The Humphreys Farmhouse

Our main farmhouse was originally built in the early 19th century, probably around 1820-’30, with a kitchen and woodshed wing added later. Richard (Rich) Humphreys bought the 65-acre property in 1934 from the West family, who had named the place Valley View Farm because of its spectacular vista of mountains and lowlands.

Rich had recently attended Yale Drama School, and had looked in southern Vermont for a peaceful and beautiful place at which to write plays.  To make ends meet,  he began to buy livestock at auction and ran a small farm with the help of a hired man.

In January 1937,  Richard married Mildred S. (Millie to her family and friends), whom he’d met at Yale. Millie, an actress and director, had earned her Master’s degree in acting and had decided to take a couple years to pursue her theatrical career in New York before marrying Rich.

Kathryn Humphreys, the first of three daughters, was born in the farmhouse.  Judith and Mary Prudence came along later. The three sisters did farm chores from an early age, including feeding livestock before walking a mile to school every morning.

Like many in Vermont,  Humphreys Farm was primarily a dairy operation. It is estimated that in the 1940s-’50s cows outnumbered people in the state. (No surprise, as Vermont has the second lowest population of any state in the country.)  By the mid-’50s, the Humphreys had 15 “milkers,” eight to ten heifers, and a bull. There were also three horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, and barn cats. For a while Millie sold eggs and bred dogs, raising several litters of Collies and later Golden Retrievers. From the beginning, Millie and Rich  tapped out the maples in their woodlot to make maple syrup, which they sold by mail order. They raised their own vegetables and, with farmer neighbors, butchered meat. All three youngsters helped with the farm chores. Subsistence farming was a hard, but healthy, lifestyle.

In 1955 the Humphreys decided to sell their livestock. They had been farming for more than 20 years and, with the kids starting to leave for college, it was time to stop. Millie began teaching Latin and math, and Rich returned to writing. The two spent the rest of their lives at the farmhouse, with Millie passing away in 1989, Rich in 1993. They are survived by their three daughters– who manage Humphreys Farmhouse– four grand-children, and several great-grandchildren. One grandchild, Jessica Weitz, moved to southern Vermont in 2001 and maintains a small farm of chickens, goats, cats, rabbits, a dog, and a large garden. The whole family continues to travel from near and far to see each other, work, and have fun at the farm. We all cherish our “family treasure” and hope others will come visit and enjoy it too.

Londonderry, Vermont: A Brief History

Around 1650, there was a large emigration from Argleshire, western Scotland, to Londonderry, Northern Ireland. These Scottish Protestants suffered in the siege of Londonderry, Ireland, in 1688, by England’s James II. Disliking subjugation to the Church of England and rent laws, in 1718 large numbers of Scots-Irish emigrants sailed to America and settled in Londonderry, Windham, and Manchester, New Hampshire, bringing these names from across the Atlantic. In 1769 their descendants, led by Colonel James Rogers–of King George III’s colonial militia–from Londonderry, N. H., settled the territory of what is now Londonderry and South Londonderry, Vermont.

The town, which lies in the northwest corner of Windham County, was granted by New York to Col. Rogers in February 1770, under the name of Kent. In 1778, because of his Tory principles, the colonel’s property was confiscated. On April 10, 1780, the Vermont legislature chartered the confiscated land to three settlers and changed the name of the territory from Kent to Londonderry.

By the early 19th century, Londonderry and South Londonderry were two separate towns. Londonderry was a prosperous village in the northern part of the town along the West River–with a church, hotel, machine shop, saw and grist-mill, a tin shop, two general stores, some 40 dwellings and good schools. Though the town was heavily forested and very hilly, there was a lot of arable land. Inevitably, sheep and dairy farming became prime occupations.

In 1880 Londonderry and its larger sister village had a population of 1,154, but by 1940 it had shrunk to only 859. Only six years earlier, Richard Humphreys, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his wife, Mildred Starkweather, from Providence, Rhode Island, bought their dairy farm, midway up Hell’s Peak Road, from the West family, who, like many, were driven out of farming by the Great Depression.

Other farms have been bought up by out-of-staters (“flat-landers”) over the years, and now Londonderry is a thriving area that serves four ski areas and has many new service-related businesses. There are only a few farms left, and their owners have begun producing artisanal breads, cheeses and meats, as well as maple syrup and other “Vermont-made” products so popular now on the national market. Londonderry’s population has steadily grown over the past decades because of new job opportunities and the area’s scenic beauty and healthy lifestyle.

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