Hello reader, my name is Joshua E. Dallal. I am the person who has been writing a weekly column about Andover’s agricultural history while the Farmer’s Market has been running. To me, Andover‘s declining agricultural practice is the most intriguing part of the town’s agricultural history.
Andover has gone from being primarily a farming town, to there being only one farm left in the whole town. This is not strange to me, it is perfectly natural. Things change; this is a basic fact of life, and it holds true for countries, towns and cities as well as for people. In 1646 most European settlers on the continent were farmers, as were most people in the new town of Andover.
During the 17th and 18th centuries there were some industrial facilities in Andover, but they existed to support the farmers. There was a grain mill to make flour from the wheat the farmers planted, and there was an iron works to make the metal that the town blacksmith needed to make metal tools for the farmers. I find it interesting that farming needs still determined what non-farming businesses and professions existed in Andover.
I see the beginning of the 19th century as the beginning of the US capitalism in Andover. The first generation of children born after the start of the Revolutionary War became adults. Children born and raised to think of themselves as Americans began to make their views known and their decisions felt. The regional economic system that factored heavily in the success of a farm would be determined by the farmers. Just as importantly, people raised under the rule of the British king were dying off.
In my mind, 1802 is one of the most important years in Andover’s history. James Scholfield built the third water-powered woolen carding mill in the United States and the first woolen mill in Andover. More importantly it was the first major industrial facility built in Andover that wasn’t influenced by local agricultural needs. He built it in what is now part of North Andover. It was sold to the Abbott family in 1812. They lived in the southern part of town which is still called Andover.
Andover became very developed in the 19th century. The Marland Mills, the Bradford Mills, Smith & Dove clothing factories, and the Sutton mills were all built in that century. Andover was a major crossroads for regional highways even before the 19th century. In 1836, a railroad was built in Andover and by 1840 it was a major train stop. Phillips Academy, the Andover Seminary, and the Abbot Academy were all very prestigious schools with National Reputations. They all had students from everywhere in the country. Andover was too developed by the end of the 19th century for me to think of it as truly rural.
There was a brief increase in the number of Andover farmers during the early 20th century. Many European immigrants (the largest group being Armenian) came to Andover in the early 1920s to make new lives for themselves as farmers. All the farming families knew each other too. I have interviewed the descendant of some those immigrants. They told me that those immigrants didn’t want their children to stay in farming; they wanted better lives for their kids. Farming was no longer the average profession of Andover residents by the late 1930s. Farming only declined in Andover as the century continued.
At the dawn of the new millennium there were less than 10 farms left in Andover. All of those farms were family farms. Now there is only a single farm left, and that is OK. Nothing stays the same forever. Andover is still prosperous. I find it interesting that Andover has moved away from the profession that once defined most of its economy.