By Chris Lawler
The land which would become Middle Farm was part of the original 1681 Penn grant to Thomas Minshall. This parcel was passed down through several inheritances until the early 1790’s when Sarah Minshall, with her husband James Starr, constructed buildings and established residency. Sarah died in 1811, and when James passed just a year later, the property fell out of the Minshall-Painter-Tyler lineage until Enos Painter, father of Jacob and Minshall Painter, purchased it in 1846.
The area that is now Tyler Arboretum flourished under the watch of Enos Painter, with five operating and self-sustaining farms, a saw mill, a clover mill, and many other ventures. Middle Farm was named so as its location fell between the Home Farm and Round Top. It was here that Jacob Painter resided in a large stone house from 1846 to 1857, and Anne Tyler would utilize it as a summer home during this period. Productive in dairy, fruit and vegetable yields, Middle Farm existed as a tenant farm from the mid-1800’s well into the 1900’s when the farming operations began to wind down.
The buildings of Middle Farm, consisting of the stone house, a spring house and a large barn, were deemed unnecessary for operations when Tyler Arboretum came to be in mid-1940’s, and they quickly fell into disrepair. Razed in 1963, there is very little evidence left today of their precise positioning on the land, and the existing photo documentation does not reveal a great deal. However, if we walk just a few hundred yards out on the Rocky Run Trail, we can use our imagination.
As we just begin to see a clearing way up ahead on the trail, we’ll encounter a little spring on our left, affectionately called Mossy Run by some. Glancing down towards Rocky Run from this point, we’d be looking at the spring house. Turning to our right and looking up the hill, we’d see the rear of the stone house. And farther down up on the right, on the edge of that clearing, there would be a large barn facing us. We have to pretend that none of the trees are around us, too- the landscape would be vastly different.
If we move on to the clearing up ahead and take the first right up the steep hill along the side of the meadow, we can see what is left of the barn’s foundation near the point where the trails diverge. This location is best viewed in the winter months, when the foliage and undergrowth is diminished. The yellow markings tell us we’re now on the Middle Farm Trail, which is a lovely walk to further explore this unique area of the Arboretum, quite rich in history and beauty.