Farming in North Amherst passed through many cycles in the 19th century from mixed grain and livestock in the early years, to tobacco cultivation, then the more reliable broom corn, then sheep and other livestock. Dairy farming became the dominant type of local agriculture in the 20th century.
The farmhouse around 1870
It seems that the present house at 1089 North Pleasant St. in North Amherst, MA was erected by the widower Zaccheus Crocker Ingram (1781-1858) around the time of his marriage to the widow Annice Wait Smith in September 1833. Ingram was the son of John and Susannah Ingram and had previously been married to Sarah Hastings in October 1806.
In 1858 Zaccheus Ingram died. The majority of the farm passed to his son William Ingram (1817-1878) who had married Betsey Sanford Parker (1839-1906) in October 1839. One–third of the farm went from the estate of Zaccheus Ingram to William’s older brother Robert, but was repurchased by William.
After William Ingram died in August 1878, ownership of the farm passed to his widow Betsey S. Ingram and their daughter Harriet Lucretia Ingram Guertin. Harriet Ingram (1841-1902) had married David Guertin in November 1860. David Guertin was a local butcher and meat dealer who died in 1885. Harriet was a professional nurse and also cared for her mother who lived with them at the farm. Harriet continued to operate the farm and the meat dealership with the help of her son Albert I. Guertin.
In March 1899 Betsey Ingram and Harriet Guertin sold the forty-acre farm in North Amherst to Nellie Graves Cowles Dickinson (1866-1931). Nellie had married Edwin Harris Dickinson (1868-1928) in March 1892. Edwin (son of Charles R. Dickinson and Aidelia Harris) was a graduate of the Mass. Agricultural College in Amherst (Class of 1888) and quickly assumed the operation of the farm. Most of the interior improvements that are evident in the house were likely made under the ownership of Nellie and Edwin Dickinson from 1899 to 1931. The 1930 census listed two separate houses and households: that of Nellie G.S. Guertin and that of her son and daughter-in-law, Edwin H. Dickinson Jr. and Lydia S. (Nickerson) Dickinson.
In September 1932, the estate of Nellie G.C. Dickinson sold the “westerly portion of the home farm” (amounting to 35.3 acres) to Chester and Rose A. (Wysocki) Dziekanowski. Chester Dziekonowski was born in Amherst about 1899 and was a dairy farmer. His wife Rose Wysocki (1903-1968) was also an Amherst native. The Dziekanowskis developed the farm into a successful commercial dairy adding a new milking room and barn to the property. The asbestos cement siding on the exterior of the house was added during the Dziekanowski ownership, probably c. 1960.
By the dawn of the 21st century, the sole member of the family remaining on the land was Edwin, and the task of managing the property became too much for him.
In 2005, the Dziekanowski heirs sold the property to North Amherst Community Farm for perpetual preservation as farmland. A portion of the land is leased to Simple Gifts Farm which operates an agricultural training program for young farmers and houses student farmers and apprentices in the old farmhouse.
In June, the North Amherst Community Farm will celebrate the memory of Edwin Dziekanowski with a permanent plaque. Edwin’s family made it possible to create this community farm by accepting an offer to purchase the farm for far less than offers they had received from parties interested in turning the farm into a housing sub-division.
We believe the farmhouse at 1089 North Pleasant St. is the oldest farmhouse in Amherst that has remained in active farming since it was built.
The story continues in Part II. For more on farming history in North Amherst, see: History.