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Source: January 1991 Volume 29 Number 1, Pages 25–33

Letters from the Farm Manager of Chesterbrook Farm

R. A. Colgan [edited by Bob Goshorn]

Page 25

During his absences from Chesterbrook Farm Captain E. B. Cassatt kept a close watch on what was happening at the farm through correspondence with his farm manager, R. A. Colgan.

In early 1913 Captain Cassatt spent almost two months at a place called The Hill, in Augusta, Georgia. Here are excerpts from Mr. Colgan's letters to him during this time.

Their contents range from observations on the weather to personnel matters to the condition of the stock to racing plans to planting schedules to theories of genetics - and reflect not only the day-to-day operations of the farm, but also Captain Cassatt's involvement in its management.

February 1st 1913

Dear Captain,

I beg to apologize for neglecting to mail you [the] statement with Longacre & Ewing Check. I enclose statement herewith with this check included. Little Wonder arrived at Berwyn this morning. He does not look well and I have sent for Dr. Bartholomew to come and see him this afternoon.

Yours truly,

Page 26

February 5, 1913

Dear Captain,

I enclose herewith your insurance policies with check attached for your signature, payment in full for all policies. The first policy is due the 15th; the last on the 27th, only twelve days difference and I presumed it would suit your convenience to pay with one check instead of making out checks and mailing to you as they become due. Envelope enclosed for mailing direct to V. F. Bourse, Cashier.

I also enclose a letter from Tommy received from his father; also letters from Mr. Daingerfield and Colonel Holding in response to my inquiry in regard to any liability you may be to in regard to Tommy. The answers speak for themselves. You understand that the contract is already on file. Am applying for both Tommy's and Mr. Healy's license this p.m.

Have just returned from a trip to Wayne. Had been notified that one of the milk wagon horses had been taken sick on the road and taken in Dr. Leinhardt's stable. Found him suffering from an attack of Azotemia. I left him resting easily with chances for his recovery in his favor. This is the large horse, Babe.

Little Wonder has improved since I wrote you. He got badly chilled on the car and was threatened with pneumonia.

We had a slight snow night before last and it is now considerably colder and I trust will remain cold long enough to enable us to fill the ice house.

We are now top dressing the wheat in the Brood Stable field as the ground is hard enough to do so without injury.

Yours truly,

February 7th, 1913

Dear Captain,

After sending you [the] list of bull calves for sale [requested by Capt. Cassatt by telegram on February 5th], I read over the carbon copy and found it full of errors. I am therefore mailing you another list which I trust you will find satisfactory.

I am also mailing you extended pedigree of Barney Hyacinth.

In regards to Theodore Murdoch, I engaged him, intending to speak to you about it, but neglected to do so; he will be 15 years of age on the 15th. of this month, and well able to do the light work he has to do.

When I engaged him I agreed to pay him $25.00 per month, and increase it to $30.00 if he proved satisfactory. So far I have been very much pleased with him, in fact I think he is keeping the chicken house cleaner than it was kept last year.

The Incubators have been in operation since the 24th of January, it was necessary to have extra help before starting them as they had to be all thoroughly cleaned and fumigated before using them. The chickens also had to be arranged in their winter quarters, and the ones we had for sale separated from the breeding stock. I presume you understand that the boy boards himself.

Page 27

The Babe is somewhat better. He is still at Dr. Leinhardt's, and it may be some little time before he is able to walk home. ...

February 10, 1913

Dear Captain,

I enclose herewith statements showing how the different fields were used last year and my suggestions as to the crops to be put in for this year. [His suggestions were to plant hay in the Mill Field, Orchard Field, 70 Acre Field, and Truck Patch; wheat in the Barn Floor Field and Brood Stable Field, corn in the Timothy Field, Inside Track Field, and 40 Acre Field; and have the Blacksmith Shop Field, Dairy Field, Railroad Field, Track Field, and all meadows in pasture.] As you know I have always been in favor of getting at least two crops of corn off these fields before sowing to small grain. I consider this to be the best course to pursue, especially with fields that have been so long in sod as the fields in question. Besides being more profitable I take into consideration the fact that you have more opportunity for cultivation thereby helping to get rid of weeds.

The enclosed statements show the estimated cost of producing a crop of corn, crop of oats and a crop of spring rye from the 40 acre Field, and the estimated revenue from same. Of the three crops I have a decided preference for the corn for the reasons stated above; my second choice would be oats. I would not take it for granted that because the crop was attacked by smut last year that each succeeding crop would be affected also.

