20 June 2020

Bloomingdale Farms (circa 1870 - 1961)

When you think of a New Jersey dairy cow, it's a good bet you're not picturing an Ayrshire, a Guernsey, a Brown Swiss, a Milking Shorthorn, or even a Jersey. What you're seeing in your mind's eye is the familiar black and white of a member of the Holstein-Friesian breed - the number one breed of dairy cow in New Jersey and the US.

This wasn't always the case. Holsteins were first introduced to Somerset County by US Senator John McPherson who purchased 34 prime examples of the breed in Holland and had them shipped to his Belle Mead farm in 1885. McPherson not only established the breed in the county but also created the large scale dairy industry, shipping his milk by train to New York.  

21 January 1896, Waterloo, Iowa, Courier

In 1891, one year after McPherson sold his farm, his successors, Roberts & Conn, dispersed the entire herd which then numbered 165. Most of the cattle were purchased by other Somerset County farmers, thereby establishing the southern section of the county as ground zero for New Jersey Holsteins.

1860 Farm Map of Hillsborough

One of the people who benefited from the McPherson cattle auction was Abram A. Cortelyou. In 1869, at the age of 22, he married Catherine M. Staats, daughter of John R. Staats and Mary Brokaw. The Staats family were early settlers of Hillsborough and owned much property, including 250 acres mostly on the north side of Amwell Road near today's intersection with Auten Road.

John R. Staats Farm House. 2008

In 1857 John R. Staats built the Georgian style brick home we see near the intersection today. It is likely that Abraham Cortelyou - who was orphaned at the age of five and raised by an uncle - and his new wife received the farm as a wedding gift the year they were married.

About 1875, the couple moved to Neshanic Station and started a lumber and coal business. They lost a son in infancy in 1872 but went on to raise four daughters - and they kept the farm in Hillsborough. Cortelyou purchased his first Holsteins in 1889 and it may have been then that the property was rechristened Bloomingdale Farms - named after a section of Hillsborough that stretched from Flagtown to almost Millstone.

1873 Somerset County Atlas

Bloomingdale Farms made its name - and its money - through breeding. The breeding of Holsteins in those days (and even today) is about breeding champion producers - cows that could produce record weekly (or monthly, or yearly) pounds of milk or butter and bulls that could sire big producers. Bloomingdale Farms had both - acquired through outright purchases of other stock from farms in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as well as their own breeding successes.

Holstein-Friesian Aristocracy, trade publication, 1915

Cortelyou also entered prize specimens in cattle exhibitions throughout the northeast and won numerous blue ribbons. After the turn of the century, Cortelyou joined with Bernhard Meyer of the Finderne Stock Farm creating the Somerset Holstein Breeders' Company, an association that produced many world record cows. Finderne Holingen Fayne was the first Holstein to beat the legendary Guernsey Cow, Murne Cowan, with 3-year-old production totals for 7 days milk at 608.1 lbs.; 7 days butter - 37.33 lbs.; 30 days milk - 2599 lbs.; and 30 days butter - 150.33 lbs. among other records.

Holstein-Friesian Aristocracy, trade publication, 1915

Abraham and Catherine both died in 1918 after which Bloomingdale Farm was purchased by M.W. Faitoute of the Faitoute  Iron & Steel Company. With the Cortelyous' daughter, Augusta (a noted authority on the breed) as secretary, Faitoute built on the success of the previous owners - immediately purchasing as a sire the famous King Model. 

8 February 1922, Holstein Breeder and Dairyman

A 1922 feature story on Bloomingdale Farms for the trade journal "The Holstein Breeder and Dairyman" noted the progress Faitoute had made in further developing the breed and made special mention of Miss Cortelyou as well as farm superintendent Jacob Reger. It was stated that "A trip through the eastern states without visiting Bloomingdale and becoming acquainted with the management is like visiting Washington and not seeing the White House."

29 July 1941 Courier News

Augusta Cortelyou died in 1930 and M.W. Faitoute sold the farm in 1937 to Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Durkin of Jersey City. A spectacular 1941 fire killed five calves and destroyed ten barns at a loss of $50,000. The Durkins continued on for three-and-a-half years before selling to Dr. John W. Thomas in 1945. Thomas specialized in Angus beef cattle, so the Durkins sold the entire Holstein herd at auction on February 26, 1945.

22 January 1945, Bernardsville News

Thomas suffered through a fire of his own in 1947 before selling the property to Paul Bennetch of Langhorne, Pennsylvania in 1951. Bennetch, who was the president of the National Brown Swiss Breeders' Association, brought a dairy herd back to Bloomingdale Farms, albeit not Holsteins.

1972 Bloomingdale Farms

The entire 250-acre farm was sold to Claremont Developers, Inc. of Manville in 1961 and within a decade became the central piece of Hillsborough's Planned Unit Development of townhouses, patio homes, and mid-rise apartments.