B.F. Norman & Son. (Reprinted in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, 4/28/2007) The remaining barns of Spencer Boatworks, left, and the flooded Saranac River
The Norman farms, started by B. F. Norman, may have been the biggest farm operation in the Saranac Lake area. The Normans had cleared and settled on what was to become Norman Ridge around 1856. The farm was known as B.F. Norman & Son and was located on the Bloomingdale Road. At their peak, they had 2,000 acres, with about 1,000 tillable, and milked 100 to 150 cows at the Green Valley Dairy. Tom Norman, Sr. ran the farm with his father. They initially sold milk in bulk to the Phillips family, who then owned the Green Valley Dairy; about 1944, the Normans bought it from Dan McGraw.
The dairy on the Bloomingdale Road known as the Cardinal property was the headquarters of the operation where Tom, Sr., and his wife Olive raised their children, Phyllis (Knobel) and Tom. Around 1915, the family had 30 cows and a vegetable garden, raised chickens, made butter and started a daily delivery service to the cure cottages. Eighteen year old August Becker came to work for the Normans in July, 1926 and worked there all his life.
In the 1930s, the Normans were selling milk to the Trudeau Sanatorium. The butter-fat content requirement was high, at 3.5 percent. Their herd was all Ayrshire cows that had butterfat content on the average of more than 4 per cent. The cows were milked by hand until 1940, when milking machines were purchased. In the mid-1950s, a dumping station was installed allowing milk to be piped directly to a bulk cooling tank. Surplus milk was sold to the A. C. Bartz Dairy.
When the dairies and cropland were in full use the farm employed from 25 to 30 men. As many as eight of the unmarried farm workers boarded at the Norman, Sr., farm, and up to six married men were furnished housing.
In 1929, a garage and store were built; the store had several large cooler rooms for fresh vegetables and fruit and poultry, cooled by chopped ice in cylinders. In 1930, a large barn was built by Oakley Thompson, and in 1940, a potato cellar was built. The majority of the lumber in all of the buildings came from logs cut and sawn on the Norman property.
In 1939, Tom, Sr., began buying the farms on Norman Ridge that had at one time been in the family. There were six farms, including the log cabin where B.F. Norman was born. The other farms were Costlow, the Dennis Riley farm, also known as the Wright farm, the Hamilton Lampson farm, the Walter Ward farm, the Dave Tucker farm and the Harley Branch farm for a total of 540 acres. Another parcel of 48 acres was acquired from William Johnson. This land was used for "Certified Seed Potatoes" and extended truck gardens that they turned to as the cure industry faded.
In 1950 the farms were turned over to Tom, Jr., who worked on them until he retired in 1987.
The original, gambrel-roofed barn burned on August 12, 1960. Six calves and 200 tons of hay were lost in the fire. The barn was rebuilt.