The following is from the Somers Historical Society:
Suppose you lived in Stephentown (Somers) in 1788. Your town was largely woodland, but pioneer farmers were clearing the land and creating subsistence farms. One of the crops that grew well in the rich soil was wheat. With lots of streams, grist mills were built, which ground the wheat creating a successful cash crop. Hungry people in the city needed bread.
In the early 1800s, the farmers found their pastures were perfect for cattle and sheep to be kept on their way to market in New York City. These livestock were brought from up to 300 miles away and remained in Somers for a while, fattening up for the day when they would be driven to New York City markets creating another source of income. Farmers had become drovers.
In 1807 Old Bet arrived in Somers. Many exotic animals from the growing menageries came to winter in town. In 1839 there were about 2,500 heads of cattle, 4,580 sheep, 2,870 swine and 480 horses in Somers. There was 20,400 acres of improved land.
Around 1840, one of the Somers Menageries moved out west to be able to start performing earlier in the Spring. The future New York Central Railroad inched its way up north and began to transport cattle and sheep from far away directly into the city stockyards, resulting in the gradual death of the cattle business in Somers.
But the fertile pastures remained and farmers began converting to dairy farming. By 1889 almost 90 percent of Somers land was used for dairy farms. Many trades and professions associated with that business settled in towns. Dairy farmers would milk their herd each day and put the milk in large milk cans which were kept cool in a Spring House. They were taken to one of the railway stations such as Purdys, Goldens Bridge, Granite Springs, Lincolndale, Amawalk, or Baldwin Place where they would be placed on trains bound for New York City. Approximately 3,500 quarts of milk were shipped daily from Lincolndale alone around 1872.
A Bordens milk processing plant was built in Somers in 1907 but burnt down in 1912. Farmers continued to ship milk by rail and later by truck. With the introduction of refrigeration, the small scale dairy farms were being replaced by larger farms farther away. Some farmers began growing potatoes. In the 1890s there was a horse breeding farm with 75 horses in Granite Springs. Orchards were planted and became profitable ventures. By 1920 at least 10,000 barrels of apples were being produced. In the 1940s a large chicken farm on Plumbrook Road produced poultry and eggs.
Today, most of these endeavors are long gone. Stuart’s fruit farm on Granite Springs Road remains as a working farm. It has been owned by the same family for seven generations.
The soil in Somers has done its job well. Out of this soil, the sun, and the rain came prosperity for many of the generations calling Somers home.