We want to share with you some exciting news. After several years of thought and research, we have decided to change the name of our farm. We will now be known as Cordelia’s Farm, named in recognition of one of our ancestors, Cordelia Bigelow Hastings. Over the course of this season, we will introduce you to Cordelia and the significant role she played in shaping the farm as we know it.
We are still the same farm, family and friendly staff you have come to know over the years. All that is changing is the name, a change that will allow us to share with you our family’s story here in Berlin.
Cordelia Bigelow was born on June 10, 1817, the fourth of fourteen children. Her parents, Levi and Nancy Bigelow, of Marlborough, Massachusetts, lived on a farm on Robin Hill Road. As the crow flies, the distance is slightly more than a mile from where our farm store is located today.
Like all young women of her day, she learned the skills of sewing, cooking, laundering, gardening, harvesting and preserving, childcare, animal care, caring for the sick and assisting in childbirth. Through Cordelia’s letters and diaries, we’ve learned a great deal about her participation in community activities, the home industries the family pursued, the entertaining of countless visitors with tea or a meal, the hosting of an ever changing cast of farm workers and relatives that lived and worked on the farm, and the time she set aside to read and pursue artistic endeavors.
Cordelia’s mother and father were farmers, but her father also taught in the district school not far from her home for nearly thirty years. Their children each actively participated in the towns they lived in and made significant contributions to the region.
On January 1, 1840, Cordelia married Christopher Sawyer Hastings, of Berlin, Massachusetts, and moved to his farm on Pleasant Street in Berlin. Their family, which included daughter Ellen and sons Ruthven, Arthur and Leslie, grew and thrived by farming the fields, running a store, managing real estate and loans and harvesting their woodlot.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Cordelia and Christopher, who was known as C.S., were in their forties and their children in their teens. C.S. had been involved with the local militia for many years so it was not surprising that he joined the U.S. Army as a captain, leading a company of soldiers from Berlin and neighboring towns, and leaving Cordelia and the family to manage the farm and businesses. Her letters to C.S. during the War reflect her involvement in maintaining and managing the home front.
While serving in Mississippi, C.S. fell victim to smallpox, and, sadly, he died in September of 1863 in Cairo, Illinois. Cordelia took the reins and shared in the management of the farm and other family affairs until her death in 1903.
We are drawn to Cordelia, because it is through her eyes that we are able to see her world and the lives of her family and community here in Berlin. Tucked away in the attic are her quilts, diaries, school notebooks, letters, books, and accounts that have made Cordelia and the farm’s history come to life to be passed on from generation to generation. Cordelia is the great, great, great grandmother of James and Nathaniel, the youngest generation to be farming here. We are inspired by having the farm bear Cordelia’s name and represent all those who have come before us and steadfastly worked this land for seven generations.