Way back in the early 1800's our ancestors traveled from New Hampshire in an oxen driven cart and settled in the Rochester area.
In 1843 our great, great, great Grandfather Bartlett purchased 110 acres from a gentleman who had purchased it from the Connecticut Land Company.Much of the land in this area was undeveloped, had first growth forests and was often frequented by Indians.
The Bartlett family built a log cabin when they first moved out here and lived in it while they were building the main house and barns. All the logs for the cabin and trees for lumber for the house and barns were harvested off the land.
In those days farming was a way of life. The family grew vegetables, raised cattle and chickens, planted apple orchards and produced maple syrup from the large grove of sugar maples on the back of the farm. Hence the farm was named Maple Grove Farm.
John Bartlett built the first sugar house on the property in 1846. It was a lean-to type of building with a hearth built of stones and pans imported from Vermont. After many years this sugarhouse burned down, which was often the fate of sugar houses in that era. However in the spring, when the snow is gone, you can still see remnants of the stone hearth and the barrel stays that survived the fire.
The second sugar house was built on the other side of the hill in the 1920’s.
It was operated by our great grandfather Lewis Bartlett and grandfather Chester Bartlett.
The trees were tapped and buckets were hung to collect the dripping sap. Each day the family would take the team of workhorses and a sleigh with huge barrels on it to the sugar bush. They would walk from tree to tree, often through knee-deep snow, and take each bucket and dump it into the barrels.
The team of horses and sleigh was then driven to the hill above the sugar house and the sap was poured down a wooden sluice that went to the holding tank above the evaporator.
The six weeks of sugar season was often a 24-hour a day process. The men pretty much lived at the sugar house this time of year, taking turns feeding the fire in the evaporator and sleeping in a bunk.
It was a celebrated time of year … the coming of spring. It was too early to begin farming, and most of the equipment and harness repairs had already been done… so the neighbors would come a visitin’.
It was a time of gathering with friends, and helping out at the sugarhouse. A time for sitting around the hearth and telling a story or two…
This picture was taken in 1942. Our grandparents Chester and Mildred Bartlett operated the sugar house then. In the photo the“little tyke with BB gun in hand” is our dad, Lee Bartlett when he was 7 years old. He is our “master sugar maker” now. Pictured with him are friends, Frank Smith and Joyce Smith-Blank of Clarendon. Later in the 1940’s Chester became ill and Lee was still too young to take over the sugaring operation.
So the sugaring stopped…
the sugar house became dormant, and deteriorated over the years to come…the remnants now lay idle in the woods as a tribute to years gone by.
In 1989, Jim and Debbie Bartlett-Day built a log cabin on the property south of the main house.A love of family history and of nature filled Debbie and Jim with a desire to make maple syrup…“The ancestors did it, so why can’t we?” So the couple tapped some trees and boiled the sap in a couple of small pans over a wood fire. It took about three 12-hour days to make one gallon of syrup…
Once Lee got a taste of the pure maple syrup the memories and stories of the “old days back in the sugar house “ came pouring out. It then became a family passion to make more syrup and to share with family and friends.
After a series of homemade evaporators, they decided to go for the gusto and build a new sugar house, buy a real evaporator, and Start an old family tradition all over again.
Now it’s your turn to “come a visitin’…”Come on back to the sugar house where We Make And Celebrate The“Sweet Magic of Mother Nature” pure maple syrup.