Thanksgiving Day 1925

“After luncheon and a sip of applejack produced on the farm over fifty years ago, the host welcomed guests to the restored mansion house, recalled some of the historical incidents above set forth, and expressed the hope that in these venerable surroundings and antique fittings the guests might imagine the Mahlon Pitney of one hundred years ago returned to enjoy the warmth of the hot air furnace, listening over the radio to the score of the Army-Navy game, or strolling to the barn to watch the cows milked by electric driven machinery, dashing in his motor [car] over paved roads to the movies at Morristown or telephoning to the doctor for something to relieve his cough. He also hoped that all the guests in the years to come would feel at home in the ancestral mansion and enjoy the reminders of their forebears and their life here in years gone by. ”

-J.O.H. Pitney

The Mendham Aqueduct


Frederick V. Pitney (center), brother of JOH Pitney and Mahlon Pitney III, Aqueduct engineer

I recently heard the phrase “The Mendham Aqueduct.” Aqueducts make me think of Roman mega-structures.  If Mendham had one of those, I’ve certainly missed it.

Turns out, the Mendhams only gained a public water system and a reservoir when Henry Cooper Pitney — at various points, founder and President of the National Iron Bank, of Morris County Savings Bank, and Vice Chancellor of the Court of New Jersey  — donated the water rights and land in 1906 to build the “Mendham Aqueduct.”  Having its own source of water was one of the chief factors that allowed the creation of Mendham Borough, originally part of Mendham Township.

The gentleman in the center of the photo, the one in the tie and cap with a notebook, is Frederick V. Pitney, brother of J.O.H. and Mahlon Pitney III.  I am told he was an engineer and worked on many projects around Morris County.  Now I just have to take a hike and find out what’s still left of these first Mendham waterworks.

Buying Seeds in Winter

Pitney Farm Cutting Garden, oil on board by Tjelda vander Meijden

Pitney Farm Cutting Garden, oil on board by Tjelda vander Meijden


It snowed last night.  In the gray of early morning, I’m looking out the window at the white domes capping every bush, branch and fencepost. This is the time to go to the on-line seed catalog, its cover a riot of yellow, purple, red, orange and green.  An explosion of color to combat the insistent white and gray beyond my windowpane.  All I have to do is look at the pictures and already I am dreaming of the piercing tang of dill, the full flavor of the strangely-shaped heirloom tomatoes, the tantalizing acrid smell of the clown-wild marigolds, the sweet fragrance of roses,  the hard red balls of the radishes.  Shall we do watermelons this year?  Listada de Gandia eggplant?  When can I start turning over the good, brown earth?

How Farmers Measure Time


I was listening to a BBC podcast about cider orchards in Herefordshire and it set me thinking about how farmers measure time.  One of the farmers said he didn’t feel that he owned the farm, he saw himself as its steward for his children and grandchildren.  Rows of pear trees that he had just planted to commemorate the birth of 3 new grandsons would be bearing fruit for the next generation of the family and the generation after that.

Pitney Women: 1876

Pitney Women 1876

Pitney Women 1876

Lucetta Cooper Pitney was the daughter of Henry Cooper of Chester, NJ, and the wife of Mahlon Pitney II.  She lived on the farm until her husband’s death in 1863.  The farm was willed to her son, Henry Cooper Pitney.

Sarah Louisa Halsted Pitney was the wife of Henry Cooper Pitney.  They lived in Morristown where Henry had his law practice and visited the farm weekly to oversee the work of the resident farmers, the operation of the old cider mill on the premises, and the iron forge on Mendham Mountain.

Sarah Pitney Johnson was the daughter of Lucetta Cooper Pitney, sister of Henry Cooper Pitney, and mother of Lucetta Pitney Johnson.