As to the feeding of the oats I beg to advise that your orders in this respect are being carried out; also in regard to the corn fodder. We have or should have according to the books 1138 bus. of oats now on hand and I shall write Washington as per your instructions to ask their advice as to feeding them to the pigs, although they have been fed from time to time to the young pigs and to sows that were suckling pigs and produced no ill effects. I think these oats would be excellent to feed the young lambs in the spring, or to the sows with lamb, thereby having the lambs ready for market at an earlier date. In this connection I beg to call your attention to the fact that both the farm horses and horses in the stud stable were fed these oats and in larger quantities than to the race horses and so far produced no ill effects. I would like your permission to send a few bushels of the oats to the mill and have all the dust and dirt blown out and then send a sample to the Department of Agriculture at Harrisburg and ask their opinion of them.

I am asking Dr. McCully his opinion in regard to the disease given in the Circular received from Washington and the disease with which the race horses were attacked.

We are having real winter weather now, the thermometer ranging between 10 and 20; the ground is frozen and covered with a thin coating of snow and ice.

Stock all doing well.

Yours truly,

Page 28

February 14, 1913

Dear Captain,

Your letter of the 11th to hand this a.m.

I note what you say in regard to the cost of keeping the non-producers in the dairy and had been doing some calculating on the same lines myself but had not charged the non-producers with the actual operations of the milk route; that is, with the drivers' wages and board and expense of team but of course what you take off of the cost of the non-producers you put on the producers.

Beginning the 1st of March I intend to take stock of the feed on hand in the dairy and have the statements more accurate. We have been in the habit of letting what was on hand at the end of the month off set what was on hand at the 1st of the month. While this may be nearly correct it does not give you the exact cost and I wish to make up a statement next month showing what it costs to deliver a quart of milk in Wayne.

I note your instructions in regard to selling the bull calves at Norristown, the first regular sale day after February 22nd and will be on Friday, the 28th, and I shall make arrangements for that day. [ In his letter Capt. Cassatt had written, "There appears to be absolutely no demand for young bull calves at our prices so I have decided to sell the mat any price. Please therefore arrange to sell at auction at Norristown, absolutely without reserve, the following: Barney Hyacinth, Tom Rilma, Bob Butterscotch, Jerry Hyacinth, Scotch Whiskey, Liar, Nellie Hyacinth. The young bulls can be advertised in the local papers as you may see fit, but sell Nellie Hyacinth without a pedigree. Have the sale on Walker's first regular sale day after February 22nd. This should give you plenty of time for advertising."]

I also note your instructions in regard to selling Nellie Hyacinth and will sell her with the bulls.

I do not think it is the price asked for the bull calves that prevents their sale. Anyone really wishing to buy any of these calves would not hesitate at the price asked, there simply seems to be no demand for them. I presume other people have been the same as we have, all their calves coming bulls, the market has been glutted.

I also note your remark about the pigs. [Capt. Cassatt had suggested "selling the hogs at 180 lbs".] They will not average this yet. Will weigh a batch next week and advise as to their weight.

Yours truly,

February 23, 1913

Dear Captain,

Bonitas foaled a chestnut colt on the 21st --a big fine looking fellow, white face, both hind ankles white.

This foal looks to me to be the making of a race horse. Your orders are to breed the mare to Bergerac, [but] if you are not fully determined to do this I beg to suggest that she be bred back to Aeronaut, [In a letter dated February 27, Capt. Cassatt replied, "I wired you to-day to stick to the original plan of breeding her [Bonitas] to Bergerac.

Page 29

She is such a bad individual & her breeding is so poor as to make it improbable that she will ever throw a good race-horse. We can always do something with a half percheron half thoroughbred animal & a poor thoroughbred is hard to even give away."]

Daisy Butterscotch dropped a heifer calf on the 22nd.

I have ordered the new milk wagon from Mr. Watson. It is to be finished on or before April 1st, is to cost $200.00 and to be like the one we have.

I bought two horses at Norristown on Friday for $267.50.

I also beg to report that I have ordered the deep tilling machines. They are to be delivered in about 10 days.

I beg to ask your approval of putting on another farm hand in place of Man Famous, who will be working at fencing with Hayworth from now on; in fact he has done little or no farm work since last fall. We have a great deal to do and this is going to be a problem to get it done in time with our little force -- burning the out hedge is as big a job as cutting it. [Capt. Cassatt replied, "I am not willing to approve an extra hand until I know what fencing is to be done. We have only fifteen acres of grain to put in instead of sixty & we might be able to do this very quickly. Beside, I understand that each deep tiller takes four horses so that when you plough you can use only two men for the two machines & the extra man of the extra pair on each machine can be doing something else."]

We should get the barley in as early as possible and I want to get the corn for the silo planted earlier than we did last year so that it will mature earlier. I suppose we will fill the silo out of the 40 Acre field.

I would like to put lime on these fields but I beg to ask you particularly to allow me to put some on the inside of the track. [The request was approved.]

