History of the Soule Homestead

cropped-SouleHomestead_FINALlogo102115.jpgMuch of the Homestead’s significance lies in its rich and colorful history, a history that predates European colonization by thousands of years. It is a history shaped by the land by its abundance of wildlife, fertile soil, surface waters and opportunity.

The Pilgrim George Soule must have recognized what the land had to offer when he joined together with 25 other men to buy a large parcel from the Wampanoag Indians in 1662. Although he never settled his piece, which lay primarily in what is now E. Middleborough, his grandson James, built a home there. The house was burned to the ground during King Philip’s War (1675-76) and a second house was built at the end of Thornton’s Lane (Winter Street Extension). That house also burned in the 1720s. Nothing remains of those early dwellings.

So many of James’ descendants stayed in the area during the next three centuries that it became known as the Soule Neighborhood. Children were educated in the one-room Soule Schoolhouse on Winter Street and their parents had their horses shod by one of three Soule farriers. They bought bricks from Jonathon Soule, lumber from E. Everett Soule, duck eggs from Charles H. Soule, and were likely married by Augustus Soule, a Justice of the Peace.

It was Augustus Soule who, in the mid -1800s, built the house and barn that are now part of the Soule Homestead Education Center. He most likely used lumber cut from his sawmill across the street to construct the 17 room house and 90-foot long barn. The upper floor of the two-story barn was first used to house animals with the loft being used for hay storage. However, when several cows fell through the old wooden floor in 1954, the basement was converted into a modern dairy operation with a conveyor belt to remove the manure and the upper floor was used for hay storage.

Augustus’ daughter, Irene, who was born in the house in 1865, married Albert Deane on October 3, 1894. They lived at the farm and when her parents died, its name was changed to the Deane Farm. The Holsteins grazed contentedly in the lush green fields. The cheerful yellow house with its forest green shutters and the east and west additions to the barn were all signs that the dairy business was prospering in Middleborough, as indeed it was with the more than 100 dairies in the town at the turn of the century.

Mr. Deane needed help to milk the cows and hay the fields and he found a lifelong assistance and friend in his neighbor, Columbo Guidoboni. Columbo was tired of working inside, and he quit his job at the George E. Keith Shoe Shop to become a farm hand. The Deanes thought so highly of Columbo that they bequeathed the farm to him when they died, Albert in 1949 and Irene nine years later.

Columbo’s son, Donald, and his wife, Mary, moved into the second floor apartment in 1954 for “$10.00 a month rent and all the milk and eggs (they) could eat.” Columbo and his wife, Doris, moved in downstairs in 1958 and lived at the farm for the remainder of their lives.

They worked hard and built up a herd of 120 cows in the 1960s. Milking began at 6 a.m. and took two hours to finish. The process was repeated at 3:30 p.m.

In 1983, Donald sold the cows to two young men, who continued the dairy operation at the farm. Donald continued haying the fields for income putting up 8,000 to 10,000 bales each year for another five years. Meanwhile, he had three or four offers a week on the property from developers. Knowing that the dairy industry was in trouble in the area, he decided to sell, but it was the town of Middleborough, through a town meeting vote, not a developer, that acquired the farm to maintain it as agricultural open space.

Four years later, the Soule Homestead Education Center, Inc., a non-profit organization formed specifically to restore the farm and develop it into an agro-ecology education center, signed a ten-year lease with the town for 90 acres on the Middleborough portion. And so, the farm is once again playing an active, vital role in the community, teaching children and adults alike about their connections with the earth.

Music, Visual Arts and Traditional Crafts

People often disagree on the value of open space, like the Soule Homestead. Our mission is to teach people where their food comes from and promote sustainable agriculture, which requires open fields for crops and grazing. Many people visit the Farm to learn about agriculture and many people come to the farm because of the open space. We have scenic vistas in every direction, from sunrise to sunset, that inspire the creative side of our visitors and help them recharge their batteries after their work in our busy world. First time visitors to the Farm often speak of the feelings of peace and well-being they experience walking around. We don’t know exactly what those feelings are worth, but we all value that experience and whisper about “our little secret.”

Our open spaces inspire creative people of all types. This web page is dedicated to the creative people the Soule Homestead helps inspire. We are proud to share some of the work of the people we know. If we don’t know you yet, please introduce yourself. If you don’t know us yet, please accept our invitation to visit and see for yourself. Our workshops, events, and concerts are a great reason to visit for the first time although nothing compares to experiencing the Soule Homestead by walking our fields.

Traditional crafts were part of the mission of Soule Homestead from the beginning. We offer regular workshops on rug braiding, chair caning, basket weaving, rug hooking, and quilting, to name a few. Local experts volunteer their time and expertise to help beginners to experts learn and improve these crafts. Our workshops help inspire people while preserving the crafts our parents and grandparents considered essential.

The link between agriculture and traditional crafts may be most apparent when you start with our sheep. Each spring we invite the public to watch our sheep get sheared. Starting with the fleece, we clean, card, spin, and weave the wool, helping our visitors understand that farms feed AND cloth us. You can always find local spinners, weavers and knitters at our events demonstrating the close ties between farming and the traditional crafts that sustained our grandparents.