The Stevens Farm is nestled in the scenic Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. It's located near the southern point of Wayne County. Seven generations of Stevens' have farmed in Sterling, some as their sole means of income.
In 1800, Henry Stevens was the first permanent settler in Sterling township . Henry was a Hollander that migrated from Germany and landed on Long Island, New York. There, he married Martha Valentine, formerly of England. Henry and Martha Stevens made their way to Sterling where they purchased 200 acres of land, built a log cabin and partially cleared and improved the land.
Henry was well educated in his native country and was one of the first to educate their children in Sterling Township by bringing teachers into his home, a luxury most did not afford. He was also known for a home he later built, one of the finest homes in the surrounding territory. Their home, not only provided shelter for Henry and his family, it was used as a period tavern. Of course, we should point out that a period tavern was a place of shelter and a warm meal for those just coming to town. He and his wife Martha lived a long life and both died on their farm by 1836, prospering by their hard work.
Today's route 196 that runs through Sterling, did not exist in 1800. The then dirt road, connected Sterling to the present day Hamlin and Honesdale, but not to Mt. Pocono or Stroudsburg. To remedy this problem, Henry and his two sons contributed to building the road going south. They built a section of road between Sterling and the base of Howetown Hill, going towards today's Pocono Spring's Estates. It later became the North and South turnpike, and eventually Route 196. Henry, George and Valentine never expected, nor received a cent for their efforts in constructing this section of road.
One of eight, Henry's son George remained in Sterling, where he married Rachel Weeks, had 5 children and farmed a portion of Henry's 200 acres. George was a major contributor to the success of the Sterling community. He died on Christmas Eve, 1846, as a result of tree falling on him. Sadly, the tree he being cut was destined for the construction of the first Sterling Methodist Church, which still stands today.
George's son Job also remained in Sterling and married Sarah Ann Dunston. Together, they had 6 daughters and 1 son, Ray. Job and Sarah farmed the 50 acres belonging to George. Job sustained his family on the land and supplemented his income as a teamster. Teamsters made money by driving a horse drawn wagon, transporting goods from area to area. Job lived in the civil war period and was the first Stevens to summons by the government to defend his country.
Job's only son Ray purchased the current Stevens farm, located about a quarter mile north of the Sterling United Methodist church. He bought the property in 1893, married Ella Lee in 1898 and had 4 children. They ran the farm, managing dairy cattle, selling raw milk and butter to the community, raising chickens for the eggs & selling fryers. They raised sheep for the wool, which Ella pulled by hand for batting in handcrafted quilts and weaving. They farmed the 110 acres with their sons Frank and Harvey and their horse Tom. During Summer, they grew and processed hay and grain for their cattle. They tended to a variety fruit trees like apples, peaches and nectarines for their own use. Ray expanded the farm by building a sugarhouse, used for making maple syrup. In late Winter, the family tapped hard Maple trees, collected the sap and boiled it on the on the hearth Ray designed and constructed. The evaporator Ray purchased came from Vermont Farms and is still used today create a creamy delicious syrup for Stevens family use.
Ray's son Frank married Helen Enslin in 1930 and also had 2 sons Albert and Howard. Frank expanded the dairy heard and became a member of the Dairyman's League, which later became the Dailylea company. Frank and his boys drove milk to local creamery and was paid for milk by the pound. They also planted vegetables like potatoes, corn, carrots, parsnips, onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers, all for fresh eating, canning and winter storage. Frank also had a large chicken population and like his father he sold the eggs, processed the fryers for his own eating and to sell to the local community. Frank, Helen and the boys and their team of work horses, Kitt and Dolly, carried on the tradition of making maple syrup in the sugarhouse the Ray built. Their product was a delicious fancy grade of Pennsylvania maple syrup that was sold to local patrons. Frank's business grew as each week, he would load his truck with the goods he and his family farmed and drive them to Dunmore, where he peddled these goods on his established route.
In 1958, Frank and Helen sold the farm to their oldest son, Albert and his wife Elsie Beemer who was also a Sterling native. Together, they raised 9 children on the farm. When they bought the farm, they too further expanded the herd from 12 to 24 milk cows and eventually to 36 head. In 1976, they sold the dairy cattle to focus on produce. Albert added 1000 cultivated blueberry bushes, 100 apple trees, as well as, peach & pear trees. He planted acres of sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, melons and more. When he opened the road-side, at-home farm market, he featured pick-your-own blueberries, quantities of vegetables for canning & purchase by the pound. For a time, he featured pick-your-own green beans or tomatoes by the basket for canning. He also sold raspberries and strawberries for fresh eating and jam.
In Fall, the Stevens' sold bushels of apples, fresh-squeezed apple cider, homemade pies that frequently left Elsie's kitchen steaming with sweet goodness. They sold pumpkins for decoration, pies and sold all kinds of ornamental squash, gourds and ornamental corn.
At the holiday's they made beautiful evergreen wreaths of all sizes that they sold from the farmhouse or at local Christmas tree farms. In late winter, Albert and Elsie and their children carried on the labor-intense tradition of making maple syrup. Each year, they tapped close to a 1000 trees and made up to 200 gallons of syrup. Their syrup flew off the self, all of it being sold each season. Syrup was a precious liquid, but Ray's sugarhouse no longer mets the standards for manufacturing and marketing its' precious golden liquid. The family carries on the tradition of making syrup in the old cabin-like structure for family use only, but is making plans for a new sugarhouse for the 2013 season.
Today, the farm stand is run by members of the seventh Stevens generation, Pat, Steven and Richard, the youngest of Albert and Elsie's nine children.
A History of the Stevens Family Farming - a legacy of seven generations