I think the brood mares should have some oats now, they are a better milk producer than corn. [This was approved for the thoroughbred mares only, with the instructions "Give them 3/4 oats 1/4 corn, also give 1/2 oats 1/2 corn to such of my carriage horses as will be for duty on April 1st".]

A great many of our little Leghorn Chicks that are being hatched show a great number of black feathers. I cannot account for this unless some of the Leghorn hens have flown over to the game roosters or got in with Mrs. Whalen's or Mr. Healy's. I have arranged to move the Orpingtons to John Robb's and I think the order should be given prohibiting anyone on the farm from keeping chickens. This may seem to be harsh but it appears to be the only way to handle the matter and guarantee the baby chicks to be pure. [Capt. Cassatt did not agree. "I do not wish," he wrote in his letter of February 27, "to forbid the people to have chickens if they are penned up. My recent studies in Biology teach me that the spots on the white chicks can not come from a union of leghorn & common rooster. This should produce chicks some of which are white & some of the color of the rooster, but it will not produce the spotty kind. These spots come most probably from some very remote ancestor of the leghorns which as you know has not always been a fine white chicken. To prove this & to make an interesting experiment I want you to buy at once three thoroughbred black Minorca cocks. Before the arrival of these cocks select three of the white leghorn hens & put them in a place where they cannot be fertilized by anything.

Page 30

Then put each black cock into a pen with one white hen & save the eggs for a setting. The cock should be with the hen only one day in two. In buying the roosters try to get stock that is known to have pure black fathers & mothers & grandparents. The resulting chickens should be of pure color, all black."]

The stock are all well.

Heatherbroom cut her knee some time ago, I presume by falling on the frozen ground. It is about well now but the near front leg is swollen from the ankle to the knee, otherwise she seems all right.

Yours truly,

March 1st 1913

Dear Captain,

Your letter of the 27th. to hand this a.m.

I note your instructions in regard to Bonitas, your non-approval of another farm hand, your approval of putting lime on the in-side of the track, your instructions to purchase three black Minorca cocks, and the breeding of [them] to three Leghorn hens. I also note your instructions in regard to telegraphing you the first day Mr. Healy gets on the track. As to your approval of feeding oats to the thoroughbred mares, I presume it is your intention for me to purchase oats for this purpose. A 500 pound lawn roller will cost $23.00, and the price runs up to $35.00 for a 1000 pound one, you can buy lawn boots ready made for $7.00 up. I understand these reedy made boots do not wear well. Gallagher charges $11.00 a set for making them to order. ...Mr. Thomson has paid for the skim milk he purchased. I telegraphed you this morning giving prices realized for the bulls. Have just bred Heatherbroom.

Yours truly,

March 1st, 1913

Dear Captain,

I am mailing you a book to night belonging to Tom Kearns, which I think you will find interesting as it treats of the breeding of poultry in the same manner that you have instructed me to do. If you will please turn to page 93, you will see some lines that Tom has marked, that shows the result of crossing the white leghorn with colors.

In thinking over the breeding of these hens as you have ordered I find that it will be necessary to use three of our breeding pens in order to carry out your instructions. This is going to handicap us as we are short of room as it is.

Page 31

[Five days later Capt. Cassatt replied. "I have read Tom's book at the place you have marked & I found that my mistake was in thinking that black was dominant over white in poultry as it is in guinea pigs and sweet peas. This makes unnecessary the experiment with the black minorcas unless you have bought the cocks. In this case you can go on with it as per my instructions. ..."]

In writing to you this afternoon I forgot to mention that Mr. Sackrider did not get "Scotch Whiskey" he sold for $87.50 and his [Sackrider' s]bid was only $75.00. I have the check.

Yours truly

March 3, 1913

Dear Captain,

In answer to your instructions written on Mr. Rigg's letter:

Mr. Healy has written to Havre de Grace asking for stalls.

I do not understand whether you wish to engage the Duryea stable in case there should be racing at Sheepshead Bay or racing at Belmont and other nearby tracks.

Mr. Healy says if they should not race at the Bay and if there were no special trains run from there, stabling there would be impracticable; in view of this I beg to ask for further instructions viz: Do you wish the Duryea stable engaged only on condition that the Coney Island Jockey Club has races at Sheepshead Bay, or do you wish the stable engaged incase there is racing on the other tracks adjacent to New York? [On March 6 Capt. Cassatt replied that he wanted "the Duryea stable only in case there is racing at Sheepshead Bay".]

I note your instructions in regard to sending milk and cream to Dr. Holmes.

Yours truly,

March 6, 1913

Dear Captain:

Yours of the 3rd to hand. ...

