My name is Jeff Hyatt and I have been involved with Tilly Foster Farm since 2008. I and Tom Mill have deep roots in Putnam County, 4 generations each. We operate the Antique Tractor barn and Small Museum at Tilly Foster Farm. We call ourselves Putnam County Antique Machinery “PCAMA”, and our motto is “A Learning Experience for All Ages…” We host the extremely popular annual antique machinery show which also includes antique cars and trucks. It is held every September at Tilly Foster Farm. We also display our machinery at the Putnam County 4H Fair.
I had restored an 1891 well drilling rig that was used in Putnam County. George Whipple had seen an article I had written about the well machine restoration. It was stored in a museum in Connecticut and George felt it belonged in Putnam County and asked me to bring it to The Farm. The 1891 well drilling machine is also displayed at the Dutchess County Fair. It has been written up as the only one in existence by a Master Groundwater Consultant, named Howard (Porky) Cutter.
When we arrived at Tilly, the barn was a mess. We steam cleaned the interior, painted the walls, the floor and poured new concrete where it was missing. George Whipple funded the restoration of the barn and Tom and I, with the support of friends, supplied the labor. The small museum, under the Lodge, was equally disastrous and with George’s backing was restored.
The barn now houses a collection of antique tractors, my well machine, and several hit and miss engines (these are stationary engines used to power machinery on the farm prior to the arrival of electricity) along with a collection of early American farm tools, including corn planters, fodder cutters, corn knives, hay rakes and scythes, and hog scrapers.
The basement of The Lodge houses a collection of early hand-operated water pumps and farm equipment, hand tools, an apple sorter and cider press, a forge, pot belly stove, and Benedict Family memorabilia; we call it the Small Museum.
The main house was being used by squatters, and the roof leaked. Ned Moran, the Director of Avalon Archives, did a wonderful job restoring the first floor of the main house and now has an extensive, world-class collection of music memorabilia.
George obtained the lease and opened the farm up to the public with the idea of having a showcase of rare and endangered American farm animals. Tilly Foster Farm Museum has become a destination place for people from all over the United States and abroad. We have guest books in the barn and small museum which are filled with comments from visitors. Children draw pictures of the tractors, adults have praised us for allowing them to have the opportunity to show their kids what life was like and the older folks reminiscence about growing up with these items. All of this would not be possible except for George Whipple’s vision. George and Meredith Whipple deserve congratulations and kudos for a job well done with very little help except for a dedicated core of volunteers. PCAMA was instrumental in obtaining a 5 ton air conditioning compressor for The Lodge, thanks to Advanced Heating and Cooling for the donation.
George Whipple has complied with the lease demands, dealt with a needless lawsuit and lots of criticism during his tenure at Tilly Foster Farm. George has a passion for Putnam County and we have been the recipients of his dedication to preserving Putnam County’s treasures for generations to enjoy. Folks don’t seem to remember all the good he has done for Putnam County, things like The Spain Cornerstone Park, and the chapel at the Putnam County Park. Putnam will miss Mr. Whipple’s philanthropy and presence in Putnam County. I think the Legislators should be extremely grateful to the Whipple Family and all the good they have done for Putnam County. We will sorely miss his presence and good nature.
We welcome the opportunity to provide a guided tour of the Tractor and Small Museums. Please come in small groups to allow ample time for any questions.