house and the outside buildings.  A telephone was also installed. The phone cost $1.50 per month.  On the Argyle Assessment Roll, Harvey owned 160 acres which were valued at $3,700 and on January 11, 1917 he paid taxes of $50.08.


A familiar sound in the fall after the crops had been harvested and the potatoes and apples picked would be the chug-chug of the engine on the sawing machine used to cut the logs which had been hauled down from the hilside. They would be cut into stove length and stored in the woodshed for the cook stove and round stoves used to heat the large farm house. 


In the winter, ice was cut on Mud Lake and loaded onto horse drawn sleighs and placed in the ice house.  The ice was surrounded by sawdust to help insulate it and to keep the blocks from sticking together, and was used for the icebox in the kitchen and to keep the milk cans cool until they were taken to the creamery.


On the peak of the house there was a large iron bell which was rung to summon the men in from the fields for the midday meal. The only other time the bell was rung was for an emergency. The bell still hangs there.