PIGS. I sold the pigs to Willie Walker at $8.40 per 100 for the shoats and $7.50 per 100 for the sows. We could have sold in Phila. for 9 cents per pound] for the shoats and 8.5 cents for the sows. I found that after deducting commission, freight and shrinkage, it would pay better to sell here.

ROLLER & LAWN WORK If the rollers are constructed so that the weight can be increased it might be better to get a lighter one, you can then weight it to suit the conditions of the ground. I will see how they are constructed. I do not think there would be any danger to the drains.

Page 32

I have instructed Joe Logan to get to work on the lawn as soon as the weather conditions would allow. We are still having wintry weather with the ground freezing and thawing.

PRIVATE STABLE HORSES. I am sorry that I do not have a favorable report on these horses. Mango, Perk Lane Lady and Peer are the only ones of the larger horses that will be fit for your use when return.

Pilot, White Socks and Milo, while they have improved in flesh, are still lame.

Frisky is alright and Mr. Healy thinks Birdie will be.

DAIRY. The reports will show you the milk production, etc.

Tillie Butterscotch and Ladybird are both under Doctor's care. They have fallen off so in their milk that Albert thinks they had better be taken out of the Advanced Registry test. Ladybird started out with 32 lbs. per day and has fallen off to 9 yesterday.

Tillie Butterscotch gave 30 lbs. the 1st day of February, she is now giving about 19; her lowest was 6 lbs. on February 12th. She has improved since but seems to hang around 19 and 20 lbs. daily.

Owing to some of our customers going south, our milk sales have fallen off about 25 quarts daily since February We have now a surplus, which of course is made into butter and given to the boarding house, 68 1/2 lbs. during February.

FARM. The dead grass has been burned off of all the fields. Manure all hauled from Race Stable, hauling from Pig Pennow to Timothy Field. Will start breaking up inside of track as soon as weather conditions allow. 3 men working on track fence.

Yours truly,

March 10, 1913

Dear Captain:

In answer to yours of the 6th I have not bought the Minorca cocks.

DURYEA STABLE Have written to the Secretary of the Coney Island Jockey Club requesting him to reserve the Duryea Stable for you if they have races at Sheepshead Bay.

To yours of the 8th [a note asking "why burn off the Railroad field when according to my instructions of 2/12/13 it is to be planted with corn this year"]:

RAILROAD FIELD Part of the Railroad Field had been set on fire from an FIELD engine and I entirely overlooked the fact that the field was to be cropped when I told Howard to burn the balance.

FARM HANDS. Our regular force has been

5 men @ $40 $200.00
3 " @ $25 (& board) 75.00

Page 33

The actual amount paid for farm wages on Feb. Pay Rolls, less Howard's pay, was $262.96. Of this $3.43 belonged to the Jan. Pay Roll underpayment to Alex Lum for deduction from his Jan. wages through error, making net amount paid for February $269.50, so that we expended $15.50 less than authorized. This is accounted for by the fact that we had but 7 men up to the 21st and Man Famous and John Kois did not make full time.

HOGS. Walker got the pigs Friday. They netted $676.44.

LADYBIRD. The cow, Ladybird, does not improve. She is a very sick cow and I am uneasy about her. She does not seem to respond to treatments. ...

TRACK FENCE. The track fence is finished and the harrow was on this afternoon until rain stopped it.

WEATHER. We are having freak weather now. After cold freezing weather Thursday, Friday and Saturday the thermometer was up to 60 degrees yesterday and is 50 degrees now, with a warm rain, which I hope will take all the frost out of the ground and that spring may set in in earnest.

Yours truly,

March 13, 1913

Dear Captain:

Yours of the 10th to hand. I was certain I had mailed you a statement showing result of sale of young bulls and Nellie Hyacinth. I enclose statement herewith. The $30.97 was charged on expenditures as advertising.

In regard to the amount of milk it requires to produce a quart of cream this must be regulated ... to the richness of the cream you wish to produce. You can get a quart of cream out of 6 or 8 quarts of milk. Albert did start in by using 8 quarts of milk but I had several complaints and told him to make his cream thicker. We get a fair price and should furnish a good article.

BUTTER, You will see by enclosed statement that the farm produced 16,117.5 lbs. of milk. We purchased from Thomson 9, 634 [pounds] making a total 25,811.5 lbs. We sold and consumed out of this in milk and cream 20,463.8 [pounds], churning 5,348 [pounds] ... producing 187 lbs. of butter, at an average of 28 59/100 lbs. of milk to a pound of butter.

You will understand that these figures cannot be relied upon as being absolutely correct. Each milker weighs his own milk and is liable at times to make a mistake. There is also bound to be some waste in handling, in bottling the milk, in separating it and also in making the butter.

The milk furnished calves was not charged on Dairy Statement as the same amount would have been credited again as a receipt and would not have made any difference in the result.

Yours truly,


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