The Mirota Farm – Readington Township, NJ

An advertisement written in Polish and published in the Polish weekly newspaper caught our grandfather’s attention.  Farms in Readington Township, New Jersey were being subdivided into smaller, more affordable parcels of farm land. More importantly, you could buy a farm with a dollar down and a balloon mortgage that would not be due for about 5 years.  Jozef Mirota had been working as a Fireman in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania since his emigration to the US in 1906.  Another five years would mean 13 years working in the mines, risking his life every day putting out coal fires.

The deed to the farm, which comprised about 15 acres was subdivided from the former Adrian H. Pickle farm. Jozef signed the Indenture on August 19, 1914 with a $1 good faith deposit with the legal promise to pay a mortgage of $2200 on or before January 1, 1920.  (Source: Book 311 of Deeds, page 374. Hunterdon County Clerk’s office, Flemington, NJ).  The Deed was granted by Kline Realty & Improvement Company, New York, NY and that firm also held the mortgage. According to local historian, Stephanie B. Stevens, the Kline Realty mortgages came with 6% interest. The prior land owner, Adrian H. Pickle (1834-1897), was the son of Abraham Pickell (1809-1876) and Elizabeth (Eliza) Wycoff Voorhees (1808-1891). As Adrian H. Pickell had died around 17 years earlier, I assume the deed may just never have been transferred to other members of the family who continued to live on the farm. Some day I’ll get back to the Hunterdon County Courthouse and look that up. Or perhaps census records may provide a clue as to who was living there, if anyone, between 1897 and 1914. Many members of the Abraham Pickell family are buried in the Pickell Family Cemetery on Mountain Road.  The family spelt the name alternately Pickell/Pickel/Pickle.

Some of the farm lots had houses and outbuildings, and some were only land.  The one Jozef Mirota chose had a small dark green cedar shingled 1-1/2 story farm house built in the Dutch Colonial gambrel style. The house sat in the middle of 15 acres of good farmland. A brook flowed down to the property from the lovely mountain situated just south of the farm. The north side of the farm was bordered by the Jersey Central Rail Road, where my grandfather found paid employment as a lineman in addition to working hard on the farm. The house sat back well off the dirt road, so dust from wagons and horses would not be an issue for his wife who liked her home to be kept immaculate. Zofia also worked on the farm. In summer they often took in boarders seeking to escape the heat of the city. When boarders were in residence, my mother and her siblings slept in the barn. The farm was comprised of several out buildings that could be used for farm equipment storage, for sheltering small livestock, and for storing corn, which flanked both sides of an impressive two story barn that had two main sections for the hay wagon, two hay lofts, plenty of room for two horses and several cows, and separate stalls for sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens.  The house included a kitchen with a wood cooking stove, a dining room, a living room, and two bedrooms. An indoor bathroom and a utility room were added in later years. My grandmother’s pride and joy was the enclosed garden where she faithfully tended her old fashioned perennial flowers, shrubs and trees. Simply put, the farm was perfect for a hard working Polish immigrant and his family.

My first five years were spent in this farmhouse. I would have stayed there forever but my parents wanted a place of their own. They built a small house at the edge of the farm, where we could still run up the lane to spend as much time as we wanted with our grandfather.  Pickell Mountain and the surrounding fields, woods, and streams were our playground. My brothers, sister, and I were encouraged to run free all day long, as long as our chores and homework were done (or close enough to done to appease our easy going mother). I can’t imagine what our childhood would have been like if Jozef and Zofia hadn’t struggled so hard to purchase and keep the farm viable through the Depression years and through their old age so that their grandchildren could enjoy it too. Our Mirota cousins, who grew up in Brooklyn, used to spend many weeks during the summer while they were growing up on the farm, and so it was a special place of theirs too.  Our grandfather, who had outlived his beloved wife, died when my siblings and I were  still in grade school. Our memories of him are intricately tied to his farm and his unconditional love for us.  The Mirota farm house and all of the out buildings were torn down in later years by subsequent owners who wanted a more contemporary home. Unfortunately there is no law against destroying old houses and barns. To be fair though, this was not the first house on this farm. An earlier home, a stone house, built by the Pickell family was built and taken down long before this farm house was built.  The corner stone of the original house (and an old photograph of the house) was provided by my mother to the Hunterdon Historical Society in the 1960s.

When I think of the farm, I envision it as it was in the early 1950s and ’60s, like it looked in this photograph taken in late fall or early winter. Except in my memories, the trees are always in full leaf and the Rose of Sharon near the kitchen window is in bloom.

Local historian Stephanie B. Stevens has written an excellent book about the Polish community of Whitehouse Station,  “For a Better Life: “A History of the Polish Settlement in Readington Township.” D&M Printers. Copyright 1990. Whitehouse Station, NJ 1992. It may be obtainable by inter-library loan or by contacting the author.

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About Veronica

I live in mid-coast Maine with my husband of 36 years and our old Golden Retriever who is now 13+. My interests are knitting, spinning, weaving, gardening, playing golf and pickle-ball, and researching our family tree.
This entry was posted in Houses, Hunterdon County, Mirota, Pickle's Mountain, Sczcerba, Veronica. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Mirota Farm – Readington Township, NJ

  1. Kelly says:

    Simply beautiful!

  2. Mitch says:

    i farm the old fields at the Pickel place today. Do you recall what house number your grandparents place became?

    • Veronica says:

      Thank you for your comment. There were several Pickell farms in the area. Their farm was on Mountain Road, just southwest of Railroad Ave. The house and barns were torn down probably back in the 1960s/70s. It didn’t have a house number that I know of back then.

  3. Mitch says:

    Thanks Veronica, I live on Mountain rd just south of The RR bridge on the old Pickell farm just across from what I thought was the old house. The original Dutch barn has initials from Pickells from the early 1800’s carved into one of the doors. Great story it reminded me of my summers on my grandparents place in New Brunswick Canada. My moms family were loyalists pushed up there after the rev war from NYC funny story is that my family sued the federal government up to the 1940’s for reparations of their family plot which was the island of Brooklyn! I just love to hear about the American dream of people who came hear with a dream I just never thought I would hear one from Mountain road…..thank you.

    Mitch Fenton

    • Veronica says:

      The original Pickell farm, like a lot of other farms, was carved up into “mini-farms” in the 1910s by the Kline Realty Company (NYC land speculators). Most of the Pickell family had moved to Oldwick long before then. If you mean the barn that is really close to the road that is really old so I don’t doubt it. You could get the history of your land from the historical society. Enjoyed your NYC story.

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